Friday, February 29, 2008

Our Current Chore Method

For some reason, our chore method isn’t working very well. Some of us are finding it difficult to “remember” to do our chores each day. Our method includes sheets on both the refrigerator and the kids’ bathroom door that show what chores the kids are expected to do each day. For a while we would keep track of the chores each of us did on Chore Wars, a really fun chore tracking website that gives points for chores. I was able to input the chores we do into the system and assign a point value for each chore. We were awarding the highest point earner of each week the privilege of choosing the dessert for Saturday. For some reason, dessert was not enough incentive to get the daily chores done. The current chore list is as follows:

The Miller’s Chore Chart

(completed by 8:30am)
get dressed
make bed
brush teeth
brush hair
feed and water dog

(completed by 3:30pm)
Everyday – walk dog
Monday – shake rugs
Tuesday – empty wastebaskets
Wednesday – put trashcan/recycle can away
Thursday – dust TV/bookshelves
Friday – help clean one bathroom
Saturday – help sort laundry
Sunday – wash windows/wipe doors

(completed by 6:30pm)
set table
help load dishwasher
wipe off table
help clear table
put out napkins
put recycles out

(completed by 8:00pm)
put jammies on
brush teeth
put clothes in hamper
lay out clothes

In A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion (which I will write more about in the near future), Diann Jeppson addresses family work. Neither a stay-at-home nor a working parent can do all of the work that is necessary to keep a household running on his or her own. Each family member must do his or her fair share. Mrs. Jeppson talks about a very visual chore “charting” method. I’m hoping that by employing this new method, my family will see that there are still chores to do and there will be less trouble with “forgetting” to do chores.

Check back soon for my version of Diann Jeppson’s family work system.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gotta Love Newborn Diapers

A friend of mine is the proud homeschooling mom to six girls. Yes, I said SIX girls. I'm sure she gets asked quite often, "So, were you trying for a boy?" But who wouldn't be happy with girls. I am one of four daughters and my parents never once seemed upset not to have a son. We all learned how to mow the grass and worked in the yard as well if not better than any boy.

Well, back to diapers. Being the mom of six, she has definitely seen her share of diapers. I only have three, and I know I've seen my fair share. Daughter #6 is very new to the family (I guess she's about 3 months old now), and in those wee first days, she, along will all newborns, blessed her mother with many a dirty diaper.

The question is, how do babies do it? No matter what kind of diaper, whether commercial or cloth, all babies bless us with one or more of these surprises, sometimes not even dirtying the diaper, making the process a real mystery.

I am now towards the end of my diapering years. Jensen is starting to examine the potty with much enthusiasm. We are not "potty pushers." He'll be potty trained when he is darn ready. As my mom always says, "They won't be going to college in diapers." Ain't that the truth!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Vegetable Politics

Though I am not a lover of politics, my husband is. To him, political season is like football season to most. Each debate is savored, each political analysis relished. It is no surprise, then, that my children have picked up on some of the political dialog going on in our house during this time of the year.

Yesterday, during our Saturday “down time,” the kids were running around the house saying silly phrases and one of them said Celery Clinton. Well, this opened up a flood of ideas. Could each of the possible presidential nominees have a veggie-related name?

Over dinner tonight, we were able to come up with names for the other possible nominees…while rolling on the floor laughing, of course.

Celery Clinton
Broccoli Obama
John McBean
Ralph Tater

The kids then spent the rest of the night running around the house, taking turns being Celery Clinton and Broccoli Obama, John McBean and Ralph Tater. They don’t know much about politics as of yet, but we hope that by exposing them to different schools of thought and differing opinions that they will be better citizens someday because of it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Why We Homeschool

Why do we homeschool, you ask?

For many reasons.

We homeschool so that we are able to...

Preserve a strong family unit.
Maintain continuity with schooling.
School when it is most convenient for us.
Provide the kids a one-on-one learning environment.
Tailor the kids’ studies to their individual learning styles.
Encourage the kids in a secular and philosophical environment.
Allow the kids to pursue their academic and personal interests thoroughly.

The background information...

When Jake was three, we enrolled him in preschool at the church we were attending at the time. Being nervous about my then only child being left alone, I spent many a morning watching him from the Director’s office window. While all of the kids would be sitting quietly in a circle for circle time, Jake would be off in the corner playing with blocks. He was well ahead of many of the kids in the class, knowing all of his letters, numbers, colors, etc. He enjoyed spending time with the other kids, but just didn’t want to sit still long enough to do many of the class activities. The Director’s son called Jake “Tigger” because he always seemed to be bouncing. I was concerned that Jake's "boy energy" would be perceived at ADHD, giving him a label that could last a lifetime.

When Jake was about four, he was diagnosed with Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome. Just before his second birthday he was hospitalized for dehydration associated with violent vomiting, approximately 10-15 times per hour. Following the hospitalization, he would have episodes approximately every six week or so, with the same violent vomiting and extreme lethargy. After seeing several different doctors who all said that he just had stomach viruses (although no one else in the family was ever sick) an older Army doctor suggested CVS. I immediately went home to find out more about CVS and was shocked with the accuracy of the textbook symptoms and Jake’s episodes. My research on CVS showed that the increased stress of a military lifestyle, and the associated moves and frequent school changes, might aggravate this stress related condition.

While Justin was deployed for his “record breaking” deployment, we became very close with some friends we had met at the church we were attending. These friends took care of me while Justin was gone, opening up their home to Jakob, Jolie and me on a weekly basis, having us over for dinner every Friday night and inviting Jake over at least once a week to give me some down time with Jolie right after she was born. This family has four daughters, who have been homeschooled from the beginning. These girls gave me my first glimpse into homeschooling, and I liked what I saw. We went with the girls on several occasions to their “enrichment” classes, held at a local school that had been turned over to homeschooling families to hold classes throughout the week. One of the classes asked Justin to speak about his experiences in the military after he got back from his deployment. He was impressed by the maturity of the kids he spoke with. We were both then shown some of the activities that the youngest daughter (about 8 yrs old at the time) was engaged in. She spent her time building Lego structures and creating claymation. We were amazed by her elaborate designs and knowledge of advanced computer skills. I asked my friend what her motivators were to homeschool her girls and read many of the books she suggested, fueling my homeschooling fire.

During one of my final psychology courses, I did some research into homeschooling, and learned all I could about curricula, homeschooling methods, and learning styles. At the conclusion of the class, I decided that I would like to homeschool the kids. Justin was a bit reluctant, and asked that we have a “trial” period during what would have been Jake’s second year of preschool, after we made our next military move. Jake did exceptionally well, working well above grade level and impressed both Justin and me.

We decided that homeschooling was the best educational plan for our family, and haven’t looked back.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Junior First Lego League Expo

During the summer, some local families showed interest in setting up teams for the Junior version of First Lego League. The Junior First Lego League (JFLL) was established for 6-9 year olds to participate in a scaled-down challenge that is presented annually to the 9-14 year old First Lego League participants.

Since Jake lives for Legos, we decided that it was just the activity for him to participate in. We met some other regional homeschooling families at a park, divided into local teams and got to work. This year’s challenge was Power Puzzle. The kids were to learn about the types of energy used in the facility we met in and then design and build a model of the meeting place, in our case, the library. The kids then chose to demonstrate the different types of simple machines found in the library and incorporated them into the model, along with a motorized car to go through the drive-through book drop.

Our family had a blast participating in the challenge and expo. If we are unable to find an established team in our next town, then I may have to step up and be a JFLL coach to a group of Lego-hungry kids.

Here are some photos of our presentation taken at the expo.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Natural Sugars

During the fall, a friend of ours mentioned that they used honey as their primary means of sweetening their foods, especially homemade breads. They have set up a bee hive and hope to have some honey for harvest in late summer/early fall. We recently asked for some advice about how to use honey in recipes, specifically the ratio of honey to sugar. The ratio in small quantities (under a half cup) is 1 to 1. In larger quantities, one has to take into consideration the liquid content of the honey, and adjust the recipe accordingly, decreasing the honey to sugar ratio.

After gaining this knowledge, I was excited by the idea of utilizing a more natural sweetener and decided to check it out.

According to the National Honey Board, “Research has shown that unlike most other sweeteners, honey contains small amounts of a wide array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. Honey, a rich source of carbohydrates, provides a quick source of energy. Honey's unique composition makes it an effective antimicrobial agent, useful for treating minor burns and scrapes, and for aiding the treatment of sore throats and other bacterial infections.”

Another natural option offered by our friends was sucanat. Sucanat is the most natural form of sugar. This natural sweetener is derived from the juice squeezed from sugar cane that is then evaporated, removing the water, and leaving sucanat. No additional refining is necessary. Sucanat has a light molasses flavor and is decribed as a great substitute for brown sugar.

Sugar, on the other hand, is a “refined” sugar, going through several steps resulting in the white table sugar many of us have become accustomed to.

I am hoping to use more honey and experiment with sucanat as alternative means of sweetening the homemade foods I make for my family. There are several online distributors of raw honey and sucanat that I hope to look into in the near future.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Schedule...Day 1

So, I’m sure you are wondering how the new schedule is going. Well…because I like things to be fairly regimented, I decided to start the schedule “officially” yesterday, at the beginning of a new week. I got off to a rather rocky start, sleeping in until 8am. The alarm did go off at 6am, but after looking at the numbers blearily, realizing that I had only had about six hours of sleep after my adventure with Jake to the Barack Obama rally Sunday night, I decided to grab a bit more shut-eye. Once I did get up, I went ahead and got to work, but didn’t really get into a groove.

I decided to give the kids the week off of school so that I can get into the new routing without the distraction of school work.

I was pleased to get up without much difficulty this morning at 6am, got my exercise gear on and rode the bike for 25 minutes. I was showered, dressed and makeup-ed, and had my email checked before waking Jensen (the other two were already awake). The kids got their morning chores done with our much hassle, giving me time to make a nice breakfast (sausage, over-easy eggs, grits and English muffins). We had our first family meeting today at the breakfast table, discussing what we were each going to do to expand our brains today and establishing who was going to do specific chores around the house. I read aloud to the kids for an hour and a half. Jensen went down for a nap fairly well, giving me time to read, clean the fish tank and watch a political documentary with Justin (which I did mention to him was not on my schedule). Dinner went well (red beans and rice, double corn corn bread and green beans), providing some nice conversations. The kids did their kitchen chores without delay, allowing Justin and I to talk for a few minutes before I did the dishes (Justin would usually do the dishes, but did I mention that he is recovering from bilateral hernia surgery?). We had a family dance session to Linkin Park, with baths and showers interspersed around the dancing. I discovered some messy bedrooms, which is a continuing problem at our house that will be addressed another night. Then it was bedtime, and all was quiet…

Well, not really quiet. The older two went to bed fairly well. We are trying to transition Jensen into the twin bed and out of the crib. About a week ago, he kept coming down the stairs to greet Justin and me while we were trying to relax. Not understanding how he was getting out without the help of his older brother, I stood in the dark hallway and watched him scale the side of the crib, up the end of the bunk beds, which were touching the crib, and climb down the bunk bed ladder. I decided that the crib need to be moved the next morning, and yet again the next night he was happily toddling down the stairs to greet us with successful smiles. I decided that I might be time to make the transition to the “big boy” bed, although I was hoping to wait to make the transition until we moved. Neither of the other two climbed out of the crib. We moved Jake to the big bed during after a move across the country and moved Jolie after she refused to sleep in the crib any longer. Jensen just seems to be blazing a different path, which is what we love about him. Yesterday was rocking, resulting in the ultimate transfer back to the crib. After minimal rebellion tonight, he succumbed to the comfy pillow of the big boy bed. We’ll see whether or not we see his smiling face at some odd hour tonight. Hopefully he will make the transition easily.

Tomorrow is another day, and we will continue working on the schedule. I found a few areas today that might need some work. I’ll finish up the week and make some tweaking before next Monday.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Establishing a Routine

I have found that I am a creature of routine. Without a routine, I am lost. I have tried in the past to keep a routine, but for some reason since we made our last move across the country, whether it was because of volunteer responsibilities, outside homeschooling commitments, or just that life got in the way, my usually scheduled life fell by the wayside.

After two years of semi-controlled chaos, I have decided the reinstate a routine for myself. I am hoping that by getting myself back into a routine, the rest of the family will follow suit.

I'm sure this schedule will go through some changes as I work out all the kinks, but here is a start.

Daily Schedule

Wake up; Make bed; Brush teeth
Exercise (bike/yoga/weights/run)
Shower; Get dressed; Makeup
Wake kids; Start breakfast
Family Breakfast; clean up
Family meeting, assign chores
Review daily schoolwork with kids
Check email
Snack time
Read aloud to kids
Oral lessons (mind benders/grammar/etc.)
Zone cleaning
Family Lunch; clean up
Focused teaching (history/science/etc.)
Silent reading
Snack time
Check email
Basic cleaning
Start dinner
Family dinner; clean up
Kids’ bath/shower time; family game
Read aloud to kids
Kids head to bed
Head to bed

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Laptop Troubles

Today is the first day in at least six months that my laptop, which I got as a birthday gift from my parents last year, has not kicked me off the wireless router after just 15 minutes of surfing online. Sometime last summer, the laptop just wouldn't stay connected to the Internet for very long, which is very annoying, especially when my husband was working on his Master's courses and I wanted to be working online in the same room with him.

Luckily Dad is in town this week and has managed to reset the router (which I did do but for some reason didn't work) and reconfigure my laptop setting (which I didn't do because I didn't want to screw anything up), giving me a new and improved, well a newly working, laptop. Thanks, Dad.

Hot Chocolate

We got this forwarded email from a friend the other day. I liked it so much I thought I would share. Really makes one think...

Hot chocolate...

A group of graduates, well-established in their careers, were talking at a reunion and decided to go visit their old university professor, now retired.

During their visit, the conversation turned to complaints about stress in their work and lives.

Offering his guests hot chocolate, the professor went into the kitchen and returned with a large pot of hot chocolate and an assortment of cups - porcelain, glass, crystal, some plain-looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the hot chocolate.

When they all had a cup of hot chocolate in hand, the professor said, "Notice that all the nice-looking, expensive cups were taken, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. The cup that you're drinking from adds nothing to the quality of the hot chocolate. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was hot chocolate, not the cup; but you consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eyeing one another's cups.

"Now consider this: Life is the hot chocolate - your job, money, and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life. The cup you have neither defines nor changes the quality of life you have. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the hot chocolate God has provided us. God makes the hot chocolate, man chooses the cups. The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything that they have."

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. And enjoy your hot chocolate...