Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Kids are in Charge: Aldi Edition

I decided to have some real world learning today and let the kids shop for their own food. By this, I mean snacks and goodies. I gave them a $15 budget that had to include tax. The only caveat was for every junk food item they got, they had to also buy a healthy, nutritious snack they would actually eat.

I thought this would be a lesson in Mother Knows Best or See How Far A Dollar Really Goes? NOT FAR. I was pleasantly surprised by the results!

Sweet Girl tends to be a healthy snacker. She chooses apples or pretzels over snack cakes or candy 9 times out of 10. And she picked much of the same today. What surprised me with her was how diligent she was in adding her total as we walked through the store. She was very frugal and initially came in around $5. However, after I firmly said no to a baby blanket (at Aldi? Yes.) that was on sale, she bought a few more snacks. Final total $8.21. I give her points for her negotiating skills and seeing a way to balance what she "needed" (food) with what she "wanted" (blanket). Being able to sacrifice and stay flexible is a valuable trait.

Sweet Boy is my junk eater. He would eat cake, brownies, soda, and meat 24/7. He hates fresh produce so I knew this would be a challenge. His negotiating is much more manipulative that his sister's but he is practical. His plan was to get 5 boxes of some NutriGrain bars as his healthy snack and get 5 candy items. I wouldn't let him get the bars though. Hello sugar! So we talked about true nutrition and how fruit filled does not equal fruit. I did commend him on his plan. There were 8 bars a box so they would have lasted a while. He spent much more than his sister but he was very thoughtful after our conversation. His total was $12.56.

I loved giving almost free reign over how to spend their money. We left the store with much less junk food than expected. It was a solid reminder that if we don't have junk in the house, no one really misses it. Even if they have the freedom to get it themselves!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Songbird for Wilder

I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, absentmindedly listening to the some nightly news program, when the voice of an angel pierced right through my heart.  Her voice was so clear and strained with emotion that I walked, without thinking, to the TV.  I sat on the floor as close as I could get to our giant 70's console set.  I wanted nothing to break the spell I was under.  I listened intently to the newscaster talk about a lovely, lit from within, woman named Eva Cassidy.  They played pieces of several songs and I was captivated with every note.  Since I was not paying attention to the beginning of the story, I was brought to tears when I realized she had passed away some years earlier after a battle with cancer.  This beauty taken too soon hit a particular nerve with me as I was carrying our first child, a son we named Wilder, who would likely never breathe a breath on this earth.  He had been diagnosed with a genetic disorder and his chances of life outside of my womb were slim at best. So I sat in the floor, bathed in the light of the giant TV, and cried tears for trascendent beauty and terrible grief.

I went out the next day and found THE album.  The one with a picture of Eva Cassidy backlit by sunshine.  It perfectly embodied the angelic sound of her voice.  I took it home and listened.  Track number 5 was the one I had been meant to hear.   Wilder kicked in response to the music and it was his song.

The words were written for us.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

If we forget our history, we are doomed to repeat it, right? Welcome to Vulcan 2.0

Everyone has met Flat Stanley, I assume.  He's a boy that got flattened and then goes on super adventures via the mail.  A friend of ours was just introduced to Flat Stanley and mailed us his ninja Stanley.  Yay!  Adventures in our great city!

First of all, we had to write an apology to said friend because that ninja is so stealthy, we cannot find him anywhere in our mess house.  So Sweet Girl crafted a new Stanley with a hoodie for the fall weather.  Crisis? Averted.

Now on to where the adventures would take place.  Let me give a little back story and exposition here.  Vulcan is a 50 ton cast iron statue that looks over the city of Birmingham, AL.  We have BEEN to Vulcan once before and it was replete with crying and gnashing of teeth.  (Crying and gnashing of teeth is our theme song around here so be prepared to hear it often.)  This mama has insane vertigo.  I have actually looked over the 2nd floor railing of the mall and gotten dizzy/terrified/nauseated.  My Sweet Boy is afraid of heights.  He is built like a tank but melts into tears at the THOUGHT of any height.  Elevator ride? Tears.  Standing on a step ladder? Crying.  You get the idea.  Sweet Girl is more on the fearless side but she sways with the crowd.

So whatever possessed us to go to Vulcan the FIRST time is beyond me.  It was nighttime.  Strike 1.  It was so windy. Strike 2. And did you know the walkway around Vulcan is open grate?  WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THAT?  STRIKE 3.  So we look around the park and had a pleasant time  We have a major meltdown about the elevator though.  My dear husband walks up the many flights of stairs with the kids while I ride the glass elevator alone.  The doors to the elevator open, I step out, and I'm stuck! I could not cross the open grate walkway from the elevator to the actual statue.  I promise, I tried but that metal walkway was made of flimsy Jello as far as my mind was concerned and the wind was making the whole statue gently lean from one side to the other.  Or, at least, that is what my vertigo was telling me.  My husband tried to coax me over and it wasn't happenin'.  So he starts to walk the kids around the statue.  There were several people up there.  One woman decided a skirt was a wise fashion choice and it flew up over her head.  My kids were shocked and did not notice (for a moment) that they were essentially suspended in the air, high above the ground.  THEN THEY NOTICED.  Let's just say leaving that place was in no way bittersweet.

Fast forward a few years and here we are with Flat Stanley in need of some fun.  Wednesday morning, I call Sweet Boy into my room to discuss a plan:

Me:  Where should we take Stanley?
Sweet Boy (SB):  VULCAN!!!!!
Me:  Uh...really?
SB:  Yep!
Me:  You remember what happened last time right?
SB:  What?
Me:  The crying and well, it just wasn't very fun.  Do you think you could handle it now?
SB:  Yes, I'm not afraid.
Me:  Even of the open grate walkway that is so high up in the air that it makes you dizzy?  (See, I'm trying to scare him because I don't know if I CAN HANDLE IT.)
SB:  Yep!

So we go and it starts out so fun!

This time we went in the museum and it was a nice little set up.  However, my 11 year old son could not keep his hands off of anything.  I promise I have taught my children how to behave in public.  They just pretend I haven't.  The museum walks you through how iron is made, the life of people in the mines, Birmingham history as it relates to Vulcan and the iron industry.  It was visual enough and short enough to keep the kids' attention the whole time.

Then we walk over to the statue.  We give the seemingly nice lady our tickets and she proceeded to murder our plans for a happy ascent.  I was going to let Sweet Boy walk up the stairs alone.  This lady wasn't havin' it.  When I finally convinced her that he was old enough to go up the stairs alone, Sweet Girl wanted to go too.  Sweet Girl is tiny for her age and the lady did not believe she was 10.  Whatever lady.  I told Sweet Boy we were going to have to ride the elevator.  He welled up immediately.  I told ticket lady to excuse us while we had a talk. Once I convinced him to ride, we went up and I forced...FORCED...myself to smile and walk across that death defying grate.  I made it to the wall of the statue and the world started melting.  I managed to hang on to the side of the building and grab this picture.

Do you know how hard it is to focus a camera phone from the top of the planet with one hand?  It's hard.  I asked the kids if they wanted to go around to the city view and they said yes.  So we slinked around the walkway with our backs to the wall as if we were perched on the tiniest ledge of the highest building.  I made it about 3 steps and told the kids we were leaving.  We practically ran down the stairs.  

As we walked out of the building, I looked lovingly at my children and said, "WE ARE NEVER COMING HERE AGAIN!"  

Our adventure with Flat Stanley taught us we are willing to go to the highest heights for a friend and that when we learn a lesson, it needs to stay learned!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Keeping score

I had to ask myself how to keep up with attendence (required in my state) and how/if/when to record grades (not exactly required in my state).  You have to teach certain subjects here but grades are only needed if you want transcripts (which I do).

So, I google homeschool record keeping and rather randomly choose a free trial of one.  The set up was a skosh overwhelming.  Lesson plans?  Skills?  Grade weighting?  I'm not afraid to admit when I'm out of my depth.  And here, I am out of my depth.  I need to find a really concise, practical online record keeper.  What do you use?

I have decided I will grade my children's work.  I have to.  I'm a quantifier.  I want visible markers for progress.  Numbers MEAN something to my brain!  I am not going to stress it to my kids though.  If they fail a quiz, we'll just go over the material again in a way that sticks.  I want the knowledge to be their success, ya know?  Not a number on a page.

Do you grade? Pass/fail? ABC? 

Friday, September 19, 2014

We just jumped off the diving board!

Today, I am withdrawing my children from public school and beginning our homeschool journey.  So jumping off the diving board is the exact metaphor for how I feel.  My heart has been yearning to teach my children at home for years. YEARS. I've read about the Waldorf tradition, unschooling, Charlotte Mason, this and that curriculum set and I was always always always gripped with fear.

Finally, we were faced with a move (that is coming in a few weeks) and I really did not like our options for school.  I told my husband I would revisit the homeschool scenario again.  And again all the same fears came back.  I asked my kids what they thought of the idea.  Sweet girl was all for it.  More time with Mommy? Yes.  Did I mention she is 10?  Did I mention she has spent all those years trying to resume her living arrangement prior to birth?  Ok. So Mommy's baby was a no brainer.  Sweet boy was a different story.  He is 11 and he is my go to for the God's honest truth.  Does this make me look fat? Yes and your hair looks awful.  How does that dinner taste?  Like it has too much salt and it looks like cat food.  He tempers this brutal honesty with a well meaning heart of gold, so when I want real answers, I ask him.  "How would you like to be homeschooled?"  Pause.  Sweet boy replies,"Could you really give me a quality education since you and Daddy didn't go to college?"  Gee thanks for hitting the overwhelming fear I have right on the head!

I read some more articles and looked at more sites and then I did what you do when you have no other foreseeable options.  I prayed.  Ugly crying, hand raising, thanking the Lord for all His glory kind of praying.  And like Laura Ingalls Wilder described the quietness of a prayer spoken by Reverend Alden, I felt the coolness of peace wash over me.  All I had to do was start at step one.

I researched several cover schools but thought I should wait to enroll when it was closer to our move.  Then this morning, as I bemoaned the fact that I had to wake up a very cranky Sweet Girl, I found a school that met our needs.  It also occurred to me in a divine flash...I AM IN CONTROL OF OUR SCHOOL DECISIONS.  Holy smokes!  You mean, I could go ahead and enroll them in this new school and just start teaching them?  You know the Bible verse where Saul is converted and scales fell from his eyes?  That is what I felt like (maybe not THAT dramatic).  It was such a revelation to me and again, the coolness of peace comforted me.

So here we go...off the diving board into the deep end.  

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