Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Eve 2012

This year, we did Christmas Eve at my in-laws. It was slightly chaotic because Bo was playing the band for church and we were trying to meet up with his grandarents and his brothers who were all arriving at different times.

Mae quickly made herself cozy on Great Grandpa's lap while the rest of the food was cooking.

 The food was awesome as usual. My mother-in-law's ham was especially amazing. I made challah bread, and it was ok, it needed more yeast. After we had some Christmas cookies!


Our family went off to church for a great service. Tey even sang on stage (usually he either doesn't go, or just stands and doesn't sing). Bean, I think feels too old for this already. Please! He's 6. Actually he's been coming with us to "big church" where he gets to sing each week, which he likes, and he surprisingly get a lot out of the messages. We talk about it a lot more during the week than we did when he used to go to kids' church. After church we returned back to my in-laws for dinner and opening presents.

Bean got a lego set from Grandpa and Grandma, which he built immediately when he got home (right). From Bo's older brother he got a Batman car, which shoots out Batman. He opened that once he as done unwrapping presents and was playing with it. He also got some fun animal gifts from Bo's younger brother: a grow-a-frog, and an ant pod (ant farm type thing pictured left). We are going to send away for the frog next week and the ants we have to wait until warmer weather to collect them from our yard. We'll be doing some studies of the animals too for homeschool.

Tey asked for Domino Rally from his grandparents and he's been playing it with Mae at home in the evenings. His older uncle got him a spy set (right) and he and Bean have been enjoying way too much. It's so cute seeing him in all his spy gear. His younger uncle got him a magnetic drawing thing (left). We're all addicted to that. It's an awesome thing to bring to a restaurant or in the car, and Tey has made good use of it at quiet time too.

Mae has been cooking up a storm for us with a new tea set she got from her grandparents. Bo, in particular plays with her a lot. It's a sight to behold! We haven't had a chance to play with the gifts Bo's older brother gave her. I think she's going to most love the stickers. She's been liking those recently. Bo's younger brother got her a game, which is awesome, because it's easy and fun enough for toddlers to play and it's hard to find something that ALL my kids can play. It's basically like a Simon Says game but it teaches colors, numbers, emotions, animals and other fun stuff. She LOVES the phone she got from her great-grandparents and I love the antique chair they got her. She mostly just tries to stand on it to reach things that we try to keep away from her :/

It was great to see family that we normally don't get to see and most special of all was finally meeting my new nephew! Omigosh, he is so adorable and really smart and fun. Bo and I agreed that that was the best part of Christmas.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pics of Me

I am never in pictures. That's on purpose. But in going through the last couple weeks of pics on my camera, I found some that I'm be willing to share. These loved ones of mine make me so happy, no wonder I'm smiling so big in all of them!

Shaggy Sleepover

Tey brought a friend home from co-op that we got to take care of and have adventures with so that Tey could make an oral presentation to his class. Shaggy the Bear enjoyed a nature walk with us in the back yard. First we found some evidence of beavers. We have a couple of these old stumps on our yard near the creek. They are all old, so we don't plan on seeing any beavers anytime soon. :(

That day we also spread some seeds. I collected them off some asters growing along the side of the road near us. Earlier in the summer, we removed some invasive brush and this is our first attempts to restore that area with some native plants. We'll see how they grow. A couple days later we had some pretty strong winds.  video

That Sunday we have some special pancakes with craisins and chocolate chips. How funny is it that Tey is concerned about getting Shaggy dirty from food, but was just dancing him around in dirt a couple days before? Silly old bear!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tey's Thankfulness 2012

On the day before Thanksgiving, Tey and I made a little craft called the Tree of Thanks. Our homeschool co-op provided the supplies, including the pic of me. I love how they captured my true essence by not announcing that they'd be taking our pictures that day...adorning my McNair hoodie, pony tail, bags under my eyes, and possibly the wrong name tag. At least Tey's a cutie.

Anyway, I wrote down what he was thankful for on the leaves and now I have a sweet keepsake of my thankful Tey at about age 4 and a half.

I cherish his simplicity:

  • We have shoes
  • Food
  • Trees help us breathe
  • Games
  • Homeschool
  • Daddy teaches me chess
  • We have a house
  • We have a backyard
  • Outside chairs (he likes dining al frescso)
  • Trees with colorful leaves on them
It touched my heart that he even mentioned homeschool. I struggled so much this semester getting us organized, scheduled and on a good routine but felt like I fell short. Tey wants to do so much more and I don't always have stuff prepared for him. Still, he is fairly flexible and understanding and still prefers homeschooling to going to school. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Teaching the History of Thanksgiving

While preparing for teaching about Thanksgiving last November, I'm pretty sure I did more research and with more enthusiasm than I ever had in any month of my life, even as a PhD student. Something about feeling solely responsible for my children's education motivated me to get my facts straight before passing it on to them. It was also my first month homeschooling too, so I was just plain freaking out.

When it comes to teaching social studies and history, I generally feel incompetent and underprepared, perhaps because as compared to other subjects, I am more critical about what and how I was taught it in school. For my own children's education, I definitely want to provide more context and also emphasize more about social justice, cultural studies, diversity, inclusivity, tolerance, and the link to our Christian faith (whether that paints Christians in a positive or negative light).

Below I review some resources that helped me and my children think more critically about the historical event that we've come to know of as a first Thanksgiving.

For ease and accessibility, I recommend anything by Plimoth Plantation. Plimoth Plantation located in Massachusetts is a museum/recreation of what the first colony of the same name would have looked like in 1627. For those of us in Central Illinois who are not close enough the take a field trip there, their online resources are fantastic. Children will especially enjoy the video game (I use that term loosely) "You are the Historian", where they will virtually explore the Plantation, investigate one of only two only primary sources of information about the first harvest feast, and hear about the Wampanoag people and their culture, particular their traditions of giving thanks. Last year, my 5 year old learned and remembered a lot from these online videos and from another one that we checked out from the library.
Bean's drawing of The Warrior Counselor of the Wampanoag, Habbamok
after watching some videos last year
Everything I've encountered so far by Plimoth Plantation attempts to teach history by encouraging asking questions, investigating primary sources and considering multiple perspectives while respecting cultural differences. These are great foundations to lay for students. It prepares them to investigate the complexities of American history, which is not always to peaceful, friendly, and neighborly as the stories of the first Thanksgiving would have us believe. In addition to the Plimoth Plantation materials, I just piece-mealed what I taught about colonists, Native Americans and Thanksgiving.

I used some basic guiding principles that I read about in this article called "Teaching Young Children about Native Americans." While I don't think it is a comprehensive list of what to do and what not to do, it really got me starting to think about how the history and culture of Native Americans are generally taught. If my child were in regular school too, I think this would help me guide (be it supplement or challenge) what my children are learning outside my home about America's native peoples.

For a more Native perpective on the holiday, "The Real Story of Thankgiving" on the the Manataka American Indian Council website is informative and heart-wrenching. The first two sections are difficult to read, mostly because they are so full of violence, (but isn't our history?). The final section "The Plymouth Thanksgiving Story" however, is geared toward children and tame enough for young and/or sensitive students to read. This should be required reading, really!

"Thanksgiving on the Net: Roast Bull and Cranberry Sauce"can be read on the website for the Society of the Descendants of the Mayflower (I didn't even know there was such a group). It attempts to set the record straight about common myths surrounding Thanksgiving by reviewing over 200 websites. It is cumbersome read at times, but well worth the read if you have the time and interest. If nothing else, I'd skim the main headings and some text. It certainly helped me identify some myths that I incorrectly assumed to be true. As with the previous reference, knowing the bias of the author is important in assessing the value of the piece, and a good lesson to pass on to the kids too!

As we approached Thanksgiving week this year, my husband commented that we haven't really "taught" anything about it yet. No, we have not done any formal lessons on the historical event and national holiday like we did last year. Instead, we have focused on truly being thankful and reflecting on what we are thankful for, as a family and as individuals. It has become part of our daily discussions and prayers. It's so simple I almost feel guilty about it, but it has set a great tone in our household that is so needed to replace the usual hecticness that generally surrounds our winter holidays.

While we may never know the exact and full historical truth about what happened in 1621 that lead to the holiday that we celebrate this week, we certainly can start writing our own stories about what this holiday means or could mean for each of our families. Lately I've been feeling challenged to rethink the deeper meanings of each holiday instead of just going with the flow of what everyone else does. This also includes delving deeper into the history of the holiday and tying that into our current traditions. It just seems that we've gotten too far from that with every holiday on the calendar. I'm completely convinced that having kids is the perfect opportunity to tweak our holiday celebrations if need be so we can better pass on the culture and traditions that are most dear to us. Which are most dear to you? How do they pass on your family history or stray from it?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bean has "The Jesus Talk" with Tey

It's almost Bean a year since Bean's been baptized and I still really haven't blogged our our faith journey. I'll get to it eventually.

Today he had a great conversation with Tey about inviting Jesus into your heart and I was sneaky enough to get it on camera. I can't believe my camera happened to be within reach, charged, and had memory left on it (like that ever happens with me!). I uploaded here onto YouTube, because I can't figure out how to embed it.

*Heart melts*

How awesome is that? I'll keep you updated about if/how this progresses. In the meantime, please join me in prayer that Tey continues to ask questions and grows in his faith. And that Bean continues to be contagious Christian and not a scary, judgemental, beat-you-over-the-head-with-a-Bible-Christian.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Not so Scary Halloween 2012

 It's November 10th and my kids have yet to ask about their Halloween candy.

It's a good thing too because I've already eaten all but a handful of their loot. 100 Grands are first to go. Thankfully there's none of that cheap, nasty nougat stuff wrapped in orange or black wax paper. Who actually likes that?

My kids have never eaten their Halloween candy, nor asked about it. Clearly they can live without it. I could too. We never buy candy so I rarely eat it, but it's here, so I eat it. I have stellar self-control for not buying stuff, but not for not eating it once it's in my house. Everyone has their weaknesses.

I hate to sound like the scrooge of Halloween, but I was actually a little relieved to learn from the previous owners of house that no one trick-or-treats in our neighborhood. I'd rather kick it old school where you trick-or-treat at a few neighbors' or close friends' houses and have a homemade treat or cider or something and then spend a little time visiting.

We have a second best thing going to Bo's work. We already know everyone there. The treats aren't homemade, but at least it's decent candy. The kids had a blast going from cube to cube and it was indoors (no braving Illinois fall evening weather). They also provided pizza and other food, so it was a fun party.

This being our first year no in preschool/daycare, I was solely responsible for my kids' costumes. I wasn't thrilled with the prospect. Tey wanted to be a skeleton and Bean initially wanted to be a lion, but then changed his mind to a raccoon because he wanted to be something nocturnal. He also said that instead of taking candy, he was going to tell people facts about raccoons. That idea fell through as soon as he spotted the colorful candy wrappers.

Anyway, Good Will proved to be a lifesaver for Tey's costume. I really didn't want to buy a new costume and the kids' consignment stores didn't have skeletons. While we were there, we spotted the most adorable tiger costume for Mei. It fit her perfectly and she even wore it around the store spreading Halloween cheer to everyone who laid eyes on her. I figured that it would come in handy when she played animal games with her brothers. Everyone once in a while I can get her to growl, "I ma-mo" (I'm an animal).

Bean's costume was a little more challenging, not even because he changed it at last minute (I hadn't even thought about it or planned it until a day or two before anyway). The greater challenge is that I'm cheap, didn't want to buy it new, and probably couldn't find it used, which leaves making a homemade costume.  Great...I am totally not creative in the craftiness sort of way.

On the day of Halloween, between an eye doctor appointment, Tae Kwon Do, and picking up the younger two kids from my in-laws, Bean and I pulled this awesome raccoon costume together. Go team work and focusing on a task (we're really working on honing those two skills)! We got the eye mask (I cut it to shape), nose, and ears at Dallas & Co. and the long gloves are mine. The clothes and raccoon slippers are his, with a pair of long underwear stuffed with plastic shopping bags and tucked in his pants for a tail. He has Ringo, his raccoon baby, pinned to his back so it can ride on him when he's on all fours....or should I say, "ride on her"?

Yes, my son went as a female, mother raccoon and I couldn't be prouder. He knows that only females can have babies and its the momma who takes care of the little ones. I'm so glad he sees such a value in that (and to the extent which most kids his age admire the strength of a super hero, or the beauty of a princess), that he wants to embody it for Halloween.

I don't know what I was so afraid of for Halloween. I guess I imagined that we'd feel the pressure to spend a lot of money on candy or costumes or whatever, my kids' costume demands being over the top and them not being satisfied with what we could pull off, them getting wound up on sugar, and
hyper, thankless kids grabbing candy from my candy bowl when they trick-or-treated at my house. Next year, I know that Halloween doesn't have to be that scary. We can keep it simple and not rob it of all it's fun getting bogged down with details and spending a lot of money...but isn't that the way it is for every holiday?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

First Family Camping Trip

What's the best way to top off a week of the husband being away on a men's retreat then a business trip? Another night away from home, of course!

So this past weekend our whole family went on a camping trip the day after Bo got back from New York City (praise the Lord that he got home safe before Sandy hit). He was such a rockstar buying us a new 6-person tent to fit our family and getting the kids' stuff all packed while I attended a friend's virtual babyshower for her twins. 

We arrived at the camp site in early afternoon, which gave us plenty of time to set up our tent. It was quiet a family affair.

Up until sundown, the boys went for a hike while the older sister of a fellow Boy Scout and I got a fire going stronger. When everyone got back, we made foil packs of burgers for dinner. 

Thankfully the kids fell sleep really easily at bedtime. I couldn't believe how easily it went. I was then free to gaze at the beautiful almost full moon in quiet. Then I headed back to camp and had a really great, long conversation with another Boy Scout mom. It was awesome. And that marked the end of awesomeness for the evening.

I snuggled up close to Mei to try to sleep and that was fun for a little while, but then she keep inching into my space, cramping my style. I was out of a sleeping bag and cold and almost freezing (the temps got into the mid 30s). Then I was up all night worrying about the kids being warm enough, because I wasn't. I kept checking on Mei and she was fine...and cute. Tey told me before he went to bed that he was warm and toasty, plus he was wearing like 4 layers, so I wasn't as worried about him. Plus we was lost inside a thick sleeping bag. There was no finding him even if I wanted. Bean, on the other hand was only wearing one layer, and he only had one blanket. I woke up Bo to wake up Bean to ask him how he was. Both were fine. I felt bad for waking them up. Kinda. Why weren't they as miserable as I was?

They'd be up and at 'em in the morning and I'd be dragging. I decided that it would be best to slide Mei back to her side of the sleeping bag, reclaim my space, and get control of my warmth. I needed to shift focus to myself and my night's rest because everyone else was just fine and dandy and keeping myself awake worrying about them was doing no one any good. From then on I enjoyed a mediocre night's sleep, but at least I was not freezing and getting a stiff neck. Oh I forgot to mention that I also began to steal a corner of Mei's pillow pet because Bo and I forgot to pack our pillows.

Anyway, I'm stoked about camping with the fam and can't wait to do it again. We learned a lot from this first attempt at camping. Apparently there's a winter camping trip with the Boy Scouts in January-ish. Do we dare?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Tame Day that became Wild, as Wild as Wild Could Be

Yesterday morning Bean work up with a swollen eye. He did fall on his face the day before, but there was no bruising nor scratches. Was it allergies? Maybe a bug bite? A stye?

So, today was the day of doctor appointments to figure out what was going on, plus he had Tae Kwon Do as usual. Basically our whole day was spent away from home from 10 to 3, with no time to do what I had originally planned. 

After an initial worry about being off schedule, I reminded myself to chill out. Homeschooling gives us just the flexibility we need to work around unexpected issues such as this.

So, in the car we listened to Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. I know we have been doing that a lot lately, but I had no idea that both my boys that the stories memorized! 

This made me laugh out loud for about 40 minutes (or however long that story goes on) because throughout the rest of it, the boys did all the voices and everything. It was quite entertaining to hear them be the dog, the horse and the cat. Oh my best beloveds!

In the doctor's waiting room, Bean read Charlotte's Web. The nurse and I cracked up about how he immediately made himself at home on the examination table.

Meanwhile Tey and I thought of words that began with different sounds. I have no idea why. It was all I could think of with no props, because unlike Bean, he didn't bring in anything with him from the car to keep busy. Ah well, he was entertained and out of trouble.

When we finally got home at around 3, I was feeling guilty that my kids had only snacked and had no real lunch, so I booked it inside to get something going. Bean yells out in excitement to come back out. I knew it was something awesome, and likely an animal, because he just gets a certain tone in his voice when it is. He found this smooth earth snake right outside the door of the van.

The kids immediately wanted to record it in their nature journals. Now they were the ones racing back into the house to get their journals and colored pencils. Be still my beating heart! I love my little naturalists.

Someone pinch me. Is this my eldest? Holding a writing instrument of his own accord? It's hard to believe that just a year ago, I thought I'd need to buy stamps and pads for him to do his work because he refused to write when he was in preschool. Seriously, the disdain this kid had for writing...

Tey examines the detail of this snake with a magnifying glass.

I think he got too close for the snake's comfort because then it started to curl up and lift its head off the ground. I don't really know. I know zilch about snakes, except that we don't have any venomous ones in IL, so I wasn't concerned overall.

After a very late lunch, I got Mei down for a very late nap and the boys have been playing outside for the rest of the afternoon. Last I heard, they were making mud pies, and making wishes in a wishing well. I interpret that to mean they are playing in mud and water. I'm going to run the bath now.

Not a bad day at all, considering that everything we did was completely off the cuff!

As for Bean's eye, the doctor prescribed some antibiotics. Bo's going to pick it up on his way home from work, but Bean's eye is so much better now, I'm deciding whether or not to even give it to him at all. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Avoiding Patriot Day 2012

September 11th will always be a horribly sad day for me.  My dad worked at the World Trade Center just months before the attacks and on this day in 2001, I couldn't for the life of me remember if he still worked there. I couldn't get a hold of him. All lines were down. Where was he? All I knew was that he was in the city. Would I ever hear from him again? Hours and hours past with too many questions and emotions to bear. Later that night we connected on the phone. He told me how he made it out of Manhattan on foot through smoke and over bridges while chaos and fear surrounded him as densely as the thousands of people trying to escape for their lives along with him.

I can't even look at the lower Manhattan skyline nor the 9/11 Memorial without tearing up. Those are tame compared to images of smoking towers, people running, rescue attempts at ground zero and everything else that just gets more graphic from there. Forget about video footage of that day. It's too much.

Honestly, for 11 years I've actively avoided most news coverage about the attacks because I just can't wrap my head around idea of how such an event could happen, and the media's spin on it makes it worse. Being from New Jersey, I have friends and family too closely connected to those events. I respect  and appreciate hearing and reading their personal stories, remembering both tragedy and heroism. It's not like I don't think Patriot Day is important, I just want to remember the day quietly and through loved ones with true ties to that event.

As a homeschooling parent, I've also decided to postpone covering this topic for a while. There is enough other history and social studies out there for my kids to learn, and we already have to discuss tragedies such as war and slavery at a most basic level just to understand other things. It is difficult to learn about innovation without also discussing war, because they are all too often so interconnected. And I refuse to teach about American history without also teaching African American history, and emphasizing that the current injustices today have roots in American slavery. So Bean knows what war and slavery are in general, but I've spared him the details of rape, lynching, brutal violence and the unnecessary loss of innocent lives that tend to go along with those atrocities. 

I just can't think of a way of explaining 9/11 at a basic level to young, optimistic and sensitive children. There is nothing in their world to remotely compare it to that would help them make any sense of it. Then there is the question, of "Why?" I don't think I can begin to touch on that. It goes deeper than the greed, power struggles and selfish desires that they understand even in their own lives and I can use to help explain why war and slavery exist. Books won't help. I really don't want my kids seeing those images from that day that I still have visceral reactions to. Video documentaries would just haunt their thoughts, as both boys are highly sensitive to visual media. This topic is just too intense to just touch on without opening a can of worms that I'm sure would leave my kids questioning humanity.

So for now, a remembrance of 9/11 by our family is on the back burner. With the kids not in school and us not big TV watchers, today is a typical happy and simple day like any other for the Eaglets. With cooler weather, we anticipate the coming of fall and the special blessings that has to offer. Today we enjoyed extra snuggles under warm blankets in the morning and we made our first batch of squash soup of the season. 
Bean shaves nutmeg for our first squash soup of the season
There is a slight guilt I feel for not even mentioning that today is Patriot Day to the kids. Greater is the relief that I have control over what they are exposed to at this young age. They only have a short time to be kids and not have to worry about such things. There will come a time when it would be ignorant of them not to know what happened on this day eleven years ago. I just hope that I can be a good judge of when will be a good time to discuss it and that I have the words to help them understand this most tragic of days. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Video Highlights from the Summer

For some reason, if I don't frequently and repeatedly do tasks that have steps that need to be followed in a specific order, I just can't remember it. This is the case with storing our pictures and videos on our external hardrive. Bo ends up doing it each time because I can't remember how to do it and he hasn't taken the time to write up instructions for me. Now that our memory card is about full, he'll be doing that for me soon, which brings me to the reason for this montage-y post.

I also can't remember how to take pictures OFF the hard drive to upload onto blogger or facebook. So, I'm putting a bunch of unrelated videos all in one post, before they are out of my reach FOREVER! Ok, not forever, but basically to me, they are gone. So here goes!

While we do try to emphasize manners, Tey takes saying "Excuse me" to a whole new level. He'll say it even if you are in the middle of a one-on-one conversation with him, and even while circling around on a carousel at Indianapolis Zoo. (5/22/12)

Summer memories with siblings. Melts my heart. (5/26/12)

When we decided to homeschool, one of my biggest worries was how to teach Tey to read (Bean already knew how by the time we pulled him out of preschool). In some ways I feel like I can take no credit for Tey's reading. We didn't use a curriculum or anything, just read together a bunch and it seemed like one day he could do it! Here he's reading a library book for the first time with Bo, so it's not memorized.  Hopefully teaching Mei to read goes this easily. (5/28/12)

In this video, Bean wanted Mei's attention. Trying to get it was proving futile. I asked him to look as boring as possible. He kept giggling about it, BUT IT WORKED! She went right for him. (5/31/12)

Bean just adores his little sister. He specifically remembers praying for her a little sister and having his prayers answered. He frequently tells me that he thinks that she is the most beautiful in our family and in the whole world (he never hears this from me, I try to never talk about her beauty). Here's more big-bro-lil-sis love. (5/31/12)

Mei has been doing pretty well keeping up with two bring brothers. She has a pretty good roar as you can see here. Bean also demonstrates the strength of a dragon by picking up a brachiosaurus. Pretty impressive stuff, huh? (6/8/12)


Bean has been enjoying Rudyard Kipling. Here he's reading Just So Stories, specifically, How the Whale Got Its Throat. (7/2/12)

Speaking of reading, here's another of Tey. While I'm sure we had read this before, it was not recent enough for him to have it memorized as you can tell because he skips a line and then as to go back. (7/2/12)

Some Tae Kwon Do highlights from his last belt test. (7/14/12)

We had our church's first vacation bible school and it was our kids' first too. It was INSANE because it was during the week of our move. Still, it was an amazing experience for our whole family. Bean was very timid in doing these songs during the week, but for the performance on Sunday, he rocked it out! Tey opted out of performing. (7/15/12)

Mei loves "Tey!' Excuse the boxes and random junk everywhere, we just moved in. (7/24/12)

This clueless fawn visits daily, sometimes as close at 10 feet away if you are still and quiet. This video also gives you an idea of how big our new backyard is. Thankfully, our neighbors mow for us. (7/30/12) 

I've become a brave soul and these shells don't bother me any more. It took much courage on my part, convincing myself that they are empty and lifeless and won't hurt me. Meanwhile, the kids love them, especially Bean. (8/3/12)

There was a picture of the final result of this, but here's Mei falling asleep at lunch. (8/3/12)

In another life, Bo and I used to teach dancing together. Starting simple with Mei, I cheorogpraphed this little number for her. (8/30/12)

Tey and Mei covered a box with paints outside one day. We actually spent the whole day outside because Hurricane Isaac was about to hit us keeping us indoors for a couple days. Torture! My kids have really grown accustomed to getting out every day. (8/31/12)

Yay! Now we're all caught up with videos. I'm going to try not to get so behind anymore, but I make no promises.

Dreaming of Chess

Last week Bo taught Bean how to play chess and one night they went to the library together to pick out some books on the topic. Since then, Bean has been OBSESSED with the game.

Every night he can't wait until Tey and Mei go to bed so he can have special time with his dad to play chess. During the day he's reading chess books to learn strategy. Yesterday, during quiet time, any time I peeked in on him in his room, he was playing chess by himself. Then he told me that he's been dreaming about chess every night. No surprise!

On Sunday night I went to to tell him "lights out" and this is what I saw. He had fallen asleep reading one of his chess books. The others were close at hand.

This morning I went into his room to wake him up for our homeschool co-op orientation and I found that he had gone to bed with his chess pieces. There were more under his blankets!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Multiplying Mozarts

"When Wolfgang got married he had six children. That's two times our children," exclaimed a surprised Bean while reading a biography of Mozart.

As predicted math has turned out to the the only subject that we have a purchased curriculum for and we use regularly (about daily). We actually have yet to reach the multiplication part, but we start it tomorrow. Bean has been very looking forward to it. We've been working through the Singapore math curriculum in order and in entirety because I'm afraid to skip or jump ahead, and he has thankfully been patient with that. 

He has zipped through most of the previous topics else with ease. I just have to explain something once and he gets it. It makes me wonder if he knew it before I "taught" it. He almost never makes mistakes (it's like weeks in between mistakes), so we move on . Only recently with subtraction with borrowing (e.g., 36 - 8 = ?), have we done multiple days of practice. He was figuring it out problems in his own unique way and not using the strategy taught in the book. So while he was getting the answer right, I wanted him to get used to the strategy because I've found that with Singapore math, strategies are generally built upon in later books. Still, I'm glad he has a level of comprehension of math that he can quickly and correctly do mental calculations. Admittedly he's better than me; more that once I thought he was wrong and it turned out to be me!

This just reminds me of a quote I saw on Pinterest a couple months ago:

If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you.
If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.

Bean sure is determined to multiply and there is no stopping him from making sense of his world with multiplication. It will be fun to see how he takes to it tomorrow. 

Tey has really been enjoying math too. This year we got him his own Singapore math books, so I think he's feeling extra studious. Today he kept wanting to do more and more. Eventually I had to tell him that we had to stop because I need to get some other stuff done around the house and he can't quite work independently yet.

Meanwhile, Mei was at the table coloring in a coloring book and pasting Tey's leftover cut-outs into it. It was so precious. She always loves copying what her brothers are doing. A part of me feels like I should have more organized activities for her, but so far she enjoys coloring, drawing, and play doh type things while we do table work with the boys.

Monday, August 20, 2012

First Day

My Facebook feed has been filled with cute pics of my friends' kids having their first days, mostly first grade, because that's the age Bean is.

I love their eagerly smiling faces and their backpacks that are generally too large for their bodies. Their outfits are picked out specially for the occasion, as well as their lunch. I can just smell the anticipation of a new box of crayons and hear the crack of a composition book being opened for the first time. I miss that. Honestly, I mourn not having that exciting day that kicks off a new school year.

Yet, I am also rejoicing that the first day or any day of a brick and mortar school is not currently a part of our lives.

Bo and I were woken up at 9am. Bean came bounding into our room with excitement that he taught Mei three new words, which she then recited after him. I can't even remember what they were because my mind was still cloudy with sleep. Sleep. At 9am. Awesome. Note: Tey spent the night at my in-laws, which is why he is noticeably absent from this post.

We were at the library soon after 10 because I had a homeschool meeting. Bean read independently just outside the door, but I could see him through the glass walls of the meeting room. Another mom and son arrived later than we did and the boy took a seat in a chair next to Bean. Though he was a couple years older than Bean, they hit it off immediately and were talking, smiling, giggling and otherwise planting seeds of friendship. Later I came to hear from Bean that they were discussing the book he had brought to read, a retelling of Mozart's The Magic Flute, which the other boy had also read. Let's recap: two boys of different ages began a friendship on their own by discussing an opera. I'm pretty sure that generally doesn't happen at school. Bean's excited to play with this boy again at next month's "Not Back to School Party" where he's also going to learn his name. We're still working remembering to ask people their names.

We got to spend another hour at the library because we had some time to kill before Tae Kwon Do. It was a perfect opportunity for Bean to thumb through a copy National Geographic Kids. In our planning about what to learn this year, Bean specifically said he wanted to learn about geography. So we've gone back and forth with the idea of getting him a subscription to that magazine (he wants it, but we could save the money just going to the library, and he hasn't decided about that yet). Since watching the Olympics and finding the countries in our atlas, he has also been really interested in looking at maps and atlases, learning about the legend, compass rose, scale, symbols, and state flags, and imagining what it would be like driving across various states. We're biting the bullet and going to buy this map of The Essential Geography of the United States. If you want in, I'm looking for one more person to buy with us to get the 6-pack discount. We still need a globe too. We've also been reading Paddle-to-the-Sea, and taking notes on the geography, animals, vocabulary, and imagery in the book. We take turns writing, because he's still not a big fan of that. It's hard to tell how long his interest in this topic will last, but his current geographical knowledge already exceeds school standards before what would have been his first day of school. We're gonna be ok. I still have to remind myself a lot.

After an hour of Tae Kwon Do and a picnic, we spent most of the rest of the day outside with Bean riding his bike and me weeding. After two or so weeks of borrowing a balance bike from a friend, we tried his bike with no training wheels and it was like he's been riding a two-wheel bike forever! He's gotten over much fear, and also personal struggle. So many things come very easily to him that it's difficult for him to stick to something that takes practice and that he can recognize right away that things are not going well (e.g., writing, bike riding). This is a great accomplishment for him because it took time investment and there were many bumps and scrapes along the way trying to convince him to give up. With no school schedule or homework, we can enjoy much more time outdoors, exploring nature and engaging in physical activity, which are good for the body and the soul.

There are even more reasons that I've grown to really love homeschooling, but this is just what came up based on what happened today. Yes, some days are hard but overall, I wouldn't trade this ever. At the same time, I'm so happy for all my friends whose kids started this week and I hope they have a blast this year.

Today my thoughts and prayers were very much with all the teachers who are back-to-school, especially the moms who are away from their own children to teacher others' children. It humbles me to think about the multiple and huge sacrifices teachers make to educate masses of children when I compare it to the small personal sacrifices I sometimes feel like I make to teach my three kids at home. It's easier for me to focus on all the hardships and struggles of homeschooling and being a stay-at-home-mom, but today, I choose joy.