December 29, 2012

How To Be A Hero

Before Christmas I let the kids get a little crafty.  We used the ends of Christmas trees that they give away free at the Lowe's Christmas tree center.  I had no idea how to decorate the things or what to do with them in general so I just pulled out every crafting item in our house and let the kids go to town.

You know what?  And this is important mothering information: If you let your children use a glue gun, you will be their hero.  I had no idea motherhood was so simple.

Sadly, the next day, when I said we were doing our Saturday's work, I fell instantly out-of-favor.  Popularity is so hard to maintain.

My "Christmas Ornament Thingy."  It turned out pretty sad but I was proud of myself for coming up with an idea.  Still am.

A close-up of Eli's wolf ornament.
Cowen's Whatzit.
Pretty girl.
Miriam's Thing-A-Ma-Jig.
Love her.

Pull out a glue gun.  See what happens.

December 13, 2012

Reflecting on the Year

I like the ending of a year and the starting of a new one.  I like to think back over what has happened--the good, the bad, the unexpected, and decide what I could do better.  I love making resolutions and picking my "word of the year."  I don't actually follow through very well, but I think the exercise still has merits.

The most important lesson I've learned this year is that I've been feeling much like a 15 year old girl.  Weird since I didn't feel like a 15 year old girl when I was one.  I never, ever worried about what other people thought until recently.  I was content to do my own thing, in my own way, in my own time.  I was supremely confident.

Crises in confidence should really happen in your teen years and not your 30s, but I've never liked to do things like other people.  :)  In essence, I stopped trusting myself and my instincts when it came to parenting and educating my children.  There are so many nay-sayers.  So many people who have opinions about how others do things.  So many anti-homeschooling sentiments.  So many "you are not a good mom" comments.

It is especially hard to feel like a good mom when you add an unexpected pregnancy to being RS president and homeschooling five kids.  You don't need other people telling you that you aren't doing it right.

So . . . the first and most important lesson I learned this year is to stop listening to outside voices.  I am the mom.  I cannot and will not do it perfectly but nobody on earth knows and loves my children like I do.  I have stewardship over them that entitles me to inspiration that will not be given to anyone else.   Besides that, I am the mom I can be right now.  I haven't left, I get out of bed each day, I love my children, and I do my best.  That's all I can do so it has to be enough.

The second thing I learned this year is that people remember the negative things you say much longer than the positive things.  I am a very open person and will talk about the problems I have with my children and other areas of my life.  I think this is usually helpful as pretending our lives are perfect or easy can prevent someone else from feeling okay with her life.  It is hard to create a supportive environment without allowing that you have difficulties too.

However, this can really backfire.  I have shared problems that I have had with one of my children and now that is defining her in a way.  People don't hear me saying, "Things are a LOT better now than they were a few years ago."  They just remember the stories I told several years ago.  They don't see the progression, the change, the fluctuations in my life and the life of my family.  I need to allow others to see that my life is "normal" and I'm not some supermom so that I can be supportive of my sweet sisters (in the church, in the community, in my family) without projecting a negative image onto any of my children.

And lastly, my children are better than I think they are.  I adore my children, don't get me wrong, but we did have a few rocky years with one of them and that made the whole gig feel really hard.  Lately things have been so much better and easier but I am still braced for hard so I haven't appreciated the change.  My children are more obedient than they used to be.  They are less destructive.  They are becoming more thoughtful and kind.  I need to treat them with greater respect and love and expect good things from them more often instead of focusing on the times when they still behave (surprise) like children.

And eventually I do have to admit to myself that I'm having another one.  I've thought about names, I picked out a quilt top, I have to get up 6 times a night to use the potty, but I'm still in denial that there is going to be another little person in my home.  Needing me.

I think my word for the year is going to be: acceptance.  Accepting myself, accepting my children, accepting the miracle of a new life whenever it is given, accepting imperfection, accepting change.  Accepting the grace that the Savior offers freely.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  I hope your year is full of good things to accept.

December 9, 2012


Quite some time ago over at Latter-day Homeschooling there was a blog post about art.  Specifically, what do people do to teach art?   There were several helpful comments, but one comment--by Birrd of Tales From Toad Hall--has proven especially helpful for our family.  In her comment she said that she used Artistic Pursuits with her children and loved it.

Being completely and totally art handicapped, I looked up every suggestion given in the comments to that post and eventually decided to buy Artistic Pursuits for my family.  I'm so glad I did!  Here's a link to their website in case you want to learn more about the product from the source.  

Basically what I love about this program is that I don't do anything and my kids are still creating all this fabulous art.  The "textbook" is set up into three-page lessons.  The first page introduces the topic, the second page showcases a famous painting that demonstrates what the lesson is talking about, and the third page has the student assignment plus examples of the assignment done by kids.  

In our family it works like this: when the kids get their regular work done in a timely manner I tell Miriam to get down the art textbook.  She pulls it out, reads the lesson to everyone, they all study the famous painting, Miriam reads them the assignment and gets out all the materials needed.  Then the kids sit around the table and do the assignment.

I have a very important job in this process!  I am the official ooher and aaher.  When the kids show me their completed assignment I ooh and aah and tell them how wonderful they are.  And I mean it!  All of my kids produce better art than I could and I am impressed.

Another thing I like about this program besides how straight-forward it is and how well organized is that all the materials needed for every single assignment in the book is listed in the front.  You can buy a pre-put together bag with everything you need for 1-2 students from the website and I think I will do that next time, but I was able to take my list to the store and buy what I needed for 4 kids.  Now I don't worry about whether or not I have the supplies on hand.  I do!  And Miriam knows where they are!

Here is a small sampling of the artwork my children have created this year in conjunction to this art program:

Miriam's "Cyclops": Lesson 2, Artists Imagine.

Miriam's "Elf": Lesson 1, Artists Compose.

Miriam's "House": Lesson 3, Artists Look.

Cowen's "Bug".  I don't remember what lesson it goes to but it is very awesome.

Emeline and Cowen exploring soft pastels.

Cowen's "Ninja"--Lesson 1, Artists Compose.

Emeline's "Cat and Two Kittens": Lesson 4, Artists Communicate.

Emeline's "Giraffes": Lesson 2, Artists Imagine.

Emeline after creating with soft pastels.

Eli is three and already playing with watercolor pencils.  Love it.

Our system for showcasing art work.  The wire and clips were purchased at IKEA for roughly $10.

In short, I really, really, really love this curriculum.  I love that there is a famous painting for the children to examine with each lesson.  I love how short and focused each lesson is.  I love that art history is also incorporated (we bought this book out of the series because it has lessons on ancient art so it fits in beautifully with what we're doing in history).  I'm a very satisfied customer.  And so far, my kids seem pretty thrilled with the program as well.

December 1, 2012

Book on Tape: Odysseus

I don't know if you can see it but the little blurb on the side of this audio book states, "The world's greatest adventure story!"  My seven-year-old son would certainly agree.

Since we were studying Ancient Greece and I love The Odyssey, I tried to find a simplified version for my kids.  I found this audio book at our library.  The adaptation was written by Geraldine McCaughrean and the recording was directed by Bruce Coville (read some of his books to your youngsters if you haven't already).  I've already mentioned that I usually don't like full cast productions, but this one is really well done.

The adaptation, titled Odysseus covered all the main points of The Odyssey.  The cyclops was a highlight for my children, as were any gruesome and disgusting parts.  I was surprised by how much my children enjoyed the story and how well they understood the theme of pride.  I cringed a few times at just how gory things got and how arrogant Odysseus was, but I didn't find anything inappropriate for my children.  The years with the water nymph were glossed over without great detail.  It just said that the nymph wanted to kiss Odysseus all the time and he tried to avoid her.

If you have kids about the ages of my oldest children (9, 7, 6)--especially if you have boys--I highly recommend giving this one a listen.

November 29, 2012

Ancient Greece Books for the Independent Reader

 I keep meaning to post more coherently about what we have done for Greece.  It probably won't happen.  I apologize.  What I can do for you is show you what Miriam read for her 4th grade special project extra readings.  She read two Magic Tree House books: Ancient Greece and the Olympics and Hour of the Olympics.  I really like Magic Tree House books.  Yes, they are below her reading level.  Yes, she's read most of them before.  However, the info is good, the writing engaging, and it gives Miriam more info than the rest of my kids are getting with the books I read out loud.

 We tried to cover the "classics" while studying Greece.  I did not read either of these books so I cannot vouch for them in any way shape or form.  All I can say is that Miriam read them and declared them, "Awesome."  The picture above shows the cover of Rosemary Sutcliff's Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad.  
This is the cover of Penelope Lively's In Search of a Homeland: The Story of the Aeneid.  

Miriam didn't do an extra project for Greece.  We did so many other projects, including the Parthenon, that I had her do the reading and called it good.

November 26, 2012

Davis Sewage Facility Field Trip

It may sound really gross, but the Davis Sewage Facilities was pretty much the most awesome field trip ever.  Ever.  The first part is the grossest, so bear with.  See that gunk in the top picture?  The first building we went into was where the toilet paper and such is removed from the rest of the waste stuffs.

Yeah, some of the poo didn't wind up where it was supposed to.  I'm a little pregnant (ha) but I still didn't think the smell was that bad.  Nothing like a dairy farm.  However, you have to focus your mental energies on not thinking about what you're looking at.
They add a bunch of chemicals to the paper waste and smash it down and haul it away.
The above pic is water waste that is in the process of being treated and sent to the Great Salt Lake.  Yep, the recycled, treated water goes back to the Great Salt Lake so evaporation can take place, clouds form, rain fall, etc.
More of the water containers.

There was a lot of walking involved in this field trip and I couldn't find a babysitter the day before Thanksgiving.  So.  Have I mentioned Harriet is not light?
This is the "natural looking" river comprised of treated water.
A bunch of crazy homeschoolers.  It was so fun to meet so many of them!
That man in the blue shirt.  He noticed Harriet on the other side of the fence and rescued her.  Thanks!  I was too busy taking photos to notice my child.  Those toddlers move quick!
That is Antelope Island in the distance.
That is sludgy stuff.  I can't remember everything about this part because I got there late due to trying to carry Harriet, then putting her down when she twisted her body around to get away from me, and then chasing Harriet when she ran the wrong direction, and then trying to carry her again.  I'm sure you all understand.  What I do know is that the sludge is very gross looking, but the process is pretty cool and Miriam was jealous that other people had already invented all those machines.

That is poo, my friends, mixed with some other stuff to make it more firm.  Then it is given to farmers who use it to fertilize their fields.  Notice the sign.  I giggled a lot at the different signs.  At one point our tour guide talked about keeping close tabs on the age of the sludge.  The bacteria has to be just the right age to reproduce.  Sludge reproduction--how do you get a degree in that?
That is the dummy they use to practice safety measures.  Eli was very frightened of him.
This is where they grow the bacteria to do the cool sludge thing.

One of the neatest parts of the plant is this building that houses these big engines.  50% of the power used to run the place is produced in this building using waste gases.  They are building new engines in the next two years that will produce 90% of the power necessary for the plant using only waste gases.  That is pretty awesome!
Our favorite part of the tour was the science lab building.  It was just so . . . sciency.  First there was a short presentation that I quite liked.  I'm a fan of Albert.

Then this man, who is clearly passionate about science and getting kids excited about science, taught our kids a magic trick using static electricity.

Then he walked us through the lab.  There were beakers and really terrible smelling chemicals, and people in lab coats.  My children were entranced.  So was I.  I think it was the first time in my life that science looked remotely interesting.  As one fellow homeschool mom suggested--maybe I just need to invest in some cool looking science things and then I might like it more.

The men who showed us around the plant were clearly excited to have us there and that made a big difference in the interest level of the kids.  Sewage does not seem glamorous and Myron, the plant manager, once pointed out that he didn't get his degree thinking he'd be taking care of poo.  But he is really enthusiastic about his job--how it helps the environment and helps so many people and uses all the newest science and technology.  I was really impressed with the quality of the information, the cleanliness of the buildings, and the attitude of the employees who showed us around.  Bravo, Davis Sewage--you guys are fabulous!

So fabulous that we are currently planning another field trip to the plant just to spend more time in the science lab.  I can't wait!  (But I'll definitely be getting a babysitter.)