Every Good and Perfect Gift is from Above

exhausted Mom.....because if I posted a picture of myself looking truly exhausted, that might be embarrassing.

exhausted Mom…..because if I posted a picture of myself looking truly exhausted, that might be embarrassing.

10 Random Thoughts from an Exhausted Mom (It was a long day.)

1. How many boys, ages 9 down to 20 months, will fit in a standard American bathtub?

At least four, as my children have proved. I’m sure if I had another child, they would show me how to fit five.

 

2. What does desperation sound like when it’s time to cook supper?

“Here, boys, play with this bowl of water in the floor while I finish cooking.”

 

3. What does giving up on being a strict teacher sound like after an emotionally trying morning?

My side of the conversation:

“Where is your TNT book?”

“I don’t have time to help you look for that right now.”

“You aren’t getting out of your work that easily. Here.  Copy this verse from Hebrews.”

“Yes, fine, copy whatever verse you want. Just copy one. I have GOT to go get a drink of water, and I think JD has a poopy diaper.”

 

4. How do you sneak out of the house without taking Daniel with you?

“Caleb, we are going to the library. Daniel has to go to bed, but he’s still downstairs. You have to go get ready like you are on a secret spy mission. This is a secret mission. You have to prove your spy skills by leaving with me in 5 minutes, without Daniel noticing. Go!”

2 minutes later: Caleb stood at the front door, jacket and all, and proclaimed, loudly, “I’m ready to go!!”

:/

More coaching. Believe it or not, we did pull it off.

 

5. How many times has a skunk sprayed our house (outside, thankfully) since we moved in, 7 months ago?

3–I just smelled the third.

pretty wildflowers picked for me by Caleb and Dan

 

6. Sometimes Caleb and his faithful sidekick, Daniel, pick flowers for me.

my pretty Jamberry nails

7. When I feel really grumpy, I look down at my pretty Jamberry-covered fingernails. This is probably the first time I’ve had pretty fingernails since 2007. Post to come about that soon!

No, he didn’t go running with me. He does look cuter walking than I do, though.

8. I went running yesterday. I ran a mile. I was super proud of myself. I didn’t do it in my strength. I hate running. Yeah, I know. I used to do it a lot. That’s because I hate it when my clothes get snug more than I hate running.

It’s funny, though. I have that “I can’t” attitude about anything athletic. I am not athletic, but God reminded me, “Yes, you can. You “run” all day, schooling the big ones and shepherding the little ones. You hardly ever sit, so you can literally run too.”

“Ok, God, I’ll run to that Stop sign.”

“No, you run all the way home.”

“Ugh. Okay.”

If you listen, God can be very clear. (Sometimes I remind myself that some non-Christians may read this blog and think that I’m a crazy schizo…Oh, well…I can assure you I am not. Christianity is about a personal relationship with God, not about following a list of rules.

I did that mile in God’s strength. I haven’t run a mile since JD was born. Did you know that you can stop, anytime it feels like the walls are closing in around you, and plead desperately, “God, I CANNOT do this. Help me!” And he will answer your prayer.

Sometimes I forget to listen for the voice of God, and then I’ll have a shining moment where I just REMEMBER, you know? I listen, I pray, and God strengthens my soul, not just for running, but for real life. How do I handle four boys? God’s strength, only by God’s strength. I cannot imagine life without that. I couldn’t do it. I really couldn’t.

Strength!

Strength!

9. I know. I started out being funny, and I got all serious. :) Exhausted people reserve the right to jump around.

I had such a relaxing week with my parents here last week. I think Mom and Dad think that I always sleep until 8am.  I promise that is not the case. I was taking advantage of you.

That sounds like a horrible thing to say after talking so spiritually. It’s just that I could hear you taking care of JD, so nicely, so I thought, “I’ll just sleep a little longer.”

You were a great help, and we enjoyed the visit! :)  I think sleep was the greatest birthday gift you could have ever given me!

10. Confession: I quit making to-do lists a long time ago. I live by my daily routine, and if it’s not on my routine, it ends up getting done by Alan. You can thank Alan for all of your birthday gifts, and my kids and I can thank him for their doctor visits, dental appointments, and sports teams.

11. Who cares if I said 10? I have 11 thoughts. ;)

What would I do without Jesus, Alan, Joshua, Caleb, Daniel, and John David? Where would I be without grandparents that come to visit, help, and encourage? How dull would life be without friends and neighbors: both the wonderful and the crazy. I love my exhausting, first world, home school, routine, ordinary life!!

Tired, but happy! Praise the Lord!

Tired, but happy! Praise the Lord!

James 1:17 (KJV)

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Go ahead…click it. ;)

 

The Boys’ Goals: Teaching Math, Eating French Fries, and More

caleb'sgoals

Caleb’s long-term goals, at age 7

Each week at tutoring, the boys are required to give a presentation. Some weeks we are super prepared for this, and other weeks we are not prepared at all.

Last weekend, Alan and I talked to the boys about goals. Then we asked the boys to write their goals down and use that as their presentation at tutoring on Monday. I thought they did a great job with their goal papers.

Caleb:

1. (Become a) math teacher.

2. (Become a dad.) Have someone to play catch with.

3. Go to Lego Land.

Sooooooo… I went to Caleb’s class for tutoring last week. (Some weeks I go to Joshua’s class. Some weeks I go to Caleb’s. The babies are, thankfully, in child care during that time.)

Presentation time came, and I saw Caleb snatch three Lego men out of his book bag and head to his seat.

“What!? Caleb, aren’t you going to share your goals?? You worked so hard on it.”

“No, I just want to talk about my Lego men.”

He pretty much does this to me every week. The boy loves to talk about his toys. So that was that. One of the other moms said, “Maybe you should present Caleb’s goals, April.”

haha  Oh, you have no idea how badly I want to jump in there and perfect everything they do. I am constantly having to hold back my inner control freak.

I was THAT kid, you know? My papers were always neat, orderly, and I was always finished way before most of the class. I sat up straight in my seat and listened. I LOVED school, sharpened pencils, and …….but wait.

Classical Conversations, the boys tutoring service, is actually nothing like that. I would have been much like they are in class, especially if I had just moved to a new place, as we have.

The boys, especially Caleb, are very quiet and withdrawn in class. They don’t want to answer questions, even when they do know the answers. You know what? I was exactly like that. I lived in mortal fear of being called on, even though I had straight A’s most of the time, so this is a very different environment, not so simple for shy extroverts.

I know: shy extroverts, that makes no sense. Actually, I think it does, but that is a topic for another day’s blog post!

But do you know what Caleb does WAY better than I would have done in this situation? Presentations. Sure, sometimes he looks at the floor and mumbles, but not usually. Usually, he is eager to get up there and tell all about his toy, and he talks and talks and fills up his time slot. I never had to do any presentations like that until the 4th grade, in Talent Pool, and I can remember being so incredibly nervous.

I try to remind myself of these things when I am tempted to feel exhasperated….so I sat back and enjoyed Caleb’s Lego Man presentation.

Meanwhile, I think his goals and drawings were fantastic.  Caleb said that the insect/monster drawings at the bottom were just for added fun. He is such a cutie.

Also, I learned that maybe I should play catch with Caleb more often. The one day I did, his brothers took over. That happens a lot when you have this many brothers.

********

joshua's goals

Joshua’s long term goals, at age 9

Joshua actually did follow through with presenting his goals to his class, and his tutor said that he did a very good job.  Hurray!

I loved both boys’ illustrations. :)

Joshua’s goals:

1. Climb Mount Everest.

2. Win a year’s supply of McDonald’s french fries.

3. Become a comic author.

4. Get a Powerade pool.

5. Be a famous band drummer.

 

The picture of Joshua at a desk with a giant stack of papers is a realistic drawing. This is what his room looks like now. Joshua reads, writes, draws, and jumps on the trampoline all day, every day.

I told Joshua, in reference to the french fries and Powerade, “Ugh, Joshua, everyone’s going to think that all I feed you is junk, and you know people are very healthy here.”

He giggled.

I enjoyed doing this activity with the boys. I think having both short and long-term goals are very important. Writing goals down makes them feel so much more real, too.

Now MY biggest goal for the next 24 hours is to get photos of the boys with their grandparents before they leave! I have been terribly negligent with the camera this visit, but I do have a good excuse. Joshua keeps running my camera battery down, making movies with his brothers and his friends. That kid has lots of hobbies!

I did take ONE picture during this visit, at Point Lobos:

JD, our smallest hiker

This was the FIRST time we let JD walk the trails, rather than ride in a baby carrier. Woohoo! Go JD! He did a great job!

We have had a wonderful time, as always! I hope y’all had fun too, Mom and Dad! You will be missed!

Hope everyone has a great week!!

 

Go ahead…you know you want to click it. ;)

 

 

A Sunset Walk in Monterey

This boy loved being in a bubble.

This boy loved being in a bubble.

Alan and I herded all the boys together and ventured over to Monterey this past weekend.

The boys said things like this:

“I don’t want to go.”

“Can’t we just stay home?”

Until we got there. Once we got there, they had a ball and didn’t want to leave. In fact, Joshua developed a sudden interest in film production. He made movie after movie and “News Story” after news story.

Sorry, I am under strict gag orders to not share his movie on the blog. :(

He also decided not to release his movie in theatres. We asked him what he was naming his movie. He replied, “Hmmm I’ll have to think about that.”

Alan suggested, “How about The Best Movie Ever!?”

Joshua said, “What! NO! Why would we name it that? It’s not even good.”

I got a good laugh out of that one.

It was such a pleasure just to stroll along Cannery Row, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Monterey beaches with this adorable crew of little men.

Caleb took lots of pictures for us:

We spotted this sea otter, peacefully back-stroking around the boats.

We spotted this sea otter, peacefully back-stroking around the boats.

Oops…okay this next photo isn’t from our walk. But I had to share it. Caleb has been “training” Daniel, in I don’t know what, in the garage. He awards his young apprentice with copious amounts of merit badges:

Caleb's apprentice. Check out all those badges.

Caleb’s apprentice. Check out all those badges. Maybe I should find out what he’s been training him to do…  ;)

Ahem….as I was saying. Monterey:

Joshua in a bubble.

As soon as we arrived, Caleb and Joshua spotted a vendor renting out play time in the bubbles. Boy, were they excited when Alan paid the money and they actually got to play in these things!

Yes, Alan just had to join in.

Joshua wasn’t a fan, so he got out and rolled Alan around.

still too young to play in the bubble

But they could still play with each other.

She’s the patron saint of fishermen, or something like that.

checking out all the boats

IMG_5005

It was getting dark. Can you see the big ol’ harbor seal on the rock?

Caleb took several pictures of the pictures on the information podiums.

And you gotta hear this. Most adorable snoring ever! The boys and I got such a kick out of this!

You’ll have to click on the link to watch.

 

JDsnoring(Converted)smaller

 

For the “Home school is ruining my life” days

helpneighbor

Tomorrow we have family arriving, and it makes me feel like “Ahhhh, peace.” I know things will be crazy around here, as the kids will be all excited, and there will be 8 people in the house, but the thing is that I am seriously in need of reinforcements!

Some days I’m all about the home schooling.

“Oh, sure. I think it’s great! I love it.”

So happy!!!

 

Then there are days like today, where I’m more like, “Home school is ruining my life…”

Can I be anywhere but here?  …Yeah, I know. I look a lot better when I’m smiling.

 

Is home school ruining my life?

No.

But sometimes I definitely think that I am making things harder than they have to be.  People often ask me what it’s like.

It’s nuts; that’s what it is. I stay up late preparing school desks for my own children. I pour all of this teaching energy into just these four children. There is this constant strain on my heart. It’s a pressure strain.

There’s no one to blame but me. If they don’t learn what they are supposed to learn, I have failed. If they aren’t behaving, we have failed.

I compare them to other people’s kids. I compare myself to the other moms. I do every single thing in my head that one should not do.

Today was a particularly stressful school day. I finally really let Caleb have it. I wish I could have thought to say what I said in a calmer manner, but at least I did finally hit upon what needed to be said.

The subject was math. The section was the algebra-like addition/subtraction section. The particular question was 13-___=6, and he was putting forth zero effort to do his work.

All people are good at pulling this stunt, when faced with a task that we just don’t feel like doing, but Caleb is really good at this trick, and I was finished with it.

“Caleb, no. I will not let you pull this. You know how to do this work, and you are going to do it. You are going to do it by yourself, and I will not help you. You are smart, and I won’t allow you to pretend like you are not. I am fed up with it. Now you know the answer to this question, and if not, you are going to figure out this problem, and then you are going to answer all the rest. Now do it.”

This was all said in my true-April-telling-someone-off-voice, a voice that mostly only people that live with me ever have to hear. Sorry, family.

Tomorrow I will try again at being calm, but the words did get through. Caleb finished the entire rest of his math worksheet just as quick as a flash, and he was a very good worker for the rest of the day.

Hurray! I got through to him!

I wonder if God sometimes feels that way towards us, “Stop whining and concentrate! This is not hard! You can do it; now DO IT.”

Definitely. I am guilty, for sure.

Each kid here is different. Caleb is my sluggish starter, but once he gets going, he’s good.

So yes, there were victories today, but man, do I get tired of pushing for these victories!

Sometimes I push too hard, but mostly I’m just often pushing for the wrong things and getting my priorities all mixed up.

Life isn’t about being as brilliant and thin as the other moms. I wish I could find some less impressive people to compare myself to….  :)  Kidding, I’m just kidding…Where was I?

Priorities! Life isn’t about how good we can make ourselves look to others. Life isn’t about how fast your children can multiply. These are not the things I should be judging myself and my boys by. These are not the things that I should allow to ruin my day.

What really matters? What really makes a difference?

It’s knowing at the end of the day that you put your best foot forward. It’s being at peace with God and knowing that something that you are doing is fulfilling his purpose for you. It’s instilling the character and love of God and fellow man in your children.

Am I doing my best to serve God by serving others? Am I showing love? Am I spreading joy and good will? Am I raising up children that will be a blessing to their communities?

I was going over a list of worries with my Mom one night, and she reminded me, “April, sometimes you just have to let things go and say,’we did what we thought was right at the time.” Thank you, Mom. That was a comfort.

If you read this blog much at all, you know that I am a firm believer in prayer. I pray about everything, and when I don’t, I regret it! I pray before my feet hit the floor in the morning. Over the last couple of years, my prayer has become, “Lord, help me to get through this day, to do what is right, and use our family to bless others.”

This is a fun phase. The children are still young and adorable and hilarious. Their problems are still fixable, but it’s a phase of HARD WORK. “The days are long, but the years are short,” they say, and that is so true.

I have to learn to trust in God more and more.

God answers prayer. He does it in such big and obvious ways, too. I don’t know how people go through life without God. I think they are usually either the most miserable people or the richest, happiest people. Do you know what I mean? They are either miserable because they need Him and don’t know him, OR they are so naturally happy and rich that they don’t need Him. They miss out on so much, though.

Such a wonderful feeling it is to comforted by the Holy Spirit. Yes, this was a rough day of school. Yes, the world situation looks abysmal. But no, it has not all gone to hell in a hand basket just yet. There are still so many wonderful blessings to be thankful for. There are still so many darling people out there. There are so many good works for us to accomplish.

What does matter?

God matters. People matter. What we do for God matters. Have I taught my children that? That’s the most important thing for them to know. I hope that we have. I hope their hearts are so full of love that it spills out onto other people.

a happy place

joy spilling over :)

 

 

Montessori at Home: Brainy Kit Review

Montessori at Home

Montessori at Home

A little while back, I got an email from Viktoria Altman, President of Brainy Kit. She asked if I’d be interested in receiving a complimentary kit of Montessori materials and lesson plans.

YES! Would I ever!!  I’ve only had two blogger offers that I was this excited about: Brainy Kit and Jamberry Nails. (Look for a Jamberry post soon.)

Now I know you’re wondering what in the world I’m talking about. Well, Montessori is a hands on method of preschool that I have always been intrigued by. To learn more about Montessori methods, read this:http://amshq.org/Montessori-Education/Introduction-to-Montessorij

What the Brainy Kit does is bring those Montessori materials into the home. It makes this method more attainable for the average family, for those who may not be able to afford to send their child to a Montessori School.

I received Brainy Kit #1: the Polar Kit. We are LOVING it.

Each item in the kit has provided DAYS of fun, not just one lesson of fun.

Here’s what came in the kit:

Brainy Kit #1: WE LOVED this!!!

1. A book of seven detailed lesson plans: Each lesson plan has tons of activity suggestions.

2. A Bag of miniature animal replicas, Eskimos, and an igloo

3. pretend snow

4. Amazing Arctic Animals book

5. a huge sheet of stickers

6. a glue stick

7. a pre-cut-out walrus craft

8. laminated animal cards

9. laminated Polar Animal learning chart

10. colorful Penguin puzzle

11. jigsaw puzzle

 

Daniel, JD, and Caleb have all enjoyed this penguin puzzle. I left it out on the coffee table after preschool time, and it saw lots of play time for days, and then JD hid all the pieces…..and well, I still haven’t found them all.

Daniel, learning about the North and South Poles.

I would have never thought to stop and teach Daniel about the Poles. Poor third kid….but it was in the lesson plan, so I got out the globe and did some explaining. :)

Another idea behind the Brainy Kit is that it will help children transition from the home environment to the school environment.

sorting the deck of laminated arctic animals and North Pole/South Pole cards Such a fun learning tool!

 

You can just see the wheels turning in his little head.

hard at work

It’s blurry, but I love the way this laminated mat details which animals live at which Poles, and which ones inhabit both.

This book of beautiful pictures and info comes in the kit too! Loved it.

This book of beautiful pictures and info comes in the kit too! Loved it.

Everything in the kit is so useful! This is a book we will keep in our library and reference for years. It’s a great read-aloud.

preschool polar lesson

This was by far the most popular item in the kit: tiny animals and fake snow. JD joined Daniel for this one. He just couldn’t resist. The great thing about this activity is that it needs very little help from Mom. They played with this for an hour the first day, an hour the second day, and believe it or not, it took them 3 or 4 days before they finally destroyed all of the snow.

I was able to teach the big boys their grammar lessons while the littles played with this. As you can imagine, I was thrilled!!
montessori learning

It had a walrus, a killer whale,  a beluga whale, Eskimos, an igloo, a wolf, and a polar bear. JD carried that walrus around ALLLLLLL day.

Later on, I whipped out the old Polar Bear documentary, and all four boys watched it, while JD clutched his toy walrus.

polar animal lesson

Adding ice to the polar scene provided even more fun!

The lesson suggested adding a little water or ice to the scene. The boys LOVED dragging ice cubes around in their snow. It made the fake snow a little fluffier too, just like the way real snow changes when it’s wet.

After a while, Daniel asked me, “Me have some juice, Mommy?”

I don’t remember what I said, but Daniel added, “Me thirsty from eating that snow.”

haaaaahahahaha  Well, of course, he ate it, really!

That was all just from last week. I haven’t even gotten to the walrus craft, the stickers, or the jigsaw puzzle yet!

I am giving this brainy kit a billion thumbs up. Huge hit here!

Anyone with a 2-6 year old child should definitely sign up for these kits!

Here’s the link to learn more or sign up. :

http://getbrainykit.com/

 

montessori at home

The Writer,the Adder, the Brownie Thief, and Joshua #2

Joy.

This is my picture of the year for 2015. This totally sums up what I’m wanting this year to be like. Last year was all change, change, change, and more change. It was WORK. It was learning to teach again. It was so much learning I thought my brain would bust.

Nothing against work and learning, but I’m still exhausted.

Let’s make work and learning a little more fun for all this year, especially me.

This year we will not:

1. move

2. change schools

3. Go whole weeks without leaving the house.

4. give birth

5. wean a baby

6. Say good-bye to all of our friends.

 

This year we WILL:

1. Go to the beach more often.

2. Have lots of guests!

3. Keep on home schoolin’.

4. Potty train J.D. (later this year…not now)

5. Finish our first year of home schooling.

6. Go to Legoland.

7. Visit the San Diego Zoo. Oh yeah, baby, that is so happening soon!!!

8. Have my lesson plans done BEFORE the new school year starts. That’s a benefit of being a second year CC’er. I actually have some clue as to what is going on. That statement is probably something only a Classical Conversations family could understand. It’s just a whole other method of schooling that will shake up your brain and fill it with tons of new information and ideas.

 

I’ve captured a few of our recent 2015 adventures on camera:

Batman went to Joshua’s basketball game with us.

My friend Jennifer showed me a ‘meme’ online that had a picture of a Batman mask. It read, “Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.”

Daniel is following in Caleb’s steps of costume love. We often hear Caleb ask Dan, “Dan, do you want me to go dress you up in a costume?”

They have quite the super hero collection.

one of their many disguises

Do you know what else Caleb likes to do? He makes up math problems on the board. In his free time! Never have I ever.

Caleb likes to make up math problems to work on the board.

Did you know that we sometimes call John David “Joshua #2″? It feels like raising Joshua all over again–a more aggressive version. Anyone with three older siblings will come out kickin’.

What makes him like Jman? So many things! He loves books. He’s allergic to nuts. His face is very similar. He’s the same size that Joshua was. He’s high maintenance. They have all been high maintenance, except for Caleb.

Let me take a moment and thank God for the one low maintenance child….

haaaa! Of course, Caleb is a wild card. You never know when he’s going to take some freak notion to try to walk to school by himself, like he did in Kindergarten, BUT I will say that I’ve never seen a more self-reliant child. He almost never asks for help.

JD LOVES books. I think most kids do.

Beach Day #2 with Jennings. This time we went prepared for the soaking.

I already wrote about Jennings’ visit, but I didn’t share pics from beach day #2. We were much better prepared. All boys had on swim gear. Caleb wore very little, and I really don’t know how he didn’t freeze to death, but he didn’t.

Happiness!

Sometimes I wonder why we don’t just go to the beach every day.

When small people steal brownies

Last weekend, we prepared Daniel a perfectly good lunch. Then we went upstairs, and left him alone in the kitchen to eat it.

We also left a pan of cooling brownies on the counter. So there you have it.

The young author needs lots of room to spread out his work.

Joshua has a new hobby. He writes and illustrates copious amounts of comic book stories.  I get a kick out of the way he spreads them all out on his bed.

beginning PreK 4!!!

I’m gradually easing Daniel into PreK4. I love the Montessori preschool style, and we are also doing that with Daniel. I have a whole post that I’m working on about that.  Coming soon!

This pic is of Daniel enjoying an A Beka learning game. Every time he correctly says a letter sound, he gets to put an apple on the tree.

Believe it or not, Daniel will also be a Classical Conversations student in the fall. Too cute. My expectations for that are pretty low. I’ll just cheer on whatever he does learn and not spend a single second concerning myself with what he doesn’t learn. Entering as a K4 student, he will learn Cycle 1 memory work 3 times!

JD had a ball playing with Aunt Jennings at the beach.

Day 2: These two never did get wet.

Do you remember that pre-teen girls’ sleepover I mentioned? Well, they painted my nails. I haven’t painted my nails since about 2005, so now I have these horrible chipped, purple sparkly nails, and not an ounce of polish remover in the house. I am such a boy mom. Now I have to go buy nail polish remover.

I also learned that when it comes to modern pre-teen pop culture I apparently “don’t know anything at all!!!”

“What is BAE? What does that mean???”

“It means above all else…”

Wait…but wouldn’t that be AAE? Or maybe they said better than all else. I forgot already.

Then, of course, I had never heard of any of their bands/songs/singers. Also, did you know that many of these children have their own smart phones??

I cannot imagine giving a pre-teen unlimited, unsupervised access to the internet.

I’m sorry, but I think that is a terrible idea. Plus, it’s impossible to run any activities with people who are always looking at their phone.

The most startling realization from all of this is that our Joshua is only two years away from being a member of this ‘middle school’ crowd. He’s nine!  Does that mean that some kids his age are already getting their own smart phones??  Giving a kid a cell phone so you can call them is one thing. Giving them a smart phone where they can access porn, snapchat, and anything else in the world is totally different. I’m not talking about 17 year olds. I’m talking about middle schoolers.

Electronic time is such a new dilemma for my generation of fellow parents. Our parents had to deal with Nintendo time. We have to worry about what they might access on an iPad!

Alan and I have stuck to our ‘no electronics during the week’ rule. They can play video games on the weekend. This weekend they didn’t even get to do that, but no one seemed to miss it. We are also very strict about what video games enter our house.

I’d better run. Daniel and John David are ready to get out of the bath tub. When all else fails, baths are the greatest way I know to entertain small children.

 

 

 

 

My Victory of the Week

Some days it’s best to wear your pants a different way.

I stepped outside to take out the recycling. Joshua, Caleb, Daniel, and a neighborhood friend were all playing in and around the trees on the hill behind our house.

I heard Caleb ask, “Master Joshua, how much longer do we have to train?”

Gracious.

Two new seven-year-old boys have moved onto our street in the past few weeks. Joshua and Caleb’s world keeps getting happier and happier.

********

Right now it’s recess time at “Yawn City Elementary School.”

Daniel keeps running in my room, holding the Batmobile, giggling, “Save me, Mom! Save me!” with Caleb, half-heartedly chasing him, holding a Skylander statue. These two make such adorable playmates.

Joshua is still downstairs finishing up his seat work. He had a day dreaming problem this morning. He has three new books arriving in the mail in the next few days, and that is all he can think about. Joshua is an obsessor, another fine quality inherited from his mother. (Sorry, kids.)

I warned him this morning, “Joshua, you will not go to recess until you finish that seat work. It’s not my fault that you’re sitting there daydreaming about books.”

“What did you say I’m daydreaming about?”

I figured that meant that he thought I was wrong, so I back-tracked, “Well, whatever you are daydreaming about. You need to do your math paper.”

“But what did you say before?”

“Your books..”

“Oh, yeah, you were right. I’m daydreaming about my books.”

We love books around here. At least I handed down ONE good quality!!  You’re welcome, dear world.

That has been one thing I have loved about our A Beka language arts curriculum. They include such quality novels and stories. Granted, Joshua hated Swiss Family Robinson and Pilgrim Boy,  but all of the reading material has been chock full of great stories, almost all of them with morals that are hard to find just anywhere. Many of the stories in the third grade curriculum are from centuries ago. They have points I had never even thought of.

Our favorite was this one:

This story of Hilda is relatable, funny, and many of the values in this book are things that we often forget about in our modern age. I’m talking about things like removing distractions from our lives because they prevent us from remembering to pray, not because the distractions are harmful in themselves, but simply because they keep us from what’s best. We never want to accept something that’s kind of good, at the cost of experiencing what is best.

Joshua would probably not admit that he enjoyed this book, but he did, and I did too. He also learned a lot about smallpox and obedience!

Now some of you may wonder why Joshua did not enjoy The Swiss Family Robinson. Oh my goodness. I didn’t blame him. That book really was “boring.com.” If you only saw the movie, you can’t understand. The movie was solid family fun! The book……talks about survival. The book tells you that the treehouse was actually not sustainable all year long. They had to build a house out of a cave for monsoon season.  Okay, that still sounds interesting, but see, the book tells you, in agonizing detail, how they MADE things, how they survived.

Yes, some of you will love it. If you are like Joshua and me, and don’t care how they made the things….it’s a boring book. I really just wanted to read about the animal adventures, meeting the girl, and the shipwreck incident.

Our book love doesn’t stop with Joshua. Caleb was my VOW.

Victory Of the Week!!!

I downloaded a lengthy 2nd grade formal reading assessment from the Ohio State Department of Education, and ……Caleb passed it with flying colors!

I was so excited. That was reason #1 I wanted to home school Caleb: to give him a boost in reading skills. The other formal reading assessments I’d used on Caleb were only lists of words to read, but this Ohio one had the whole nine yards: word recognition and multiple stories, of all different types, to read with comprehension questions.

Here’s a link for anyone else that is interested:

http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Testing/Diagnostic-Assessments/New-Diagnostic-Assessments-List#FAQ1413

Caleb is enjoying reading too. He has always loved being read to, but now he finally has the confidence to read on his own.

Henry and Mudge is my absolute favorite series for encouraging youngsters to read. All four boys enjoy those books. They are sweet, relatable stories about a boy and his dog.

But yes, my boys are still terrified of dogs. Someday, when they are much older, we will get them a dog of their own, and I figure that will take care of that. For now, there is no way on earth that I am taking care of a dog.

Every morning, Caleb and Joshua do a math paper and work in their “seat work notebook”, during the first hour of school. The seat work notebook has varying tasks, but it always includes spelling work and a writing assignment. The other assignments vary, which keeps it interesting. Caleb asked me today, “Mom, when are you going to put ‘Read a book,’ in my seat work again?”  That made me smile. I’m so glad he’s finally enjoying reading.

Here’s what I did to help Caleb enjoy reading more:

1. I ordered A Beka 1st grade readers. Last semester, Caleb read the 2nd grade readers, but A Beka is an advanced curriculum, and those readers were too much work for Caleb. I learned a valuable lesson from Joshua’s teacher, Mrs. DeSatnick, last year. She told us, at Open House, “With young readers, you want them to read material that is just right for their level, or easy for their level. Reading books that are above their level actually hinder their learning.”

Best reading advice ever, and Joshua flourished in reading in her class. He still reads several years above grade level, but he didn’t get there by reading books that were too hard for him.

2. I kept taking Caleb to the library and letting him pick out whatever he wants to read. Yes, he reads Garfield and Ninjago more than Frog and Toad. I am no book snob. There is only one kind of book that does not enter our house:

Captain Underpants:  ew, ew , ew.  Parents, do yourself a favor, and everyone that has to talk to your children a favor, and avoid those books. “Poopy” and ‘stupid’ are about the only adjectives you will find in those books.

Don’t confuse Capt. Underpants with Capt. Awesome. They are two very different series.

We LOVE Captain Awesome.

3. I started letting Caleb do more ‘silent reading.’ I think reading to me makes him nervous because I correct him a lot.

4. I gave incentives. Read 30 books, get a Lego set. Obviously, that was a hit.

I could talk books all day long, but the natives are getting restless, so I’d better run. This will be a big weekend for us. Friday night I’m hosting the moms from my home school group, so I really should be getting ready for that!

Have a great weekend!