Friday, January 29, 2010

Early Childhood Training

I've been doing quite a lot of this this week:

Evidently, it looked pretty cool to the younger ones, because they've been doing lots of this this week:
If I could only make putting their clothes away this appealing...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Learnin' with Littles

Between concerns new homeschoolers have regarding their preschoolers and a continued mulling over of what to do with my little ones when the big girls are doing school, I thought I'd share some of how we occupy little people without turning on the TV or locking them in the dog cage (tempting, though).
First, let me begin by saying that I don't know much. We've only been at this gig for 2 years, 3 if you could kindergarten. There are many more qualified to speak on the subject than I. Having said that, I'm learning more all the time, and it would appear that I will be having preschoolers underfoot for several more years at least, so the sooner we figure this thing out, the better.
First, have them with you. In fact, Noah and Eleanor are required to sit with us during Bible, History and read aloud. They enjoy it (usually) and it's a good opportunity to teach them the importance of sitting still for a few minutes.
When we're doing things that they can't take part in, there's the chance to learn to play together. In our house, this means in one of the kids' bedrooms or the Family room. This can be a tough one, as there is often disruption when someone gets hurt or arguments erupt. I think that it's still important, though, because it does lay a foundation of learning how to play well together, share, and not lean solely on Mommy for entertainment. Just know that the disruptions will come and pray for the grace to disciple your children with love, rather than do what I do, which tends to involved getting irritated that all are not bowing to my Almighty Plan.
When big kids are doing things that don't require teacher's direct oversight or involvement, do school-type things with the littles as well. Read some stories, do some flash cards, play a little game or just talk to them. When they know that they are as interesting and important as your official "students" they are often happy to run off and play again for a few peaceful minutes.
We have tried other methods, as well, including busy boxes (a different box each day that's filled with a few different toys that only come out during school) and other sitting-down activities, which have had varying measures of success. Noah's every inch a boy, though, and really needs to move after a few minutes, so coloring and related crafts tend to take more time getting out than actually being used. Play dough and puzzles are good, though have the tendency to distract the school kids.
It is something of a juggling act and requires some creativity on my part, but to be home together as a family is so worth it. And it won't be long before Noah's doing his workbooks and Abi's teaching Ellie her letters. That'll be so cool.
Any other recommendations?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Getting ready

In about 6 weeks, we shall be welcoming our 5th child into the world. So, we've been working at making our home and our lives ready for him. For me, this includes finishing up some of the knitting projects I'd been working on for him.
This sleep sack has been a great pattern to work with. My first attempt at mini-cabling and the three needle bind off. It's nice learning something new. And the wee one will have something bright and cheerful to keep warm in.
We also thought he'd need a bed to sleep in - turns out the bookcase idea isn't so great. So thanks to the Lyttles for the loaner!

Now it's a matter of finishing up the sweater I'm working on for him - just seaming up, really - and deciding on a good knitting project for packing in my hospital bag. I'm thinking something not too pattern-heavy, not too boring and rather forgiving of the occasional contraction-induced dropped stitch. I'm open to suggestions!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Quickie "Quilt"

It had been a frustrating sort of day - the kind where nothing quite went to plan. I needed to do something, something enjoyable that resulted in some sense of accomplishment. So, I made a "quilt". Another one for Noah, since the newbie is going to be inheriting his before too long. What's great about it is that it looks impressive, but really is not. That would be because it's a cheater cloth - that fabric you buy where all the pieces are already sewn together. I've had this stuff sitting in my stash for quite a while, and was just the thing for a little achievement-based satisfaction.
The warm internal layer came from an old yellow fleece blanket Toby had from childhood. Gotta love repurposing.
So all my other plans might have come to naught, but I completed something that I could not only point to at the day's end, but tuck my little man up in it on my way to bed. Not all bad, then.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Homeschool Question

With the planned closing of our church school at the end of this academic year, a number of people are considering alternative educational arrangements for their children. At the same time, a few friends are sharing their homeschool thoughts and journeys (thanks, Zoanna & Laurie). I thought I might throw my lot in, too.
When Abigail was born, I was already thinking about school and homeschool (forward planning, and all that). It wasn't long before Toby and I decided that we wanted to be among those weird and wonderful people that decided to homeschool their children. Thinking back, some of our reasons (or mine, anyway) would have lacked real backbone: I didn't see why my child should start spending the largest portion of the day under the care and influence of another adult and 20-30 other kids; because of our particular family situation, how could I be sure that our kids would learn enough about the histories of both their nationalities; I saw other families that had homeschooled (well, one or two), and their children had grown up to be interesting people doing interesting things.
Upon reflection, though, these are all side issues. They are all true, but they are not the main point. I think what it boils down to for our family is this: If I am to train up my children in the way they should go (Proverbs 6:22) and teach them God's ways as we lay down and rise up and walk by the way (Deut 11:19) , how can I do that at all well when they are away from me for the largest portion of their day? Maybe some can, but I can't. Because they are at home with me, I have the opportunities to train them in diligence, service, and loving-kindness that I don't believe I could do if they were in school most of the day. (I also get to model a lot of repentance for them!)
I can already hear some of the protests, so to clear up some misconceptions:
"I can't teach! What about when we get beyond what I can teach them?" I am not a trained or natural teacher. Having said that, I think we've all managed to teach our children to walk, talk and go to the bathroom on their own. The Rs are just the next step. Beyond that...let's just say there is more than one way to skin a cat. Worry about calculus when you get there - by that time I daresay little Johnny will be learning it on his own.
"I'd go crazy stuck in the house with my kids all day! We don't get along as it is." Not getting along with your children is probably a pretty good indicator that you should consider homeschooling them - it's a sanctifying experience. And who says you have to be stuck in the house? Co-op, library, field trips, playground...sometimes it's a fight to stay home.
"I'm not organized enough." If you're not organized, that's probably an area you'll want to grow in, but I wouldn't suggest using an area of weakness that can be improved upon for not doing something. After all, I am somewhat organized, but not as much as I should be - I had to miss Care Group last night because I didn't allow enough time to find an available babysitter!
"I don't know how you do it - I never could!" And finally, please don't say that. At all. For any reason. I am a saint, but only in the Scriptural sense. I sin against my kids every single day, which would be the case if they were in school, too. So please do not assume that I am somehow endowed with some shiny radiance that never gets tired or loses it's patience or doesn't struggle with selfishness. We homeschool because we think it's the best thing for our family, not the best thing for me.
Is homeschooling for everyone? Probably not, but I do think it is for more than are currently giving it a shot. Don't get me wrong - I do think that there are valid reasons not to homeschool, but "It would mess up my gym schedule" is not a good one.
Give thought and consideration to all the options, and ask God to give you direction and a sense of His purpose. If He calls you to homeschool, He'll equip you to do the job.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

His mercies are new

I am convinced that God answers prayer, big or small. Sometimes He comes through in just the way we'd like, sometimes by not giving us what we'd like, just to give us something far better in the long run. Sometimes we never really see the fruit of our prayers, but we can trust that in the fullness of time, no prayer goes unanswered.
My prayer life is often scattered - I've often struggled with keeping my mind where it should be or getting stuck in a rut of saying the same old thing. Of course, I want my husband protected, my children to love God and each other, those in need to be blessed and those I love to meet Jesus. All these things are right and good to pray for, but I occasionally need the reminder that God cares about all the things I care about, that nothing is too small or insignificant for His notice.
Examples? Like God giving us the name for our new son through the prophetic word of my 7-year old. Or having misplaced our camera a couple weeks ago, remembering to pray for it's safe return one night and actually seeing (in a dream, no less) exactly where it was (and there it was, indeed).
Sometimes He's even so kind as to answer the prayers I forgot to pray - like finding the checkbook that had been missing for a month underneath Noah's car seat (I have no idea why), or finding Noah's long-lost hat (that I thought had been lost in Baltimore city a year ago) hiding behind a dresser.
I want to see the sick healed, the persecuted receive justice and the lost saved, but sometimes it's the little examples of His grace and mercy that encourage my faint heart and humble faith.
But for your own sake, don't lose anything at my house...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I shall call her Nell

Well, my Singer Athena 2000 finally bit the dust. I'd been using a borrowed White sewing machine for a little while (thanks, Mandie!), but after a generous end of year bonus for Toby, he sweetly gifted me with a new machine to call my very own: a Necchi 6110. She is lovely, and I've decided to call her Nell.

I'm really excited - she's powerful but not complicated, got all the features I need (one-step buttonholer, drop-in bobbin, & a mechanical face that won't short out like my electrical one did) without a dizzying array of extras. Sure, one day, I think I'd like to be dizzied by the extras, but this one is just the thing for now. And one day, it'll be a great machine for the girls to work on.
Looking forward to all the exciting new creations we shall embark upon together...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

DIY Cleanser

I have had this book for some years now, and have been using the recipes for home cleansers to great effect. My favorite is the Earth Scrub:
Mix 1 2/3 cup baking soda with 1/2 cup of liquid soap in a bowl. Dilute with 1/2 cup water. Add 2 tbsp vinegar last (you'll see why if you don't). Stir until the lumps are gone, then pour into a 16 - to - 20oz squirt bottle. Make sure the lid is on well, to avoid drying out.
Truly, this stuff is great - the baking soda is super good at getting rid of grease and isn't damaging to wood (if it doesn't linger). I think you do need to be careful, though, when using it on aluminum, as it can do damage if left on too long.
I have noticed something about making my own cleaners: they make me want to clean! After I made this yesterday, I ended up scrubbing counters, fridge, oven, cabinets, floor and even the kettle! And no, I'm not nesting...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bookcase Beds

Considering the new one's arrival in a couple months now, we've been discussing the bed issue - where to put everyone. Apparently, it's not a problem. If Abigail's a good judge, we can just tuck 'em all up in here with room to spare. I know they'll be glad not to have to make their beds anymore...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Spoiler Alert: Gross Picture Herein!

It was about a month or so ago that Abigail shut her right ring finger in the car door. Now, for the child who is so sensitive to injury that she has insisted she cannot walk due to a scraped knee, she handled such pain really well. She got a little tearful at the sight of blood, but that's about it.

Within a couple of days, the nail started to turn black and swollen. We were confident the bone wasn't broken, but we were thinking that the nail might fall off. Lo and behold, there was a pretty gnarly blood blister beneath the nail that started to heal rather nicely once the blister was burst and drained (pretty gross/cool).

But then it happened - the nail started to lose its grip on her finger. A few weeks of monitoring and band-aids came and went until last night, when Abigail decided that the nail had to come off. After about 45 minutes, some gritted teeth and a little help from Daddy, the job was done.

If you're of a squirmish nature, don't scroll down...




Sorry if you can't enlarge the photo - I have no idea how to do that!

Okay, so maybe it's not that gross, but gross is a rather relative concept. Plus, it was really gross watching her trying to lift it off her finger...

By the way, the nail will grow back, right? There is really no nail left at the moment and a decent little dent in the nail bed, but the nail will grow back eventually, right? Right?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year, New Booklist

Well, the booklist for 2009 was a really helpful tool to organize my reading. Normally, I'd just pick up whatever suited my fancy, rarely branching out to try anything new. Being intentional about what I read is new for me, but a really good way to grow.
Some reading highlights from 2009:
Pocketful of Pinecones - a fictional account of a family employing the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling. Really sweet.
Respectable Sins - a wonderful resource for identifying common sins that are particularly overlooked within Christian circles, and how to battle them.
Adopted for Life - the story of all believers, adopted by God, intertwined with the story of the author's adoption of his two sons by a Russian orphanage. A must read for those interested in adoption or not - though if you're not interested, this book might change your mind.
And one to miss:
Travelling Mercies - really, nothing redemptive or encouraging at all available here. Just a whole lot of self-absorption. Don't waste your time.
I'll probably be adding another title or two over the next few days - any suggestions?