Good link

The Global God Who Gives the Great Commission is an excellent message from Louie Giglio, from the 2011 Desiring God conference. If you've not heard Louie speak, you should.  Mark and I watched/listened to it last night while we worked on a puzzle. Compelling.  (The truths he shared, not our puzzle.)

Choose this instead of that TV show you were planning on watching.  It's far more important.

Sample reading lesson: First Grade

Sometimes I think that because of all the planning and scheduling I do, people probably think that we do a LOT of school.  We don't, really.  We do short lessons for each subject- 10-20 minutes- and it's my goal to be finished by noon.  (Of course, today it's 12:35 and Ella is still working on her Math... so there are exceptions, but that's the goal, and we usually achieve this goal.)

So, today I thought I'd give you an example of how simple our schooling really is.  :)

Each Monday I give Isaias (6) a reading lesson- which is not to say that he doesn't practice reading on other days of the week- it just means that on Mondays we have uninterrupted time- just the two of us- to work on his reading.

This is what we did today:

We got all cozy under a blanket and he read a BOB book to me.  Up, Pup is what he read, and it has sentences like Bud was Pug's pup and Bet sat on Bob in it.  (And as he was reading, I was thinking that reading teachers or kindergarden teachers or first grade teachers or whenever and whoever has this as their job in public school--  (See?  I'm so out of touch I don't even KNOW anymore!) have a difficult job, because listening to beginning readers stumbling over words all day long might make me pull my hair out.) 

You'll be happy to know that I did not pull my hair out because I only have one beginning reader and I can handle that.   As he read the book, I could tell that he was struggling with a few things:

*occasionally he would use the short e sound (e as in elephant) instead of the u sound
*he was mixing up the uppercase B's and P's-- sometimes he was using the B-sound for the P, and vice versa
*he was mixing up his lowercase b's and d's- as ALL of my kids have done-  (and no.  I have no tricks.  I've tried everything.  They just get those two mixed up and eventually learn.)

So we read the book again, and he did much better the second time around, and he was quite pleased with his success- that second time through he was a whiz!- and he knew it.

Then I got out my binder, in which I have several pages of short-vowel sound words (three and four letters long):

I pointed to each "u" word on the right hand side and he read those- easily, this time.

Then we talked about lowercase b's and d's and I pointed some of them out on another page of words, and then I asked him to make the "b" sound each time I pointed to a b, and he did. I pointed to about 5-6 b's. Then we did the same thing with d's.

I said "Great job!" and we were done.  Reading lesson over.  (Next week we'll do something else entirely, but that was it for today.)  It took about 20 minutes and we were done.  Then he scurried off to do some table work- Explode the Code and copywork- and then he was done for the day. (We'd already read an excerpt from our history book at the breakfast table and had done Bible and memory work, too.)  See?  Easy, peasy.

Meal plan printables

When I had the idea recently to post our dinner plans on the fridge, the first thing I did was Google "printable meal plans".

Here are a couple I found that I thought were cute, if you're interested.  They're free, and easy to download and print!

Meal Planning Form
There are two options here from The Project Girl.  I like them both.  The first one covers breakfasts, lunches, and dinners and has room to list ingredients bottom of the form if you want to do your planning/grocery list all on one page.  The second one is also cute- the meal section isn't divided up for breakfast/lunch/dinner, and the shopping list remains.

This Week For Dinner
This one from Thirty Handmade Days is for dinners only- in two options: bright or pastel.


Very cute, both of those.  I wanted dinners only, so I didn't choose the first one, and as for the second option: my printer does black and white right now because I'm too cheap to buy color cartridges.  So I quickly made my own, inspired by hers.

Oh, and I'm happy to share my Very Basic Meal Plan Form if you want simple, and your printer also prefers black and white.  Let me know if you'd like me to email it to you.

"Classroom Rules"

Recently Kendra shared about a book she's using in Circle Time this year called The Essential 55.  The book outlines the classroom rules of teacher Ron Clark.

I checked it out at our library, and jotted down some of the rules that I would like to discuss with the kids over the next few months.  At the outset, many of these seem pretty obvious: the "rules" are simply guidelines for common courtesy-- but my kids definitely benefit from having these explained to them, and I like to do a little role-playing, too- and try to give them examples of how they could be courteous in their everyday interactions with others.   

I've tweaked the wording of some of the rules a bit, and combined a couple, but here are the rules we covered this morning:

1. When responding to an adult, answer by saying either "Yes, please", "No thank you" or "Yes, Mr. Smith" or "No, Mrs. Johnson".   (He requires his students to say Yes, ma'am and No, sir, but that has always felt a bit awkward to me, so we're sticking with Mr. and Mrs. and pleases and thank you's.)

2. Make eye contact.  When someone is speaking, keep your eyes on him or her at all times.  If someone makes a comment, turn and face that person. (I find this one is difficult even for me!  I am so in the habit of counting my children or keeping my eye on them when I'm talking to someone, that even when the kids are *not* with me, I always seem to be looking around when I speak.)

3. If someone wins a game or does something well, congratulate that person.  Say "Great job!", clap or show enthusiasm for their good work.  Do not get angry or cry because you lost.  Conversely, if YOU win the game or do well at something, do not brag. 

4. When you are asked a question in conversation, you should ask a question in return.  It is only polite to show that you are just as interested in them as they are in you.

Surely this will help me in the meal-planning department


A new sheet taped up on the fridge

+ some of my favorite pens to write down meal ideas with...

= a good plan, at least.

(I'll let you know if the list inspires or gets ignored.)

Scenes from life with my seven-year-old boy

"Isaac, time to clean up!" (I said while passing through the room after quiet time.)

Five minutes later, I rounded the corner to find this:

"Uh....  bud?  Is this 'cleaning up'?"

Isaac:  "Yep.  I'm lining them up and then they're all going to jump in the bin."

Ten minutes later, the guys were still not in the bin.

me: "What's up, budders? Seriously. You need to get this cleaned up."

Isaac: "They've just got to be armed before they can go in the bin." (as he affixes helmets, shields and swords to each of his men.)

me: "Why do they have to be armed before they can go in?"

Isaac: "Because the dragon went in first, and they'll need to be able to fight him."

My independent two-year-old

My beautiful Audra (2)

Audra is a gem.  She delights all of us, every single day.  She is so articulate and says the cutest things.  She is constantly encouraging and complimenting, and is just so sweet and expressive.  The other morning she saw me and said,  "Mommy, I love yours pony tail!" Recently we got a new screen door and almost every time we go outside, she says: "I love our new screen door!" Or "I love those pretty flowers."  She adores her brothers and sisters, and is often doling out hugs and kisses.  She's such a little sweetheart.

She's got this other thing going on, though- where she wants to do everything all by herself, without any help from anyone.  (You'd think after five children I would have remembered this stage, but I had entirely forgotten it, and how frustrating it can be.  These past couple of months I feel like I've been in a training intensive for how to handle this stage.  I'm slowly learning.)  I am all for letting her be independent and try to do things by herself, but the challenge lies in the fact that she wants to do things that she is simply not able to physically do. 

Yesterday the older kids were all heading outside to play, and decided at the last minute to don some coats and jackets (even though it was quite warm) because they were going to be firefighters.  Well, Audra decided that she wanted to go out, too.  Unfortunately, she had noticed everyone bundling up, so she wanted to get a coat on, too.  I knew where this was headed, so I tried to convince her that it was warm and she didn't need a coat, but she would hear nothing of it. 

I was making dinner as she attempted first one sweatshirt, than another, than a coat, then Ella's  sweatshirt, than Adelia's coat, and so on.  I kept watch from the kitchen where I was making dinner.  Each time I looked in on her, she was determinedly trying to force her little arm into the scrunched up and inside-out sleeve, or she had the sweatshirt on but upside down, with the little hood hanging down by her bum, or one arm in but unable to twist her body around to reach the other dangling arm of the sweatshirt or coat.  I offered, casually and from a distance, once or twice: "Honey?  Do you want mama to come and help you?"  To which she stoutly replied, "NO!" 

She was quiet and determined for the first 15-20 minutes, but then she began to get really frustrated because she simply could not do it all by herself, although she desperately wanted to do so.

Then she started crying and throwing sweatshirts on the floor in frustration and so I tried to gingerly approach and offer assistance, again- to which she shouted: "No!  I don't want you to help me!  I want to do it.  I'm doing it."  Mmmhmmm.  I have been learning that if I wait it out, continuing to gently offer help or assistance-- from afar--  and then leave her to herself, she will eventually let me help her.  She may not ASK me to help her, but she will eventually give in and recognize that she needs it.  But for the most part, I try not to intervene but to observe silently and wait for my moment, and then tread carefully.

So... yesterday, finally- after almost 40 minutes of her standing by our front door, sweatshirts and coats of all sizes and colors crumpled around her feet- she had one arm partway into a sweatshirt and was exasperated to the point that she accepted my request for help.  My goal at that moment was to do as little as I could, all the while encouraging her that she was indeed doing it!  So I said things like, "Oh, this is tricky, Audra.  It's inside out!  Mommy is just going to turn these sleeves right-side-out for you and then you can do it.... there you go.  I'm just going to hold it up so that you can get your arm in there by yourself.  Good job!  You did it!... Now, oh- zippers are hard, honey, aren't they?  How about if I hold one side and you can hold the other and I'll show you how you can zip it up?  Good job, honey.  I'm just going to help you get it in there... good!  You did it!  Do you want to zip it all the way up, all by yourself?  Good job!  You did it!" 

And then she goes on her merry way, feeling like she did it all by herself.  That extra patience and understanding on my part goes a long way in avoiding complete meltdowns by one or both of us.  :)   The other- and more important- thing I've been doing is praying for her in this frustrating little season of wanting so much to be grown up and doing all of these grown-up tasks all by herself- but struggling so much to actually accomplish them. 

{ a p p l e s a u c e }

We made applesauce today. Last week I purchased three 25lb boxes of apples and those boxes have been sitting on my kitchen floor, just waiting for me to give them the time of day. (Until today, the only attention I'd given them was to shove those boxes over so that I could open my bottom cupboards and then shove them right back.)

On my list after we finished school today was this: "Make applesauce".  I knew I would have a helper in Ella.  She has been so anxious to start peeling those apples!  I even bought her her very own peeler this year.

Imagine my delight when I received this email from my mom this morning:
If you need help with making applesauce, give me a call okay? "Many hands make light work!" It could be like the old days when the generations gathered in the kitchen to work together. (:
I know (!)  (How much do you love her?!)

So Ella called her and told her we were starting and she showed up 30 minutes later. She's a whiz, too. Hand that woman a paring knife and she goes like there's no tomorrow. ;) We made it through 2 full boxes in about an hour and a half.

We made a lot of applesauce.  Isaac was my taste-tester, and kept thinking I should add just a tiny bit more sugar (!)  Audra kept asking for slices of apples while she built a castle with Isaac's MathUSee blocks.  Adelia asked for so many apple slices I finally handed her a gigantic apple and sent her outside.  Isaias perked up at that so I offered him one, too.

These (and many more that you don't see pictured) were placed in our freezer tonight, alongside our rhubarb sauce and the endless jars of strawberry jam.

Chore chart, 2011

Here's a photo of our current chore chart, which is hanging on the fridge:

Sorry it's not the clearest picture.  If you click on it, it should enlarge.

The key to assigning new chores is to do it BEFORE school starts: to get all the kinks worked out for a couple of weeks and get into a good rhythm before school.  We did that this year and it really helped. 

We've started Adelia (3 1/2) with some chores of her own this year.  She's supposed to clear the table and wipe it with a rag, which happens about 40% of the time.  She usually forgets or quits it halfway through.  She really wanted to have some jobs to do all by herself, so I tried to oblige~ but... now I'm wondering if maybe I should have buddied her up with one of the other kids.  Oh well.  Maybe she'll grow into it.  Audra is tagging along with Ella on Ella's laundry chore, and that is working well.

One thing I have learned (and it took me a good while to learn this) is that 3, 4 and 5-year-olds do work befitting a 3, 4 or 5-year-old.  I used to have *much* higher expectations for their work (my poor older children!), but I have learned to lower those expectations.  When Adelia does clear the table, I give her lots of hoorays and smiles and tell her what a great job she did.  When she doesn't, I do it.  When Adelia wipes the table, I wait until she scurries out of the kitchen and then I go along behind her and do a more thorough job of it.  There is a time for training kids to do chores the way you want them done, and I'm all for that, but... not when they're so young. 

For the most part our kids' chores stayed the same.  I did ask them for suggestions/preferences before I made the chore chart.  They expressed that they like working together on things, like the living room, so we kept that the same.  Ella also wanted a partner for laundry because she gets lonely, so that's why I assigned Audra to her.  Isaac wanted to keep sweeping but I could tell he'd rather not keep clearing/wiping (hence: Adelia), so I plugged him in for collecting and cleaning the eggs and helping with the dishwasher.  Isaias is still doing the garbages.  He wanted to be Ella's partner for laundry but I knew that combo wouldn't fly (they'd goof around too much) so we nixed that idea.

We've been at it for a little over a month and it all seems to be going well!  

Recap of our first day

Or rather: Recap of our first week.

{an especially squinty Audra}

It's actually been a great week. I am really glad to be so organized this year, because that has made things go more smoothly. I'm satisfied with how much we're getting accomplished each day, and am relieved that I didn't overshoot it. (I didn't plan too much.)

Things went pretty much according to my plan here, except that so far the girls have played (fairly) quietly during our reading time for History and so they've stayed with us and I've postponed their video time a bit later during our table time.

The only thing I may be unprepared for is how fast they're going through the books to read on their Assigned reading shelves.  (I selected several books for both Isaac and Ella over the summer that I wanted them to read throughout this school year, and I think they've read three books each.  This week.  Nice.)  I mean, I'm really thankful they're such avid readers, but I was sort of hoping those books would last them a little longer!

The dishes sit while we do school and the house is more cluttered.  The little girls have been in pajamas all day long this entire week, and I am exhausted by the end of the day.  But we're good.  We're reading and learning and relating and praying and singing and in each others way and by the grace of God, I'm handling those (many) interruptions well and we're all loving it.  Truly.  Is there anything better than being with these dear children every day?  I love them so much.  I feel so incredibly blessed.

 "Snapshots" from the week that stand out in my mind:

*Isaac snuggled up to Adelia on the couch with a stack of picture books- reading aloud to her during their buddy time.

*Ella's first dication lesson: complete with tears at the start, but by the end of it? "I really love this, mommy!  This is fun!  Can we do this every day?"

*Pointing to a blank US map and quizzing them on states and capitals.  They SO know more than I do.

*Isaac announcing how much he loves math and he wants to order the next book.

*Daily readings from this book:

(You know how sometimes you just find the perfect book for your kids' ages and imaginations at that particular time? This is it. They are so captivated by this story, all of them- and it's been really fun to read aloud.)

*Audra's new term: "Pocka does" (otherwise known as "polka dots"), and how many times a day she says it.  Apparently she loves pocka does right now.  And I love her.

*Adelia's desire to be apart of including asking all sorts of seemingly studious questions about our picture study piece.  Love that lively girl. 

*Lessons on my bed with Ella, then Isaac~ for one-on-one English time, and Ella's cheery, "I'll bet most girls don't get to snuggle up all cozy on their mommy's bed to do English!" 

*Reading lessons at the table with Isaias, and how delighted he was when he read a whole sentence!

I am blessed.  So blessed.