Saturday, May 31, 2014

Goodbye School Year, Hello School Year

We are at the end of our school year and I've already begun the process of laying out the calendar for the upcoming school year. I'm finally to a place, after little man's birth, of feeling a little more myself. He's becoming more independent which lends me more freedom to really delve into things and top priority lately has been getting organized (hence the chore chart)! From storage to homeschool to my home business I am diving deep and trying to come up with solutions to keep everything more orderly. I do not like feeling chaotic and when my house is chaotic so am I. But let's talk school!

I've tried the more laid-back approach to homeschooling. I've tried flying by the seat of our pants. It just doesn't work. I need a plan. I need a list. I need a general structure to cling to so that I don't mix business, school, housework. That each thing has it's own place and time. Because right now I am doing things "as I have time" or switching things up. No more! School needs to have a specific time so that I can do work at a specific time.

So some things I'm considering for next year's school:
Math-U-See and Ambleside Online

Math-U-See is obviously mathematics. I am not good at math. This is a program I'm interested in because an actual math teacher teaches the math concepts on DVD as the child follows along.

Ambleside uses Charlotte Mason's approach to education. It's actually quite fascinating and I'm eager to use this approach. Ambleside is a free online curriculum. It is run by homeschooling families FOR homeschooling families and is volunteer-based. It is Christian education, though anyone can use it. And like anything you can mold it and use it to fit your own unique families and schedules because it is mostly books/reading.

Ambleside is like a dream-come-true. It is very much how I would have liked to have learned as a child. It also just makes so much sense to me regarding how children learn. If you're interested in learning more about it please click the hyperlink a few paragraphs up where I first mention it. There's a forum you can join in on and it looks as though they're updating the website to make browsing more efficient.

Just a quick overview from what I understand in my recent research: it is very much literary-based. History, science, grammar, spelling, etc. are learned through reading. Reading GOOD literature. There's also emphasis on the arts and learning foreign language.

So right now I'm busy using some downtime from my tooth extraction a couple days ago (oh haven't heard about that? I'll put a blurb at the end) to really focus on a classroom schedule right now. I haven't ended this school year yet and I don't know what to start the next year just yet either. I'm so indecisive, about a lot, but I'm trying to be more bold and confident in my choices.


The tooth extraction? I feel like I'm aging so fast! I have had so many little health things pop up and this tooth problem is one of them. My poor tooth had a filling from when I was a kid. The filling failed (the tooth kept decaying beneath it even though I care for my teeth) and almost half my tooth broke off! That was back when I was pregnant with JUDAH (two years ago). I had a wonderful dentist and he told me it needed a crown ASAP but I kept putting it off... and putting it off... and putting it off.

Until about two weeks ago I bit down on something and pain shot through my entire body and I couldn't even catch my breath. Apparently my broken tooth was dying and developed an infection at the root. I went to two dental appointments at the local dental college (not my old dentist as I no longer have dental insurance) and finally came to the decision to just have it pulled rather than do a root canal/post/crown. Now I have to decide if I'm going to have an implant or bridge. Oh joy.

Lesson learned: if you break a tooth do NOT wait! Get it checked out ASAP because saving your tooth is better than getting a fake one.

So now I'm sitting here, two days after the extraction, with a huge gaping hole in my gum where my precious God-given molar was. A student pulled the tooth. It was the longest and most uncomfortable dental work I ever remember having. When my former dentist (and an already established dentist, NOT a student) pulled my two right-side wisdom teeth he pulled them both out in under a minute. It was over so fast I didn't believe him when he said it was done. So I anticipated that this extraction would be the same! It was not. The student was slow. He was clumsy. He kept knocking my other teeth (in fact one molar that was next to the one that broke feels like it is out-of-place and pushed back!). He had to ask his professor for help twice, the first time with numbing me up (I got 4 times the typical amount because he kept injecting in the wrong spot!). He didn't rinse out my mouth when the nasty tasting medicine spilled out into my mouth and I kept swallowing it (but his professor kindly rinsed my mouth after he took a turn injecting, finally, into the correct spot). The second time the student asked for help was in having someone else come dig out the root that broke off when he finally got the crown of the molar out. I overheard his professor say "So you're giving up already? This is what you need to do..." and then he gave him a list of different torture devices, I mean TOOLS, to use. I felt like the guy was breaking my jaw when he worked. In fact my jaw, right where it hinges, is where it hurt the most afterward. He forgot to give me a syringe to take home so I could clean out this gaping horror show in my gum.

It's actually one of the best dental schools. But I feel like I was this guy's first solo in extracting teeth. He had the head knowledge but it wasn't translating to his hands while he worked. So far the healing is going as expected and I haven't taken anything but a few Ibuprofen. I have another wisdom tooth that is almost all the way out in my left, upper side and I think I'll be calling my former dentist to see what he'll charge out of pocket... quality means way more to me than quantity when it comes to pulling teeth!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Chores for Kids

Things have gotten a little (err a LOT) overwhelming lately. My husband's back is really bad so all of the physical labor involved with keeping a three-story house clean fell onto my shoulders. I am usually the last one to go to bed, I'm the one who gets up in the middle of the night with the baby (and anyone else who gets woken up by thunder or a bloody nose or nightmare) and then my feet hit the ground running the moment I get up for the day. Housework, homeschooling (while trying to keep the littles occupied and happy?!), trying to answer messages and complete custom jewelry orders, cooking food, squeezing in a shower or grocery trip, etc. Not to mention lack of one-on-one time with the kids or special playtime and just feeling so, so tired. It's enough to make you want to collapse on the ground and cry!

While I have had the kids help around the house a lot it's been a battle and frustrating and very sporadic without a clear definition of what I needed and expected. They'd fight about not wanting to do a chore or they'd fight over doing a chore that they all wanted to do. They'd take all day to complete one task or just not do the chore at all (which I'd find out later!).

I decided we needed a little organizing to set us on the right path. I kept hearing this statement echo in my mind as I drew up a plan for a chore chart: kids need structure. We are creatures of habit. While none of this is set in stone it has been so valuable to our family this first week of implementation! I'm not good at the whole "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants" thing. It's not working out.

So my chart isn't that glamorous but it works. I had the kids sit at the table with me and come up with ideas rather than just tyrannically dish out orders. They picked out their own Sharpie color, too! I think Elaina was really overwhelmed until she saw the end result was that each child had 1-3 daily chores. On scrap paper our list looked long and super intimidating to an 8-year-old but once it was written out over a week it wasn't so bad at all. I also explained that just because they had a chore, maybe a hard one like doing dishes, doesn't mean they had to do it alone. That is something I want to make clear! I don't just send them off to do things on their own. That will come in time. Right now I'm actually standing there with them and showing them and teaching them how to do each job well.

WOW what a difference this week has been. Having a clear directive has helped them to understand their role and importance in the family. They are eager to get their chores done. They are already starting to initiate their own chores to get them completed. There's no squabbling because they know who has what job each day. You can't fight with the chart when it clearly says who is to do what job. There's no whining because they know these things have to get done.

Another part of making the house cleaner was decluttering. I've been decluttering and have taken so much to the thrift stores... I do not even know where it all came from or where it all fit! Simplifying has made huge improvements. If we don't use it, haven't used it, won't use it... it's gone! That includes clothing from the youngest girl and youngest boy. I'm not holding on to any of it. Okay so maybe one or two little outfits, lol! Definitely not keeping bins and bins of clothes anymore.

The house IS cleaner, I'm less stressed, everyone is working together instead of against one another and it's just making for a wonderful environment. I have found that I have more free time to break out the blocks and play or snuggle up and read books to them.

This has inspired me to make a more clearly defined schedule for our homeschool next year, too! More on that to come as I work through how I want it to look next year. We haven't even ended this year yet and I'm already ready to tackle our schedule next year?! That definitely lets you know how much better I feel having the family on board with chores!

*Daddy isn't anywhere on the board. He has physical limitations due to his back so he does things for the family that he can't really share so I didn't add them to the chart. For the sake of creating a very family-oriented chart I may add his jobs to the blank spaces at the end so we can all remember to put value on his contributions and be grateful for the work he is able to do. He takes the girls to ballet and stays there for their entire class time, he sometimes runs to the store for me so I don't have to take all the kids, he takes trash out to the curb for trash day, he does odd jobs, etc.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

All Five

Late to the party, as usual! Easter was probably the first time, in a long time, that I got pictures with all five kids together.

I actually had nothing planned that weekend. Holidays always seem to sneak up on me these days. My mind is constantly pulled in several directions so sometimes I have to think on my toes. So the Saturday before Easter I opened the fridge. We had one dozen uncooked, brown eggs. Woo hoo! I looked up a recipe on how to make our own egg dye.

Just vinegar and food coloring I think. I love how muted and old-fashioned the eggs turned out. They probably would have been brighter had they been white but I prefer the brown. And eating them? They were the fluffiest, most delicious hard-boiled eggs I've ever made.

 Can't forget to get a pic of the littlest guy! He is a messy boy, with graham crackers all over his face.

Looky there! ALL five and almost all are looking. The sun was in their eyes so I think that's why Judah's eyes are closed.

The next day, Easter Sunday, Daddy and Judah stayed home sick. Can't tell here that he was sick but Judah had the nastiest, phlegmatic cough. So I took the girls to church. Elaina and her cousin did a ballet performance so her Nonna did her hair so pretty. I am not gifted in the hair department! Zoe's pigtails here are about as good as I get, ha! And then the dress Elaina is in is one SHE sewed. She specifically requested a "prairie" dress and she likes to play pretend in it that she lives back in the days of Laura Ingalls. It reminds me of a dress a little Amish girl might wear, except for the fabric print!

Judah adores his big sister! Two little peas in a pod...

Can you believe she will be 9 next month?! She was just a baby yesterday!

These two fight and makeup like cats. Arguing one moment and then curled up together, purring another. Okay not literally. That was a metaphor!

If you put a baby in grass, especially when it's super bright out, expect that he will NOT look up at you or the camera. Too much wonderful, cool grass to pull up!

I pulled Judah onto my lap for a selfie. His face says it all! BUT..........

He couldn't resist my charms and finally laughed!

Silas loved being pushed around the yard in this! I'm surprised he did but I got this long video of Judah pushing him around the yard and he's just kicking and waving his arms in delight, protesting any time Judah stopped pushing!

Another little brother to adore his oldest sister. She helps me out SO much with him. She really is like his little momma or momma's helper! The other girls help, too, but they're not quite strong enough to hold him long nor attentive enough right now.

Last one - Zoe and me. She is at my favorite age - 4! Four is when they've finally overcome that 2-3 year old angst and get engaged in super playful and imaginative play, where they start to say the darndest things and yet can show you such ferocious love still with random hugs and kisses. They still have tantrums and have trouble expressing feelings but they understand so much more and it's easier to work through those rough patches than with a 2-year-old who can't articulate anything once they've hit "that wall". And while they can be stubborn and strong-willed most don't outright or purposefully rebel. I mean maybe a few rare kids do but for the most part they're still so innocent and sweet. I asked her to stay this little forever. She sighed a long-suffering sigh and said, "Mom, I can't! I'm growing up!"

So we're all keepin' on. I hear the pitter patter of kids waking up (Silas woke me up at 4:30-ish this morning and I decided finishing orders before kids got up would be wise... we shall see if I don't crash at 3! COFFEE TIME!!!).