Friday, March 29, 2013

Teaching the Value of Working Together

Gearing up for Easter dinner this weekend I wanted to clean house today.  

The boys were kind enough to help-- moaning and complaining are helping right? 

I was up early and got a good portion of the upstairs cleaned while the boys slept and then I put away all the stuff for the geography fair so we would have a clean table to sit at for our Easter dinner.  
 


After breakfast I sent all the boys upstairs to get dressed, make their beds, and clean their rooms.  Ian and Alec had some laundry to fold and put away too.

 Ian went right to work, he folded all his clothes, dusted his room and then offered to take the mop from me and mop the hallway and stairs!

Alec was having a hard time folding all of his clothes and kept asking me to help.  I felt bad, but I said no.  I was busy cleaning and told him I would help him when I was done if he wasn't finished by then. 

Evan spent 20 minutes complaining that he doesn't like to clean or dust, but he eventually realized I was serious about him not leaving his room until it was cleaned so he finally dusted. 

I did help Alec fold a few of his clothes, mostly his socks, and then he dusted his room. 

We still had a bunch of toys bins in each of the boys rooms from when we babysat for my brother's kids last week and so we spent time this morning carrying them all down and putting toys away. 

While the boys worked on organizing the toys, I cleaned in another room and then handed them each a dust rag and/or the vacuum and they cleaned the whole playroom too.  

  • They learned that by working together they could get the job done faster
  • They learned to communicate with one another; what jobs had been done, which jobs still needed doing, etc
  • They worked to their strengths with Ian cleaning all the higher and harder to reach places while giving the jobs lower to the ground to Evan
I was pretty proud of them that the complaining was kept to a minimum.  Those few times they did complain, I offered to let them take a break from dusting or vacuuming and let them clean a toilet or sink and then they happily decided they'd rather dust or vacuum. 

      
Ian is working with this great grandfather again today and Alec and Evan asked if they could go to work too.


While I was OK with letting Alec try his hand at raking and picking up twigs with Ian, I didn't want to ask their great grandfather to watch all 3 of them.  I also knew Evan would quickly loose interest and not be much help.  So, with their grandfather's approval Alec and Ian set off for work with tons of lectures from me about working hard, earning the money they make and not fighting. 

I know all three boys really want to work so that they can have some spending money, let's face it, that's why most adults work.  How many people would continue at their jobs without a paycheck, right?  

So I was more than happy that Alec, who hates the outdoors, was willing to try real hard to earn some spending money.  

They both told me they'd try to come home with tired hands and blisters.  It was too funny.

 I hope they don't get blisters though.  That's what work gloves are for. 

I gently explained to Evan that while I realized he wanted to make money too that I think he's just to young and it would be to much work for G.G.  I told him that he could help out daddy when he goes raking and mowing and earn extra cash that way. 

I love that my boys want to work!  Perhaps they all have a better work ethic than I typically give them credit for.
       

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rainbow Stories & Tailoring our Schedules


It's amazing what a difference a little freedom to set your own schedule for your own family will make.   We are such a happier family now that the only one dictating our schedule is.. us!

We get to pick and choose which activities to fit into our day.  We decide what time we'll go to bed, what time we'll wake up and have gotten quite good at shifting things around when we want to make time for something that is important to us.



Our library had a special event called Rainbow Stories last night that my younger two sons wanted to attend.   Our library often hosts themed nights filled with fun activities and stories.

Our Children's librarians all dressed for rainbow night
During Rainbow stories the boys were able to:

  • Listen to Spring/rainbow stories
  • Make fruit loop necklaces
  • Paint with pudding
  • Sing songs
  • Get their faces painted
  • Decorate and eat graham crackers with colored frosting and sprinkles,  etc. 
 It was great.  

Evan was thrilled to run into one of his friends from school.  Alec was thrilled when everyone oohed and aahed over his pudding painting of the cheetah. 


Evan's painting came out looking like most of the other's with some blobs of paint here and there and dashes and lines where he just experimented with texture and color and I really wish I had brought a camera with me (these photos on the blog are from the librarian) because while his painting may not have looked like much to the casual observer, I was amazed at the story he told me his picture told.  

There was an orange dot to one side of the page that was the Magic Tree House and Jack and Annie were on the other side of the paper.  They had to make their way through all the dashes (which was a giant laser maze) in order to get back into the tree house safely.  They had been on a mission for Merlin trying to rescue him and they were all done but they had to fight their way through the maze in order to get into the house and get safely home.  It was a wonderful story!  

It was a great, free, family fun night!   

By the time we got home they all wanted a bit of time with Daddy, who will be working late for the next few nights and I couldn't say no!  

But I knew if they couldn't get up on time in the morning we could find time later in the day or on Friday to get our groceries done.  

Our schedule is usually pretty flexible and I just love that!
                      
The boys did get up in time so that we could get our groceries done before heading out to a homeschool gym day. 

I had the boys help me load up the car with a bunch of equipment.  We brought a Frisbee, a hula hoop, some balls, a bat, a soccer ball and other assorted toys to play with.  

We played at the gym for an hour running, batting, pitching, spinning in circles until we were dizzy and all the kids took turns spinning in a soft "drum/barrel."  They had a great time and worked off some of their energy.  I think they were bummed that only one other family showed up but they all played fairly nice together. 






We finished our Magic Tree House book on the way home and had some lunch while watching Liberty's Kids We the People.

After lunch the boys played outside and Alec toted his camera all around taking pictures of everyone and everything.

It was a nice, relaxing day and just what we needed after staying up late last night. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How Summer Jobs Build Up a Good Work Ethic

My oldest son has three jobs lines up for the spring and summer already!  He's a very hard worker and we've always encouraged him to work hard, take pride in his work, and do the best job he can.




He goes to work most weekends with my husband and father- in - law already but is now planning on going more regularly.  There's even talk of him working a few afternoons during the week, but we'll see.  For today, he went with his great grandfather to his house to help with raking and yard work.

My husband's grandparents have a large yard with lots of trees, flowers, and plants so he's going to help rake, weed, etc.  He was so excited to go too.

My son loves being outdoors and really enjoys activities like raking, shoveling, and digging; especially when he's going to get paid.

He's lined up a job mowing the lawn of his great great aunt that will start a bit later in the spring.

He'll go with my husband to mow and rake while my husband does the weed whacking and other jobs around her house and yard.  Ian can't wait.

I am so proud of him and his work ethic.  We're using these summer jobs to teach him responsibility.  Working for family allows him to test out his skills and learn what it means to work hard.

He can be lazy about his chores and helping out around the house but when I see him really working I know he has a wonderful ethic.  Normally, he has to turn over half of the money he earns to me to put in his savings bank since it seems to burn a hole in his pocket.

He has more money than most other kids his age but he spends it rather stupidly; paying his brothers $2.00 to play with him or even worse the time he paid them $20 to play with some play dough they were using!

As a family we've decided, for now,  to let that rule slide for a bit as he really wants to save up for his own brand- new four wheeler.  We searched on- line to get an idea of pricing and warned him it will take a long time to save up that much even with three jobs.

I hope he'll learn that it's better to save his money for something he really wants instead of wasting it.  I hope he'll see that it takes time and hard work to get the things we want in life.

The more he spends needlessly, the longer he'll have to wait for his four wheeler.

 It should be the best life lesson of all.   
       
He seems so young to me to be working so hard and I have a hard time letting him go and allowing him to do all of this.  I keep thinking he's too young to mow lawns and be out working, yet I couldn't hold him back.

He's extremely motivated and truly enjoys work.

I blame it on genetics; I married into a family, that I affectionately have dubbed, as "workaholics" and Ian definitely shares in that DNA.

Even at play they work; whether it be mowing lawns on an almost nightly basis, washing cars a few times a week, organizing tools, etc., they are incapable of sitting and relaxing (unless it's time to sleep!).

I just worry that he'll work so much and forget to play and have fun too.   But then I remember that when he plays he's digging holes, shoveling and raking so perhaps his jobs are just an extension of his play?  I don't know.

What I do know is that he's just a kid and childhood only comes along once.  I don't want him to have any regrets and I want him to have lots of fun.  He wants to do this so I guess I have to let him go.

Yet, I can't help thinking "where did my baby go?"  He's growing up so fast, I know one day I'll swear it went by in the blink of an eye.        

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Here Fishy Fishy! Enjoying our Day at the Aquarium

We had plans to head to the aquarium today.  Alec has been asking to get back down there and see the fish.



On the drive I got a text from my sister that she was heading down there with some of our old homeschooling pals from the southern end of the state that we haven't seen in quite a while.  I handed the phone to my oldest and asked him to text back that we were already on our way.  It was such a wonderful, unexpected bonus to be able to meet friends and family at the aquarium!

When we arrived the lady walked us through their membership benefits and my boys were overjoyed to hear that we could watch a 4-D movie for free and get a free cookie from the cafe-- another wonderful bonus!

We watched the beluga whales being fed, went to the ray tank to pet the rays, watched a 4- D movie called Earth from Pole to Pole then spent almost 30 minutes in the Titanic exhibit.


Alec pets a ray
Ian pets a ray
Evan pets a ray
Beluga whale feeding
Ian and Alec touch an "ice berg"
Playing inside the Titanic exhibit
Alec LOVED the touch screen computers inside Titanic
A very cool that the boys could walk on inside the Titanic
We went into the aquarium and went through the Amazon exhibit, the boys went from touch tank to touch tank and were able to feel or hold many marine animals including sand sharks, crabs, hermit crabs, shells, and the like.  

Learning all about the Amazon

Evan tries to make electricity


We saw a live baby shark still inside the mermaids purse moving around with it's placenta.  We watched the sharks, sea lions, jellyfish and sea horses.  

We met up with my sister and their cousins and our friends and we explored the Titanic exhibit a bit more, saw all the penguins, sea lions, a hurt harbor seal, and spent our time walking all around inside and out.  We covered the place multiple times but spent the most time at the touch tanks.  We watched the California Sea Lion show-- twice (by request of my kids)!  It was a great day.

Ian picks up a crab


Hermit crabs!



Babies inside the mermaid;s purse

Part of our group


Inside the Alvin submersible replica

Eating our free cookies!

The injured harbor seal

 
We got to see the Iguana walking all around
Petting the sharks


Sea lion show


Most of the kids in our gang today

Hanging out in the penguin exhibit
Loggerhead sea turtle

This penguin has a vest to keep warm


Back at the touch tanks
Evan digs right in this time


Our last sea lion show of the day
e were sad to leave, but we would never have been home for dinner if we stayed until closing.  We listened two more Magic Treehouse books:  Twister on Tuesday & Dinosaurs Before Dark on the way home and Ian came close to finishing his dot- to- dot page.  Everyone looked pretty tired and I made them all shower when we got home.  After having had their hands in sea water all day they had gotten their clothes pretty wet too and I figured it would be nice to get comfy in our pajama's and plan for an early bedtime.   

Monday, March 25, 2013

Back to School-- Well, A More Traditional Homeschool Approach Anyway

We are going back to a more traditional way of homeschooling rather than using the unschooling method, for now anyway.  I'm sure it could change at any point!

My oldest has been complaining that it's boring "just playing" all day and has been wanting me to plan lessons again or as he put it "when are you going to start teaching us stuff again?"  So, I spent part of my day yesterday writing up a rough outline of what I'd like to accomplish this week.



A huge part of why we jumped into unschooling was that the boys didn't appear to like anything I planned and I just couldn't take the complaining anymore.  However, after almost a month of unschooling they are complaining that they are bored all the time and they bicker and fight more just to have something to do.  I've decided if we're going to be plagued with complaints and fights anyway we might as well get some school stuff done too.
      
Today the older boys did a lesson in McRuffy for math.  Ian was a bit stumped at first, mostly because he didn't trust himself to remember how to do it all but he did.  Alec doesn't seem to like McRuffy at all and I think it's just not quite challenging enough for him so today I had him skip ahead about 4 lessons and we learned about 10's and 1's.  He seemed to enjoy it and had no problem adding two digit numbers at all, even though I've never really taught it to him.  We've also made a deal where they don't have to do ALL the problems.  If they pick half of them on a page and get them all correct they can skip the rest.  They love this idea; what better motivator than less work right?  I'm happy to say they both got them all right and math went pretty quickly because of it. 
      
Alec conducted his own science experiment.  He had some invisible ink he had gotten  a while ago and he wanted to see if he could get it to reappear after it disappeared by heating up using my hair dryer, like you can with some invisible inks.  He was hoping to write a secret message on his painting to his cousin. But even after using the hair dryer on high we couldn't get any color to show back up.  He was so bummed. 


While he was doing that Ian finished watching his Alaska movie called Alaska's inside passage.  He had watched a little over half of it a week ago and I wasn't sure if he was going to bother finishing it or not since it's all about the extreme southeastern tip of Alaska and he mostly is focusing on the Yukon region for his geography fair/report, but he assured me he did want to finish it and that it was very interesting. 
    
started reading James and the Giant Peach this morning.  My plan was to only read the first two chapters but they like it so much already that every time I tried to stop and put it down they begged me to read just one more chapter.  I finally stopped us on chapter 6!  This is one book I remember quite vividly from when I was a kid.  I always loved it and hoped that they would too.

I also decided to start working with Evan more regularly on reading.  I have been reading a lot of books that insist we sell our kids short in teaching them to read by giving them meaningless books with few words that are uninspiring.  So I decided to pull a book from his pile of library books and have him try reading No, David! with me.  We took a picture walk to predict what the story was about and then we tried reading it.  I helped when needed but for the most part tried to have him figure it out on his own.  It's such a fine line between challenging him and overwhelming him.  He complained through the whole thing but then when I pointed out to him at the end that he read most of it on his own he just beamed me a smile.  Hopefully, the more we do it the less he'll complain.

I don't want to force him to read but he loves books so much and I know once he starts to "get" it he'll just take off.  His favorite books are chapter books already!
    
Over the weekend Alec planted the pineapple top in the hopes of growing a bromiliad.  So far it looks good but I can't help thinking about the last time we tried this experiment.


For today I had Alec work on making a list of animals found in the rain forest. He got to type it up on the computer.  While using the computer was new and challenging he got quite a bit done.  He has so many animals listed we'll never be able to fit them all on his board so I told him to start thinking about which ones he wanted to have pictures of and which ones we'll keep as just words/lists. 

Evan really wanted to write that the capital of Florida was Tallahassee and since that's a fact that he not only remembered but really wanted on his board I had him write it.  He complained a bit at first, but worked so hard.  It came out great.


Ian had to wait for Alec to finish on the computer because he wanted to type up a list of jobs that people in the Alaskan wild have.  He talked about fur trapping, the kinds of animals they trap, fishing and all the different ways they catch fish, gold mining and a bit of the history too.  I taught him how to cut and paste and search for information on the Internet.

We headed out for our trampoline class.  Evan decided to try the class again this round and all three boys were extra excited today since their cousin was also starting the class today.  I think Evan forgot just how tiring it was to jump for two hours; even with frequent breaks throughout the class he almost fell asleep on the way to the library and science class. 
   
Today was the last mad science class and the boys were real hopeful it was going to be about water today.  It ended up being about the center of gravity so they were pretty bummed.  They weren't able to tell me all that much about the center of gravity either so I'm not entirely sure what they did for that hour but I do know they came home with this great experiment kit to practice finding the center of gravity.



     

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Evaluating Our Decision to Unschool

Today I decided to try making our own granola bars.  I've been toying with the idea of making more and more things from scratch and granola bars are one of those snacks that my boys eat on a daily basis.

While the boys did help me make the granola bars, I kept thinking we should be doing more school work.

I love that my boys are getting so handy around the house but I keep thinking of how Ian has asked me to start teaching them again and yet I never seem to get around to it anymore.

It's the mom guilt.  Isn't it awful?!

I love that it always pushes me to do better and try harder but sometimes I think it just might kill me.
It's so hard to find the perfect balance between housework, school work, fun & learning (to say nothing of "me" time!). 
   


Once again I'm looking very closely at the boys and what they do trying to find what they have learned.  

Well, imagine my surprise when Ian helped me make our granola bars and figured out how to double the recipe and measure it all out.  We needed 1 cup of oats but my 1 cup measure was dirty so he said "well if I double the recipe we need 2 cups of oats so I can just use 4 of the 1/2 cup measures right?"  He did this for every measurement; first doubled the amount and then checked to see which measuring tool to use; two 1/4 cups would equal 1/2 cup and so on.  We only dirtied 2 measuring cups and 2 measuring spoons so he did great with converting measures.

The granola bars came out looking and smelling delicious!  If you'd like to try your hand at making your own bars we used a variation of the recipe found on chocolatecoveredkatie.com or else check out my girlfriend's tried and true recipe at impermanentthoughts.  You'll find the recipes are remarkably similar (one uses butter the other used a combo of oil and applesauce).   I say we used a variation of the recipe because we didn't have oat flour (I used whole wheat flour), I used the honey, and brown sugar in place of Stevia.  Next time we're going to try cutting back on the honey and adding peanut butter since all my guys LOVE peanut butter granola bars.


While the bars were cooking Alec was quizzing the boys on all their sea animal facts (and learning new ones himself) using his interactive sea life.  


 I kept reminding myself all morning long that we had a homeschool game day planned for today and the boys would be playing all sorts of games; most of which require math, reading and other assorted school skills.

I think my boys have learned some of the most valuable skills they know playing board games.  They can:

  • add money 
  • make change
  • add up to (and even over) $1 million!
  • read 
  • problem solve
  • multiply
  • practice good sportsmanship


Today the boys played Amazon; a new puzzle/game I got Alec for his geography fair that he was just dying to play.  They also played memory, Star Wars Trouble, and Apples to Apples.  They played fun games like Ring Around the Rosy and Trainwreck.  It was great.  They had so much fun playing with their friends and Alec swears he learned that bats live in the Amazon since he never knew that.



Once game day was over we went to return some books and pick up ones we had ordered.  By the time we finally left the library I had a bag bursting with books!  They listened to a new Magic Tree House book on the car ride home called A Good Night for Ghosts.  We're learning about New Orleans and the birth of Jazz.


It's funny, but at playgroup today I was talking to a mom who loves teaching literature and history and I was telling her how we focus on math and science and that I just never seem to get around to teaching about history at all but in listening to the book it dawned on me just how many historical fiction books we read and how much we ARE learning about history!
     

Alec read his whole piranha book on the way home.  He wants to read about each of the animals in the rain forest before the geography fair but he's finding it hard to find books dedicated to each animal (he feels he learns more about each animal if he can read an entire book about just that one animal).  This one was called 20 Fun Facts about Piranhas.  Since he read most of it out loud to me I learned many new facts too!



Ian was reading a book called 20 Fun Facts about Sting Rays in which he became confused when the book said sting rays can be found in every ocean and then said that they live in warm water.  Off we went to look at our map... and had a wonderful, long discussion about geography! 


 I pointed out all the oceans labeled on the map and how they connect.  I then pointed out the Equator, the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.  We talked about warm waters and where they can extend to and I agreed that the book might have been wrong since sting rays probably aren't found in the arctic ocean.

We talked about why the tropics are so warm and how the sun rays shine on a round object/ globe.  We compared the flat map to the globe when Ian noticed the line drawn between Alaska and Russia.  He then challenged himself to find Connecticut on the globe and starting pointing out various states.  We pulled out the United States map and checked out the shape of some of the states.  They started pointing out and reading various names on the world map with Alec filling in trivia that he knew.  "The state bird of New Zealand is the Kiwi bird!"  It was great! 
  
Ian went out to play in the snow (yes, it's snowing again!) while Alec and Evan played with all the toys that were still out.  They pretended they were squids with tentacles (pool noodle arms) and they were catching their prey.  They pretended they were captains sailing boats on a journey across the sea (the kitchen) as they pushed out toy boats around.

Just listening to them play I hear them applying science, math and other "learned" concepts.  

  • "Evan I'll give you as many chances as you want below 5"  "Below 5?  How about 4 that's below 5!"  
  • "I need 5 tentacles though and we only have 3 so I need to cut one more pool noodle in half and that will give me 5, even though squid have 8 I'll pretend adult squid only have 5." 
I could sit and quote all day long if I really paid attention to their playing but I'll admit I often don't!  I don't want to interfere and sometimes it's hard to just watch and listen without making suggestions or letting them reason out a problem on their own when something crops up.
       
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