Our Family Unit
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  • August23rd

    I saw this one on Pinterest and just laughed out loud.  Sometimes I wish I could wear it like a badge, or at least make it into a t-shirt (to be worn with my favorite super-comfy, although stained with bleach, yoga pants, of course!)

    This has been “one of those weeks”… I went to bed Sunday night feeling a little stuffy and awoke Monday with the Plague; it has sapped every last bit of 7-month pregnancy energy out of me.  When the mental fog lifts high enough that I can see the to do list, I pick the lowest stress tasks and have not operated any heavy machinery this week (except a bandsaw when I was making my thread holder, but that doesn’t really count).

    My personality track record for these kind of weeks is usually to feel defeated and overwhelmed, but surprisingly that hasn’t happened this week.  As I was thinking about why, I kept coming back to the HomeRoutines app and a few key tools that are helping me reduce housework.

    1) Honey-Can-Do Heavy-Duty Triple Laundry Sorter: I got this when I decided to give up the idea of “Laundry Day” and instead do one or two loads every day as part of my routine.  I love it!  It has taken the stress of PILES of laundry away and is so easy to use.  I just grab a bag out in the morning to wash, put it in the dryer at noon and fold and put away that night.  The kids have another similar hanging style basket in their room.  All together we have four bags: Whites, Towels, Kids and Colors.

    2) BISSELL Perfect Sweep Turbo Cordless Rechargeable Sweeper:  Our “other vacuum” is a Shop Vac, which is certainly  powerful and has attachments but I do just about anything to avoid dragging it up the stairs from the garage, including walk on disgusting food crumbs.  This Bissell has been my savior.  It’s super quick and easy to run over the floors every night (sometimes after every meal) and keep the house from looking like the Tasmanian devil is our family pet.

    Picture of Perfect Sweep Turbo Cordless Rechargeable Sweeper 28801

    3) The Catch-All Baskets: Last but not least, these baskets have become members of the family.  We have one by the front door, one in the dining room and one in the kitchen.  I love to throw all the miscellaneous stuff in them during those “10 Minute Tidies”.  It keeps the house relatively picked up without distracting me as I take a receipt to the filing drawer…only to see a book that needs put on the kid’s shelf…then realize I’d have to restack the entire bookshelf in order to set the book down…meanwhile, I’m still holding onto the receipt.  I hate that!  Now, when that zone comes up on the Routine, the baskets get emptied and all is right with the world.  :)  OK, that’s a bit oversimplified, but you get the idea.

    Just having a few key tools has really taken the stress out of those week’s where the bottom seems to fall out.  The routine app gives me confidence that I really will “get to that soon” and tools like baskets and sweepers keep things from piling up around me.

  • August10th

    Raise your hand if you want to learn about MUD!

    This week, our homeschool preschool learned all about Earth Science.  Thanks to my new favorite PreK Science books, Let’s Read and Find Out, we covered loads of fun topics like air, water, dirt, plants, states of matter, weather and more!

    Air Is All Around You and Flash, Crash, Rumble and Roll by Franklyn M. Branley

    A Tree is a Plant by Clyde Robert Bulla

    What is the World Made Of by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

    Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean and Feel the Wind by Arthur Dorros

    Of course, to cover all of that in one week, we’re not going into anything in a lot of depth.  But Woody was introduced to all kinds of new concepts and used lots of experiments and activities to keep that ever elusive attention span engaged.

    The favorite activity by far, was MUD.  Of course, it’s not new to Woody that dirt and water make mud, but when you’re allowed to have a free-for-all with it, it becomes incredibly exciting!  My poor Jessie, a girl through and through, faced a terrible internal struggle that day.  Whether to keep clean or to keep up with big brother.  She was having fun, but every time a new spot on her body got dirty, she’d burst into tears until I assured her that we could wash that spot off, too.  Then it was back to the brown finger paint.

    The good news for this experiment, was that the next day they learned about water and it’s cleansing power, as they scrubbed clean all their outside toys.  On the days I didn’t feel like giving everyone baths by 11am, we stuck to cleaner activities, like Wind Tug-of-War with straws and cotton balls.

    We also learned about wind by flying a kite (Transformer themed, of course!)  Smiling obediently like I asked him to…

    Followed by the much more natural, “Let’s get out there and FLY THIS THING!”

    We also did quite a few things with water including a bathtub experiment with what things sink vs float and learning that liquids can take any shape (including puzzle pieces and hearts) and that we can turn water into a solid by freezing it.

    He really enjoyed this one, the Proof of Air.  He stuffed a paper towel in a glass and then put the glass in the bowl of water upside down.  Because the glass was filled with air, there was no room for water and the paper towel stayed dry.  The fun part though, was letting the air out of the glass by tipping it and seeing the giant bubbles come to the surface.  :)

    It was a great week for both him and I.  He was excited to learn and try out the activities, and I enjoyed trying out and fleshing out a better school routine.  I’m trying to find a balance between mother, teacher, wife, maid, friend and me.  I’m not naive enough to think I’ll ever actually attain that perfect balance, but this was a good week in my own experiment of seeing how much and when to incorporate homeschooling into our life.  Yeah for the good weeks!  I think it’s time for a bubble bath.  :)

  • August3rd

    Now that it’s August, I feel like I’m in “School Mode” again.  I’ve been working on our new School / Play Room (peruse my Pinterest inspiration), and experimenting with a few DIY projects.  Like is it possible to paint those cheap cardboard storage bins?

    and how can I use my Silhouette to make chalkboard labels and a penant banner?  Once I’ve made some actual progress on this, I’ll let you know.

    I’ve also been researching all kinds of “teaching tools” for this next year: websites, field trips, blogs, activities, curriculum.  Here’s a few things I came across that might help inspire you, too!

    Let’s Read And Find Out Science books.  I found out about these while browsing Letter of the Week, a site filled with great book lists and other preschool resource ideas.  The books are great at explaining just enough about science, perfect for the 4-6 yo.  It seems like a lot of the science stuff I’ve seen up until now would work better for 3rd grade level and up, so these gems have been a breath of fresh air.

     

    TED Ed

    Have you heard about these?  Ted-Ed lessons are educational videos put together by pros on all kinds of topics.  They have quiz questions to check for comprehension, open-ended questions to dig deeper and then lists of resources for taking the lesson even further.  The best part – it’s all editable.  You can make your own questions, list your own resources, track your student’s progress and even turn ANY YouTube video into your own “lesson”, including ones you upload yourself.   Love it!

    I’ve started reading (and am thoroughly enjoying) the book Educating the WholeHearted Child.  Clay & Sally Clarkson from Whole Heart Ministry, describe their vision as a “biblical, commonsense, discipleship-based lifestyle of home education using real books, real life, and real relationships’.  Umm, YES!  Sign me up!  :)  The Clarkson’s have a very logical and practical way of writing that lay matters out so clearly, yet in a way that doesn’t seem unattainable.  What I love most is how they connect homeschooling your children with discipling your children; reaching their hearts, not just their minds or behaviors.

    Finally, take two minutes and check out this article if you’re at all curious about the legitimacy of homeschooling.  Homeschooling Goes Mainstream, written by homeschool-critic-turned-proponent Susan Schaefer.

  • June15th

    One of my favorite childhood memories was snuggling up with my dad and brother on the bed at night, while Dad read Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs to us.  We were older at the time, than Kade and Berlin are now, probably 10  & 8.  But I believe one of the things that made that such a fun memory is that Mom and Dad instilled in us a love of books from the time we were little.  (Another reason is that while Dad read, we would play with his relaxed calf muscle, making it swing back and forth on his leg.  He hated that!  But, boy! was it fun!)

    When I had kids, I really wanted to give them that same love of books.  But I had no idea how much junk I would have to wade through to do it!  It seems like there are tons and tons of childrens’ books out there, but so few that I would actually want them to read.  Do you ever feel that way?  I don’t believe that every book has to be educational or have a moral to the story, but why should I waste money or bookshelf space or library trips on stories about bratty kids, or fluff, or just poor writing and illustrations.  Recently, I had a couple moms ask me about  my kids’ favorite books and that got me thinking about what books have stood the test of “our time”, the last 4 years.  What do we go back to night after night?

    Here’s Our Top Ten!

    1) First 100 Words by Roger Priddy.  We own lots of Priddy books, but this is my favorite.  It’s fantastic for Very Littles (6-12 months).  The pictures are beautiful and bright.  An excellent book for increasing vocabulary and building your baby’s confidence (ie. Point to the yellow car, Do you see the elephant, etc)
    2) From Head to Toe by Eric Carle.  Carle obviously has a myriad of books, some of them I like a lot more than others.  Most of them I don’t feel like I can just read the words and leave it at that, they need more explanation, especially for little kids. (No, don’t be a grumpy ladybug and try to fight everyone)  But I love thisbook for Toddlers when they are just learning how to control their bodies.  It’s great for identifying body parts and getting the wiggles out before bedtime.
    3) The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones.  This is hands down my absolute favorite children’s book that we own.  It’s only third in the list because the stories are a little long for babies less than a year old.  The illustrations in the book are just gorgeous, but the reason I truly love it is the way in which it ties the various Bible stories together using one main theme – God’s Love For Us!  It’s wonderfully done, if you don’t have this book – please, PLEASE get it.
    4) Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish all by Dr. Seuss.  Like Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss has many many books.  At first, anytime I saw a Dr. Seuss book at a garage sale or book swap, I’d snatch it up.  But then I came to realize, not all Dr. Seuss books are equal (in my opinion).  These are my three favorites – super silly, lots of fun, easy to memorize.  Kade was “reading” them to us by 3, just because he enjoyed reciting them.
    5) Pop Up Book of Nursery Rhymes by Matthew Reinhart.  We got this book as a baby gift when Berlin was born and Kyle has declared it is now the only baby gift we should give.  It’s filled with the classics (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, The 5 Little Pigs, Humpty Dumpty) but that’s not the impressive part.  This is the most elaborate pop-up book I’ve ever seen.  The illustrations are great and the way they jump of the page in the intricate folds is truly exciting.  It’s like a lift-the-flap book on steroids!  This is one of two books that can only be read “with mom or dad” though.
    6) ABC3D by Marion Bataille.  This is the other “with mom or dad” book, but another really fun 3D book, especially when your little one is beginning to recognize his letters.  Bataille creates a very clever work of art with 26 letters and 3 colors.
    7) Adventures of Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik.  This precious series is lots of fun and is great for building imaginations.  Little Bear has great adventures with his mother, father and animal friends – some real and some pretend.  It’s simple style draws both Kade and Berlin in, time after time.  I picked up our book at a garage sale and it is actually a compilation of three stories: Little Bear, Father Comes Home, and A Kiss for Little Bear.
    8) Jujo: The Youngest Tribesman
    by Mark Ludy. This is a wonderful story about a boy who does what he knows is right, even when faced with temptations and fear. Lots of excitement with a snake, a panther and a gorilla king. Plus a little mouse hidden on every page for your child to find. I love it because it teaches lots of excellent character traits: patience, determination, obedience, courage and more.
    9) What Do People Do All Day by Richard Scarry.  Scarry books are quickly becoming some of my all-time favorites, as well as Kade’s.  The illustrations are so detailed and fun, and so much is packed on a single page, your little guy or girl can study it for ages.  The thing I love about this particular book is the detail in explanation of everyday things.  For instance, how do we get light in our houses?  Scarry uses a fun and simple story about building a house for rabbits to talk about the wires hooked to the grid, that are threaded through the walls, then hidden behind drywall, then connected to lights and switches.  Whose going to explain a plumber’s job or mailman’s job to a 3 yr old?  Scarry.  Brilliant book that can be read over and over again.
    10) Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter.  This is just a classic set of stories.  It’s excellent for introducing your child to longer stories, books with chapters and fewer pictures.  I’ve really appreciated how it’s helped Kade to listen to me reading aloud without having a page of pictures to hold his attention.  Potter’s illustrations are darling (afterall, they inspired my Easter table) but the stories are sweet, adventuresome and fun.  Not to mention that the older English is great for vocabulary.