Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer School

A few weeks ago, Dana asked what our summer school plans were.  Usually, we school year round.  This was our third year homeschooling, and it was beginning to feel like we had been schooling for three straight years.  Oh, wait.  We had.  After much thought and consideration, I realized that it is not the actual school that was getting me burnt out.  My children are some of the easiest children to teach (except for Gabriel who argues about everything, just to argue-- but since he doesn't require a lot of 'teaching', the teaching part of homeschooling is easy for me).  No the stress was coming from always being 'on.'  There was no conscience break that allowed my brain to say, "Well, if we do some learning today, that would be fun, but we don't have to do anything."  So, I decided to finish school two months early.  Fortunately, we were ahead in everything.  How often does that happen?  Having said all that, though, there is still a major problem.  My children need mental stimulation, ALWAYS.  Otherwise, they are bears.  So, instead of having formal school, we'll be doing a bit of relaxed learning.

First, they must all do one math lesson or math game each week.  The whole point of this, since they are all ahead in math, is to keep their brains working in the math sense.  At least one of them has major problems with losing math if he doesn't continuously use it, and it is very frustrating for him when he comes back after a break, even one so short as two weeks.  Since they all understand this and hate the frustration, they have no problem with this rule.

Next, we will be doing a little geography work.  We're going to follow the route of Marco Polo and do some art projects.  We'll be using Marco Polo for Kids: His Marvelous Journey to China, 21 Activities (For Kids series) as our base text.  I love this book because it tells a wonderful story, and includes many projects to do.  This, too, will be a laid back expedition, with the emphasis being on learning about things they want to learn about, and having fun.

Finally, we will do a unit study based on the The 39 Clues Series. I like that each book focuses on a different historical figure, and want to take advantage of my children's obvious love of mysteries and all thinks Rick Riordan.

We plan to have fun.  After all, taking a break should be fun.  We will visit the museum, go camping, go to park days, care for the chickens and garden, ride bikes, play in the water, go to the pool, watch lots of movies, and just enjoy being together.  While I will keep the mental stimulation going for their sake (and mine- who likes to live with grouchy bears?), it will not be a stressful-have-to-get-it-done kind of stimulation.  And that, after all, is what we need a break from.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Run For The Wall

Gary and some of the other guys he works with got a chance to ride in the Run for the Wall on Wednesday.  The Run for the Wall's mission statement is:
To promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends,
To call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA),
To honor the memory of those Killed in Action (KIA) from all wars, and
To support our military personnel all over the world.
That sounds good to me, and Gary said that the people they were riding with were some of the nicest people he'd ever met. That's not surprising to me.  He really enjoyed himself, and would like to do the entire ride with them some year.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Strawberry Picking

We subsequently had a difficult time keeping him from eating them, although he was skeptical at first.

We ended up with 16 pounds of fresh strawberries.  I froze about 14 pounds.  The rest were either eaten fresh or are going in jam.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Midnight Visitor

I went outside the other night and this is what I saw.

I was just stretching, Mama.

I'm not doing anything wrong.  See, I'm leaving.

Oh, wait.  What's that I smell?

Really, though, I've let the chickens out of their pen a few times.  The cats have not bothered them, although they've been very interested in them.  Of course, I have not just abandoned the chickens to the cats.  The chickens not quite full grown, although they're close.  The cats, on the other hand, are fabulous hunters and even attempt to hunt the deer at times.  While the cats stalk the deer, the deer just ignore them.  I think that the chickens will give them a run for their money.  We'll see, when the time comes.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Prayer Shawl

Gary's aunt was diagnosed with leukemia about a month ago.  She was immediately hospitalized for treatment.  I wanted to show her that we are thinking of her, so I got to work doing what I do best, knitting.

Gary's sister also got busy doing something for their aunt.  Not only has she visited (they live about an hour from the hospital the aunt was in, while we live about 24 hours away, and her husband and children were about an hour and two hours away), but she has also committed to helping The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society raise money.  She is doing this by participating in their Maine Marathon.  As someone who has been touched multiple times by cancer, I want cures for all forms of cancer.  Please, if you have a little extra money this month, consider donating to Anne's fundraising.  Thank you.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Look!  I acquired a girl!  (Sadly, it was only for an hour.)

I loved the still reflection in this picture.

This bothers me.  The foam is because of the phosphorus run off from nearby farms.

This, on the other hand, was really cool to see.  You can't see it in the picture, but there is water running down the column, which means we were watching the slow addition to the column.

It looks like a giant ice flow.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Learning to Be Like Everyone Else

I am intensely interested in gifted education, for a multitude of reasons.  Perhaps, someday, I will take the time to repost the articles I wrote about my own family's experiences with gifted education.  In the meantime, I wanted to share some quotes from one of my favorite books.  I am in the process of rereading Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds by Jan and Bob Davidson, and Laura Vanderkam.  As I come across quotes that call out to me, I will share them with you.

Children with learning disabilities are by law given "individual education plans" to address their specific learning needs; some districts do the same for gifted children. Acknowledging Rachel's exceptional intelligence, the school drew up an individual education paln for her. As part of it, some teachers created a behavioral checklist for her in tenth grade. It was a prescription for how to fit in: Don't talk so much in class; keep it to a sound bite. Don't be so aggressive. Don't answer all the questions. Don't discuss things so much. Tone it down. Don't challenge the classroom status quo.

There it was, written down for her to follow: how to take that precocious mind and learn to be like everyone else.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rick Riordan

Yesterday, Gabriel and I went to a book signing with Rick Riordan.  I had gone on Monday to get a line number.  Our number was 85.  I did not think this was too bad a number, especially after seeing people with numbers in the 400's.  We arrived at about 5:45.  The signing was supposed to start at 6:30, but I was not expecting it to actually start until close to 7.  This is what we found when we arrived.

Gabriel kept telling me he was bored, until I pointed out that he had 6 books in his bag he could read.

The line snaked around the store.  We caught occasional glimpses of The Man while we were waiting (and he is fast!  We only waited for about 15 minutes, and we were number 85!).  At one point, Gabriel was afraid he was going to either hyperventilate or throw up.  Ah, the wonders of authors.

When Gabriel finally got up there, he had a question to ask.  Unfortunately, it took him until Mr. Riordan was signing Gabriel's last book for Gabriel to finally spit out his question.  He was so star struck.

Mr. Riordan took it in stride, answered his question, looked him in the eye, and was extremely nice.  It probably helps that he has two sons about the same age as Gabriel, and taught middle school for 15 years.  

It was a good experience.  Gabriel will probably frame "The Lightning Thief," as it was both a birthday present from my sister, and now holds her inscription and Mr. Riordan's inscription.  He may even put it in a fireproof vault.  This is definitely something we will be doing again.  Now, if I could just figure out some way for him to meet the author of "Armorica."

Just a note: Our family loves Mr. Riordan's books.  "The Lightning Thief" was a birthday gift from my sister, but we have subsequently bought all the books in the Percy Jackson series, and "The Red Pyramid."  For those wanting to know, yes, "The Red Pyramid" is just as good as the Percy Jackson series.  These would be a good gift for anyone interested in mythology, action, adventure, or just a rollicking good story.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Music Soothes the Savage Beast

Most mothers I know have a standard answer when their child says they're going to run away.  It has always been, "Let me help you pack."  This usually takes the wind out of the sails of the very young.

What I never realized before was that my mother probably meant, "Please, run away for a few minutes so I don't have to listen to you whine for five minutes."  I don't think I've ever actually told my children, "Let me help you pack."  Usually, when they're angry enough to say something like that, I'm at my most calm.  So, I am able to talk them down.

However, there are times when I am so frustrated that I may have told my children to pretend like they didn't exist for a few minutes while I calm down.  They all know that this is not me saying I don't love them.  It just means that I need a few minutes alone.

Today, one of my children was very whiney.  He was having a very bad day that started last night.  He sliced his finger open and, while he absolutely loves looking at other people's blood, he does not deal well with seeing his own blood.  Sense this happened right before bed, it was not a good end to the day.

At any rate, after listening to him whine for 4 hours straight, I was ready for him to run away.  My standard way of soothing myself is humor and music.  It was probably not unexpected that the song "Run Off to L.A." by Kid Rock popped into my head.  (Note: this is NOT a child friendly song!)  I am now threatening to make this my ringtone for my children.

My moodiness (and I have a lot of it, I'll admit) always takes a predictable path.  It can be illustrated by the path the music I listen to takes.  So, this is what I listened to as I calmed down.

1. Run off to L.A. (Obviously written for a woman who's driving him crazy, but apropos to my situation)

This here ain't no love song and it ain't for you
It's for the folks who relate to what I've been going through
It's for the forty hour overtimer working man
And to the good women out there, I know you'll understand

Why don't you run off to L.A. and lose your mind?...

They say all we need is just a little patience
But what do you do when your child woman is too high maintenance, yeah
I'm hating to admit it even if it's your favorite wife
Tell her pack your s***
And take the first train out of my life...

2. Uprising by Muse (because it's always worth listening to)

3. So Long Farewell by The Vandals (The song you're thinking of, just more suited to anger/frustration. IE It's rock.)

4. Back Against the Wall by Cage the Elephant

5. Second Chance by Shinedown (because every child deserves a second, third, and millionth chance)

6. Kung Fu Fighting by Fatboy Slim (because it's hard to stay mad while listening to this)

7. (If You're Wondering If I Want You To) by Weezer (As the tide of frustration begins to turn the other direction)

8. That's How Strong My Love Is by Otis Redding (because sometimes they need reminding)

and finally,
9. More by Harry Connick Jr.

More than the greatest love the world has known
This is the love I'll give to you alone.
More than the simple words I've tried to say,
I'll only live to love you more each day.
More than you'll ever know,
My arms want to hold you so.
My life will be in your keeaping,
Walking, sleeping, laughing, sleeping.
Longer than for always is a long, long time,
But far beyond forever, you'll be mine...

And my heart is very sure
No one else could love you more.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Best Forever Friends

On April 10th, we got chicks.  That means that they are just over a month old, now. About a week ago, we discovered how much they like worms.  We were weeding the garden and started coming across worms.  We thought we would give them one.  They went so crazy that I decided to save the worms I found.  This is what happened.

We are now best forever friends.


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