Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Now I'm a Homeschooling Mom

I'm an eclectic homeschooler, as I was raised to be. I use some professional resources, but I don't let anyone dictate curriculum to me. I use a wide variety of things, and if something isn't working I don't' hesitate to drop it on its ear. I make up a lot of things too. I trust my gut, and I observe my child and adapt on the fly on a regular basis.
I get bored with doing the same thing every day. The first thing Wolf learned about homeschooling was that he had a list of assignments for the day, but that he could do them in any order--he was delighted. On the second day of homeschool he commented that they should give public school kids that option, and they might do better.
Yes dear, they might. But academic freedom doesn't work very well when you've got 30 kids per teacher...

So he has been reviewing times tables by skip counting on the trampoline (miss a beat/bounce and you have to start the set over). He also does math with a dry-erase marker on various windows or mirrors around the house...(after showing it to me) he washes the mirror/window when he's done, and he's just done school work AND one of his chores in one go.
We made a 1 1/2 batch of muffins the other day. Multiplying fractions. (Hubby, as a special ed teacher, works part of the day in the math classroom where Wolf used to be, and he said that all the kids there are struggling with multiplying fractions right now. Wolf started off slow, but he's not struggling, especially when he knows muffins are coming.)
We measured the basketball court next door (at the church building) and then calculated how many times he would need to run around it to get 1/4 mile (because he needs to do timed 1/4 mile runs for boy scouts).
We calculated the external area of a grain silo, so that we could paint it neon green. We also calculated the volume of the freezer, so we know how much food will fit in it. We also calculated what size of cylinder it would take to hold his little brother.
Apparently math can be interesting, and word problems don't have to involve buying 32 watermelons...

He has been reading The Hunger Games trilogy (and this next bit won't make sense unless you're familiar with them). For his writing assignments, he has been detailing new arena concepts, or strategies that he would employ if he were a tribute in one of those arenas. He comes up with some pretty intense things, and he seems to like it a lot more than "what I did over christmas break..."
He's been practicing handwriting by copying hymns and other songs (the ones he's supposed to be learning at church this year). He's practicing typing by being email pen-pals with his grandparents.

His math mixes with his social studies. His history mixes with his reading. His occupational education overlaps with his physical education which overlaps with his math. His writing mixes with his science. We watch documentaries. We read historical fiction. We cook. We clean. We talk about things...
We live real life.
And we learn.

I don't know how long Wolf will be homeschooling, but it is definitely the right thing right now.
(Bear is still going to preschool. He loves it. He has an entirely different personality from Wolf, and thrives in the sociality of school, so he may well continue there. Who knows. We evaluate each child each year. There is no default for education. We just do what works.)

Friday, January 27, 2012


Shortly after we moved to Kotzebue, I was asked to be the leader for primary (the children's sunday school). In the LDS church, these things are not volunteer positions, they are assigned by the local leadership. I was not surprised that they called me to do this, because in this tiny congregation there are 5 children of primary age, and three of them are my own sons.
'like' our facebook page for updates each time we post
The first week that I taught a primary lesson, I had the thought that I wished there were a place where primary teachers could share resources--not the kind with cute clip-art and fluff--but real, scripture-based, substantive support and ideas. I knew it was too big an undertaking for me to do alone (especially considering my mental/physical/emotional state lately), but the idea still nagged at me. I knew I wanted to help make it happen.
Apparently, the idea was growing in other minds as well. And around new years, we found each other (oh how the internet can be a tool for wonderful things!). So we have created this blog "It's Time for Sharing" (incidentally, there was already a similar one for Young Womens, it's called Beginnings New).

I am very excited about this project. I am grateful for the other people involved with it, and also for the 'guest contributors' who thus far include my mother and sister (who are both involved in primary in their respective congregations, and who frankly have more experience with it than I do!)
This week the regular contributors of the blog were chatting about our purpose and desire for this blog. I thought I would share here what I wrote for them.

I feel like a lot of teachers (not just in primary, at other levels too, but especially in primary) try to dumb down the doctrine. In their minds, they are making it 'simple' or 'accessible for the kids' or things like that. They believe that children can't understand. But I believe that children can understand, and that they WANT to KNOW! I believe that teaching truth and inspiring faith is worth more than following manuals or teaching obedience. I would rather teach a child how to seek personal revelation than teach him how to just always follow the leader. So my first purpose is to teach straight doctrine, without fluffing things up or leaving things out.

A second consideration for me is that I don't want them to learn things one way now, and then in 10 or 20 years be blindsided by the bigger picture. There are some issues in doctrine and history that are complicated and confusing. In the old testament God told people to kill people when they sinned--it's pretty harsh stuff. There is more than one first vision story, and they have significant differences between them. Joseph Smith married over 30 women, some of whom who were married to other men already... (not that I would bring this up to a 4 year old--it's not in their manuals anyway--but I would not shy away from explaining the basics of polygamy to an 8 or 9 year old, and I would explain the full polyandry to a teenager). I think it's appropriate to introduce the complex stuff line by line, as we introduce everything else. I look on it as inoculation. I first learned about polyandry when I was 12, and when I learned more about it as an adult, it did not trouble me to the degree that it does so many others. I already knew the basics, so the details didn't shake my testimony. So my second purpose is to be de-correlated enough to inoculate the children.

My third desire is to share my testimony. I have a testimony of a balanced theology, and a gospel of love. So I will teach the children that they have a Father AND Mother in Heaven, and that we can grow up to be like our heavenly parents, just as we can grow up to be like our earthly parents. I will teach the balance of men and women in God's eyes and god's plan (even though people don't always remember to treat each other equally, God does). I will teach love for everyone, including--or especially--those who are different from ourselves.

I feel that an unfortunate portion of primary materials focus on obey, obey, obey, follow, follow, follow...and basically discount a child's ability to receive revelation. Following is a good way to practice righteousness, but it is also necessary to gain skills in discernment, because for each person the day will come when there is no one to follow, and they have to make their own choices. I would rather teach a child to consider the options and make a choice (and live with the consequences), rather than to simply blindly obey. I have taught my children this way, and they are definitely capable of doing this at 3 and 4.

Finally, I have some experience with teaching, and with children. I've trained in education and studied psychology and development, and I feel like I have something to offer in the way of practical teaching suggestions. I hope that perhaps I can offer some ideas to those who do not have the training/experience in these areas, and who might feel overwhelmed or lost with a primary calling.

The way we approach all of this is important. "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" and so on... I very much want to be constructive, positive, and helpful. I don't want to be negative, bashing (on manuals or people), or raise conflict. As I have pondered the best way to do this, I think we need to consider why we are teaching/posting things (ie, am I teaching about Heavenly Mother because I think she's important, or because I want to ruffle feathers). Be genuine, don't make waves solely for the purpose of making waves. But don't hide your light under a bushel either--if something is really important in your testimony, don't gloss over it just because it's not in the manual. Finally, I think we need to be unapologetic and non-defensive when we post. That ties into why we post these things, but is an important note. I'm not going to say "I know the lesson was about obedience, but I'm going to adapt it and talk about choices instead..." I will simply say "I have adapted this lesson to talk about choices, rather than solely about obedience, because even obedience is a choice we make..."

So there you have it, It's Time for Sharing, my latest endeavor to "Be the change [I] want to see in the world."-Gandhi

Monday, January 23, 2012

Romantical little things

I was chatting with a friend recently. She and her husband have been struggling a bit, and she was trying to find ways to draw closer together again. Life can get in the way for anyone, and I think we each have periods where we feel distance between our self and our spouse. So, with that in mind, here are a list of things I have done or seen to help make sparks when the embers are burning low.
  • Celebrate your "monthiversaries" every month. If you were married on the 8th, then every month on the 8th have a little celebration, whether it's a gift, getting flowers, going out to dinner, making a cake, or sending the kids to a babysitter's house so you can have a romantic evening together.
  • Create and share a "couple's journal"--a notebook with a question at the top of each page. Maybe put a fancy pen with it. Then take turns writing answers back and forth to each other in the book.
  • Buy a pad of post-it notes.  Write a note to your spouse on every single one, and leave them all over the house: in their sock drawer, on the steering wheel, in the glove compartment, in kitchen drawers and cupboards, in a briefcase or backpack, in the book they are reading, on the mirror, on the wall, on their pillow... The notes may be as short as "♥" or maybe fill it up with a tiny love letter. 
  • Write the alphabet down one side of the page, and for each letter, write a word or phrase that is a reason why you love your spouse. (This is also fun to do as a series of 26 notes or emails, one at a time, letter by letter...)
  • The same as the alphabet one, only with their name, or your names combined.
  • Tell your spouse a list of things you love about them (or ask them to tell you). Don't worry how big or small each thing is, just start talking, and keep going as long as you can think of things. Especially if you've been struggling, this might be hard at first, but just do it...the more you say, the more come to mind, and it gets easier as you list more things. ☺ (If you think this sounds goofy, just TRY IT, I promise, it's pretty awesome.)
  • Never underestimate the value of conversation. Pillow talk; discuss your dreams, concerns, and fears; talk about recent news topics, political issues, spiritual ideas, or philosophies; debate with each other; make plans; make dreams.
  • For those on tight budgets or with very small children, date nights may be rare or non-existent. Try some of these ideas.
What have you thought of or done? Please share!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Frugal Friday: Dates for under $10

Spending time with your spouse is good for the relationship, but sometimes the budget makes it hard to go on dates very often. We spent about 5 years where, no matter how cheap a date we went on, the babysitter was cost-prohibitive! So here are a bunch of ideas of dates that are under about $10 (many are free), and also a few ideas for how to afford a babysitter.

  • find a free sitter--grandmas are famous for this, but they're not the only ones!
  • barter--perhaps a neighbor or friend would be willing to watch your kids periodically in exchange for something...Last year a friend babysat for us in exchange for some of the fish Hubby had caught that summer. This year, our neighbor has agreed to babysit once a week in exchange for us letting her dog out to potty (since she is not able to come home midday and she is usually gone for 9-10 hours).
  • create a co-op with other parents. Once a month you have all the kids at your house on a friday night, but the other weeks of the month you take your kids to one of their houses, and they babysit for you. It's especially workable if you have it just with one other family (ideally neighbors), and maybe one parent stays home with their kids and one comes over to be with yours. Alternate weeks.

  • go on a picnic
  • go on a hike
  • go for a walk
  • go to a matinee of a movie (if you live in Utah you can catch the dollar theater and do an evening movie for cheap)
  • go give blood at a blood drive. Chat for an hour over the sandwiches and cookies and juice.
  • go somewhere local and get ice cream or milkshakes or malts
  • go to a cafe or restaurant, order one item, and share it
  • get happy meals, take them to the park and have a picnic. Swing on the swings, play on the teeter-totter, go down the slides
  • volunteer at a soup kitchen
  • if your kids are a little older, set up a baby monitor and go to the neighbor's house (next door) and just bring the receiver end with you. Most of them are good for across the street or one house over. Play board games or watch a movie with the other couple
  • go stargazing
  • if you live near a college, go to a lecture or special event of some sort (they are often free or cheap)

  • have a picnic dinner in the living room
  • have a picnic in the backyard
  • play games together (board games, card games, question/guessing games about each other, etc)
  • have another couple over, and play games with them
  • borrow a new movie from a friend or neighbor or the library and watch it together
  • bake something scrumptious together and feed it to each other
  • stargaze from your own yard
  • once the kids are in bed, watch a movie together. Make popcorn, make it a special night
  • listen to a podcast, broadcast, or other audio something together (we like listening to the Intelligence Squared debates for example)
  • give each other massages
  • take a bath together
  • talk 
And here is another blog post (not one I wrote) that has a whole bunch of ideas for romantic or sexy dates with your spouse. http://loveactually-blog-ideas.blogspot.com/2010/03/date-nights.html 

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    Art Imitates Life (as we know it)

    Remember how all the buildings in Kotzebue are built on stilts, rather than on foundations (so that the snow can blow through under them rather than piling up)?

    Bear has reached the stage where he likes to draw pictures. LOTS of pictures. And he always draws houses on stilts.
    He also makes people with ears--they look a bit like monkeys. It's very cute.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012


    In the middle of December I broke down. I had a total emotional and mental crash. Depression is not new for me, but it's something I sometimes forget for months or years at a time.  I don't suffer from it in the postpartum period, interestingly enough, but I do experience strong depression during my pregnancies (in spite of my excitement), and it seems that as soon as my menses return post-baby, the depression hits hard again. I wrote about my crash post-Bear, and this fall I should have anticipated another crash as my post-Eagle fertility returned. But I was busy and stressed and didn't think about it.
    So, I've crashed. This is why I only wrote for the first two weeks of advent. This is why I have only written three posts in the last month. I enlisted family and friends to advise and support me, and intend to enlist a professional or two as well. In the meantime, I have made several significant adjustments in my life.
    The combination of grad school with full time babysitting was wiping me out. I had never really planned to do both, it was an either/or plan...but I signed up for grad school and then the babysitting became availableSo am taking a quarter off of school. When that was not enough, I made arrangements to babysit part time rather than full time, so a couple of days a week I have a break from that. The money was hard to let go of, but I know this is more important.
    On a physical front, I have weaned Eagle. That was emotionally draining for a few days but he has adjusted and I know my body appreciates that it is no longer supporting an extra person. I'm taking huge doses of vitamin D and have begun a regimen with iodine (and associated supplements) as well. We'll see how that goes. I don't feel a huge difference there yet, but then again, I'm not crashing the way I was, so maybe that's enough. I believe my depression is hormonally-linked, so I want to go in and have some bloodwork done and see if there is anything to be learned from that. I am also looking into counseling, simply because I believe that the discussion form of support will probably be helpful for me.
    I do love grad school, and may return to it for spring quarter (with the lightened babysitting load and my improved physical condition I think it will be more workable). I have not decided for sure, but am considering it.

    On a separate but related note, three days before Christmas break started, we decided to pull Wolf (age 11) out of 6th grade and homeschool him.
    Two and a half weeks later, we jumped in with both feet.
    He had been struggling with school here, both the teaching style of instructors and also the way that certain topics were taught (very book-based) and the homework load. His feelings about learning and schoolwork were becoming very negative, and getting him to do his homework was a battle almost every day. Negativity was flowing out into our home and family through it all, and we knew something had to change. So now it has.
    Due to my own struggles and stresses, I felt some trepidation over bringing him home, thinking that it might add stress to our home life...but it did not. Part of me had wondered, even suspected, that bringing him home might lower the stress levels, and indeed it has. Sure, some days there are frustrations, but overall he is happier and more at ease, and so are we all. He feels that he is learning more, he is not being tied down to busywork on things he already knows, he is able to help me with all the little ones, and he feels positive about school in general.
    And I must go. We're watching a movie about mummification. Did you know they stuffed peppercorns in Ramses' nose to make sure it kept his shape after he was dehydrated? and they would put little onions in the eye sockets to keep them rounded instead of sunken in (because eyes are mostly water...)

    Friday, January 6, 2012

    Harry Potter goodness

    I didn't know anything about Harry Potter (had not even heard of the character or the books actually) when a group of my college friends got together for opening night of the first movie, and invited me to come along. That first movie was magical, and I enjoyed it.
    Some of my younger siblings' friends were reading the books, and my siblings wanted to as well, so my mother previewed them and said they were great books. Half of my family started reading them.
    In the summer of 2003 (having seen movies 1 and 2), I read the first four books. In one week. And then five came out and my whole family spent a week swiping the book from each other--there were multiple bookmarks in it and we all were keeping track of who was how far into the book and which scenes we could discuss with whom.
    I bought books six and seven on the days they were released. Six I had to wait around a bit for my husband to finish reading it before I could have it (I spent my time re-reading half of five). Seven came out on my birthday though, so I told him I got first dibs on it. I read faster anyway. I finished it in under a week.

    My son, Wolf, has wanted to see the movies as all his friends have watched them. But our family's rule is that you have to read the books before you're allowed to see the movies. We figure that reading the book demonstrates sufficient maturity to deal with the content of the film...some kids are ready at 9, some not until 15. We have that same rule for Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and others.
    Wolf started the first book when he was 9, but got bogged down. He listened to the audiobooks of one and two, but we told him that didn't count as reading, and that he'd have to actually read the books. At 10 1/2, he finally did. He read all seven books in about 4 months (which is quite impressive as he's not a very fast reader, and it is 3363 pages). Book by book, as he finished them, he got to see the movies, all except the last one, which Hubby and I had not seen either.

    For Christmas, we found the box set of all 8 movies on sale, so we got it. On Christmas night we started a marathon...a movie a night (sometimes more). On New Year's Eve, we watched the final movie.

    I enjoyed the books when I read them. I have generally liked the movies but after the first two was always frustrated by something in the adaptation. Watching them back to back though, I found the magic was rekindled. Now I want to read all the books again.

    I leave you with a couple of youtube movies that I really enjoyed this week amidst our Pottermania.

    "Marching On" by OneRepublic
    Montage of the ongoing friendships, fairly warm and fuzzy in spite of the ups and downs

    "This is War" by 30 Seconds to Mars
    Montage of the ongoing battle...a little more intense

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