Thursday, August 30, 2012

Morning Time and Reevaluation

So the first couple weeks of homeschool have come and gone, and like most years I had to do some re-evaluating and some paring down.  It really doesn't look like too much when it's all on paper, but making it all fit in the day without tears is another story.

What got cut:
I can't believe I am doing this since I was so excited about using the program I had picked out, but I decided that it just wasn't necessary.  Our Latin studies are very rigorous and equivalent to a high school level course.  I read this article recently and I am going to go with the author's assertion that "Latin is the most efficient way to learn English grammar."

English grammar is very analytical and does not always follow the rules, which is not so great for my children in the classical grammar stage to whom analyzation does not come easy.  Latin, on the other hand, always follows the rules, and when you figure out the code it's just a matter of applying that code to the new words that you learn.  It's good tough mental exercise, and it may not be their favorite subject, but they do enjoy it.

Every year I am tempted to buy workbooks to go along with the kids' books because I want that piece of paper to prove that we did something.  However, I have a 9 year old boy who really agonizes over writing, and getting his thoughts on paper is very difficult.  So I decided to scrap a number of the workbooks/comprehension questions and just have them do a good "Charlotte Mason" style narration after their readings.

What I added:
Morning Time
We always did a form of this in the past, but I am making more of an effort this year to place a priority on this.  This is the kids' favorite part of school and the part I think they will remember most.  Like Cindy Rollins said, "morning time is not for now, not for tomorrow, but for the future."  And like Mary Burt said, "It is for wonder and delight".

When Aiden wins the heart of his lady, he can happily whistle "Gypsy Rover."  When Grace is enjoying daffodils in the spring, she can recite Wordsworth and they will be all the more beautiful.  If Asher is acting tired or bored we can tease him with "Poor Tired Tim".  If they ever go to France (and they do want to very badly) and visit Monet's garden, it will be a magical place of wonder.  They can think about Debussy's La Mer when they are at the sea, and when they are old they can muse on all the verses to "Blessed Assurance."
 The list can go on and on.  You get the picture.  Morning time is for the heart and soul of my children, while at the same time educating their mind.  I created a tab on the blog with a list of all the things we will be doing in morning time for each term of our school year.  It's much easier for me to make this happen by having it all in one place.   All of the selections follow the Ambleside list.

By the way, I do not do everything on that list in one day.  If we end up spending a lot of time talking about a poem, a musical piece, or about a painting and we only get to a couple of things, then so be it.   For example, just this morning Naomi commented on how she liked the line in Tennyson's Ulysses, "I will drink life to the lees".  I asked her why she liked it and she said she had no idea, but it just sounded good.  When I explained it to her, she liked it all the more, and we had a good talk about living life to the fullest.
"How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!"

They may not understand it all.   A lot of it may be too lofty and too far over their heads, but it is their favorite time of the day if that says anything.  And knowing that rich thoughts and ideas are being sunk into their hearts for the future is what we want most for our children anyway.  Not that we finished lots of workbooks that end up in the burn pile.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Montgomery County Youth Field Day

Yesterday Christian took Grace and Aiden to our county's field day.  The purpose of this event is to introduce kids to outdoor sport such as archery,  fishing,  trapping,  canoeing,  firearms, and wilderness survival.  With the numbers of youth hunters, fishers and trappers dwindling, the PA game commission is concerned that kids should be exposed to these traditions to keep them alive.  Thus this FREE event was born, and what a blast it was!
 (Smelling fox urine)
(Burrying a trap)
(Radio tracking a deer)
There were a few hundred kids there, but it was highly organized and very informative and fun for the kids and Christian.  Even though there were so many kids there, as you could see they got a lot of one on one instruction, which was awesome.  We've been to some events where it was just masses of people and sort of a free for all.  This was not one of those events.

We heartily recommend it!  Check it out for next year!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Goodbye puppies!

Oh happy day!   The puppies are all officially sold.  This time around it took longer to sell them, as we had to advertise and they didn't all sell by word of mouth like last time.  I spent a lot of time corresponding with potential buyers via email, and answering the same questions over and over again got a little old by the end.  Since I had also started homeschooling this week it was just a little crazy.  I wanted to pull my hair out several times this week.

I have the puppies mostly potty trained by this point and the kids love playing with them, so it is a little hard to see them go.  But they are all going to wonderful homes where they will be spoiled rotten, which makes it a little easier.  

These things drive me nuts when they are littler with peeing and pooping all over the kitchen floor but by the end, I must admit that I get really attached.
Tonight is Peanut's last night here.  Her buyer is coming tomorrow to pick her up so he can surprise his wife. I love that!  One from our last litter was bought to surprise a wife as well.

"Gregory" goes to his new home next week, so we get to love on him a little longer.

"Toby" went to live in Connecticut.  He looks like the preppy New England type, doesn't he?

I was ready to quit a month ago, but now that they money is in the bank I think maybe we can do this just one more time.  :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dirt Works or Using Bentonie Clay for Stomach Bugs

I need to let you in on a little secret.  We take clay as medicine.  I know what you are thinking.  Wacko!  My brother-in-laws love to make fun of me for this at family gatherings.  "Hey Christy!, eat any good dirt lately?"  It's not dirt, ok?  I don't know what it is, but people just love to try to get under my skin.  Ha ha.

So back to my highly scientific post........
One product we have used is fossilized diatoms, another is silica clay from ancient volcanic eruptions, and the last is a montmorillonite clay.  So there, you may now call them by their official names and stop demeaning it by calling it dirt.

In this case, three nights ago, Bentonite saved the day.
A couple hours after dinner Naomi started complaining that her stomach hurt.  I told her to lay down, assuming it was gas and it would go away.  Unfortunately it did not and it kept getting worse and worse.  I rubbed essential oil of fennel and peppermint on her belly and had her take a drop of each internally, still assuming it was a bad case of gas.  These two combined always work quickly, but in this case they did not and she continued to writhe around on the couch crying.  Hmmmmm.......what to do?  

I remembered that our neighbors had just had a really bad case of the stomach bug and since we had been over there a lot this last week I figured that is what it must be so I went to get our liquid bentonite clay out of the medicine cabinet.  I gave her one teaspoon and had her wash it down with a glass of water and gave all the other kids the same dose for good measure, while Christian and I took a tablespoon.

Within 1/2 hour she was asleep on the couch, slept all night with no issues and woke up perfectly fine.  No one else contracted the bug.  Of course this is purely anecdotal, but I am not the only one who has had such success with this product.  Bentonite has an amazing ability to bind with toxin, bacteria and impurities and pull them out of your body.  It has been used externally in baths and facial masks and internally for parasites, stomach bugs and for detoxing heavy metals.  I like the powdered form for external use and the liquid form (use code RIS026 for $5 off) for internal use since the powder take a little while to completely dissolve in water and can be clumpy and hard to get down.

It's cheap, it lasts a long time, it works quickly, and is a great thing to have on hand next time a stomach bug is going around your school, workplace or homeschool co-op.  
And just think; now you too can be the brunt of jokes at family gatherings!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

4-H Fair

This is our first year being involved in the 4-H program in our county and we could not be happier with it.  This past week was the 3 day annual fair where all the clubs come together to show their animals, present their projects, and have a great time learning new things.

As I mentioned before, Grace and Aiden joined the Alpaca club this summer and are learning how to handle the animals and how to work with the fiber.  So it is kind of a livestock and art course in one!  That's a pretty good deal.

At the fair they needed to walk their alpacas through an agility course to show how well they could handle their animal and were judged on how well they did.

Even though Naomi isn't officially old enough to be in the club (you need to be 8 on 1/1) Alex and Sandy, our club leaders, were kind enough to let her go through the course as well so she could practice.  Amazingly, she and Grace tied for 1st with Aiden coming in a close 2nd.  The judges remarked at how impressed they were with Naomi's handling of the animals for such a young age.  That's our bossy, take charge girl!  I don't think the alpacas know how to take her.  :)

Grace and Aiden also got blue ribbons for their projects.  They give ribbons based on a standard so that everyone gets a ribbon, and the kids aren't necessarily competing against each other.  Everyone gets credit for their project with the blue ribbon representing outstanding work for their class.
Aiden did a felting project with the alpaca fiber of Van Gogh's Starry Night.
 Grace did a project relating the different parts of the Alpaca with information and facts about the animal.  She also included her felting project she has enjoyed making.
Now she just needs to get her ears pierced!

The kids also took the puppies over on Saturday to participate in the pet contest.  They signed the puppies up for the "smallest pet" class, but unfortunately someone with a pet tarantula ended up winning.  They would have won if there was a "most popular" class because we could not walk 10 feet without someone stopping us and wanting to pet the puppies!

We also had great fun walking around the other tents and looking at all other chickens, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, goats and cows.
I have no idea why Grace's mouth is open here or why I have this look on my face.

Maybe it was this.....

Somebody milk poor Bessie!

Lest I end this post with such a sorry sight here is a more pleasant image for you.

4-H clubs meet once a month, are free or low cost, and are a great opportunity for kids to learn responsibility in caring for animals,  participate in community service projects and develop leadership skills.  While we are continuing with the alpaca club for the next year, we are also letting the kids pick one more club each that they want to be involved in for next year.  Grace chose the chicken/poultry club and Aiden the pygmy/pet goat club.  I should also mention that you do not need to own any animal to be in any of these clubs.  Many people are not able to have these animals on their properties and one of the purposes of 4-H is to expose children to farming and livestock who would not otherwise have the opportunity.  You can join any time, and everyone we talked to at the fair was super friendly and eager to have more members.

Check it out!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Never a dull moment

After two weeks of a very relaxing vacation, I thought I was ready to jump back into normal life with vim and vigor.  However, the heat and humidity, the pile of mail, and a huge list of things to do and people to call quickly made me lose momentum.    I'm getting there, but it's just a bit slower than anticipated in my dream-like vacation state of mind.

To top off all the craziness, Christian discovered a yellow jacket colony was making rather a large nest in the ceiling of our coat closet.  When he went in there to get something a couple days ago, he noticed that the ceiling in one area looked a little wet and "spongy."  When he poked it, his finger went right through, and yellow jackets started pouring out of the hole.  While everyone ran for cover, he quickly closed the closet door, applied tape around all the openings, and then tried to kill all the ones that had escaped.  Thankfully no one was stung.  This is the kind of thing expected from living in an old house, but unfortunately this was in the new addition section of our entryway.  :(  

So the question was how to get them our without calling an exterminator and spending lots of money.

Well it just so happens that our friend and neighbor across the street started keeping honey bees this past year and had a bee suit.  He suggested that Christian don the bee suit, open the hole in the ceiling more and use a shop-vac to vacuum them all out and clean out the nest.  Genius!.....although possibly dangerous.

First we had to put plastic up over the entry way to the rest of the house so none would escape.
Next, Christian put on the handy dandy bee suit.  Notice the duct tape around his ankles.  This man did not want to get stung.  :)
Next, spaceman had to remove everything out of the closet so that no yellow jackets would hide out in any of our clothes or shoes.
  Then the kids watched from the safety of the office as Christian and Dale worked on vacuuming out all the yellow jackets.  Entertainment at its best!

Thankfully he was able to get the queen so our problem should be solved.
Mission accomplished!

The moral of the story is:  When you do an addition, remember to put up that last little bit of soffit at the corner.  It just may save you a whole lot more work later. 

Monday, August 6, 2012


I had been posting pictures of our vacation on Facebook, but since I permanently deleted my account a few days ago I need to do a complete post here for the sake of my memory.  And by the way if you ever see me on Facebook again please come find me and lock me up with the crazies.  I will never never go on that cursed site again.  And now that I have it in writing there's no going back.  The bad far outweighs the good in my mind and it just isn't worth my time.

Anyway......I digress.

This was our third year going up to Moosehead Lake, Maine as a family with my parents.  Christian and I coincidentally both grew up vacationing there with our families, and it is a little slice of heaven on earth for us.

It takes a good 12 hours to get up there so we try to leave by 3:30am.  The nice part about leaving at that time is that the kids are either sleeping or zoned out until breakfast time so the first 1/3 of the trip goes pretty quickly.  We also get to appreciate a gorgeous sunrise which I rarely see. 

The best part of the trip is always coming over the crest of the hill and getting your first glimpse of the lake.  It is at this point that you hear the angels singing.

You can not beat the sunsets over the lake.

The kids kept a vacation journal this year to record each day's event with a picture.  It's nice for them to look back and remember vacation this way.

We and my parents also spent a lot of time reading.  We had a lovely porch area over-looking the lake where we read or did puzzles.

And of course we hiked, and hiked, and hiked.  This year it was Mt. Kineo, Boorestone Mt., Burnt Jacket Mt., Eagle Rock, and Little Moose.

Some of the kids needed a bit of a pep talk to go on all those hikes but once they got to the top they were always glad they did it.

Since we burned ourselves out hiking the first week, the next week we pretty much just stayed around the cabin and swam.  It was really neat to see the kids gain confidence in swimming this year.  They went from needing goggles and life jackets to being able to jump in and swim unassisted in the "deep end."
You are rockin' those goggles girl!

"The Flying Frank", named for my grandpop, the first man of canoes.
Canoeing is a great way to lull a baby to sleep.

This loon liked to hang out around our area of the lake and we didn't mind a bit.  Our only other wildlife sighting was a momma bear and 3 cubs on the way to go hiking one day and a moose with her baby crossing the road in the dark on the way home, and I don't have good pictures of either of those.
Doesn't the house look so "New England?"  Sigh.  It was so hard to leave, especially when we knew we were leaving low 80's weather with a lake breeze for low 90's weather and there would be no lake to jump in.

But we left thankful.  Grateful for two very refreshing weeks to recharge and spend time together as a family.
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