Friday, April 29, 2011

Being Quiet

Me: "David...Elias and Solveig are taking their naps.  Silje was up early to watch the wedding, so she needs a rest time too.  I need to you be very quiet for a little bit."
 David: "You need me to be really quiet?"
Me: "Yes."
David: "So everyone can sleep?"
Me: "Yes."
David: "Can I talk at all?"
Me: "No."
David: "Not even a little bit?"
Me: "No."
(pause)
David: "Am I being quiet now?"
Me: "No."
David: "I need to be quieter?"
Me: "Yes."
David: "Because people are trying to sleep?"
Me: "Yes."
David: "It's good to be quiet?"
Me: "Yes.  David?"
David: "What?"
Me: "Be. quiet."
David: "Ok, Mommy.  I'll be quiet."
David: "I'll let everyone sleep."
David: "I won't make a sound."
David: "I WON'T BE LOUD LIKE THIS."
Me: "SSSHHHHH!!!"
David: "I'll be really quiet like this."
David: "I'll try not to crash my race cars really loud."
Me: "David?  Be quiet.  Now.  That means no talking."
David: "No talking at all?"
David: "Are you happy that I'm such a good boy for being so quiet?"
Me: "David, I don't want to hear another sound."
David: "I love you so much, Mommy."

I'm not making this up.  He's genuinely trying his best.

Which brings me to my third cup of coffee...

Homeschool Friday

 (cartoon used with permission from The Family Man)

I find it more difficult to blog lately.  I'm going to blame it mostly on the fact that we took away the television almost 2 weeks ago, now.  I must admit, the second week is a bit tougher than the first.  The kids have not asked for it, but there have been times in the last week where I just want them to get away from me and let me finish just one thought, and have caught the words "go watch a movie" only milliseconds before they come out of my mouth.  Then I have to fight the words from coming out because I just want to be left alone for a few minutes!
(Here are the kids the day after our weekly trip to the library that actually happened this week.)

I think I've survived because Solveig finally goes to bed when the other kids do, instead of staying awake until midnight.  I finally have my evenings back to sew or do as I please.  I showed up to homeschool group on Tuesday afternoon with my kids, and one of my friends asked me how I was.  I looked up and said "is this where I drop my kids off for school and day care?  Show me where to sign."  She laughed and put her arm around me, and said, we've all been there.  I know that.  Sometimes the touching and talking and questions and noise gets to be so overwhelming.  Going without the television breaks has been tough, but I'm glad I've stuck it out.

It was funny, though, that during David's story time at homeschool group, we were reading a story about all the animals coming out in Spring.  David started talking about an animal he knew about.  The mom reading (the same one who put her arm around me) asked him if he ever saw that animal.  "Only on t.v." he said.  This happened about 3 other times, and I was in shock that we haven't watched t.v. for 2 weeks and he still just talks about t.v.  He does do other things, I promise!  I felt like defending myself to the other moms.  They all knew we'd given up t.v. for the summer, so they were just giggling whenever David brought up his list of favorite shows to the class over and over again.

As I said on Wednesday, we're reading The Wheel on the School and that's been a lot of fun.  I got lots of copies of the handwriting masters from our new program, and have been working with Silje on that so much more and let me tell you, it has been so nice!  One whole page she had filled with the lowercase "a."  All but 2 were perfect.  She got a huge high 5 for that, and she was able to tell me what happened to the 2 incorrect ones without me even prompting.  She said, "Well, with this one I started the circle at 12 o'clock instead of 2 o'clock, and with the other one, I pulled straight down from 2 o'clock instead of pulling down from 3 o'clock, which made my line cut inside the circle."  If you couldn't tell, you learn to write by the points on a clock.  It's amazing to me that she sees where she went wrong herself, self corrected, and she's picking it up so quickly!  Not only that, it's not "this letter is neater than this one," but there are objective rules to follow. 

Kids love rules.  I don't care what anyone says.  They're always ready to point out what is fair and not fair.  What is right and wrong.  They love knowing these things.  So having objective rules for handwriting is so far a hit in our house.  Plus, we're getting more familiar with the clock, and she's learning to pay attention to details.

David still likes to just trace the circles for the handwriting.  I haven't moved him to letters yet.  I've explained to him the points on the clocks, and he practices staying on the dotted circle line, and starting and stopping at the right points.  I think that's all he can do at his age, but I'm so pleased he's even willing to do that.  Silje obviously has a huge upper hand to David with much better fine motor skills.  She's been writing for years, and coloring even longer.  Although he's only 15 months younger, he's just recently been still enough to hold a crayon or paintbrush.  I also see that if he's not in the mood to write, there is no point in making him.  He cannot follow a circle to save his life when there are ants in his pants.  The only thing to do is to get him some shoes and send him out to ride his bike in the yard for a long time, and hope he's settled in the afternoon.

At any rate, so far we're a fan of The Works People and their program.  Although I still think the program would benefit from a professional technical writer to organize the information in a better way.  Other than that, it's just genius.

I've lost my temper a few times extra this week.  I've been frustrated.  I've been blessed.  I worry that I push too hard, like always.  I've finally found a definition for my homeschooling philosophy: overkill.  Finding the balance between letting kids be kids, and trying to raise a respectful, polite, thoughtful, compassionate child is really tough.  Having no escape from each other is a coin that has two sides.  It's so good, and sometimes so annoying.

Fortunately, Silje is always quick to forgive, and I try to be quick to apologize.  That's the best way to have a relationship, I think.  The struggle with most relationships, whether a marriage, or friends, or parent/child, is the struggle of sin.  We all do it:  Silje, me, Knut, everyone.  This process of homeschooling, I think has been so refining for both Silje and I this year.  Hard things are often the best things.  If they weren't so hard, they wouldn't be so good.

Side note, I'm up for a top 25 homeschool blog.  If you like reading the homeschool posts, than click on the little button to the left now, or if it strikes your fancy, every day until the 11th of May.  I know I'm not that big of a blogger compared to the others, but it'd still be kinda cool.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's Warm Enough

To weed.  I know, I know.  You're all excited.  Me too.

Trust me when I say, it's not all that bad if you have the right sort of company with you.

Silje finished her lessons as quickly as humanly possible, and the boys headed outside too.  I haven't looked at her work yet, but Silje was working for a long time in the strawberry patch, which is her weeding assignment for the year.  I need to go down there and help her out once the flower garden is done.  The strawberry plants are coming up like crazy this year--way more plants than last year.  The area is so full of grass that it needs to be tended to asap.

I spent some serious time edging out the front flower bed, and with any luck, it might actually get done today.  I cannot wait for those tulips to bloom.  I just love a big pitcher of flowers on the kitchen table.  It makes me want to do dishes and keep everything else clean.  Seriously, I don't think there is any better motivation to keep a kitchen clean than a bouquet of flowers. 

Won't it be nice to see it all weed free?  Even if it is only for one day.  If I can get finish it up today, then tomorrow I'll help with the strawberry patch.  After that, the gardens around the house.  And of course, going back over all of those again, and again, and again. 

The vegetable garden needs to go in soon, and I've just been to the Country Store to get my seeds, and picked up some chick supplies too.  Our chicks are coming the week of May 10th, and I have a feeling that's closer than I think.

David decided to ride his bike, and then decided that he just wanted to run.  He ran around the yard, having elaborate races in his head for almost an hour this afternoon.  I was impressed. 

The 2 older kids and Knut are planning on getting out the helmets tonight and going on a long bike ride together.  As the ground is slowly drying up, we all know it's only a matter of days, perhaps less, when he'll be in the fields until past bedtime.

Tea Tray is Set

Our tea tray is set for tomorrow morning's festivities.  I just need to finish the scones tonight and have them ready.  Pre-wedding coverage starts at 4am.  The wedding is at 5am live.  Silje, Solveig and I plan on watching, (with fancy hats over our bed-heads of course!) while drinking our tea, and eating our scones. 
Are you?  Or are you like Knut and are wondering who in the world are "William and Kate" and so what if they're getting married?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Yarn Along

I'm back again at the Yarn Along.  For those who love the inspiration of knitting and reading, you can find more knitters and readers at Ginny's blog.

OK, I'll admit that this week I just threw together the Yarn Along.  Further confessions, this knitting is what I got done at the hotel at the homeschool convention a week and a half ago.  I haven't picked it up since then.  While you pick your jaw off the ground, I'll remind you that the knitting is another little romper for the store...when it gets done.

The main thing I wanted to write about in today's post is the reading!  In the picture is The Wheel on the School, which is the current read aloud book in our school.  My cousin, Jenny, recommended this book to me, and it was already on our Sonlight list, so even better.  From what I had heard about it, I've been looking forward to reading it with Silje all year.

Let me tell you it is worth all the talk!  I'd love this book even without Silje sitting right next to me.  It is so charming, so warm, so innocent, so real, so adventurous, so quaint.  It's like reading Little House on the Prairie for the very first time.  Only Dutch.  (I guess it'd be "Little House on the Dike" then...)

Knut has told me to put this book down after the kids are going to bed because there is sewing I need to get done for this weekend.  "Gretchen, shouldn't you be reading that to Silje?"  He'll say.
"Yes, but I just want to find out what happens, you know, in case I need to prepare Silje or something."
"Shouldn't you be sewing now?  Isn't this your sewing time and you need those diapers done by this weekend?"
"Are you actually trying to get me to sew?" (pause) "You're right, you're right."  And I sigh, and walk to my sewing room slowly, knowing that I'll have to wait until school tomorrow to read another chapter.  I got caught and Knut is such a goody-two-shoes that he won't let me cheat and read ahead.

So let me send this little challenge out to you.  If you have school aged children, or even if you have no children and it's just you and your husband or roommate to read to, or maybe it's just you.  Pick this book up for your summer reading.  Read it aloud as a family, as a couple, or just by the beach.  It's just that good.  You'll feel wholesome when you're done.  I think...since I haven't technically finished it yet.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Processing

I promise I'll stop with the constant homeschooling posts.  I promise.  This picture is to show off the new color on the dining room, not the miracle of all 3 kids working at the table at the same time for a long enough period for me to snap a picture.  Silje was working on grammar.  David wanted to "do school" so I pulled out the new handwriting program with him.  Elias refused to be left out, so he got to play quietly with markers.  The price paid for that moment of silence in him is a very "colorful" boy at this moment.
Knut and I took on the project to paint this room together this Easter weekend.  I was so pleased that it actually got all done!  I think I really needed the change.  I think as a mother, life doesn't give you much of a chance to processes things.  If there are nagging thoughts, nagging feelings, or any sort of crisis, we just have to keep the family moving.  As a full time caregiver, that's just what you do.  Still, some things pile up in our hearts, and come out all at once.  Worries, and troubles that are not dealt with wait no longer at some point.
Now, I don't feel the need to share with all of the world the things that trouble my heart at times.  Most especially when those troubles involve people I love.  I have no doubt that my mother will call me very soon to make sure I'm fine.  I am fine.  Just regular stuff.  Processing life, you know?  Anyway, as I was in one puddle of emotion this last week, Knut thought a great solution would be to do this room together.  I was a perfect solution, as we got to work side by side after all the kids were in bed, or during nap time.  It was a fun "date" to just paint and talk.  Talk and paint.

Now that it's done, there's nothing I'd like better but to declutter my entire house to match the serenity of this new room.  However, the kids are in desperate need of routine after yesterday's Easter celebrations.  If I have time later this week, I'd love to share another reflecting-type post on thoughts that fill my brain that I do feel the liberty to share.  My to do list is long, though, so we'll see what gets done.  In fact, as I setting up school for Silje this morning, I thought of something else to add to the to-do list, and ran over to my list to write it down before I forgot.  However, I didn't "run" fast enough because my thought was gone by the time I had my pen.  If I didn't write things down, I don't think I'll ever remember them. 

First up today during free time: give Lena a bath.  She smells like fish and I'm not sure how that happened.  It's awful.  Ugh.  I hate giving her a bath.  Life goes on...processing it will have to fit in somewhere.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Homeschool Friday

 Let's talk about the boys this week, shall we?  Silje always gets the attention when it comes to school.  So what goes on with these 2 when I'm working with Silje.  Well, it used to be that sometimes they'd be with us, and the majority of the time they'd be watching television.  I figured educational cartoons are worth something.

However, I hear more and more from mothers who do not use the television to get a half hour in here and there to get things done, and I've been taking notes.  We've given up t.v. in the past, and now we have again.  I hate to be so extreme, and normally like to edge things out of our life instead of going cold turkey.  However, the kids sometimes do better with cold turkey.  When they know our minds are set on it, they don't ask 2,354 times a day.

By the way, the book they're looking at in the picture above is the coolest book in my boys' estimation.  Silje actually found it at the library and thought they would like it.  They can literally stare at it for hours.  It's all about cars.  It has pictures of what seems like each piece of a car.  Cars through history.  Types of car.  Car parts (like I said).  The pictures are so bright and vivid, that it's constantly pulled from hands between brothers.  It's this book, although I think out of print now.  Anyway, I suppose we'll have to give it back soon.

One of the classes I took at the convention was occupying your toddlers and preschoolers during school.  One of the suggestions was give them construction paper, a brush and a cup of water.  Let them "paint" with the water.  I wish I knew about this sooner because it's Elias' new favorite thing to do and the worse possible mess is spilled water.  He's pretty careful about it, though.
 David gets the paints, and Elias doesn't seem to mind not getting them because he gets the "special" colored paper.  Silje was doing her independent reading during this time, but joined them later.  She's been doing school in the kitchen lately because I'm working on a house project in the dining room.  So our life has been in the kitchen basically all week.  Can I just say, after a week of painting being the favorite thing to do, I have no more fridge space.  At least I still think I have a fridge.
 He uses his right and left hand, just like David.  I still think David is a lefty, but Knut's in denial and thinks he's ambidextrous, which is definitely possible.  I'm leaning toward lefty, though.  Elias uses both so far too.
 I've been having them bring toy tubs up from the playroom in the basement one at a time and playing in the kitchen while I cook or clean up.  Not only to they entertain Solveig, but only one little cubby of toys is out at a time, as they haven't wanted to play in the playroom since we took away the television.  They'd rather be following me.
 Although, I won't pretend it's all niceness and sweet quiet play around here during school.
I mean...come on.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

This Girl

She's getting big.  That's what my babies do.  I don't think I mentioned that at her 4 month appointment she weighed in at 16 lbs, and is in the 90th percentile for both height and weight.  Just like Silje was.  She looks so delicate that it's almost deceiving.  However, when those legs are exposed, you see where she keeps it all.  Thighs, and as you can see in the picture, those cheeks!
She's still just as sweet as ever.  Her favorite thing to do is watch her siblings play.  She really, really likes the "saucer" now, so she can be upright.  She's big enough to play with the attached rattles and teething rings, that are attached now.  She loves to giggle and coo.  O, she's such a doll.
In the pictures where the fat from her chin and the fat from her body open up and reveal an amber teething necklace, I have to admit, I'm checking into the hype of these things.  Almost every one of my friends with babies now say it is one of their most indispensable baby items.  I'll let you know if I think it actually works when her first tooth comes in...which I think she's working on.  She's not supposed to chew on it.  It's supposed to sit against her skin when she's awake and not alone.  But who is ever alone in this house, I'd like to know!  The amber beads are a natural source of succinic acid and it's supposed to have the same, if not better effect of Tylenol.  She's only worn it for a week or so and so far I've noticed that if she wears it all day, she goes to bed without fuss.  If I forget to put it on her that day, she fusses until I give her a bit of Tylenol at night.  Not very scientific observation from me yet.  It could be just a mistake, but I'm doing some quick google searches on the science on these and maybe I'm not imagining things...

I'll let you know when I see the first tooth.  Then I'll review.  Until then,
Here's a little feast for those eyes.  Yes, those cheeks are very kissable, and the legs are nice and squishy.  You'll just have to trust me on that!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rule Breaker

I got these some great cartoons from the family man.  Used with permission.

I'm breaking routine and not talking about knitting even though it's Wednesday, and that's what I do.  I'm still soaking in the mountain of information that I got last weekend.  I also got a lot of things for our curriculum next year.  What I didn't bring home or have already, I've now ordered so the boxes should start coming at a steady stream to our house.  It's that time of year.  I got these cartoons to add to my homeschool Friday posts.  It's not Friday, but I thought I'd share one.  Breaking more blog rules, I guess. I love comics, and as Knut only wants to get The Wallstreet Journal, and I've never seen any comic section in there, it's a good fix.  Knut heard me laughing out loud pretty much all night as I was reading through them.  When he heard me get to my "silent laugh" where the tears start rolling but there is no sound, he would come over and see too.  Fun times.


As far as the new books coming, last year I decided to not have a handwriting or spelling program, but incorporate it into our other subjects, or use free sources online.  The things I was on the lookout for at the convention was a handwriting program, spelling program, and perhaps some art books.  Those were areas that I felt that we could use some help.  I found all of them, but left the art program there because although it was everything I wanted in an art program, it was way too expensive.  I have sewing lessons to give, and an Usborne art activity book to still work through, and a library full of art books where next year I hope to introduce Silje and David to some pictures of great art, and stories of great artists. 


I did find something for handwriting and spelling, which I picked up from The Works People.  They were the highest recommended from the veteran homeschoolers whose brain I like to pick.  The major thing about their handwriting is that it's so objective.  Most programs are subjective in the way you show a child what the letter should look like, and have them try to copy it the best they can.  This program has "legal definitions" of letters and spelling that, from what I've heard, kids like because if you make it wrong, it's easy to see what went wrong.  It's not just "mom hates my handwriting" it's "This letter d is wrong because it does not follow this definition."  In fact, in learning to write them, one of the exercises is to not see the letters at all, but listen carefully to the definition and write it based on that.  It's supposed to be amazing in developing listening skills.


This program is very different than what I've been doing, and moves from handwriting right into spelling and phonics.  Silje is an excellent reader and speller from what I can tell, but in my gut I think there are gaps, but I'm not sure what those gaps are.  "The Works" guy called it the difficulty of a "highly intuitive reader" as she can easily read something and figure it out herself.  The pro is: she can read almost anything, and with reading, there is much knowledge to be had.  The con is: she can often miss details, and some that are important.  Reading is a race for her, and it's difficult to slow her brain down to study.  


When he said that I knew he knew exactly what I was worried about.  This program is supposed to help me teach her how to slow down and notice the details.  I was planning on starting it this fall, but the more I'm paging through the teacher manual (which is set up completely different than my other curricula in other subjects so it's taking me some time to wade through) I see that it should begin now...not this fall.  After all, what's the wait?  If something needs correction and adjustment, why wait for a new school year to do it?


The same has gone in our house with the idea of the television.  David and Elias have been watching it way too much, and I usually know when it's too much because they don't want to do anything else, and they meltdown whenever I tell them that what they're watching is the last show.  I told Knut that I was going to disable the television for the summer, to insure that the kids will play outside without a fight.  He liked that idea.


However, as I was frustrated with the same old argument over the television when I got back from the conference, I thought to myself, "why am I waiting for summer?"  So when the kids weren't looking, I disabled it so they are unable to turn it back on.  


Surprisingly, they haven't missed it.  Monday with the t.v. was so rough getting back into routine since I was gone.  Tuesday without the t.v. was just awesome.  Silje and David spent their free time playing tic tac toe together, and building lego houses.  After Elias woke up from his nap and school was over, the 3 of them ran around the house for over an hour playing "The Incredibles."  Silje was the stretchy lady.  Elias was the strongman.  (He ran around with fists, punching things.  It was a riot.)  David, of course, was the really fast boy.  


I think about how I gear up for change.  Even Knut will often say "In 2 weeks I may start a diet again."  I'll often say "This summer we'll change the rules here."  "Next fall I'll work on her spelling in a more thoughtful way."  When I got back, I realized...why am I waiting for change that I think will be good?  Why do I postpone?  Why wait for New Years Eve to make a resolution, or a new school year to start a new subject?  I'm not sure why I always think I need this great wind up, because actually, change is sometimes good.  Now.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Weekend Wrap-up

I'm still spinning a bit from this last weekend's homeschool convention in Duluth, MN.  I was able to hitch a ride with 3 other mothers from the homeschool group we attend.  We shared a hotel room and I had a blast.  The women I rode with were so intelligent.  Maybe I've just gotten used to talking with people who are under the age of 7.  The whole way up we talked about theology, family, school, politics, etc.  It was just so...adult.  The woman I was with knew so much on so many topics that by the time we got there, my brain already felt the work out.
It was cold and windy, and snowed a bit while we were there.  The hotel room was about 3 times the size I had imagined it would be with a full kitchen and everything.  It overlooked a harbor with an enormous boat sitting right there.  It was right next to the convention, so we got to walk everywhere the whole weekend.

My first session was addressing the highly distract-able mother.  Solveig and I were sitting there, and I saw everyone around me had printed notes from the speaker that they used to follow along.  I whispered to the hostess in the room for a copy of the notes.  She said that this year they were not available at the conference, I was supposed to have printed them off at home and brought them. 

So I figured I could take notes myself.  I looked in my diaper bag.  I had packed the kitchen sink, but I guess that did not include any sort of paper, or any writing utensil, unless you count a tube of lipstick, which in this situation would not have worked.  I was searching my bag with one hand, and rocking Solveig and trying to keep her pacifier in the other hand, and looking up at the speaker, kicking myself that I had come here to learn to be more organized and I didn't even bring anything to write down notes!  I was bent down over my bag, and my brain was scattered, and I looked up at the speaker who talked about we as mothers always have dozens of thoughts in our heads waiting for a chance to finish and I thought "you have no idea."

After that session I headed over to the exhibitor's hall and found the art supply booth.  I picked up a legal pad there and a pen at the Sonlight booth.  I was set from there.

I found the most beautiful books in the used curriculum hall.  A gold leafed hardback of Anne of Green Gables, a beautifully illustrated book of James Harriot's Treasury of Inspirational Stories for Children, and a bunch more.  It was very difficult to make it through a whole session because Solveig needed to leave.  I actually was able to nurse during the sessions.  Well, at least I did.  When I walked in the first session, I saw a group of 3 women nursing their babes and covered very modestly.  I joined them, and inquired about the statement about the nursing room.  They had all called to complain about the rule, and encouraged me to do the same when I got home.  I guess where it sat was that legally, the convention could not prohibit mothers from nursing in the sessions.  In our state, mothers may nurse in public, covered or uncovered, without any restrictions.  However, the convention was requesting that the mothers use the nursing room, or at the very least, be modest in breastfeeding.  Legally, though, no one was allowed to remove us from a session because of nursing.

Well of course I was going to be modest, so I had no problem whipping out my little cape and feeding her during a session.  It was the squeals and cries that made me leave so often.  I would often go to the nursing room that they set up because it was like stepping into heaven for a few minutes out of the chaos of the crowds.  Inside the nursing room there were comfortable chairs with arms.  Harp music played softly in the corner c.d. player, plucking hymns like a lullaby.  Baskets of chocolates, along with flowers lining the table, and the view outside was vast.  When I described the nursing room to the other moms I came with, they asked if they could borrow my baby just so they could go in there for some peace!

When I had to leave a session and had no hope of returning, I would carry Solveig in the ERGO carrier over to the exhibitor hall and talk with the vendors.  (She was in that thing all weekend!  I can't imagine how I would have made it without a carrier that saved my back!)  Seriously, the knowledge of the vendors was like gold.  I swung by the Sonlight booth, since that's what we use.  I was able to look through all the books that will be coming up for us.  The lady there asked about my family and I rattled her head off talking about Silje and David, and their strengths and weaknesses and looking into the future of how was I going to teach them both simultaneously when they were both doing school full time.  She gave me advice for what seemed like 30 minutes, and her advice was golden.  She knew so much, and made suggestions for tweaking the core this way for this child, and that way for that child.  It was so great.

A favorite speaker was Todd Wilson who has this amazing ministry to fathers, especially fathers whose families homeschool.  He was so challenging, and so funny.  I wish Knut would have been there to hear him, as I know he would have loved it.  I brought home c.d.s of his sessions of course, because I didn't hear all of his sessions there and he had so much to say about raising sons, especially, and helping mothers be released from the guilt that seems to follow us.

I'm sure there is so much more information from the weekend that will appear over time in my posts.  It was so worthwhile to go, and I'm so glad I was given the opportunity.  I don't think that this will be a yearly event for me, but I hope to go again.  I think I learned more from the people I was with and the vendors I spoke to than the sessions, but the sessions were so good too!!  Well, now at least that I can listen to them without interruption with the use of a pause button.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Poor Defense

Wow, did I get a flood of emails after my last post.  I had set it to publish while I was out of town at the homeschool convention, and just got caught up.  I did end up deleting a mean comment, and I'll explain quickly to hopefully address the drama, and be able to move on.

I was not offended by the comment, but it did allow a bit of a chuckle.  The reader called me pious and petty, and worst of all, a bad grammarian.  I got a C in advanced grammar in college, so I can't argue.  I'm a bad speller too, which was not pointed out this time.

Not only the offense of being a bad grammarian and speller, I tend to be judgmental, rely on my works too much, I have a temper, and occasionally gossip.  My pride is most often out of control, and the sin I attempt to ask forgiveness the most, which is frustratingly fruitless as I always feel so proud of myself afterward.

The commenter was not the first to comment on my mistakes in my posts.  I've just decided that if I expect perfection from this journal-ing I will never press the publish button.  Normally I catch 75% of them after they post.  I've gotten a huge pile of emails over the years correcting my mistakes, which I always appreciate.  My lack of proofing some posts are the butt of jokes in some circles of mine, and I'm fine with that.  However, those people identify themselves, and we laugh about it.  I'm a mother of 4 and will not pretend to be perfect, and feel that being nit-picky about my writing is a waste of time.  I've never proofread any of my written journals, nor do I correct Silje's journal.

I would like to point out that being a bad grammarian and speller does not disqualify me from teaching my kids.  I'm qualified because God picked me to be their mother.  I'm qualified not because I have a degree or know so much, but because I'm their mother.  I don't know a lot, which is why I do question God occasionally with His choice.  However, I'm told through Scripture that He will equip me to do what I need to do, when I'm supposed to do it.

It does a disservice to all those other mothers out there.  "Wow, I'm not perfect like Gretchen.  I must not be the mother God called me to be."  In the back of my mind, I justify my open imperfections as reassurance to other mothers out there that we don't need to pretend.  While there is something good about putting your best foot forward, we as humans have a terrible problem comparing ourselves.

I'm aware that what I write can often be offensive.  I'm pretty sure that the reason for that is that the gospel at its core is offensive.  If I'm to proclaim the gospel, no matter how I try not to, I will offend.  (The offensive part is where we tell everyone that we all don't measure up and are helpless in our sin, and of course, the solution is Christ.  People tend to like to think they are good enough just the way they are, and don't need Christ to "save" them.)  If I am living my life openly for Christ, for the purpose of proclaiming all He has done for me, than people may feel some offense because of that.  It's just the reality.  If I do offend, let it be for Christ.  Also, if I do offend and you feel the need to tell me, let us discuss and respect in our conversation.  Believe me, it's happened before.  After my post on homosexuality, emails flew.  I think that in the end it glorified God. 

On the claim that I'm pious, I usually would take as a compliment, like "conservative."  A synonym to pious is "reverent" and an antonym is "profane."  However, I detected a sneer, so I'm thinking not.  "Hypocrite" is the word the commenter was looking for.  (And this hypocrite is well aware that she just ended a sentence with a preposition.)  The accusation that I attempt to live my life for Christ is in fact a great compliment.  The fact that I'm a sinner and a Christian seems to astonish some, though.  Maybe some Christians in the past, perhaps, have claimed that they do not sin, although I know of none.  The only thing I can claim is forgiveness.  I'm forgiven, and that is the basis of my claim to Christianity, not goodness.

I looked up the word "petty" after that word was aimed at me, and it said: "having little or no significance."  If that was aimed at my person, I may agree on you with some points on that, but again, God continues to disagree with both of us.   If you are referring to the importance of my children's education I would disagree with you.  Whether or not they are learning and growing in the Lord is of upmost importance.  We'll just have to agree to disagree there.

It may surprise some that this wasn't the first comment I have ever deleted from my blog.  My reasons for deleting in the past are when someone accidentally puts on my address or something with little thought that the whole world can read it.  Or, I have deleted a comment I thought inappropriate for everyone to read, but have carried on the conversation privately through emails, which I find to be fruitful.  The main reason I have deleted the comment talked about is because leaving something like that with the tone of a sneer, and leaving it anonymously has the feeling of egging a house and running.  I'm not that great of a homemaker, but I do at least attempt to keep things clean, and that includes my blog.  It's my little corner of the internet that I feel responsible to keep clean.

So to be clear, in the future, respectfully disagreeing posts will normally not be deleted unless it needs to go private.  However, let's just agree that I'll wash the "egg gunk" off my "house."

Friday, April 15, 2011

The "Why" About Homeschooling

One last question that was asked during the giveaway, was asking why we started homeschooling.  So I'll tell you our story.  This is the detailed-filled story, so feel free to skip.  You can read about our initial thoughts on it from way back here.  Since this can be a very sensitive topic, I'd like to add a disclaimer that this is our story, and that means it does not have to be everyone's story.  In this case, I'd like to take that further and say this is what we did for our child, in our situation.  I don't mean to even come close or even hint at the idea that homeschooling is for everyone, or that it is the only Biblically acceptable way to raise a child.  I don't want anyone walking away from their computer after this thinking that.  In our culture where studies say this and that, and everyone seems to have an opinion on how to raise your children, it's easy to get defensive, or lose sight of what God has called you to do with your family.  However, since this is our story, I'm so passionate about it.  If that passion shines through, it is because God made our way so clear for us.  That passion isn't intended for looking down on/guilt inducing use.

We always talked about our kids going to public school.  We had our reasons for that.  As I'm reading The Well-Trained Mind the story of how they began homeschooling resonated so much with me.  Part of me felt like I was reading our story.  That being said, I wouldn't say that our story is "normal."  Reasons for homeschooling vary as much as the children.

Silje taught herself to read right around the time she was turning 4.  Well, I spent about 30 minutes with her explaining phonics flash cards for her that I picked up at a second hand store.  She asked what they were, we went through them a few times, and that was that.  We read to her all the time.  She had most of the kids' books in our house memorized, but I think that's pretty common.  Kids love to read books until they are memorized because they get to feel so smart that they know what is going to happen!

I started to read Silje some chapter books out loud, just to open her mind to the idea of them.  Like most kids, it's a big step to transition to chapter books, and she was a bit intimidated.  So I got her a big thick book of kid's poetry.  Something like Where the Sidewalk Ends.  I asked her to read me one poem, and when she did, she laughed so hard she couldn't wait to get to the next one...then the next.  She felt even more smart sitting there with a big book that was hers.  Picking up big books didn't intimidate her after that, because she realized that you just read one page at a time.

It was a goal of mine to have all of my kids doing at least some reading before entering kindergarten so that they could start off on the right track.  I was hoping for them to easily handle most 3-4 letter words.  Silje just read all the time, and we encouraged her.  It was on her first day of kindergarten that my concern for her and worry that she wouldn't fit in really accelerated.  Her bus ride to school was 1 hour long, and I told her to pick a book off of her shelf to read on the bus.  She skipped over to the bookshelf and chose Charlotte's Web.  It was when she said: "I haven't read this book in months!" that I realized, that wasn't normal for a kindergartner to say on her first day of school.

We shared our worries about Silje to her teacher and principal, and they were both on top of it.  Since the building that she went to school with didn't go beyond kindergarten, they had harder books brought into the library from other schools.  I had no problem with the teacher having her help other kids with reading, as I think the practice of teaching someone else ingrains learning on a deeper level.

We completely understood that she was learning nothing spectacular at school.  We spent most of our energy at home making sure she wasn't going backwards.  All of a sudden, she didn't like reading chapter books anymore.  She only liked books with pictures like her friends.  She complained about her books selection, and went back to her early readers.

That wasn't the only thing she complained about.  She came home so crabby, which was maybe from the long days, the long bus rides, the over-stimulation.  It could have been a number of things, but she only went Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and I spent all day Tuesdays and Thursdays just helping her get back to "normal Silje" as best as I could.  She began to treat David like dirt under her feet, and argued more.  We thought she was just overtired perhaps, and tried to get her to sleep more.

Like I said, we knew she wasn't learning anything.  That's perhaps not a fair statement.  I think that new ideas were presented to her over the course of the school year.  However, if we kept her in school because of what she was learning, then shame on us.  We honestly kept her in school for the social aspect.  I mean, I tested her to read at a 5th grade reading level going into the year, and she spent the whole first week on the letter A.  To us, that wasn't the point of kindergarten.  She got to make friends, and do fun paper crafts.  I may be a crafty person, but I rarely do crafts with my kids.  Crafting is my play time.  I wanted Silje to have an opportunity to do things like that.  I just didn't have time to do those kinds of things with her. The reading factor would even out among the kids over time, after all...

I began to dread Fridays when she would bring home a stack of papers.  Fliers for skating lessons, hockey team, soccer team, gymnastics, etc.  Silje was convinced that all of her friends attended all of these activities and she was the only one missing out.  Not only were they expensive, but we would never see her if we enrolled her in even one of these activities.   We wanted her to be able to do fun extra-curricular things, but she already got home at 4:30pm.  By then it was time to get supper ready, eat, have a few minutes of family time and go to bed so she could be up at 6am to catch her bus.  What was going to give to let her be in an activity?  Family time?  Supper?  Bedtime?  She already was exhausted.  I began to wonder why we were pushing her to be so exhausted coming home, when there seemed to be so little benefit.  Not only that, but (this is not an exaggeration) I spent an hour every Friday trying to explain to her why she couldn't do all the things she was convinced everyone else was doing.  It turned into a weekly fight.

The fund raisers drove me nuts.  I loved fund raisers as a kid, but hers were just annoying.  One after the other, after the other.  The breaking point where we said "no more" was when she brought a little address booklet home, and we were supposed to write in 10 addresses or something of our friends' and family so that they could receive a fund raising letter in the mail.  Silje explained to us it was so simple.  We just had to fill out the form, and she'd get her prize.  We simply had to fill it out.  She was so pleased how easily she'd earn her reward on this one.

Knut nearly hit the roof.  Neither of us felt comfortable writing down addresses where we didn't live.  We didn't feel like we had the right to give away our friends' addresses for some money plea.  We dug our heals in, and didn't let Silje fill out  the booklet.  She was so upset with us for so long.  We tried to explain, but it got even worse when she came home and said "All of my friends got their prize.  All except me.  Why don't you want me to get prizes?"  That made me so mad.

As we were debating about homeschooling, Silje started practicing for her music program that we were soon to go over.  It was about taking care of the earth.  Knut thought it would be some liberal munbo-jumbo, but I told him that there's no harm in taking care of the earth.  It's one of God's mandates, isn't it?  (Shhh...don't tell the school that or they may stop teaching it.)  As long as they didn't get into some weird Mother Earth worship, which I highly doubted, I was fine with it.  As she was learning new things in the songs, she started preaching to us about what we should be doing.

"Mommy, we need to get all new light bulbs.  We need the spirally kind."
"Honey, we already use those."  That confused her.

"Mommy, we need to start recycling."
"Silje, we already recycle.  We do crazy recycling, actually.  You see those huge barrels in the garage?  Those are our recycling bins."
"Well, Mommy, you need to recycle more.  We throw away too much.  We aren't doing enough."
At that point I rattled off in annoyance how we use cloth diapers, we dry our clothes on a clothesline, we buy energy efficient things whenever we can, we use rags instead of paper towels, we probably recycle more things than we throw away.  She gave me this look, and I won't forget it.  It was this look that said "You just don't get it.  You're so dumb."

So I was eager to see how this musical program would be, and it was far and beyond worse than Silje's attitude.  It felt like a big propaganda to the parents on what we should be doing.  I felt like my child was being used to send me a message, and I don't like my child being used for the purpose of someone's agenda.  You'd think in music class they'd study musicians, or silly songs, etc.  It seemed that she learned how to teach her parents, since we were the ones who needed to be taught by her.  We were the dumb ones.

Around that same decision making time, I remember talking to a friend of mine who was a 1st grade teacher in another state.  As I told her some of the challenges we (her teacher and us) faced with her not getting bored in school, and my friend told me, "Don't worry, Gretchen!  The only thing that she needs to learn in kindergarten is how to raise her hand and stand in line.  It's just preparation for the rest of school."

I had heard that many times before, but this time it hit me hard.  Was kindergarten just a year long orientation?  Is that what we went through this whole year of parent teacher conferences, and grouchiness, and waking up at the crack of dawn for her to spend 2 hours a day on the bus, was for?  It was all for orientation? It was then that I said out loud for the first time, "This is a year of my daughter's life.  I don't want a year of her life spent on learning to raise her hand.  It's a waste of a whole year God gave her!"  I didn't realize how I had felt until I said it. 

Not only that, but I was terrified and panicked about losing our Tuesdays and Thursdays with her when she went to 1st grade.  Those were the days that were saving her from losing her mind.  Those days we got to regroup and help her process all that she was learning and help her distinguish truth from lies.  If we lost those 2 days with her, when would we be able to disciple her?  When could we help her process?  Her childhood was flashing before my eyes and I felt such a responsibility to disciple her in Christ, and the outlook for doing that was looking more and more bleak.  Was I just supposed to hope that we did a good job with her the 6 years we had her, and just send her off?

As all of that was going on, we both thought it would be a good idea to see what was available out there for curricula as I did not feel prepared to homeschool.  Isn't that crazy?  Knut and I both had a 4 year college degree, were great students, and presented out eldest to kindergarten with a 5th grade reading level and yet we felt so scared to take the leap to teach her at home.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was completely blown away by the options out there.  I was kicking myself that the spring homeschool convention in my state had already passed, so I couldn't go to just check out what is out there.  The more I looked and researched, the more I got sucked in.  There was so much out there it was overwhelming, and so awesome all at the same time. 

Silje seemed fine with doing school at home, as long as it wasn't permanent.  I'll admit, she missed her friends when school started in the fall.  For a long time, I think she felt like we were just playing school.  We finally had time for her to have extra-curricular activities since we had her home during the day.  She got to see other kids at homeschool group twice a month and her children's choir once a week.

Other than wishing she could spend more time with friends, she's thriving doing school at home.  Actually, she doesn't ask to get together with friends any more than when she went to school.  Her reading comprehension is getting deeper, her imagination and work ethic are inspiring, This whole first year was a vast, successful experiment.  Maybe Silje will hate me for it over time, but I don't have a single regret.  Not one.

The other part of the question asked was in regard to obstacles or family approval?  Some family was thrilled, and applauded us enthusiastically.  I wouldn't say any was against, but there were several who were...we'll say hesitant.  These days, it seems that everyone knows a homeschooling family, but very little about homeschooling, unless you're actually in that crowd.  We get one particular family stuck in our brain and label that as "homeschooling" for good or bad.  For those who worried, we did make an attempt to address the concerns (which were mostly about socialization or missing out on "normal" kid things,) but in the end the proof was in the pudding.  If something really is best for my family, or if something clearly isn't working, it shows.  We are fortunate, (and were a bit relieved) that even those who had concerns voiced them lovingly, and with respect.  I know not everyone's story goes that way.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Answering the Rest

I started answering the questions asked during the giveaway, and thought I would wrap it up today, except for the homeschooling question.  I saved that for tomorrow.

Whitney asked how to pronounce Silje's name.  First I'll say the right way, and then I'll tell you the cheating American way that most of us use.  In Norwegian, "j" is pronounced like the English "y."  An "e" at the end of the name is like a subtle "a" sound in English.  So think Sill-ya.  Except the Norwegians kinda flip the "l" in a really cool way, and most Americans aren't that good at that.  So we compare it to the name "Celia" as the quick explanation to people.  If I'm with a Norwegian friend and they overhear that explanation, they do correct me that it isn't the same.  Silje's pet peeve is when people ask her what her name is and when she says it, they call her "Sylvia."  She hates being called Sylvia.  Her middle name is Grace, and we've given her clearance to go by that if she chooses.  I have heard her introduce herself as Grace a few times, just to try it out, and it doesn't bother me one bit. 

Elysia asked how Silje mangages the pronunciation on Rosetta Stone.  You can adjust the bar on that.  What I mean, is you can adjust how perfect it forces you to go.  For the first month or two, Silje was really struggling, and another mom suggested I mess with the accuracy feature, which Knut was kinda against.  Silje was near throwing in the towel, when we at least looked up what it was set at, and it was really high.  It was defaulted at a perfection level, which might explain her frustration.  Now, I know it's the goal to get there, but she's just in 1st grade.  She had never been on a computer before, spoken Chinese before, or studied grammar in English yet!  It was just so much that was new that we just pulled back a bit.  We didn't move the bar down to easy.  Lets say it's set at 100% accuracy in pronunciation, and we moved it to 80% percent-ish.  It's a bar/toggle thing and I honestly don't remember how to change it.  I do remember that once we did, she started flying through.  I don't regret doing that one bit.

Monique asked if I have any kids' sewing projects in the mix.  I'm always on the look for that as well.  After the cross stitch project, I think that I'm going to have her use the 1 1/2 inch hexagons that I have similar to the 1 inch ones I'm using for the "Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt" and have her hand stitch her own pillow to decorate her bed.  I have this super girly/glittery/fairy/princess fabrics that I got for this project for her and she's so excited for it.  She really wants to work through the sewing book that we got, and is especially excited about a felt purse in there.

Penny asked for my favorite go-to meals.  I pull new recipes from Everyday Food .  There was one recipe in there that I recommend a lot called broccoli calzones.  Everyone in my family loves it...even the ones who hate broccoli.  Plus it's a cheap meal and a freezer meal.  Um...when I need to make supper fast it's usually spaghetti, hodge-podge soup, or tacos.  Hodge-podge soup is usually my homemade stock (either beef or chicken/turkey) with leftover coordinating meat and leftover or fresh vegis that I have on hand.  Then add a noodle, rice, or potato.  To season a chicken soup to make the whole family like it, add a bunch of white pepper.  Enough flavor for Knut, and no little black specks that freak out the kids, plus I love the flavor way better than black pepper.  To season a beef soup (I always add roasted tomato paste that I make and freeze in 1 cup portions every year from the garden) the other secret ingredient is chili powder.  It's so good with a good dash of that.  Knut is always trying to get me to add beans or dumplings, and I always tell him he's welcome to cook if he has ideas.

Chili and rice is another favorite meal around here.  I always grew up with chili in a bowl with cheese, and Knut grew up pouring his chili over a pile of rice.  As our own family, we do brown rice, then chili, then cheese.  It comes together in less than an hour and everyone likes it.  I usually make a triple batch so I can have some to freeze for later.  Here's my chili recipe(1 batch):
(When doing a single batch, follow the recipe for beans.  When doubling recipe, use only 3 cans of beans.  When tripling, use 5-6 cans, [2 kidney, 2 chili, 1-2 black can of black beans]  Also, sometimes I substitute roasted tomato paste from the freezer for the can of tomato soup)

1 lb hamburger
1/2 med. onion, chopped
1 can tomato soup
2 cans of beans (I like Bush's chili beans in medium sauce, and 1 can dark kidney beans)

make paste of:
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon flour
1/8 tsp salt
3T water

brown hamburger with onion.  Add soups and beans and paste.  Cook for 45 minutes, stir occasionally.

That's one of our family favorites!  We often make a big batch and freeze half or more.  That way I only have to do the cooking dishes once!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Loving Spring

Any occasion to be outside these days is seized.
My poor babies wear the mess-up/tester/"I wonder if this will work" diapers.  The pocket diapers I like to stuff with prefolds best.


First found weed.  Boo.
 I don't need much excuse to experience how my new camera likes Spring.
Little did I know that when I took these pictures, our dog Lena was stuck in the barn.  Knut shut the door not knowing she had followed him in there.  We spent the evening wondering where she ran off to.  (She never runs off!)  We called her so many times but she's too polite to bark.  It wasn't until about 10:30pm when it hit me that she could be out there.  It was a pretty walk out there at night too!
The kids are finding so much to do outside is this lovely weather.
 I love where I live,
 and those who live here with me.

Yarn Along

Hello to the weekly visitors of the Yarn Along!  It's always refreshing to meet others there who are as crazy about yarn as I am.  It makes me feel slightly less crazy.

This week I finished what I call the "Glamour Monkey Romper."  I really played it up and made a crocheted flower to attach to the waistband, and a second flower to attach to a clip that can go on a little baby headband, or hat, or just in hair.  I'm pleased that I got all of the finishing work done right away, (patting myself on the back...) and didn't let it linger.  It was finished, ends woven in, buttons attached, blocked, and listed in my store.  Yeah!

During our once a month "School at a coffee shop" day that I do with Silje, I started yet another romper.  I don't need another one in my store.  What I mean is, it's not on my official list that I make out at the beginning of the month of things to get done for the store.  Still, with girls' weekend out! I mean the homeschool convention coming up, I thought it would be nice to have some really easy knitting along for the road, or hotel, etc.  Projects are so much easier to keep up with when it's cast on and markers placed.   It's just coasting and fiddling from there.  No counting.

I haven't gotten far on it, though, because I'm forcing myself to place 2 flowers a week on Silje's grandmother's flower garden quilt so that the top will be ready to hand quilt this winter.  Hand sewing is done in the same time slot as knitting in my house (aka: t.v. time at night).  That's for another post, though.  To go down a small rabbit trail quickly, Silje is assuming that as soon as it's done it's going on her bed.  I told her I'd have to think about when I wanted to give it to her.  She did not like that idea.  I've always been of the belief that quilts, even hand-stitched ones, are meant to be used.  Really loved and used!  However, this quilt is being done entirely by hand over the course of years!  I'm starting to think that if I give it to a 7 year old and something happens to it, I'll lose it.  I'm playing with the idea of keeping it and giving it to her for her 16th birthday.  I chose all the fabrics for her to grow up with in her room though.  Using a quilt for it's intended purpose, regardless of what happens to it feels so much more authentic.  A used quilt, even damaged, has a story.  That story is part of the beauty.  Anyway, as I'm debating, I'd love to hear thoughts.

On the reading front, I'm still working my way through The Well-Trained Mind.  I've gotten through the training during preschool years, and am almost through the 4th grade period.  I just have the junior high and senior high years left.  I really love this approach to learning.  I resonates so much with me.  I do like Sonlight's tweek of a classical education because it gives more time to Eastern history.  So much of a classical education relies on studying Western history.  Maybe it's my roots in the fact that my mom was a missionary kid in Japan, or that Silje has an obsession with China and is working on studying the language.  Maybe it's that I just think that the entire Eastern culture is so foreign to us and we will never reach people there without understanding them.  Sonlight devotes an entire year to Eastern history.  It still pales in comparison to how much Western history is taught, but it's leaps and bounds more than any other program I've seen.

I've got such great books on the back burner.  I need to get through this one so it can head back to the library on time for once.  In all reality, this might be my next swagbucks purchase on amazon.com though!  It has such great resources inside that I think we'll use it a lot!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fun Country Stuff

There's so much going on lately at our house!  These guys are certainly keeping us busy!

Knut is working on framing out the wood box next to the fireplace while he waits for the mantle molding that he ordered.

I started priming the dining room for paint, and perhaps have a color choice picked. 

We made homemade graham crackers the other day.  I used this site that one of my friends posted on facebook.  It was so so easy, just like everyone said it was.  I'd say it was about as much work as making no bake cookies.  The rolling out process was so easy too, mostly because you didn't need flour to roll it so the mess factor was extremely low.

The last batch that we rolled out, I just took the scraps the cookie cutters missed and smushed them together on the pan to just bake that way.  The kids thought that was about as cool as looking at fluffy clouds and guessing what the shape was.  They made monster faces on them, and even made one into a viking ship.

We cut out shapes, and then I gave the kids toothpicks and let them poke in faces and designs onto our crackers.  They had so much fun!  I would gauge it to be about as much fun as making Christmas cookies, but without the sugary stickiness.

About the same time, it was pretty rainy outside, and for 2 nights, we heard scratching on the window in the basement.  It was always dark out, and I figured it was a branch from a bush with the windy storm.  It wasn't until daytime, when the kids heard it as well, when they stood on their tippy toes on top of the couch, and saw these little guys outside the window.  These muskrats were stuck in our window well and couldn't get out.

Knut disposed of them, which makes me grateful that I've got a husband here to do those kinds of jobs!  The kids sure had fun watching them through the window for about a day, as they refused to go outside while the muskrats were there.  We probably cautioned them pretty strongly that they were not to be played with.  They're gone now, and yesterday hit 60 degrees!  The kids spent hours playing outside yesterday as they left the coats and brought the sunglasses!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Happy 4 Months!

4 months ago, we got a little blessing.
Can we even describe the joy you bring us? 
Can you believe it's been 4 months!  Thank you for your smiles, coos, and cuddles.  I love holding you as much as I can.  I love how you smile at everyone.  I love how you aren't old enough to fight with your siblings yet.  You are such a ray of sunshine wherever you go.  I love you so much!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Thumb Sucking

I'm continually amazed that I have 4 children, and I still encounter new problems and new dillemas.  I don't have it "all figured out."  It's not a cake walk because I've done it all before.  O, the advice that I used to give when I had 1 child.  I was so stinkin' smart then.  Now that I have 4, I feel like I have no clue so often.  For instance, this is my first encounter with thumb sucking.
With my other kids, if they put their thumbs in their mouths, I would remove it and put in a pacifier.  I figured that when they're older, it'll be easier to take away a pacifier than taking away a thumb.  Silje took a pacifier for about 9 or 10 months, and gave it up without a fight.  The boys never took to it, as hard as I tried. That was hard when they had nothing but nursing to soothe them, or at least not as convenient. Solveig will take a pacifier, but after 4 months she's still not that great at keeping it in.  Mostly because she smiles too much.  Everytime she smiles she looses the pacifier...so pretty much all the time.  You'd think if she was smiling, she wouldn't need it.  However, after about 10 seconds of smiling and gazing into your eyes, she remembers her troubles, and begins crying again.  She smiles whenever I look at her, but if I turn my gaze to something like picking up toys, she begins to cry again.  So I have to stick it in for her, which usually requires looking at her, which makes her smile again.  When I look away to get back to business, she cries that she needs it.  It's a vicious cycle.  When I'm wearing her and can manage to get it in her mouth without making eye contact with her, she'll take it just fine.

She loves her thumb, though.

It's just that it's so handy to have her have something always with her, and something she can control and put in her mouth herself to soothe herself.  There's this nagging thought in the back of my head, though, that I'm going to regret letting her do this.  She may suck that finger until she's 10.  You know those "horror" stories you hear.  Still, I'm not sure if it's a valid worry, or if it's a false worry like people saying you shouldn't hold your baby too much (um, I gave that up soooo long ago.  Babywearing is awesome!)

I'd like to hear from those mothers who have had a thumb sucker.  Did it become a problem?  Did your child suck on his thumb as he was stressing about a job interview?  (OK, that one is a joke.)  Was there teeth problems?  Was it a big fight down the road, or did they just give it up on their own?  Right now, I'm liking the simplicity of her soothing herself with little effort.  I'm just wondering if I'm setting myself up for issues down the road.

Just curious.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Homeschool Friday

On Tuesday, we went to our homeschool group meeting, and Silje heard a speaker who talked about bird migrations, and gave them each a bird sticker book.  (Did you know that there's a bird who migrates from the near North Pole to the Antarctica every year?)  On Wednesday morning, Silje asked if she could make a bird book using the stickers.  She wanted to put one sticker on each page, and write down as much as she can about that one bird.  She wanted to start with the Robin, since that is the newest bird we are seeing outside our window.

So I gave her yet another $.25 composition notebook that I bought in bulk during the back-to-school clearance times.  Then I did something I haven't let her do before.  I went on the computer and found what seemed to me to be a reputable bird site, typed in Robin, and let her snoop around there.  This is the first time she was allowed on the internet, and I was terrified.  We've been meaning to, but haven't yet, set up safeguards for the kids so that they could do research like this. That is certainly at the top of our list now!

Silje thought it was great.  She learned so much about Robins, and wrote it all under the Robin sticker on her page.  I asked what kinds of things she wrote down, and she said she wrote things, or clues to look for when she's outside, so she can use the book outside and maybe find more clues.  I love this idea of her picking some things to learn.  I love seeing her imagination grow, as well as her thirst for knowledge.

The more I read books like The Well-Trained Mind and other such home educating philosophies, I feel like I'm getting a crash course in teaching.  Like I'm in college again, but my textbooks are ones that I choose, and my professors are mom's along side me, and moms who have gone before me in this journey.  There are so many techniques out there.  So many ways of doing things.  One look at Silje's bird book, and you may think that we hold to the "unschooled" philosophy.

Have you heard of this?  It's basically child-lead learning.  Your child picks what they want to study that day, and you just let them go at it.  Let them follow their curiosity and see what they learn.  I would say that I believe this, but in regard to play.  I believe in child-lead play, and that it can be the most educational kind of play there is.  It would be silly for me to say, "No.  You must not study birds today.  For science this year we are studying astronomy and not other science is allowed."  It would also be silly not to bring laughter and joy and fun into a subject as much as possible.

The idea with in the "child lead" learning theory is that if you make something fun, then they'll always want to do it.  If they always want to do it, than they will be learning all the time.  Now the problem I see with this theory: how do you teach them to do things they don't want to do?  How do you teach them to do things even though they are not fun?
(Silje's reading her library book by the fireplace, hence the rosy cheeks!)

I guess what I'm getting at is that learning should be as fun as possible.  However, it won't always be fun.  I won't have the guilt on my shoulders that if my child doesn't enjoy a subject, it's because I haven't made it fun enough.  I don't want them to quit a subject because they don't enjoy it.  Possibly, like the "Chinese mother" I think if they are not enjoying a subject, it's because they're not good at it yet.  So far in our studies, when Silje has been dragging her feet with a subject, I assign her more of it, and more often.  When she starts to get the hang of it, she begins to adore the subject.

I think God gave my kids parents for a reason.  So that we can teach them.  Not so they can teach themselves.  We need to guide them, and not let them walk alone.  This takes an awful lot of prayer so that there is balance.  That's something I need to be doing so much more.  It can be so easy to guide our child along the path that I want, or to fall into the other side, and let them go along whatever path they want.  Both are wrong!  As parents, we need to be prayerfully seeking God's guidance on what path HE has laid out for them.

Part of that will be the parent making a child do something that is not fun.  Part of that will be the parent recognizing the design God has put into a child, and taking cues from that, and using it to the best advantage.  It's such a balance as a mother!  It continually reminds me how much I need to be praying!  Because God designed my child to want to learn, and to be industrious.  However, with that design we must also recognize the sin nature my child was born with.  The tendency, like all of us, to be lazy and selfish.  It's so easy to just attempt to teach my child discipline, and forget what is even more important than that: the source of discipline.  To teach a child to rely on Christ...is there anything more mind boggling?  It's in this area that I feel the most inept.  It's in this area that I continually pray that God will take on this task himself, because it feels too great for me.

I feel sometimes, that I'm cheating on teaching when Silje spends an hour on learning something independently, and I push "school" back for an hour while she does it.  It's confusing, but so good to let learning and playing smush together.  It is good.  I mean, come on...my daughter asked me if "after" school she could work more on her bird book, which is basically a scientific observation/research project.  I'm very aware that I'm totally spoiled with her as a student.  I'm trying very hard to allow her her "fun learning" as much as possible while not getting lazy and letting that be the only kind of learning that she does.