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The Bad Mom and the Good Mom

My cousin is a wonderful Christian, homeschooler with 4 kids.  She called me one day a few years ago to tell me that she was the worst mom ever.

I laughed.  She seems to me to be a wonderful mom; always chipper, ever resourceful.  But she continued.

"I loaded the kids in the car to go to ballet, backed the car out of the garage, and was a quarter of a mile down the road when Molly asked 'Mom, where's Isaac?'"

Isaac is her four-year-old.  "He's not in the car?"  She asked.  "No."

"I know what you're thinking," she said to me.  "You're thinking, 'Oh, no!  Poor Isaac, scared at home alone.'  But I knew he was fine.  If he was in the house, he'd have already turned on the TV and gotten himself some cereal.  And if he were outside, he'd just wander over to the neighbors' and be perfectly happy there."

"So I was just looking in my rear-view mirror to make sure it was safe to slow down and make a u-turn, when I saw him.  There was Isaac.  Standing on the rear bumper, holding on to the wiper on the back of the van - just his forehead and eyes visible in the window."

"Oh no!"  I exclaimed.

"I had to fight the urge to slam on the brakes.  I slowed the car to a stop at the side of the road, and ran back to get him.  'Isaac, honey' I said 'Why didn't you tell me that you were on the car?'  And he said, 'I was yelling for you, Mommy, but you didn't hear me.'"

"Since then I have what if'd myself to death.  'What if I had been on the freeway?'  'What if he'd fallen off?'  But the thing that really gets me, is that I didn't see him when I backed out the driveway!"

"Wow,"  was all I could say to my cousin.  What a story.  She said that her mom had told her she was too busy, and needed to do less.

"But, that's the thing - I wasn't even in a hurry.  We were early.  We weren't rushed.  I truly thought he was in the car."

I know that as a mom, I've had days like that.  Days when everything was going well, and then, well, oops.  My cousin told me to tell my friends that story whenever they had a bad day and thought they were a bad mom.  She knew it would make them feel better.

So, I've told that story many times, to many friends.  And Jor Man had overheard me tell it.  So, one day, Jor Man said,  "Mom, you know the 'Bad Mom' story you tell?"

"Yeah?"

"Well, could you tell me a Good Mom story?"  He asked.

Hmmm.  A good mom story.  I didn't have one of those.  I really had to think about it.  After several days, I remembered a story a friend had told me.

This particular friend is also an amazing mom.  She has eight children whom she homeschools.  She has taught me so much about Jesus, and parenting.  I really am in awe of her.

So I remember being more than a little surprised when she told me about a time when her first child was a few months old.  He wasn't a good sleeper.  In fact, she was really exhausted.  One night, she had walked the halls with him multiple times, and had finally just gotten him back to sleep.  She transferred him ever so carefully to his crib and silently, slowly backed out of the door.

She was almost to her room when he cried out again.  This time, instead of running to his side, she broke down and cried.  She sat down at the top of the stairs and wept, crying out to God.

Beauty Mom and Sher Bear on the day she was born.
"God," she said, "you chose the wrong woman to be this baby's mother.  I can't do this.  I am exhausted.  I don't care anymore."

And she heard God say, "You're right.  You can't do this.  But I can."

Baby still cried in the background.  She sat weeping.  And again God spoke.

"I want to go in and be with him.  May I borrow your legs?  You don't have to want to be there, or care.  But I want to borrow you legs and go in and be with him."

So my friend got up, in God's strength, and walked back into the room, standing by the crying child.  After a minute, God said "I want to love this boy.  May I borrow your arms?"  And she picked him up.

My friend tells me that is how she parented from then on - not from her own strength, but from God's love for her kids.

So I told Jor Man the story - of the good mom who relied on God to love her kids.  He was quiet for a while.  And then Jor Man said, "That's a good story, Mom.  You should try that sometime."

"I do, Jor Man.  I do."

Wish you were here!

Happiness, part one

Of all the things I want to my kids to learn, I think the top three are:  How much God loves them, how to love others, and how to be happy.

Happiness, for most people, is incredibly elusive.  It's a puzzle which requires all of the pieces to fit together perfectly, and it seems one piece is always missing.  Yet it's the thing we crave, almost more than anything else.

For some people, happiness seems to be a part of them.  I think of my friends, Doug and Shona.  Each of them is known by their happy, loving attitudes.  If they are not smiling, it draws concern.  They seem to take life in stride.  Troubles don't affect them in the same way they affect other people.  It seems as though disappointment rolls off them like water off a duck's back.

How can we help our kids to "learn" to be happy?  At the Option Institute, Big Dad and I have learned many tools that we find so helpful.

The first of these is resisting the urge to make everything a moral issue.  There are moral issues.  Definitely.  And God has an opinion (THE opinion) on what is right and wrong.  However, we tend to go beyond that,  becoming more like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, making every thing a moral issue.

When I find myself being upset about something, I think about what I am saying in my mind - what I am believing in that moment.  Usually, it's something like "He SHOULD. . . " or "They OUGHT to. . ."  Shoulds and ought to's tell me right away that I have made something into a moral issue.  Maybe it is.  Maybe it's an issue of lying, or stealing or disrespecting me as a mom.  (And if it IS a moral issue, we deal with it.)

But more often than not, it's simply an issue of me not getting what I wanted in the moment, i.e. I wanted the dining room table cleared off, I am thinking "I shouldn't have to ask for the table to be cleaned up before dinner each night."  If I recognize that this is not a moral issue, but a want, then I can change the words in my head to reflect that.  So now I am thinking, "I really want the dining room cleared before dinner each night without my asking."  Hmm.  It takes the anger out of it.  I can still want it, strongly, and work to get it.  Without the anger, I can focus better on getting to a solution.  Maybe it is worth it to me to offer a reward to people who have their stuff off the table before dinner time.  Maybe I can make a chart towards earning some special treat.  The point is that I am a resourceful woman, and when I recognize my want, rather than rage in self-righteous (although misguided) anger, I can get what I want without giving up my happiness in the process.

As I have said before, modeling is the most helpful way to help your kids' learn a skill.  I imagine that Doug and Shona had parents who modeled happiness to them.  I want to do the same for my kids.

I also notice when they are using unhappiness to try to get what they want.  I ask questions to try to reveal what it is that they are thinking.  When I hear a should or ought to, I can help them to discern whether this is a moral imperative or simply a want of theirs.  Then we can brainstorm together ways for them to get what they want while still maintaining their happiness.

Wish you were here!

Maggie the Soccer Dog

Campster, Grace and I went over to Whippoorwill Farms the other day to buy some raw honey, grass fed beef, breakfast sausage and soup bones.  They have delicious food.  Really.  You ought to try some.

Always happy to make a new animal friend, Campster played soccer with Maggie, while Grace and I shopped.  You can see some video of Maggie playing soccer below.

We want to get a Border Collie.  Jor Man, especially, would love to have a dog again.  As soon as Big Dad gets another job, I think we will.  Having a pet is a wonderful opportunity for responsibility and compassion.  Jor Man had some fish.  But Beauty Mom was ill-informed as to the proper care of fish and killed them all eventually.  (When you clean the tank, you don't change all the water at once.  Oops.)

Campster takes good care of both Miss Kitty and Ruby the bunny.  I have chickens.  But, for the time being, Jor Man does not have a pet.  Soon.  I hope.

Wish you were here!

She Laughs at the Days: Asking for Help

My Real-Life friend, Carrien, writes the most well-written, compelling blog I read.  I hope you will all read her, too.

I wanted to bring a particular post to your attention.  She and her hubby have created a ministry to kids in Thailand - you may have noticed a button to donate on my sidebar.  I hope you will click the link below, and remember how blessed you are.

She Laughs at the Days: Asking for Help

Wish you were here!

Beauty Spa

Our friend, Grace,  has arrived, and we are much enjoying her company.  The girls are all a twitter showing her their new room, and their American Girl dolls.  This morning we played "Beauty Spa" with Sher Bear doing my make up and hair, and Campster doing Grace's.  I think it is good for them to get in their practice now, before they are old enough to really wear makeup.  I want them to get past their urge to paint cheeks bright pink and eyes baby blue to the eyebrows.  I encouraged Sher Bear to make my makeup delicate.  Grace looked like a clown when Campster was done with her.  We coached Campster on "less is more" and at first she balked, and got all bent out of shape that we didn't just love it.  But later she brought out a wash cloth and Grace now looks presentable.  They really love to do our make up and hair.  So cute and girly.

It is not my favorite thing to have my hair and make up done, especially by my kids.  But I remember how much I loved to do it (mostly to my little sister) when I was young, so I buck up and let them.  They love it so!

And, no, I'm not taking post "Beauty Spa" pictures.  Because, I am that vain.

Wish you were here!

Enjoying God's Creation

We were over at a friend's house this past weekend.  Their son had jury-rigged a plank and rope gangway up a tree, which our kids took to immediately.  What they found at the top surprised us all - a chrysalis, with it's butterfly just emerging.  Isn't God so gracious?!  My butterfly loving Campster was right on it.  She reminded everyone not to touch it until the butterfly has a chance to pump its wings up, and fly.  But we all got to take a look. Amazing!

Yesterday, we were working on our garden beds.  And the girls caught a frog.  They played with that frog for hours, creating a habitat for it  (I love that they know that word), and letting it swim in the kiddy pool, and hop on the grass.  There were also moths that were caught, examined and released.  Eventually, the frog, too, was released, but only after much encouragement from the parents that this was the thing to do.

But first they decided to kiss the frog and see if it was a prince under a spell.  Nope.  Campster tells me she kissed him "lip-to-lip".  Eewww.  Unschooling is not for the faint of heart, or stomach.

On any other day, I might have gotten out books and looked up the kinds of butterfly, moth and frog they had captured.  But I decided rather to just enjoy.  And sometimes, enjoying God's creation IS the lesson.



We are waiting for the rain that never came last night.  After the rain we will put in our seeds and plants. So exciting!

Wish you were here!

Ready or Not



A dear friend sent me the email below.  I want to read these books now.  Has anyone out there read them already?  Would love to hear your thoughts.  Thanks to my friend who agreed to allow me to post this on my blog.  

"The following is a quote from a book my husband was reading which is relevant to those of us who homeschool.  I thought you would enjoy the quote and may be interested in his books.  This author has a best selling book entitled "A Mind At A Time"  he has also written a book called "The Myth of Laziness."  The quote I am including here is from a book entitled "Ready or Not, Here Life Comes."  In this  book, he outlines how our culture and educational system are not preparing young adults for careers and life well.  It may be worth a read . . . . . there are many quotes I like, however, this one sums up what most of us homeschoolers already know and are trying to teach.  It is what my husband struggles with as a Principal because the district expects test scores and he is in the business of growing up  adults who can contribute to society meaningfully and live a full, satisfying life . . . .
 . . . . Often such educational practice has been ingrained in schools for generations without being sufficiently reexamined for its present-day relevance.  Multiple-choice tests do not prepare a child for anything important in the adult sphere.  Making a child feel terrible because his scrawl is barely decipherable is callous and needless; many adequately successful adults (the author included) are hardly paragons of legibility.  How accurately a child can spell, how thoroughly he conquers trigonometry, how precise he is at the game of memorizing and regurgitation historical facts, and how athletic he may be are irrelevant to almost any career you can name.  On the other hand, the ability to think critically, to brainstorm, to monitor and refine your own performance, to communicate convincingly, and to plan and preview work are among the important skills that could make or break startup adults across countless occupations . . . .
Mel Levine, M.D. "Ready or Not, Here Life Comes" "

The picture is an old one of Campster from when we lived in San Diego.  She is standing on the door to the dishwasher - she's unloading it for me.  :)

Wish you were here!

Reading Lists

Our style of unschooling is part letting the kids' interests guide what we learn, and part exposing them to new, interesting things.   It is not a passive process on the part of the parent.

I follow their lead, yes!  To a great extent they have pursued interests I would never have imagined:  Jor Man's soda making, Sher Bear's love of Egypt and Campster's butterflies come to mind.

At the same time, I am always, well, scheming and planning.  There are things I would like for them to learn.  And there are, frankly, things I would like to, finally, learn.

One of the ways in which we find new areas of interest is through literature.  I LOVE audio books.  We listen to books in the car, both running errands and on longer trips.  We have also listened to books at night while snuggled in bed, and on a stormy day, while coloring, instead of TV.  Check the following resources for audio books:


Finding new books to read is easy!  There are so many good reading lists out there.  Here are a few:


Once you have found some books you want to read, check your library.  Be sure and ask your librarian if there are any you cannot locate.  Many libraries participate in interlibrary loans, which means that even if your library doesn't carry that book, they might be able to get it for you from another library.

Part of the beauty of not following a formal curriculum is that you don't need to go in any certain order.  Where we live, there aren't many other homeschoolers.  But I know that other libraries may be more "overrun" with homeschoolers (what a wonderful dilemna!), and people going through the same curriculum at the same time of year won't find the books available at the library.  No worries.  Go out of "order.  Start in the middle, and you will find the books you need.  Or just get the ones that are available each time you go.  Just because you have a list does not mean you have to read ALL the books on that list.  It's just for ideas!  Don't let the philosophies or the magnitude of the lists overwhelm you.  This is all about doing what is fun, engaging and meaningful for your family - not following someone else's methodology.

If you have kids of many ages, don't worry about getting something for each age group.  I have found that Sher Bear, while maybe not thrilled with my choice of books, and pretending to be thoroughly bored, gets a lot out of it.  She does follow the stories and make connections.  On the flip-side, Jor Man does quite well with Winnie-The-Pooh.  Good literature is good literature, no matter what the age.

Ask your friends what books they've enjoyed in their homeschool.  Homeschoolers blogs often list what they are currently reading.  We are reading Swallows and Amazons because a friend mentioned how much her son loved it.

Lastly, share the books that you love.  Especially those you loved as a kid.  I don't care if they are not on anyone's list.  They are your heart - pass them on.  We recently listened to "From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" because it was my favorite when read to me in 5th grade.  The kids loved it, too.

Wish you were here!

Sticking to Your Guns


I think the single most difficult part of parenting (for me) is the need to be consistent.  Paradoxically, being consistent often means needing to be flexible.  For instance, a friend called me today to say that she was planning to take her four kids to the library and then to the lake, and did we want to join them?  Sure!  I said.  We could use the outing.  And we haven't seen these friends in a while.  

The kids had been playing together particularly well since Jor Man has been feeling better.  Jor Man even set up a Nerf shooting gallery in his room, and was entertaining the girls by letting them shoot the targets for prices (at one cent per shot - my entrepreneur!)  They were behaving well, and I thought they deserved the visit with their friends.

The kids were so excited when I told them we were getting together.  Jor Man collected up the towels and put the chairs in the car.  The girls got their swim suits on and planned snacks.  All was going well.
(Sher Bear on the beach)   

And then my friend called.  Her children had not been so well behaved that morning.  They were not getting done what they needed to, and would not be joining us.  Rats!

The kids were bummed.  But, I gotta say, I was impressed with my friend.  She stuck to her guns.  If their behavior was not up to snuff, then they did not get the reward.  I have done that, too, many times.  I've missed parties I wanted to go to because the kids were not behaving.  I have found that if you follow through with what you said - and miss the party, next time, they'll be much more likely to cooperate.

Fortunately for us, our friend called back later to say that the children had now finished, and they were at the beach awaiting our arrival!  Hurray!  (Campster gives her friend a hug.  Like her new haircut?)

We love our lake.  It's so peaceful and pretty.  The kids try to catch fish, and they practice their swimming. Everyone had a wonderful time.  Especially the mommies who were happy for some "friend time" for ourselves.

Oh, and here is the promised picture of the girls' room remodel.  The floor was messy, so I just took a picture of the one wall.  LOL!  I'll try and take a pic of the whole thing when it's clean.  :)

Wish you were here!

The Way Things Go

This week we are once again learning lessons I could not have planned.  Jor Man discovered what he thought was a bruise on his leg that he wanted to show me.  Turns out he had seven bulls eye rashes on his legs.  By the next day, there were fifteen, including two on his face.  He has lyme disease.  Not a big surprise considering that we live in "tick land".  You see a deer and think "Bambi".  I see a deer and think "Tick distributor".  The first year we lived here, the pediatrician told us to expect to tick check each child every night (we do, religiously) for something the size of a period at the end of a sentence.  "Because," he added, "the average number of ticks per kid each year is eight."  The Campster managed more than that her first year.  Since then we've averaged somewhere around three a year, per child.

Jor Man is doing much better now.  I really hate using antibiotics, but sometimes they are a godsend!  His fever is gone, and he no longer looks like someone took a baseball bat to his legs.  Poor kid.   He was pretty freaked out.

So I was planning to write about the great new schedule Big Dad and I had put together; and about how much more we are accomplishing.  Well, we did - for one day.  And then Jor Man got lyme and I dropped all my plans and expectations and just sat with him.

The beauty of homeschooling is that you can have a schedule, when and if you want one.  And you can just as easily chuck it when life happens and you want to reprioritize.  Jor Man and I had a Harry Potter movie marathon.  And we discussed salvation (again) and how God's love for us isn't something that we earn.  And how faith is only real when you put all your weight on it.

The girls got extra daddy time, which they enjoyed.  Their room redecoration is complete and we are all thrilled with the results.  I will make the effort to take pictures tomorrow.  Well, I'll plan to - and we'll see what tomorrow brings.

Wish you were here!

Elsie Dinsmore

My girls, especially Campster, LOVE Elsie Dinsmore.  Elsie, if you haven't heard, is a fictional character whose book series was written by Martha Finley between 1867 and 1905.

On the strong suggestion of the Vision Forum catalog, we asked Grandma for the first set of audio CDs a couple of years ago.  At first, Campster was none too thrilled.  But Elsie grew on her as she listened to the story as she went to bed each night.  Last year, I purchased the second and third CD sets for her.  They have become a family favorite - and both girls, now sharing a room, insist on listening to it each night before falling off to sleep.

What I love about Elsie is two-fold.  Firstly, the vocabulary is rich.  Campster's grasp of language is amazing.  She will gently tell me that she does not like my "harsh tone" and "stern look" when I am angry with her.

The second thing I appreciate about Elsie is her meekness.  She loves Jesus.  And while she can be a bit legalistic for my tastes (refusing to read a secular book on the sabbath), her faith and commitment to it is admirable.

The other characters are not all so charitable.  The other day we were listening to Elsie in the car, and Arthur, Elsie's uncle, had gotten into trouble.  The kids noted that he: lied, dishonored his parents, presented false witness against another, coveted and stole.  He broke five commandments!  It was fascinating to me to see my kids coming up with commandments he broke that I hadn't even thought of.  What a great chance to discuss the choices we make and the consequences.  By the way, Arthur was flogged severely, and sent to solitary confinement to live on bread and water for a week.  I thought that made any punishment of mine look very tame in comparison!

Discussing books together is a favorite past time in our house.  Now that Campster is reading better, I hope to get her the set of the Elsie books to read.  I understand that there are several versions - and I will buy the set from Vision Forum as it is the original and not lacking anything.

I am gearing up to get the new MP3's of the next few books in the series.  I haven't done it yet for two reasons: 1) I want to wait for hubby to have employment and 2) The story is read by a different person, and the sound quality is not as good from what I can tell.

If you have girls (or even boys - as Jor Man enjoys it as well) Elsie Dinsmore is a wonderful role model for them.

Wish you were here!

Snuggle Puppy

The Campster is a Snuggle Puppy.  Her Love Language is physical touch.  Being aware of that, Big Dad and I make an intentional effort to fill her love tank daily.  This is important now, but will be even more so when the hormones hit hard.  We'd much rather she get her hugs from us.

Every night, Big Dad reads to the girls, snuggled up on the sofa.  And every morning, the kids join me in the bed for snugs.  For kids that need that physical touch (well, they all do, but I mean those who especially need it) doing school in bed or snuggled on the sofa is a great option.  She is much calmer and less fidgety when snuggling while doing her reading.  You'd get in trouble if you tried that in public school!

Speaking of reading, Campster has recently made the jump from reading short vowel words to long vowel words.  Wow!  She is so excited.  We were using Phonics Pathways, which worked great for Jor Man and I still highly recommend.  But she was frustrated.  So we tried some short, colorful readers from Abeka that friends had handed down to us.  She loves them.  And that is the secret - finding what makes learning fun.  I love that we are not tied down to some district mandated curriculum.  If something's not working - we change it - that minute!

If you don't know what your child's love language is, here's an easy way to find out:

Beauty Mom:  Do you know that Mommy and Daddy love you?

Campster:  Yeah!

Beauty Mom:  How do you know?

Campster:  You tickle and hug me.  (Physical touch)

Jor Man and Sher-Bear's love languages are both Gifts.  The other love languages are quality time together (We play together, you read to me), Encouraging words (You tell me that I'm pretty, you say you love me), and Helps (You cook dinner for me, you help me learn to read).

The other way to tell is this:  People usually try to love others in the way they most like to be loved.  Sher Bear must give me 10 pictures, shells, flowers and rocks a day.  She even wraps them.  Campster hugs me and loves to give big, somewhat inappropriate, mushy kisses.  Jor Man brings me lego creations he made for me.

Find out what your kid's love languages are, and report back how you plan to fill their tanks this week!
Wish you were here!

National Day of Prayer -part two

On Thursday, May 6th, our family woke up and saw that it was pouring rain outside.  Ugh!  Today was to be the first ever National Day of Prayer event in our town, and I envisioned that it would be just our family of five standing out on the corner in the pouring rain.  Oh, well!  At least we would be praying.

So we prayed and checked the forecast.  A wonderful Christian woman had called me the week before.  She had promised to be there.  But would she come in the rain.

By 10:45, the rain had stopped.  The clouds began to clear and the sun came out.  Hurray!  The kids and I blew up balloons, and loaded the car.

A friend from church arrived 15 minutes early!  Woo hoo!  We wouldn't be alone.  Then another friend from church.  And then people I didn't even know.  Wow.  Some people needed to leave early, and others came late.  But all-in-all, we had 20 people attend the event.

We read prayers and scriptures for an hour.  Just as we were finishing, a man drove up and got out of his car.  He knew some of the people there, and said hello.   He asked if he was late.  We all laughed and I said that we were just about to sing.  He launched into Amazing Grace with a beautiful, strong voice.  Everyone joined in.  Then we sang American the Beautiful, which the kids and I had been practicing all week.

I asked if everyone had enjoyed the event and if it was something they wanted to do next year?  A resounding Yes!  Next year it will be bigger and better.

On the way home, Jor Man commented that he knew God was there, because we didn't think anyone would come.  "God brought all those people!"  I was so pleased that he attributed the success of the event to the Lord.

Did any of you attend a National Day of Prayer event with your family?  I'd love to hear about it.  Perhaps you could plan to attend or coordinate next year's event in your town.  It's a wonderful way to seek the Lord together.

Wish you were here!

Baseball

This year, Jor Man is playing baseball on the local team.  I say "this year" because he didn't last year, but he did the year before.  Last year he was also doing 4-H, Cub Scouts, and Tae Kwon Do.  And the girls had dance class. It all just felt like too much running around.  Ya know?

So this year, Jor Man really wanted to play baseball.  And he isn't currently involved with other activities.  We looked at our options.  At his age there are two leagues.  The first is by tryout, and involves practices and/or games 5 nights a week!  I laughed.  I know other people live their lives around sports schedules.  If you do that - more power to you.  But I really value having dinner together as a family and getting to bed at a decent hour - for the kids, and also for me!

The other league was a commitment of 2-3 nights a week for games and practices.  And it's turning out to be more like two.  Yeah!  But even that feels like it separates our family too much.   So we agreed that if Jor Man was going to play baseball, we would make it a family event.

We go with him (all of us) to each and every practice and game.  I pack dinner and we picnic.  Big Dad runs around playing freeze tag with the girls (who love it when Dad plays with them).  In truth, I stay in the car where it is warm and keep score.  I poke my head out the window when he is up to bat, and I scream my head off for him.  :)

He is having so much fun.  Last night he got up to bat three times.  He got three singles, and once he went around for a run.  We are so pleased that he is having fun.

I have a plan to teach the girls some cheers to do (when it's warmer).  I am having trouble getting good ideas off of the internet.  Anyone have any good cheers for baseball?

I confess:  Sports just isn't my thing.  Never has been.  If I go to a game, I spend my time enjoying the food and people watching.  But watching my son is different.

Wish you were here!

Pi Are Round

The beautiful young woman is our friend, Grace.  She comes to stay with us from time to time.  And we benefit from her friendship, her delicious cooking, and her prayers for us.  This is a picture from her last visit when she made us apple pie.  It was the only picture of a pie that I have, so. . .  But I am sure you will hear more about Grace in the future as she is coming in two week for another visit.  So I am glad to introduce you to her now.

Jor Man asked at breakfast, "What is Pi?"  He had heard of it in a movie, and then again in a book he is reading.

I got out a sheet of paper and began to explain, "Imagine we were putting in a garden, and we wanted to make it a circle.  How would be know how much fence to buy to go around the outside?"

"Well,"  Jor Man reasoned, "How big is the circle?"  He already knew about radius and diameter, so we went over these terms with the girls.  Then we added the term "circumference" to all their vocabularies.

The magic of Pi was revealed.  Big Dad showed them how the circumference of any circle is the diameter three times and a little more.  That's true whether it's a really big house-sized circle, or an itty-bitty circle.  Ooohh!  Aaaahh!  The kids, including the very-hard-to-impress Jor Man, were wowed!

Next I "Swagbucks" searched the term Pi, and read it to them to the 20th digit.  We explained that it goes on forever and never repeats!  More awe.  I also told them that my brother had Pi memorized to the hundreth digit when we were kids.  Really.

We did the math to figure out how big the fence would need to be for our imaginary garden.  Then I asked, how much area is inside the circle?  Huh?

I explained.  Let's say we want to plant wildflowers, and the package says to sprinkle so much seed per square foot of garden.  Confused looks.  An explanation of the concept of a square foot ensued.  Then we went back to the question.  How many square feet in our imaginary garden circle?  How could we find out?  We drew a square around the circle and used the diameter as the length of the sides.  We estimated the number of square feet in the circle based on the square feet in the square.

Then I showed them how to use Pi to figure the area of a circle.  Pi x radius squared, or Pi r squared.  (Forgive my not using the symbols here.  I fear they will not translate well in the blog and come out all funky.)

Pi r square.  "No!"  Jor Man laughed.  "Pi are round!"  And I laughed, too.  Because that was what my mother said when she taught it to me.    We figured out the area and compared it to our estimate.  It's a good thing we have Pi.  The estimate was pretty off.

Wish you were here!

Building a Chicken Coop

It used to be that when there was a big project to be done, we would actually get a babysitter or grandparents to watch the kids so we could "get something done".  Well, I suppose there might be a time and place for that - but now we just think through what the job will entail, and how the kids can "help".

I say "help" in quotes because we all know there are things that can be done faster and with higher quality by grownups than by children.  But that is part of the process.  And what you give up in speed and perfection, you more than make up for in family fun, togetherness, and building a sense of accomplishment in the child.

Last fall, we constructed a chicken coop.  We had had chickens in the past, but the neighbors' dog, a Jack Russell Terrier, was doing her dog thing and hunting them.  We didn't want the neighbors' to have to chain her up, so we went without chickens for a while.

I came up with an idea for a "dog-proof" chicken coop.  And as we began the building process, I realized an error.  In talking over it aloud with Big Dad, Jor Man had an idea - and it was brilliant.  We incorporated his design change into the coop, making it better.  Jor Man still tells people that he designed the coop.  The whole family worked on priming and painting the coop.  It made for some paint in hair - but nothing that a bath wouldn't fix.  When you are not trying to get to school on time the next day, and get homework done, you can be much more flexible with the schedule and work around big projects.

That said, we found it worked best to only do a couple of hours a day on the project at a time.

Here's the finished coop ready for it's inhabitants.  We love having fresh eggs everyday from our wonderful Barred Rock and Speckled Sussex hens.

Wish you were here!

Art (& Food) Appreciation

The area we live in is very artsy.  Last week they held the 2nd all-town art show, Spring for Art.  Having attended the Fall for Art last year with a friend, I was excited that the kids be a part of the festivities this year.

Thirty-two businesses hosted 50 local artists.  There were sculptures, photos and paintings.  Most of the locations also offered hors d oeuvres and beverages.  So all five of us went sampling and surveying, up and the down the streets.  I didn't see many kids (except mine).  I wish there had been more kids there.  We had discussions on etiquette (can you say "double dipping"?), and much enthusiasm over some of the art and most of the food.  LOL!

We talked about which pieces they liked best.  Some of the works made us wonder, "Is this art?" 

We noticed differences in media and styles.  Most of the artists were there and so we could ask them about their work.  My favorite pieces were in the movie theater.  Here's a picture of the kids in front of one of them.  I know, the kids look bored and annoyed, but they really weren't.  They just didn't want me taking their picture when they could be checking out the food!

After the art showing, Campster asked about how one gets their work into a show like that.  I explained that once you have a body of work of a certain quality, you can ask to be a part of a show.  She's decided that next year she will have some of her work in the show.  I wouldn't be surprised.

Wish you were here!

Recycling

When I think of recycling, I think of not letting anything go to waste.  When I was trying to replicate a public school experience at home, there wasn't time to take advantage of the teachable moments that just come about through the course of the day.

But now that we are vacation schooling, there is time for reflection and learning to happen from life.  This has been a particularly productive week in that respect - recycling life's ups and downs into learning moments.

Something was trying to dig into our movable chicken coop.  Each morning there were little holes around the fence (thank God for really rocky soil!) and I was wanting to ensure that we didn't lose all our chickens to some predator.  So we bought a catch and release trap.  There was much discussion in our house about the type of predator each thought most likely the culprit.  Jor Man thought it was a Fisher, a weasel-type animal common to our area.  Campster thought it was the neighbors' Jack Russell Terrier again.  Sher Bear suggested a bear.  Big Dad thought a weasel made sense.  He'd seen something slink away one night.  I kinda thought it might be either a racoon or an opossum.  But I wouldn't have been surprised to find it was the neighbors' dog, either.  That's why we got a catch and release trap.

Jor Man suggested that we wet the ground around the chicken coop and try to get some prints in order to identify the predator.  It was a good idea, but I wanted to catch it.

Well, Saturday morning we woke up to find we had caught - a skunk.  Or, as Sher Bear says it "a Kunk!!" She drops her "S" sounds in blends.  "Don't let the Kunk pray you!" She would say.

We never even considered that it might be a skunk.  What to do?  Jor Man wanted us to call Animal Adventures, where they have their animal classes.  But I explained that I doubted they would come 3 hours one way to rescue a skunk.  (I was right.)  In the end, I found a wildlife expert and we paid him to remove it.  Without it spraying.  Hurray!!  I have a new hero.  :)

I couldn't believe how much dirt the skunk dug up from under the trap.  The bottom of it is cage just like the sides.  Still he was able to dig up dirt to fill half the trap!

Also this week, we discovered that our washing machine was not quite as house broken as we thought.  It had, apparently, been wetting the floor for some time.  Thankfully we are friends with a man who owns a mold remediation company.  He offered to come by and check the floor for us.  He had an amazing gizmo that could tell that the subflooring was wet under the vinyl floor under the refrigerator, the washer and the dryer.  So, Big Dad moved them all out, and ripped out the vinyl under them.  Then we put every fan and hair dryer we own on the job of drying out the subfloor.

Discussions about mold, subflooring, and the repair of major appliances ensued.  It also gave us a chance to model how we respond when things don't go as planned.  We had a fun time comparison shopping for washers that afternoon at Sears.  Price, energy use, and capacity were all weighed in the decision making process.  My new washer should arrive on May 10th  - Yeah!


Wish you were here!

Peter Pan

Jor Man is becoming a man.  He has long outgrown his Peter Pan costume (wish I had pictures of him in it!) - but he will always be my little guy at heart.  But here are pictures of Campster as Tinkerbell when she was 18 months, and 2 years old.  So cute!

Our first voyage into Peter Pan was when Jor Man was 4 and Campster was 1.  Our homeschool group had gotten tickets to a performance of Peter Pan by the San Diego Ballet in Balboa Park.   They loved it.  Afterwards we waited until the cast came out and met them.  Jor Man was particularly entranced by Captain Hook.

Next Big Dad and Jor Man went with friends to see the stage production of Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby as Peter.  They met her after the performance.  Pardon the pun, but he was hooked!

The live-action version of Peter Pan movie is our family favorite.  One year for his birthday, Jor Man had all his friends watch it.  He liked it that much.  And eventually we got around to the Disney version as well.  We've also listened to Peter Pan being read by Jim Weiss several times - we are currently in the middle of it.  I believe we have also seen a high school production of the play.

Jor Man got wind of the movie, "Hook" and so we watched that together and discussed it.  And last night, I showed him "Finding Neverland" which is the story of J.M. Barrie's writing of "Peter Pan" the original play.  This is not for the faint of heart, because there are allusions to scandal and adultery, and even a suggestion of molestation - gives us a lot to talk about.  But it is a beautiful picture of the creative process that Barrie may have gone through in writing his most famous play.

All these different variations and genres of Pan have given us a mini comparative literature class.  We talk about the characters and how they are alike or different in the various expressions.  We talk about changes to the plot, subtle and dramatic.  Campster is particularly adept at making connections and following themes.  We talk about our favorite part of the book/play/movie and why we liked it.  And we look at the worldview expressed in it.  Is it Christian?  If not, what does it try to say?  What are the characters believing?  And do those beliefs help or hinder them?

If you've read "Honey for a Child's Heart", you'll remember that she says that one of the things that binds a family together is their shared experience of the characters and the little inside jokes that come from having lived such adventures together through stories.  I smile and think of Wendy giving the lost boys and Peter their "medicine" when I dole out the cod liver oil.  And Sher Bear offers to give me a "thimble" and kisses me.    

Wish you were here!

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