Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Just what I need -- another addictive time-waster! :)

I just found a link to this geography version of Tetris:


If I'm not careful I could picture myself spending a lot of time there ....

A nice full day

I'm not sure what happened yesterday -- and I'm afraid it might not ever happen again! -- but I had an unusual burst of energy and we had a great day and got all kinds of things done.

Rachael and I had a "piano lesson" before Rebecca woke up. She learned a piece out of the Faber Primer and we did the duet. Later in the day she was playing the same song and singing the words with it.

Rebecca and I worked together on an Usborne Math Sticker book.

Rachael played with Legos before we left to go to a homeschool Lego Club, and then Rebecca played with Legos after we got home. Interestingly, neither girl touched a Lego while we were actually at the Lego Club.

I read to both girls a chapter from the Fairy Realm series, and a chapter from a Junie B Jones book.

At the Lego Club, the girls did crafts while the boys did Legos. (That was not the rule or anything; just what the kids chose to do.)

Rebecca made a few construction paper "prize ribbons" and Rachael made the front and back cover for a book called .... Tinkerbell and Friends? Something like that. After the Lego/craft time, we had lunch together and kids played outside for a while. It was fun; it was our first time, and we'll hopefully do it again.

On the way home, Rachael really really wanted her own Bible, so we stopped at Family Christian and got her one. She was very excited about it. We were lucky to find a pink Princess Bible that came with fabric markers, and when we got home she colored in the picture. Wow ... I never knew a Princess Bible was an option when I was a kid! :)

The girls dug for earthworms outside in the afternoon. Rebecca said they found two.

I feel like I'm forgetting something, but maybe that's it. I did a load of laundry as well.

I know I didn't mention Benjamin at all ... he just kind of goes along with what we're doing, entertaining himself with something. Lately he's learned to get the carton of half and half from the fridge, open it and drink it, and I swear he says, "Mmm, good!"

Yes, you'll be making a note not to drink coffee at our house. Actually, we use the half and half to put in our oatmeal, so you might not want to eat oatmeal here either.

Ooh, this makes shopping much quicker!

If you don't already know this ... I've recently discovered you can call the Publix deli and place your order, then just walk in and pick it up.

Much easier and quicker than taking a number, waiting your turn, having them slice one thing, having them slice the next thing, and so on.

Girls' Shopping Lists

Rachael and Rebecca both sat at the kitchen table yesterday and made up a list for the next time I go to Publix. I didn't ask them to do it, and I didn't tell them what we needed.

Here's a few things on Rebecca's list:

PUFFES (what she calls cheese puffs)

Rachael's list was a lot longer:

APPLE S. (meaning apple slices in a bag)
GRAP WINE ("I'm being helpful for Daddy," she explained)
TWIX (they had asked me what candy I liked, and that was my answer)

Well, I guess I'm off to go buy this stuff now! :)

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Girls' Birthday Party

Okay, good grief, the girls' birthday party was a month ago and I'm just getting around to posting pictures. My dad took over forty pictures, and good ones, so it was hard to narrow them down.

This was the first year we had a Combo Party for the girls, in-between their two birthdays (which are three weeks apart.) I felt torn between feeling like a Genius for doing it and feeling like a Dumbass because I didn't do it three years ago! :)

This is a really cute picture of Baby Benjamin going on a horse trip with our dear friend Karen.

Each girls got their own cake. (We had a lot of leftover cake; next year I'll order even smaller ones.)
They each picked a slightly different Fairy Cake. I think this one is Rebecca's.

This is just a cute picture of Rachael.

Here's the girls opening their gifts. They got Princess sticker books and a tea party set with a book, and a sew-your-own-doorknob-hanger, and an Illustory (make your own book), and some scrapbooking materials, and probably something I'm forgetting.

Two of the big hits were cards: one that plays a song from High School Musical when you open it ... and another one that plays Mr. Roboto, which for a while was Rachael's very favorite song!
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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tell Me a Fudge

The girls and I have been reading the Fudge books by Judy Blume.

In Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, it tells how little brother Fudge swallowed Peter's pet turtle, Dribble, and then their parents buy a dog for Peter, which he names "Turtle."

Then in Fudge-a-Mania, a slightly older Fudge dictates a book called Tell Me a Fudge. Chapter One is called "How Turtle Got His Name."

So Rachael decided to dictate her own version of Tell Me a Fudge. Here it is:


Tell Me a Fudge - by Rachael, age seven

Chapter One - How Turtle Got His Name

Peter was going to check his turtle as usual when he got home from schoo. But oh no, oh no! The latch was unlocked, and there was a chair slammed of the door. Peter almost tripped over the chair. But when he got in his room and looked in Dribble's bowl, Dribble wasn't there.

He ran out of his room and into the kitchen, where Fudge was slamming pots and pans together, and where mother was stirring something.

"Where's Dribble?" Peter said.

"Where's who?" said mother, trying to get her voice over the pots and pans slamming together.

"Dribble!" said Peter.

"Oh! Dribble!" said mother. "Well, I'll have to look around the bedrooms and closets. I hope he's not wandering around somewhere that somebody can't find him. You know how much I don't like his smell."

After mother was gone, Fudge started slamming pots and pans together.

"Stop that racket! I can't hear anything!" said Peter.

Peter went over tho Fudge. "Did you take Dribble?" he asked.

Fudge didn't say anything.

"Just tell me. I won't be mad," said Peter.

"In tummy," Fudge said.

"Whose tummy?" said Peter.

"This one!" said Fudge, rubbing his tummy.

"Okay, how did it get there?" said Peter, playing along with Fudge's game.

Fudge jumped up. "I ate him, ate him, ate him!" he sang.

When mother got back to the kitchen, she said, "I've looked everywhere -- in the halls and in the bathrooms and --

"Mom! How could you let him?"

"Let who do what?"

"Let him eat him!" Peter said.

"Let who eat what?" said his mom.

"Let Fudge eat Dribble!" said Peter.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rachael continues to read

It's really interesting to me to see how Rachael's learning to read.

We got an audio disc of Junie B, First Grader: Toothless Wonder and Rachael has been listening to it every day.

Then she asked me to get the book itself, and we went to pick it up today.

Rachael sat in the car and read it on the way home. And she sat at lunch when we got home and read it. And then she had to go to dance class. I think she had gotten to Chapter Three by that point.

Now, a lot of people would say, "Well yeah, but isn't that cheating? She's heard the story over and over, so she's not really reading!"

But to me that's what's so cool: it's like she's learning to read by going in the back door. Since she knows the words and the story and even the tone and rhythm, she's able to read it .... and then she learns all about words and spelling and phonics, instead of the other way around.

She also can read it the way a person would actually tell the story, which I think is huge, as opposed to that halted, stammering, robotic way that a lot of people much older than her often sound like when they're reading.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Move Over Rachael Ray ... Here comes Rebecca!

Rebecca informed us several weeks ago that when she gets big, she wants to have a job making food.

Rachael immediately asked, "Will you own a restaurant, or be on TV?"

"Both," Rebecca said simply. (Actually, it sounded like bowf.)

Saturday night Robert invited over an old friend from our wedding, Mike, and as luck would have it, I had ingredients in the house to make Sopapilla Cheescake, a new recipe my SIL had sent me ... um ... about a year and a half ago.

So Rebecca and I had a reason to go ahead and make it!

And it was gooood ... it was one of those foods that, if you don't go into a Sugar Coma or have a heart attack on the spot while eating it ... well, it's gooood ...

As we were all eating, Rebecca smiled, looked around the kitchen table, and announced, "You're welcome, everyone, for the food!"

Homeschooled kids and Socialization

About ten years ago, when homeschooling was newer and more rare (at least it seemed so to me), and before I kids, I worked at a public school and was having lunch with the other music teachers.

One of the teachers (who had schooled kids of her own) said, "My sisters' kids are homeschooled, and they're very socially backward children."

"How so?" I asked, always the journalist in conversations like this.

"They can't handle any kind of difficulty or problems; they just fall apart if the least thing goes wrong."

One of the other teachers (who also had a schooled child) nodded and said, "My neighbor's son is homeschooled. He's fourteen and doesn't have any friends his age. In the afternoons he comes over and plays with my son, who's only ten."


Here's a few thoughts I now have about that conversation:

1) If, in fact, a child "falls apart because they can't handle the slightest difficulty," maybe it's partly their personality. Maybe those kids were still very young. Maybe their parents are like that, and they're learning bad coping skills. Maybe their parents make them feel incapable.

Or ....

Maybe they're not different from other kids that age, but since they're homeschooled, people notice it at say, "Look! That kid's crying over spilled milk! It must be because they're homeschooled and can't handle anything!"

But it surely isn't because homeschooling=no difficulty or challenges in life. There are all kinds of opportunities in real life to have things go wrong and learn coping skills. You don't have to create them or go to school to find them.

2) I will admit, at the time, the idea of a fourteen year old boy having no one but a ten year old to ever hang out with did sound sad. But notice the assumptions we all made here: One, that coming over the neighbor's house was the only time the teenager saw other kids. Maybe he had great church friends on weekends, but they're busy (or live too far away) during the week. Maybe he went to a co-op, or was in a band, or had chess tournaments, or whatever, on a weekly basis.

Maybe he actually liked this ten year old child. Wouldn't that be a novel thing? Maybe they had common interests, even though they were different ages. Maybe the teenager was interested (whether consciously or not) or someday being a teacher, or a camp counselor or something, and the idea of being with somebody younger appealed to that part of him.


People Country Clubhouse

The girls are hard at work this morning, making a corner of their playroom into a clubhouse.

We recently read The Berenstain Bears and No Girls Allowed. The boy and girl cubs (who live in Bear Country) each made clubhouses with signs saying, "No Boys/Girls Allowed."

So the girls' signs say, "People Country Clubhouse. No Boys Allowed."

It's kind of funny, because the whole point of the story was how they shouldn't exclude other people that way.

What's also funny is that they are using the back, crummy corner of the playroom, where the ultilty shelves and vaccuum cleaner and everything is jammed.

Anyway, they've been loading it up with toys, pillows, and lot of signs. A few signs are about Recycling being good for the earth. I think they got that from another Berenstain Bears book. (Sad to say, they probably didn't get it from me, since recycling and "going green" is not one of my strengths in life ... which reminds me, I need to buy more paper plates.)

Benjamin hung out upstairs with me while I cleaned the refrigerator. I've noticed I refer to cleaning out my refrigerator often in this blog, and I was wondering why that it. I think it's because it's one of the few things I ever do that makes me feel accomplished.

[Oh wait, Rachael just came up and said the recycling stuff is from a Junie B. Jones book. One of their signs is a picture of Dan Dan the Soda Can, and the sign says RECYCLING MAKES SENSE. Just like in the book.]

Thursday, April 17, 2008

We almost looked like normal homeschoolers today!

This morning I was thinking we actually looked like a "normal," traditional homeschooling family. :)

I woke up (I slept later than usual and was very groggy this morning) and found Rachael sitting on the couch, reading The Berenstain Bears and No Girls Allowed out loud. She continued to read when I sat down next to her.

A couple times she hesitated on a word and I told her what it was. After I did this about three times, Rachael said very patiently, "Mom, sometimes I just get a little confused about where I am and just need a little more time."

She finished the entire book.

[Just for the sake of honest disclosure, she has heard this story about 5-6 times before.]

Stephanie will be so disappointed in me, but I looked up what Reading Level the book was. I couldn't find that exact title, but the BB series appear to be listed at a third grade level. (Rachael just turned seven a couple weeks ago.)

We all stayed in the kitchen after breakfast. (That's what normal homeschoolers often do, right?)

Rachael printed several coloring pages off the Internet from the movie "Enchanted" (with my help.) She put them in order, colored them, made a front and back cover out of pink construction paper, and trimmed another coloring page and taped it on the cover. Right now she's writing words to go with the pictures, while everybody watches "Wiggly Safari." (Ooh, and that's also like "normal homeschoolers," in that it's no TV til the afternoon, and "educational TV" ... ooh, and the kids are going to the zoo tomorrow, so we can say it's a Unit Study! I didn't even think of that!)

As Rachael was working on this (which of course was totally her own idea), she exclaimed, "I've got a big morning project today!"

Rebecca dug out a few maze books and a book called "Summer Skills" that has real colorful workbook pages that she likes a lot and worked on that in the kitchen as well, some with my help and some without.

[BTW, a lot of times people ask if unschoolers can, should, or do use workbooks. The best answer I've ever heard is: Yes, but we use them the same way you would a coloring book.]

Meanwhile Benjamin found a small rubber ball he was bouncing around in the kitchen, and he was pretty happy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rachael's Family Picture

It's always interesting to see how the girls come up with projects and assignments (although of course we would never actually call them that) that are more interesting that anything I would come up with.

This morning after breakfast, Rachael got a blank piece of paper and told me she was going to draw a family picture. I, being boring and of little originality, assumed she meant a drawing of our family, which seemed like a nice idea.

She gave me the paper and asked to me to write FAMILY PICTURE at the top "in block letters." I did the best I could.

Then Rachael made five squares on the paper and labeled them:

(which made me feel very Atticus Finch-like)

I thought it was interesting that Baby Ben didn't get a square, but Lammy, Rachael's stuffed animal, did. I guess Lammy can draw and Benjamin can't.

The square was for each person in the family to draw their own picture -- hence, a family picture. So Rachael drew a picture in the square with her name in it, I drew a picture in the square that said "Jen," and so on.

It is now hanging on the refrigerator, with only the "ROBRT" square still blank.

Monday, April 14, 2008

American Girl dolls!

Several weeks ago my parents took the girls to the American Girl doll store ....
oh, I'm sorry, I mean the American Girl Bistro and Boutique!

Rachael is above holding her Julie doll, which is the 1974 doll.

Rebecca picked Mia, which is the 2008 Doll of the Year (meaning you can only buy Mia and Mia Accessories in 2008, a clear marketing strategy.)

Mia had lost her skirt that day; we since found it.

And here's everybody!

The girls love these dolls! (Which is a darn good thing, since they are almost a hundred dollars each.)
I often hear them say, "Let's go play Mia and Julie!" and run in their room and shut the door.

Each doll comes with a book, but Rachael told me they don't care about that. "We like to make up our own stories about them," she told me.
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Sunny curly Rachael!

My dad took a bunch of great pictures at the girls' birthday party.
Here's Rachael in some sort of butterfly wings.

Deep in thought, reading one of her birthday cards while Griffin look on ...

My happy little girl!
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Here's some great pictures my dad took of Baby Benjamin.
What a cutie! :)

It's a good thing he's so cute, because he does drive us quite crazy sometimes.
He pushes a chair across the kitchen floor so he can climb in the sink ...
He busts through all the child-proofing stuff, opens any door that's not locked, opens the refrigerator ...
well, you get the picture.

We sure do love him though! :)
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Pretty Pretty Becca

My dad took some really great pictures at the girls' birthday party
(which I'll hopefully post more about later.)

Here's sweet Becca with her Doggie! :)

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This is why we homeschool

Well, not exactly, but it does help. :)

The girls made apple juice and orange juice popsicles and ate them out of the back porch.
(This was taken a few weeks ago.)

Most of the time, I really do think my kids have a pretty good life.

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Diane and Anna are our two older nieces. They are sisters, both in their early 20's, and both married. We got to see both of them in North Carolina over Easter weekend. (Yes, I know I'm quite behind.)

We watched some old home movies of when they were little, and Diane, the younger one (on the left) looked almost exactly like Rebecca ... and she kind of acted like her too! We were all struck by that.

Anna and Diane colored eggs with Rachael and Rebecca on "Easter Eve," then had a Easter egg hunt set up for them the next morning. It was really neat to see the Big Girl Cousins doing something fun with the Little Girl Cousins.
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Friday, April 11, 2008

Babies Puzzles and Peanut Butter

This is a cute story, but I think there could actually be a deep lesson about learning and growing and developing here ....

When Rachael was about one and half to two, she called the library, "Babies puzzles." When we drove by it, she would yell, "Babies puzzles!" When she woke up from a nap, she would say, "Can we go to babies puzzles, Mommy? Please Mommy please?"

Well Robert and I thought that was so cute, we wanted it to last as long as possible, so we went out of our way to NEVER say the word library, to her or to each other.

Well guess what? Before she turned three, she ALWAYS called it the library.

Rebecca did something similar when she was one or two, where she called butter "peanut butter."

ie: "I want peanut butter and bread" meant she wanted bread and butter.

We started calling it peanut butter too, almost without even realizing it.

That was a little different though, because Big Sister Rachael actually taught Rebecca which was which: "Rebecca, the yellow one is butter. The brown one is peanut butter."

Either way, like most things around here, I mostly stay out of the way and let learning happen. And both girls fully understand butter, peanut butter, and the library.

The Sweetest Card I Ever Got

For no apparent reason, Rachael brought me the sweetest card first thing yesterday morning. It has some artwork (mostly hearts), but here's what it says:



[Then the next page has artwork with hearts and a big red exclamation point and says]


[Next page]


[Drawing of the two of us]



Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Rachael's learning to read!

Rachael just turned seven this week.

It's interesting to watch how an unschooled child learns how to read. I often would show her "beginner books" that I thought she could probably read, but she almost always dismissed them. Even when she acted excited about wanting to read something herself, whenever I actually suggested it, she said she didn't want to.

Well, in the last few days, she has been reading Judy Blume's Superfudge. I think that's kind of interesting. Hop on Pop? No thanks. Something I actually enjoy? Sure!

Last night she read about two pages of it to me. She was in her top bunk, and I was down in the bottom. There were maybe about five words she had to spell for me and ask what they were. (I just tell her; I don't ask her to sound them out.)

Yes, I've read the book to her, and yes, she's also heard it on tape. So it's kinda like riding with training wheels.

I just think the whole thing is neat. She reads what she wants, when she wants, for as long as she wants. She gets the help she needs. And she is reading (albeit with help) a book that's listed at a 4.2 reading level, even though she has no daily reading or phonics lessons.