Friday, March 27, 2015

Tidbits for March 27th


How to Get the Wedding Reception You Really Want - Thankfully this doesn't apply to me (been there, done that), but there is so much wonderful wisdom in this post - plus lots of links to other wedding-related posts. (Like Mother, Like Daughter)

Extraordinary - "The more extraordinary situations I uncover, the more I realize that at one time or another, we all fight something extraordinary. Things that make us feel alone and desperate... Sometimes that means our parenting choices look strange. These are the times when the world feels harsh, but we need it to be kind. I truly believe that if anyone should have compassion for parents, it’s other parents." (Raising Dystonia, hat tip to Contentment Acres)

If We Are to Have Godly Children - These are especially applicable for me this week. (Raising Homemakers, Guest Post by Emily of Blessed Homemaking)

10 Chapter Books for Dads to Read to Their Kids - Looking forward to checking out these books, and this site! (Redeemed Reader, hat tip to Challies.com)

How to Homeschool When You Have Babies and Toddlers - Homeschooling is not the hard part - it's keeping the babies and toddlers busy at the same time! Great tips here. (Growing in His Grace)

The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten - "Two major studies confirmed the value of play vs. teaching reading skills to young children. Both compared children who learned to read at 5 with those who learned at 7 and spent their early years in play-based activities. Those who read at 5 had no advantage. Those who learned to read later had better comprehension by age 11, because their early play experiences improved their language development." (The Truth About Education, hat tip to The Common Room)

6 Perks of Homeschooling - Though we've only homeschooled for four years, I have experienced each of these. (Treasures from a Shoebox)

5 Reasons Your Church Should Be Smaller - "The assumption that bigger is better pervades the church leadership culture. What if that’s the wrong tack?" I agree completely. (Crosswalk.com, hat tip to Challies.com)


From the Bookshelf


The Disease Delusion: Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer, and Happier Life

Absolutely fascinating! Quite a paradigm shift in the mental visualization of the causes of chronic illness. Also includes an illuminating history of modern medicine and how its origin in germ theory colors its perception of and treatment methods for chronic illness. I'm looking forward to finishing this book.










Recipe Corner

I have found my dessert for Easter: Key Lime Pound Cake with Key Lime Cream Cheese Frosting. Thanks to Wendy at Contentment Acres for the link!

Also, this Juicy Roast Chicken was absolutely delicious. YUM. Next time I will skip the onion powder.





Have a great weekend, dear readers!


Sibling Bickering


So.

Sibling bickering.

Let's talk about it.

I can already hear someone thinking, "Lady, you have four children. Why is this something new?"

Well, yes. We do have four children. But when you whittle it down to the basics, we really haven't had an interactive group of children for very long.

Our second-born child has severe special needs. Our fourth-born is an infant. Our third-born is quite young, and only became a playmate (and competitor) over the past year or so. So really, the issue of sibling quarreling and bickering has only recently entered our family.

But it's a doozy.

I suppose I've seen it coming for some time. A gradual escalation. "Hmm, that's interesting (and somewhat concerning), but what on earth do I do about it?"

The older child has taken on "annoying big brother" traits - bossiness, controlling, tattling.

In response, the younger child has taken on adaptive "annoying little brother" traits (which I previously thought existed only in fiction) - taunting, teasing, mimicking, screaming.

And over the past few months, it's really gotten worse. The past few weeks have been pretty awful. It has reached the point where I actually cannot leave these two children alone together, because there will be screaming within two minutes (at the outside).

And unfortunately, as in any area of parenting, scolding simply doesn't work. They just look at you blankly and go right back to the negative behaviors the next chance they get.

This problem reminds me (frighteningly!) of when our eldest child turned two and we were hit with the reality of hardcore parenting issues when the terrible twos hit. In other words, "Oh, shoot. We're really in trouble now."

Parenting has emphatically not come easily for me, and each new phase has found me struggling to find my feet and learn the requisite parenting skills. Thankfully I no longer feel quite so at sea as I once did in parenting an individual child. Teaching obedience, giving consequences, etc. - it's still difficult, but it's no longer overwhelming. (Thankfully.)

But parenting the relationship between two children - well, it's blindsided me. I can require a child to relate well to me - but when two children are refusing to relate well to each other? That is indeed a sticky proposition.

I have the feeling that I'm in for another learning curve. But it's one that I've got to conquer, and I need to do it thoroughly. Because two children intent on spending every waking moment squabbling have the potential to make the entire family miserable.

The good thing is that I am determined. In other words, I've had it up to HERE with this issue. I'm willing to do what it takes to dive in and deal with it, because this situation cannot continue.

What am I doing about this issue?

Firstly, I'm praying fervently for wisdom and guidance.

Secondly, I'm discussing the issue with my husband. He is completely on board and is working alongside me to confront this issue.

Thirdly, I'm asking experienced mamas for advice. (Thank you so much to those of you who have already left advice in the comments and via email. I really appreciate it.) I'm compiling all the advice I receive into a document so that I can have it ready when I need to review - which will be often.

Fourthly, I am tomato staking - keeping one or both of the children involved close to me as often as I can (unless they're with my husband). I have learned the unfortunate fact that these two cannot be trusted to be alone right now. Thus, when I go to nurse the baby, one of them comes with me. When I'm in the kitchen, one or both of them comes with me. It's tough, but that's the way it's got to be right now.

Fifthly (is that a word?), I am doing my best to be diligent with discipline. Sometimes in the past when I've heard bickering, my response has been to duck my head and hope they'll work it out on their own. Guess what - that approach doesn't work. At all. It just gets worse. So when I'm foolish enough to leave them alone and I hear the predictable screaming, I turn around and dive right in to figuring things out and dealing with it. That in itself is rather difficult, but I'm doing my best.

I'm also working to incorporate character training into our daily read-alouds and morning time, as well as to focus our Bible memory work on verses about character, and about peacemaking versus fighting, etc.

Lastly, I'm reading all the books and blog posts that I can get my hands on. See below for some of my finds. (Feel free to share more.)

We'll see where this goes, and if I can, I'll update. In the meantime, this is just an issue from the parenting trenches. Like all parenting issues, it's messy, sticky, confusing, and plain ol' hard.

But I'm going to do my best.

(And, lest you think that everything is perfectly awful around here, let me state that these little guys are wonderful children whom I enjoy thoroughly. This is just one aspect of life around here that needs to be dealt with, but thankfully there are lots of wonderful and positive aspects as well.)


Here are some resources I am using:

Books

Raising Godly Tomatoes

Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes - in You AND Your Kids

Shepherding a Child's Heart (Thanks for the recommendation, Deborah!)


Articles

The Common Room:
Article collection

Raising Olives:
Building Strong Sibling Relationships
Solving Sibling Squabbles

Life in a Shoe:
Sibling Relationships

Treasures from a Shoebox:
Squashing Sibling Squabbles



Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers! 


Monday, March 23, 2015

Quick Update


Hello, dear readers!

I am thrilled to announce that I finished my project of updating our family booklist, and thus I have lifted my self-imposed and occasionally-obeyed blogging break.

However, I am still super-busy, so my posts may still be a bit scarce.

Here are a few brief snippets of what's going on around here lately:

Homeschool bookkeeping: This week, we will finish up the 2014-2015 school year. After a five-week break, we'll be starting the next school year. Translation = I have a lot to do! In addition to all the usual odds and ends of finishing one year and starting the next, I am:

  • Preparing to start teaching piano lessons to the 8yo. I can't say either of us is particularly enthusiastic about this, so I am working hard to make this a positive experience.
  • Trying to turn our master bedroom closet into a children's-clothing-box storage space. The only other option is to start stuffing boxes up the chimney, so I need to get busy before they chase us out of the house. 
  • Summer break itself is quite a project, and it's not really much of a break for mama. Children have the unfortunate habit of still needing food, clothes, diapers, discipline, etc., whether we're in school-time or not! However, I have made a check-off list for our break in order to focus on having fun together as a family.

Lemons, lemons everywhere! Usually around March 1st, we realize, "Oh, shoot - the lemons are dropping and we forgot to do anything with them!" This, year, however, we've been more diligent. Here are some of our lemon projects from this year:

  • Lemonade
  • Lemon meringue pie
  • Lemon cake
  • Lemon sorbet
  • Lemon cheesecake

Plus sending lemons to family and giving them away on Freecycle and juicing/zesting for the freezer. We're also hoping to make lemon curd and German pancakes with lemon sauce before the season is over completely. 


I am working to discipline my computer skills. My current daily plan is:
  • 15 minutes writing (blogging) 
  • 15 minutes business (i.e. my to-do list)
  • 15 minutes email

I am also considering forcing myself to get up early to blog (or skip writing for the day) so that I can better focus on household tasks. (Like Facebook, blogging can be a time-robber if I let it.)

I'm also working to stay on top of my email, meaning no more year-long turn-around reply times. I'm still not as diligent as I would like, but I'm improving.

Speaking of computer time, I have now completed a full quarter-year off of Facebook! Do I miss it? Yes. Do I plan to go back? No, not really. Time will tell. 

We've also been keeping busy with holidays:
  • St. Patrick's Day - We had Irish Soda Bread, corned beef and cabbage, and green ice cream. All were a complete hit!
Now I'm planning for upcoming holidays:
  • April Fool's Day - Believe it or not, I actually did some advance research and have a few plans in mind! I'll try to take pictures to share!
  • Easter - Next week is Holy Week and Easter, which will be a busy time. We will do (or try to do) Benjamin's Box, an egg hunt, another egg hunt with our homeschool group, hot cross buns, resurrection rolls, egg dying, church on Good Friday and Easter, and Easter dinner with family. 

We're also preparing to enter our family's biggest birthday season (May/June), which will be a busy time. We enjoy this time, but it's absolutely exhausting. I always hit the first of July promising myself that I will never celebrate another holiday, let alone another birthday, ever again. I'll do my best. 

Also, it's time for SPRING CLEANING - I was planning to wait until May, but the state of my home is driving me a wee bit batty, so as of Monday, it's time. I'm hoping to work for 20-30 minutes per day on various projects. 

And also, I'm working on something else very important - sibling relationships. Folks, I knew that this time was coming, but now that it's here, it's worse than I thought it would be. Sibling bickering is really, really, really taking it out of me. If I can make time, I'll blog about it some time. Until then, would you pray for me? I need serious help in this area. And for you more seasoned mamas in the audience, please - do feel free to leave any advice for what helps in this area. 

(And if this blog goes silent permanently and you hear of me in an over-the-border insane asylum, you'll know what took me there.)

In the coming weeks I'm hoping to use my limited blogging time to polish and publish the large number of half-written blog posts that I have in draft form at the moment. That too will keep me busy. 

Dear friends, I hope that your spring is going well! I'll be around - sooner or later!

Love to you all.




Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tidbits for March 22nd


Resurrection Rolls Recipe - For Easter! I'm thrilled to have a from-scratch recipe (most recipes call for refrigerated biscuit dough). (Growing In His Grace)

12 Ways 12 People Live on 1 Income - I could definitely use some improvement in many of these areas. (Treasures from a Shoebox)

B is for Be Yourself (And the World Will Be a Better Place) - "Perhaps you’re like me and find it easy to compare your weaknesses to the strengths of others. But the old saying, 'apples to apples' applies to this situation, too because it’s not fair to compare our weaknesses to others’ strengths." (My Joy-Filled Life, Guest Post by Becky of Purposeful Homemaking)

Ten Women Your Daughter Needs to Meet Before She Reaches Adulthood - "Only the Word of God is the firm foundation we can stand upon, but reflecting on faithful saints of the past who stood rock solid on that foundation can be a useful tool in helping us gird up the loins of our minds. Women are swamped with lies and half-truths just as much in our day as ever before." (Raising Homemakers)

8 Age-Defying Reasons Why I Drink Bone Broth - The how, the why, the etceteras! Good stuff here. (Deep Roots at Home)

Myopia Boom - "After studying more than 4,000 children at Sydney primary and secondary schools for three years, they found that children who spent less time outside were at greater risk of developing myopia." I wonder if there's any connection between how much I dislike sunlight and the fact that I was legally blind by  the time I was in junior high. (Nature.com, hat tip to Mark's Daily Apple)

Probiotics Preven Neuropsychiatric Disorders - "Probiotic supplementation early in life may reduce the risk of neuropsychiatric disorder development later in childhood possible by mechanisms not limited to gut microbiota composition." I would like to see additional research data as to how this could benefit cesarean-born babies in particular. (Nature.com Pediatric Research, hat tip to Mark's Daily Apple)



From the Bookshelf

Stinker from Space

Revisiting a childhood favorite.















The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Thankfully I found a version that had not been attacked by historical revisionists.














Especially for locals

Don't forget the Chandler Jazz Festival this coming weekend. We'll see you there!


Have a wonderful week, dear readers! 


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Homeschool Edition: Finishing Last Year, Starting Next Year


One of the big items on my to-do list this month is finishing up our school year and getting ready to start the next. You'd think this would be pretty simple, but it's actually more time-consuming than it looks.

Here's a quick snippet of what I'm getting done this month:


Summer Break

Finishing this year

- Make a summer-break bucket list
- Figure out next year’s school dates
- Develop new chore schedule to start over the summer
- Figure out next year’s curriculum choices
- Finish school work
- File all papers
- Print records for student notebooks, master notebook
             o Crafts
             o Science experiments
             o Read-Alouds
             o Field trips
             o Poetry books
             o Picture Study
- Curriculum summaries for each student, master notebook
- Write out a year summary, print for each notebook, master notebook
- Enjoy summer break!

Preparing to start next year

- Update homeschool charter, print
- Clean out my homeschool notebook
- Clean out homeschool shelf
- Clean out homeschool cupboard
- Make a list of needed supplies
- Buy supplies
- Make a list of needed curriculum
- Buy curriculum
- Make student checklists for next year
- Make to-do list for homeschool convention
- Buy convention tickets
- Plan first-term science experiments (6)
- Plan crafts
- Plan for preschool activities
- Write out semi-annual goal sheet
- Print:
            o First week checklist
            o Crafts
            o Science experiments
            o Field trips
            o Poetry log
            o Read-aloud record

- Set up student notebooks, supplies
- Plan not-back-to-school party
- Make signs and cards for first day of school

Homeschool mamas, what is involved in finishing up your school year?

Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stop the (Homeschool Curriculum Planning) Insanity!


I am in the middle of choosing our family's history curriculum, and I am really cracking myself up over here.

It's crazy.

I am decidedly bipolar when it comes to history curriculum. One part of my brain loves the unstructured, free-reading, narration-style, Charlotte Mason-y type of unit study that joins the family together and revels in enjoying and exploring the world of history.

The other part of me wants a strictly textbook-based curriculum with no frills and no extras.

I have spent most of my time these past few weeks swinging back and forth between the two.

Last week I really, really thought I had made up my mind (unit studies!). I spent two days going over my plans with my husband. We were set. This plan was The One. Then we went over to a friend's house, and I saw a history textbook set sitting out on her counter. I meandered over to peruse it (just for fun), and BAM! I knew that I had found The One. I spent the trip home detailing to my husband my New-and-Improved history plan. He listened patiently.

Seriously. It's insane. Or I am.

As a matter of fact, we don't even know if we're going to do formal history this coming year or not. We may keep it informal (i.e. read-alouds and library books). We're not sure. But I am the uptight kind of planner who has to have every decision made (even if the working out of that decision is years down the road). Thus, I'm obsessing over it.

There's no doubt that unit study learning is usually more fun. But the one year that we immersed ourselves in unit study awesomeness, I ended up so burned out that I didn't particularly want to continue homeschooling, let alone do more unit studies. I wonder possibly if unit studies and all the attendant awesomeness are more suited to artistic mothers who can exist comfortably amidst endless crafts and messes? I don't know. For myself, I must admit that I find the stress somewhat overwhelming.

This year, when we didn't do unit studies (or did only a few measly ones at the beginning which petered out pretty quickly), we haven't had quite as much fun with history... but on the other hand, I am finishing out the year with my enthusiasm for homeschooling intact. I'm honestly chomping at the bit to get started with our next school year. No unit studies = no burnout.

Additionally, since unit studies are more time-consuming, I have found that we have more time for fun stuff when we don't do unit studies - like free reading, outside play, individual creative work. So it may be that a unit-study-free life is just as fun... but the fun is in other areas rather than the school work itself.

(If it sounds like I'm rambling, it's because I am.)

For all those reasons, I am currently leaning toward textbook learning for history. If I can rest assured that history is taken care of with textbooks, then we can fully enjoy our free reading and library trips without worrying about covering enough (or doing all of the intense planning) that unit studies require.

And considering that I will probably spend every other year good and nauseated from morning sickness (depending on the Lord's plan for our family), a textbook approach seems possibly more practical.

However... give it five minutes, and I'll be arguing passionately for unit studies. That's just my current schizophrenic state. This is not a well-ordered blog post full of well-reasoned points. It's just a chance to get the craziness down on paper while my mind works out the details.

Thankfully, the Lord has always been faithful to reveal what He wants for our family, as well as giving me guidance through my husband's leadership. This too will be resolved for His glory and our family's good.

In the meantime...

The insanity continues.

By the way, have I told you how I've decided to do unit studies for our family's history study?

Ack!


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Our Yearly Homeschool Calendar Schedule


This is our second year using the homeschool calendar year that I have developed, and it's working beautifully!

We use a modified "sabbath schedule" for our school year. This is an idea from Vicki Farris's excellent book, "A Mom Just Like You," meaning a schedule that is "six weeks on, one week off." We use this basic plan, adding in a longer break at summer and at Christmas. I have also greatly modified our starting date from the usual September back to mid-May so that we can work through our Phoenix summers and take our times off in the more pleasant times of the year.

Here's how our school year looked this year:

First Day of School: Late May

First Term - 6 weeks
    (First Break - 1 week)
Second Term - 6 weeks)
    (Second Break - 1 week)
Third Term - 6 weeks)
    (Third Break - 1 week)
Fourth Term - 6 weeks)
    (Fourth Break, a.k.a. Christmas Break - 6 weeks)
Fifth Term - 6 weeks)
    (Fifth Break - 1 week)
Sixth Term - 6 weeks)
    (Sixth Break, a.k.a. Summer Break - 6 week)

Our current summer break is during April through mid-May.

This coming year, I want to move our school year back two weeks, as April and May are usually still a bit unpleasant weather-wise around here. To do this, I am pushing hard to end our school year a week early, and am cutting our summer break by one week. This will necessitate breaking our fourth term into two parts (part before Christmas break and part after), which is a bit awkward - I like to have nice, neat starting dates. But I think it will be worth it for an earlier (and cooler!) summer.

Thus, this coming year's school year will (hopefully) look like this:

First Day of School: Early May

First Term - 6 weeks
    (First Break - 1 week)
Second Term - 6 weeks)
    (Second Break - 1 week)
Third Term - 6 weeks)
    (Third Break - 1 week)
Fourth Term and Fifth Term Part 1 (8 weeks)
    (Fourth Break, a.k.a. Christmas Break - 6 weeks)
Fifth Term Part 2 - 4 weeks
    (Fifth Break - 1 week)
Sixth Term - 6 weeks)
    (Sixth Break, a.k.a. Summer Break - 6 weeks)


We hold this schedule loosely. I often move our breaks around to accommodate our schedule - for example, moving it up a week and having one seven-week term and then one five-week term. I also make sure that our breaks are different weeks than the public school breaks, as the parks and other attractions are super-crowded during those times.

Additionally, with pregnancies and childbirth thrown into the mix every other year or so, the schedule is often moved about to accommodate first trimesters and postpartum periods. Those times (like most life circumstances) are not possible to plan years in advance, but we do the best we can. The Lord has always shown Himself faithful to make our school years work out in the end, regardless of how crazy they become with pregnancies or new babies.

One lovely benefit of this schedule is that by the time most people are starting their school year, we are half-way done with ours! It's always so cheering to have a head start.

Most (all?) families that we know utilize the standard September through May school year followed by the public schools, and I definitely see the advantages. But for our family, the year-round Sabbath schedule works beautifully, and we're really enjoying it.

What schedule does your family use? I'd love to hear about it!