Friday, November 16, 2012

Quick Takes: Homeschooling (in pictures) edition

It's been awhile since our last homeschooling update, so I thought I'd appease the grandparents and offer, for their enjoyment (and yours!), this edition of Quick Takes.....make sure to go visit Jen for more!

1.   I'll start off with an art project/science project series.  We had a bajillion broken crayons laying around the house, so we peeled all of that pesky paper off of all of them and melted them down into cool "swirly" crayons (Rascal #2 named them), while talking about primary/secondary colours and the concept of melting.....

Hard labour.  ;)

Excitedly watching...

Using the finished product (Rascal #3 creating a Memory-style game)

2.   A few weeks ago, the Rascals went on a weekend adventure to Nanny and Poppy's house.   While there, Uncle Tony took them on a tour of the greenhouse he works at, and they got to learn about all kinds of fun things.   Interesting things like:  how do they make their own potting soil?   How do you care for certain kinds of plants?   How do you know what amount of each plant to grow?  and so on.....they had a BLAST!

3.   This last week, we had a fun engineering project that we had to complete.  Mike and I managed to score an awesome playground structure at a great price, but with one catch:  we had to put it together ourselves.  While this was NOT fun, the boys had a blast helping to figure out the directions and learning how to use tools.  We'll call it math/engineering/AND shop class all in one!

4.  One of the great things about homeschooling is that we can focus on what they truly love to do, and really individualize each of the boy's education.   Rascals #1 and #2 LOVE gymnastics, and thanks to a school day that requires MUCH less time than traditional schooling, they're able to spend many hours each week at our local gym.   Both of them will be competing for the first time this year, and we just received their competition uniforms.   They were excited to try them on, and I was quite shocked at how professional they looked!  Insta-gymnast!

5.  We may live in a town that's officially a "village," but we have the best village library around!  The rascals LOVE going, and I love that it produces many, many moments that look like this:

He's such a good big brother!

6.  Best investment we made for this school year?   Teaching Textbooks.  Without a doubt, this program has made math time with Rascal #1 so.very.much.easier.  He's being challenged with it (we started him at the 4th grade level, even though he's technically in 3rd grade), but is excelling.   For our little boy who LOVES the chance to be on the computer and his mommy who's NOT ready for him to spend any time online....this is the perfect compromise.  He's thrilled that he's the only one who gets to spend time at the computer....and I'm thrilled that math is no longer a fight!

7.  Last homeschooling update for today is about Rascal #2.   Now our middle rascal has a bit of a challenging personality.  He will not attempt to do ANYTHING in front of ANYONE (including Mom and Dad) if he thinks he might fail.   Even as a baby, we'd catch him practicing his words in his crib thanks to our handy-dandy baby monitor for weeks before he'd say it in front of us.   He's a perfectionist, through and through.   In some ways, this is great (this child can make a mean bed!)...but with homeschooling, it has presented as quite a struggle.  It's hard to teach a child who refuses to make a mistake.

Enter in this book.   I'll admit, teaching Rascal #2 how to read was terrifying to me.   Not only did I not remember learning to read and was scared I wouldn't be able to relate to my rascals, but his perfectionist personality just screamed "DIFFICULT!" when I thought about it.    This book has been the answer for us.  It moves VERY slowly (we only do 3-5 tasks per lesson each day, so it usually takes us a week to finish each of these "easy" lessons), but this is good for my rascal.   Moving slowly allows him to fully master each step.  One day, he's going to pick up a chapter book and read it all to us, flawlessly, I'm convinced.  Today, however....he read this:

Perfectly.   Without any prompting from me, or any stumbling over words.  This book rocks, y'all!

And with that.....our Thanksgiving break begins!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hey, hey, we're the Monkees.....

....or something like that.

Ever hear a song on the radio and have your breath taken away?   One of those moments where you just know that the songwriter was channeling your innermost thoughts and fears and dreams while penning a song?

Do you feel like you have a "theme" song?

For me, this is it:

How about you?  What's your theme song?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An Open Letter to My Children

The first thing that a person finds in life and the last to which he holds out his hand, and the most precious that he possess, even if he does not realize it, is family life.  Blessed Adolph Kolping

"The history of mankind, the history of salvation, passes by way of the family. The family is placed at the center of the great struggle between good and evil, between life and death, between love and all that is opposed to love." Blessed Pope John Paul II

Dearest Rascals,

The other night, your father and I went to see one of our favourite Catholic speakers, Dr. Ray Guarendi.   You know this, of course, as you got to have a babysitter and all of the fun and bending of house rules that comes with that.   It was  a good night for all.

I've been mulling over quite a bit that Dr. Ray shared with us last Friday night, as I tend to do with any new information that I've been given.   Most frequently, the anecdotes he shared with us about his own father kept coming to mind.   The focus for these little stories was discipline strategies and techniques, but the one "theme" that Dr. Ray kept returning to, over and over again, was that his knew just how much his father loved his children.  In his words, which I will paraphrase, discipline worked for his father because the children knew that he "loved them desperately."   Over and over again, Dr. Ray spoke of his own father's "desperate love" for his children.

I realized that I wanted to make sure that you knew, too, just how much you were loved and cherished. It sometimes feels like we're the odd family out - high expectations, discipline, faith-based family life, and so on.     I hope, however, that you will be able to see....just like Dr. Ray did.....that all of this is done out of a burning love for you.   Love, defined as wanting the ultimate good for the other person, is the basis of every single decision your father and I make.

We probably don't say it enough.  We probably don't tell you enough just how much we love you.  How  your ultimate good - happiness with God in Heaven - is the reason for everything we do.  We will try to say this more often, both in our words and our actions.   Let me begin by starting here.

You three - and soon to be four - rascals are our gift from God.  He has blessed us abundantly by placing you in our lives, and we will be forever grateful for this blessing.   You are beautiful little boys, made in the image and likeness of our Creator.   You shine with joy and love, and it is a brilliant, radiant light.  

Our job, as your parents, is not to cushion you from the outside world, or throw you to the evils that can be found within it.   We love you too much to do either of those.   Our job, as your parents, is to be your primary source of education.  Our job, as your parents, is to pass the truth of the Catholic faith on to you.   This is hard, it is scary, and we often fail.   But we will love you desperately through all of it.

The world out there is scary.   It is filled with temptation and evil.   It is hard to become the saint that each of us is called to become, when you are constantly being torn down or tempted by society and culture.    Our job, as your parents, is to help you grow strong in your faith, to know your own Christian humanness, and to strive for holiness for each and every one of you.   It's a daunting job.....but one that we accept because we love you.   We truly and completely want to see you  enjoying happiness in paradise someday.

So if there comes a time when we've fallen from a peak into one of those natural valleys of family life, please come back to this letter.   We love you.  Desperately.  We only want what is truly best (Heaven) for you.   Everything we do and decide - - from discipline to education to house rules - - is based on this one goal and undying love.  Remember that.

Especially about 10 years from now when you are all teenagers.  Please.

Love you always Rascals,

Friday, November 2, 2012

Quick Takes - Finally!

I'm finally catching back up over here and joining Jen again for our Friday quick takes - make sure to check out her blog for more fun!

Alright, here goes!

1.  I am very grateful to Apple for a fun little feature on my not-so-new-but-new-to-me cell phone.  What is it, you wonder?   IT DOESN'T TELL ME HOW LONG UNTIL  MY ALARM WILL GO OFF!   I already know that I don't get enough sleep.  My old Droid used to tell me, once the alarm was set, that it was set for "X" number of hours from now, and I would get so depressed at how little sleep I  was getting.   So, thank you, Apple, for not torturing me like that.

2.  We went trick-or-treating on Wednesday night with the rascals (exhibit A below).  It was hilarious.  Rascal #3 kept going from house-to-house, showing each house what the previous one had given him.   He just did not understand why that was rude.   Oh, to be a three year old again!  

Exhibit A

3.  We joined the local YMCA the other day.   Vacation (or: moving and being pregnant) is officially over.   Need to get back on track with diet and exercise before I have to buy bigger clothes.   Wish me luck!  Also:  any workout suggestions?   I love running, but looking to branch out a bit......

4.   We lost power for a couple of days this week, thanks to Hurricane Sandy.  I'm not complaining - it was warm, I didn't have much food in the fridge/freezer to lose since we'd just moved, and it wasn't cold enough to be chilly inside the house.   It did lead to very funny conversations.  My favourite?  When Rascal #3 exclaimed very very excitedly "THE POWER IS BACK ON!!  I CAN FLUSH NOW WHEN I PEE AND POOP!"  hahahahaha

5.  Homeschooling is going well around here.  I *think* we've figured out our logistical changes of going from a house with an awesome school room to a much smaller house.   We're back into our groove (yay!), and the boys are doing well.   Rascal #3 is going to a preschool two mornings a week now, which is working really well for the big boys.   Now, just have to figure out how to answer the "Why aren't you in school today?" questions from curious people when we're out and about......How do you handle it?

6.   I bought a beef brisket the other day.   Any good recipes out there?  I can't remember the last time I made brisket..........

7.   This week contained a few firsts for us:  the best one was being "set up" twice.  Once by a hermit and once by a priest.  haha.   Both times, we were introduced to people that we should "become friends with," and I'm quite happy to say that both matches seemed to have worked.  I just think it's funny.......

Okay, enough rambling and back to running errands!!