Friday, March 30, 2012

Teacher Notes

We had a good week of learning, though we did not do school every day.  This year is so different than last in the way that I've lost all track of days off like Columbus Day, and teacher conferences that the public school does.  Last year I had already written in my calender all of the public school days of note because we were initially planning on sending Silje.  When we decided to homeschool, the notes on the calender stayed because I thought it would be a helpful reference.  When the public school had a day off and we continued on, I'd give myself a little pat on the back for going above and beyond.  When we spent a day running errands instead of doing school, I mentally counted it as using up one of the "day offs" I had stored up by good behavior.

Well, this year has been completely liberating in the fact that I have no idea which days the public school is in or out.  We do school when we're home to do it, and I don't worry if we have to be somewhere.  That's basically been my system.  A few days we were at home and had a bunch of home stuff to do and didn't get to our "curriculum" part of the school, but I still feel those days were full of life learning.

Last summer got so long last year as Silje missed school, and the whole structure of our days was turned upside down.  This year I have no intention of doing that to ourselves.  If all we have time for that day is to be in the garden, then that's what we'll do.  If the kids are acting bored and moping about the house, I'll pull out "school."  I'm throwing out the idea this summer of taking 3 months off because I've decided that's too much work.  It's too much work to figure out what to do with these kids without using the resources that I use all the other 9 months of the year.

The funny thing is, is that I was really worried we were falling behind with this system of doing school when we're home but not stressing if we're out and about.  I was thinking we'd need all summer to catch up.  However, last weekend, I looked ahead, as I did about 2 months ago.  This time, I realized Silje only has 3 readers left.  We only have 2 read alouds left.  She finishes her 2nd grade math program next week.

I did not buy a formal curriculum for David this year, but set out some goals for the years with the hopes that by the end of May he'd have met those goals.  I wanted to make sure he knew how to write all his letters, and to get him reading 3 letter words.  Well, he can write, although not terribly well.  He needs practice, but I think he's on par with what Silje did at that age.  As far as reading, I just pulled out our level 3 Hooked on Phonics this week, and my goal for the year was to finish level 1.  I wanted to get through kindergarten math this year, but we realized that was too frustratingly slow for him and we've been working on 1st grade math ever since.

The year isn't over for him and our goals are already surpassed.

We've been dabbling with a few other phonics programs as well, and a few other reading programs that I have on hand.  We're also pulling a lot of his readers from the library, and he enjoys picking some of them out himself.

For science, I keep looking ahead at our botany course and thinking "O, we should do this project this summer!"  "This would be so much easier this summer!"  So in the mean time, I've been checking out books on plants from the library.  For good measure, I checked out a lot of animal books as well.  Silje's been devouring books on dolphins, horses, and this enormous book from the adult section that lists every breed of dog and different attributes and notes/pictures about each breed.  None of them based off of our purchased curriculum, but she's spending every "non-school" hour of free time with her nose in those books.  She really wants to be a vet, so spends a lot of her free time studying animal anatomy and behaviors.  Whether or not she ends up being a vet doesn't matter to me.  I like that it's propelling her to learn!

When I started homeschooling, many moms who have been down this road told me it would take a few years to "de-school" my brain and look for practical ways to facilitate education without feeling like I had to make a mock-classroom in our home.  I really didn't understand what they were saying, but I do now.

I think there are some great methods to learn from the educational system, but I feel so free not to constantly be comparing notes with them as if we were in some sort of race to see who was ahead and who was behind.  It's not that I'm way better than public school people, because that's not true.  It's just that school methods were developed with a large classroom in mind, and some of those methods just don't work in a home setting.

Most notably, I feel good not counting days anymore.  I'm glad I don't live in a state that requires me to do so.  I'm not sure which days I would count as "school" and which ones I would count as "home" because we just learn everywhere.  This summer we will spend a lot of time in the garden learning about plants and what they need, and how to preserve the bounty.  Is that school?

Silje spent hours this week reading biology books.  She did it of her own volition, I merely placed them in the house.  Is that school?  We sat down at the table and did math worksheets and had to walk around the house looking for various examples of parallel and perpendicular lines.  Is that school?

David spent a lot of time with the math manipulative of the scale and weighed several objects to find out what was equal.  Then through his own discovery, he found out that the math scale can also be used as a catapult.  (smile.)  Then we got to do some history review from earlier this year when we learned about knights and castles.  Is education the part of the day when we are working on a purchased curriculum or the part when we vary from it?

Not only that, but when the summer months come, must we stop reading classic books at night from our reading list before bed simply because public school is not in session?  The kids would be heartbroken. The dangling bait of getting to stay up later than the little kids totally works for getting them to sit and listen to books they wouldn't normally sit and listen to.  They absolutely love it.

What we talk a lot about in the homeschool mom support group I go to is that we need to focus on our children's education, and not beat ourselves up about "school" and what that looks like.  I love working from our curriculum, and I love taking our detours.  I feel less and less stressed out about our detours because I'm starting to see the importance and value of them.  They don't feel like frosting to the education anymore, they feel like part of the foundation.

I keep thinking about a speaker we heard a few months back who said in their house they only studied 3 subjects:
skills
knowledge
character

They filled their days with those 3 subjects.  As I look ahead to this summer, I hope our days will continue to have those 3 subjects.  I'm finding that we're actually not falling behind on my goals for the year at all with those being the structure to our day.

I don't mean to say we've gone all "unschooling" because I'm not all on board with that philosophy.  We sit and learn with structure.  We cuddle on the couch with books a lot from our Sonlight curriculum, with sprinklings from other books from a classical model of education.  We work on handwriting, we work on spelling.  We work on grammar and math.  However, not all days have all things.  We just keep moving.  We just keep working and learning. 

I wish I could say that I'm "done with the guilt" but I know that that's an area in my life where it grows up like weeds in a garden and I need to stay on the lookout for it.  I can say that I feel like as I'm nearing the end of our second year, I'm starting to feel the hang of it.  Well, at least for now.

As I look back on this post, I see how many references I've made to a garden, and weeds.  It must be Spring.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quotes That Last Forever

Growing up in my family, and I'm sure likewise in most, everyone seemed to tell the same stories.  The stories told about me usually, in circulation to this day, I can narrow down to 2 stories.  The time when I spit out my green beans into my milk without anyone noticing, and then when I left the table, my mom made my brother finish my milk so it would not go to waste.  After all, he was always hungry.  My sister tells me that this story made my name famous among the 2nd graders at the school she taught at.

The other story is basically the first of many showdowns I had with people.  Shortly after my parents separated, my grandparents moved in to help out.  I wasn't even in kindergarten yet, and after seeing my brother and sister leave for school in the fall, I was finishing up my bowl of cereal, and my grandpa told me to finish the milk in the bottom of my bowl.  I, apparently, looked him square in the eye and told him in the biggest 5-year-old stern voice: "You're not the boss of me."  I didn't shout it.  I just wanted him to know that he did not intimidate me.

Writing that out, I realize that the stories about me both involve me not finishing milk.  Funny, because Knut complains about that too.  Huh...

Anyway, there was a moment last weekend where Silje said something that will be burned into my brain forever.  I absolutely must record it.  Last Saturday we went to an early morning basketball game.  Then we came home to do chores before Silje was going to a friend's birthday party.  Still after that, we had a family over for supper.  (Knut's doing his I'm-soon-going-to-not-see-people-because-I-will-be-planting-the fields social juggle right now.)

Anyway, I was running around vacuuming, changing sheets, etc. etc.  I had assigned the 2 older kids jobs as they are somewhat able to do chores without me in the room.  At least I'm trying to get them to that point.  Silje's job was to fold and put away clothes.  She's very good at this job.  However, there was a lot of laundry, and the socks nearly threw her over the edge.  I was planning on letting the kids take a break after about an hour of work, in which I'd most likely forget to ask them to help again.  I'm not saying I was intentionally not going to ask them, but you moms out there know that helping isn't always helpful.  So it often slips the brain when you have a job at hand.

About 50 minutes into it, Silje approaches me as I'm shuffling the enormously heavy old, old Kirby vacuum down from upstairs.

"Mom, can I be done?"
"No, Silje, I asked you to do a job, and I gave you a very easy one.  You don't have to finish the whole pile, but I'd like you to work at least until I finish this [whatever I was doing] and then we'll wrap the present and go to the birthday party."
Silje walked off in a huff.  I probably should have followed her to discuss the huff, but I was on a cleaning roll.

Silje calmly walked back to me as I was scrubbing the bathroom sink and said, "Mommy, I'm just asking you to think.  How would you feel, Mommy?  How would you feel if you had to clean for a whole hour other people's stuff.  Clothes that weren't even your own?  Huh?  How would that make you feel if someone asked you to do that?"

It was one of those moments as a mom where you know the absolute wrong thing to do was to laugh at your child, but I'm sorry to say I couldn't help it.  With cleaning grit up my fingers I couldn't even wipe away the tears as I bent over doing a "silent laugh" which is what happens to people in my family when we're laughing as hard as we can.  Even now I can't but help smile.

Knut walked by and asked what's so funny.  I tried to tell him with a straight face...honest.  He smiled at Silje and said, "Silje, if that were ever to happen to Mommy, you know how she'd feel?  She'd feel like she was on vacation."

Sadly for Silje and David, it's never been more apparent to me that they need some more chores around the house.  They've been pretty good about it.  Silje especially rarely complains, which is why this story is so funny.  Silje helped Knut clean out the chicken coop yesterday without a complaint.  It was a dirty, dusty job and she enjoyed every minute.  Well, it involved animals so that makes sense.

On that thought I should add we had a chicken death this week.  We're down to 16 now.  I'll save that story for another post.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Yarn Along


I'm still working on Nicholas and Alexandra, a history of the fall of the Romanov dynasty in Russia.  I'm about half way through, and honestly I'm moving at a snail's pace.  It's not the book; it's me.  I just haven't devoted much time to it at a time as I should, but I'm really enjoying it.  I wish I would have been taking notes from the beginning.  Knut almost always has a notepad by whatever he's reading and takes tedious notes.  You should have seen the notes he had last time he read the "Lord of the Rings" series.

I find myself thinking to myself several times, "Now who is that again?  Was he a revolutionary, or an imperialist?"  The main reason for this is I'm not familiar with Russian names and sometimes they all blend together in my brain.  I should have taken notes.  I'm not going to now, anyway.  I'll just keep plugging along.  Just don't test me on the names.

It's kind of neat, though, because Silje's history this last week had us reading and illustrated story of Peter the Great, the tsar of Russia who forced Russia away from the "backwards" Eastern ways, and dragged his country over to the "modern" Western ideals.  He forced his noblemen to build western style houses at their own expense.  He cut off their beards, and taxed anyone who dared to grow one.  He traveled Europe, and was the first tsar to do so.  My book had talked a bit about Peter the Great, another Romanov of the past, and it was fun to read the children's story of him near the same time.

My knitting was a bit all over the place this last week, but it's settled down now.  I was working on a lace shawl, but I did not like how the lace border was turning out.  So I put the project on the back burner as I look through my stitch dictionaries as time allows in the future, to see what lace I should use instead.

I'm still working on the Little Pearl Vest for my niece, whose birthday is coming up in May.  I'm nearly done, and then I need to make one more tiny Little Pearl as a sample for my local yarn shop.  Then I may take a break from that pattern for a little bit. 

Since I don't always like doing colorwork, I cast on a solid pattern so I always have something to grab on the go.  This is one of my designs moving out of the sketch book, as it's been waiting there a few months.  It's a little capelet/cowl in a Japanese lace design.  I'm calling it "Tsu." (Pronounced "Sue")  When thinking of a name, I thought back to my Japanese (exchange student) friends from high school.  There was one girl named "Tsubasa" and she had the cutest clothes ever, and let me borrow them sometimes.  I loved how they fit me, and realized that someday if I went to Japan, I might actually find clothes that fit people like me there!  

The pattern will be available for other sizes as well.  I've had this yarn (Misty Alpaca worsted) for about 2 years and it did not work for the project I had first intended to use it with.  I'm so glad to take this lovely yarn out of my stash and put it to good use.  This pattern may require another skein, but I'm pretty sure the yarn store still has that dye lot there.

I've been a good girl, and following my daily pattern writing "chores" in order to get the Ginger Cardigan pattern off to the tech editor before the quilting retreat this weekend.  I've allotted about an hour's worth of work each evening with milestones to reach each night.  I'm working on the "grading" right now, and it should be finished Wednesday night.  Although it's not difficult to knit up, writing this pattern is more complex than I've ever done before, mostly because it's my first adult sized sweater.  I feel like I'm writing in a different language.  It really uses a part of my brain rarely awakened.  There's several pages of this gobbledygook.  Doesn't it look that way?  (For those of you who look at that closely, don't mind my blank number spots filled in with ";oasidfj'" random spacers until I get all the numbers filled in.  I do that so I don't forget to fill in any numbers when they're all computed.)

I wasn't planning on finishing it so soon, but last week I put the pictures of the finished product on my Ravelry page, and wouldn't you  know, people started sharing it, and I started getting emails from strangers saying "I can't WAIT for the pattern to come out!", and one that made me laugh, "Is there anything I can do to help you speed along the release of  this pattern?  I really want this pattern, like yesterday."  The response pretty much lit a fire under me to get this done ASAP.  So far, everything is on schedule.  I've even given myself a few evening wiggle room in case of family "emergency."'  You know, 'cause Netflix is delivering a new movie here today, and Knut may "steal" some of my evening time.

 Yarnin' Along with Ginny.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Drum Lesson

David loves to play the drums, and a popular past time these days (besides emptying out the bottom cupboards and hiding in them) is to play the pots with chopsticks.  Normally David is the only one who does this, but occasionally Elias jams with him.  Yesterday I got the pleasure of having David and Solveig do a concert for me. 

They're really not all pots.  There's a double boiler, a steamer, a stainless bowl, and a stainless colander thrown in there as well.  David was teaching her the beats.

Though she was constantly wandering off to see if there could possibly be any other drums to pull out of the cupboard.

Every single time she hit her colander, she blinked in shock of the noise of it.  It was so noisy, but she just couldn't stop herself.

Well, then her love of sitting in tiny places trumped her love of noise.  She found a new use for her drum a few minutes after tapping it, and my camera was thankfully still nearby so I could catch a picture of the position she got herself into before she figured out how to get out of it minutes later.

Monday, March 26, 2012

I'm Blessed

Last night I got into the dangerous mind game of comparison.  After the kids were in bed, and I was just goofing off on the computer looking at stuff, I found myself on some blogs of knitting designers that I admire.  I'm always astonished how fast they get designs out.  It shouldn't be surprising because the ones I was looking at design full time.  They have staff.  Well, not a large staff, but 1 or 2 people who help write the patterns or knit up the samples.

I look at their published books with envy, and my mind wanders down that road just a moment.
Discontentment sinks in.

My life is so different from theirs.  My life is full of diapers, and making meals and swimming lessons, and homeschooling.  I knit in the downtime throughout the day, or watching movies with Knut at night.  I write patterns in the evening when Knut is at a meeting or doing his own thing.  I enjoy it, therefore it gets done.  I'm not in a place to do what they do, and if I were to make that life happen right now, I would miss my kids terribly.  Those are the real facts.

I heard the other day from someone that someone was reading my blog and felt bad that she couldn't get done all that I got done.  When I heard that, I chuckled because I have often been envious of her, and here she was envious of me.

It's a grand distraction of the devil isn't it?  Showing us the grass on the other side of the fence?  We all make choices, hopefully guided by God, and those choices are often different.  Someone may envy the fact that we have chickens, and I may envy the fact that they live 2 blocks from the library.  Someone may envy that I get to stay at home, and here I am envying some women who work outside the home full time.

We can't have it all.  I just doesn't work that way.  We can have God's best for us, and often we do if we would just sit a moment and notice it.

I'm so blessed with my 4 children.  Each one brings a smile to my face at the mere thought of them.

I'm so blessed to be able to be a stay at home mom.  Not only that, I'm so blessed with a husband who is determined in an old fashioned way to provide for our family.  It doesn't matter if the kids are at home or not.  He doesn't care if I work, or sell, as long as I enjoy it.  I know this isn't always possible, and I know some women don't desire it.  I don't mean to hold it up as "I'm way better than women who provide for their families."  I just feel so grateful that our situation is just as I would have it.  It's what I'd pick.

I'm so blessed by Knut.  He gives me so much sanity and encouragement.

As said in my last post, I'm so grateful to my friends.  There were a few years when we first moved here from the city and I felt I had no one to call when I needed a friend.  Those were lonely times for us as we readjusted to a new community.  I'm grateful that now I have to pick who I call first.

I'm blessed to be able to be artistic in my own way, even though I can't do it full time.  So far it has not taken over our household, and I've been able to carve away bits of "me" time to do this here and there. 

I'm so blessed with our life, and even though it's so easy to peek over our neighbor's fence and see what their life is like, I remember that when I do that I only see the nicely groomed lawns and not inside where all their mess is.  So if you ever read this, and find yourself having a twinge of jealousy, just remember I don't post pictures of my life's closets on here either...or at least not most of the time. 

If you'd like to join me in counting the ways God has blessed you, you can either leave a comment, so you can bless others, or if you feel so inclined, write up your own blog post about how God has blessed you, link back to this blog, and drop the link to your post below.  They're really fun to read.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Teacher Notes

I've been thinking about this post for awhile, and whether or not I should write it.  I always write as a means of processing, and so I think it would be helpful to me.  However, I also know that people who know my kids read it, people who don't know my kids, and perhaps someday, my kids will read it.  Maybe their future employers will read it.  I want to be careful with my words so that they will always communicate what I'm intending.  Since I'm often wordy when I'm trying to be clear, feel free to skip this post if you don't have the time.  Otherwise, settle in for the story.

We had an issue with David this week.  Another one.  From the beginning, Tuesday was a bad day for all the kids.  Silje and David were bickering, Solveig had a really tough time napping so I had to take more time laying her down than usual so I wasn't able to referee.  Of course she has a tough time napping on mornings when we're doing activities all afternoon and she can't then.

We went to homeschool group which went pretty well other than the fact that I caught Silje on several occasions be mean to David, as big sisters often do.  Words were said in front of others that made David cry, and I removed her and we had a serious conversation.  David had been having a really difficult time listening and obeying earlier that day and this was certainly not going to help out.

In hindsight, I should have just gone home from there.  In fact, I shouldn't have even gone to town with the kids behaving how they were that day.  The week before had so much running around that perhaps we all just needed some serious normalcy.

I wasn't going to let David go to choir practice because he was not listening to me at all.  He begged and pleaded.  So we stopped by one store before choir and I said if he did a good job at that stop, and obeyed perfectly, then I'd give him a chance.  He did good for the 15-20 minutes we were in there, and I hesitatingly dropped him off at choir practice.

30 minutes later when I picked him up and dropped off Silje, his choir director pulled me aside and kindly let me know that David had hit another little boy. This was not the first conversation I've had with this director.  Last fall, I had seen through the window David act out terribly in the class, and before I had a chance to bolt in the room, she handled it like a pro.  She got down to his level.  She put her hand on his shoulder.  Those 2 things are so key in "dealing with" David and you could tell this was not her first antsy little boy.  Seeing how she handled David in that situation won my respect.

After that class last fall I had apologized to her for David's disruption and asked if she thought David was ready for choir yet.  I assured her I would not let him disrupt her class again, even if it meant pulling him.  She was very understanding, and I urged her to let me know if there were any future problems.  We talked with David, practiced with David, worked with him, and we haven't had any problems these last few months at choir that I have known about.

This conversation was a bit more frustrated.  I could see she was upset, and that really upset me.  What she described I knew all too well.  I was kicking myself for letting him go.  This good women did not deserve to deal with him like this.  She asked me if he'd ever been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.

All I could say was "we've never had him tested." and in her eyes, she gave me an understanding, kind look.  I couldn't bring myself to say "yes" or "no". 

It was not the first time someone has asked me this, and definitely not the first time I asked myself this.  Now you know why I'm so touchy about this post.  ADD/ADHD diagnosis and treatment is about as controversial a topic in parenting as spanking, crying it out, homeschooling, etc.  I'm not meaning to make any sort of statement.  I just want to document how we're processing it.

First, we don't know if he has ADD/ADHD and we plan to keep it that way at this time.  The main reason is that we don't want him labeled.  Labeling is helpful when medication is needed.  Labeling is helpful when a school's infrastructure needs to change to get the child the help he/she needs.  It gets the ball rolling and help comes flooding in.  When you homeschool, it's a bit different.  I'll talk more about this in a minute.

I don't want a label for David, and I don't want medication either, even though some days are tough.  First, I never want him to have an excuse for misbehaving.  We live in a label filled society and we cling to them so!  I firmly believe that every single human being has something they really struggle with, and it's those things that make us strong.  Second, although I'm not anti-medication I don't honestly think it's needed in this case.  He is not expected to preform in a classroom and sit still for hours on end.  He's allowed to focus on a subject fully without interruption of bells to move onto the next subject which is a big obstacle to learning in depth for ADD/ADHD kids in traditional classrooms.

To me, medication of any kind is a last resort especially in the case of a child where his mind and body is still growing and developing.  I can handle him, and I've spent hours and hours over the last year or so studying writings from moms who homeschool ADD/ADHD kids.  There are some great resources out there.

After the frustrating news from his choir teacher, I called a good friend who homeschools to vent about the fact that my kid was 'that kid' since Knut was unavailable right then to vent to.  Plus, I was a moment when I really doubted myself and the decisions we've made for David.  My kid hit another kid and I'm guessing there are a few mothers out there who understand how horrifying that is.

Was he just not ready?  Do we just need to wait until he's older to put him in group settings like this, or was it that I wasn't putting him in group setting enough and he just doesn't have the experience?  Was it that I had not prepared him for group settings like this?  Did he just need more time and maturity?  I've adjusted our school at home so that he learns better, but am I doing him any favors by catering to him like that?  Would it always be like this?  I can handle him, but it's taken years to figure out how to do so, and very few people outside Knut and I seem to be able to handle him.

I'm so grateful that I had a list of friends I could have called to ask a million questions at once in a frustrated mommy sort of way. 

The friend I called offered some help.  First, she pointed me to the homeschooling website www.hslda.org.  It's a well known organization which is basically an advocate for homeschooling.  It helps people figure out laws in their states, as well as other resources to homeschooling families.  My friend said their site had some great information on dealing with kids like David.

It was filed in their section on learning disabilities, which actually surprised me.  I suppose I never really considered it a learning disability.  It actually makes a bunch of sense, though.  I read though some checklists, and most especially their section on how ADD/ADHD kids learn to read.  David is a good reader.  He reads above grade level and enjoys it.  However, our struggles to improve were spot on what this website talked about.  He's a good reader, but he has to work...so...hard to do it.

We want him to work hard, but being the younger brother of a girl who hardly has to work at all to read makes it that much harder.  This website had some great ideas on how to make it a little easier for him.  It had some great dietary suggestions on there, but honestly we follow most of what it says already with one main exception.  Part of the diet they discuss is heavier on raw fruits and vegis and we normally serve cooked ones, and probably not enough of them either.  David hates most things that are raw.  We've already started working on that, and more vegis isn't going to hurt any of us.

I do intend to look into diet more, but I don't want to put all the weight of finding a solution on diet anymore then I would put medication front and center.  I think preservatives and food dyes and etc. etc. aren't healthy for anyone, and that's why I cook from scratch as often as I do.

I don't doubt for a second that diet effects our brains just as it effects our hearts and muscles and fat.

I hesitate because I think sometimes we're so eager for a quick fix that we overlook the daily work of discipline (and I mean structure, not punishment) and matching up teaching techniques with learning needs.  Diet is good, but so is "exercise".  I think it may be unwise to trust overall health in only one of those two.

The discussion on diet brought me back to our week of fast food last week, and the possible/probable impact that had on our most recent crazy Tuesday.

This quote from the website were my thoughts exactly:
"In a homeschool setting we do not have to focus on labels, or official diagnoses most of the time. We just need to see if the child we are working with exhibits enough symptoms to warrant further exploration on this topic. In homeschooling we can focus on the solution, rather than a label. Since learning is all about energy output, we ask ourselves why a child has to expend more energy to remain focused on a task than his or her siblings. Once this question is answered, then the action becomes clear."

What I'm saying is, it became every more clear to me that David needs to learn differently than the other kids.  I've known he'd have to learn differently for awhile.  When he was just over 3 we took him to the county health preschool screening just like we had done with Silje to get them all set up for public school.  (You know, back in the good ol' days.)  The evaluator shook her head and said [my paraphrase] "He's very bright, there's no question there.  However, he's intense.  Some of his answers almost seem like they're on the autism spectrum, but I don't believe he's autistic because of factors x, y, and z.  Other things in the testing shows some possible ADD diagnosis in the future, but I can't be certain about that either.  All we know for sure, is that when he goes to school, he'll either do extremely well with his intensity, or cause a lot of problems, but there's not going to be a lot of middle ground for him."

She wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know.

This is both good news and bad "news".  Good news because whatever you read about ADD/ADHD for homeschooling or public/private schooling is that these kinds of kids need a lot of one on one attention.  That's why they're often given para aides in school.  This will not be necessary in our school.  I don't have paperwork to fill out or administrators to hassle or any special meetings. 

He already gets mostly one on one attention at school, although sometimes is taught alongside his sister.  We're not dealing with a large classroom, and will not hit the public school classroom size unless we are aiming to catch up with the Duggar family, which we're not.  We have 15 less kids than they do, and we have over 20 less kids in our classroom than "traditional" classrooms.  In other words, he's in the best situation possible to learn, and that's probably why he is working ahead grade level, and doing so well.

I want to give David tools, not labels.  I'm of the belief, and somewhat controversial one, that David's intensity is a gift that God has given him.  I do not want to take away that gift because he will need it to do what God has laid out for him to do.  However, he needs tools to learn to control his gifts, and he needs wisdom and knowledge.

It was later in the week when I watched Elias sitting at our school table.  He was coloring quietly as the other kids were working on spelling.  It dawned on me "David was never like that.  It's not just 'being a boy with energy.'"  He never ever just sat and colored.  He still doesn't.  He'll sit and make a paper airplane, but even then he's on the chair, off the chair, on the chair, off the chair.  He runs and shows me, runs back to the table.  He asks for help.  He shows me what he's done.  He wants my constant interaction.  He just functions differently. 

That brings me to the bad news.  I can see that the more David has been in school, the less happy Silje has been with school.  It's not just that there's another student, it's that there's another student that needs more attention than she ever needed.  I'd ask for prayer for us in that situation.  I don't want her to feel lonely or isolated, or left out.  I'm pretty sure that this is part of the reason she's been lashing out at David so often lately.  However, as Knut often says (and he got this from someone else) "Fair is not equal.  Just because something is fair doesn't mean it's the same."

I need to be sure that she's getting the attention she needs, but it's not necessary, and would be unfair to me to try to spend equal alone time with each of them during school time.  I'm not in the business of giving my kids identical childhoods.  That would not be fair to any of them.  I think God has called us to look at what each child needs and see their unique gifts and train them to use their unique gifts and challenges for His glory.

So it has been, and will continue to be: "Yes, I did spend 45 minutes on David's reading and only 10 minutes on yours.  Look on the bright side, we've got more time leftover to make some banana bread this afternoon.  Do you want to help me?"  See?  Fair isn't equal.  It's loving each child through their unique "love language" as they call it.

If any of you sweet readers have anything to add, or helpful reads, I'd be glad and grateful to look into them.  This is not the beginning of me studying how differently my kids learn, and how different each one of them is.

There's a few things that I'll warn you will bring out the mother bear in me.  David is not worse than the other kids, he's different.  He isn't a burden and I don't have it hard.  I'm blessed to be his mom and I will take no other view.  I could easily write a post twice as long talking about how big his heart is and how much he blesses each of us in this home.  He's not dumb or disabled he's smart and very able.  It's not a matter of being politically correct, it's a matter of being just plain correct.  Lastly, I'm pretty sure I will never buy into any quick fix illusions on the table because life is messy and complex, and this is no different.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Random Bits

O my goodness, I can't believe how many comments about the sweater I got.  I'm a bit overwhelmed.  Thank you all.

I've tried calling my mom twice this week.  We live a few thousand miles apart, but we are lucky enough to talk a few times a week.  I was thinking how strange it was she has not called me back and hasn't left a single comment on the blog when I finally hit my forehead  remembering that she and my step-dad (aka Papa) are on their anniversary cruise this week.  Like Knut and I, they've never cruised before.  Happy 20 years, you guys.  I'm so glad they chose a location that means her phone and internet are shut off.  She desperately needs that especially at work.  However, as silly as it sounds, I'm missing our talks.  I can be a big girl, though. 

Yesterday the whole family was playing outside before bed.  It was so lovely outside.  Knut pitched ball to Elias, and I pitched to David, and Silje pulled Solveig around in the little red wagon.  David learned I'm not very athletic and I can't pitch.  He was very gracious about it.  Knut spent a lot of time trying to show Silje how to properly throw.  It was really funny because she's inherited my lack of athletic ability.  He may as well be trying to teach me to pitch which he knows very well is a hopeless case.  O, I need to write about Silje learning to ride a bike, sort of.  I'll have to go over my pictures of that later.

Silje and I walked down to the garden to see if the asparagus was starting to peek up with all the heat we've been getting.  The tulips are up, and I've learned that the asparagus in our garden is not too far behind the tulips.  There was not asparagus, but weeds have already shown themselves.  That's not very nice of them.  Our strawberry plants are already peeking up, though!  I can't remember a time when they've come up so early.

This year I need to replant them in rows, but I'm not going to remove the bedding on top of them yet until I'm sure this warm weather will stay, and I'm not at all sure of that.  I'd hate to transplant them and leave them exposed to frost.  I really need to gear up to garden this year.  I'm honestly just not mentally prepared for the work of it yet this year.  Winter just wasn't a long enough break for me.

The chickens have taken a liking to laying in the dog house outside.  Lena has never shown an interest in that doghouse, but it's sort of a permanent structure.  We've been watching the hens take their turns going in there throughout the day.  We can view it plainly from the kitchen. 

I've decided that if they're determined to lay outside, it might as well be there.  Yesterday the kids found 5 eggs in there, and the day before they found 3.  We're still finding more eggs in the nesting boxes in the coop.  The only bad part about the doghouse location, is Lena feels as though she has dibs on those eggs.

It's so funny, because it reminds me so much of the black dog in Along Came a Dog where she gently picks up a an egg in her mouth, and brings it out of the doghouse.  She's eaten 2 or so, but if one of us is out there, we've have twice told her "no!" and she will gently lay it at our feet unscratched.  I think she understands now.  Eggs are off limits no matter where they are found.

Like the dog in that book, Lena has also figured out that broken eggs are not off limits.  If one of the kids accidentally drops an egg on the driveway, she's encouraged to come lap it up.  It's a great situation.  Now when she finds in tact eggs in the doghouse she brings it to us and lays it gently on the ground before us.  When one drops, she looks up at us with tail wagging to get the go ahead.  She's a smart one, she is.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I Need To Figure Out



I need to figure out how to photoshop in some sort of tan.


Because I look like someone who has just come out of winter way up North. 

 At this point I'm really wishing I had finished this sweater as planned before Christmas so that when we were in Phoenix, my gorgeous sister could have modeled, and I could have been behind the camera.

 Because the chickens kept trying to get in the shots.  Vain ladies they are.

 If you could do me a favor and tell me your favorites. (If you only knew how I'm dying of embarrassment showing you all these.  It's been a very long time since I've had senior pictures taken, and I'm not much for posing.)  However, usually when people are looking at a knitting pattern, they're hoping to see some sort of picture of what the end product looks like.
Thanks!

Yarn Along


Well, I didn’t get this post out very early today.  Our internet was down for awhile.  On a totally unrelated note, I got lots of laundry done this morning.  ;)

Although it looks as though I there’s a lot of knitting here, it’s really not as much as it seems.  I finished my ginger cardigan, weaved in all ends and blocked it.  Done!  I’ve never finished an adult sweater, and this one was all fingering weight on top of it!  I was right in thinking it just needed blocking.  After of day on the blocking board, it really started laying perfectly and I’m so very, very pleased with it.  The belt however, that Knut suggested isn’t working super great.  That’s no big deal, though.

So I’ve committed myself to finishing the pattern writing for the ginger cardigan by lining up my favorite tech editor and telling her when she should have it in her inbox.  I’m thinking this pattern will be out around Easter time.  

I really want to show you pictures of it worn, but I want to take some good photos of it for the pattern, and I’ll probably have to model it.  I just haven’t had time for Knut to take pictures of me in it, but the weather is holding nice, so it shouldn’t be too long.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on a Little Pearl Vest for my niece who will be turning 2 soon.  This time I chose a little elephant motif.  I first realized I messed up the elephants when I saw the second row had longer trunks than the first row.  I decided to leave it, but now in the fourth row, I see that I’ve accidentally eliminated a whole row of the pattern, so I’m having to back track a bit.  I’m really annoyed with it right now.

So when I’m annoyed, what do I do but cast on something else.  I picked up some lace weight wool and want to try my hand at designing a shawl.  I absolutely love the yarn.  (Malabrigo lace) The fabric it is knitting is insanely soft.  I have been forming so many shawl ideas in my head, but there are drawbacks to that.  I’m designing/knitting them because 1)they seem really fun to knit and design  2)It’s knitting up surprisingly quickly  3)Shawl patterns rarely need size grading so that sounds fun.  

However, I don’t at this time wear shawls that often.  I’m a little worried that I’m going to knit up 5 different patterns because I enjoy it and they’ll just sit around.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d like a few.  I just don’t need as many as are in my design notebook.

So any sisters/moms/cousins/friends who have interest in future shawls, drop big hints around Christmas/birthdays.

Silje and I are still reading A Little Princess.  I had an embarrassing time of it last night.  It was the chapter where it was Sara’s birthday party and Miss Minchin finds out that Sara’s father has died leaving her penniless.  So she puts an end to the birthday party, makes Sara change out of her party dress, humiliates her in pounding in where her new place in society was.  She was no longer an heiress, she was a beggar and should act like one. 

Miss Minchin was just so mean, and when she was done with her self –imposed job of humbling the little girl, she asked Sara to thank her for showing kindness to her by giving her a home (where she was to basically be Miss Minchin’s slave).  The proud Sara boldy said “You are not kind, and this is not a home.”  The meanness and cruelty shown to Sara on the day when her world caved in had me crying.  

No, I mean really crying.  I had to stop reading over 5 times so I could gain control over my voice so we could finish the chapter.  The book is way more in detail and shows so much more than any movie ever did.  I haven’t started bawling during a read aloud since last year when we read Mountain Born.  Once again, Silje was just fine, and rubbed my back and kept telling me it was just a story and it would all be okay.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chess

There's been a certain game overtaking our household lately.  Well, at least overtaking the most intense person in the house, therefore affecting us all.
 I know I've said many times before that when David does something, he does it 150%.  He knows no other way.  You'd think with the beautiful weather we've been having he'd be outside every chance he can get, but it hasn't been that way.  You see, over Christmas, my step-dad (aka "Papa")taught him how to play chess and he's thought of little else since then.  

If he's not playing chess, he's talking about chess.  If he's not talking about chess, he's thinking about chess.  Knut had a chess computer game that we've started letting him play during the 2 youngest kids' nap time in the afternoon.  He does the chess lessons on there and learns different strategies. 

So I've learned about pinning, "smother checks," who took what piece and how, and what they needed to sacrifice to get it.  Sometimes he gets up late at night when I'm sipping my tea and says "Mommy, I need to tell you something." 
"Yes, David?"
"Did you know I took his queen, and then he got me in checkmate?"
"David..."
"What?"
"Go to bed."
I know this is good for him, but my goodness, can there be such a thing as too much of a good thing?  We've been bringing him around the library for chess club on Tuesdays when we can manage it.  The first time he was there he was beat twice in 5 minutes by a boy twice his age.  David thought it was the greatest day of his life, and got such a kick out of the strategy that the other boy (also named David) used.

Since no one in the house who knows how to play (Knut, Silje, and me) likes to play every waking moment, David has started tapping into the resource of a little brother who looks up to him so much.  Since we don't want him playing on the computer all day (he already gets about 2 hours most afternoons when we're not in town to play chess) he's started training in his 3 year old brother. 

Elias is so patient and loves being included.  Already, he knows how to set up the chess board, and how to put it away properly.  He knows how to move properly about half the pieces, but David tells him where to go anyway, which he obeys without question.  He doesn't care that his brother tells him exactly how to lose.  He's just thrilled to be apart of it.

The rules that we've had to come up with and enforce since chess came into our house are downright silly. 

No talking about chess at supper.  I know that sounds harsh, but David will talk non-stop and no one else will be able to say anything and then he doesn't eat because he gets so into the excitement of the game he describes. 

No talking about chess while we're praying before bed. 

He asks to play chess on the computer every 5 minutes all morning long in anticipation for afternoon naps when he can play.  So we've started the rule of if you ask in the morning (during school time), you can't play in the afternoon.  If you ask a second time even after we've taken away that afternoon then you're put to work with some chore.  (I've tried taking away more than one day and that's really punishing both of us if you know what I mean.)

Knut got a little nervous the last time they played.  He said David was learning more than he ever did, so Knut has started taking the chess lessons on the computer a little more just to keep up with David.  He says that in a few months to a year, it'll get to the point where David will beat him without difficulty, and he's trying to stay ahead of that.  ;)  Good luck.

Monday, March 19, 2012

I'm Blessed

Last week was downright crazy.  We had so many things jammed into the week that Knut and I both said several times "We can't live like this long term."  We had the usual piano lessons, and choir practice.  We added in swimming lessons and a dentist appointment along with several birthdays in my family (cross country, which equal lots of phone time), parties, and date night (although our date was over lunch) as well as having a couple from church over for dessert who we've tried to have over for well over a month.  We ate so much "fast" food like corn dogs in the oven and KFC brought home because I just wasn't home enough to cook.  School was fit in here and there but we definitely have some make up to do.

So besides the constant running, and indigestion, and the news that David has 2 root canals coming up, my ovarian cyst finally ruptured, it was just a plain crazy time.  We were blessed with good company all week.  The kids' swimming instructor is amazing and I think they learned more in their 30 minute session than a week of previous swimming lessons combined.

Silje is finally starting to pick up on riding a bike.  I should save that story for later, but the fact she's almost 8 and still can't do it has really been bothering her.  She went about 10 yards by herself for the very first time and it was a big deal.

I had a wonderful birthday, was spoiled rotten by my family, like usual.  Thanks to you all too for your warm wishes.

This week I feel so blessed with peace.  The peace we had in all that chaos, and the peace for this week.  Things are slowing down at home again, although it won't be long before things will pick up on the farm.  I get to go on a quilting retreat in less than 2 weeks and I have started a packing list of all my sewing things.  I think a retreat sounds wonderful right now.

Sorry I'm kind of random this week in my "I'm Blessed" post.  My head is still spinning, but I'm blessed it's still on!  If you'd like to share how God has blessed you this last week leave a comment for others to read, and/or leave a link to your blog post talking about how you've been blessed.  You can put a link to this blog in your post so that others can come back here.  I'm so grateful for the people who continue to participate in this.  It's a great way to start Mondays, isn't it?

Friday, March 16, 2012

I'll Blog How I Want To








I should be blogging about our school today like normal.  There is no lack of things to say.  Let's just say, it's my birthday, and I'll blog how I want to.  ;)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Signs of Spring

There's a few ways we can tell Spring is here.  Well, we haven't seen our tulips poke through yet, and we're still waiting for buds on the trees.  In fact, this season of warmness, some friends and I joked, means we have only about 1 more blizzard to go this Spring.  ;)

The kids think it's Spring, though, because it's everywhere you look.

Like David climbing the basketball hoop barefoot once again.

While Mama Lena looks on nervously, ready to attack the basketball stand should it let David down.

Lena has found no shortage of sticks fallen in our yard.

Solveig is discovering the thrill of walking on the uneven, unpredictable ground.

The kids can't get enough of the little hand-me-down playground given to us late last fall by Knut's aunt.  I'm so glad they're actually using it now.  We have had a serious pirate issue on our hands this Spring, though.

"Aarrgghh!"

The ladies have begun sunbathing.  They're hoping for some tan feathers, I think.  I found 2 of them laying an egg in the same nesting box earlier today.  It was such a hoot that there were 3 empty ones, but they both wanted that one and were willing to squish together and be nearly one on top of the other in order to accomplish the whole box sharing thing.

I'm finding such fun ways to use their pretty eggs.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Yarn Along

I've pulled out my marathon project from before Christmas.  This lay in the back burner for a few months while I decided it's fate.  It's a cardigan made out of Madelinetosh Tosh Sock yarn in "ginger" and was my knitting baby for a few months back there.  As I was nearing the waistline of this top-down sweater, I was doubting my decisions for increases where I put them.  I was doubting my shaping choice.  I was debating what sort of edge to put on the front, etc. etc.

I was at the point that I nearly frogged the whole thing.  At that moment of insanity, I decided to back slowly away from this marathon project before it ended up all unwound, and decided in that moment to only frog it under the supervision and support of a knitting friend.

So now, in March, I pull it out of hibernation, and tried it on again.  It needed the body finished, it needed edging, and it needed sleeves.  I fell in love all over again with my design idea and thought I can't quit this close to the end.  It also dawned on me that I kept doubting the design because I wanted it to have the elements of about 12 different sweaters, and it's actually only capable of being one sweater.

So I finished the body, I finished the edge, and it just needs the sleeves completed.  After the front edge was finished I tried it on again.  I pulled on it here and there thinking that #1: it's in desperate need of blocking, and #2: it was missing something.  It looked much more incomplete than my initial idea was. As I was debating over the idea of adding pockets, Knut walked by me.  He looked at me in the mirror with a furrowed brow.

I told him I was thinking maybe pockets.  He shook his head.  "No, it' needs a belt.  Could you knit one to match?  That'd work."  My jaw dropped because he was so right.  I immediately envisioned a little lace belt that matched the lace in the back of the cardi.  The picture of it done flashed in my head and I was smiling with excitement, although a little jealous I didn't think of it first.

So I guess I didn't need a supportive knitting friend, I needed a husband who says pretty much everything on his mind, and shamefully has always had a better fashion sense than me.  Seriously, he literally had to stop me from leaving the house yesterday to kindly point out to me that my chunky white sports socks did not go with my dainty cute flats.  One of them had to change.  My idea of a perfect outfit is a really cool handmade sweater that livens up my t-shirt and jeans.

I'm trying to talk myself into writing up the pattern and grading it for sizes before my garden is ready for planting.  I'm not sure I can promise that, but it's penciled in.  It depends on a few things...

The finish line is in sight for this marathon of a project.  I'm very pleased.

And for reading, I don't have a picture of my book for the second week in a row.  I apologize for that.  We've moved onto A Little Princess and Silje and I are so transfixed by Sara Crewe that we cannot stand putting it down each night.  We've both read it before.  I read it when I was a little girl, and Silje read it because it was on the "open" bookshelf and she and I didn't know that it was going to be on this year's school list so I "let" her read it for fun last year.  So even though we've both read it, I've decided a good book is worth reading more than once so we're reading it during our regular "school" read aloud time.  We're absolutely loving it.

We love imagining little Sara with her doll Emily who has a custom sewn wardrobe to match her own, and the way that Sara doesn't act like she's grand, but cares for the littlest in the boarding school and defends those who feel hopeless in life.  It's so imaginative and beautiful of a story.  I see so much more the depth of the beauty of the writing as an adult than when I read it years and years ago. 

Surprisingly, David has been asking to stay awake to hear what happens as well.  I thought he'd hate listening in on this book and keep telling him he doesn't have to sit and listen.  He loves when Sara tells stories about India, though, and the way Miss Minchin is really mean to everyone and although it may just be he wants to stay up late with Silje, I think he's actually caught up in the story as well.

Random Bits

 Our hens have been laying in full force lately.  We're averaging almost 12 eggs a day now, with a new record of 15 eggs in one day.  I've been trying to blow out about 2 dozen a week for Easter decoration.  My freezer is filling up with egg bakes.  (I use those blue baby bulb things  that is normally used for other things.  ;)  Well, this particular bulb thing has the only purpose of blowing out eggs. It beats the old days of blowing with your mouth and takes only a few moments.)  I love these colored eggs.  Love, love, love.
 Silje has been saving since her birthday (last June) for a horse for her Felicity doll.  She had to buy it herself and so after looking at the ones from the American Girl company, and then the ones at Target and the ones at Walmart, she decided to save for the one at Walmart, even though it was not her first choice in color.  We even kept a sharp eye out for one at the Children's consignment shop in the city.  She would have preferred a copper colored horse like Felicity actually had in the book.  She has named her horse "Chocolate."

Still, she's so excited to finally have a horse.  She carefully counted out the $42.94 cents for the cashier very proudly.  It was almost a year of saving her extra birthday money, allowance, and bugging me for extra chores for pennies to boot.  (On Saturdays I put all the family socks for the week in one laundry basket.  If the kids have their rooms clean, and other chores done, they're allowed to earn extra money by matching socks for me.  I pay 1 penny per pair.  They easily earn an extra 30 cents or so, or more if their sibling is taking a long time getting their room cleaned and they have all the socks to themselves.)
 The boys watched with much interest because toy purchases this big aren't made often.  David was a bit sad.  Silje and David seem to be in constant competition and each is sad on the other one's birthday or anything like that.  It's something we're working on still.  Really, it did go better than it usually does, so I have to mark that as an improvement.
 She worked out a stall for Chocolate in her room, so that Felicity can be near.  As she's playing with her new horse, she's explaining to me things about horses I never even knew.  She's been pouring over horse care books for a few months, so that shouldn't be surprising.
 Solveig was feeling a bit warm the other day.  Her fever wasn't much over 99 degrees F, but she certainly wasn't herself.  I can't imagine her getting any more teeth as they seem to be coming one after the other and pretty soon I'm not sure where she'll put them.  When Knut got home from work, he helped me by holding her while I got supper ready.  It was only a matter of seconds before they put each other to sleep.
 O, she's getting fat.  I love her cheeks.  I love her belly that hangs out so far that she considers it a toy.  She loves to put her finger in her belly button and giggle.  When she's in the tub the rolls are a "jolly" good laugh.  I love it when babies are fat.  I firmly believe that it's healthy for babies to be fat, and they should be so if they can manage such a thing.  My kids have always grown out of it, but it's so fun to have something to squish all the time.