October 31, 2012

Too Close for Perspective

Sometimes I wonder if moms are too close to their children to really have an accurate perspective on their children.  Then I wonder if maybe moms are too used to certain behaviors/successes/attitudes to really understand whether or not they are "normal."

Basically, I have a child that really tests my mothering skills/lack of skills and we have struggled since this beautiful girl turned three.  I mean really struggled.  Struggled so much that at one point I went to the temple begging to know WHY this child had come to my home because I did not know how to parent her and thought maybe God had made His first mistake.  I found out why.  It was comforting but still didn't help me know how to parent her.

This year we decided to get some outside help to . . . well, help.  I went to a conveniently close therapist and she said a bunch of stuff that freaked me out.  Your daughter is extremely socially behind, you should put her in public school immediately so she can be socialized by the other kids, you should consider introducing her to things like Justin Bier so she can better fit in, etc.  I went home in tears.  But then I started using my brain and realized that this was the wrong therapist.  Her idea of socially normal and my idea of socially normal were too different for us to be able to work together on helping my daughter with the problems I saw.

Then I took my daughter to another therapist that is annoyingly and inconveniently far away who only works during the day creating a major babysitting dilemma.  However, she met with me and my daughter and said, "We need to work on helping her express her feelings."  Yes!  I tentatively brought up that we homeschool and did she feel my daughter was "years behind socially."  This therapist looked at me in surprise and affirmed what I thought--social skills are not the problem.

We are working together to help my daughter with her problems and at the same time help me learn how to help my daughter.

But one thing really struck me from this whole experience of meeting with these two therapists: both of them went on at length about how bright my daughter is.  Like, really crazy bright.

I've never thought she was really crazy bright.  She talked young, she read early, she's incredibly imaginative and picks things up quickly but . . . so do/are a lot of people.

Where do you lose perspective because you are too close?  The second therapist (the one we are sticking with) said that she rarely saw a child my daughter's age with such a keen visual memory or such a quick grasp of abstract concepts.  She also said that really bright kids often have significant hang-ups in other areas--like an inability to verbalize emotion or with impulse control.

It doesn't really matter if my daughter is a little smart or a lot smart, I just want to help her learn what she needs to learn to be successful and happy.  But I am curious about perspective.  Because I was a certain way growing up, that way feels normal.  Because my siblings were/are a certain way, that feels normal.  Because I have had my children since their births, the things they do feel normal--even when they aren't normal.  And if we do lose perspective on our children, how does that impact our ability to raise them?

How do we make critical decisions like: keep homeschooling to go at their pace, or put them in school to teach them how to handle things and verbalize in a variety of situations?

Why is parenting so stinking hard anyway?  Excuse my language.  Does parenting make anyone else tired--mentally and/or emotionally?

At least these experiences have clarified for me how I feel about some things.  Like my daughter's ongoing ignorance of Justin Bieber's existence.

I'm pretty happy about it.

October 27, 2012

The Symposium that Didn't Happen

I keep fearing that you charming homeschoolers will give up on me and this blog.  I really am doing school and periodically I do come up with good ideas.  Unfortunately, the follow-through has been lacking the past few weeks.  I would tell you the whole sob story of the wracking cough that kept me up at night followed by the flu that got bad enough I called my husband to come home from work.  I didn't want to freak out the children by passing out on them.  I was pretty dehydrated.  

But, school must go on!  So, when my hubby came home from work he read the following books to our children: 

 What's Your Angle, Pythagoras? by Julie Ellis.  It is listed as a math adventure so don't be surprised that the author takes some liberties with the story of Pythagoras.  She was more interested in the math than the history.  However, I still think it is a great introduction to one of the amazing thinkers that ancient Greece produced.
 Wise Guy: The Life and Philosophy of Socrates by M.D. Usher is a great introduction to philosophy and Socrates.  My kids were pretty outraged that Socrates was killed at the end, but that led to some pretty interesting discussion.  We really enjoyed this one.
The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kevin Hawkes is about Eratosthenes.  He was a scientist/mathematician/geographer/brilliant person back in ancient Greece.  He served as a tutor to the princes of Egypt and was a curator of the museum at Alexandria.  The book is interesting because the man is interesting.  

Now, here is the sad part.  My hubby read the books (not Socrates, I'd read that one the day before) and then that was it.  I had planned this great activity where I wrapped the kids in bedsheets for quick and easy togas, gave them a handful of grapes, and had them lounge around on the floor while we talked about big ideas.  I was hoping for a Greek symposium type of feel.  It didn't happen for us, but it should happen for someone!  Someone please use this idea and tell me if your kids liked it.

Here are some other great ideas for Greece that I didn't use:

1) Read The Hero Schliemann.  The book talks about how Schliemann was a compulsive liar and a skinflint but he did discover the remains of Troy.  We read some of it but it was too long for my youngest kids.  Miriam finished it on her own.  I was going to have the kids create a picture of a hero and describe what makes a real hero.

2) Read 300 Heroes: The Battle of Thermopylae by Terri Dougherty (one of our very favorite books about Greece) and The First Marathon: The Legend of Pheidippides by Susan Reynolds then go to the park and run races.  The winners would, of course, be presented with a wreath.  Instead, we read the books and watched synchronized swimming on youtube because my children had never heard of some of the less well known Olympic events.

3)  Read The Librarian Who Measured the Earth and take a thank you gift to your charming librarians.  We love our library and our librarians.  This one won't happen now, but I'm going to make it a priority to take them a Christmas treat. 

Sorry our Greece unit flopped.  My children loved all the books and we did make a cool parthenon, so it wasn't a complete waste.  I just love ancient Greece more than any other ancient civilization and I wish I hadn't been sick for so much of the unit!  Onwards and upwards, I suppose.  Next week we are resuming our weather unit for the last time.  I had to create an actual agenda for Harmony and I am determined to follow it so we can get to rocks in the spring.  I'm not motivated so much by Harmony but by the rocks unit.  We bought a rock tumbler and everything.  My kids and hubby are so excited.  

I hope your homeschooling is progressing without any sick breaks!

October 25, 2012

Christmas Excitement: Emeline

I couldn't keep myself from posting about Christmas today.  It snowed--first of the season--and my kids and I went bananas over the gloriousness of it all.  We also happened to finish listening to the audio version of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever which I absolutely love.  Yes, I cried.  I always cry.  Then I felt all warm and fuzzy and when we got home I immediately went inside and put on Christmas music.  Then we laughed and danced and sang, and I felt the happiest I've felt in ages.  Christmas does that for me.  Helps me relax a little.  

Here are the presents hubs and I selected for our darling Emeline, who just turned 6.  She is a charming lady, with bright orange hair and a 100 kilowatt smile.  She loves to draw and checks out copious numbers of how to draw books at the library.  She is in kindergarten this year but is already a fairly good reader and she loves stories.  She also loves imaginative play and anything that is small.  She's always preferred small toys to large.  Calico Critters are a favorite of hers but she usually buys them with her own money because I'm cheap.

So, if you have any lovely young ladies to shop for this season, here are a few ideas.

 All of our kids get a book (or two, or three, or, in this case, six) for Christmas.  I knew Emeline would be almost ready to read the Mercy Watson series independently by Christmas, and we love the books, so it was an obvious choice. I couldn't resist getting all six and I wanted the hardbacks so I bought them all used from Abebooks.  You can buy the complete paperback series but with a little more effort I have all the hard backs for the same price.  Yay!  Of course, I wasn't too pleased when one seller listed a book as "like new" condition and then when it arrived it was not up to Christmas standards.  Such is life.  I was still pleased, overall.

If you are unfamiliar with the series rush right out and get them from the library!  I read all the books to my kids a few years ago but we haven't read them in long enough that it will be like the first time again.  The books are by Kate DiCamillo of The Tale of Despereaux fame.  I love all her books.

 The Mercy Watson series includes six titles: Mercy Watson to the Rescue 
Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride
Mercy Watson Fights Crime
Mercy Watson:  Princess in Disguise
Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig 
Mercy Watson:  Something Wonky This Way Comes

 The illustrations are amazing with a retro feel.  I love everything about them.  Especially Mercy eating toast.  Love it.

I just found out you can buy this Mercy plush.  Argh!  I was almost all done shopping and my kids have enough, but the temptation is strong.  I think it might kill me not to get this for Emeline.  For one thing, the girl is already in love with Poppleton (read those books too--our very favorite early readers) and chose to be Poppleton the Pig for Halloween so in the tutu she's Mercy and without the tutu she's Poppleton.  It would be awesome.  I'll run it by my hubby.  He's much better at resisting temptation than I am.
 These Papo figurines were Emeline's 6th birthday present.  I'm adding them to the Christmas list because these posts are to help give people present ideas and these are a great idea!  I used to be a Schleich snob, but Papo has put out some really excellent figurines lately.  I'm in love with their ancient history line and I'm fairly certain I'll find an excuse to buy Cleopatra and Caesar eventually.

In the meantime, Emeline asked for a princess, a prince, a king and a queen for her birthday.  I picked out these.

For her stocking stuffer, I bought this fabric panel that I am sewing into a doll.  I am currently working on Harriet's and then, when I see how challenging it is, I will let Emeline and Miriam make some of it themselves.  By that I mean that I will put everything they need in a ziploc bag and put that in their stocking.  The panel comes with a doll, one dress, one apron, and one headband thing.  I'll post pictures when I get one done.  I bought mine from here.  

Emeline's Santa present is art supplies.  Hubs and I went back and forth debating the merits of getting one child art supplies.  The problem, of course, is that all my children enjoy art and they will all want the supplies as soon as they see them.  We finally decided that we'd deal with the jealousy because art supplies are what Emeline would most want.

Emeline goes through about 60 trees worth of paper a day (I'm only exaggerating slightly) and she always begs for my fancy paper (left over from when I gave up scrapbooking about five years ago--no, I didn't have that much paper but I never craft so it lasts a long time).  I don't share my fancy paper.  I use it almost exclusively for family home evening needs.  So the first thing I picked out was a nice 1/2 off pad of scrapbook paper that also has several pages of stickers and scrapbooking stuff.  Emeline will be ecstatic.
Then I bought some air-dry clay, those weird little bead things that you iron (we've never tried them but they contain small parts guaranteed to get all over so I'm sure it will be a hit), a watercolor set, and the granddaddy present of them all, her own tape.  The girl will be giddy with glee over the tape, I kid you not.

The one advantage of being cheap and stingy and keeping my tape under lock and key is that it makes a splendid Christmas present.

There you have it, all the ideas I have this year for a little girl around 6 years old.  Although, my 9 year old girl would love every single one of the presents I got Emeline, so we'll say this post has ideas for little girls aged 4-9.

Merry Christmas!!!

October 24, 2012

Ancient Greece: The Parthenon

We had a lot of fun studying the Parthenon.  Making one was not too difficult.  It took a long time to save up enough toilet paper rolls and the actual instructions were for 50 paper towel rolls.  We don't use paper towels and we were ready for the Parthenon when I only had 33 toilet paper rolls, so we fudged and made everything smaller.  I'm glad we did.  It was plenty of work and hands-on experiential education with what we did.
 First we painted the tubes white.  Then we covered two of my large cookie sheets with foil to form a base.  Cardboard would have worked better, but I didn't have anything large enough on hand.
 The ionic columns is why I was glad we only used about 28 toilet paper rolls.  The column tops took awhile.
 Oh look, Mom has the camera out.
 Hide and seek.

 Sorry, this poster is getting a little distracted.
 She's just so cute!

To be perfectly honest the children and I didn't make the roof.  I couldn't figure out how from the instructions and by the end of the afternoon my kids were ready to move onto something else.  My hubby made a roof for it that night and the kids oohed and aahed over the completed project the next morning when they woke up and saw it.

 Along with making the Parthenon, we skimmed through this book: The Parthenon: How it was Built and How it was Used by Peter Chrisp.  There was loads too much info for my younger learners but everyone loved the pictures and I read about 1/3 of the text and that was about right.  Miriam read more on her own.

We also read Ancient Greece: 40 Hands-On Activities to Experience this Wondrous Age by Avery Hart and Paul Mantell from pg. 62-71.  

After all that the kids watched a 60 minute video about the Parthenon on youtube.  This one didn't cover much of the history but spent the bulk of the time talking about how hard it is to put the Parthenon back together because the architecture was so complex and sophisticated.  It watched like a science video almost and my older three kids loved it.  If you want to watch it, here's a link:


I had so many grand plans for Greece but then my baby got the flu and then I caught the flu and now we are in full-on sick mode.  Hopefully I feel well enough tomorrow to do some of the things I had planned.  I can't keep adding weeks to Greece because we really need to start science on Monday to make sure we have everything taught/learned for the two water field trips I've set up.

Greece though, is fun, and you could spend a whole lot of time studying it with no lack of fun ideas and interesting content.

October 17, 2012

Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Fall

A few weeks ago I went on a hike with my friend Marilyn and her five kids.  Yay for hiking with 10 young children!  In all reality, the kids did awesome--I, however, felt extremely wimpy and decided I was done hiking with Harriet on my back.  Yes, I'm pregnant, and yes, Harriet is really heavy but still . . . I felt like a wuss.  Harriet had to walk at the end because my back was killing me.  

Despite the fact that I'm a wimp, we had such a glorious time!!  My favorite time of year up my favorite canyon on my favorite fall hike with lovely people.  Every fall I wish I could live in a tent for two months somewhere off this trail.  There is nothing that makes me feel closer to God than fall hiking.  It just does something for your soul.

 I know Marilyn will forgive me if I periodically get her boys mixed up (they all look alike).  The top picture is Abraham and Daisy and Emeline.  (I'm pretty sure.)
 This picture has Abe, Sebastian, Malachi, Daisy, and Cowen.
 Emeline rocks.  Seriously.  Again, Abe, Seb, Cowen, Emeline, and Daisy.
 Gorgeous.  Marilyn took all these pictures and then let me steal them for my blogs.  Her camera must be super nice or she is a great photographer because all the pictures are lovely.  It makes me want to go back immediately.  With Timothy so he can pack Lady Harriet.
 This hike is all around a watershed area and it is very marshy.  My kids love the boardwalks and looking for frogs and ducks.  That pic is Abe, Seb, Malachi, and Miriam.
 Lady Harriet on a rock.  Love that girl.  She had such a great time--especially when I took her out of the pack and let her run free.  She always ran the opposite direction we were headed, but she had fun!

 Marilyn dubbed this pic, "Swarming on Rock."  I like it.
 Cowen and Malachi.
 The lake.  This was where we ended up, but I think the hike circles around and you can go farther.  I've never gone farther.

 Eli had fun with Daisy.

 Miriam, Seb, and Harriet.

Eli heading to the hills.  What a Sackett--he doesn't need anything to survive in the wild.  Just watch out for that moose!!

 The crazy thing about this picture is that Marilyn didn't have to zoom in at all.  That is how close we were to the moose.  There was a lady moose a few steps the other direction.  There were several people standing around watching, but I got nervous (hasn't anyone else read Hatchet??) and made my kids move along.  We watched the moose from a safer distance.

If you live in Utah, you need to visit Big Cottonwood right now.  Some of the colors will have faded but other things will be changing.  I wish I could go every other day all fall season just to watch the glorious changes happening and feel the air start to chill.  It is so restful up there.  Even with troops of children.  :)