Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Update -- Life with 4


I was trying to finish Lily’s birth story this morning, and I took a break to go nurse her, and when I got back the computer had closed out my writing and not saved. I don’t even understand the way it saved what it saved, and the parts it didn’t save. It wasn’t in any expected way -- some of the story is there, some of it isn't.
So I’m bummed, cause it takes a while to write these days, and now I have to rewrite a lot of it. But that’s life.

Anyway, I thought instead I’d do a quick update.

We are doing great.
My hip is better after a few trips to the Chiropractor. Overall my body feels probably the best I’ve ever felt 6 weeks after giving birth. (Although TMI truth be told, I’m still dealing with hemorrhoids and those are less than ideal. But outside of that, I’m feeling really good.)
Lily is a happy, easy going baby. She’s starting to smile -- and it’s delightful.

The big kids all love her and are very good helpers.

We’ve been able to get school done fairly well so far.
I’m just starting to get the hang of adding cleaning back into life -- and that feels really nice.
But I am shocked at how much laundry there is anymore. Which is weird because Lily really doesn’t add much laundry yet. It’s kinda baffling. But I feel like I am ALWAYS doing laundry. (Because I am.)

The downside to life right now is a plumbing issue which lead to us taking the reading room ceiling off again.

And I wasn’t expecting that level of construction to be mixed into baby days. But again, that’s life. I was VERY overwhelmed by it initially. Like just so so disappointed, and down, and stressed, and upset with myself. But a week out from the ceiling coming down and I’m feeling a bit more centered. We get to address the design of this room again.
As well as the bathroom floors upstairs.

Which at first was just a huge part of the stress. But at this point I’m kinda looking forward to the new things to come. (Although still yet to be excited about the process.)

I’ve sold off a bit of stuff since that event -- clearing some more space in the house and trying to really figure out how to use this space for US -- and how we want to use it. I always feel so refreshed when taking out stuff that isn’t a fit anymore.

I added two plants to the house (in the kitchen and my bedroom) by splitting some of my bigger snake plant into new pots. I cannot even express how great that makes me feel. I didn’t know it would bring me so much peace and joy having some more living plants around. I’m also trying to root a few extra leaves in water -- we will see what happens.

I gotta get going back to my crew.

Just wanted to try and let you know I’m doing good and I’ll try to write the birth story again sometime. I hope.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Hi guys. I’ve been pretty quiet on here. 
     I think I’ve said this in numerous ways before, but I’m still working through all the hard things from the last few years. (My 3rd pregnancy’s physical and emotional challenges. The death of my grandpa, followed shortly by the death of my brother. And all the ways those events changed my life.)I needed some time to, very quietly, be myself. Some time to assess things. Some time to approve things. And I really, especially, needed to do that without explaining any of it. That’s just what I needed to heal.
     So I’ve not shared much online. And I’ve been very selective about what I share offline as well.     The process of giving myself that level of grace has been transformative. 
     During this quiet time, we’ve tackled a lot of projects. Both inside our house and outside in the yards. As well as in our lives.     And one of these projects definitely stands head over heels above the others. It’s a project I wasn’t sure I’d EVER tackle. And it took months and months to complete. But I’m pleased to reveal the results…

     At the beginning of August we added a very precious new family member. After 41 weeks of pregnancy (that thankfully were not as difficult as my third pregnancy, yet decidedly were more effortful than my first two) we welcomed a new daughter. On the blog I will call her Lily. (I like to keep my kids’ real names off the Blog for their privacy.) She was born 8 lbs 10oz, 21” long, healthy and strong.

      Last summer I embraced the idea that I really did want four kids, despite the fear of another pregnancy. Blake and I talked through the “what if’s”, made a few plans, and back up plans. And then chose to go for it.
     Feeling fairly sure this was our last pregnancy, I really wanted to respect it in best way possible for me. I decided I wanted as private a pregnancy as possible. No matter how it went, I didn’t feel like explaining anything to anyone. I didn’t want any opinions, good or bad. I didn’t want any additional concerns, besides my own. And after the last difficult pregnancy, and then the grieving period on the heels of that.... I didn’t have any additional energy to give to anything other than putting my feet where they needed to go. I wanted quiet space to just do that. In the past few years, the additional pressures of others’ feelings were bringing on panic attacks. I wasn’t able to healthily separate myself and I couldn’t figure out how to handle all those feelings at once. I knew that level of anxiety would physically affect my pregnancy and the baby. So we did not announce our pregnancy (online or off.)  And it allowed a healthy space for me and my baby to grow.
     Since the decision to get pregnant again was something we gave some time to, I was able to do some major prep work beforehand. I made doctors appointments to ensure I didn’t have anything underlying that could impact pregnancy for me. (Mainly wondering if there was something wrong last time to cause all that nausea. And also making sure all that nausea didn’t hurt anything. As well as just a general physical checkup after so much stress and grief.) I was given clean bills of health all around. 
     And so while that was in the works, we chose to complete the harder projects for me, in our house while we waited. (Mainly sewing the couch covers, and painting the kitchen cabinets.) And man, am I glad we did that!
     Then in the remaining time before nausea set in, I cooked up tons of meat and froze it in our deep freezer so it would be ready for the family when I wasn’t ready to deal.

     As I said, thankfully this pregnancy wasn’t as hard as my third. I did have extended nausea. I took Unisom throughout the whole thing to deal with it. But thankfully, about half way through my second trimester I started having chunks of time when the nausea paused for a bit of the day. And the difference in unrelentingly nausea vs getting breaks from it, made all the difference in my sanity.
     I also discovered ginger beer — (like root beer -- nonalcoholic) and unlike ginger ale, it’s made with real ginger. How it took till pregnancy number four for that is beyond me. (No idea how it would have been during my #3’s intensity level. My guess is less than impressive? But I’ll never know.)
     Having lived through pregnancy #3, and then being able to see Bronny and his outrageously lovable self walking around and snuggling me, definitely made it easier to keep perspective during hard days.

     But I found not documenting or sharing the pregnancy a huge relief. I didn’t have any additional processing to do besides just being there and doing it. And the pregnancy flowed faster without the constant countdown going.
     Then thankfully, by about halfway through the third trimester, nausea was only an occasional thing, instead of the norm.
     Energy was very hard to come by this time, likely due both to being older myself and having more kids to care for this time. But it all worked out just fine.
Everything kinda just started to blend into what it needed to be. 
      Near the end my nesting was strong! For this pregnancy our house is much more completed than last time. So I was doing the nitty gritty organizing stuff, and decorating details stuff, like a mad woman. And Blake is my hero for helping me whenever I asked. 
     I’ve never felt so at home in any of my adult homes. I was really able to harness my hormones and channel them into crafting just what I was aiming at. (Some of which was found by trail and error.)

     And finally little Lily arrived. I had a lot of Braxton-Hicks this pregnancy. So that last chunk of time was just as confusing as every end-of-my-pregnancies have been. But I was way more at peace with waiting around this time. It helps not being watched by the world and being able to kinda dissociate from the calendar a bit. But the fact that she showed up before 42 weeks (unlike my other three) will forever thrill me! (41+1 day counts as early for me!)

     Since her arrival I’ve been feeling really good. Her delivery was really smooth and I didn’t tear this time. Which is awesome! And I owe that to my midwife, because she very specifically helped during pushing to avoid some stuff that happened last time. 

     Unfortunately, I am struggling with some intense hip pain on one side. Lily had one hand on her face in utero (so long that she had her nose smashed to the side for about a week after birth) and it made that hip act up at the end of pregnancy. And then she left that hand there on her way out. So I think the uneven pressure on my pelvis during pushing is to blame for my hip pain. I’m seeing a chiropractor now and trying some stretches to try to work it out. It’s improving. But I have a ways to go to feel normal.
     But no matter what I went through, and continue to go through, I’m soooooo grateful to have this precious person in our family. 

     I’m so happy I chose to allow space for her instead of letting fear keep her out of our lives. It feels really nice to have so many pieces in place right now. We feel whole. We feel ready to grow into ourselves as a family.

     Lily is just the sweetest little person. We are all really enjoying getting to know her.

     And I do plan on writing her birth story when I get a chance.

     (Also sharing our kitchen which is actually finally done now. It just took a long time to get the details in place and now you know why.)

Love to you all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Your _____ Year Old Books

We are in the midst of our birthday season in our house.
I think in a way, this is like my own personal New Years. I’ve never done much reflecting or planning ahead as the calendar year flips over. It just didn’t seem like I was ever in that mode at that point. I think I used to use the school years' shifting for that type of reflective and planning space. And I guess that having summer babies fit right into that same schematic.

So I’m entering our new year over here.

And one thing I love doing around now is reading these books written by Louise Bates Ames.

I’ve mentioned them at least once on the blog, way back when I first came across them, five years ago. But as I was reserving the right ages for us this year (eight, six and three), at the Library today, I thought, “You know, these deserve their own blog post.” So I’m writing it.

Ames focused on stages in child development and wrote a book for each year of childhood, up until age nine, and then there is a book for 10-14 year olds.

I personally had no experience with children before becoming a mom (outside of my own childhood of course.) So I really wasn’t coming to the table with much. The discovery of these books is something I feel deeply grateful for. Had I not found these I would be SO MUCH more: lost, overwhelmed, worried, and exhausted. And I’d likely be inadvertently hurting my kids emotionally and developmentally, because I would not have had a clue about norms and therefore would have had unrealistic expectations for them.

I first found these when my oldest had somewhat recently turned three. And it was a GAME CHANGER. Oh how I wish I had found them earlier. I regret my lack of knowledge during her infancy (however I did have a few baby books and websites so I kinda felt like I knew what was going on), but I was LOST during her second year. That was a hard year for me I had just added our second daughter to the family, was getting NO sleep between the two of them, I was lacking in social support and I didn’t know what two year olds did. I was muddling through that year -- just blind and struggling. I didn’t know why she did anything she did. I didn’t want her to do a lot of it. And I was just not connecting with her at her level. That year we had some very confusing battles of will in which neither of us were coming out ahead.

I can honestly say that an ENORMOUS weight was lifted off me and our relationship once I just happened upon these books on the library shelf. 
They are written so well. And they give an excellent base to work from to year each. 

In my experience so far, they have been pretty spot on with each of my three kids at each age. Of course each of my kids have their own personalities and temperaments so it plays out uniquely. But what’s absolutely interesting to me is that each age has it’s own personality. (Hence those subtitles, Like “Your Two Year Old: Tender or Terrible” ) And actually, the younger years especially, have two different types of personality per year -- like a three year old will act very differently than a three and a half year old. (Oh man was that helpful knowledge because with my oldest it did change like over night and if I wasn’t expecting it I would have been very concerned.)

The books are set up to explain the ages uniqueness. I don’t have any in front of me right now so I can’t quite remember the layout. But it spells out tons of helpful things, like what they will be learning. How their focus will be either internal or external at that stage. It explains what are normal fears for that age. Normal stresses. Common interests. How they view the parents at that point and why. How they view other children. 
It’s just a ton of helpful information that helps normalize every day. It helped me let go of taking tons of things personally, and just open my hands (metaphorically speaking) and let them develop. It took away some of the mom guilt I was deep inside of. 

A couple examples of stuff that mattered to me:

I remember specifically in the three year old book it talking about how it can be very helpful for the mother to not be in the room when the three year old is eating. I cannot tell you how much of a blessing that was for me. We had just figured out food allergies so I didn’t know what I was doing in the kitchen, and she is a highly sensitive kid overall so she’s very picky about food and textures. And the food battles we had been having were awful. I felt so much guilt lift with that permission the book gave me, and it brought us so much peace. We had an open kitchen to our living room. So I would set her up with her plate and then go over to the couch with the baby, and she’d eat. It was like magic. And it was relaxing for both of us.

I also remember the book mentioning that three year olds love the word “surprise.” Oh my goodness was that ever true with her. (She actually stayed obsessed with it for about another year or so. Constantly “surprising” me EVERY time I walked by which of course could get on my last nerve, but at least I knew it was a normal kid thing and could remind myself that when I wanted to lose my mind.) But I also was able to use the word “surprise” in my favor - by saying things like "I wonder if you can surprise me by eating up your lunch while I’m not looking?” Oh the joy that would light up her eyes -- she was thrilled. It was so helpful.

So the book doesn’t give a lot of specific parenting techniques -- but it equips with concepts of where the kids are at at that point. Like in those examples above. Those types of examples are about as specific they ever get to giving you something you can do. The rest is just saying things like “At this age nightmares are not uncommon.” or what have you. And then you can adjust your sense of what to do accordingly.

At the end of the books they even have a tiny chapter on what they birthday parties might be planned like. (Things like how many kids they would do well with having come that year. How they might interact with each other. How long to make the party for their attention span. That kinda thing.)

These books were written in the early 80s. So they look dated in the photos. And occasionally read from another era. (But it’s my era -- so it’s an easy translation for me.) But realistically most of it reads timelessly. 

I can usually feel my need to pick one of these books up. It hits me the hardest with my oldest (since I don’t know what’s coming.) I can feel myself getting more and more baffled by what she’s doing and it makes me feel like I need to correct her a ton, I don’t feel in tune with her, and our relationship feels strained. If I don’t catch it, it just spirals down as we each get exhausted by this. When it dawns on me that it’s the fact that I don’t know what’s normal for her (or the other kids, if it’s kinda been lost in the back of my mind) right now, I get one of these books. Some times it’s a new year and I need new info. Sometimes it’s just time for a refresher. And I come out of it so much more equipped to be patient and understanding.

That said, I’m looking forward to these ages’ books getting check back in and reserved for me. I’ve been feeling that shift again.

Anyway, I was thinking how of all the things I’m happy about inside my parenting, these books are right up there at the top of the list. And I always recommend them.

And if you are curious---

Other than these age books, the two most influential books for me for parenting on the whole I wrote about here.
(And the age books mesh SO WELL into those two other books. The combo effect of them all together is just so empowering.)

As well as “The Highly Sensitive Child” (which is really only useful if you or your child is highly sensitive -- but if it applies then it’s REALLY helpful) -- which I wrote a bit about in this post.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Netflix's "Abstract: The Art of Design"

Last night I decided to try watching Netflix's Original "Abstract The Art Of Design." 
And being me, I skipped ahead to episode 8 which had the interior designer.

Have you watched it?

When thinking of anything to tell you about it--
I'm rendered either speechless, or just rambling incesently about how inspiring it is.
Ilse Crawford is....
I'm sitting here silently pondering what to say here...
Do I go over dramatic and say she's my new hero? 
Do I try to sincerely convey how inspiring she is?
 I'm honestly just  dumbstruck.
She spoke both words in my heart, and words my heart needed to hear.

If you have any inclination towards interior design, or if you enjoy hospitality, or if you feel strongly about your home or workplace being a haven....
Turn this on sometime.
You're in for a inspirational treat.

Blake watched it with me and was also very impressed.
He's not particularly into interiors, but he teaches design to his engineering students. So it was applicable in that regard.
Early in the show she says that "Empathy is key in design." I remarked how cool I think that is and Blake told me that's what they teach their students. 

The way she speaks of humanity is just so deep. Which is wonderful in this context  -- because often design is looked at as shallow. But it is anything but.

(I'm looking forward to to the whole series. But this one I'm definitely watching  again!
And I'm definitely looking into her books.)

Let me know if you've seen it...or when you do.
I'm dying to gush with someone over it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Summer Recipe

I've been in the mood for pasta salads. And recently I needed to make a gluten free side dish. So I decided to make a pasta salad, substituting rice for pasta. I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but honestly it's absolutely delicious. I think I like it more this way.
So I decided to spread the word.

This dish is, vegan, dairy free and gluten free. (And top 8 free)
It's less of a recipe and just more of a very versatile idea.
You can use any veggies you like. I used:
  • Broccoli 
  • Cherry tomatoes 
  • Bell pepper 
  • Onion 
  • Basil
Chop to desired size, toss together.
Add a can of rinsed canilini beans.
Cook two cups of dry rice according to directions and add when done. (I used my rice cooker.)

And I made a lemon and olive oil dressing to coat everything with. I didn't measure exactly but it was along these lines:
  • One lemon zested and juiced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1 clove of garlic minced 
  • Salt and pepper 
Mix together and pour over the salad and stir to coat.
Place in the fridge for a couple hours to chill.

The texture of the fresh veggies by the soft rice and creamy beans is so satisfying. And the lemon vinaigrette is so refreshing yet savory.
I haven't been able to get enough.

You can easily switch it up to lime or even orange dressing. Swap out the veggies for what you have on hand. I'm partial to the canilini beans for their mild flavor and texture, but it's another thing you can vary. As well as types of rice, or going back to pasta.
It's a great summer dish!
I highly recommend it.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Expanded Garden

Unrelated: Who watched the Royal Wedding?
Me and the girls woke up early to see it this morning.
1) I really enjoyed that special girl bonding time, it was really sweet.
2) That wedding knocked my socks off. Wow, so much absolute romance and amazingness. I'm a little love dunk right now.

Anyway. Here's our garden this year. 
After learning a few things last year I put my tomatoes in their own pots this year. I hadn't realized how big the got so they didn't allow for anything to grow next to them last year.
I went with one cherry tomato plant and one Roma tomato plant.

I found these obelisks at Farm and Fleet...I'm really happy to have found something size appropriate and lovely.

Next is my herb garden. Right now I have rosemary and basil from started plants. And I'm crossing my fingers for the seeds of l: Dill, purple basil, cilantro and flat parsley to sprout up some more.

Along the left of my trellis are pickling cucumbers. Along the right green beans (which I planted from seeds we harvested last year...feeling like a pro!) And carrots in front of that.

This year I'm giving the zucchini its own space and won't be killing it by stuffing it's leaves up into a trellis with novice inexperience.

I'm trying strawberries in baskets... so far some are hanging on...nigh have to buy more...

Over to the side I have some peppermint (I hear it's best contained so it doesn't take over.) And I need something to go in the empty pot.

We have more yard work planned but the garden is making me so happy! Plants are starting to be a big source of joy for me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

What We’ve Been Using For School This Year

Well guys, I’m getting stuff done around the house -- but in fits of starts and stops. So a couple things are close to reveal time. But not there yet.
I think once Blake wraps up his semester at work, we’ll finally get the finishing details on the kitchen crossed off and done.
And other than that I’ve been working on the garden. I added a couple things this year and so that’s the hold up on showing you. My extra pots aren’t in yet. (Well that, and I just stuck the seeds in the ground so it’s mostly still dirt with just a couple started plans in there. It might not be exciting to see yet.)
But man have I been LOVING planting! It took so long for spring to come this year, so I’m just reveling in it.
I’ve also been adding things to the flower bed in the front yard. A few spring bulbs and I’m trying out a few annual seeds in there….Fingers crossed that…1) they grow 2) they look right where I put them. I’m still learning. Either way I’m super excited!

But while you continue to patiently wait for me to show you anything of excitement around here. I thought I’d actually finish that post about the homeschool stuff we did this year.

If you don’t homeschool, you can of course skip this post. But there are a couple things you might still be interested in either way -- so whatever you think. 

It’s perhaps an odd time of year to write this post, as school is coming to a close for most. But that means I can give you a better take on how these things went for us. And if you homeschool, you can consider the info over the summer.

So here goes:

The cool thing about homeschool is how much you can adjust it to fit you. At first that can be VERY overwhelming because there are ENDLESS choices. And that can feel like drowning when you don’t know what you are doing.
When I was choosing kindergarten curriculum  for the first time I can’t tell you how much effort that took shifting through ALL THE CHOICES. There are so many styles and options inside each style. I read and read and read….And then what I picked, it turned out not to fit us that great. whomp whomp. It was ok, I still thought it was a good program. But it just didn’t fit us in the right places. (The math was too easy, and the reading was too hard. And the extras just didn’t feel like us -- or at least me.) (For other kids I’m sure it’s great.) But I suspect that is normal -- especially with a box curriculum. And it was a great jumping off point. It really did help clarify what we liked and didn’t like. (It didn’t happen overnight, but we kept adjusting course until it made sense.)

So the stuff I’m sharing today is stuff we’ve found for us. Some of it might inspire you, and some of it may totally NOT appeal to you or work for you.
And as always, some of it we might just swap out as we go along and change.

So that said let me start with the stuff you might life even if you’re not homeschooling. That way you can check out after that, if you want.

In my last blog post I shared about Artventure -- that’s a great tool, and totally usable outside of homeschool.

A friend pointed me to Sarah Mackenzie and her blog called Read-Aloud Revival.
She homeschools, but her blog’s platform is that in any life situation reading aloud to your kids is one of the best ways to form solid connections as a family and create good memories and prepare kids for success. (So this is for all families.)
She has A LOT of resources on her website, like a great free booklist to point you towards great choices to read with your kids. (There’s a link at the top of her homepage -- where it says: “Get the free booklist: Join 80,000+ subscribers”).
She’s got a new book coming out about why and how to read aloud to your kids.
She’s got a podcast. 
And tons of helpful blog posts.

We like to start out our homeschool day with the kids listening to me read to them. And per one of Sarah’s tips -- the best way I’ve found to get them excited about this is letting them use stickers (i can find some cool sticker booklets at the dollar store a lot of times -- and I’ll stock up) or color while I read. I used to think the only way for kids to hear a story is to sit still and listen -- and, well, that didn’t equal kids who wanted to listen. But I just didn’t know. Seeing Sarah explain it totally opened up my world and my kids too.

If you’re not homeschooling you might want to check out of the blog post now. But you can still hang out if you want. This history curriculum could very easily be added to your general read-aloud books if you like history.
We’ve been using Beautiful Feet Books - History Through Literature.

As someone who really admire’s the Charlotte Mason concept of homeschool (But isn’t a sticker about it.) I find the idea of history through literature ideal.
I base that on looking at my own self in school. When we would read our history texts books I would retain nothing, because it meant nothing to me, it was just dates and facts. (And I don’t retain numbers very well at all.) BUT in my texts books back then, about once a chapter there would be an extra little box -- inside they would speak in story form. And those boxes would transport me back in time, I found it so interesting, and I would remember it like glue and I loved it. (And usually that part was not on our tests! Go figure.)
As an adult, recently (in the past two years or so) I've fallen in love with history through literature. If I can see history as people, well then it’s just a sea of intrigue, and I just would love to know every bit of it. Honestly I crave it these days because I feel so enriched getting that kind insight. So I figure all that’s applicable to my kids as well. Humans are creatures made for stories.

Now, on a decision note: I found history to be the hardest thing to decide on. Many homeschool choices let history be the “spine” of the curriculum -- meaning you can teach different age ranges the same chunk of history at the same time (digging deeper as they get older) and so they let that kinda form the group portion of school and let it influence other parts of the schooling. So it felt like a big deal choosing where to start.
 I also live in a University town, surrounded by academic thinkers. So I can feel extra social pressure on all schooling fronts, but history has it’s own unique issues. I’ve seen and heard a lot of varying opinions on how to do history with kids. Some people are staunchly opposed to starting with US history, because they want their kids to think globally and know that the USA isn’t the center of the universe. Some people are wanting to make EXTREMELY certain that inside of American History we don’t white wash our national sins.
Both those concepts are lovely to me, and I totally agree.
When I had to sit down and deiced what I’m doing. I had to think about the hearts that live inside my house. And I will tell you, that my kids have sensitive souls. (Case in point, we accidentally read the one of additional" Little House On The Prairie” books, not written by Laura Ingalls Wilder,  where it talks about her baby brother dying. (Didn’t see that coming. Would have skipped that book.) My oldest cried the ENTIRE night. Wept.  And she needed to talk about it for something like two weeks, and then some.)
    History, is brutal. It just is. Humans have been awful to each other in so many ways. And my kids aren’t ready for how entirely brutal it is. And I’m ok with that emotional vulnerability right now. And I’m also ok with them learning history’s brutality when they are ready. We’ve touched on the starting points, but we haven’t dug in deep at 7 and 5 years old.
   So in my thinking, American History (while Definitely NOT perfect, at all) is less aggressively violent than more ancient history.  So that’s why I went with American History, despite the strong idea that global thinking is good.
   As far as not white washing goes. I’m doing my best. But I’m also not making that the focus of our lessons. We discuss wrongs when we see them. We try to read stories from the perspective of either side of fences we come across. And we talk about that in kid sized portions. But I’m also not trying to bog down their worlds. They are super loving kids, so focusing on hate is too much.
    I’m happy with what we’re doing for us.

I have been using Beautiful Feet’s Early American History Primary Pack.
However, I didn’t purchase this pack. I’m using the book list as a reading guide, by getting those books at the library. (And we’ve also added in other stuff I’ve noticed that looks good off the shelves when I’m getting things.)
I’ve had Blake get me a few of these harder to find book’s from the University’s Library -- which has been handy because some of the books aren’t the easiest to find.
I’m not using the study guide at all. Just reading the books and some times adding in extras when we are excited. And we’ve all been loving it. Jasmine says her favorite subject is history. And honestly it’s my favorite to teach.
     When we read Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Blanche (found a Free PDF book online) I learned so much. It was probably my favorite book choice off the list. When I was a kid, we pretty much: made pilgrim hats, learned they came to America, the end. But in reading this book we they started with their lives in England for a few chapters, we went with them to Amsterdam, and spent tons of time with them on their journey and getting accustomed to life in a new world. And along the way we did a lot of googling on the side. I honestly didn’t know anything about Amsterdam, so as we read about the streets made of waterways, the fields of tulips, the windmills, we googled. It was so fun.
To offset the story we added in a few books from the perspective of Squanto. The best one being "Squanto’s Journey.” (I didn’t know Squanto had been captured as a salve before returning home to America, and yet still helped the Pilgrams. Again -- wasn’t taught that stuff as a kid. But this book made it child comprehendible and emotionally appropriate for their age.)
   We skipped the Matchlock Gun. It seemed like it could be too much for us. (Maybe it’s not. But I just skipped it based on looking at the book description.)
   We are currently at Abraham Lincoln.
I’ve been pretty happy with the books.
A few are a little bland -- which surprised me -- since the point of the curriculum is non-bland history.
If I do it again later, I think I’d swap out a few for better choices. Mainly:
 "A More Perfect Union” -- that was barely story-form -- more textbook like than the rest. I’d definitely look to see what else we could read. Maybe the signing of the Declaration of Independence is just a bit too advanced a topic for this age range to really discuss a whole lot more than it happened and was important. I don’t know. But I’d skip that book next time and do it differently.
  "George Washington’s Breakfast" was a little cute, but could easily be skipped. It was a book about a boy wanting to learn what George Washington had for breakfast.
 “The forth of July Story” was a little dull, but tolerable. I’d probably look around before jumping right to it again.
 But for me “The Year of The Horseless Carriage 1801” was the strangest book in the mix. It is JAM PACKED full of information in a way that we hadn’t experienced yet -- it covered things happening over a lot of the world -- jumping around without much explanation. (Stuff I could process fine -- but things the kids weren’t following well -- they wouldn’t have followed it at all without lots of stopping and map looking and explaining I had to add.)  It name dropped like crazy -- talking about Napoleon, Beethoven, Lewis and Clark & Sacajawea, Toussaint, Robert Fulton and a lot more without doing much explanation on some of the people. It tried to fit in gobs of facts, and dates, and happenings. And just kinda felt like an odd duck in this book line up. In the other books we had focused in much closer on persons, places and events. I mean it’s an intresting book -- but it just didn’t feel like the other books at all. So we read it, but I didn’t expect the kids to retain it. It was my biggest head scratcher in this set of books. I wasn’t sure why it was included. I learned some stuff. But I’d book shop this chunk of time next go around. Maybe throw this book into older grades if it made sense to do so.
   So we just have 3 books left to look at and we are done. We’ll see how much we like those ones.

The website says it can be a one or two year study. We’ll have it done in one year. But I didn’t used the course guide.

I haven’t decided what we will do next. I’m about to sit down and consider. I’m leaning towards doing more world history next. But I could keep forging ahead after Lincoln and do more American History. We’ll see.

But I know I’m happy with starting out here for us -- especially since hearing my kids talk so fondly about history. I’d love to be able to keep their love of learning alive throughout their schooling.

For science I’ve gone the Charlotte Mason route thus far.
I asked my husband (A College Lecturing Professor) his thoughts on this before I proceeded. I was kinda nervous to go this direction because it’s quite different than the public schools. But he was all in favor, as he feels it cultivates a scientific mind, with curiosity fueling discovery.
With Charlotte Mason, in the lower grades science is nature based. After that is when you get into the science facts and heavy stuff.
I don’t know it just resonated with me and my thoughts on childhood, as well as just personally being always inspired by nature’s beauty.
So for this year I’ve gotten the “Pond and Stream Companion” and we are going through that. As well as using our Nature Study Notebooks we are making. (Our favorite of this was of course when we found caterpillars and let them pupate! I was every bit (or more) excited than the kids.

Again, I haven’t decided what we will do next. I do have a hard time trusting this is enough science, while still really admiring the concept. So I’ll be wrestling that out soon.

We love Singapore Math.
I really let Blake take the lead here, because math is not my subject, and it definitely is his. But when I brought it up, I did specifically show him Singapore math because it seemed like something that, had I used in school, I would have actually understood math somewhat. (Math always went right over my head in school.)
He really liked what he saw so we went for it.
And I gotta be honest, sitting along side the kids while they do it, has improved my math reasoning. It’s set up in a really cool way -- the concrete, pictorial, abstract - building on each level. It’s been very good for me to relearn in this fashion. It’s something I didn’t anticipate happening -- myself learning alongside them, but very much appreciate it.
For Kindergaten we used their cheep basic books.
The older grades have a lot of choices, we picked the U.S. Edition.
And this kids have never complained about doing math. They genuinely enjoy it. They are doing very well with it. And I find them naturally looking for Math in everyday moments and regularly discussing how it works. It’s pretty cool.

My oldest has not come by reading easily. And up until this year we’ve tried a bunch of things, we were making progress, but nothing was really working. Like we just couldn’t find the “click” or “ah ha” --it was just all painful, begrudging, kind-of-sort-of progress. But I could tell it wasn’t actually making any sense to her -- she was just muscling through and kinda pretending she was doing it, as best as she could. I’ve recently started looking into dyslexia and feel we may be dealing with a mild form of it.

When looking at Sarah's Read-Aloud-Revial’s blog (I talked about before) she said if she could go back in time she would have used "All About Reading" for all her kids instead of trying other harder ways with her older kids.
I went for it.
All About Reading is not cheap. But they have a full money back (besides shipping), after a whole year (you used up the stuff and everything), guarantee. (Must be purchased from their website.)
So I figured, what the heck, we need something to help us.

Honestly, it’s been wonderful.
I have seen SO MUCH improvement in my oldest. And while she still whines a lot of days, we are definetly past that “this just doesn’t make sense” spot, and things are really starting to come together. She’s actually been whining less and less as we go along. And she’s been reading more and more outside of school time. I still think we are behind her age range, but we are definitely moving towards average reading level. I know we would not have made this kind of progress without it.
And my five year old is doing great with it. She especially loves the cutting out activities and games.

It’s set up really well. It’s been so great for us. I couldn’t be more grateful for it.
Actually, after I started looking into dyslexia I learned that this program is set up in the most suitable method for learning to read with dyslexia -- imagine my relief when I knew I already owned the right thing and was headed in the right direction without fully knowing it yet.

I bought Level 1 for both girls, and at the beginning of the year my five year old couldn't keep up. So I let her go back to some more basic “Go for the Code” workbooks we had before we did any more. But after that break she was ready to go and has been doing great.
Side note: We also ordered Ziggy (He’s the puppet mascot for All About Reading -- we ordered it separate, because he doesn’t automatically come with the numbered levels-- my kids get so into puppets. He motivates them so much, it’s kinda hilarious. They like to talk about how he’s not real, while yet talking to him like he is. It’s cute. He’s a big motivator.

Anyway -- I won’t be asking for my money back on this program. I will be ordering the next level very soon.
Honestly, it’s very easy for me to do -- it’s set up well. After the initial first day of looking through of the program when it arrives, really all you have to do is pick up the manual and go every day.
If you aren’t homeschooling, but feel like your child might need a boost in learning to read I’d say this would be a great way to go. You could add it in 15 minute chunks to your evenings and see some huge improvements.


I got "Handwriting Without Tears” -- honestly the only reason I did this was because my VERY literal daughter was trying to copy computer font when writing and so I was looking for something to break that habit. I just got the workbook -- none of the extras. We finished the printing book, and I’ve been having her just write for practice on lined paper. I have the cursive book next. (I know schools are kinda ditching cursive these days, but I want them to learn it.) But I think I’ll save it for 3rd grade -- since that’s why I did cursive as a kid.

I got “Telling God’s Story: Meeting Jesus” (Teacher’s Manuel and Activity Pages) because, as I mentioned before some of the Old Testament is honestly just really confusing and not really child appropriate -- I learned the stuff as kids in church, but when you think about it, it’s heavy.  So I like the idea of starting with Jesus.
Honestly I’ve let this part of school fall to the wayside for a while, because I know we are learning Bible stuff on Sundays and Wednesdays and I’ve had to budget our school time a bit, when talking toddler antics -- meaning school happens when naps happen. But I like the program and plan to go back to it.

Picture Study:
We got one of Simply Charlotte Mason’s Picture Study Portfolios, specifically James Whistler.
Honestly I haven’t gotten to this yet, but I am looking forward to it.

Spanish: We got a super cheap Spanish workbook we do sometimes. But It’s not really ideal. We’ve barely used it. I’d like to figure out something better. It’s hard when we are not up to reading spanish yet and I don’t speak it. But the kids are interested in learning it. So I’m not really sure what to do. (Any suggestions?)

We’ve read Robert Louis Stevenson at times throughout the year.
We also like the Complete Book of Flower Fairies by Cicley Mary Barker to mix it up sometimes. (The girls of course appreciate all things Fairies.)

(Charlotte Mason doesn’t like the idea of crafts for craft sake, but learning useful skills, which I think is cool.)
So far the girls have learned how to chain stitch crochet. And they like those old school rubberband looms. They even figured out (on their own!) how to connect the squares together to make a quilt. Pretty cool.
And Jasmine actually taught herself how to knit recently. She’s left handed, and I’m right handed, so I did my best to show her but then just kinda stopped because she was overwhelmed. But she went back on her own and got it. I’m not sure it’s totally right -- but she’s making little squares!

So that’s what we’ve been doing this year. Hopefully you found this post interesting and or helpful.
I’ll try to get some more home related things posted soon!
Thanks for hanging out in the mean time.

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