Friday, April 10, 2015

Renaissance Study

This week has been engaging!
Renaissance ~ Rebirth
Old ideas becoming new.
Realism. Invention. New Ideas.

We've read...

(This was a left-over from last week, but still a favorite!)

We've listened to...
The Story of Mankind ~ By Hendrick Van Loon (Now that's a name!)
Scroll down to chapter #39 - Renaissance

(I know this is earlier, but it put us in the mood 
to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel!

We've watched...

We've done...

Some amazingly fun art projects!

Putting ourselves on to our backs just like Michelangelo to paint or draw "The Creation of Adam".

Cora is in the midst of dramatic disgust! 
Throwing pencil and giving up all hope!

Addie found when you erase the bits fall in your eyes!

Eli puts a "boppy" to good use.

Cora is all discouragement. Just too hard!

Allan is having a grand time!

The end results... The Creation of Adam. 
Top left: Addie
Top right: Cora
Middle left: Allan
Bottom left: Thea
Right: Elias

And a little Mona Lisa smile...

I encouraged the children to make Mona Lisa their own!

Addie's ~ The Fingernail Painted Mona Lisa
Allan ~ The Yellow and Green Mona Lisa
Thea ~ The Faceless Dark Skinned Mona Lisa
Elias ~ The Green Skinned Mona Lisa
Cora ~ The Lipsticked and Blue-eyed Mona Lisa

Whew! Thank goodness it's Friday!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Simple Writing For Homeschool

I've been debating about writing and grammar ALL year long!

We had been doing Writing with Ease and First Language Lessons.
I liked the idea of it, but could never make it fit our lives.
I began to think that if we don't get it done it isn't really an effective curriculum.

I kept thinking of what I want writing and grammar to look like in our school and ended up finding dead ends when I looked at various curriculum. I gave up for sometime to process what I want this time of our day to look like.

Then two weeks ago it hit me... I want:
- Something simple.
- Something that works with what we are already doing ... that comes out of the literature we are reading each week.
- Something that is easy to level for each student.
- Something that doesn't take tons of time and that I can just do with out prior planning.

I realized no curriculum will give me that... and quite honestly, I was making writing and grammar too hard! 
I need to keep it SIMPLE!

This is what I came up with...

~ Weekly Writing Plan ~

Each Day
~ Read an excerpt or entire peace of literature from our SOTW #2 Literature List.
~ With each piece tell the title, author, illustrator and a brief summery of the book.
~ Ask comprehension questions based upon what is read and focus on summarizing and identifying the central ideas of the excerpt.
~ Use a composition journal for writing assignments and free journaling.

1. Have each child retell the story orally in their own words. 
2. Copy one section of the story into journal and draw a corresponding picture.
Or ... 
Write down one thing remembered from the literature excerpt/piece. 
3. Review grammar definitions found in First Language Lessons and identify a given part of speech in the excerpt. (Example: read a sentence and have the children identify a noun, pro-noun, verb, adjective, etc...)

- Journal ... Write about something!
(Journal prompts below)

1. Dictation of one phrase, sentence or excerpt of the literature piece. (Teacher reads it several times slowly, children write what they hear).
2. Make needed corrections.
3. Review the definitions of one of the following: nouns, proper nouns, pronouns, verb, sentence, use of punctuation, capitalization, contractions, quotations... or other things covered in First Language Lessons.

- Journal ... Write about something!

1. Complete the 5 Finger Retell: Characters, Setting, Problem, Events, Ending/Resolution and Main Idea
2. Summarize the excerpt in own words and write it... focus on the central ideas presented.
Or ... 
Complete a task from the list below...
3. Focus on one part of grammar: write an example in journal or circle an example in writing of that day.

Additional Skills/Topics to Cover...
  • Write a letter
  • Address envelope
  • Writing dates, months, years, seasons, days of the week
  • - How to form a paragraph
  • Titles of respect: Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms., Dr. 
  • Abbreviations
  • Cause and effect
  • Make a personal evaluation on a book: what did you like/dislike, found interesting, learned, what would you change.
  • Picture narration: Ask questions about what might be taking place in the picture. Write a description.
  • Antagonist/Protagonist
  • Fiction/Non-fiction
  • Metaphors
  • Antonyms/Synonyms
  • Defining unknown words
  • Other ideas

Journal Prompts...
- Favorite Animal
- Someone/thing you love!
- Make up a new animal
- Something you are afraid of
- What was your best day?
- What did you do yesterday?
- Who is your hero?
- If you could do anything/make anything what would it be?
- Make up a new land
- A fairytale
- What is your favorite book/story?
- What is something hard you've overcome?
- Favorite food
- Favorite adventure


In my plan I continue to refer back to First Language Lessons for ideas, definitions of parts of speech, and examples of parts of speech. It's a GREAT resource! I've just simplified what we are doing into a consistent weekly writing/grammar plan that includes and uses the literature we are already reading!

It is working for us! That's probably all that matters. 
Perhaps it an be a framework that helps other homeschoolers do writing and grammar without pricy or unneeded extra curriculum? 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Baby's Perspective on Raising a Happy Mother

I’ve decided that I’ve been spoiling my mommy. 

Experts in “Attachment Babying” recommend that from birth on, a baby should try to adapt itself to the life of it's mommy. A baby should sleep well, eat well and generally have an agreeable disposition. They recommend “cue feeding” ... looking to mommy to read her need for nursing (when she starts pulling at her bra straps, soiling her shirt with milk, getting red in the face, perspiring ... that sort of thing.) They also recommend letting a mommy sleep as much as she likes and seeking to let her form her own routine, however ridiculous that may be and a baby should naturally adapt to mommy's crazy, nonsensical "routine".

But … I learned that when this method is applied, a mommy tends to develop some very bad habits ... it is almost embarrassing! I know that when I take her out in public I'll have other babies looking down their short round noses at me if I don't begin to help my mommy be a more adaptable person.

After a lot of research here are two other methodologies to raising a mommy that have better outcomes ... "The Happiest Mommy on the Block" and “Baby~Wise”. 

I'd like to share my findings with you! 

With "Happiest Mommy on the Block" you implement the 4 C's...

Cry/Colic - The sound of crying is very soothing to mommies. That's why they begin to rock you (a sign of self-soothing) and zone out. If she is shooshing you, you need to cry louder until she stops.
Cuddle - Sleeping with your mommy is the best way to give her the best rest possible and also help her learn the important life skill of sleeping anywhere, at any time.
Carry - Let her carry you and walk you around, bouncing is encouraged! Mommywearing is also very helpful at encouraging continual carrying, and it is pretty stylish and can get addictive. This helps her regulate and it has the added benefit of helping her lose her baby fat.
Chow down - Mothers need a baby to eat all night long and in regularly timed intervals through out the day (every 15 to 25 minutes) ... this helps them build up a great supply of milk that stabilizes her hormones that are out of whack in the postpartum time period!

This is promised to give you the Happiest Mommy on the Block!!! 

Baby~Wise is a method that has gotten some bad press in recent years, but I think it's all because it is greatly misunderstood (and at times wrongly applied)!

Basically, Baby~Wise is where the baby uses its own wisdom to train it’s parents to do what is beneficial for the whole family. 

I know… please don’t throw rotten tomatoes yet, hear me out! 

This requires putting mommy on a gentle, yet stringent, schedule for both feeding and sleeping … which basically looks like doing whatever fits the baby's life, routine and desire's best! It's important to start teaching the mommy early that there are rules which they must live by. It also requires waking her up in the night or better yet having her bring you back into bed with her until about age 24 months or more. This is to help her learn to differenciate night and day. Night is when you lay by her and suck continually and day is when you pop on and off all the time.

It does require a baby to allow her mommy to “self-sooth” and from time to time “cry-it-out” (CIO) but I will promise you that after the first few weeks of practicing Baby~Wise your mommy will stop crying so much and learn the skills she needs to sooth herself. Your home will be a happy place again.

And yes, I have heard that CIO can be damaging to mommy’s emotional state, but for real, a little crying never hurt anyone. We all know "everyone needs a good cry every now and then!” (Please no nasty comments… we can all live and let live, if you don’t agree with CIO practices just skip that part).

Baby~Wise is done to help her grow up and become a more well-rounded individual, selfless and more mature. This will make her a happy mommy in the long run. I know that many think this could be harmful for mommies, but it's about keeping the end in mind. 

I recently heard about a study on mothers in Africa. Their babies hold to a very rigid form of Baby~Wise... they don't leave their mommies alone for a moment and nurse them nearly 24/7 and it was found that their mommies are some of the happiest mommies on the planet. It must be that "village wisdom" they've passed down from baby to baby!

Plus, you can take it from a baby with 5 older siblings… experienced in the art of being a baby. "Babies of many", like me,  have been around the block a time or two we aren't "first timers" unsure of what we should do with our mommies. 

I have been spoiling mommy… it is evident in her behavior. She was beginning to get “fussy” and demanding. She thinks she runs this family, well, she needs to learn her place and Baby~Wise is the best method to accomplish this! If you want to know more, fellow babies, I have plenty of personal experience to prove just how effective this method is! 

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Week of Words Around Our Home

"Is there quicksand in water?" ... "If someone steps in quicksand we can pray and ask God to help them... That would be the best thing to do, I think." 

"Elias, when someone says 'No.' you don't just stand there saying 'Pleeeeeze.' Everyone knows that that doesn't work... and it annoying!"

"If a man ever tried to kiss me I'd tell him 'I don't do that until I am married, Mr.!' And I wouldn't!"


"Hey, look at my back mom. I got a carpet stain on it..." (He meant a rug burn).

I (mama) was talking to Tim as we were watching Fantasia and asked "Did you get to watch this too when you had a sub at school?" Addie said "They let you eat subs at school! That's so cool!" 

"Whitley you are so nice and fat on your legs!"
(True to his African heritage... he loves fatness!)

"Mom! Cora broke my feelings..."

"Mom? Does that picture make me look like Miss Hannigan?" 
Mama~ "No, honey. Do you think you look like Miss Hannigan in it?"
Thea~ "Yeah... I look funny!"

Picture Perfect

~ 20 Weeks ~

A breathy gasp announces her delight
Seriously examining
Moving constantly
Taking a bottle when mom is out
13 lbs
Sucks bottom lip, index finger, fist ... never her thumb
Dark gray blue eyes

(I am working on my photography skills... Not using a flash, adjusting my camera, ISO, perspective, arrangement, colors, editing. It is hard to not have moving parts blurry!!!)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Green Home

It's cold and icy. But there is a little home that is green and warm where things grow. 

Little things are sprouting.
Bigger things are producing fruit.
Little by little every day.

Fish and plants work together to thrive.
The big aquaponics is new and we are just getting the water established with proper levels of nutrients.

The blue tank is thriving and the chard is proof... Brighter colors speak of its happiness and nourishment.

Bok Choy just used in our kitchen was then transplanted from our local grocer finds a place to grow and have another chance at fruitfulness.

Celery grows again. A rebirth of sorts.

Our first broccoli grows up toward the light.

The tomatoe "tree"... A combined growing mass of life. Six plants have taken up their own empire in a corner. I use to hate the smell of tomatoe plants... Now it is a fresh and inviting perfume to my nose.

Eggplant kingdom... Still no fruit! We wait in expectancy. Hoping for something to grow where only space is taken.

A heavy fruit, nearly ready. Pink and purple tomatoes are my new obsession.

They grow close together, up a stake and around uplifting stabilizers.
If grown in their own way they'd rot on the ground.

My little green "home" is an oasis!
It's teaching me skills and applications for my own little home.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dear New Mama,

I heard you say the other day something to this effect, "I can't even get my laundry done, and I only have one baby ... I have no idea how you do it with six children!"  You said it with a defeated, shame-filled tone and my heart hurt for you because I remember feeling the same exact way 5 children ago.

First of all, who says I get my laundry done? Laundry is never done... not when you have 1 or 2 children and definitely not when you have 6! Now that that is cleared up, we can move on.

I get what you are saying, however, I use to say the same thing to my friends who had more children. Then I had 3 children, and then 5 and then 6, and I realized a simple fact of life...

Life as a mama always has its challenges... but it also always has its beauty and joys!

You see, it doesn't work like we'd assume... that once you've had 3 or 4 or 6 that one day it just gets easier and you've got it made, you'll figure out the secrets of mothering, managing a home or doing all things related to this season of life. On the other hand, it also doesn't work (as some might assume) that the more children you have the harder it gets. It's based less on numbers and more on personal capacities growing and changing...

We all start somewhere.
For starters, when I had our 1st baby it was even more challenging to me than it has been to add our 6th baby. It was more challenging because my perception and the level of my capabilities were being radically changed in life-altering ways! You know how it is, life literally changed overnight! Motherhood has a initial steep learning curve.

As each of our children joined our family it wasn't that steep of a curve, but with each and every addition I was pushed to a new maximum functioning capacity. I was able to have 2 children because I had had 1 previously. I was able to have 3 because I had had 2, and so on. Basically, our current abilities are to some degree built upon our previous experiences.

Today, I am very much at the same emotional and functional capacity level I was at 10 years ago when I had my 1st child in that I am still functioning at my own maximum capacity. While it has broadened in scope and capacity, it is still the farthest my scope has ever reached ... just like you are with your one or two. We are very much in the same place, you and I.

For sure, since then, I've learned a whole lot!

I've learned that if you let Cream of Wheat dry on a high chair tray it will be there the day Jesus returns for us, so scrub it off immediately after breakfast!

I've learned that you can just flat out ignore that drawer under you oven... it doesn't exist and no one will open it (not even your husband) and you can worry about other more important things like finding all the possible hidden choking hazards in your home or if your baby's head is the correct size or not.

I've learned that sometimes it is better to spend your day holding a fussy or sick baby than doing anything else, because that day is only given to you once and babies grow far too quickly!

I even have managed to learn how to not let our laundry literally bury us alive ... unless: a) we have the stomach flu or any other illness,  b) we've returned from a trip, or c) it is a national holiday. I hope one day to learn to manage it even under those variables.

Perhaps most importantly, I've learned that this whole mothering gig isn't entirely up to me. My days as a mother are crafted by One who knows my abilities, seeks to grow me into someone more like Christ and also hand picked all my children for me specifically to mother. And while I am still at my farthest scope of abilities after a while I have begun to see the fruit of my labor... little by little.

Mama of 2 with #3 on the way ...
Three littles in 3 and a half years was challenging!
Additionally, I've discovered that no matter how much I learn given my previous experiences, children are always growing, enter new phases, changing and things are always new and contain challenges of their own. Life as a mama isn't formulaic. What worked with one child may not with the next. What use to work with one child will fail to work as they grow and mature. We must grow and change right along side our children. We don't "get it all figured out" one magical day just because we've tried really hard to crack the parenting code by reading enough books, feeding them the right food, training them the prefect way. It just doesn't work like that.

Realize when you feel tempted to think, "I should be doing better because, that other mom is doing better than me with her 5 or 6 children..."  kind of thoughts, that that doesn't serve either of us well. When we make comparisons like this, we do so by giving ourselves the short end of the stick and bestowing much more grace on others than is realistic.

What I try to remember is that the struggles I face today are just part of this particular season as a mother. Seasons change, with them we grow, they grow and things mercifully change. It won't always be "this hard" or even "like this". Things will change and when they do things will simply be different.

Our short (4 week) period of time as a family with 4 children!
When I struggle the most it is usually because my expectations and desires are incongruent with the reality around me.

My messy house grates on my expectations of order, beauty and perfect functioning.
My crabby, sassy, disobedient children expose my irritable, snarky and sinful self.
My plan for today, to accomplish x, y and z, is derailed and exposed as unrealistic by the reality of the urgent that unfolds around me.

Expectations (particularly unrealistic ones) don't help us mamas.
In fact, they can be our true nemesis! They tend to wear us down. They make us feel defeated and incompetent.
Much like "worry" they don't accomplish anything of true worth. They tempt us to look at the 10 things we have to do in a given day with defeat and irritation instead of doing the one next thing well and with love.
They most often simply deceive us from our real God-given purposes and they rob us of the joy of participating in the beauty that is present in the reality around us!

Much of motherhood is about surrender. Giving up and laying down of self.
In laying down of my personally imposed expectations I've found I feel a whole lot lighter, more free and able to do the things that have been placed before me with more grace and love.

My meditation of mothering has become, 

"Do the next thing and do it with love."

Wow, that mama sure looks like she's got it all together...
Sometimes I wish I could be that lady.

I fail most days, many times a day at this, but going to God in my brokenness and asking for help makes it not only possible, but beautiful!

I remember this verse when I feel defeat creeping up on me, 

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, 
for in due season we will reap, 
if we do not give up.
So then, as we have opportunity, 
let us do good to everyone..." ~ Galatians 6:9-10

So, new mama ... know that we are so very much alike!

We are both doing big things, working hard and loving the people God has given us.
We are pushed to our own maximum every single day.
We need God's help and we need each other.

Thanks for walking this road with me!