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Friday, October 16, 2015

Homeschooling So Far

Homeschooling so far is going rather well.  There are some things we need to work on but it is so very rewarding.  I'm very happy we made the decision to do this.

What is working:
  • The start of the day.  Everyone has to be dressed, teeth brushed, hair done, hands washed and must have had breakfast before we start.  This keeps me accountable.  Otherwise Isabelle may not brush her teeth for a month or Nathan wouldn't see a washcloth in even longer period of time.  Exaggerating of course but you get the point.
  • The schedule.  The kids love having a routine and knowing what to expect.  The only thing I'm not sure of is math as the first thing in the morning.  Nathan in particular balks when it is Math time.  It may be that I'm giving them too much math as well.
  • Our rewards system.  I mean really, how can rewards not work???
  • Chores.  The kids now have a lot more chores.  Nathan is really on top of this and that surprised me.  He is literally thriving on this.  Abby needs a little more help.  She likes to get out of them and "forget" them.  
  • Our curricula!  I read so many times about a curriculum not working for a child.  And all of ours do!  We also did not get a package deal but chose different curricula for different subjects, so I was running even more so of a risk that they didn't like one or more.   And there is always a chance that if you pick one, you don't like it either.  All of them are fun to teach. 
    • Writing.  I'm surprised at this.  They actually have to write more than before but they enjoy it.  Abby thinks that Mr. Pudewa of IEW is hilarious, so she loves watching the teaching DVDs.  Nathan again thrives on having a structure that he can follow.
    • Math.  This is the only one that Nathan is somewhat struggling with. Mainly because he doesn't like change.  Primary Mathematics is actually a great program.  I will also ease up on pushing the schedule so much on this particular subject.
    •  Grammar.  Love, love, love the program (Fix It! Grammar).  It builds on repetition and is only a short lesson every day.  All this while the kids are writing a story and reading a little bit each day to keep them interested.  It is the hardest thing in the world to keep Abby from reading ahead!  I have them making a book that they can put on their shelf when they are done, with their own illustrations.
    • Spelling.  Nathan feels like a big boy doing Phonetic Zoo by himself and with a pen.  :-)  Abby enjoys the physical touching of letter tiles that All About Spelling offers.
    • Reading.  Nathan may have turned into a bigger reader than Abby.  Yeah, I know!  He found a series he really likes: Warriors by Erin Hunter.  Abby just got American Girl Kirsten books from the library but is very intrigued by the Warrior books as they have turned her brother into a reading monster.  She finally got to have the first book in the series last night and started to read away.
    • History - Story of the World.  There is just nothing like listening to history as a story.  We color while we listen and read along the second time around.  And really, this is the third time through this series.  My kids have truly come to love history.
    • Science.  REAL for kids is wonderful.  It has made me a fun mom as we are doing so many hands-on things now.  And I'm learning from this.  They are fun lessons that usually include an experiment.  It makes it so much easier for the kids to remember.  However, I realized that Nathan for one needs to write things down in order to remember and that we need to have a short run-down on what we've learned so far.  It seems the kids both forget otherwise because the curriculum itself does not necessarily build on previous knowledge (at least not yet).  
    • PE is baseball for Nathan and ballet for Abby.  Nathan also takes a PE class at Friday school.  
  • The timing.  We start at 8:30am and go through until about 1-2pm.  We take 10 minute or more breaks in between subjects and have a 1/2 hour lunch. 
  • We do all subjects (except art) every day.  This works really well because it keeps us on track and it also keeps the kids in the same routine.  The one subject I only do on Mondays is art and Nathan balks when it is art time.  Not because he hates art but because it breaks his routine.
  • Friday school.  Although I'd love to be home whenever I can, the kids LOVE Friday school where they can mingle with other kids and have totally fun classes.  The selection of classes makes me wish I could be in some of them.  Seriously.  I mean things like "Pancakes around the world."  Who wouldn't love that?  
  • Shopping on Monday night instead.  This may save us money.  I'm so tired, I just want to get done with it.  :-)  
  • Set-up.  I have a junk room now where I store all the school stuff.  We actually do school at the dining room table.  We have our whiteboard there but other than that, it is a dining room.  Which is probably why it is so nice to work in there.  We also do our reading on the couch, which is very relaxing.  And we are not overwhelmed by school things in one of our rooms.  Other than Abby, the rest of us get overwhelmed by clutter.
  • The cleanliness of the house.  Having the kids help is huge!!  I never wanted to give them chores when they were home because I felt they were barely home.  But now they are a great help and the house is staying clean.  No more worrying about someone dropping by unexpectedly. 
What is not working:
  • I'm awfully tired.  I need to change my diet and start exercising.  It is important for me to be able to last through this school year.
  • It is still really loud in our house.  It makes it utterly hard for David to work.  We are working on being quieter and arguing less.
  • Cooking.  By simply not having the time (and because I have super picky kids), I've cooked really simple meals (think chicken nuggets, drumsticks, hamburgers).  While my family may like this, it is not as healthy.  On the other hand, I got most of them (David and Abby excluded) to heat Dave's Killer Bread!
  • Extra time.  While I'm around the kids all the time now, I still need to find ways to extra things with them.  Most of my time after school is spent on chores and errands and cooking.  I need to simplify more and even if some things costs us a few more dollars.  This may also be the reason I am so tired.
  • Read Alouds.  I'm way behind.  Not sure why this is hard as this is one of my favorites to do with the kids.  Maybe the challenge is to have all three of us available at the same time without interruptions.
What I need to improve on:
  • More fun!  I'm pretty boring as a mom and need to come up with more fun things to break up the routine.  Part of me freaks out just thinking about it because one of my kids can't handle the break in routine.
  • Not always have the goal in mind.  In the long run, I need to make sure that I don't get too focused on the schedule.  It would be easy to just chase that schedule, sick kids or not.  So that tendency needs to be kept in line.
  • Maybe a schedule for the littles as well?  I've been thinking about ways to easily give the two littlest ones a schedule as well rather than just letting them wander aimlessly.  However, it needs to be somewhat easy to facilitate. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Essential Hannah



What you can expect to hear every day:
Nothing.  Nada.  Nilch.  The child does not say a single word.  The closest she gets to anything is "ma" whenever I talk to my mom (Oma).  I've heard her say "Dada" before when she was calling her dad but it was only once.  She's said "mama" before as well but not consistently.  In the meantime she uses an ever so pleasant (yes, I'm being sarcastic) screeching sound to get our attention.  And let me tell you, it works.  Anything to make her stop using it...


Looks:  Another red head!  Her red seems a bit lighter than Abby's.  And she definitely has waves in it.  Not sure if they will turn into curls like Abby's.  I guess only time will tell.  This redhead is one with piercing blue eyes.  It seems those blue eyes are here to stay.  They aren't getting any darker although we know they can still change.  She is not chubby anymore.  Not one bit.  This former chub has slimmed down tremendously.  She's still tall.


Personality:  Hannah is a cheerful baby.  And very obedient.  She strikes me as very smart, much like Abby at this age.  She understands quite a bit and can be reasoned with (as in talked into surrendering the toy in her hand to her sister).  As long as you explain it to her, she will happily oblige and move on.  She loves to be part of whatever her siblings do, especially the girls.  She's a loving baby too, they readily gives out hugs and kisses to adoring siblings.


On Books:  While you might have thought that point would be blank, you are incorrect!  This baby LOVES books.  (Told you she reminded me a lot of Abby.)  Give her a book and she'll instantly sits down to peruse through it.  She has never ripped a page either, which is odd.  Not even when she was real little.  She loves to read books in her bed.  She does it when she wakes up and when she falls asleep.  We found some really neat German Ravensburger books with great illustrations of animals in different habitats.  Some books about color (Leapfrog Curious George and another Ravensburger), two bear books, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
On Homeschooling:  She is good during the day when I homeschool.  Should a difficult time arrive, there is always the playpen, which she actually thoroughly enjoys to play in.


On Siblings:  Oh, do we ever love our siblings - as long as they do not pick us up when they were not asked to do so.
On Food:  At this stage she eats just about anything (other than tomatoes) and if she can feed herself, it is even better.  Loves grapes and cheerios.  Loves rice milk with chocolate powder.  Mac and cheese and lentil soup are always a go to.
On Friends:  Just her siblings and cousins so far and friends that her siblings have.
On Sports: Couch and chair climbing are a favorite as well as climbing onto the dining table and then getting chased by mom.


Animals:  She loves watching Mr. Nathan through our back door.  She'll pet Copper when I tell her to let him know he was a good boy.  However, she is not happy when he pushes past her.
Toys:  She has the least amount of toys of any baby we've had.  But to be honest, she plays just find with her siblings' toys.  Likes to play with things that she can put in and out, stack, etc.  She loves to put the game pieces in our Connect Four board.  Likes to color with colored pencils.  Stackable blocks.  Isabelle's giant fabric Elsa doll.
Electronics:  None yet.  :-)


Music:  She loves music.  And dances.  Her favorite is Isabelle's Elsa doll that sings a short part of "Let it go."  She'll come to you over and over to turn it on again and then walks off with the doll and dances with her by rocking from leg to leg, snuggling Elsa tightly.  :-)  Very cute.


Worth Mentioning:
We call her Hanny.  Which is kind of funny because now that I spelled it, it is almost spelled like my Opa Hanni.  He was a wonderful and gentle man.
Can follow commands and listens really well.
She is very easy to put down for bed unless she is overtired.
Loves to play with her siblings but hates to be smushed with love.
Is often found looking for Mr. Nathan, our backyard pet squirrel.
Is determined to sit at the big table with the "big" people and not  her high chair.  At the same time, is determined to feed herself all foods.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Essential Isabelle

 What you can expect to hear every day:
"Can I have a gum?"
"Can you come with me?"
"I wanna be with you."
"Huggy and kissy!"


Looks:  She has super-straight hair with deep brown eyes, like her brother and like her daddy.  Long eyelashes, deep dark brown eyes.  She loves to get her hair braided (like Elsa).  She's got her daddy's facial shape (and grandma's) and is very petite.  She's my tiny little girl.  And she loves, loves, loves to don a fancy dress.  The fancier, the better.  Her Christmas dresses are worn throughout the week and on a regular basis.  :-)


Personality:  Isabelle is just the sweetest.  Most of the time.  She is starting to yell when she is frustrated. But she is working hard on it and getting better.  Isabelle is at an age where she is asserting autonomy from Abigail.  She is still very much wanting mom around, even if she can easily do things on her own.
On Books:  Her favorites are Little Bear and Berenstein Bears.


On Homeschooling: She has learned all her uppercase letters.  She is a natural at writing.  She, all by herself, figured out how to correctly write most letters.  It is natural for her to start at the top and go from left to right.
On Siblings:  Although her and Abby are figuring things out, they are still like peas in a pod.  She also loves Hanny and sometimes a little too much.  :-)  She gets along well with Nathan, who enjoys having a sister who is ready to wrestle and to run around and jump.


On Food:  She still adores her tiny tea.  Basically a child-version of the Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks in a little (or "tiny" as she calls them) cup.   Loves candy, strawberry milk, grapes, cheese, corn chips, mac & cheese, cottage cheese, and is getting to like Dave's Killer Bread - Sprouted Wheat.  Enjoys helping mom in the kitchen.  We make lunches together and sometimes bake together.


On Friends:  Grace, Bella and Kezia are her friends.   Unlike the two older ones at this age, she talks a lot about her friends and thinks of them often.


On Sports:  She likes to sing and dance.  Would love to do ballet.  She enjoys playing baseball with dad.
Animals:  She does not show a strong love toward animals and also no dislikes.  She enjoys Mr. Nathan, but more so because Abby and Nathan do.  She likes Copper but also gets frustrated because he occasionally runs over her toes.
Toys:  Loves her Elsa doll from grandma.  Also likes all toys in general.  She plays with Playmobil, all of Hannah's toys and mostly with her princesses (like Polly Pockets) with easy to put on dresses.  She'd love to play electronics more, but as the littlest one of the house, she only gets to once or twice a week.
Electronics:  Isabelle would love to have more time on electronics but only gets access once or twice a week.  Unlike the older two, she isn't much interested in watching the others play.  She used to really enjoy ABC Mouse, but that has been discontinued as they played more than they actually learned.  She is starting to enjoy listening to stories on CD (she just got Little Bear).
Music:  Anything Frozen.  She loves to dance "ballet," moves she's learned from Abby.  She does like to listen to Veggie Tales as well.


Worth Mentioning:
Still puts her fingers under her nostrils when she gets tired.  We still don't know why.  We reasoned that it must be some way to deprive herself of oxygen, in return making her sleepy?
Loves Elsa from Frozen.  Talks about her all the time.  I swear I want to "Let it go" but it's just not working....
Is a top bunk sleeper.  Wants to sleep in Abby's bed every night.
Her jobs include feeding the dog, refilling wet wipes, cleaning her room and taking care of herself (getting dressed, brushing her teeth, etc).  And sometimes she is asked to play with Hanny.
Is just a little sweetie-pie and has the cutest little voice.
She's very light and petite.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Essential Abigail


What you can expect to hear every day:
"Where's bear?"
"Isabelle, do you want to play...."
"Mama, did you see what Hannah did/said?"
"Dada!" (Upon seeing him after a long while.)
"I'm having a hard day" (If she is having a hard 5 minutes.)
"I know, I know!" (When given directions for a chore for the umptieth time that she chose a failed shortcut for.)
"Can I have chocolate milk?"
"Is ______  good for you?"  (She is, at this point, very much interested in healthy food choices.)
"Does ______ believe in God?"
"Isabelle kept me up all night."

Looks:  Has the thickest hair - EVER and doesn't like to wear braids or tails of any sort - they give her headaches.  She wants to grow her hair long so she can have "ballerina" hair.  Still gets stopped all the time because people want to touch her hair.  Has gorgeous fall eyes (different shades of brown with tints of red.  She is a slender girl who moves with grace.  The birthmark on her arm is starting to get darker.  You can actually see it now.  Has lost  6 of her front teeth and regrown 4.  One of her bottom teeth has yellowish weakened enamel.  It is the tooth that was under her baby tooth that she had knocked out as a baby.  The dentist said that eventually she'll need a crown.

Personality:  She is the sunshine in this house!!  There is no doubt about that.  She sings and plays and it seems that all kids in the house ultimately revolve about Abby.  Sometimes that gets too much for her and she wants to just be alone.
She is a fantastic older sister and is making huge improvements on the younger sister part.  Her and Nathan seem to get along much better now that they are so dependent on each other due to homeschooling.
While Nathan is a serious and thoughtful boy for his age (mixed with a lot of mischief), Abby holds on to childhood with all she has.  She is whimsical and loves little kids toys, books, music, movies, etc.
Abby is currently fascinated by humor.  She has me re-read funny parts of a story and re-tells them over and over.  She tries to copy it and this stage is very awkward doing so.  We've had talks about how uncle Matze used to do that and he just had to find his own way, rather than trying to be something he wasn't.  :-)  It was painful for all of us when Matze went through that stage.  :-)


On Books:  L.O.V.E.S. to read.  David and I never thought we'd have a child whom we'd constantly tell to put the book down.   Her favorites are still short and funny chapter books.  For homeschool, I had her start reading the Winnie the Pooh series.   At first she didn't like it as much but now she is really into it.  It helped to get her the audio CDs for read-along to get her started.

On Homeschooling:  She is crazy smart.  She loves art lessons the most, closely following by reading time.  When I read aloud out of any book, be it science or history or a read aloud, she always hunches over my shoulder and feasts on every word with her eyes.  She bears mathematics and seems to enjoy history and science.

On Siblings:  Adores Hannah.  She could tell me all day long what Hannah is doing.  Her and Isabelle have gotten quite a few tiffs lately, probably due to Isabelle having entered a developmental stage where she exercises autonomy.  Abby, who is a strong leader, has a very hard time accepting someone else's ideas where previously there was just her way or the highway.

On Food:  Likes to eat veggies, cheese sticks and cereal.  Likes to drink chocolate milk.  She doesn't really like to drink though.  OJ is ok too.  She tries to make healthy food choices whenever possible.

On Friends:  Her main friends are truly her sisters, Nathan and her cousins Olive and Rosie.  She also plays with Kira from across the street.  Grace is a very dear friend to her.  She still utterly enjoys playing with the Matson girls and squeals with delight when they arrive.  She also enjoys playing with Katiree a lot (she hasn't been able to see her much due to being in school.  Hopefully that will change with homeschooling).  She has also made a few friends at ballet (this year she is with Allie and Elise).  She also enjoys playing with Andrew and Carter and Andrew but hasn't been able to see them in a long time.  Little Nathan is another friend she met through bible study.  Unlike Nathan, she doesn't request play dates with friends yet.


On Sports:  She's not passionate about any sports but likes ballet.

Animals: Loves animals.   "Mr. Nathan!" (Adores our backyard pet squirrel.  Sits for an hour at a time waiting for him and feeding him peanuts.  She will also feed the Scrub Jays in our yard if he doesn't show up.)

Toys:  It's still her and the bear (who now has 2 patches - a pink one and a red one).  Loves little toys.  Now that she has to clean her toys, she at least does not dump them all on the floor anymore.  :-)  Victory!  Oma bought them little sorters for their toys that fit in the new dresser.  It helps them to realize when they are taking out too many toys.  They try to just take out one sorter and that helps them to know it is easily cleaned up.

Electronics:  Loves to play games on the Kindle, her favorites being Minecraft and Temple Run, Smurfs and Ice Age.  Truly enjoys listening to audio stories, such as Jonathan Park, James Herriott's Treasury for Children, Adventures in Odyssey.  As per Abby, she loves the drama and suspense in Jonathan Park.  She does not enjoy The Story of the World as much though.  :-(

Music:  Also loves to listen to music, especially Veggie Tales songs and worship music.  10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman is one of her favorites and so are "All the Heavens" and "I Need Thee Every Hour".


Worth Mentioning:
Get migraines.  Probably also because she doesn't like to drink and I have to remember to make her.  When she does get migraines, they are so bad that she will vomit for half a day.
Is a bottom bunk sleeper.
Is torn: She wants to sleep with Isabelle but she never gets good sleep then.
Wants to be an artist.  But even more so an "animal rescue person".  She explained to us that she'd pick up animals in need and bring them to the vet.  Her dad told her the world is her oyster and she could make up any job that is needed.  All jobs were invented by someone.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Essential Nathan




What you can expect to hear every day: 
"Can I have candy?"
"How many?"
"Can I have the Kindle?"
"Can I have an ice cream?"
"Moom!"
Stomping his feet and doing a "Hulk" impression with his arms when he is unhappy
"I'm not happy."
"I love you, mama." accompanied with a great hug.
"Can a friend come over?"

Looks:  Has really thick hair.  It gets wavy when it is allowed to grow out.  Gorgeous dark, dark eyes with long eye lashes that are dark as well.  Has lost and regrown most of his front teeth, bottom and top.

Personality: Nathan is a very active boy.  He has to move.  He has to be in sports or he literally bounces off the walls.  Literally.  I found it funny that after writing that I realized the majority of pictures chosen for this post show him quietly sitting or resting.  Don't let it fool you!  He has a good heart and wants to work hard.  He has not yet learned how to deal with failure.  At the slightest sign of failure (be it behavior or other), he panics and gets utterly frustrated.  He has gotten quite a bit better and is working on it.  Us realizing this probably helps too.
He has a good sense of humor but as is typical for his age, sometimes he doesn't know when to stop.  :-)
He likes to snuggle and he likes to get tugged in at night.  He's a lovely boy who likes to laugh (albeit we haven't quite passed the potty humor phase...)

On Books:His favorite books right now are Minecraft handbooks and the Warrior series.

On Homeschooling: Enjoys homeschooling and thrives on routine.  Likes to have a set schedule and cannot handle it when routine is not happening.


 On Siblings: Loves the baby and wants to carry her around.  He is getting along with Abigail much better although the two substantially different personalities still clash.  Homeschooling has definitely helped them become a team.  He loves his Isabelly.  He enjoys her wild side and active side.  They make it easy for him to play with her.  Isabelle loves to follow Nathan's lead and does enjoy to roughhouse with him.  Wishes he had a brother too.

On Food: Likes to eat meat, candy and corn chips.  Not much else.  Likes to drink would be rootbeer, apple juice, smoothies or frappucino.

On Friends:  His best friend is still William and that is the one thing he misses from school.  All the boys to play with during recess.  William and Nathan have known each other since pre-school.  His mom and I went to the same bible study and that is where they met and played (actually William was the only boy Nathan played with - he was so shy then).  When they started school they happened to end up in the same class!  They have been close friends ever since.
Nathan also likes to play with our neighbor boy Treuce who lives at the end of our road.  Nate, whom he knows through baseball, is also a constant buddy during baseball season.
There are other friends he has like Tate, Zane, Carter, Evan, Andrew, Owen and others that we don't get to see very often as Nathan was busy at school and in sports.  Now that we are homeschooling, that will hopefully change.
Nathan keeps a few boys really close.  While he likes to play with kids, he doesn't form close friendships easily.



On Sports:  Baseball has become his favorite sport.  He's worked hard the last few years and has become a good little player.  He loves being a leader on his team and he listens well most of the time.  Although he'd like to try his hand at flag football.  He chose baseball this fall, so maybe next year.  He will also wrestle occasionally this year as we really don't want him to be a one sport kid.

Animals:  Copper is truly loved by this boy.  He likes to have him in his room when he sleeps.  Although we don't let him call Copper his own.  And therefore he wants a dog or other pet all of his own.

Toys:  While he prefers electronics these days, mom won't let him play as much as he wants to.  Therefore Legos and toy guns will do.  He is also enjoying board games.  He is old enough now to play Ticket to Ride (which brings him great joy) and his favorite card game is Catan.  He has given up on trying to play Stratego with Abby and myself (we are not fans).  His ultimate favorite way to play is with his sisters.  :-)  He loves to play with them the most.

Electronics:  Loves to play Minecraft on the Kindle.  If it was up to him, he'd play electronics all day.  Unfortunately he is limited to 1/2 hour per day and 1 hour on the weekend.  I wish it was less.  At times, he does get to watch TV with his dad at night

Music:  Nathan never cared much for music.  Although lately he is asking me to download music on my phone.   This could have something to do with his recent obsession with electronics more than him actually enjoying music.


Worth Mentioning:
Likes to wrap up in his Denver Broncos blanket although it is probably much too thin.
Is obsessed with anything electronic (laptop, phone, Kindle).  He wants to borrow my phone to take random pictures, etc.
Does NOT understand that we do not have a smartphone.  This has been truly amusing to David and I.  We keep explaining it all to him but he just doesn't understand that I only have a phone with a touch-screen and a little keyboard.
He is doing great with his daily chores (unfortunately only thanks to the Kindle time promised at the end)