I’m Blessed

Well, we just got back from a quick weekend down in the big city.  Knut’s aunt offered us her Rainbow playground set if we’d pick it up.  Knut’s cousin was being confirmed as well, so we thought it would be a good weekend for a visit.
Sunday morning, I heard from my mom that my grandpa was being taken by ambulance to the stroke hospital as he woke up with very shallow breathing and unable to speak.  It seems that he’s had a “mini-stroke” and will hopefully be on the mend.  Knut and I are learning with several elderly grandparents that it takes a while for people in their late 80s to mend.  He had a stroke 2 years ago, which he bounced back from slowly, but not completely. 
It was ironic that we were attending a confirmation that day.  It was my grandpa who did my confirmation of the knowledge of the faith.  When I was of confirmation age, we went to a community church that did not do confirmation, so my mom had me visit my grandparents about every other weekend for one on one study with my grandpa, the retired missionary.  How many middle schoolers get to sit one on one with someone with such rich experience in faith and just talk about God, the Bible, doctrine, and faith?  Not enough, I know that much.
This morning, the blessings I’m counting are:
-my grandpa.  It feels like I’m losing him piece by piece as he seems so much older with each visit.  He may be one of the most influential men in my life, and I’m so blessed to be his granddaughter.  I’m so thankful he is still with us, as I’m so anxious to see both him and Grandma this Christmas.
-a new playground for my kids.  I know it sounds petty next to Grandpa, but it will be put to good use by my kids, and we’re lucky to have gotten it.

-time with family over the weekend.  It was nice to get away, be in a city and buy things I don’t need at Ikea. (Where I ran into a friend/blog reader!  Hi Kari!)

-harvest is done.  Knut was home very early on Thursday, had all of Friday off, and took the kids and I away for the weekend.  It’s so amazingly wonderful to have another adult around.  It’s so nice to have adult conversation.  The whole way back from the city we dreamed and made plans for our 10 year anniversary trip next summer.  At this point we’re leaning towards Norway.  We’ll see.

If you’d like to join in as we battle Monday with remembering how we are blessed, leave a comment on how God has been blessing you, or leave a link to your post on blessings.

Homeschool Friday

I had an epiphany this week about our various curricula.  You may laugh.

We are not made for the curriculum, the curriculum was made for us.

The curriculum is there to help me when I’m lost.  It is not there to decide where to go.

Last year, when we were just starting out on our homeschooling journey, I studied curriculum choices like you wouldn’t believe.  I looked at reviews, asked my friends, read books on differing schooling theories.  I weighed costs of different programs both in time and money.  Many days after school, Knut would say “Don’t fall behind in the curriculum.”  We were both still very attached to the traditional classroom type model of school.  The model where there are desks and teacher’s manuals, and scripts, and worksheets, and schedules.  I like all those things, so I’m not discounting them.  I just saw them as “school” and now I see them as tools for school.  They’re there if I need them.

It happened Monday morning.  Well, I should back up to the previous Saturday.  Silje got a letter in the mail from the little girl we have contact with in Peru.  She wanted to write back right away, so she took a piece of computer paper, and started at it.

Last year in our grammar program taught Silje how to write a thank you note, and a friendly letter.  It was near the end of the year, and just so barely touched on.  This year in grammar, we’ve been doing review of last year, and slowly going deeper.  For instance, last year we found out what a noun was.  This year we are deeping that knowledge to proper nouns, common nouns, pronouns, etc.  We haven’t gone back to letter writing yet.

However, I reacted a bit when I saw Silje’s letter to her friend in progress.  It looked like this (with some of my editing started):

Now, if this were Elias, or even David for that matter, I’d say good job.  One of them barely writes, and the other one scribbles.  This type of letter would blow me away from any of my other students.  However, this is from my 2nd grader.  For my 2nd grader, this is rushed and sloppy.  She had missed almost every single capitalization (you’re seeing the ‘edited’ version).  She misspelled 4 words that she has previously learned.  There was no letter formation or indentation of paragraphs.

I told her that we were not going to send this letter.  When she asked why, I probably gave too many reasons.  I ended up apologizing to her for coming down so hard, but she seemed fine.  She knew fully well that it was not her best work, nor did she claim it was.

The way I see it, if the kids do half-hearted work and I praise them for that, they will continue to give me half-hearted work.   The trick to this system is to never miss praising a good job, and never praise them for a bad/sloppy/bad attitude.

In this case, I know it was harsh.  Too harsh.  Normally I try to limit my critiques to 2-3 things and add some praise.  I gave a ton of critiques and the only thing I could find to praise her for was that she was so eager to write the letter.  I told her that of course this letter wasn’t right because we haven’t been working on letter writing or punctuation for months and I haven’t exactly been on top of handwriting.  I told her that this letter reflected more on me the teacher, than her.  I told her I would do better teaching her, so that she can write letters without a worry.  She forgave me, and we planned to re-write the letter on Monday for school.

That’s when I pushed aside the grammar curriculum, and handwriting curriculum.  Not to get behind, but because we simply did not need that tool that day.  She didn’t want to use the handwriting paper, but was a little afraid to use regular lined paper without the dotted line handicap.  I told her I knew she was ready, and she would do great.

I had my knitting in hand and sat right next to her as she meticulously did each letter.  She started the date too far over to the right, so the date didn’t fit on one line.  So we had to start over.  My strong girl didn’t even flinch and was just happy we were getting to writing the letter.

Here’s her hand when I sat next to her.  She already knew how to do it, but I just parked myself there to answer any questions she had along the way since it had been awhile.  I just said “just do your work carefully like you’ve learned, and I’ll be here if you have any questions.”

It’s amazing how much the handwriting improved when the only change was a discussion on writing carefully, (along with a few “I know you are capable than better than this”) and a bit of personal attention.

That is how my 7 year old is doing.  My 6 year old, is a whole ‘nother story.  I have it all typed out, but I’ll spare you the “I feel like I’m flying blind as I’m parenting this child” inner musings.  He’s doing great at home.  He’s continuing to read very well, although his readers are taunting me.

He’s been reading about hens and eggs and nests all week.  It’s like the reader is laughing at me.

I felt bad I didn’t put the linky up last week with no notice.  Feel free to link up if you like!

Dreaming in the Kitchen

Down the road, we’re going to redo our kitchen.  My mother in law says I can blame Knut for the cupboards.  When he was a little kid he climbed all over the doors and made them a bit askew.  It’s a fairly nice looking kitchen, and I enjoy cooking in it.  I remember my mother in law picked out the wallpaper when Knut and I were dating.  I liked it back then, and I still like it.  I love the ceiling.  It’s just one of those details that you don’t find in new houses.

Knut’s parents salvaged the light fixtures from a one room schoolhouse that was closing at the time.  When Knut’s little brother, Lars, was still little, he was being tossed in the air by some adult and broke the globes of one of these antiques with his famously hard head.  Knut’s mom shopped for years in antique shops for a matching light fixture and eventually found one.  When they moved into their new house, I think these light fixtures might have been one of the hardest things for her to leave behind.

The ceiling and the light fixtures, and perhaps the wainscoting might be the only thing we keep in the kitchen when we redo it.  The floor is white, which isn’t the most practical choice for a farm house (or a house with a black, shedding dog for that matter…) but it looks nice next to the dark cabinets.  It doesn’t matter, though because the floor is slanted, and will need to be completely ripped up and leveled out.  The cupboards are also slanted, and several shelves are either weak, cracked, or actually broken.  Storing goods in my kitchen is more determined on which shelves will hold the item, more than where I’d look for it first.

So as you can tell, I’m anxious for a new kitchen, but in all serious reality it is still years away.  We’re not talking about just a fresh coat of paint.  It will be gutted and rebuilt.  While money is a big delaying factor, so is Knut and I agreeing on what should be done.  He wants dark wood cabinets, a dark wood floor, and dark marble countertops.  I love dark woods.  Love.  However, I’ve always dreamed of a kitchen with light creamy cabinets.  However, with any of the men in Knut’s family (including Knut), the word “paint” never goes in the same sentence as the word “wood.”  You might as well be swearing.

I’ve been paging through decorating magazines and pintrest looking for a kitchen that would inspire us both as we continue to dream.  I really like this idea:

Knut hasn’t completely given in, but I suggested that we go with the darker wood floors, which we both love, and go with a darker wood island, and keep the rest of the cupboards light.  Knut would like vise versa where the island is light and cupboards are dark.  My rational is the island will get scuffed and handprints much more than the cupboards, so logically it should be the darker.  We still have some years to hash it out.
This was another inspiration room.  Although the beams are lovely, we don’t plan on changing our ceiling, and Knut pointed out right away that there’s a lot of wasted space in this kitchen.  Still, it’s got the light cupboards and dark islands, and that’s the compromise I’m attempting to make with Knut.  He loved the feel of this room, and that made me feel that maybe someday I’ll be successful in my attempt to sway.
You know what will also be exciting?  A dishwasher…and I don’t mean my 7 year old.  All of the appliances besides the oven are over 2 decades old, so they’ll all be replaced then as well, if they aren’t sooner.  I want a bigger fridge, and I’m so scared ours will break because a bigger fridge won’t fit our current layout.  Well, we’d have to make it fit, I guess.  Bring out the saw and tear down some cupboards.  
Speaking of appliances, the bread that I’ve been making in the oven seems to get at least one semi-doughy piece in the middle.  I resisted at first getting an independent oven thermometer like the book suggests before baking bread.  Since I saw at Target that they weren’t too expensive, I picked one up and used it for the first time yesterday when I made some rye bread.  
So, I thought my oven hasn’t been heating up as much as it should, so when the recipe said the oven needed to be at 450, I put it at 475.  Then I let it preheat with the thermometer inside.  Turns out, when my oven is set to 475, it’s actually only 340 degrees in there.  So I maxed out the oven that tops off at 550 degrees.  That raised the temperature inside to 427 degrees.  So I baked the bread at that temperature and it turned out even better than before.
And it explains why my food seems to take so long to get done, and I’m constantly adding 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there to recipes.  We heard that it’s oftentimes just the burners that need replacing, and I think Knut is going to look into that.  Hang on you electronics!  We need just a few more years from you!  Just a few more years!

Yarn Along

Huge strides have been made this week in the medium size of the buttercup soaker/wool wrap for Solveig.  After I get the ribbing on the edges and buttons on, we’ll see if this pattern is any sort of decent fit.  I love the linen stitch.  It’s so thin and dense, and the wrong side looks as cool as the right side.

I’m sharing Strawberry Girl again, as it’s been the most interesting read I’ve done in awhile.  It’s bringing out my Southern drawl and is exposing Silje to some serious situations.  Through this story she is seeing how alcoholism effects a whole family, what poverty looks like, and the “fruits” of hard work.  I’m still a bit thrown by this book for kids that handles these huge themes with such simplicity.  I can see why it’s on so many book lists.  I think from the cover I was expecting something more along the lines of Strawberry Shortcake syrupy sweetness, and this is so far from that.  Not only that, but I think a boy would easily enjoy it as much as a girl. 

If you’d like to see more knitting and reading inspiration, follow the link to Ginny’s to see the party.