Friday, August 30, 2013

"Writing" Projects

Right before we started school in July, Brave Writer came out with their latest book, Partnership Writing.  It was on sale initially, so I purchased a copy.  It goes through some of the Writer's Jungle basics, but then it also has a monthly project list.  Some I liked; some I don't.  Still, I figured I'd give some of them a shot.  We started by spending a few weeks working on codes and ciphers.  I snapped a couple of shots of the kids writing/painting messages with lemon juice 'invisible ink.'



M1, who is now Doodlebug for this blog's intents and purposes (I dunno... I'm just tired of referring to him by something that doesn't even remotely resemble a name, even if it does contain an initial, and I do call him Doodlebug at home on a regular basis), really enjoyed the code project.  This is my child who is more naturally drawn to codes and ciphers and spy equipment at the store.  M2, who is now Boo (because we started by calling her Beangirl, then Tinkerbean, then Tinkerboo, and now just Boo), enjoyed parts of it.

This week, however, instead of doing the next project on the list, I decided we'd do the homophone mini-book.  We started making a homophone list on Monday and worked on it until Thursday.  It's nowhere near comprehensive (at dinner tonight we realized steak/stake wasn't on the board... guess what our main dish was?), but we got about 60 sets of homophones.

That's a lot of homophones
I came up with some of them, but the kids came up with the majority.  They really enjoyed the challenge!  Then we created little books - three pieces of paper cut in half, then put together, folded in half, and stapled in the middle created nice little booklets.


Doodlebug let me photograph his.

Yes, son, toe jam IS stinky.
His sense of humor really shines through, and I love that he took the time to really work on his illustrations.  I gave them the choice of writing a sentence with the word or drawing an image, and his book is a good mixture of both.  Boo went more for sentences, but then, she likes to write (she also wrote only one word per page... I'm not sure why Doodlebug did two per page.  It certainly went beyond the initial scope of the project).  She likes to draw, too, but only on her terms.

In the next day or so, I'll post our history lesson for this week.  There won't be one for next week; we take Labor Day week as a break from school - our first break this year!  The kids are excited, and so am I.  It's time for some relaxation - as if that'll really happen.  But it'll be nice to change up the schedule for a bit and relax.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Inspiration in Adulthood is NOT the Same as That of Childhood

Yesterday I found inspiration in the Facebook status update of a friend.  It read, in part, "Just purged the upstairs playroom, craft room, and the girls bathroom.  I threw away a whole bag of junk."

It occurred to me as I read this that I'd been unhappy with my upstairs closets since we moved in.  I had instantly unpacked the visible stuff, of course, and the general contents of the closets were acceptable, but when it had come to actually unpacking and arranging everything that was tucked away out of sight, that process... had never happened.  It had fallen by the wayside.  In the back of my mind (and in the forefront of my mind every time I opened the closet doors), I knew there were candles I'd never burn again, decorations the kids no longer wanted, pictures that will never be hung on the walls of this house, and just a bunch of stuff that, in general, doesn't need to be here.  The kids' game room closet was in similar shape.

I don't have any 'before' pictures because, really, I don't know anyone who takes pictures of their closets (except that I really do intend to take pictures of the contents of everything in the house one day, just in case, for insurance purposes, because I'm actually paranoid like that), but I do have a couple of 'after' images.

The carnage of empty boxes, trash box, and giveaway/sale items 
All purdy.  It won't stay like that, but for now, all purdy
The kids are working hard on the game room closet.  It's in even more appalling shape than my closets because A) they're kids and B) I told them that as long as the door closed and things were relatively tidy, I wouldn't gripe at them.  But they're making progress.  They're discovering playing cards that they thought were long gone, puzzle pieces they thought they'd never see again, and various unidentifiable items that I'm just not even asking about.  Ostrich Syndrome.  Part of me wants to sneak up and take a picture of them working, but I'm finally ensconced on my couch with a sense of accomplishment and a stomach full of FreeBird and have no desire to move.

All I know is that we're going to make a massive donation to Goodwill soon.  It feels so good to get everything cleaned out and rearranged into 'final' places.  I did the same to a couple of kitchen drawers a couple of weeks ago and that felt good, too.  I never, ever would have felt this way when I was a kid (I'm sure my kids are mentally cursing my name upstairs), but sometimes being an adult means taking pleasure in the little things.  Like clean closets.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Chronicles of Raising a Preadolescent, Vol. I

The last three weeks have been hell.  At first I thought it was me, since I really had been in a funk, but the last three weeks have been particularly 'special' and I'm pretty sure I've figured out why.

And it has a name.  What is it, you ask?

M1.

Mug shot of personified Mayhem
I love this child.  I do.  I have loved him ever since he had to be dragged out of my womb kicking and screaming.  However, I swear to any deity willing to listen, I totally understand why young male lions are kicked out of the pride and told to go find their own territory because MOM AND DAD AREN'T PUTTING UP WITH IT ANY MORE.  Hear me, boy?  Do ya?  Hm?

Something tells me I'm not getting through.

It might be the smirk.

It's 1:01 p.m. on a Monday.  This is a school day.  The boy has completed his work in precisely three subjects - grammar, spelling, and art - and even those weren't completed without waspishness and peevishness and snarkiness and all those other -nesses that encompass raising a child who is quite sure that A) the universe revolves around him, B) he knows more than anyone ever alive ever knew, and C) he must have the last word in any and all conversations.

For example, this morning, he tried to argue that newspapers weren't descriptive.  We weren't talking about newspapers, and he was supposed to have been working on his own work, but he felt the need to interject one of his Ultimate Hypotheses into M2's grammar lesson.  "I think article adjectives are called that because they're the only adjectives used in newspaper articles, because newspapers aren't very descriptive."

I can't invent this stuff.  Thankfully a quick reading of some articles from well-known moments in history - the Civil War, 9/11, the Kennedy assassination - showed the boy the error of his statement.  Did he actually acknowledge that I still might know more than him?  Of course not.  He put his head down on his desk and thoroughly ignored me.  Because if it can't see you, you can't see it.  Mantra of all Ostrich Children.

Then there was this:  I was giving him his weekly spelling pretest.  We do this so that if he knows most of or all of the words on the list, we don't waste time on a useless lesson.  One of the words was 'animosity.'  He spelled it incorrectly - a-n-a-m-o-c-i-t-y.  Not a big deal; I put a dot by it and moved on.  When it came time for him to learn the correct spelling, I pointed out that he'd gotten close and gave him props for that.  Was that enough?  Hardly.  "It sounded like you were saying anAmosity, Mom, not anImosity.  So that wasn't my fault."

Argh.  Animosity.  Yes.  How do parents survive this?  Any tips?  I'm going to need the village for this one.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Homemade History, Week 6

Because the past three weeks make me want to disavow all knowledge of my children and go hide in a Buddhist commune until they're grown and gone...

Because the stress level in my back and shoulders is so high I wake up feeling like I've just had a hard workout every day when, in fact, I haven't lifted a proper weight in months...

Because this upcoming week is the last week before our first break (we take Labor Day week off of school)...

Let's just say my school planning this week was less than spectacular.  We didn't do much.  Enjoy what little is here.  Thanks, as always, for reading.

Week 6 Topic: Mesopotamia - Sumer and Akkad

Monday:  Reading and notes.  I purchased a book called Life in Ancient Mesopotamia, and M1 perused that while M2 read chapters 3 and 5 from Story of the World.  (If you want shorter reading excerpts, the Kingfisher Book of the Ancient World has similar information on pages 20-21 and the Usborne World History Encyclopedia has some on pages 110-113.)

Tuesday:  The kids finished up their rough drafts for their papers and swapped reading material.  M2 has informed me that while the Sumerians might have been inventive, she wouldn't have wanted to live there.  They were mean.  I couldn't argue with that one.

Wednesday:  Definitions (ziggurat, stylus, irrigate, relief) and critical thinking questions:  Why is trading with other cities and cultures important?  Why are records important?  Why did the Mesopotamians settle in the Fertile Crescent?  M1 found the questions fairly easy to answer after we watched a couple of videos, one from National Geographic Kids and one from a Youtube Channel called CrashCourse.  The kids definitely preferred the second video, but M2 commented that the guy talks really, really fast.  She was right.  Also, in the interest of parental disclosure, the video does mention the word 'scoodilypooping,' which is a cutesy euphemism for sex.  If that might bother you or your kids... well, you're smart.  You know how this works.  Watch at your own risk.  But overall the information was informative and rather fun, as far as movies go.  Oh, and I should mention that I handed the Epic of Gilgamesh to M1 to read this week, too. 

Thursday:  We put together a map of Mesopotamia using the Map Trek map (lots of Christian-based maps in that download, but there are enough that aren't for my purposes) for that particular region of Earth and talked about how the trade routes from Mesopotamia to Egypt went right through what is now Israel and how stories/myths can ALSO follow trade routes, which led right into discussing the myths of Sargon and Moses and comparing and contrasting the two.  Interesting chat with the munchkins.

Friday:  Project Day!  M2 did some mystery pages on where the alphabet came from, concluding that our modern alphabet might be either Greek or Hebrew but definitely isn't Egyptian or Sumerian, and M1 built a Lego ziggurat.


OK, so I guess this doesn't sound too bad after all.

Next week:  Egypt - The Old Kingdom (mastabas and pyramids, mummies, and the Hyksos)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In Which I (Try to) Run

So I've been in a funk lately - somehow I'm sure I've mentioned that and may be flogging that particular horse far, far longer than I should - and have been attempting to self-diagnose my underlying issue.  It occurred to me sometime last week that I haven't exercised in a while and I'm pretty sure my endorphins are lazy and don't bother to activate themselves for any reason other than getting bitch-slapped and told to move it, move it.

It's also been cooler this summer than the previous two, and the highs have only been around 90, not 190.  Or 110, which is pretty much the same thing.

On Friday I went for a walk.  It was nice.  I didn't have an immense psychological breakthrough or anything, but my legs certainly informed me in no uncertain terms that they had been under-utilized lately and reminded me that exercise really shouldn't be optional at my age.

Getting older sucks.

The weather remained nice enough that I went out again on Sunday night.  Oz came with me.  We both brought our headphones and walked in relative silence next to one another for most of the distance, but just as we reached the nice downward-sloping hill to the house, Green Day's song "Nice Guys Finish Last" started playing.

You can't not run to that song, and so I trotted slowly down the hill and rounded the corner onto the cul-de-sac toward home.  I made it home only slightly more out of breath than I had already been, and this thought suddenly popped into my head: "Why don't I add a little more jogging to the walk?  Maybe at the end?  Just to end on a positive note?"

It's a sign of how far down my brain has gone that I was even contemplating this.  I am not a runner.  My knees say no, and so does my physique.  It's kind of like that scene from Will & Grace, the gym scene that goes like this:
 
GRACE: Ok, her... [POINTING TO A WOMAN] Could I ever have a body like hers?
 
WILL: Well, she appears to be of Nordic descent. They tend toward the live and bosomy, so--so as to help their buoyancy whilst navigating down the fjords.
 
GRACE: So...no?
 
WILL: Grace, you don't want that kind of a body. You're a--you're of a hardier peasant stock. Yours is a body built for...
 
GRACE: What? Linebacking?
 
WILL: No, no. Picking and carrying baskets of onions to market. On your head.

I should not consider running.  I know this.  However, in my altered-brain state, it sounded like an excellent idea.  And so, last night, I put my headphones back on and headed out.  All through the walk, I was psyching myself up to jog the entire cul-de-sac at the end.  When I finally reached the cul-de-sac, I turned, took a couple of deep breaths...

and remembered EXACTLY why I should not run.

My high school history teacher even nicknamed me Phoebe. 
This should have told me something.
It was a combination of the above image and something else... the fact that apparently if you jog and have just the right body type, your ass will actually smack against your thighs as you run, which produces a sound nobody should ever hear. 

I did not make it all the way around the cul-de-sac in that state.

Perhaps there is a reason that I tell the kids, "Old people don't run."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Homemade History, Week 5

This is our last week of traveling around the world at what seems like warp time/speed.  In week 6, we're headed back to Mesopotamia.  Still, this week was fun!  We watched several videos, sketched maps, and even built our own version of a calendar in the round.

Week 5 Topic:  Ancient America - Mesoamerica, Olmecs and Maya

Monday:  Reading and notes.  M2 read the Story of the World (chapter 26) and Usborne World History (pp. 178-181); M1 read the Kingfisher Book of the Ancient World (pp. 130-137) and the Usborne pages as well.

Tuesday:  The kids worked on their papers.  M1 felt especially prepared for this week's lesson due to the studying he'd already been doing on the Olmecs, so I let him share some of his findings with M1 and me.  He liked that.  

Wednesday:  We put together a map on Wednesday.  We started by using a blank black-line map of the Americas, both north and south.  Using the following maps, we drew a rough map of SOME of the ancient tribes in the Americas:

Eastern North America
Southwestern North America
Mesoamerica
We also talked a bit about the fact that there were tribes in what is now Canada, South America, etc. but that they simply aren't discussed very often and that we aren't going to cover them in this class... and I made sure the kids were aware that not all of these tribes overlapped, either.  It's hard to pick and choose, ya know? 

I also gave M2 his questions on Wednesday:  
1.  Would you have preferred living with the Olmecs or the Maya? (The Olmecs won his vote.)
2.  Both of these peoples played ball games.  If you were going to invent a ball game, what would you call it?  What would some of the rules be?  (M1 really liked this question and came up with a sort of hand ball/lacrosse game that I thought would be quite interesting.)  

Thursday:  We started with definitions (temple, sacrifice, fortification, peninsula) and moved from there to videos.  We didn't watch all of this video on the Olmecs, but we did watch some of it; we also watched this video on Mayan math.

Friday:  Friday project!  First, we watched this short video about the basics of the Mayan calendar.  I explained to the kids that the Maya didn't have weeks - only years, months, and days, as well as longer epochs on the (not shown in the video) Long Count calendar.  This confused the heck out of M2, so we set out to make our own mostly-Mayan-based calendar in the round.  Wikipedia to the rescue! Soon after (and I apologize for the poor photography) we constructed our own calendar in the round.  The kids loved finding their birthdays in rough Mayan equivalent.  Some other activities that we considered were resurrecting the atlatl idea, drinking spiced hot chocolate, and playing around with Mayan math/numbers (which M1 had done in the past).


Next week:  The Fertile Crescent/Mesopotamia, Sumerians, Akkadians

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Craftiness

I am not a crafty person.  Even when I look at most things on Pinterest, I think to myself, "But WHY would you want to do that when you can just... not?"  However, I've been in a serious funk lately (I know this because I've been buying shoes and haven't been cleaning the house.  These are not normal Sarah things.  Personality changes indicate a problem.  I know that because I watch 'Perception' on TV and it says so).  Suddenly the idea of sprucing up M2's bedroom walls became a manageable one.  I poked around on Pinterest a bit and found two ideas - making a letter chain of M2's name and making fabric-covered cork pinboards.  Feel free to click on the links and follow them through to their more thorough directions, but I'll give you a brief, simple overview of each project here.

The first project we did was the letter one.


We started with supplies, of course:  wooden letters, scrapbooking paper, ribbon, Mod Podge, a foam paintbrush, and a craft knife and self-healing cutting board (I like the 'self-healing' part.  It amuses me).  Oh, and M2 also found some cute flowers that she wanted to add to each letter.


I traced around the edge of each letter (oh, before I go any further, notice the hole in the M?  I had Oz drill a little 1/4" hole that so that I could tie the letters together with ribbon more easily.  Didn't have to do it on every letter, just the ones that didn't have good ways to tie them) and left some extra room around the edge for cutting error.  I did NOT left wiggle room the first time and, well, let's just say it was a good thing the paper was more than twice the size of the letter.


Trial and error are excellent teachers.  But I got the hang of it.  M2 hung around and directed me regarding which letter went on which paper as well as where on the paper she wanted it to go.


She also wanted to do some of the work, so I set her up with the Mod Podge.


She glued the paper onto each letter...


... and once they were dry, she gave each letter another topcoat so it would be a bit glossy.  We let them dry, glued on the flowers, and I tied them with the ribbon.


She and I both thought they came out beautifully!


Our second project was the fabric-covered pinboards.


I let her paint the hoops with tempera paint - any color she wanted.  She has one pink hoop, one lilac one, and one... well, you can see it in the middle there.  It's multi-colored and very, very M2.


Next I traced the inside of the hoops and cut out the circles with my handy-dandy craft knife.  I did the same with the cork liner I'd bought then peeled the sticky back off of the cork and stuck the two circles together.


Then I shoved it all into the hoop.  Voila!  After that it was only a matter of covering them with the fabric that M2 had selected, putting on the outer hoop, stretching the fabric, and tacking it to the back.


M2 is delighted that her walls now have more decorations on them.  We popped into Mardel this afternoon and picked up some big metallic push pins so she can already put her boards to use.  The girl is one happy little being.  Even she said so... specifically, she said, "Mom, I feel so spoiled!"

It's a good thing, because I think I hit my crafting limit for the year.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dear Tuesday

Dear Tuesday,

I am writing in regards to your delivery today, August 13, 2013.  I would like a replacement; I feel this particular model is defective.  In case you may feel that the problems have been caused by user error, let me itemize the problems I've had so you can see that they are, in fact, manufacturer issues:

1.  M2 spilled milk all over the floor first thing this morning.  Neither she nor I cried over spilled milk, but now I have stinky milk-soaked towels drying on top of my washer.

2.  M1 decided to go to the school room instead of eating breakfast this morning.  While in there, he felt the need to attempt to log into the computer multiple times, thereby locking me out.

3.  Rain.  Really?!?  It's August in Oklahoma.  It isn't supposed to rain, let alone flood, and there was certainly no need to induce a heavy downpour on the day that M2 decided to leave the van door hanging wide open after she ran outside during M1's swim team practice to get her school books and umbrella.  You're just lucky I keep towels in my van during summer as seat protectors or I'd be asking for a gift certificate for a van cleaning/detailing service.  On second thought, send one of those along with the replacement Tuesday.

4.  The dog yarked orange vomit all over the tile and pooped on the rug behind the couch.  I was not gone that long.

5.  The cat also had apparently yarked on the formal dining room carpet sometime recently, under the table.  I found it today.  Of course.  Between the dog and the cat, I need more SpotBot cleaner fluid.  Please enclose a bottle with your reply, because that stuff ain't cheap. I find that convenience often isn't.

6.  This week, the children seem to have forgotten how to load the dishwasher, wipe their placemats, pick up after themselves, flush/clean toilets, change/bring in toilet paper rolls, change/bring in paper towel rolls, and do any work in a timely fashion.  They have not forgotten how to whine, fuss, bicker, and randomly fall asleep (that last trait being one of M1's signatures).

7.  The UPS guy showed up while I was trying to clean up the urp, get the boy to finish his school work, and put away all the stuff I hauled out of the van.  Kindly inform him that while I appreciate him ringing the doorbell to inform me of a delivery, the sound does ramp up the stress level when I'm already feeling overwhelmed.

The consolation prizes that I have found in the bottom of today's apparent Pandora's Box - being able to find everything for some upcoming craft projects in a single trip to Michael's and having an appointment for myself at a very inconvenient time this evening - do not make up for the aforementioned defects that I find in this day, largely because there is not alcohol served along with any of it.  Should you be unable to send a new Tuesday, you may instead enclose a check for the price of a weekend trip to an all-inclusive resort, including airfare.

Thank you for your consideration.

Signed,

Exhausted Mom

Monday, August 12, 2013

Reading

This is in no way related to homeschooling.  I felt I should clarify that right now in case someone gets all excited that I might be talking about kids and reading in the same post, because I'm not going to do that, unless you want to discuss the book Dither Farm, because it was like OMG MY FAV'RIT BOOK EVAR when I was about M1's age, and I just found out it's available as an e-book and I had to download it and re-read it and, yes, it is just as good now as it was then, which I think is saying something because how many times have you gone back and re-read books you loved as a child and thought to yourself, "Just what in the sam-hell was I smokin'?!?"

Seriously.  Dither Farm.
Fun for kids of all ages.
And that, my friends, was a run-on sentence.

Moving on.

No, wait.  Before moving on, I should warn you: the rest of this post is link-heavy.  Click at your own risk.  Preferably right-click so you can open the links in a new tab and keep reading and exploring at the same time.  Rabbit holes can be dangerous, especially when there are books involved.

Now we're really moving on.

Really.

--

Having polished off Dither Farm as well as the library books I'd checked out (specifically Isaac's Storm [nonfiction] and When Christ and His Saints Slept [historical fiction]) and a nonfiction book on the Carolingians that I felt the sudden urge to revisit, I'm actually down to only two books that I'm currently reading.

This is the smallest number of books in my Goodreads 'Currently Reading' section that I've had in months.  I have a long list of books I want to read, but at the same time, I find that the majority at the top of the list are books in a series - Christian Cameron's 'Tyrant' series (these haven't been released as hard copy in the United States, so Kindle is my only option), for example, and the rest of Sharon Kay Penman's trilogy on Henry II.  Some books that I want to read - Fingal O'Reilley, Irish Doctor and the third book in the Discovery of Witches trilogy - aren't out yet; the latter doesn't even have a publishing date.  Also, as you probably noticed, most these books are also historical fiction.  That is my favorite genre, but still... I want to branch out.  This week I'm reading Craig Ferguson's book Between the Bridge and the River and Sir Walter Scott's Rob Roy and have requested The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (warning: site has sound) from the library.

What are your favorite reads right now?  Any suggestions?  And if you're on Goodreads, add me as a friend and I'll go peruse your reading lists!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Homemade History, Week 4

This week was an odd week for us, mostly because we decided not to do school on Friday and the kids had decided to squeeze any potential Friday work into the previous four days.  So I have a few things that we didn't do this week that we could have done in the extra day.  I'll put them in here, just in case you're interested.

Week 4 Topic:  Ancient Americas - Folsom, Clovis, Anasazi, Hopewells

Monday:  Reading and notes, as usual, from the Kingfisher Book of the Ancient World (pp. 124-129) and the Usborne World History Encyclopedia (pp. 176-177).

Tuesday:  I let the kids read their books for their papers and take notes.  They also did this on Thursday, and they're pretty close to being done with note-taking, at least from the library books.  Both kids also have a bunch of questions that the books didn't answer that they want to research on the Internet.  That'll probably show up on the schedule in the next week or two.  After they got done taking a few notes, we watched some movies.  The PBS videos that weren't working a couple of weeks ago actually are available now, and we watched probably five or six of the clips, and the kids want to sit down and watch some of the full episodes another day.

Wednesday:  Definitions (adobe, atlatl, culture, and population) and critical thinking questions for M1:  "Would you prefer to live in an adobe home or an Inuit igloo?" (He prefers a warm climate to a cold one.) and "What do you think it was like to hunt mammoth and other megafauna?"  (The videos we'd watched on Tuesday colored his answer significantly.)

Thursday:  This was our final day of work for this week.  I'd checked out a video on the mound builder cultures from the library, and we watched it.  It was about 30 minutes long, and while I thought it was fairly dry, the kids were upset when it ended.  So I guess they got something out of it.  They also added to their notes, as I mentioned.

Friday:  OK, we didn't do this stuff, but what I had planned to do was to take some of M1's arrows and try to use them as small throwing spears to see how difficult it was to hit a target.  I also wanted to hunt down some videos or web sites about how archaeologists know where to dig for sites relating to prehistory.  I still might do these at some point.

Next week:  The Ancient Americas - Mesoamerica and the Olmecs

Friday, August 9, 2013

Sleep = Good (But Try Telling That to 10-Year-Old Boys)

The kids and I survived their sleepovers.  M2's was easy.  She hitched a ride over to her friend's house while M1 was at swim, and nary a word did I hear from her until I showed up to retrieve her.  The mom called a couple of times to give status updates, but the girl herself was apparently having too much fun.  From what I gather, much giggling was done by all, and they slept from about 12-8:30.  Pretty good night's sleep for a sleepover in my opinion.

M1's twin best friends and their mom, who is one of my best friends, arrived at the house about 5:45, and before anyone could say much of anything, a duffel bag, two pillows, and one of the two sleeping bags had been hauled upstairs to the game room along with two extra Xbox controllers and a couple of 'spare' games in case they got bored of Minecraft (the very idea amused me).  The boys were engrossed in their playing well before the pizza and cheese sticks arrived and were reluctant to come down, even for food.  We adults managed to pry them away from the screen only long enough for them to eat between 1/3 and 1/2 pizza each (and plenty of cheese sticks... I'd been pre-warned by M1 that the cheese sticks, not the pizza, were the main attraction and had ordered two boxes) before they heard the siren call of the screen and vanished again.

(Thankfully they believe in hydration, and they all eventually came down, one by one, to get covered cups of water that could be taken upstairs.  I was rather impressed by that, not only because they came to get water of their own free will but also that not a single soul requested pop.)

I never knew until last night that playing Minecraft - or any video game - could be a noisy experience.  When by himself, the gamer child is a fairly quiet, solitary individual given to long bouts of thoughtful planning of his or her next adventure.  This child only becomes passionate when the game itself is taken away.  It's an interesting experiment.  However, when placed into a social gaming situation, the gamer child becomes quite gregarious, and the shrieks of panic ("DON'T BLOW UP MY GUY!!") and laughter will fill your home to the point where you and your fellow gaming-child mother feel more at ease on the front porch than in the living room.  Mosquitos were preferable to listening to shriekage.

At midnight or somewhere thereabouts, I went upstairs to collect the remotes and tell the boys to turn off the TV.  I'd warned them during dinner that this was the plan, and at 11 I'd made them pause the game for a bathroom/pre-bedtime routine break so they could spread out the sleeping bags, change into pajamas, etc., so my presence and request for remote controls wasn't a surprise.  One of the boys likes to sleep with the light on, so I dimmed it enough so M1 could sleep but so that it wasn't too dark for the anxious child and checked on them periodically until they all sacked out around 12:45.  Then I, too, went to sleep.

At 5:30 a.m., the upstairs toilet flushed (It flushed!!  Who knew it did that??  I should mention that the TP roll was completely empty and that, at least, was normal in that a new one never made it onto the holder, but still, it was a bit of an epiphany... boys can flush toilets).  I squinted into the dark at my phone and hoped against hope that the flushing was simply the result of a child awakened by his bladder and that he was now stumbling back to the game room to fall back asleep... but in my sinking heart, I knew better.  I heaved myself out of bed, the headache that had been lingering in my skull from barometric pressure changes announcing that it had not, in fact, been cured by Aleve or sleep, and quietly went upstairs.

Sure 'nuff, the boys were wide awake.  They were talking quietly while Despicable Me played in the background.  I made them turn off the television, and I told them to go back to sleep.  Fifteen minutes later, I was back upstairs telling one of the boys to stop jumping on the others because Miss Sarah gets awfully cranky when she doesn't get sleep, and neither she nor Mr. Oz was making coffee before the sun came up, and that the thumping of a small herd of elephants didn't fly at that hour of the morning.  Fifteen minutes after that, I went upstairs again just because I was still awake, and two of the boys had fallen asleep... temporarily.  Boy #3, who was the jumper, was still awake and not likely to let the others sleep for long, but he at least promised to be quiet.

And I have to give it to them... they were quiet.  Oz got up, having slept through most of the nighttime shenanigans, and left for work around 8.  When he left, after taking out trash and making coffee (bless the man), he told me that he'd heard noises and that the boys were up.  Being the ever-dutiful mother type, I hauled my butt out of bed yet again and puttered around doing my morning chores - letting out the dog, putting on clothes, putting in contacts, taking more Aleve to try to banish the rest of the headache that was still lingering, getting breakfast, getting coffee (coffffeeeeeee...) - and waited for the boys to come barreling downstairs begging for breakfast.

No boys.

Finally finished with everything I could do downstairs, I grabbed a sack and headed up to empty the upstairs trash cans.  I figured I'd tell the boys to come down and get breakfast while I was up there.  But when I got to the top of the stairs and peeked into the game room, I was greeted by three motionless figures in sleeping bags, legs and arms flung in all sorts of weird directions.  I instantly regretted the fact that I'd already done all the morning chores because if I hadn't done those, I probably wouldn't have been so wide awake and probably could have gone back to bed... but I knew that according to Murphy's Law, that would have meant the boys wouldn't have been asleep... and so I sighed, smiled at their cute sleeping innocence, and trudged on.

Two of the boys - the two that had fallen asleep fairly quickly at 6 a.m. - woke up shortly after 10.  I woke up #3 at 10:45 because we had to be out the door by 11:30 to deliver them to their daytime residence so that I could pick up M2 on time.  Despite their very obvious fatigue, they never stopped talking about Minecraft.  They all wished they could have stayed and played longer, and they attempted to exact a promise from me that next time they came we wouldn't have to go anywhere the next day so they could stay up all night.

Sometime between now and then, I think I'm going to invest in a pair of good earplugs for sleeping.  This mama is starting to feel her age, and sometimes there just ain't enough caffeine!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Oh, the Flexibility

(This is one of those days where I feel invisible.)

(You should probably ignore everything I say here.)

(Assuming you even see it.)

(Self-pitying moment over.  Carry on.)

One of the things that homeschoolers always brag about when we're touting our family's educational choice is flexibility.  We take breaks at random times throughout the year.  We go to the zoo or the park on those glorious fall and spring days and silently gloat that our kids aren't stuck behind desks (like most of us were when we were young...).  We reevaluate our curriculum choices and project ideas on a regular basis, throwing out the stuff that no longer works and changing things up as needed.

Most noticeably, we plan events for the middle of the week.

M2 and one of her friends haven't seen much of one another over this summer.  We've been busy, they've been crazy-busy and out of town a lot, and it just hasn't happened.  So last Friday when we finally decided it was the day to do or die and I crashed her house in the early afternoon hours, we weren't entirely surprised when the girls came down to lobby for a sleepover that evening.  Unfortunately, M2's friend had forgotten that her family's Saturday plans included a trip to her grandparents' house sometime in the morning, but the mom and I put our calendars together and determined that this Thursday would be a good day to let the girls have a sleepover.

Yes, Thursday.  Yes, that is a 'school night.'  And when M1 heard that M2 wasn't going to be home due to a sleepover, he instantly asked if he could have a couple of friends spend the night.  To which I said, why not??  Before long, the public schools will be back in session and sleepovers will largely fall by the wayside... they will definitely be available only on weekends.  There's not a chance in Hades that I could have gotten away with a sleepover on a school night before I was 17 and had a really bad case of Senioritis.  But this is why I have them home, yes?

However, I know that neither child is going to be functional on Friday.  So I asked them what they wanted to do about Friday's school work - sprinkle it throughout this week, do it Saturday, or just ignore it altogether?  I only asked because I know they like doing their Friday history projects and both have been excited about the writing work we've been doing.  I honestly figured they would tell me to skip it all without a second thought.  It amused me when they opted to redistribute the work so they could still do their projects and logic workbooks... and math.  Who knew math was appealing?  But it's cool.  I'm willing to work extra things in if that's what they so desire.

After all, I'm flexible.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Homemade History, Week 3

I didn't have any pictures to share this week, for which I apologize.  There just wasn't anything particularly camera-worthy to share, but the kids learned a lot!

Week 3 Topic:  Aborigines and Pacific Islanders

Monday:  Reading and notes from the Kingfisher Book of the Ancient World (pp. 138-144) or the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia (pp. 88-89).  The kids both desperately want to find and try breadfruit.

Tuesday:  We poked around on the Internet and read several myths from Australia and Polynesia.  The kids love listening to different myths, and they always like it when they just get to lay on the floor and listen.

Wednesday:  We looked up words (aborigine, sacred, migrate, and domesticate), and the kids each wrote a short story - sort of a free-written paragraph - where they imagined themselves as Polynesian explorers.  M1 included monkey as well as fish and plants in his imaginary diet, and M2 focused quite a bit on family structure.  They both played off one another to develop ideas, which I liked, and I answered questions when I could.

Thursday:  We took the day to let the kids read books about their selected writing topics and write a few notes.

Friday:  Project day was low-key as well.  We ate sweet potato chips, looked up Southern hemisphere constellations, and watched a few videos about how the Polynesians used wave patterns and stars to navigate extremely long distances across the ocean.  M1 contemplated doing some mystery pages about Easter Island, but we decided to call it a day instead.  We were headed to a friend's house, and the kids were eager to get on the way.  Fine by me.

Next week:  The Ancient Americas

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Not-History Stuff

To read this blog lately, you'd think we're spending all our time on history.  Far from it!  We do a little bit of history most days, but we've also done a bunch of other stuff, like:


Make paint with natural materials and eggs.


Make our own slide of a cross-section of cork,...


and dye it, and draw what we see.


Read poetry.


Color a page from our own "Book of Days"...


... while Mama reads Harry Potter aloud.

So far, this school year is a success.  Long Live Homeschooling!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My Babies

I haven't loved on them with the camera enough lately.

Today, I indulge myself.





I heart them.