Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Coming to terms with the Christmas Flu

We are suffering from a nasty case of the Christmas Flu. And while there is no vomiting involved, it is equally as trying for Mom and Dad to deal with their children being striken by it.

The Christmas Flu refers to the nasty behavior, insane energy, and general I-forgot-how-life-at-this-house-actually-works mentality that tends to appear just before Christmas and lasts...hopefully not much longer. The flu is caused by too much candy, too many relatives, too many visits, too many new things, and basic overstimulation on every level of life you can imagine.

Are there any fortunate souls out there whose children haven't fallen victim to the Christmas Flu this year? My guess is that it hits everyone at some level. It doesn't matter if you're a spend 5K family or a second hander Christmas family. I just think the electricity that's in the air at some point glitches in the kids and makes them insane. Unfortunately, I think the only cure is time.

Last year I had a hard time with this. I remember sitting on the floor in the laundry room crying (maybe a bit of Christmas flu myself?) because the kids were being absolute deaf animals. My husband came in and sat on the floor with me and said "It's Christmas. They're kids." I was probably over reacting to their behavior...I'm sure they weren't all as uncivilized as I was making them out to be, but they were certainly different.

This year, I approached it differently. Not that the fact its Christmas gives them license to be completely out of control, but accepting that things will be different helps me to deal with it. Things are a little more insane, ears are a little deafer, and I do a bit more love and logic-ing than I normally have to do. But its not going to last forever. It's just the Christmas Flu. This too shall pass...Life will get back to normal. And then we can joyously await the arrival of the Birthday Bug. :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A little green, anyone?

Here's a little gem to make you giggle:

Yesterday morning the boys were endlessly creating MORE Christmas decorations for our home. Iggy was sure to point out to me that he was "recycling" by drawing on the backs of paper that had already been used for the computer. Then Iggy says to me, "Mom I have a great idea how we can help the environment."

I said, "Really, what is that?"

He said, "We can cut up all this paper into streamers and paint it green. Then we can let it go outside so it can blow around."

Me, totally confused, asked him (rather politely) " is that going to help the environment?"

Iggy says "Mom, it would be green."

He's been hearing everyone talking about being "green" lately...and figured they meant putting green stuff outside. When I explained to him that being "green" meant doing good things for the earth, and then reminded him of examples...and said it didn't necessarily mean putting green things outside, the kid looked at me like I had six heads.

"Mom," he said. "I just don't get it. Why do they call it being green? Why don't they just say helping the environment? That's stupid." And then he huffed off.

I agree my darling. Its a good thing you learned early that everything in America has to have a creative title or worthy buzzword. Even as a writer, I don't understand it myself.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Social groups, ASL, and decorating

December is a wicked busy month, isn't it? This is apparently why I know a whole host of homeschoolers who take the month of December "off".

December has brought with it an opportunity to join another homeschooling group in our area. We've been with them a few times this month and had a blast! Besides the "learning activities" we do (like building gingerbread houses and making Christmas candy),

its also great socially for the boys. Playing is important, but I think its equally as important for the boys to learn that just because we are in a group of kids, that is not license to immediately assign everyone a Star Wars character name and run around together defeating the Sith. Its been an interesting transition to watch. Not that I'm trying to squash any natural creativity or anything like would just be nice to be able to walk into a room of people and know the kids can sit for longer than 30 seconds without exploding into a Transformer.

We've been working hard on our sign language. I can't believe all the signs the boys have learned...and actually remember. We are to the point now we can have short conversations without speaking. I found a cool place online to look up signs that uses a video to show you the sign. I learn better from seeing someone actually do the sign instead of trying to figure it out from a book, so this place has been a big help.

Other than that, there's been a lot of art and decorating going on. Since we moved here, we haven't been able to get to our Christmas box (bottom of the pile in storage) so we didn't have ornaments or decorations. The boys have taken care of that, however. Our tree is full of homemade ornaments (including an angel tree topper created by Iggy) and the walls are plastered with other such lovelies that they spontaneously create. I am pretty sure I have the most beautiful Christmasy house on the block!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hibernation fun

Hibernation is the theme here for awhile...and we've been having fun with it.

Bunk beds make cave building and hibernating brilliantly simple...

This was a great sciencey type thing we did: You cut several bear patterns out of newspaper, crumple them up (individually), and throw some into cold water and some into hot water. The cold water bears will continue to stay crumpled up (therefore still hibernating)...

The bears in the pan of warm water will open up...they are done hibernating. It is spring. When I remember where I found this experiment, I will post a link to it.

Last but not least, we had to make polar bears for a sugary snack. (I know they don't hibernate, and Iggy was quick to point that out to me. "Its already cold where they live mom...why would they have to hibernate.") Anyhow, these are white fudge covered oreos, marshmallows (ears) and chocolate chips (eyes and nose). We used peanut butter to make them stick.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gems from their heads

We've been everyone else...celebrating Thanksgiving and all the lovely things that come along with it. But I'd just like to share these two gems from my sweeties heads:

Iggy: Mom, do you know what kind of coffee a mouse drinks?
Me: No, what?
Iggy: A Capp-u-cheese-o (instead of cappuchino). Mom, I just made that up!!!

Ooky (building in the dirt) Mom, come look at this!
Me: That's neat. What is it?
Ooky: A sculpture of a really neat place...its has a bunch of heads carved into it.
Me: (just about to answer Mount Rushmore)

I have never laughed so hard. These kids are good therapy!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Another pizza for...

Iggy! He finished his November reading goal for his Book It Read-a-thon, and proudly handed over his free personal pizza coupon to a waitress today. His book list for this past month:

Jar Jar's Mistake by Nancy Krulik
All Kinds of Kids by Christina Mia Gardeski
Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw
Get the Ball, Slim by Marcia Leonard
I Like Mess by Marcia Leonard
Dig, Zig Pig! by Sam Fonte
Kate and Jake by Janis Asad Raabe
I am Lost by Hans Wilhelm
My Messy Room by Mary Packard
Sharks by Ira Wood


We should also mention here, that Ooky, although not officially "old enough" to participate in the Book It Read-a-thon, has certainly done his share of reading. Just this past week, he read the books "Tip", "Gus" and "Max". He's pretty sure that when he reaches his goal, he's going to Kentucky Fried Chicken or Dairy Queen. I, not aware that he even had goals, said we could probably work something out. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

So...what exactly are you looking for?

It is still amazing to me that making the choice to homeschool tumbles you into a world of so many decsions and choices...and mind changing...a totally eye opening experience. Not that I didn't think there would be choices to make...I just didn't realize I would make choices, have new things brought up to me...and make new choices. Almost constantly.

Today, the choice/decision is about what kind of group my kids need to be in, if any. I'm not a big social butterfly, but I realize my kids need to know other kids exist and form some friendships. Since we homeschool, I'm their link to that socialization. If I don't take them somewhere to do that, they're like the fabled homeschooler-locked-in-a-closet who can't relate to anyone. So we found a nice group which exists for the purpose of socialization. We hang out and play. It's groovy. But lately it has occured to me that it would be nice if my boys would reap some of the benefits of being in a group of all-aged children...rather than just running amuk to burn off some energy. As a homeschooler, there are certain things you can't do at home with two kids...or at least not very easily (certain games, projects, etc.) There are also some experiences that just aren't the same at home as they would be in a group. For instance, Iggy told me he likes to do presentations - to get up and talk in front of people. That's great...but I'm not sure that he really means "in front of people" or "in front of mom and dad". And without some sort of non-relative group, I'm not sure we can figure that out.

So then, does that mean we need a co-op? I'm not ready for that. At almost 5 and 6, I think joining a formal co-op would be a little least for us. And a year ago I would have said we would never even consider a co-op. Now, I can at least see the benefits one could the right time, and choosing the right one for my family. I guess that means we're searching for that elusive middle ground of (eek) structure.

Anyway, all of this to say, its amazing to me how things change. A year ago, it was fine for the boys to get together and punk around with everyone else. And I think that's still valuable. I'm not quitting any groups, or anything. I'm just kind of interested in the morph the boys and I have made from wanting nothing more than punking "Mom, maybe when we're with the group...we could do show and tell? Or play kickball? Or do a giant art thing?"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Build, Bowl, Skate

We've been busy here at...whatever our school is called. Thought I'd post a couple pictures of how we've been spending our time.

I read somewhere that boys need to build. Nothing could be more true!
What's cooler than building your own cars to race?

Skating is also pretty cool. Because nothing says "hospital visit" like two boys on wheels.

Bowling is good old-fashioned fun. The operators of the bowling alley love it when the ball launches about five feet before crashing down somewhere in the lane and then bounces its way off the bumpers back and forth ten times. "Honey...roll the ball...don't throw it."

Friday, November 7, 2008

Time to try something new...

Waking up to snow just seemed like a great day to try something new. So we did.

On the recommendation of at least four homeschoolin' friends, we are taking a look at Not as an everyday total curriculum kind of thing, just something different for the kids to do. So today I had the kids doing things in their different accounts. Iggy had a pretty good time, although I think we might need to tweak his educational level. Ooky was bored to death, oddly enough, and we DEFINITELY need to tweak his educational level (which totally freaks me out). But I think it could be a cool thing once we get everything all figured out. I learned a lot by watching them today. Mostly, that Iggy is a total perfectionist but also wants to get through everything, like yesterday. So when he thinks he knows what the computer is going to ask of him, he just goes gung ho. And then when he gets the question wrong, he is a) all confused because he thought he knew what the computer was going to say...and he didn't, and b) he freaks out because he wasn't perfect. These are issues to work on that might make the cost of T4L completely worth it.

The other new thing was putting a little Love and Logic to work, again on the recommendation from a couple friends. I was visiting a friend yesterday and saw her using some of the L&L tactics on her kids and it was lovely. So we did a bit of that today...and it was lovely. From what I've read, the whole thing makes sense to me because its all about the kids learning to be in control of and responsible for themselves...and that all actions have consequences. And for me, its about not getting involved in a lot of things I don't need to. I tend to talk things to death, or get caught up in that senseless banter that goes on (especially when I'm amazed at the things my five year old going on fifteen year old can come up with). This, apparently, doesn't help matters. So I'm on the hunt for some books (which I can't get through my library system, if you can believe that) and looking to do a bit of overhauling with 'da system.

Other than that, more signs, more signs, more signs. Sign language is just "it" if you ask the kids. How many more signs can we learn before Dad gets home from we can talk in code...I think I've created monsters!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Are grave rubbings illegal?

Iggy asked this title question because yesterday, we walked to the cemetary just up the road, there were two cops driving around. We did some gravestone rubbings and got into a lovely conversation about disease outbreaks (brought on by the fact there were several really old graves of little kids who died within months of each other). For a good chunk of the time, these two cops drove around, and Iggy was sure they were watching us and that we were doing something wrong. I told Iggy I was pretty sure there was nothing wrong with what we were doing...and said if the cops stopped we would be just fine. I am pretty sure he couldn't breathe after that until the cops left the area. This, from the kid of a cop? I don't get it.

Anyhow, yesterday was also a nature walk in the back 13 acres to try and find the monster buck we spotted with the binoculars earlier that morning. Hubster helped us find some of his tracks. We never found the deer (hard to do with an extremely loud Ooky in the group) but we will certainly look for him again in the binoculars.

Today was gym day with our homeschooling group, and the boys had fun playing with their friends.

At home we learned more about Obama, and I was asked to explain electoral votes (by Iggy). I stumbled. I did my best...but seriously. Most adults I know can't offer a coherant explanation of why and how that all works. Especially to a five year old who then says "well, isn't it supposed to be up to the people? why do we need electoral votes?" My thoughts exactly.

Iggy read a Star Wars book today that I didn't think he'd get through, but he did. Ooky worked on short vowels, but was pretty sure that the piano/keyboard looked way more interesting. We all worked more on coins, and then played around with the piano/keyboard. They told me they were playing scary wedding music. Hmmmm....

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Day After

I was a little stressed out Halloween morning because I just knew that Iggy and Ooky were going to wake up as little urchins, horrifically behaved and ridiculously hyper...awaiting that springboard jump into sugar-filled stupidity that generally comes on Halloween.

Instead I got:

We woke up. They ate breakfast. It was a beautiful morning so we played outside for a couple hours before coming in to do the more educational items of our day. We played a word game (draw a letter and let's think of as many Halloween words that start with that letter as we can...) where they could earn a penny for every word they thought of. After that game wore itself out, we made caramel apples and talked about the differences in what happens when you heat or cool something. While the apples were setting, the boys went back outside. I set up the "Halloween store" in the living room, where I had little tiny toys (finger puppets, mini stampers, etc.) and a couple things of candy available for purchase (remember the pennies they earned during the word game?). They came in, did some shopping in the store, ate their caramel apples, and suggested since it was Halloween, wouldn't it be great to shoot arrows into the jack-o-lanterns? Sounds perfect! So that killed another hour or so. We played around in the backyard most the day, they took baths (they were FILTHY), got into their costumes and we went trick-or-treating. Hit four houses and scored plenty of candy, came home for a bonfire supper and a "Halloween Treat Treasure Hunt" in the backyard. It was dark and they used flashlights to find wrapped up items we'd already hidden earlier. We wrapped up some of their favorite food things like bananas, olives, string cheese (that was hidden in the garage fridge!) etc... they were so excited. Did a lot of sky lookin', saw a shooting star...eventually went to bed.

I guess I had no reason to worry :) Pictures coming when remember where I put the camera last night...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Making Friends...and playing alone

Yesterday was a field trip with our homeschool group to a local bank and then hanging out in a room at the library for a couple hours afterwards. The bank thing didn't go over so well with my kids...perhaps because I had torn them away from archery in order to arrive on time. They decided at the bank, instead of pushing their way up to the front to see what was going on, they wanted to hang on me the whole time. I said "Who are you, and what have you done with my kids?" I don't have hang-on-me kids. But by the time we got to the library activity time, they'd warmed up to the idea that socializing with the other kids could be a worthy experience.

Now, having said that I don't have hang-on-me kids, Iggy has never been too excited about the idea of asking other kids "if he can play". Not that he hangs on me, but he generally plays by himself in a large group of people. He does not like crowds...which is apparently more than eight people. But yesterday, I saw this shift in finding one-person activities in the corner, to being conscious that other kids were playing other things, and wanting to do it too. There was some sort of color coded game of catch going on, and he wanted to do it. I said "Well, go ask them if you can play." And he did! Then he wanted to play money bingo with another group of kids who were already playing and I said "Well, go ask if you can play." And he did! And then he saw some kids playing chess and wanted to learn, so he asked them to teach him! It was kind of a big deal to me, because he was actually playing with the other kids instead of sitting in the corner by himself.

On the other hand, my social butterfly, Ooky, actually played by himself quietly at a table. Someone had brought a Spiderman Operation game and he thought that was pretty cool. But Ooky is not a kid who will sit by himself and do something alone. He needs the energy of other people to survive, I think. But yesterday, he was content for most the library time to figure this game out by himself. I even went over to him and asked him if everything was ok. He looked at me like I was nuts, and went back to his game.

Maybe it was something in the air? In any event, it was interesting to watch...and kind of nice!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Boys in the Trees vs. The Bossy Momma

Today the trees were quite attractive to the boys. Ok, beat me over the head and tell me I was silly to think I could tear them away from climbing to do anything academic...but I was in one of those moods. I actually had something planned and it would only take 15 minutes of real structure. 15 minutes! That's all I'm asking! It wasn't as though I walked out to the tree, demanded they came down, and mindlessly droned on about something that didn't matter while their arms and legs were duct taped into desks. I waited until what I thought was a great time: they were no longer in the trees.

Momma-who-is-still-learning fails to realize that any structured learning time in the afternoon generally goes over like a ton of bricks because playtime is very much already in full swing. Especially on a beautiful day. The trucks and jumps and dirt hill was already fully in use. Archery had been mentioned. Who the hell cares about silent "e"?

Perhaps a better unschooler choice would have been to scrap the damn silent "e" book and game, regardless of how clever, and perhaps gone out and climbed trees with them. Or told them what kind of tree they were climbing. Or asked them why they think the tree is rotting. Or asked them to explain what kind of pain goes shooting through you when the rotting tree loses a giant limb that you're hanging on and you go smashing into the grass below. Those things would have been more productive, probably. But Bossy Momma holds on sometimes to her I-have-a-really-bossy-Iggy issues and struggles with, especially on certain days, that when she says "do this", he should understand it is not "optional". And when he looks at her with the kind of look like he might be 5, going on 15, sirens and lasers go off inside her brain that say DISRESPECTFUL TEENAGER and she freaks out.

As a homeschooling mama, I struggle sometimes. Knowing that you have so much freedom (which Iggy and Ooky are fully aware of) and that there are things you simply don't have to do or worry about...and then having kids slap that back at you when they decide something you want them to do schoolwise is "lame". "I mean, do we really have to do this? I don't want to learn about this." SERIOUSLY??? Who are these teenagers in small people's bodies? Give me a break. What I want to say is "Yes we have freedom, but there are still somethings you better know, and its my job to make sure you know them, so HUMOR ME!!!!!!" Is that wrong?

In any event, the trauma was remedied. We did do silent "e" stuff...among other things...a science experiment that failed miserably which made me, the bossy momma, look extra cool (since i'd dragged them inside to see the dumb thing). They eventually were released outside and we hung out until supper. Before bedtime, Iggy left me a message on the living room rug that said "Mom" with a smiley face...made out of Legos.

It made me smile. Perhaps the Boys in the Trees and The Bossy Momma can call a truce?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Back to hittin' da books...

Today was a pretty cool day "in school". Hubster was home and hung out while we did a little more structured learning than normal. We played a game that was really teaching something about lower and upper case letters (which Ooky needs work on), and played a homemade game called "Plus One", which basically revealed to the kids that when you're adding one to another number, the answer is always "the next number". So apparently, when you show Iggy and Ooky that they can add a number as big as 502+1...and the answer is the next number (503), it is so unbelievably cool. Big numbers = big smiles in this house, I guess.

Anyway, what was really cool was that Iggy, who usually won't read for anyone but mom, read five books to Dad today! Usually when Hubster was home and i'd say "How about Iggy reads to you for awhile," Iggy would get all silly and forget how to do most anything having to do with letters. I don't know if it was nervousness or just delight that Dad was home and not being able to concentrate. In any event, today they sat on the couch and Iggy read FIVE books. It was very very cool.

We are also getting really into the whole sign language thing. The boys like to sign whenever they they learned a lot of food words, so lunchtime was a real treat. We did Signing Time Vol. 1 last week, and picked up our requested Vol. 3 on Sunday from the library (yes, Sunday!) and ate that DVD up this morning. Still waiting for Vol.2...Iggy asked me today how many volumes there were all together and when I told him 13 he was pretty sure he'd be able to say anything in sign language when he's all done. It will be fun to see what its like when they get that far...they think its neat because we have "a secret code". Hubster made sure to sit in on our Signing Time DVD as not to be left out of the code...

The boys also made baby windsock ghosts for their Grandma (Hubster's mom) and took them to the nursing home when we visited today. She was very appreciative of their spooky decorations. Hubsters mom is supportive about the boys being homeschooled...even though its TOTALLY out of the norm for the family. I think she just wants everyone to be happy, and whatever that means for each of her kids and their families, "so be it". Anyhow, after her accident a few months ago, she wasn't sure what had actually happened with the boys regarding school so she asked Iggy the last time we visited " you go to public school or are you homeschooled?" and Iggy answered "Grandma, I'm homeschooled," and she says "Aw....well, then that means you have the best teacher in the world."

Now, couldn't you just kiss that woman??

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Archery rocks!

What better way to spend a beautiful autumn day together as a family...

It was great. Hubster set up an "archery place" in the backyard and we shot arrows for about four hours. Iggy and Ooky went from having mom and dad load the arrows into their (borrowed from a cousin) bow, and sometimes shooting past the backstop Hubster had loading arrows into the bow THEMSELVES and shooting pretty consistently in the same spot. They were heavily supervised, was totally an all-family thing. We had a blast! The weather was beautiful and we had an awesome time.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Boys Who Bake

How cool is that?

Today we read a book called "Animals Nobody Loves" by Seymour Simon and somehow the day morphed into "All About Bats". The boys were pleased to learn that vampire bats don't really attack people, but they will attack cows. Then Iggy and Ooky had to point out to me, after watching Magic Schoolhouse "Going Batty", that vampire bats don't actually suck blood, they just bite and it leaves two blood holes. So then we ended up talking about how sometimes the things that we hear or believe are just stories that have been made up and passed along for so long that people think they are true. Then of course, we had to "make bats" somehow, so we made handprint bats and put them all over Grandma and Grandpa's part of the house.

The boys behavior is still a bit snaggy, but I'm starting to think, from all the blogs that I read, that maybe its just a curse that's going around. Maybe the change in the weather? I don't know what it is, but it seems like the air is just electric lately and the boys are super charged up and fiesty. It seems to be better during the parts of the day when we are structured in some sense. It seems as though for the last couple weeks, they can't handle "go off and see what you can find for yourself"...without it turning into something...well, that it shouldn't. I guess we cycle. We need times of structure and times of none at all. And a lot of in between. Right now seems to be heading into one of those we-need-structure times...which irks me a little, because I personally try so hard not to fall into that. But oh must do what works for the common good. Do you guys/gals find these cycles in your own family, or are you pretty much "the same" all the way through?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What is the sign for "staying home"?

So today was our staying home and being really productive day. And since it was raining, it was a perfect day to work on "organization" and "sorting" in the boy's bedroom. An hour long project of figuring out where exactly the toys were supposed to opposed to whatever corner, shelf, or bin it had been haphazardly tossed into. Of course there were the joyous cries of "Mom! I thought I lost this!" to which I had to jab "Gee. It's amazing what happens when your stuff is a little less disorganized." Does organization fit under "life skill" in my recordkeeper?

We actually did set some time aside for real academics. Feeling we need the structure right now. It happens every so often. Ooky is working through some word lists right now. Man, can that boy pop through a list of short vowel words...If they are written in upper case. So I've determined that next week we will start doing some uppercase/lowercase matching with Ooky. But he's thinkin' he's pretty cool because he gets some of that one-on-one reading time with Mama, which up until now, has been more of an Iggy thing. Plus, if I pull out the really easy readers (after working on the lower case letters), he might just be able to read the actual books.

Iggy decided a couple days ago that if Ooky was doing word lists, then why should he (Iggy) have to read books? It has to do alot with them being so close in age, but being far enough apart in skills. It would be easier (I think) to say to a nine year old, "These are the books you are reading, your sister is five and therefore, these are the books she is reading." Iggy can remember (in very recent memory) being in the same shoes Ooky is in now. So I keep building him up, saying "But you're five, not four. And you can read these books, and your brother is still learning." Well, he was in a mood and I was in a mood and figured I'd fix his boat and said "Fine. Word lists for you it is." And I made him hard word lists. Well today that little lovely boy finished a word list of "car parts" - complete with words like transmission and radiator and steering wheel and axle and other gems. Which gives me just a little insight into what he actually can read. So then I think, do we get out the harder books? Or is that just going to frustrate him? Do I just keep him in the readers he's in now and let him keep his "secret" that he's totally capable of reading way harder words than he lets on?

We also started Sign Language today, with the first Signing Time video. Iggy and Ooky ate that stuff up...and me too, since I've always wanted to learn ASL but never had the patience. Now I have an excuse. Iggy has always been fascinated by sign language...I'm hoping that since he has some friends who can sign (hint hint Sarah) that someday we can get together and do some hand talking together! I looked online to see how much the Signing Time set costs...oh my! I think requesting from the library (although there is a killer wait time for the things!!) will work for now.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My "well behaved" homeschooled children

You know, there is this commonly-held-by-the-public belief that homeschoolers are just so gosh darn polite and well behaved. And perhaps there are some gems out there, the ones who say "yes mam" and "no sir" and "can I help you carry the groceries in" all the time.

Yeah. Um...I don't have those kids.

I, instead, have these kids:

After my lovely offspring hinted around for at least a thousand days that the I-Dog at Burger King would be the coolest thing ever since god only knows what, I decide to swing into Big Bad BK and buy them a damn kids meal. We decide to eat in. Cheeseburger for one, chicken nugget crown things for the other. We find our seats. They open their bag, unpack their food, squeal in delight over the stupid I-Dog things, and delve into giddiness over the lame cardboard "costumes" that they can dress them up with. "Ooh, mom! Look! They light up, too!" Amazing, really. Now eat.

Grandma and I are trying to carry on some sort of conversation when suddenly, the I-Dogs can't seem to stay in the boys' hands. They are flipping across the table, falling on the floor. I remind the boys they should probably keep their I-Dogs under control. After all, you never know what's going to happen.

Well, "what's going to happen" turned out to be Iggy dropped his on the floor again and the lame cardboard costume fell off. And he couldn't find it. I'm not sure how hard it is to find a cardboard bat wing on the BK floor, but it literally disappeared. And that's when complete chaos broke out.

Side note: the boys are quite protective of each other. Like almost weirdly so. So when I said something to the effect of "Oh well, I guess we have to leave the missing bat wing here...let's go", not only was Iggy upset with me, but Ooky totally freaked out. Like I had just committed the most terrible crime against his brother and Ooky had been called out to be the avenger.

There were ear piercing screams and total close-to-a-seizure flailings going on. What is this? Do I have a two year old?? The first time, I grabbed Ooky's arm and quietly-but-firmly told him to knock it off. The second time it happened (which was about three milliseconds later) I said "That's it, we're going."

Side note: Yep, I'm one of those "take the kids out kicking and screaming" kind of parents. I refuse to sit and say "Honey...Mommmy said no....honey, what did mommy tell you, honey...if you do that again, I'm going to have to..."

Back to the story. So we're going. Seriously, the kids (especially my youngest, Ooky) completely became possessed by some screaming demonic freak-monster and made the biggest scene I have ever seen outside of a movie while leaving the Big Bad BK. I carried Ooky out kicking and screaming. I mean, really. Kicking. And screaming. Did I mention kicking? (I mean, WHO DOES THIS??) I managed to open the door while holding him by the waist under one arm. We got to the parking lot. I set him down. It escalated. I picked him back up and walked to the van (across a huge parking lot with people watching). We got to the van. There was a lot of kicking and screaming. His shoes ended up being thrown (by his mother) in the back seat of the van. He told me in no uncertain terms that he hated me. I refrained from comment and did his seat belt, then steamed while starting the van. My mom followed with the upset, but not nearly as loud or violent, older child.

Afterthoughts on the situation?
1. In this day in age, what can you seriously do when your kid is hitting and kicking you and you're in public?? Mind you, I didn't ask about after you get in the car or when you are at home...I'm asking about when you're in a restaurant or a parking lot people are staring at you. Because you know if you do anything more than look at your kid crooked, someone's going to have an issue...sometimes I think parents are "stuck" in situations like this.
2. Or maybe I should ask, what do you do when the kid just doesn't get it? Doesn't respond? Stop going into public?
3. I really wish that choosing to homeschool automatically made your kids sprout a halo. But apparently I missed the "how-to" email about that. Anyone want to forward that one on to me??

Your comments would be greatly appreciated. I'm still a little fired up about the day.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Who is their teacher???

Just thought I would share some of our conversations from the northwoods. Someone should really talk to the teacher of these kids...(me, hiding in the corner...)

(Note: Most of these comments/conversations were completely out of the blue and had nothing to do with anything anyone was talking about. Even remotely.)

Ooky: Know how you get jelly?
Me: How?
Ooky: Milk a jellyfish.
(The sad thing was that he wanted a PB and J sandwich.)

Ooky: Mom, I don't remember what the inside of your body looks like.
Me: What?
Ooky: You know, when I was growing inside you? I don't remember what your insides look like.

Grandma: Gee, I really wish there were northern lights right now for you boys to see...they are just awesome up here.
Ooky: Grandma, there is a light on the north of the cabin. (referring to the solar light that comes on whenever anyone goes out to the outhouse. Which, yes, faces north.)

Ooky: Mom?
Me: What.
Ooky: Let's just go inside the cabin...and love.

Hubster: (referring to the good hunt my father had just returned with) Your Dad shot lucky.
Iggy: What? Grandpa shot a monkey?

And perhaps, the best one of all....

Iggy: (noticing the label on Hubsters walkie talkie radio) Dad...I see your name is on your radio (and he then reads the first word as my husband's first name). But what is the second word? (and he then starts spouting off words he thinks it is.)
Me: You don't know what that second word is, Iggy?
Iggy: (continues spouting off words like "radio" or "walkie talkie" or "tool")
Me: Seriously? You don't know that word?
Grandpa: (quite dryly) Hmm. Someone needs to talk to his teacher about that.

Ok, isn't he the kid who just read all those books for the read-a-thon? And read a ginormous word list today for a wordfind he wanted to do? Words I had no idea he was even capable of sounding out? And he didn't know his LAST NAME? Seriously. I might need to submit this one to Secular Homeschooler's "Homeschooling Horror Stories".

Well, its nice to know we're all human, right?

Some realizations should be obvious

Well, we're back from the cabin. Had a great time, once again...topped off with an observation and eventual realization that should have been obvious. See, Ooky is a special kid. Well, all kids are special, but Ooky requires something...I don't know if I have figured out what that thing is. He's like the super high bounce ball in a room full The kid doesn't know how to settle down. He goes until he crashes. He's a constant fireball of unquenchable energy. His brain zooms along faster than I even thought was possible. Its hard to follow him - physically or, well...mentally. I just never know where exactly he is.

So we're up at the cabin. And I don't remember why we couldn't be outside, but we were stuck inside. And I thought the kid was literally going to explode through the roof. So couple that with the fact I was in one of those "I refuse to entertain my kids 24 hours a day" and "This is my vacation, too" kind of moods. And what it really might have been, now that I think about it, is one of those downsides to homeschooling...that you are literally ALWAYS with your kids. Which means those quaint family vacations that are supposed to draw the family closer together...aren't quite the same, because you've already spent the week before together. And the week before that. But whatever. That wasn't even the realziation I was talking about. It was this: As I watched Ooky blazing his way through the 400 square foot of cabin with five other people in it with no regard to noise level or space I watched Ooky operate on a completely different plane of existance (there's being defiant, and then there is just not getting it) I sat there getting more and more upset and thinking things like why can't he just sit down like his brother...the realization smacked me right upside the head that THIS was one of the reasons we chose homeschooling. Because we knew that Ooky wouldn't survive sitting in a desk for more than three minutes without freaking out. THIS, the insanity, the constant going, the crazy level of energy...the stuff that can drive me the same reason we didn't want to put him in public school. We figured it would save us the "Your son has ADHD, you should medicate him" and/or the ten phonecalls/emails a day regarding his behavior. Keeping him home didn't change his level of intensity...did I think it would? He's still Ooky. Shouldn't that have been obvious?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Odd to be vacationing...

1: ...on a weekend when all the other public schoolers will also be vacationing. (Its Minnesota Educators Association Weekend.)
2: ...when we just vacationed a week ago.
3: ...when my kids will probably grow up to have a complex wondering if Mom and Dad have secretly hidden anything in the back of the vehicle that will mean an overnight trip somewhere.

We are once again traveling to the northwoods cabin for a four day vacation. I feel spoiled. I haven't been to the northwoods cabin for two years, and now I go twice in two weeks? I must have done something right to someone. How is it that the schedules just worked out that we could do this as a family...two weeks in a row? (The pessamist side of me says "Just know what they say about paybacks...) Anyhow, we packed up the whole back of the Tahoe in the dark and will wake the kids up tomorrow and tell them its cabin time. It'll be classic.

On a more schooly note, we redeemed the pizza certificate today at lunch time and had a fabulous waitress who made a really big deal about Iggy meeting his goal. That made it even cooler. I also discovered that Iggy suddenly loves wordfinds...which he hated three months ago. The kid can just look at the jumble of letters and pick out the word. He must get that from his Mama. Ooky sat on the other side of the table with Grandma who was writing "secret messages" for him and he was sounding them out. We also worked on writing a Halloween poem, which was hilarious, but its in a notebook that's already packed, so I'll have to share it with you when we return. There was one line that went something like "A witch rides around on her big broomstick and my Grandpa likes to drink beer called Smithwicks." I mean seriously? You can't beat stuff like that!!!

Well, I guess that's it for now. We will be back Sunday night with pictures and stories galore! Enjoy your weekend, fellow homies!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

He did it!

Iggy met his October reading goal for the Book It Readathon by reading ten new books this month. (He's very excited for me to write about this on the blog, and will be itching to see his "famous picture" tomorrow when he wakes up. Because you know, anyone whose picture is on the computer is FAMOUS!) Here's the books he read (in case anyone official wants to someday know what we did...):

1. Old New Red Blue by Melissa Loganagro
2. Hot Dog by Molly Coxe
3. Cat Traps by Molly Coxe
4. Z Goes Home by John Agee
5. Dog and Cat by Paul Fehlner
6. Hot Rods by Janis Asad Raabe
7. Jet Beds by Janis Asad Raabe
8. Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler
9. Max the Cat by Janis Asad Raabe
10. Fun with Gum by Janis Asad Raabe

Way to Go Iggy!!!! Mama is proud of your hard work.

It pays to organize the shelves...

Funny how when you're going through things and organizing the hoardes of "school stuff" you have, you happen to find a double sided game called "Add 'Em Up Apple Orchard" and "Pumpkin Patch Math". What appropriate timing! So those games have entertained us for the past couple days. We continue to work on addition (its funny to see how many simple facts the boys have memorized...even though I think its mostly from schoolhouse rock...). Today we introduced subtraction (just because it was on the other side of the game board), which Iggy caught onto in a snap. Ooky was mostly distracted by how to actually play the game - you had to find a certain number on the board and move to that number instead of actually counting a certain number of spaces.

Reading is going grandly. It was sooooo cool today, Iggy read a book called Jet Beds (another one of his phonics reader set we got from a fellow homeschooler) and then I decided it was my turn to read. I picked a book from the shelf called "Skeleton Hiccups" and Iggy tears it out of my hands and says "Mom, I'd like to read that to you." I am thinking there is no way you can read this book. No way at all! But that Iggy is so stubborn and determined, HE READ THE BOOK. He worked his way though those words and made it to the end and was so excited, I thought he was going to cry. He ran all over the house screaming "I did it, I really did it!" It was so very cool. Deinfitely a highlight for today.

Ooky worked on writing today, wrote his first and last name (I wrote it on the dry erase board first.) Iggy wrote a sentence about his favorite dog (spurred on from a online game he was playing yesterday). Both pieces of writing are proudly displayed on the wall for Hubster to see when he comes home tomorrow morning.

Looking forward to receiving our weekly reader subscription, which we just ordered last night (thanks for the tip, Sarah, even though it took me forever to do it!). Maybe its just nostaligia from my own school days, but I'm pretty pumped for it to arrive. Hopefully the boys will enjoy it too.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Its all in how you look at it

Since its about halfway though October, I thought I would just gently remind Iggy that in order to get his October pizza for the Book It Readathon, he still had six books left to read to reach his goal of ten books(that he set, mind you). And he says "Six? That's not that many!" and gets all excited, almost like he'd completely forgotten about the entire read-a-thoneven existed. He gets to work, searching through the pile of Iggy-level-appropriate books in his book crate. I then make the mistake (unbeknowest to me at the time) of saying "Yep, six books left to read. If you read that one right there, then you'll only have five books left to read. Then four books, then three..." and I'm illustrating on my hands the countdown. Iggy looks at me like I have ten heads and then starts to get all weepy (factor in here for his being sick with a nasty cough) and says "But I wanted to read ten books!" Me, reassuring him, says "You are reading ten books. That was your goal." He says "But you said after I read this book I would only have five books left to read, and I wanted to read ten books all together." We go back and forth, him getting more and more pouty, and me getting more and more confused about what we're even discussing until I realize something. (Aha moment.) Instead of taking my fingers and counting down from ten to zero, I count from zero up to ten. ("Look at, you started with one book and read all the way up to ten books!" as opposed to "You have ten books to read, now you have nine books to you have no books to read!") Apparently, it made all the difference. Smiling happy kid wiped the snot from his nose and sat down to read his book about hot rods.

See, it really is all in how you look at it.

Help with teaching about attitude/gratefulness

I like to do fun things with my kids. Homeschooling, contrary to some people's beliefs, does not mean being chained to home. So we go out and do different things and have I'm sure all of you reading this blog also do.

But it seems, to agree with a comment on yesterdays posting, that once the fun is over and we are back home, the claws come out. And maybe some people are logical and level headed enough to say "Oh, they are just overtired from such a fun day." And I suppose that is probably part of it. But it drives me nuts.

For instance, yesterday we had been at the orchard for a few hours and I decided it was time to leave. My mom wanted to stop at a garage sale up the road. The boys get out and immediately start talking about all the things they want to buy. I reminded them that as far as I knew, they didn't have any money with them, and I had just used a lot of mine to treat them to a good time at the orchard. Well, that went over like a ton of bricks. I told my mom we were going to sit in the car while she enjoyed browsing the garage sale alone. We went to the car and then I had the blessed opportunity to listen to Iggy (five and a half, going on 15) tell me all the logical reasons about why he's having the worst day ever. Now yes, I know, he WAS tired. But still. I'm not sure that's an excuse to act like a bear everytime we do something.

We like to go out, I like to treat the kids to things occasionally. But it seems like when I do, suddenly they think I need to buy them something everywhere from Walmart to Superamerica. I don't, obviously. Its just the attitude that drives me nuts. I hate greed. I hate people who feel they have a sense of entitlement, so maybe I'm oversensitive to the entire thing? I don't want to raise kids who think they need everything they see. I don't give them everything they see. So where does the attitude come from? And how do you axe it?

Looking for creative ideas on teaching about attitude and gratefulness. Or just a "my kids do the same thing, I'm at a loss..." will also work.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Apples and Pumpkins and People, Oh My!

Today Iggy, Ooky, Grandma and myself decided to take off to a kinda sorta local orchard that had some neat stuff going on today. We had a good time, despite the occasional rain. Here are some pictures to feast your eyes on...

There was a bluegrass type band playing, which I thought was really cool. We drank yummy apple cider, fed some goats, played a bean bag game, knocked over some crates in a crate maze (accidentally) and generally had a pretty good time. We have the opportunity to visit yet another orchard on Tuesday with our homeschool group. I think it would be a good time, but we will have to see what the boys attitudes/moods decide for us. It seems to me that after all these fun things we do, I end up with crabby, whiny, even ungrateful little Iggs and Ooks. Which drives me insane. But that's another post for a two or three cups of coffee morning. Perhaps tomorrow.

Backwoods Learning

First off, I must say that it occured to me sometime along the five hour drive north, that this vacation was partially made possible by homeschooling. It still sometimes catches me off guard that if my kids were in public school, there would be so many things that we regularly do that wouldn't be so easily possible. Like taking off on a Tuesday for a cabin adventure. Big thumbs up and high five for my homies.

So...what do you learn on a northwoods adventure? I'm not sure its even possible to separate it out. Its lots of common sense, safety, and wildlife identification. Its entertaining yourself without telvision. Its learning that lights can work even without electricity (doesn't everything just plug in?) and that just because there are lights that work (gas, if you didn't catch on yet) doesn't mean that Spongebob will be coming on tv anytime soon. Its about learning to appreciate you are a boy and can pee right off the front step and don't have to walk ALL THE WAY to the outhouse like Mama and Grandma. Its learning about battery conservation, and that the walkie talkie radios aren't to play with (like at home) because we actually need them if we get separated on the trails, and if we have no batteries, we're kind of screwed. Its about learning to be quiet when you wake up because not everyone else is awake yet, and we're basically all in one big room, separated by some shower curtains. Its about learning to conserve water, because once the big barrels are empty, its hand pumping for you. Its about being quiet in the woods, because the point was to see lots of wildlife. (Ok, Ooky never did catch on to that one.) Its about dressing really warm and in lots of layers. Its learning tha on a 40 mph windy day, the trail through the trees will either create a wind block...or a wind tunnel. Its about wearing blaze orange because sometimes its really the only way you can see each other.

I'm not really sure what to file all this learning under. But sometimes this kind of learning, whatever it is, is the most important kind.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mid-Week Vacation

We are leaving today for a four day vacation to my husband's parents' cabin. Its about a five hour drive, and just shy of Canada. No electric, no running water, true backwoods living. We're going to have a great time!! We will return Friday night with lots of pictures and stories to share..."see" you when we get back!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

MHA Conference Thoughts Part 2

And I'm back!

Twice Exceptional Kids (or 2E) session: I chose this session because I am dealing with a smartie who can't sit still for longer than twenty seconds. The speaker (I think her name was Rachel) was great, very down to earth, and told us lots of "real life stories" in dealing with her own 2E kid. The session kind of veered off, though, and turned into people wanting to know how to deal with IEPs and the public school and autism "recovery" and...I don't know. I guess not exactly what I was looking for. Good intentions on the speakers part, but the class kind of took it and ran it right off the track!

Doubts in Homeschooling: One of those lovely, feel good speeches about how you can do it. Most of the things she talked about are those things you already know, but its good to hear them again. I did like something she said about "Homeschooling is not about doing school better than school, its about being open to all that is available to you as a homeschooler". She was a die hard unschooler, which didn't bother me so much but I know it turned other people off. I was wondering though, after all her talking about it possible to truly be a diehard unschooler in a state that requires yearly testing? (she's from WI, and said they don't test.) Because its really easy to live in a state like WI where you don't have to prove anything to anyone...but in MN where you have to do report cards (well, I do) and do yearly testing, can you truly be an unschooler? It just got me thinking.

Homeschool RecordKeeping and Planning: I almost dropped this class because I thought "keeping records and planning and doing all that is just going to throw me right back into the anal retentive person I was about schooling a couple months ago". But I went anyway. And it was weird because the whole class started out with this one homeschooling mom freaking out because someone from the district (Richfield, I think) had called her and said they were going to visit her house to checkup on her, or check her records or check her something. (I don't remember what exactly they were checking, but something having to do with her homeschooling.) And she didn't think they could do that, so she called some bigwig in the homeschooling whatever, and they said "Actually, they can." And the mom was kind of surprised, because, like me, she'd been lead to believe that you don't really have to keep records until the kids are in high school. So anyhow the class ended up being really awesome, because the lady who presented was HILARIOUS. And I didn't even feel like she was trying to push her product (which I bought anyway). And I have figured out a way to keep tabs on what we are doing here without being anal retentive, which is a nice happy medium place to be. Since I'm not big into planning anymore, I just take a few minutes each night to write down a few things we did. Even looking back over the past week and things I've written down that we've done...its pretty neat to see all the things we actually accomplished!

Well, apparently the boys have decided we need a little Sunday morning computer game time, so my blogging time is over...for now!

Friday, October 3, 2008

MHA Conference thoughts...

Well, its a good thing the kids are always learning regardless of what Mama is doing...because in complete honesty, Mama has been a bit mentally absent the past week or so. Life happened to get in the way. But I promise not to dwell and feel guilty, and instead be a Big Girl and move on. I'll also give a big thank you to my partner-in-crime, Hubster, who fearlessly jumps in when my brain or sunshiney attitude pukes out.

Last Saturday, I attended the Minnesota Homeschoolers Alliance conference. It was the first time I'd been, and it was good time. Picked up a few games from one of the vendors ("Quick Pix Animal"- a game about animal classification, and "Thing-A-Ma-Bot", a creativity/memory game). Got lots of information from places that have cool extra programs for homeschoolers, and wished for about half a minute that I lived closer to the cities so I could actually take advantage of those programs on a regular basis without having to take out a gasoline loan. Lots of great ideas, nonetheless.

The first session I took was on Twice Exceptional Kids. The second thing I went to was the keynote - Alison McKee speaking on doubts while homeschooling. The third session was Homeschool Planning and Record Keeping. There was a fourth session, but I skipped it so I could head north and set up for my mother-in-law's benefit. All in all, a good time. I have a bag of "Freebies" that are still sitting next to my bed that I haven't gone through. The conference was a nice way to "start the year", I suppose. And its always nice to be in a big place with all those folks that I so lovingly refer to as "undergrounders". It was a beautiful thing. More thoughts on the conference later...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday Three

Why We Love It (Homeschooling, that is):

1. No bugging our extended family members 19 times a year with fundraisers. (I am reminded of this because my uncle recently went off about his daughter's school and the obnoxious fundraisers they have.)You can only tap the same people for money so many times a year, and I, for one, hate feeling obligated to buy something. (And I hate putting people in the position of feeling obligated to buy buy buy so my kids can "win" a prize that would be hundreds of dollars cheaper if I just bought it at the store.)

2. Homemade lunches. I know what my kids are eating. I know what is in what my kids are eating. I know they are eating. No "I bought three malts for lunch today and a tray of nachos, Mom. My account is empty, I need more money."

3. As we were walking into the library yesterday, Iggy saying quite innocently, "What do those kids do all day in the big school? I mean, really, Mom. They are totally missing out on all the fun."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stuck under a bridge...

Yesterday was great! Mama threw caution to the wind and took Iggy, Ooky, and Hubster on a trail adventure, completely ignoring the call for rain most of the day. (Ok, so my in my defense, there wasn't any severe weather predicted, just on and off showers...and, as far as I know, no child has ever melted in a shower.) Anyhow, so we are walking the winding lovely trails of a park system near my house, stopping off at little places on the river to hang out, having a lovely time. And then, the thunder starts. Me, I'm not too concerned. The boys look at the sky, Ooky pulls out some Transformers line like "The darkness is approaching, Autobots..." but we basically ignore the possible rain. "Besides," I say. "I know where the van is parked, and its just around the corner."


Well, as you probably can guess, the thunder got a little bit louder, and we eventually left the spot we were hanging out in to head for "the van". Only, the parking lot I thought the van was in was not just around the corner. It was quite a bit farther. But, no worries. It's just thundering. So we keep walking.

Iggy remembers what trail we are on and asks if we can walk under the "giant bridge", and I said "If its not raining by the time we get there, we can go under it and explore for awhile, but if it starts to rain, we're just going up the hill to the van (because now I really remember where we parked)." So that's the plan. And plans are good. But what actually ended up happening was about 50 feet from the bridge, the sky opened up with this torrential downpour, so we ran to the bridge and hung out underneath it until the rain let up. It was awesome. Ooky thought maybe we'd just make it our house, and had big plans about where all his stuffed animals could sit. I assured him the rain would eventually stop and we'd be able to go home.

All in all, a very educational day (graffiti included).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hmmm, good question.

Here is my short but sweet Sunday evening pondering-

Directed at those who are dead-set against homeschooling, I'm wondering if this point has ever been brought up: Most studies I've read put nationwide homeschooler estimates at about 1.5 million kids. Who knows how accurate this is, because it depends what a homeschooler is defined as, and if you're talking just kids of compulsory education age, etc. But let's just say, for the sake of argument, that 1.5 million kids is right. If you divide them equally, for the sake of argument, between all 50 states, that would be 35,000 kids per state. Right?

My question, to those who are completely and totally anti-homeschooling and feel all kids should be in public school....WHERE are you going to put them all? 35,000 kids per state? That's an awful lot of new schools to be built...or crowded classrooms in the ones you already have. And if I'm not mistaken, "new schools" and "crowded classrooms" are already a hot topic, aren't they

Just a (stir up the pot!) thought...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A dirty bathtub means "great day".

At our house, one way to measure the success of the day is by seeing how dirty the bathtub is after the boys are done taking a bath. Let me tell you, today was an awesome day. Filthy bathtub, happy boys. I'm not sure what was so exciting about ripping around in the dirt/mud/sand/grass/etc. today, but the boys did it and had a fabulous time. Totally one with the earth, I tell ya.

Today's (non-dirt) adventures included a quick shopping trip where it was once again demonstrated that $3 will not buy as many toys at Walmart as it will at a garage sale. Why not? Well, let me explain it to you right here next to the Transformers action figures and the nice Wal-mart employee who is giggling at my speech.

Another adventure included our daily game of badminton, and figuring out that badminton rackets purchased at a garage sale aren't going to last us through this season because someone else has already whipped the crap out of them. Save money and compromise quality? Spend more on something that might last longer? Such lovely life lessons we are learning.

We also experimented a bit in the kitchen, mixing up a batch of puppy chow (you know, rice chex, PB, chocolate, powdered sugar...) and then Iggy suggested we put it in the freezer. Sure. Why not? Well, guess what? Experiment a success. Frozen puppy chow "tastes a miracle", which is the highest compliment Iggy and Ooky can give to anyone about their cooking.

Last but not least, we played another round of our favorite dessert game called Sweet 100. A yours truly invented game which requires a 1-100 chart (we have a large laminated one we found at a garage sale for a dime), some candy, a die, and some place markers. This is how you play: Mama lays the 100 chart on the floor (ours is 1-10, next line 11-20, and so on). Mama puts a small candy (M&Ms, Mike & Ikes, Smarties, etc.) on each number. Iggy and Ooky take turns rolling our (10 sided) die and move the number of spaces as detemined by the die. They can't take the candy unless they can identify the number they have landed on. Who knew that four year old Ooky had any clue what 86 or 57 or 39 were? Certainly not his mother. (Well, now she does...)I guess I'd never really asked him. The ultra cool thing was now that I am pretty sure they are pretty solid on identifying their numbers up to 100, I explained to them that they can figure out numbers all the way to 1000 now, since putting a 1 in front of 86 makes it... (and Iggy says " One hundred and eighty six!") Let's be tricky and make it a 2 in front of 86... (and Iggy says "Two hundred and eighty six!") and then I look over and Ooky has taken his dry erase board off the wall and is writing number and after number after number. Where the heck did all this come from??

Friday, September 19, 2008

Video games = Satan?

I grew up with the belief that video/computer games were the work of Satan. That they sucked brain cells out of your head while you mindlessly sat in front of them for 14 hours a day. They couldn't possibly teach you anything except how to be completely irresponsible all day long. And besides, who could afford them? A couple well meaning family members often tried to buy the little portable devils for us, citing they would be perfect for those long (5 hour) car rides to the cabin. I responded with "My kids are fine looking out the window at the scenery." Man, I am so hardcore.

In "Deschooling Gently", Tammy Takahashi has a whole section on video games, and how they are in fact NOT the work of Satan. Since I loved every other part of her book, I really tried to love this part, too. Truth was when "video game" jumped across the page, my brain shut down, screaming whatEVER while I appeared to be paying attention.

That's right, mama. Close up your mind just a wee bit more.

Anyhow...long story short, this is where the crow-eating begins. Because now, through some twist of fate (which included me using my check card)the boys now have Leapsters. Its a long drawn out story which includes me attempting to play a game on and totally not being able to do it, and watching my kids use their noggins to figure it out. It also includes my mom finding a brand spankin' new Leapster at the Goodwill for $5. (My guess is that someone meant to tag it $50, but forgot a zero.)It also includes me having to buck up and not care what other people think, which is probably a huge part of my anti-video game thing. It also includes me realizing that as a homeschooler, there are a ton of resources I can tap into as educational options. And I shouldn't just write any certain one off because I'm afraid of what someone thinks of me as a parent. If I REALLY cared...would I be homeschooling? Homeschooling might possibly be one of the biggest I-really-don't-care-what-you-think-of-me-and-my-kids movement you can make.

So now they have Leapsters. Iggy has a Spongebob game and knows way more about money than I thought he did. Ooky has a creature game and is really good at mazes. And Mom learned that you can't just shut out one system of learning because it seems a little more mainstream. If you boycott it simply because its that any better than mainstreamers boycotting what's off the beaten path?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thursday Three - Why We Love It

"It" being homeschooling. Or unschooling. Or whatever label you want to give what we are doing.

1. We don't have to deal with homework. I will never have to worry about how my kids will get off the bus at 4 pm with two hours worth of homework that we have to attempt to fit into our family time. For this, I'm thankful.

2. Alarm clocks aren't necessary. This is not to say there aren't situations my kids need to be up at a certain time, or that my kids don't have a decent hour they should be in bed. But it does mean that I don't have to worry about (as a friend said about her kids) "plucking the sleeping children out of bed in time to shove them onto the bus looking halfway decent". It also means that we CAN have a campfire or visit people (and stay late!) or have a movie night, and I don't have to worry that they have to be up at 6 am the next morning. They can sleep in until 8, and its ok.

3. We can just be ourselves and do what we want to do. Which basically means being a crazy family, exploring everything we can, going until we crash into a giggling heap on the floor.

Warriors of the Woods

Today was a big day of exploring the woods, both at a park about an hour away (we had to do deliveries for my mom) and then in our backyard. Lots of animal tracks to be found, and lots of first signs of fall approaching!

We even took an adventurous dip by way of the back yard rope swing...and learned that at some point, its just not ok to be dippin' in the water anymore. "So, um, Mom. At what point does water freeze?" I'm telling you, the water was unbelievably cold! It was a quick walk back to the house...followed by a warm bath!

All in all, another awesome day with my homies!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Camera is working!!

Well...if you can't tell, we finally got the camera to work with our computer, so I'm slowly adding pictures to my blogs to make them just that more exciting. And, if you also can't tell, I love taking pictures of my kids.

Hubster is home and so its been ultra-relaxed around here. We had a campfire last night and Iggy did a whole impromptu spelling bee thing - which made me giggle, because Hubster and I watched a hilarious Youtube spoof on homeschoolers and how they are going to take over the world, one spelling bee at a time...Anyhow, spelling bee was followed by a late night dead-animal-remains-identification-quiz, as we kept finding...well, dead animal remains. We have four outside cats here who take it upon themselves to rid our 13 acres of woods/creek of rodents...and we sometimes come upon...well, you get the idea. Good backwoods fun.

We made a new recipe (Caramel French Toast) for supper (I'm assuming we aren't the only people who eat breakfast type foods for supper) and Ooky helped me put it together. He was the egg cracker. I got out the carton of eggs and told him he had to crack five...but one at a time into a bowl. So he gets through two of them, and I was thinking outloud and said "How many more do you have left to crack?" And he says "Three." But dangit, how did he know that when he had a whole dozen in front of him? Was the kid doing (gasp) math?? (Big smile from mom, who is always amazed that the crazy insane full of energy youngest child of hers knows WAY more than he'd ever actually come out and tell you. She has a way of sneaking it out of him, though...)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Games Galore

Today we played a plethera of games, both in the flesh and online. Here were some we conquered today:

Monopoly Jr: Went well, Iggy explained to his brother that you didn't need to have a four dollar bill to pay the banker four dollars, but that you could use two two-dollar bills. He was completely amazed to learn that you could also use a one-dollar bill and a three-dollar bill to make up the four dollar fine. I took this opportunity to explain to the boys that there is no such thing as a three- or four-dollar bill. Oh, yes, and the game we bought was used and when we opened it we realized there wasn't enough "money" in it to even play the game, so we had to make more money to play. Which turned into a fair amount of practice writing those pesky numbers. Who knew?

12 and Back: A great game we learned one day at a local homeschool store. All it takes are three dice, a piece of paper with 1-12 written on it, and a few place markers. (In our case, a button, a miniature dog, and a miniature owl. Guess who was the lame button?)The rules of the game: Player rolls 3 dice and adds them in any grouping of the 1, 2 or 3 dice to make the numbers 1-12. Beginning with #1, the player moves his marker up the board in sequence as he is able to "make" each number. A player may make as many numbers as is possible with each roll and moving accordingly. Which means that when you roll and 1, 2 and 3, you can not only move past the 1, 2 and 3 on the board, but you can also move to 4 (1+3), the 5 (2+3) and the 6 (3+2+1). And the coolest thing is when the kids GET THAT!! Imagine this, but there are some tough logic games on that site! We got hung up on Junkbot Undercover...which is a game where you basically have to use a certain amount of Legos to get Junkbot from one side of the screen to the other. The upper levels are actually pretty hard! : A cool site where they have a hangman game (actually Hangmouse) that has a ton of different topics and words for the kids to figure out. They get seven chances to guess letters, but if they get a letter that's actually in the word, the "chance" doesn't count. I kept telling them "start with vowels!!!" and to my delight, they knew what they were.

Wheel of Fortuneish Thing: : This is something I started on a dry erase board awhile back, but haven't done it for awhile. (I think the game died about the time roofing started...) I think of three or four bigger words that the boys use a lot, but probably have no clue how to spell, and I write them on the dry erase board with some letters missing. Then sometime over the course of the day and pondering, we figure out what the word is (whether it is from sounding out what's there and guessing what the whole word is, or getting clues for what the word is from me, and then having to figure out what letters are missing). Today's big words were transformer, unicorns, and bloodhound.

Sidenote: Iggy wanted to know why, in the word bloodhound, does the double o not make the sound as in boo. I said "Great question, never even noticed that before." Then later, when he again volunteered to read the bedtime story, and came across the word to, asked "why does that make the oo sound if it only has one o?" "Good question," said his mother. He said English makes no sense. Well, thought I, at least you figured that out early.

Call us unschoolers, if you must...

Our family doesn't/can't operate on a real schedule. With a law enforcement husband, the grandiosity of Saturday/Sunday quickly faded because very often, days we can hang out as a family are not the traditional weekend, but instead some random Tuesday/Wednesday combo. Trying to plan, or relying on the days my husband is told he has off, doesn't much fly. I've done this cop wife thing long enough to know that when my dear husband gives me a supposed "work schedule", it will most likely change completely within the next 72 hours.

I came into life as a total anal retentive planner, and yet, homeschooling was sold to my husband partly as a great way to work around his schedule. (You can see where the issue might arise...) So in the very beginning it was me trying to plan school-at-home around his work schedule. Which was fine when his schedule didn't change. But when it did, I was freaking out about my lesson plans being behind. I would map out the month, and within two weeks, we were already "off". We'd not "do school" when Dad was home because, seriously...what kid, if they haven't seen their dad for a week, is going to care the least about long vowel sounds or counting to 100? Bring on the Daddy Love! Which was great for them and Dad, but then I was left with this Nag Lady in the pit of my stomach silently trying to change lesson plans while I was supposed to be enjoying the fact that my husband was home. Makes a great deal of sense, I know.

Long story short, I read some books (which I'll eventually get into a list on the right side) and changed our song and dance. There are so many different ways out there to learn, and I think you have to just find the one that works for your family. I think "unschooling", at this point in life, is our gig. The label can be a little wonky; from what I have read, there are about a gazillion definitions to the term. But at the heart of it, I think those dreaded "unschoolers" are what this family is destined to be.