Books! Books! Books!

Okay, so I promise I will not annoy you often daily, BUT there are some amazing books through Usborne that I am so excited to use with my boys in the next several months to teach them a number of different subjects and I just have to share them! There are seriously some books for everybody at every level! So again, if you want to take a peek head on over to https://j4492.myubam.com

Trains The Great Outdoors

Sports Shine a Light Updated space science nonfiction early readers Early 1900 History collections

Attack of the Allergens!

I kind of feel like we are living in one of those terribly written horror films right now…. well, okay, it is NOT quite that bad however we are definitely living on the edges of our seats right now. A couple weeks ago we had a scary adventure, our first adventure, with food allergies. Pilot had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and instantly started complaining of an itchy sore throat and it progressed very rapidly to tight feelings in his throat to his sudden need to sleep. An ambulance ride, an ER trip and some Benadryl later we were told to keep him away from peanut butter, jelly and bread until his allergy testing. We went home a bit freaked out about this new path that we were walking down, the unexplored realm of the dreaded food allergies.

Fast forward a few days later, Pilot was putting the dishes in the dishwasher and his arm ran across the counter where there was some residual peanut butter from one of his brothers’ sandwiches from lunch. Instantly he turned to me and told me that he thought there was a problem and that his arm was super itchy and it was swelling up. We popped him a Benadryl and watched the swelling increase for about twenty more minutes before the medicine finally started working.

And now, now to make our lives even MORE fun… I had an anaphylactic reaction to sushi on Sunday! Then on Tuesday night I had another one from something in the air and now I am taking steroids and Benadryl around the clock trying to get my immune system to calm back down and stop reacting to everything under the sun.

So, we are currently awaiting both of our allergy appointments and hoping and praying that nobody else suddenly is attacked by these terrible Southern Allergens! At this point in time people are joking that we either need to just stop eating all foods or we need to leave the state! If this keeps up I might start agreeing with them!

Hiking!

Radar and I are both huge fans of being outside and doing all that outdoorsy kind of stuff! Our boys thoroughly enjoy it as well and with things finally starting to fall into a bit of a routine for us since he started working here in The South, Radar and I agreed it was time to start getting out at least once a week and doing some kind of cheap family fun! (Things add up quickly with seven kids to pay entrance fees for!) So, we have decided hiking it is! The South is so full of a different kind of natural beauty that is just so different from the oceans in California. Now do not get me wrong, I would move back to California in a heartbeat as there is just something awe inspiring about standing before an ocean and breathing in the salt air… but The South is gorgeous in its own way!

Last week we took a 2.5 mile hike in a state park a few minutes from our house. Radar was so excited to be doing something with his boys that he had done growing up and I could tell he was fully enjoying every second of it! All the boys did such a great job (it was a ridiculously hard hike along a water fall) but I have to admit that I am the MOST impressed with our three year old! He not only walked the entire time but he never once complained and we often just saw him jumping from rock to rock totally in his own little element! He was absolutely adorable!

Now, I think the best part about all of this was watching the boys learning. Yes, learning, on a hike. They pointed out birds, trees, plants, animals and so forth the entire time we walked. We crossed a bridge and they discussed how The Golden Gate Bridge was made. They discussed how they drained the Colorado River to build Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam) when we saw some drainage pipes. We got to the little waterfalls (not sure they were really able to be considered waterfalls) and they discussed how Yosemite Falls and Niagara Falls were so much bigger and they excitedly told their dad about men going over Niagara Falls in barrels. At the end of the hike we told the boys we went roughly 2.5 miles and Sketch was so excited! They are very eager for our next hike… and this mama is so thrilled knowing they are learning so much more than how to walk through the woods during this time and not to mention the memories we are making together will last a lifetime!

Busy busy busy

My last two weeks have been crazy and because of that I haven’t written tons. 😦
Just an update: my boys are loving the new methods we have implemented for school. I feel like they are finally learning a lot of in depth information, information that is pertinent to their lives. Information that they might actually use one day!! (I remember being a kid and being told every piece of information being taught would definitely be used in my future when I knew it most definitely would not be). However, I love feeling that what I’m teaching them if going to stick around for years to come.

Recently I have taken on a new endeavor and and I’m so excited! I have recently become a new consultant for Usborne Books and More and I get to make money helping others pick out books that are fantastic for their kids and for the most part I get to do it all from the comfort of my own home!! Oh, and if all goes well next year my husband and I will be on a cruise in the Caribbean with this company on an all expense paid trip!! Needless to say I’m excited! So if anybody wants any info hit up my website at https://j4492.myubam.com and check out all the fantastic books!

What If….

My oldest son, Pilot, is almost ten. He is my “What If Boy”. He is the boy that is constantly worried about everything…in fact, he is a bit of a hypochondriac on top of constantly being concerned about what other people think.(Not a good mixture, I am aware.) Sometimes, he is so worried about what other people are thinking about him, that he allows himself to be miserable on the sideline rather than jumping in and having a blast! However, at times, like most pre-teen children, he can also be rather snooty and often thinks his ways are the correct ways of doing things even if there are clearly two ways of doing it.

I do not point this out to belittle him, as that is far from my intent, rather I point it out because I think there is such a great lesson in that. It is so easy to sit there and fret about E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. that we do as homeschoolers. In a world that should be united, I mean we are ALL homeschoolers after all, there is so much judgement and ridicule even amongst ourselves and often times we become so worried about what other people may think that we forget to stop stressing about them and enjoy the incredible ride that we are on. It is so easy to get caught up in the, “Am I do this right? Am I ruining them forever if I do not let them do this extra curricular activity or if I do not cover this topic as thoroughly as Suzzie Smith down the road? I mean they practically built the entire Great Wall of China out of paper mache and we just read a few books about it. Maybe my kids did not learn some brilliant architectural lessons because we did not build a 10 yard paper mache Great Wall of China model…. maybe I should start collecting newspapers…Are they going to look back and hate that we homeschooled them and wish that they had “normal” childhood experiences? Maybe I should get little Billy evaluated…he is not as good in science as Suzzie’s daughter and she is the grade younger. Is there something wrong with Billy? I bet there is…oh dear he might have some infectious disease causing his science skills to greatly diminish over time…and he is already not good in it! I need to call Dr. Jones tomorrow!”

On the flip side of that, maybe we get a bit like my son on the other side… maybe we let on that we have it all figured out and that we are sooo much better than them because at least we know what we are doing and where we want to be going. At least we are not switching curriculum constantly, at least we are steadily doing all subjects…at least, at least, at least. You are justifying being a homeschool bully. You are the hoity toity homeschooler that nobody wants to hang out with because, well, who wants to hang out with a perfect person who has absolutely no flaws?

This, my friends, is a terrible terrible TERRIBLE cycle to start down (regardless of the side you may be on at the time)…and maybe you do not struggle with this at all but I think… at times, if we are completely honest with ourselves, those thoughts, to whatever extent, DO linger. We all want what is best for our children. We all want to help them exceed as adults. Those methods will be different for each person inside your own homeschool let alone the people in Suzzie’s homeschool down the street or the neighbor boy who goes to public school because both his parents have to work. Parenting is hard. Homeschooling is hard. I think it is time we start encouraging other parents for picking the best method for THEIR kids and stop stressing about what they are thinking about us because more than likely they are just trying to stay sane until bedtime…just like you!

That being said, to cover the doubts that frequently creep in…. you know, the “what if” questions. What if George fails? What if he gets upset and does not want to do this or that? Or what if…  Stop! C’mon,let’s think about this! There are always two sides to every coin, we just tend to fixate on the negative side. What if George DOESN’T fail? What if he DOESN’T hit every road block known to mankind? What if he DOES fail…but it teaches him the value of perseverance and he is able to apply that into all facets of his life? What if you do not ruin all your kids and despite your flaws and your husband’s flaws they grow up to be pretty great, normal, intelligent young adults who then grow up to great adults? “What if” does not have to be a bad thing…. and this exactly what I tell my son constantly! “What if” does not limit the number of possible outcomes…it just limits what you deem in possible.

“What if I fail Mom?”

“What if you fly Son?”

Nature Study

When we started homeschooling and I saw that our curriculum wanted us to spend at least an hour outside everyday I was blown away. I mean, c’mon, seriously, who has time in their day to stop what they are doing and go outside to monitor an hour of play time? Noire don’t get me wrong, we spend a lot of time outside everyday anyways but I want taking that into consideration. I was thinking in addition to what we were already doing.

However, now, we couple outside play time with our nature study time…another subject I found incredibly hard to incorporate when we had first started with the Charlotte Mason approach. Now nature study is one of our favorite times. The boys love going outside to draw and observe everything around them. In fact, both their starting skills and their understanding of nature far supersedes what I thought I knew at their ages. In fact, the other day, while studying ants one of my boys asked if there were only black and red ants. I told them I thought that to be the case when another quickly interrupted and said there were also green ants. I told him I didn’t think that wad the case and proceeded to look them up. Sure enough, he was correct! I was blown away! (Who’d have thought there were green ants?)

So, do you do any form of nature study in your homeschool? If so, what does it look like?

After finding out that baby number six was indeed also boy number six my husband and I chuckled. We had accepted the fact that he was physically incapable of producing girls and we were destined for boys (this was again confirmed after the birth of boy number seven). Despite the general consensus, we were on cloud nine and eagerly awaited his arrival. One of the things we had joked about during my pregnancy with Banshee was that had he been a girl we would have had to rename our homeschool. It just doesn’t seem appropriate to have a girl attending Sir Isaac Newton’s Academy for Boys. However, he was a boy and seemingly everything was perfect.

At this point in our lives I thought everything was perfect. My children were happy, healthy and well mannered. We were strict but our kids were becoming gentlemen…with an awesome education. We figured in a few years Banshee would be right there with his brothers being pushed to pursue academic excellence shouting out answers left and right to the questions we fired at him in our trivia pursuit style quizzing.

However, with the birth of Banshee we learned a lot about Bones and Walter…things that would forever change our lives…and where we still expect academic excellence (to the best if each child’s potential) the birth of Banshee, I feel, has mellowed us out a bit.

Nobody likes to hear or see their child labeled as “special needs”. I mean c’mon, that has such a negative connotation and all special needs kids are…well…different…right and plus, how could one of MY kids be “special”??? Wrong! I knew that was wrong. Some of my closest friends have special needs children that I absolutely adore…but nobody likes to have their own child labeled as that…simply because if the stereotypes. However, for us, Banshee’s birth brought not one but three special need diagnoses.

In the first month of his life we found out that Banshee had almost no hearing. He could hear somethings but for the most part he was completely deaf. We were in a bit of disbelief. We tried every sound imaginable to disprove his deafness…my husband even played his trumpet with Banshee in the room to see if he’d show any indication he heard it…He didn’t.

When Banshee was about five months old the audiologist informed us that the probability of our other sons having hearing issues had just increased fifty percent because of their brother’s deafness. We had already been having concerns about Walter and Bones so we got them both tested only to find out Walter has mild-moderate hearing loss they may decrease very slowly or very rapidly…only time will tell. Bones has moderate hearing loss. So overnight, we went from a family with one extra special kid…to three.

Now please, I’m not saying that we are upset or that their hearing loss is bad…We aren’t and it isn’t. However, those two days dramatically changed our lives…and I feel for the good. Our sons may look normal but they are so special. Both Walter and Bones have to work so hard just to understand everything that is being said to them and until they are fitted with hearing aids or become much more fluent in sign language “listening” really is hard work for them and because they work so hard to just hear and understand what is going on it is expected that they are going to miss bits and pieces of their academic lessons. We still expect them to thrive…but we are aware that our rigorous expectations are a bit far fetched for them and we have to manipulate those expectations to fit each individual child rather than the image we wanted to give our family or our homeschool.

Banshee has taught me, personally, so much. We taught Pilot some signs in ASL when he was a baby but let it eventually dwindle to occasional signing once he learned to speak. I wish we had continued but alas hindsight is always 20/20. In some ways Banshee is NO different from the other kids his age. He loves to play chase with his brothers, he finds it funny to throw his sippy cup on the floor and scream until we hand it back to him, and he loves to cuddle. He is seriously one of the most well loved toddlers ever and his brothers dote on him like crazy. He is such a sweet little boy… and he had taught me that you don’t have to verbally tell somebody you love them for them to know that you do. He may never say “mama” verbally…and I’m ok with that because he knows who his mama is. He may never be able to verbally hear us tell him that we love him but I am sure he will feel it when he sees his entire family learned sign language…all for him.

Banshee may have burst my perfect little homeschool bubble, he will probably never be able to be homeschooled, and that is okay, but we still except him to do the best he can do in order to become the best he can be. Deafness doesn’t define my son’s ability it just says his ears weren’t designed to work in the same capacity that ours were. Deafness is not this death sentence…ignorance about deafness is. And yes, maybe, he/they will forever be labelled “special needs” but they will never hear their family speak of it as a reason to prevent them from achieving their dream. Derrick Coleman, the deaf fullback of the Seattle Seahawks, has become our biggest inspiration. He has proven that despite others assuming he was incapable of achieving his dream deafness does not prevent those achievements as long as you are willing to put in the time and have the determination to stick to it! I don’t know why God chose us to raise these three amazing young men but I’m so excited to be on this journey with my three special boys.

Plot Twist

It is funny how we think we have things all figured out…and then we realize we don’t. This was me when I recently planned out all of our curriculum for the year. We had a really interesting year last year so we will be schooling through the summer and all through next year as well and have recently started our new materials.

I had it all perfectly planned out. Pilot had his work, Sketch had his, Bones and Walter would be working together on certain things and then independently on other things. Echo would listen in on whatever he wanted while Banshee and Red did their own things (namely nap) during our lessons. My plan was flawless  destined to fail. For you see, there is only one of me, and there are SEVEN of them! Seven! That means I am grossly outnumbered every single day by little tiny people of all different sizes and developmental stages who need my help…some of them constantly.

The way I had my day planned nothing was every going to get done except for maybe school…and that was a big maybe as there was a lot of different topics to cover with each of the four boys each day. So, without much thought, we took another week off and I mentally planned out what I wanted to do and then I sat and tediously wrote out what I wanted to do with them. Now, even though there was a major change of plans for us, it all makes sense. We are doing more of a unit study approach where Pilot, Sketch and Bones are all going over the same materials but they do so at their own levels. For example: I may read the same book to all of them together but then Pilot has to go write a one page paper about it, Sketch may have to write a paragraph and draw a picture, and Bones might just have to tell me about it or draw a picture of his favorite part of the book. It varies. Pilot still works on subjects that his younger brothers are not having to do yet as he is a fifth grader versus a third or first grader but I am only reading one history reading instead of three or four! This makes for a much happier Mama and surprisingly my boys have loved this switch up. They tend to feed off of each other. Recently we were reading about the San Francisco Bay Bridge and a question asked by Sketch led to both Bones and Pilot asking their own questions or simply commenting on Sketch’s question….something that would not have been possible or even thought of it we had not all been working together. I also love that it gives us almost a discussion forum feel to learning.

Now, I am not saying that this is how we will always educate our boys…but for now, for this year, for where we are currently are in our lives…this is what is working and it is working well. If we see a problem in it down the line we will definitely alter it to fit our needs… but for now this is wonderful!

So, how do you do it? Do all of your children work completely independent of each other? Are some subjects group subjects? Are all subjects group subjects?

Vocabulary

It has always been important to me to develop a love of learning in the hearts of my children. My husband and I are both the type of people that will find something interesting and spend an hour or more researching it in order to understand it better or just to simply get more information on it. So, since this is something important to me, from the time my oldest was just a tiny tot I started reading great literature to him and have continued to do so as he has grown older.

Now, he is almost ten and has quite the vocabulary. A few months ago somebody laughed at him for using the word “technically” while giving a rebuttal to something that had just been said and though he was correct in his usage this person found it funny that he correctly used the word. It made me think about how so many kids have a “dumbed down” vocabulary. As they grow up their parents are not reading to them and if they are they are primarily getting Disney books (nothing wrong with the occasional frivolous Disney book but let’s face it they do not have the hardest vocabulary nor the deepest plots to delve in to) and besides that there may not be much else for the kids.

Now, as we start our new school year, thinking of the incident with my son, I have decided to heavily focus on my sons’ vocabulary this year. I already think they have a phenomenal mental list of words to use, however, let’s face it, we could all know more words. As we read our lessons this year we are stopping every time there is a word I do not think they know and defining it. It then goes into a notebook and we review them all week and at the end of the week I am making a lovely little vocabulary test for my boys to do. Now, today will be their first day with this quiz and I am skeptical about the prognosis…however I think in the end, hopefully, when they are done with all their education and are moving on to bigger and better pursuits, they will thank me for caring about their vocabulary as children. I think. Or they may just be irate that they have to take a quiz every Friday…. I guess only time will tell…

Sentimental

If it were not obvious before I am going to clarify for everybody now. I love big families! As a little girl I used to sit and plan out the names and age difference of my future kids. I remember there being a Charlotte who would fondly be called Charlie by her dearest friends and a Theodore whom we would all lovingly refer to as Teddy. They would be followed by Violet, Gilbert, William, Henry, Adalaide, Pheobe, Penelope and dozens of others! I would research big families and fell in love with them. One of my best friends was one of five and their home always seemed like a giant party to me. I remember being envious that despite being apart of a big family, and all the negative stereotypes that go along with them, they always seemed to be going places and doing thing. It was probably then that I knew I was going to have a big family myself one day (good thing my husband shared the same sentiment huh?).

Thursdays are my husband’s late days. These are both my favorite and my least favorite days of the week. I absolutely LOVE waking up to the calm, quiet sounds of the morning routine….sorry, let me wake up to reality… On the mornings my husband is home it is not generally any calmer than normal but the difference is I do not have to be the only one waking up to the chaos. Yes, I said it, C-H-A-O-S! There is no other way to say it. Morning time with seven children roughly ten and under is not something for the faint of heart. Pandemonium is everywhere. For example, this was this morning:

I stretch, yawn, stretch some more. Looking at my phone I notice my husband has ten minutes to be out the door. I chuckle, from the sounds I am hearing on the other side of my bedroom door that is NOT going to happen. I walk upstairs and I see Walter and Echo chasing each other throughout the house fighting about some toy, Banshee is stalking my husband’s every move like a lion hunting his prey, Bones is trying to sneak around the house “spying” on Walter and Echo (who are completely oblivious that they are cool enough to spied on) and Pilot and Sketch are mumbling because their daddy felt the need to wake them up before he left for work! Silently, I laugh. This may seem crazy to some…but to me this is a relatively calm morning. (Some mornings I feel like children are dangling from the rafters and those are normally the mornings we are trying to get ready for church and already running behind schedule.) My husband is preparing to walk out the door, he has kissed everybody once  twice and with coffee in hand is strolling to the door. Walter freaks out and demands another hug and kiss from daddy which leads to Echo wanting another one quickly followed in succession by all the other children…except Red as he is still too young to care.  Finally my husband has made it outside, Banshee, not happy his daddy is leaving, races out the door and runs to wave goodbye. As I stand behind Banshee I turn to see that four other little boys are now standing outside in their jammies waving to their daddy as well. I laugh. Calling my husband as he drives down our road (it is not illegal where we live to talk and drive) I asked my husband if he thought his co-workers had this much “trouble” leaving for work in the mornings. He just laughed. (At this point in time I realize I have only been up for fifteen minutes!)

To some this is sheer disorder, to me this is perfection. As a little girl I did not understand that big families (or any family for that matter) are messy. Things are not always those Christmas card picture perfect moments but the best parts of it are the crazy moments where in the heat of it you felt almost out of control but looking back they make you warm and fuzzy on the inside. This morning was a perfect reminder of that. I would have loved had they been inside, perfectly eating breakfast preparing for our school day….but instead they were outside showing their daddy just how much they loved him and expressing their sorrow that he had to spend the day away from them. When I stopped and saw the love they had I realized that despite our messiness, despite our chaos and our heaps of dirty laundry and toy covered floors these children were totally worth it and getting to be apart of this crazy roller-coaster is totally worth it!