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Monday, July 21, 2014

Prairie Parties

It's been at least a decade since we did them -- but that school year is one of the most solidified in my memory -- such sweet, sweet memories of learning and FUN.

You choose one book in the "Little House on the Prairie" series per month and have everyone in your group read it.  My house could accommodate 20 kids, so ~6 families. 

Sept - Little House in the Big Woods
Oct - Little House on the Prairie
Nov - Farmer Boy
Dec - On the Banks of Plumb Creek
Jan - By the Shores of Silver Lake
Feb - The Long Winter
Mar - Little Town on the Prairie
Apr - These Happy Golden Years
May - The First Four Years


Prairie Primer is the book I used to jump start our Prairie Parties.  For my family the book wasn't academically challenging enough to use as a stand-alone curriculum.  But it really gave me ideas on how to pull activities from the series. The book is available at our library - ACPL.  Each family selected any topic from the book of that month to do an activity with everyone.    Everyone brought a dish to share for lunch after the party was over. 

Examples of activities that moms chose:
Butter making with a ball jar and whole milk (shaking)
Using a washboard and tub to wash an item of clothing
Taste testing real maple syrup vs. imitation
A presentation on hibernation of bears
Making a pumpkin pie from scratch
Quilting
Candlemaking
A lesson on Native Americans
A lesson on bee “dancing” and taste testing different types of honey (clover, etc.)
Bonnet making (kids cut it out and moms sewed it together at home)
A lesson on square dancing

Saturday, May 31, 2014

4BR, 2 1/2 BA, 2,376sq ft, 2-story home for sale in Fort Wayne, IN for $119,900

We have decided to sell our home in Blackhawk for $119,900. (Current property tax values assess it at $123K.)
We haven't listed it yet, but while we're getting it ready, would you like to buy our home and help make the decisions? It's driving me crazy making the decisions for someone else. What color carpet throughout? Which rooms would you like painted and what color? Anything in particular with the landscaping? It will take us a few weeks to make all the decisions. Please share this with friends of friends and see if we can sell the house before we list and have to have open houses to show it (not looking forward to that part). Anybody can stop by and see the house before we officially list it, but please note that the 5 kids are all working on it and it may be in disarray.
6714 Winnebago Drive, Fort Wayne, IN 46815
4 Bedrooms, 2 1/2 Baths
Home size 2,376 Sq Ft
Lot Size 0.25 Acres
Built 1969
Central Air, Baseboard Hot Water Heat, Whole House Attic Fan.
This is a book-lover's dream: Living Room is a true library with floor to ceiling bookshelves. Ceiling Fans in every bedroom, Dining Room & Family Room. Family Room has wood fireplace. Large open kitchen and breakfast nook with ceramic tile. Attached 2 Car Garage with Attic storage. 3 Seasons room. 4 Bedrooms upstairs and Master has it's own bathroom. Half Bath is on first floor. Great backyard for kids and pets with multiple swingsets under shade tree.
New laminate wood flooring in Living Room-Library in January 2014
Most windows replaced in 2013 and new Front Screen Door in 2013
6 yr old asphalt roof
Swingset is negotiable
Schools: Croninger, Blackhawk Middle School, Snider

Contact us at (260) 485-8828 









Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Welcome to my Messy House


"Quick! Clean up!  Someone's coming!"  -or- "Here!  Take these dirty underwear I picked up off the floor and stuff them down the clothes chute." -or- "I'll talk to them in there and you clean up in here."  We've all done it.  It's the loving thing to do to make things nice for someone.  But when making things nice is at the expense of someone -- we have a problem.  We have to stop worrying about how things look to the exclusion of having people over.  We can't live in House Beautiful or a Southern Living magazine all the time. (Honestly, not even some of the time).  We try, but we fail.  That failure is "just life", not a fatal flaw of morality.

My children are a gift from God so I share them with the world. Do I keep my child from talking to someone because he's a filthy mess from playing at the park? No.  My home, too, is a gift and given to me to share with others. 

 I'm pretty good about this. Annette Funicello, America's sweetheart, appeared on TV with full-blown MS in a wheelchair and with her mouth a little disfigured, but as big of a smile as she could manage said, "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."  
 It's a theme of my life.  I say it to myself over again and again and have for years.

I do warn guests when they need to use the bathroom, 'I'm not promising it's clean, but you're welcome to it.' Most of them KNOW what a 6yr old boy can do to a previously clean bathroom. And if not, it's time they learn. Approximately half of the population has been or will be a 6 year old boy.  Being ourselves gives our guests permission to be themselves. 

I have people over when my house is 'lived-in', to LOVE them. How many exhausted moms of preschoolers feel like they can't keep up? How many men feel like they don't measure up? My aunt committed suicide and the toll on the family was horrendous.  We can't put so much pressure on each other to 'measure up'.  How many times have we seen a teen in the news who committed suicide?  In their pain they think things would never feel better than they do in that moment.  The response from the rest of the world is that we want to shout from the rooftops that it doesn't matter what everyone thinks or how chaotic it feels - life CAN get better. 

By sharing our chaos with the the world, I'm shouting to everyone who walks through my door, 'I love you and you're welcome here just the way you are. Come share some of the less-than attractive places in my life and I'll share your pain with you.'

The test of this was having our priest over for dinner when life was chaotic. As I fed him out of my messy fridge and he sat on my gross floor (I had cleaned it, but you know...) with my smelly dog on his lap he told us that he'd had a black lab as a boy and was too busy for a dog now. He said that not many families with kids had him over - he assumed due to the stress of life - and I saw that us inviting him into our chaos helped fill something in him. 

I want my guests to feel loved and I have to be 'real' to do that. Some may judge me, but I want to say back to those, 'This is my best. And a way to love you, because "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."

This post started my rant self-reflection.

Why Scruffy Hospitality Creates Space for Friendship



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How Do I Prepare Myself to Teach High School?

Not everyone thinks this way, but I am a whole-to-parts kind of thinker.  I use an organizing principle to begin, plan and end.   In my mind the tool looks like a wrapped piece of candy.  So, I start with an organizing principle to begin my planning, stuff all the details in as I go on planning, and end the year finishing up with the same organizing principle.
And this magical tool is -- a transcript.  I KNOW, I KNOW, I KNOW -- that's the scary part at the end of high school for most homeschool moms.  Just hang with me.  It's just a piece of paper.  (Mine is an excel document, but you can do it in Word or just on a piece of paper.)  

If you need to meet your state's requirements for graduation, this is where you take it into account.

First, take your blank piece of paper and put down categories that you want your student to learn.  And put at least 4 lines between each:
Transcript
Math
1.        
2.        
3.        
4.        

Science  
      
English

History

Theology

X-Curricular
       
Next, fill in what you know.  Do you know what math curriculum you'll use? (We're Math-U-See fans, here.)  Even if you're unsure if your child will make it to Calculus in his 4th year, fill in what you'd  like his high school to look like.  It's just a piece of paper.  

You'll obviously have some blank spaces.  Do your best to fill them in.  Don't know what English curriculum you'll use?  Call it English 1, English 2, English 3, & English 4.  Even if you don't know what x-curricular classes your child will take? Guess.  Might he like photography?  You have 4 years to make it accurate, for now just fill it in with your best guess.  When you're relatively sure about something, highlight it.  Then do a happy dance.  When you get a chance, move onto the next thing you're close to figuring it out.

Now, when you've filled it all out, you have a 4-year tentative plan. 

http://www.scribd.com/doc/225495765/Mock-Transcript

Next, you're ready to buy some books and start lesson planning. (This is the start of the candy part.) 
My finalized lesson plans look like this.  The kids get a printed copy in glued into their student planner and I glue a copy for me for each child into my teacher planner.  Then as the year progresses, I track grades on it and where we are in each subject compared to where my plan thought we should be (because those things NEVER match up).

Then at the end of the year, I update my transcript for what actually occurred through the year, adding class descriptions and a books read list (organized by class).  I also use my transcript to begin planning for next year.



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How Do I Prepare My Kids for High School Work?

It's one of the big 10 questions every homeschooler gets - "What about high school?"

Most moms I know FREAK OUT (including me) when deciding if they can handle homeschooling high school their first kid.

#1  You’re not wrong to freak out.  Is it good to give cautious attention and consideration about who you marry?  Is it reasonable to be concerned about pregnancy and birth when you’re never done it before?  Then it’s reasonable to give cautious consideration about launching a child into adulthood.  Besides, it’s hard, as is good parenting.  Not impossible, but challenging.  

#2  Homeschool Connections is my favorite resource of all time for Catholic high school coursework.  You can read about our experience here

#3 Classes, activities and a good youth group has been GREAT for my high schoolers to socialize.  I’ve found it’s even more important in the high school years for my kids to have outside friends and opportunities for fun.  My kids get much of this from Catholic homeschool friends.  My kids have plenty of Protestant homeschool friends they love and friends who go to school, but their sense of identity can be solidified with like-minded friends when it comes to religion and world-view.

#4 Preparing kids for high school coursework
I tried so hard to adequately prepare my oldest for high school work.  As we started high school, I did find a few holes – that was a tough year for my oldest, but we both survived.  I have done a better job preparing my other kids for high school work. 

Now, I spend the middle school years working on 3 main skills: 

*Being accountable for their time and finishing assignments on time without holding their hand (or badgering) 
For this skill, I use a student planner and a hefty list of carrots and consequences. My favorite student planner is Good News Planners from Creative Communications.  Even my big kids like the boxes of the “Elementary Planner” better than the open spaces of the “High School” planner.  Here’s why I like that particular planner.

The way I use it is to give my 5th & 6th graders daily assignments.  I’ll break down big assignments into smaller pieces for them.  Eventually as they master that, I transition them so that by 7th & 8th grade I’m giving them weekly assignments and they can break them down into daily to-do list for themselves.  At first I monitor their to-do lists to make sure they’ve broken them down into reasonable pieces and they’re getting them done.  Hopefully, by the end of 8th grade I’m only going over their planner at the beginning of the week  to get it set up and at the end of the week when they turn in their assignments.  This is how I handle the organization of their work throughout high school.

*Independently learning from a textbook & Ability to study independently and take tests  THIS SKILL is soooo IMPORTANT to any sense of a traditional highschool education.  It's not something kids innately know and it has to be taught.  It can also take several years to master.  It also isn't a skill covered in any of the delight-driven, literature-based, classical elementary school that I do with my kids.
       My favorite middle school resource for this is a good science textbook.  I cover how to teach this in Test Taking Skills.

*Paper Writing  This I a tough skill and although they work on it during all of high school, I want them to have the rudiments of it before then. Here is an example of the expectations I have of my kids in each grade level including high school.

 In 8th grade each of my kids writes me a HUGE research paper following along with Seton’s Composition for Young Catholics

How I use the resource.  Starting in quarter 2 of the year (because the first couple months of school is always a blur), the kids do 1 chapter per week.  Starting in quarter 3 (2nd semester), the kids do roughly 1 chapter per week.  Several chapters get more than 1 week: Chapter 12 – Note Taking gets 3 weeks, Chapter 16 – First Draft gets 2 weeks, and Chapter 19 – Final Edit gets 2 weeks.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Carrots and Consequences

I've made several posts about disciplining children through the years.

But it all can be summed up with the phrase "Carrots and Consequences".  Give them a reason for being good and a consequence if they aren't. 

I see my job as a parent is to teach them that being good (obedience to God) has wonderful  benefits (Heaven) and not being good (disobedience to God) has terrible consequences (Hell).

 I love "catching them being good" and reward them for it. Since they know that, they'll let me know if they've done something worthy of rewarding.  Their agony comes when I had an activity planned that they didn't know about and it gets taken away.  Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Toddlers & Preschoolers
Any activity involving parental interaction (play ball for 10 minutes, etc.) vs. Time-Out
     Time-out is usually 2x their age for a single infraction.  If they are 4, they can get up to 8 minutes in time-out.  If they've done 2 things wrong at the same time, they don't serve contiguous sentences.  But if they do a new thing wrong, they'll certainly be put back in time-out.  Some kids end up in time-out for almost years of their lives.  Some kids need me to be there while they're in time-out or they'll go play.

Elementary
Whatever is their favorite activity vs. Taking that away
     I've grounded kids from reading. I've grounded them from playing the piano.  Really, I've grounded them from all sorts of stuff: cooking, speaking, spending time with their siblings, friends, being alone in their room, whatever they value.  Those are the same things I'll use as carrots: getting to bake cookies, deciding what we'll eat for dinner that night between 3 options I give them, sleeping in the dog kennel or someplace different in the house, 15 minutes of time before bed, etc. 
     For the boys, it's always "screens" - any electronic device (computer, video game, tv, etc.)

Teens
Fun activities (that they're asking for on a regular basis) vs. grounding
     Grounding is my discipline friend during the teen years.  I have one child who has suggested having a picture of her face with a circle and a slash through it for all the days she's grounded from facebook so her friends will know why she's not responding.  I reassure her - they know.

 Depending on the child, what looks like consequence, may be a carrot for another child.  My preschool daughters begged me to allow them to pin rags together  for them to wear and talk mean to them while they played Cinderella and scrubbed my kitchen floor on their hands and knees.

Monday, April 07, 2014

"Catholic, are you saved?"

I loved the conciseness of this response because as Catholics our faith doesn't rely on one verse or phrase, but takes the whole of Christ's teaching into account. This I a great response.