Saturday, January 18, 2014

Update on 2013 Activities

Dear Friends,

I hope to start updating this blog again soon. Over the last several months our time and energy has been taken up by our particpation in the Brain Balance program for two of our sons. If you would like to read up on the whole journey, please go here:

In the meantime, here are a few pictures from the latter part of 2013:

Dash, Graduating from Brain Balance Program, October 2013

Big B. Graduating from Brain Balance Program, November 2013

Sketch of Dash, by one of his talented coaches at Brain Balance Center

Sketch of Big B. by same talented coach

Grand Opening of new Brain Balance Center in South Jordan, UT
with Brain Balance founder Robert Melillo and center director Tammy Bingham

Events at Brain Balance Grand Opening

Big B


Me with my beautiful new niece. November 2013

Our Christmas Tree 2013

With my cute brother Joe. I am displaying the braid I just completed in his hair. December 2013

Sparkle as Mary, cute niece as Baby Jesus, Christmas Eve 2013

Christmas Morming, Baby Blues, Happy!

Family Portrait Session, November 2013


Baby Blues

Big B.



Daddy and Sparkle

Mama and Papa

Aren't we cute?

Daddy with Big B

Mommy with Big B, taken by Baby Blues

Mommy with Baby Blues, taken by Big B.

The whole crew, taken in front of our apple tree, by Sweet Neighbor

Boys at their favorite place, the Zoo!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Recent Homeschool Adventures

From the moment you remove kids from a public school schedule and replace it with homeschooling, a period of transition is necessary. We call it detox. To be clear, this is not because I considered our local elementary school a toxic environment. Each of our kids enjoyed their time with the excellent teachers and administrators there. The term describes the letting go of public school structures and subsequent adoption of very different homeschool ones.

Before the new structure can be eased into, a detox period allows the kids to shake off their habituated learning personas, and decompress. The extent to which each child was invested in meeting/excelling at public school expectations determines the extent of their deprogramming process. For example Freckles was not very happy with his school workload at the time that we brought them home. Though he loved his teacher dearly and wanted to please her, homework wars ensued at end of day. Sparkle on the other hand was very happy in her class, usually exceeding her teacher's expectations. (It should be noted here that there is a great difference between the level of work required in 3rd vs. 5th grades, not to mention the bias against boys in a public school structure. Both kids are super smart). So for each child the detox looked different.

We needed 2-4 weeks of deprogramming, not only for the kids to adjust, but also for me. When I sent off our kids to school each day, I ordered my life differently than I do now. Much rearrangement has taken place since February. For example, I eliminated all kids' screen time for a full two weeks, and drastically reduced my own media consumption. This helped all of us to remember what it's like to be present for each other as a family. And it reminded them that they really do have great imaginations. At the end of a public school day, we found that invariably our kids were worn out. Screen time allowed them to empty and rest their minds.

That was a great thing for them in that circumstance. But in a homeschool setting, a craving for continuous media input obstructs creativity. We created a "media vacuum" to help them stretch their minds and find new outlets. They grumbled a lot about it at first, but soon adjusted. I am always surprised at how quickly the absence of media returns us to ourselves, and invites greater harmony into our home. That's not to say that the internet isn't an irreplaceable tool for a homeschooler. It is, and we utilize it. But our time with it has to be realigned to help us meet our goals.

Each homeschool is unique. Some families like to create a "school at home" environment that essentially replicates a public school approach in their home (not us). Others register their kids in online courses. Still others hire tutors, or enroll kids part-time or full-time in charter schools, private schools, or homeschool co-ops. Educational methodologies abound. In recent decades, curriculum providers have connected with homeschoolers in an unprecedented way, and fostered an expansive community of  independent education resources. We subscribe to an eclectic approach, relying mainly on TJEd/Leadership Education principles, with some Charlotte Mason and Unschooling threads woven in. All are elements of a tapestry that we are weaving, the core design being centered around our beliefs as active members of the LDS Church.

For this year here is a daily schedule that represents what our ideal day looks like at home. Granted, the ideal doesn't happen every day. But the framework keeps us on course, and centers us on what we are striving for. I generally don't tie us down to a specific hour for each item, but focus on the tasks to be done.

Get up early ( 0700 hours is early enough).
Meet as a family for devotional: Scriptures, Hymn Singing, Family Prayer
Get dressed, brush teeth, straighten personal space.
Morning Chores: make bed, housekeeping, yard work, etc.
Kidschool: Mom shares with/teaches the kids about something that she loves.

AM Learning Block (approx. 0900-1300 hours):
Mandatory reading time, personal or aloud with Mom, oral discussion or written responses.
Mid-morning snack (approx. 1030 hours).
Personal choice of learning activities including but not limited to:
math, printing/handwriting, personal journaling, scripture study, piano practice, yard work, science experiments, educational toys, online classwork or independent study 
(i.e. keyboarding practice, coding program), math work, dramatic play, letter-writing, cooking, art, painting, collage, couponing, budgeting, family projects (i.e. archiving family photos), park day (Fridays), field trip (Friday), nature journaling, physical exercise.

PM Block (approx. 1400-1500 hours): 
Mandatory P.E. time, then Free Time.
Late Afternoon Snack (approx. 1630 hours).
Optional screen time available (approx. 1600-1800 hours), dependent upon completion of daily homeschool schedule and family responsibilities. 

Mandatory nightly read aloud time with Dad (MWF) approx. 1930 hours).
Mandatory nightly math time with Dad (TTHSat approx. 1930 hours

Substitute Mom on nights Dad works late.
Evening Clean-up, Showers, PJ's, Brush Teeth, Bedtime (approx. 2030 hours).

Here are some of the activities we've been doing in recent weeks. And I have to say I am proud of my husband and kids for working hard to support our new lifestyle. It has been a source of great joy to me, the way everyone has come together to create a more loving and better-functioning home for all of us.  

In the following photos we are all cooperating with Big B's expressed wish to play "Jungle Safari" with him. He was in charge of the whole production, telling the rest of us where to go, what to do, which animals were "bad"that we could hunt, which animals were "good" that we could only take pictures of, etc.  It kept us busy for a full half-hour, and made our 6-year-old feel important. He is very into dramatic play lately.

Baby Blues did NOT want to part with his pillow pets to be made into jungle animals. He eventually shared them with us, but only after he made clear that HE was in charge of where and what they would be.




Poison dart Frog

 Our own African art piece which hangs in the front room, courtesy of Daddy

 Library Day! One of our favorite activities.

 Mommy's rendition of a tractor, found in a draw-your-own vehicles book.
 Freckles embellished his truck with some of his favorite math problems. :) He is his father's son.

 Free admission to the Hogle Zoo on the last Wednesday of each winter month. 
Daddy even took half a day off from work to join us! It was cold, but sunny.

 Do you have the arm span of a gorilla? We don't, unless you put the three of us together!

 Rosy Cheeks!

Bald Eagles

Polar Bear

 Brown Bear

Lunch time for the giraffes

Lizard-looking thingy, I forgot the name.

Sleeping porcupines

 Sparkle just learned how to sew on buttons. 

 Practicing on her butterfly wings

Daddy's Birthday dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's house. 

Freckles is always looking for ways to earn some extra cash.
On this particular day we were clearing out our garden boxes. An old greenhouse casing was left around the boxes by the previous owners, and was a nuisance every time we went out to weed. So we struck up a deal that Freckles could earn a dime for every screw he managed to remove. They were deeply embedded in the wood frames, so it was a lot harder than it looked at first. He managed about 36 screws before he was done. With about 100 more screws in place, he will have plenty to keep him busy next time he needs some bucks.

 Big B and Baby Blues wanted to try Sparkle's guitar.
Time to brush up on my rudimentary strumming skills!

Baby Blues' favorite spot in the kitchen. Right up on the counter,
where he can supervise the baking process.

 Eating warm chocolate chip cookies. There really is nothing better.

 Catching the first wild winds of March with a butterfly kite.

 Dash, in his element.

Baby Blues in his element

Big B who has no set element at this point, preferring to flit 
from one pursuit to the next, usually fifty times a day!

Sparkle's favorite dress-up item, my Senior Ball dress from IHS back in 1991. 

Probably my very favorite dressy dress from my youth. 
Sparkle definitely in her element, her mother's daughter!

Saturday morning, and how Mommy loves to see her kids clean their bedrooms! 

Cleaned the guest room too. Sometimes this doubles as Freckles' room. Baby Blues holding a pose.

 At the end of weekend chores, it is Netflix time.

 Baby Blues, all potty-trained!! The first time in thirteen years that I have not had to buy diapers. Hallelujah. 

 Park Day!!! At the Lone Peak Skate Park in Sandy, Utah
 Big B cannot let any dog owner walk by without almost accosting him in his desire to pet the doggy. A beautiful Alaskan Husky, this is breed I haven't seen in a long time! Luckily he is patient with little hands.

 Rolling down the hill. Mommy even did it too, a couple of times. 
We love the Jordan River Temple, 1/2 mile west of our new home.

 Grandpa Alfred and Sparkle. 
Every year Grandma JoAnn takes her grandkids to get ice cream for their birthday. 

This year we decided to go all at one time. Four out of our five kids have winter birthdays, so it works out.

Grandma and Grandpa :). We love you!! By the way, they are celebrating 50 years of marriage this June!
Dash setting the table for Sunday dinner. 

Sparkle made the dessert, sugar cookie bars with Spring-colored icing. Lifted the idea from Pinterest.

 Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013

Today for Easter, I launched my first attempt at baking my mom's famous rolls. For many years, not a major holiday could pass without my mom's rolls for the dinner. One time for a church event she made a crazy huge amount that took her days to make, I'm certain. It was harder than I thought it would be, but they turned out pretty good. A touch denser than ideal, but yummy nonetheless. We will be practicing in future, and hopefully get the hang of it soon. Thanks Mom for the recipe!!

 Helping hands make the work more fun! 

 No description needed. :)

 Mystery hand prints

 The finished product. Hot and buttery, YUM!

 Instead of dying eggs, we pulled out the baking soda to make rainbow volcanoes. Way more fun!!

At first they used a dropper, but it didn't elicit spectacular results.  So they decided to start tossing spoonfuls of colored vinegar into the pan until it performed better.  Also lifted off Pinterest :).

Homeschool P.E.! 

New jump ropes!

Love our big driveway when it isn't covered in snow!!! Luckily it is south-facing, so it melts off fast.

Sparkle got ambitious and read all of her Rainbow Magic books in one day.