Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Homemade instruments

Take some library books. Add some rubber bands.  Make some weird pick like thing with paper.  And what do you have?  A homemade musical instrument!  They weren't in tune, but they actually twanged with different notes.  Our children are so incredibly creative!

Truly Sacrificial

  I will do just about anything for my kids.  Yes indeed, that is MY BLOOD.  Joseph wanted to look at blood in the microscope.

Ok, it wasn't really that heroic.  I needed to check my blood sugar anyway (I am diabetic.)  But I spared a little extra to put on the slide so we could look at it at high magnification.

It was interesting!  Joseph was disappointed that we couldn't see white and red blood cells individually.  Of course we couldn't...we have a low mag light microscope and I believe cells are so small you need an electron microscope to see them. Still, it was fun looking at the swirls and patterns.

A Little Visitor

Hmmmm, what could it be?

Ah!  A very little snake (in the middle of a meal, no less.)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chicken Update

We have a date with a butcher, and the chickens will soon be lunch (or dinner.)

It's still a couple of weeks off, but we did decide to turn our chickens into meat.  They've done even worse this week -- averaging 4 to 5 eggs a day. Their time is past.

We plan to purchase 10 more chickens after this batch is gone. Then in the spring, we'll get 10 more. We hope we will then have 2 miniflocks and will not have to get rid of them all at once.

We hope our chickens are tasty. They are a little old. They are organically fed and have wandered freely in their pen. They have lived a happy life for chickens and I hope will provide tasty and nutritious meals for our family.

Random Thoughts on the first 4 weeks of homeschooling this year

This week marked the end of 4 weeks of homeschooling for this school year.

How has it gone?  I will give it a qualified, "It's going well".  Qualified because I am still not as organized as I would like to be.

I'm doing something new for the older 3 children this year. I am making a calendar for each week for each child, with the assignments listed for each day. So Naomi, Lydia, and Isaac merely have to look at what has to be done on Monday (or Tuesday, etc.) and do each assignment, crossing it off as they go.

Sounds simple, right?  Well, we're learning some new skills here.  Sometimes not everything does get done. Sometimes things are crossed off that have not yet been completed.  In that case, the child in question ends up doing work when he or she would rather be doing something fun, like computer game time.

Joseph doesn't read well enough yet to have a checklist.  He also requires more one on one teaching.  We don't spend a great deal of time working together but we are getting the basics in each day.  He and Isaac are also doing Five in a Row unit studies with me, and are listening to the Story of the World on CD after lunch.

Joseph is an interesting little character. I wondered if he was dyslexic, but I don't think he is.  He is making very good progress with reading and doesn't seem to struggle too much with phonics rules.  He is a long way from fluent, but he is learning steadily.

Math is, so far, a challenge. I have used Miquon with the older 3, but decided that Joseph needed a more linear path than Miquon easily provides.  So I'm going with MathUSee for Joseph, starting with Alpha.

Lesson 2 or Lesson 3 (I can't remember which) is about learning how to count to 20.  This boy can count to 20 out loud so I thought, NO PROBLEM.  He has his number stamps and we are going to breeze through this. 

NOT true.  He has a terrible time with switching numbers, so for example he wants to write "31" for "13".  He asked me why we can't put the 3 first.  We talked about place value and I was outwardly patient, but inwardly distressed.  Why is he struggling with such a simple thing?

Kevin pointed out later that day (when I was muttering worriedly) that this question of his is a good one. Truth is, we COULD write the number 13 as "31" if we used a different system for numbers.  If we were using a binary number system, 13 would be...well, I don't remember. Something weird like 1110.  We use a number system based on 10, and we write left to right with the higher place values to the left.  We could have switched it around and it would work. This is just the construct we chose to use.

So maybe Joseph is just a different kind of thinker and needs to understand that some things are just "done a certain way" but it is just a construct, a way for us to communicate.  It is like letters...no particular reason that "A" looks like it does.  Someone came up with it.  If we used a different alphabet, the sound made by "A" would be represented by a different symbol.  I don't know, maybe we are reading way too much into his question.  It did help me realize he may think differently than I do and I need to be patient.

What else?  Well, Miriam is technically old enough to be in kindergarten, but I've not done a lot with her so far this year. She and Angela play very well together and I usually don't pull them away from their play for school.  I will try to do a bit more as the year goes by.  Miriam is a "math girl" and is doing CRAZY things with math.  A couple of days ago she was playing with one of the 100 blocks for MathUSee.  It is a 10 by 10 grid of squares.  She asked me, "Mom, what is 10 10's?"  Then she immediately went on to ask, "What is 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10?"  I said to her, "What is it, Miriam?"  Without a pause, she yelled, "100!" with a big grin on her face.

That's abstract thinking for a 5 year old girl!  2 of her older sibs are major "math kids" so it is not too surprising but wow, fun.  I think math is going to come very easily to that girl, as it has for Isaac and Naomi.

Speaking of Naomi, she is toiling away at fractions and they are a bit hard for her.  A challenge is a good thing. Right now we are reviewing the rules for multiplying and dividing and adding and subtracting.

I'm pleased with how Naomi and Lydia are doing with writing.  Lydia has made substantial progress with putting her thoughts down on paper.  Naomi is writing like a beautiful maniac.  Check out her blog if you have any questions about that.  She wrote a LONG, involved, and interesting fairy story for her newsletter and posted it on her blog.  It is quite amazing for a girl her age, I think.

Isaac continues to do very well in math and reading, with writing being a challenge.  We are doing writing eight exercises, a form of midline exercise, to help him with letter reversals.  Isaac and Joseph are also doing other daily midline exercises from Dianne Craft's book.

In the middle of all this activity is of couse baby Sarah, who is 9 months old. I took her in for a well child checkup, and was shocked and dismayed to find that she had plummeted in the weight chart in the last 3 months.  At 6 months, she was on the 40th percentile weight line for her age group.  Yesterday, she had dropped to the 5th percentile.  The practical upshot is that only gained a little more than a pound in 3 months and is still well under 16 lbs.  Her height and head circumference grew as expected so we think she just hasn't been eating enough.  I feel terrible for not noticing, but we've never had a hungry baby who was so chipper. She has slept beautifully and is usually a content child, so really did not act like a baby who wasn't getting enough to eat.  However, I've been supplementing with formula after nursing her, and she has been attacking the bottle.  It is no huge surprise, but my milk supply is inadequate.  This has happened before but I thought I was doing better this time around.  Nope.

So, I'm going to feed this girl up and she is going to be drinking a lot of formula.  I'll take her back in the month and I hope we'll see better weight numbers.

There is never a dull moment around here. I've thought more than once that if I could JUST focus on homeschooling and the house, I could keep my head above water, so to speak.  It's the extra stuff -- the doctor's appointments and the people coming to check the roof and the need to take cars in for maintenance and so on that seem to be the "straw that break the camel's back."

BUT, we have so many blessings that I take for granted.  I can turn a handle, and water runs out of pipes into our house.  We can drink clean water whenever we want. We have a washer and dryer for our clothing. We have grocery stores to buy food so I don't have to have a giant vegetable garden and can tons of veggies.

I know if I had to do any of those things, my life would be truly overwhelming. As usual, I'm praying for wisdom to prioritize my life, and evaluate how I AM spending my time.  There is limited time and limited energy here, and I must allocate my resources wisely.

And I must trust my precious Lord and Savior.  Yahweh gave us these children and He led us to homeschooling. He WILL make a way for us to do what we should do.  He will not provide the strength to do what is extraneous and outside His will.  May we have the wisdom to discern what His particular will is.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Garden Produce

Our garden is smaller this year than last, but we are still getting lots of veggies.

It has been a GREAT year for zucchini. Most people in the family are not enthralled with plain zucchini, though they will eat it.  I dice it and cook it in margerine.  But they all love zucchini bread and we've made a fair amount of that as well.   Kevin cooked some on the grill last weekend and I heard good reports (I was out of town so didn't eat it myself.)

 We also have a number of squash.

These were the first green beans of the year.  They were planted late, and are finally ready to pick.  Fresh green beans with bacon are SO SO tasty.  We're excited.

I don't have a picture of our tomatoes, but we are getting boatloads.  I am the only one in the family who likes raw tomatoes.  Kevin loathes them.  I can't eat a million tomatoes, so I am freezing most of them. I just core them and toss them in freezer bags, and I'll use them for stews and soups through the winter and spring.

We've gotten a lot of cucumbers as well, but they have been bitter lately. I am not sure why.  Anyone know?

Field Trip to Daddy's Workplace

I'm behind on blogging so this happened a week ago.

Kevin realized he had forgotten something important at home, so I offered to bring it into work.

We decided on a quick field trip into his office complex.  He works in an engineering complex at a local military base.

Our older children have gone into work with Kevin a few times, but not the younger ones.

I wasn't allowed to take pictures of the labs, but here are a couple in his office.

  The 2nd picture was a demonstration of what Kevin does all day :-).  He has a PhD. in Materials Science and Engineering (and so do I.)  I am sure many people wonder how engineers spend their time.  Long ago, I visualized engineers standing on top of dams or bridges, or hunched over chemicals in a laboratory.

  Kevin and I have never worked on bridges, but both of us have toiled away with chemicals and complex instrumentation in laboratories.  Kevin, however, discovered he enjoys administration more than most hands-on work, so right now he is supervising a group of people.  He spends much of his time on the computer and at meetings.  And he is very good at it.

   Our second son seems to have a scientific/engineering bent.  He kept asking, "Where is a lab with lots of dangerous chemicals?"  Hmmm, that's intimidating when coming from a little guy!  We did open a door to show him some dangerous chemicals but obviously didn't let him get near them!

  The highlight of the trip for most of the children was a giant freight elevator, the size of a medium sized room.  It is used for hauling large and heavy equipment from ground level to the laboratories, but people can ride in it as well.  The children were enthralled and impressed.

  It was a fun, and valuable, trip. We want our children to see people working in a variety of environments.  As a child, I didn't know what most people did in their jobs. I hope we can have our children "job shadow" a number of people during their school years.


Sarah's new glasses

Isn't she adorable?

Yes, we got her glasses yesterday.  The first day went fairly well.  There were times when the glasses ended up in her mouth, but most of the time she left them on.

I think she is enjoying the better view.  She is very farsighted, which means Mommy and other loved ones have been blurry up close.  I saw her looking at Naomi intently yesterday, and I'm guessing she was excited about seeing her precious big sister so clearly!

Naomi says, legitimately, that Sarah looks somewhat like she is wearing goggles.  She does look a little funny, but in a thoroughly adorable way.  As I said when she was diagnosed, we are thankful to konw she has a problem so we can head complications off at the pass.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Off With Their Heads?

We had some friends over a couple of weeks ago, and the chickens were a big hit.  They have feathers, they cluck, they like us...what more could we want?

Well, there IS more that we want.  Namely, eggs.  Yep, our chickens are falling down on the job.  We do get eggs, but not enough.  Not nearly enough. At their zenith, our 19 chickens were laying at least 15 a day. Now it is averaging 7 or 8 a day. 

We are not experts on chickens so we're not sure what the problem is.  Some are definitely molting. All are somewhat old from an egg laying perspective, as they are 2 and a half years old at this point.

So yes, it may be "off with their heads".  We won't personally kill them (probably) but perhaps they will be someone's chicken stew.

Or maybe we will find someone who doesn't mind older hens who still lay 6 to 10 eggs a day. For our family of 9, 10 isn't cutting it. Perhaps a smaller family would be content with that number.

We will get new chickens at some point...young chickens.  Egg laying chickens.  It will be fun.

As for the current batch, we do like them but are not specifically attached to them. They exist in my mind as an entity "the chickens".  I hope the kids aren't attached to these particular chickens and welcome the new ones happily.  Chickens are fun.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Miriam can SWIM!

Wow!  That's all I can say.  Wow!

A few weeks ago, Miriam decided she wanted to wear her "sinking swimsuit."  Then she decided she could go underwater.  Then she started swimming!  Yesterday she swam across the pool by herself! 

The big accomplishment in all this is learning to come up for air at the appropriate time.  She learned that skill quickly, which isn't trivial.

So, that is great.  She still isn't a really STRONG swimmer, but she can swim.  5 kids down, 2 to go :-).

She's 4!

Our sweet Angela turned 4 a couple of days ago!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Disappointing Trip to the Eye Doctor

Yesterday I took Isaac (age 8), Angela (age 4), and Sarah (age 9 months) to the ophthalmologist.  (As an aside, that is a difficult word, ophthalmologist.  I am not sure I am spelling it right even after seeing spell check correct it in Microsoft Word about a dozen times. Fancy eye doctor.  That's who we saw.)

Ok, so Isaac was being checked to see how much is left eye has improved. He has amblyopia, which means one eye is not connecting to the brain well.  His right eye has perfect vision, and his left eye does not.  At some point, his brain decided that the information from his left eye was so bad that the data was useless, and the brain stopped "seeing" through the left eye.

The solution has been to patch his right eye 6 to 8 hours a day.  We've been diligent for 4 months now to patch at least 6 hours almost every day.  Isaac has handled it like a trooper.

2 months ago, the results were phenomenal.  He had improved far more than the eye doctor hoped.  So I was excited to see the results yesterday.  But they were disappointing.  He improved MAYBE one line on the eye chart but even that is not a sure thing. He didn't really get much better.  The doctor suggested that he start working on smaller type books and activities to work his eye.  I've been trying to do that by giving him lots of comics and graphic novels with small type, but we'll try  maze books next.

Angela was fine. She has bilateral amblyopia, which I don't completely understand. She is very farsighted in both eyes and is wearing glasses now. I know she sees much better and is enjoying some activities that she previously disdained.  Her eye results were good yesterday.

And then there is Sarah.  Sarah, sadly, combines the worst of both worlds.  She is extremely far sighted, and one eye is worse than the other.  That puts her at risk for getting crossed eyes and she needs glasses.  Soon.  As a baby.

Kevin and I were both upset yesterday that our sweet little person has this eye problem.  But I'm doing better with it today.  After our appointment yesterday, I remembered a close family member who had something similar as an infant and consulted my mother.  Yep, it was very similar, with crossing eyes and extreme farsightedness as a baby.  So we do have a family history.  It can be controlled and I am SO thankful we caught it now. I suspect she would not have been able to learn letters or numbers well if we didn't know she couldn't see well and we DO know it.

Pretty soon, she'll have glasses!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Brilliant, Borrowed Idea

I am on a homeschooling email group and a woman there suggested buying numeral stamps for children who cannot write their numbers well yet.

Cha-Ching!  Brilliant idea!

Both of our boys have handwriting glitches.  Isaac regularly writes his numbers backwards.  Joseph isn't writing numbers, or letters, at all.
The solution for Isaac's math has been that I sit and write down his answers for him. That is hard in that I have 6 other children to care for.

So I bought the numeral stamps plus some WASHABLE ink.

Isaac was, honestly, not thrilled.  He is putting the effort into writing his own numbers to avoid using the ink stamps.

But Joseph LOVES the ink stamps. 

  He is starting MathUSee Alpha and he can fill in his own workbook pages.  And he is justifiably proud of it.

And I'm happy that I don't have to hover over him and write down all his numbers for him.

As an aside, I believe it is common for children to proceed at different paces with reading, writing, and arithmetic.  A child who has a handwriting glitch can run into real problems in a traditional school setting, as he may be ready for advanced reading and math work, but can't get this thoughts and calculations down on paper.  I am thankful that I can work around our boys' handwriting issues and allow them to proceed as rapidly as they want in other areas.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sometimes the Apple...

falls pretty far from the tree!

So Naomi, our daughter, started a blog this week at:

  I have to laugh, because her infant blog is already MUCH fancier than mine!

That's what I mean about the apple falling far from the tree...I am very impatient about learning new programs and tend to do the bare minimum to get something to work.  My blog has always been pretty "no frills".

Naomi is awesome at learning how to use new programs.  I email her for help when I need to change my email signature.  I am astonished at the cute things she has added to her blog.

Actually, I think I'm looking under the wrong tree.  Kevin is also awesome at understanding programs and, indeed, computers.  Every time our computer does something bizarree, he managed to drag it back from near death to complete health.

Please do take a look at Naomi's blog.  She is doing a great job!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

When All Else Fails, I have Strappy

We have toys throughout the house, but all of our babies have LOVED straps.  Sarah is no exception. Here she is gumming "Strappy" on her high chair. There are other Strappies out there...on her car seat, on her baby swing.  It is a wonderful world with so many Strappies.

I might have worried about hygiene with Naomi, but with #7 I'm quite laid back about such things.  At least they are her own germs since no one else is chewing on straps around here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

First Week of School

Yes, we are back in the saddle and starting up our homeschooling year!

It is early, I know.  We started August 1st.  Well, starting early gives us some wiggle room when we get sick or when we want to take trips.

I am a hyper organized person by inclination, but 7 children has changed that.  The last few years, I've started homeschooling with some feeling of disarray.

I would LIKE to be totally organized, with everything printed out well ahead of time, with a wonderful schedule set in stone.  Reality is, I know if I don't start when I'm disorganized, I'll never start.  I do feel stressed about the fluid parts of our schedule, but I'm forging ahead.  I'm working on not being a control freak. 

First week has gone quite well.  The next couple of days we are taking off as we have some friends coming over on Friday, and tomorrow we are cleaning.

More pictures and comments later about the Return of the Homeschooling!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Good year for swimming

It has been HOT HOT HOT!  For weeks!

Our pool is in the upper 80's and occasionally hits 90 degrees!  That is almost too warm but we still find it quite refreshing to jump in.

Most of the swimming has been pleasant for me as the Resident Lifeguard.  The older 4 swim very well.  The little girls (except for Sarah) were in floatie swimsuits that kept them above water.  Sarah has gone in occasionally, in our arms, but is usually content to sit in a seat under the beach umbrella.

A couple of weeks ago, Miriam decided she was ready for, as she put it, a "sinking swimsuit". :-).  So now we have to be more observant as she does not have a floatie swimsuit, and she does not swim. But she is making progress!  She is, of her own volition, going under water repeatedly to practice.

We are thankful for our pool.  It is fun!

FAQ page for the July 31st through August 6th week by Blogger Naomi


Q: Which of your cats is the most cuddly? Asked by Cheryl S.
A: I think it would be one of our kittens; Moonbeam. He is very sweet and he loves to be petted.

Q: Which of your chickens is the most cuddly? Asked by Cheryl S.
A: That would be Little Chickie. She's a very nice chicken and won't throw a fit when you pick her up.

Q: Do you think the the two major political parties will be able to put aside their differences to balance the budget? Asked by John S.
A: Honestly, I have no idea. I do hope they can, but I don't know if they will be able to pull it off.

Please feel free to ask your own questions.