Monday, November 30, 2009

November is over already!?

I can not believe it is the last day of November already. My kids are already asking when we can put up the tree and our many Christmas activities start this weekend. We do have a lot to show for the last 30 days.

We have been learning a lot. And my kids are really enjoying all the science experiments/demonstrations that we have been doing lately as we explore the elements.

Aluminum conducting electricity to light up the flashlight bulb.

Henry has decided he is ready to "do school" so has been playing letter and number games.

We have had a great time outside enjoying the lovely fall weather. Lots of bike riding and lots of playtime at the park.

This little lady has taken up a lot of my time. There are days I think my back is going to break because I have been carrying her around all day. She is certainly growing (16 lbs already) and maturing quickly. My little baby is rolling over and I can already see signs that army crawling isn't too far in the future. That may mean the end of little legos and playmobil guys out in the living room. Lets hope she will still be more or less immobile until after the Christmas tree gets put away.

I am looking forward to the next few weeks. I haven't planned a whole lot but I know we have a number of great Christmas stories to read and a lot of great activities to attend. I will enjoy them a little more this year. I was suffering with "all times of the day sickness" last year.

Hurray for the Christmas Season, I think I am ready!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Academic Report

Sitting here at the computer, Saturday morning, thinking about the past week, makes me feel pretty good about our progress. We didn't do any Latin this week, which is the one thing I know we slipped on. But other than that we are where we should be more or less.

Henry started Get Ready for the Code this week. It is going pretty well but I have a hard time stopping him from just randomly going through the book and doing which ever pages he wants. That is how he has previously done workbooks and coloring books so it has been a hard habit to break. He is always the first to grab his book when it is time to do table work. I also finally cut out all the games and things from Happy Phonics which arrived this week (Ebay is a wonderful thing!). I hope it will be helpful for Ian and Henry with their reading. I have also made more of an effort to read a few fun books with Henry this week. He usually sits in with the books we read for science or history but a few Richard Scarry books were right up on his wish list this week and I took a little time to read them to him. Molly enjoyed them too.

Ian finished Explode the code 1 1/2 and moved on to ETC 2. It is getting easier for him but he is still sounding out words he has encountered a number of times. He also reads a lesson out of the Mcguffey reader each day as well. His reading is coming along. He is also getting close to finishing Singapore Math 1A. He really needs to learn to read the problems for himself. The adding and subtracting are easy for him and his writing is improving a lot!
Ian on his new bike

All the kids enjoyed learning about India this week. They colored in flags of India and pictures of the Taj Mahal. Sophie went a bit overboard with the mapwork, adding in all the mountains and cities from the atlas we were looking at. And as I said in my last post, she marked the route Phineas Fogg took through the area.

We read about carbon and zinc this week for science. We didn't do any experiments to go along with Carbon but they did recall all the carbon dioxide we made when we did our volcano last year and such. Zinc was sort of interesting to read about and the kids had fun filing down the pennies I gave them so we could get past the copper and to the zinc which makes up most of the penny.

We will have to wait to see if the vinegar makes the zinc corrode leaving only the copper. I guess it takes a week or more to do that. We could see the bubbles form on the pennies when we put them in. Just a day later the pennies had already changed color.

Sophie also wrote a bit about the experiment and even did a notebook page about Mendeleev this week.

Sophie hit another review in her Singapore Math book so we took one day off before moving onto the next section. We read the next mathematician in our Mathematician are People too book. This time it was about Archimedes. It told us a story that we had heard before on this audio book about how Archimedes used water displacement to figure out if a crown was pure gold or had silver inside it. It also referred to his study of shapes and circles in particular. So we did a notebook page about Archimedes as well as pi.
The next section of her Singapore Math book is about Fractions. And somehow Sophie has gotten it into her head that fractions are hard. She did the first few exercises this week quite easily but I took one day and just did some fun fraction things with her. I got ideas from this squidoo page and we played a fraction domino file folder game. They seem to have helped her visualize fractions a little more and see how they work.

Sophie hasn't been fighting as much about doing her penmanship. She loves writing Lewis Carrol poems so does it without complaint lately. We even squeezed a bit of language arts in again. We used our Primary Language Lessons book. I really think we need to stick to doing this as often as we can but it is hard to get her to write more if she has already had to write for math, science or history already. She doesn't mind reading her McGuffey's reader and talking about the passage.

We had a rainy day on Friday so we had to break out a few fun things for the kids to do since we couldn't go out for our normal ride around the block. So they made some Christmas ornaments from a kit I picked up a week or two ago.
They really wanted to get the Christmas tree out but I had to tell them we couldn't until the first Monday in December. That has been our rule for the last few years. We will see if we can wait that long since November 30th is a Monday I have a feeling we will be getting it out then. I am really going to try to go until the 7th. I don't know if I can handle the tree up for the entire month of December. We live in too small a house to devote that much space to it for too long.

Henry remembered our other rainy day activity and begged and begged for it to get blown up. So we got out "the ball thing" too.

It was a good week. I still haven't figured out how to put artist and composer study back into our schedule. It feels like we "do school" a lot of the day as it is. I want to make sure the kids also have plenty of time to play with their legos and playmobils as well as get outside a lot. Maybe when Molly isn't quite so demanding I will feel a little more free to put these things back into the line up.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dependent on Audio Books.

We have always listened to audio books. It is great way to listen to more stories without me having to do all the reading. My kids play or color while we listen and I am always surprised how much they remember. I have been using audio books more and more lately. I think being pregnant and then having a newborn makes it difficult to spend time reading aloud. Just when the kids want the next chapter, I would have to take care of a diaper or Molly would want to be held. Besides I read so many other books for science and history that I just don't feel like reading even more. I do at times but mostly I keep us well stocked with great audio books. Luckily our library system has tons of them to choose from.

A few weeks ago I introduced my kids to Anne of Green Gables. They loved this story and listened to each disc twice before moving onto the next. They laughed at Anne dying her hair, smashing her slate on Gilbert's head, and setting Diana drunk. I showed them the movie version after we finished listening and Sophie was so sad that they left out when Anne put liniment in the cake. I could tell they aren't ready for the sequels yet. They got a little bored as Anne got older and got into less scrapes. I am sure we will listen to this one again in a few years. I is one of my favorite series of books ever and I reread them every once in awhile and I hope Sophie grows to love them too.

One afternoon I realized we hadn't done any history for a few days so I put on The Courage of Sarah Noble. It doesn't quite take place at the time period we are studying but the kids didn't seem to mind. They enjoyed this simple little story. We talked about courage and about how helpful Sarah was to her father even at only 8 years old. The didn't want me to return it to the library yet so I have the feeling we will be listening to it again soon.

Another favorite the last few weeks has been the funny Mr. Popper's Penguins. We have already listened to this one twice and the kids run around acting like the excited penguins.
We listen to audio books in the car too. Last week we listened toAround the World in 80 Days. I didn't know if the kids would really enjoy this one. It is a bit old for them but they kept talking about Phileas Fogg and the different places he went. This week when we studied about India and did our map work, they wanted to add in the route Fogg took through India. I do admit we skipped the chapter when Fogg travels through Utah. I knew that it isn't very complementary to Mormons so we just jumped forward a bit and the kids didn't even notice.

I have a few more on the shelf waiting to be read. We have the Mysterious Benidict Society, Caddie Woodlawn and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. We will see which the kids pick next. I usually just pick a few and keep them on the shelf and they put them on themselves. They can't stand to have too much quiet so always need something going while they build with legos or draw. I don't mind hearing all these stories either. Many I have heard before but love the revisit but most of them I haven't read before so feel like I am finally getting in all the those I missed. So I may not get a lot of reading time on my own but we certainly make it through a lot of audio books.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Settling down? Maybe not!

For some reason Fall always seems so busy. I was hoping that things will settle down now that a few of the classes the kids were doing are finished. But it still feels like we are rushing about to get from one thing to the next. We often don't get home until after dark and I have gotten rather lazy about making dinner. We end up making scrambled eggs, pancakes and even oatmeal a lot.

We recently tried out yet another homeschool park group. I have tried several in the area and never found one that I really felt like we fit in. So far so good. I have enjoyed talking with the other mothers and there is a wide age range so each of the kids can find someone to play with. The parks this group goes to changes each month and are often quite a drive from our house. This means that on the days we attend this group we don't get home before dark. My kids enjoy it just about as much as the park group we also attend from our ward. But this means two afternoons are spent at the park each week. And both days we stay out until the sun goes down.

When Sophie had her cooking class that was yet another night we didn't make it home for a decent dinner. She also recently started going to activity days at the church which in our stake it every week. So on this night we quickly make and clean up dinner so we can get her there. Throw in Primary meetings for me, or a few extra hours of work for my husband and we never seem to have a calm evening anymore. I guess this is just how it is when you have children. I know I had activities and such as a kid but I just don't remember it feeling this busy. Maybe it is because I wasn't worried about anyone else's things and didn't notice how my parents juggled everything.

I have been told to sign up Henry for Gymnastics because of his athleticism, but I can't see how we can handle one more thing in our schedule. Something has to go. Priorities need to be set and the rest cut out. I guess I am just feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment. I think it has something to do with the Fall. Maybe the shorter days make me feel like I have less time to get everything accomplished. For what ever reason... I look forward to a breather. Maybe we will have to make our attendance at all these different things biweekly or something we just don't seem to have time to just be together as a family.
I know this is normal but it just is really throwing me off balance a bit. (Having a baby that isn't sleeping through the night can also be adding to this feeling).

So if I am not here posting as often, it is because I am playing taxi driver.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Outdoor Hour - Fall Weather

We have been spending a lot of time outside recently. Everyday we go out to the cul-de-sac and ride bikes. Since Ian is now a two wheeler and looked a little big for his old bike, we got him a new one that is a better fit for him. So every day we have to go out and practice riding. Henry is happily riding around on the old one with the training wheels back on. While the kids ride around I get to enjoy the lovely Fall weather.

Here in California we have been having some really Fall like weather. It is actually cold enough to want or need a sweatshirt or light jacket. My kids still seem to think they can get away with shorts but for the most part it is feeling like Autumn. The trees are loosing their leaves and the kids love to ride through them. The wind has picked up and whips around chilling us, making us think we need a thicker jacket or maybe even gloves. But the most fun part of the weather we have had recently is the clouds.

We have had skies full of clouds lately.

Big billowy ones that, we sometimes think, may be full of rain. At other times they are just whispy stratus clouds decorating the sky. Which ever we are given that day, we seem to take a few moments to really watch and enjoy.

While the kids ride their bikes around, I sit with the baby and watch the wind dance around through the trees. Often one of the kids will take a break from their ride and sit down with me for a few moments. We will both watch the clouds roll across the view, or we listen to the birds that still flutter about. They will often give Molly a little eskimo kiss with a cold red nose before heading back out for another race around the circle.

Fall weather really is a beautiful thing.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Two experiments in one day!

Even though we are studying chemistry, which should be full of experiments, I haven't done nearly as many as my kids would like me to. We come across experiments in the books we read and they ask to do them but I always look at the list of supplies needed and there is usually something we are missing. Well today I finally got around to doing some hands on science. We read a book about Oxygen and then needed to have some fun with it.

The first experiment involved matches and a flame. Fire is always exciting for kids. I lit the candle that was placed in a pan of water. We watched the flame flicker and dance for a bit and tried to keep Henry from blowing it out. Then I placed a glass jar over the flame and we watched the flame slowly go out as it used up all the oxygen in the jar.

We did the experiment a few times and the kids watched what happened to the condensation inside the glass and also the water lever raise inside the jar and take the place of the Oxygen that had been used up.

Sophie and Ian did some great drawings to document the experiment.

Then we tried another experiment which was supposed to go along with our study last week on Hydrogen. I didn't have the 9 volt battery that I needed to do this one until now. For some reason I just kept forgetting to get it. But today all the supplies were on hand and we were able to separate the Oxygen from the Hydrogen.

We couldn't see the Oxygen but we could see the Hydrogen bubbling around the copper wire coming from the negative side of the battery. We could tell that Oxygen was attracted to the copper wire coming from the positive side because not long after taking the wire out of the water it turned green. We then go to talk about what oxygen does to copper. The negative wire which had been surrounded by the Hydrogen looked a bit brownish. Very interesting since they were both sitting in the same water.

They happily did a notebook page for this experiment as well.I love it when the like doing their work.

I sure hope I come up with some more fun things to do. The kids really liked these and even had to do them again for their Dad when he got home from work. They even plan to show these to Grandma and Grandpa when we see them in a dew days.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Another one of those Moments

There are so many moments and events that make me feel like the worst parent ever. There are countless times I have wondered why Heavenly Father entrusted these children to me. I have shed many tears as I have rethought about things that have happened and analyze my actions or lack of them. I am aware of my responsibility to teach my children how to behave, show respect, and get along with others. And there are so many times I feel so inadequate for this challenge of being a parent and feel like I am failing miserably.

I don't tell this event to ask for sympathy or a pat on the back with a "we've all been there" or "It's ok". I know I failed today and deserved to be criticized for my parenting. It was another of those moments where I was weak and wasn't consistent and was caught in my folly.

My children and I attended a Veteran's concert this evening. My husband had something else he was doing so it was me with the four kids. The concert was performed by the band I had been a part of the last few years. It was held in a building with a lovely park nearby. I promised my kids we could play at the park for a bit after the concert. I spent much of the concert telling my kids to not kick the seat in front of them and to stay in their seats but more or less they behaved alright. So we went to the park.

<After playing at the playground for awhile my kids asked to go and see the memorial. There is a Veteran's memorial at this park with a statue of two men in military dress carrying guns. We have been to this park many times and have visited this memorial and read about each of the branches of the military and the other things that are described there. It, along with the ducks and geese are what my children remember this park for.

My kids ran ahead of me to get to the memorial. I had the baby in the sling so wasn't able to keep up with them. As I was walking into the memorial I noticed a new plaque that described some action in Afghanistan and I stopped and started to read it. Out of the corner of my eye I could see my kids running around the small enclosed area of this memorial. They were examining the statue up close which required them to climb up onto the platform. They were all there and accounted for so kept reading. I was going through the names and ranks of the men on the walls when a lady came up and asked me if these were my children. I looked up and saw my children, as well as a few others, and said "some of them". She then went on to tell me how disrespectful it was for me to let them climb on the statue and show such disrespect for our military. She went on to, rather loudly, tell me that in her day parents taught their children how to behave. She then proceeded to tell me how my generation doesn't know anything about respect.

I admit I was on the defensive. I don't like to be yelled at. How dare she speak to me like this. I wanted to defend myself but instead just told my kids to get down and we left. On the drive home I had tears in my eyes as I tried to justify my lack of parenting and thinking how rude she was for saying such things to me, but realizing I had failed to curb my children. The woman was right to scold me. I had allowed my children to run wild through a memorial and show no respect for what it was honoring.

So to the lady at the park.... I am truly sorry. I will remember your reprimand each time we go to that park and most likely anytime we ever go to another Memorial.

Being a parent is really hard. The difficulty often is in the consistency. I know I am far from doing things right, all the time. I hope I get some things right at least some of the time and that my kids turn out decent, honorable people despite my failings. I am trying, but often stumble in my attempt. I guess it is good to have these experiences to make me work that much harder.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Look Mom! Two Wheels

Yesterday while at the park one of Henry's friends brought his bike that he can now ride without the training wheels. He was in tears because he can't ride on two wheels. I tried to tell him that it is something he is going to have to work on and that we can take the training wheels off the bike tomorrow and see if he can learn to ride it. He just kept up the tears and whimpering for a long time. But I convinced him that it would be better to learn on his own bike at home tomorrow rather then right that moment at the park.

Henry's desire to ride a two wheeler worried me a bit since Ian hasn't even wanted to try to ride without the training wheels yet. I was afraid Henry would catch onto riding easier than it would for Ian. Henry had learned to pump himself on the swings before Ian and it was a bit of an issue for a bit because Ian is older and should do things earlier than Henry. But Henry just tends to catch onto physical things quickly and Ian is a much more methodical child who takes his time doing things.

Well today Henry reminded me of my promise to take him out to ride the two wheeler. He was so excited when I told him to go get the bike and the tools. We took off the wheels and he got on while I was holding the bike up. He got a little frustrated that he tipped over and couldn't just ride. He let me walk behind him and hold him up but he was very wobbly. Much like I remember Sophie being just a year or so ago when she finally wanted to learn to ride on two wheels. He started crying and telling me he just couldn't do it. I had him sit down on the stoop while I ran inside to get my camera. I figured I would need to document his first attempt at his bike.

When I got back outside with the camera, this is what I saw.
Yes that is Ian riding around on the bike. He decided to give it a try while I was inside and he could just... do it. I was in shock! I didn't have to run behind him and hold him up. I didn't have do anything. He just picked up the bike and started going. Sure he has been riding this bike for two years now with training wheels but has always preferred his scooter when we go on our rides or walks around the block.

He was so excited and wanted to ride further than just the driveway, so we walked down to the cul-de-sac.

Henry was happy for Ian but sad for himself. He really wanted to be able to ride a two wheeler. I had Henry give it another try but he just couldn't balance the bike. I think the seat needs to be a bit lower for him. He can barely reach the petals at the bottom of the revolution. So Henry had to content himself with the scooter.

He still had a good time racing Ian back and forth. I was so astonished at how easily Ian was whipping around and through the bushes and up and down from the sidewalk to the roads. It took Sophie a long time before she was doing these things. Sophie was giving him all sorts of coaching.

He was having the time of his life and wanted to ride and ride. When the others got tired and wanted to go in he asked for just 10 more minutes. He was just so excited and loved the attention he was getting for his accomplishment.

I guess I didn't need to worry about Ian. He has always been a kid that didn't do something until he could do it well.
He sure is a bike rider now.