Saturday, September 29

Growth Spurt

Around our house, when a baby goes through a mental growth spurt, it is nearly always accompanied by a sleep disturbance.  This was most true with Beth and Jack- Luke has always been a stellar sleeper once he decided to actually sleep at around 11-12 months old.   

Right now Jack is having a major mental growth spurt!  He's been a little late of a talker in terms of not meeting the typical speech milestones for his age, though he's kept up with all other developmental milestones.  He just didn't form words very well and had a hard time coming up with the right words to say, and has very rarely said two-word combinations.  (Who can blame him, he has two very talkative older siblings who have happily talked on his behalf!)  He completely understands everything we say to him but just didn't say real words back at us.  Until the past two weeks.

Jack started talking in two or three word combinations, saying things incredibly clearly, things I'd never heard him say before!  Just yesterday he put his Nuk in his mouth (he sleeps with his pacifier) and popped it out, handed it to me and said, "Yucky.  Wash it!"  I cracked up laughing because it was so clear and completely new!  He heard me talking to someone on the phone the other day, and pulled me down and looked seriously at me and said, "New house?"  Since I understood him and explained to him what I was talking about, he now will just randomly say, "New house?" to me.  I think he appreciates being able to communicate to me with words and being able to sort of hold a basic conversation.

But wouldn't you know just about as soon as he started talking, he stopped sleeping.  He's been waking up between 4:30-5:30 am, climbing out of his crib, and resisting/skipping naps.  It hasn't been fun because as my long-time blog readers know, sleep is the hardest part of parenting for me.  I am clinging to the fact that these sleep disturbances are part of his growth, and praying that it's just temporary!

We considered putting him into a toddler bed since he was crawling out of his crib and refusing to sleep.  We are in the camp of parents that says, "Let him sleep in his crib as long as possible, there is no rush to move a child from a crib to a toddler bed," but now that he's crawling out we are at a loss.  He won't stay in a toddler bed either.  We moved Luke into a regular-sized twin bed and moved the toddler bed into Jack's room, so now he has a crib and a toddler bed in there.  He slept in the toddler bed for two nights while it was exciting, then he told Daddy he wanted back into the crib, so that's where he sleeps now.  When he sleeps.  Heh.

Just in the past month, Luke has stopped "formally" napping during his rest times, though quite frequently I'll check on him during rest time and he'll be asleep in his bed.  He and Beth still have rest time in their bedrooms for about an hour and a half every day, ideally when Jack naps.  They have to stay in their bedrooms and play quietly- Beth loves to draw, play with her dolls, rearrange her bedroom (no joke), make silly faces in her mirror, look at books, or play with the cat.  Luke will look at books, play with his trains (he's finally getting to the age where he can actually build the tracks), play with his tool bench, or have a nap.  They both have radios in their rooms with a small assortment of CDs, and they're allowed to listen to the local Christian radio station too.

This is the secret to my sanity.  That hour and a half, right after lunch, is my time.  Generally I don't do any chores because it's my rest time too!  I work online, read, or take a nap if I'm on call for a client.  Occasionally Beth and I will school during rest time if we had a busy morning or didn't get to certain subjects, and I realize that as she gets older and we have more work to do, that we'll probably have to do more during this time.  But for now, I love it!

But the past few weeks have been challenging, since Jack has been fighting his naps, crawling out of his crib, and banging on the door.  The gentle techniques of teaching him to stay in his bed that worked with Beth are not working with Jack, so we're just at a loss, in a state of limbo, waiting to see what the next week or two brings!

I'll be sure to post the other silly things that Jack says.  It's funny to me how I don't have to teach him any of this.  He's just been chilling for these past couple of years, taking it all in, listening and learning... And now I think he's just going to open up and let loose on us!

Sunday, September 23

Weeks 3 and 4 of School

The first question everyone asks me lately is, "How is school going?"  I'm happy to report that we are still schooling on our regular schedule!  It's pretty much what I expected it to be, some days are much better and a few days haven't been great, but I hear that's pretty common for everyone. :-)  

We have been blessed with some lovely weather lately, it's been cooling down to the 90s (!!!) and some morning have even dipped into the low 70s.  Nearly every morning the kids ask almost immediately to go outside, and some days they'll eat out there and other days they'll play for an hour or so.  They also play outside before and after lunch (after we're done with school), and in the evening if the mosquitoes aren't too bad.  I am SO happy we built our fence earlier this summer!  It's been so good for them to be outside.  A couple of weeks ago it rained for a few days in a row, and I could tell they were getting antsy from being inside too much.  I can't wait for it to cool down enough to kill the mosquitoes, and we can really enjoy the backyard even more.

 Two weeks ago, I organized a baking class at our home for 5 other early elementary students.  It was the feast day of the holy name of Mary, so we baked gluten free sugar cookies and they cut out Mary's name using my cookie cutters.  The kids has so much fun making a HUGE mess on our table, and in the end the cookies actually turned out delicious!  We will have the class at our home one time per month, and each time we'll make something different.

This was one of our projects last week.  We were studying God's creation, and I asked them to cut out pictures from magazines of things from God's creation and glue them to a banner.  I have to say that cutting is one of the best activities ever, even Jack can get in on it and they all LOVE it.  I think we'll be doing a lot of cutting activities!

Monday, September 10

Lunch time

Today's lunch was outside while we listened to cicadas, construction workers building a new house, and chirping hummingbirds. Immediately following was swinging, see-sawing, flipping,  trike riding, butterfly watching, and pretending to be firefighters. My phone says it's 76 but I think its closer to lower 80s; nice in the shade but a bit warm in the sun!

Wednesday, September 5

This morning

They were too rowdy for reading books today, so it seemed like a good time to paint the poem, "I'm Glad."

Monday, September 3

Our First Week of School

This past week was our first week of school! Beth started kindergarten this year, and I'll break down exactly what we're doing for school later on in this post, but I wanted to say how excited she's been.  She has been looking forward to this all summer- probably in part because we've had a slow summer and she thrives on a consistent and predictable schedule.  But Beth loves to learn, and she devours new information, so she has been ready to "officially" start school.  She's told me her favorite subject is math, and she's always been an artist and I think she's been quick to pick up on handwriting (she's been writing forever now!).  She's beginning to read but she loves being read to- always has.  She would sit and listen for hours if we could take it!
Monday!  She was so excited!
Since home education is something we've been contemplating for about three years, I've had ample opportunity to research and study the different methods of homeschooling.  I've read all sorts of different perspectives, from people who homeschool because they think the educational system is built soley to turn out rule-following mindless government-worshipping drones, to other people who homeschool because they live out in the country and don't want to drive into town.  I know everyone has their own personal reasons, but I've enjoyed having time to read so many different things to develop my own feelings on the subject, and decide how best to educate our children.

Ryan and I both attended public school (with the exception of one private school year for me) for our educations, and when I personally reflect on my school time I realize I never developed a passion for learning.  I studied for the grade, usually made the good grades, and that was enough for me.  I had friends who were homeschooled and they left good impressions on me- I never thought they were weird or antisocial or whatever other stereotypes come along with homeschoolers!

As Beth grew older and I made friends in our parish, I realized there was a huge group of homeschoolers in our area, and that there was a great support system.  I started to read more about it and realized that it was such a diverse group of reasons why people decided to keep their children home to teach them.  I agreed with so many reasons, and developed my own ideas of what an education should encompass.

First and foremost, I believe that as the mother of my three children, it is my job to get them to heaven, through my example and prayer.  I know that I have only a few years of their lives in order to lead them to our Lord, but forming their consciences and their faith lives is my first God-given job.  When I consider public schools, what I've heard and seen, I don't think that it's beneficial to their souls to be in an environment like that as little children.  I think that a strong foundation- a strong faith- must be laid before I turn them out into the world!

Tuesday: You know the boys are done when...

Secondly, I believe that no two children learn the same. I think public schools are doing their best to get by, but in order to be efficient, they can't take the time to focus on each child the same way that I could.  I'm not angry at schools or the government or whatever, I just think that since I know my child, I can provide better learning opportunities by tapping in to her own interests and talents.  In addition to this, the public school we feed into has had some less-than-stellar reports...

Similarly, I believe that children should be able to play.  That school shouldn't just be letters and numbers, but learning about life.  I think they learn about life by playing, and that a nature hike is just as important as a lesson in history. Experiences like interacting with kids of all ages, learning manners at the library, visiting the graveyard to pray for the souls of the deceased, hiking and enjoying the beauty of the world that God created and gave to us.  Sure we could do those things on the weekend, but for us they will be a part of an education.  For me, education is so much more than sitting down and completing worksheets until the book is finished and she can recite math facts.  I want them to learn how to learn, to be passionate about learning, and to find the things in our world that give them meaning.  To see the beauty in our world, beauty that points them to God.

Wednesday: finally a project for all three of them: scissors!
Finally, I'm not convinced that the public school route provides the rich, classical education I want my children to have.  I am heavily influenced and love the thoughts of Charlotte Mason, who believed that children should learn from "living" books instead of textbooks, that comprehension can be "measured" through narration instead of tests, and that art, music, and especially nature should play a heavy role in education.  She believed in teaching children good habits

So that being said, here's our plan for this year.  Last year Beth went through a good portion of Mother of Divine Grace's kindergarten curriculum, so this year we're actually going with the first grade lesson plans of Mater Amabilis (but this is still her kindergarten year).  I am changing it up a bit though.
For religion, we're using Image of God: Who Am I? because I already had it and like it just fine!  We are also working our way through the old testament, one story per week, which she illustrates and narrates back to me as I write it on her illustration.  We read about one saint per week, and will also use Catholic Mosaic to follow along with the liturgical year.

For math we are using A Beka kindergarten math, though I think we maybe should have ordered first grade.  I have extra manipulatives to use as we want, since this program doesn't have them built in but I think learning hands-on is pretty important for Beth.

She does copywork and dictation each twice a week, and this includes writing letters to family members and penpals!  We're using Alphaphonics for her phonics program, but I'm not impressed and she's not interested, so I'm up for suggestions if anyone has any.  100 Easy Lessons was great for the first 30 or so lessons (we did that 2 years ago!) but she doesn't like it anymore either.

For Literature we're reading the Blue Fairy Book, starting with Beauty and the Beast, Aesop's Fables, and Mr. Popper's Penguins.  We're also using the Harp and the Laurel Wreath for poetry.  We read from The Book of Virtues during our afternoon snack time, and talk about ways we can apply it to our daily lives.

I've completely ditched MA's history suggestions after I found Beautiful Feet Books, and Beth is doing Early American History.  We're also going to do the suggested family geography project, so we'll be studying different parts of America and hopefully be able to visit some of those places throughout the year so we can actually go experience them.  We have the family tree workbook and will be interviewing family members to complete this, starting with my nearby grandmother!

For our nature walks, I plan to go as often as I can, but it will wind up being a couple of times per month probably.  We're also reading Pagoo, a story about a hermit crab, so I hope that when we're done with that we'll be able to take a trip to the beach!

We're skipping foreign language for now, though occasionally we incorporate Latin.  For all of the different arts, I'm using The Story of the Orchestra to learn about music (and have an October 1 field trip planned to the orchestra!), Come Look With Me for art study, and additional various "how to draw" books that Beth has and wants.  I'd love to get the Oxford First Book of Art if I can get my hands on a cheap copy!  I'd love for Beth to start piano lessons, but first we'd have to have a keyboard or piano!

I have so many little additional things to add, mostly coloring pages and small crafts and projects, because that's what Beth likes to do.  More importantly, I have no problem going off on a tangent if Beth is pulled to learn about something new!

I know  this sounds like a lot, but it's really only two hours of our morning, four days a week! We school in the morning and have afternoon activities planned several days a week.  Monday is ballet for Beth, Tuesday is gymnastics for Luke, and the other days are a combination of activities, depending on the day of the month.  Beth will be involved in an elementary-aged girls group that teaches them little arts like sewing and crocheting, manners, and from what I understand,  sort of what it means to be a Proverbs 31 woman.  She's REALLY looking forward to this, she's been talking about it for months!  I also have planned a once-a-month cooking class for her and a few friends, here at our home, where we'll be learning about kitchen etiquette and baking skills!  We will also attend daily mass at least once a month (hopefully more often than that if I can get my act together), park days with other homeschooled kids, and random other events that happen throughout the year.  We will not be bored at home, lack activities, or have issues with "socialization."  This seems to be the current buzz word of the anti-homeschool camp, but as you can see (or if you want, take a peek at my calendar), there will be ample opportunities for interactions with other kids, boys and girls and moms and dads, of all ages!

Thursday: a beautiful morning so we played outside and delayed the start of school for about 45 minutes.  Totally worth it.

I have a plan set up for the rest of the semester, and then I'll re-evaluate what's working for us and what isn't.  This plan isn't only for me, but for Ryan too, since he'll be in charge of school if I'm called out to attend a birth during a school day.  We had our first chance to practice that this past Friday, when I had planned a nature hike with a friend and her children at a nearby nature preserve!  While I cancelled with the friend, Ryan took the kids on a hike with a picnic lunch while I spent my morning laboring with a client.  What a special day for them!
Friday: Nature walk and picnic with Daddy
Luke is working through a handful of activities I have planned for him, including a letter-of-the-week workbox filled with worksheets, manipulatives, and games.  I also have printed out a checklist of potential activities he could do to work on letters, numbers, motor skills, and imagination.  I don't have a specific goal for him- I'd like for him to learn how to write his letters and numbers, but I'm not going to freak out if he's not writing perfectly anytime soon.  He's a completely different learner than Beth, and I know I'll have to plan something completely different for him when he's ready to start kindergarten!  I just want to make sure he's entertained, learning, and making progress of some sort!

I am super impressed if you've read through this entire monster post, but I also want to have on record what we're doing and what my plan is. :-)  I am very well aware that this plan might not work out for us, and that we might need to do something else, but for now I feel like it's worked well for Beth and the boys this past week. I am flexible, and I love that I can be homeschooling affords that to us!

So if you think I'm crazy, I guess you might be right.  While friends are sending their kids off to school, I'm prepping for another busy and loud day! But I hope I don't offend anyone who chooses not to homeschool, it's certainly not my goal.  Ryan and I have discerned this to be the best choice for our family for so many reasons, and we plan to take it year by year, child by child.  It's hard to think of what we'll be doing in four, six, or eight years from now, since I have no idea what will be happening in our lives! 

Wish us luck!

Saturday, September 1

Our Trip to Virginia

Since we didn't really have a family vacation this summer, I was very antsy and needing to get out of the house for a few days before we got into the daily grind of school and sports again.  Ryan thought it would be a great idea for us to skip town for a few days and visit his brother and sister-in-law in Virginia, without the kiddos.  We packed up, left the kids at home with Grandma and Grandpa, and left early on Wednesday August 22 for the airport.  We got there by lunch and reunited with my brother-in-law, whom I hadn't seen since last Christmas!  Soon we met up with the rest of the family, and Ryan and I met our new nephew, who was born in March, and I just have to say he the absolute cutest little baby I have seen ever!  All smiles, chubby sweet soft cheeks, and the sweetest little giggly guy!   Ryan and Josh had their fantasty football draft that night (downstairs!) and Ramona and I chatted and enjoyed some girl time upstairs!

The next morning was my 30th birthday!  I slept in until 9 am (what a treat!) and Ryan and I got started with our day.  They had to work that morning so Ryan and I had a late breakfast at the greatest grocery store of all time- move over HEB, Wegmans is my new love!  We drove to a Catholic bookstore in a nearby town because I have been trying to get to one for months, and it was my birthday so I called the shots. ;-)  I found a print of Mary and Baby Jesus that I had been wanting for our schoolroom, a few books for the kids, and a couple of other little items.  I really enjoyed that little trip, as silly as it sounds! 

Next we drove to the Potomac River to check it out.  We were going to a state park but on our way found a little free park a bit upstream, so we took our time and hiked around, sat on the rocks and talked about life, and pretended we were civil war soldiers.  It's hard not to look through the unsettled woods and not imagine something like that going on, it's almost eerie, but beautiful and so different than what we're used to!

After that we met Josh and Ramona for lunch at a little pub-type place while the kids were in school.  Ramona snuck off to the bar and soon the bartender came over with a little birthday present for me- a top-shelf,  hand-muddled, one-of-a-kind black raspberry margarita.  It was YUMMY- what a treat!

Ramona and I left the boys and went shopping.  We spend a lot of time at Loft and I think that, between the two of us, we tried everything on the store!  We had a fun time!  I bought two new dresses and two new sweaters, though I had much more that I wanted!   (Grandma and Grandpa- thank you for the new dress!)  While we were there, my kiddos called to tell me happy birthday!  I was sad to not have them be a part of my 30th birthday, but I also knew that this was a unique chance for Ryan and I to get away, so we talked on the phone for a bit before we said goodbye.

We met up with the guys and the kids and had dinner and drinks at a very special place, where Josh works.  Of course I had a giant chocolate brownie thing- and even some of Ramona's dessert too!

That night I opened my cards from family members that we'd brought along with us and stayed up and talked.  I know we were all pretty tired but it's hard to go to bed early when you're with family members you see only twice a year!  So of course we stayed up too late!

On Friday I woke up early to play with my nephew, who apparently was upset over something very tragic for a 3-year-old.  ;-)  We played cars and read books, he is so sweet and tender-hearted!
Friday was spent hanging out with everyone, and Ramona and I snuck out for pedicures during naptime.  I chose blue for my toes- I had to do something semi-rebellious for my birthday.  ;-) 

We barbecued dinner that night and stayed up late again. :-)
mimosas and painted toes
 Saturday morning we got up, had a semi-lazy morning as we packed up, and then went out for breakfast before saying tearful goodbyes and heading to the airport.  We're hoping it's just a few more months until we see this part of the family at Christmas time, but it's so hard being apart and saying goodbye. :-(  Ryan and I had a relaxing time, I realized my blood pressure hadn't risen once in a good three days and I was really able to let loose, relax, and laugh.  I told Ryan on the plane trip home that I felt the need to make some sort of resolution as I entered my 30's, I guess just because that's the sort of person I am.  I couldn't really come up with anything good, but I'm taking into consideration the advice friends have passed along to me.  Several have said that the 20's are about doing things- graduating, marrying, having babies, buying homes, etc.  (At least, those are the things my friends and I did in our 20's!)  But they said the 30's are more of an introspective time, figuring out who you really are, defining your place in life, and raising children.  I know that raising children can be a challenge in ways I hadn't even considered, but it's challenging in ways that forces me to be an adult.  My body sometimes feels a little older (Ramona and I joked that my metabolism would just switch off automatically the minute I turned 30 years old!) but I'm guessing that's just part of the deal!

Thank you to everyone who wished me happy birthday, either by calls, texts, or facebook messages!  It was a great week- first the party, then the trip!  I'm looking forward to seeing what this next year holds. :-)

Night Prayers

Tonight when we were saying our prayers, Luke wanted to pray for everyone who was burned by a volcano, people without school desks, and people without homes.  Beth wanted to pray for Mommies who have babies in their tummies, and Mommies who "hurt when the baby is coming out."

I love my Babies. :-)
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