Saturday, September 24, 2016

Trip Education

We are getting ready to take a long family trip.  It isn't a vacation, per se, because there will be no sitting on beaches soaking in the sun and no quiet mountain cabin off the grid somewhere.  While it is getting away from our regular lives, it will be more like extended classroom time than a relaxing getaway.

With this in mind, I completed one of my giant trip prep tasks today.  I got the educational materials completed and compiled.  It was an involved undertaking because I fear wasting a moment of learning--especially because this isn't a trip that will be repeated for many, many years.

Each child will receive a personalized bag.  In the bags, they will find booklets with lots of educational materials.  There are sheets with each state bird, tree, flower, animal, flag, etc. that will require matching and (hopefully) spotting in real life.  We will be passing through 10 states and one Canadian Province and we will be learning about each of those states.  The children get points for correct answers and for correctly identifying a symbol while we are there (pointing out a sugar maple, for instance).

Because we will be covering thousands of miles, the books also have a few fun road printables such as a car scavenger hunt, tic tac toe, state license game, battleship, and many others.  I printed up six different common code ciphers that the kids could use to write secret messages.

In trying to keep the luggage to a minimum, we are avoiding toys, generally.  An entertainment tool that doesn't take up much space is a clipboard.  Each is loaded with blank paper for the most part, but everyone has a handful of drawing step-by-step tutorials, each different from one another.  If they can draw something new by the end of the drive, I will be satisfied that my time was well spent.

Everyone will have a book to read, we will have audio books, and I have some poetry to read and discuss during our long drives between sites.

In addition to all of the these prepared devices to keep seven children happy on the road, I have one device designed to help them remember the feelings, thoughts, and moments seeing all of the things;  
I am requiring journals.
More specifically, Smash Journals.
If you haven't heard of those, look them up.  They look so cool!
Sometimes I will give writing prompts, but most of the time I want everyone to fill the pages in their own way.

I have an entire bin of markers, crayons, colored pencils, glue, stickers and Washi tape to help each member of the family create their personalized book.
I cannot wait to see what they do!

My husband and I have been teaching the family about the sites we will be visiting since the beginning of the year.  Ten months worth of lessons in anticipation of this journey, pilgrimage really.  We have taught, but we have also given assignments and the kids have studied and taught the family different subjects as well.  While Dad and I keep teaching, teaching, teaching on the trip, they will each have one specific opportunity to give an oral presentation about one of our stops.  For instance, one child will teach us about the Niagara Falls, another about the Erie Canal, one about the head of the Oregon Trail and another about the Indian Mounds.  
So, you can see a little bit of how home school works around here.  I hope it is as effective as I envision.  Learning about a place, seeing it in real life, then writing or otherwise recording your personal experience about that place will stick with them.  I hope, in fact, it will change them.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Bunch of Nothing

I bought these today at Costco.
There is no way I'm going one more spring without my beloved tulips!
I will skimp on my food budget this month, but I will buy bags and bags of bulbs.

Autumn is off to a glorious start for us this year.
My Camilla girl is always quick to capture anything amazing.

 This child. She is a chubby, happy four month old.  I cry every few days as I take clothes she is quickly outgrowing and putting them in the box to donate, rather than the box to put away for the next baby.

  She rolls and pivots on her belly to get where she wants to be.  The race is on. Oh, yes, and the drool.  The drool is also on.

After too long a silence, I went in search for this little guy.  
I found him, in MY bed, laying on a bed full of sprinkles. 

Also, a sister decided this was the best way to babysit recently.

The flies have been atrocious this year.  I can't get my kids to close the doors (we're going to have to get screen doors next year).  I finally reverted to this nasty solution and it is working--rather miraculously.

Finally, our trip is close enough that we have a paper chain.
A paper chain!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Good Doctor

Today was my baby's first doctor's appointment.  The first couple of visits one would normally make were done with the midwife, so this was her first time to meet our family doctor.  Also, she is four months old and it was time to get started on those immunizations.

When the eight year old gets the baby dressed.  As fancy as possible.
He has been watching out for our family for several years now and I really like him.  He works quickly, but I never feel like he's trying to rush us out.  Isaac has had to go in several times for very specific ballet physicals and trips to far away lands.  Our doctor is always excited to help and cheers Isaac on in his unusual teen life.
Like I said, it was time to start shots.  He asked if we were ready to do that today.  I told him that I was feeling a weird trepidation about the shots for some reason. I want my baby protected, but I am also concerned about the high number of vaccinations recommended for her tiny body.  Instead of instantly judging or demanding, he heard me out, understood as I vocally grappled with the quandary of whether it was mother's intuition to hold off a bit on this baby or whether it was the louder and louder anit-vax noise from the world.  In the end, we decided to do the most essential vaccinations and will stretch out our schedule so her little body doesn't have to battle it all at once.

It is so nice to have a doctor that listens and trusts me.  He sees everyone in the family and has a pretty good sense of what is happening in our home.  He is nothing but encouraging and supportive.  And frankly, after last week, it is refreshing to have a professional with an outsider's view believe in me.

Thanks, Doc.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Summer's End

Last night was the last Friday night of the summer.  Public school starts around here on Tuesday (after Labor Day), so my kids decided it was a good time to have a party.
We had a houseful for waffles and a movie.
There are no pictures because I was running three waffle irons to try to keep up with the teenagers.
It was outrageously loud (and fun).

This little girl is obviously from a big family because she fell asleep in the middle of the cacophony.  

After everyone left, Isaac, Eliza and I sat in the living room and talked until 2 in the morning.  Isaac made the comment that this was the end of his last summer.  He turns 18 in the beginning of the new year and will likely be on his mission before next summer comes.  Tears sprang to my eyes as the reality of his statement sank in.  I also mentioned something about how my baby will be taking solid foods within a couple of months.  
Oh, it is fleeting!

How could anyone ever wish these precious days away?!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Noticing the Right

After our disastrous week at the fair, culminating a mistake-ridden summer of raising pigs, I came across a parable that caught my eye.  It goes something like this:

On the first day of school, a teacher went up to the board and wrote out
1 X 9 = 7
2 X 9 = 18
3 X 9 = 27
4 X 9 = 36
and so on through 12 X 9.  
After she had completed the list, she turned to find the students all snickering, some full out laughing at her.  She asked why they were laughing.  They pointed out her mistake.
"Even though I got eleven of the equations correct, you chose to only notice the one I got wrong."
Then came the lesson.
"The world will often completely miss all of the things you do right, to focus on the one thing you did wrong.  They may laugh and jeer, mock and ridicule because of your one mistake.  Don't let their response to your mistake overpower all of your success."

That is precisely what I let happen last week.  There were so many sweet people making comments about my beautiful family, darling baby, funny little boy, but I abandoned those kind words and instead let the one bitter person making the one cruel comment undermine my happiness.  

On the flip side, what do I notice?  What attributes do I draw out in a person?  Do I encourage and praise success or do I only see what could have been done better?  

So today, I am making sure that people around me know that I notice their "eleven things," that I am thankful for their good and their right.  

The Day We Accepted Our Total Failure

Sunday morning, we got up early to take care of our pig duties, packed up some of the our campsite and hustled off to church.  As soon as church was over, we dropped off half of the family and hustled right back to the fair.  I left the three and eight year old at home because, since I had to be there anyway, I wanted to take one afternoon to do and see what I wanted to do and see at the fair, doggone it!  I was determined to get that caramel apple (didn't happen) and not stand in line for a single balloon animal.  Just as I was pulling out of the driveway, I got a call telling me that the buyer for the bigger pig backed out.  Having lost a whole week of selling time, we had just a few hours to now sell BOTH pigs.  We did get one offer, but it was basically at cost.  I just couldn't do that to the girls.  They worked so hard all summer, it didn't seem fair that they would only earn about $50 each.

We tried and tried and tried to sell those pigs.  The girls stood in their pen for hours, talking to everyone and trying to get a lead.  I posted on Craigslist and Facebook, made calls and sent emails and texts.  No one wanted to buy a freezer full of pork.

Utterly exhausted and defeated, embarrassed and stuck with pigs we had to now had to figure out how to get home, I was a disaster.  The girls felt cheated as they watched their friends celebrate their giant checks, rewarding all of their hard work.

Justin worked the phones and finally found a friend with a horse trailer that could help us get the pigs home.

And now they are here. Still.  Not one single call on the Craigslist ad, not a response on Facebook.  At this point, we will probably feed them until we are out of food, then butcher them for our own freezer.  Not a total loss, but a total failure.

I promptly made this chocolate zucchini cake and took a picture to prove to myself that I do have some skills!

Next year.

Next year has to be better.

There is no way it could be worse . . .