Monday, December 8, 2014

Home-school Sports

Many folks wonder how we address physical education with a home-school atmosphere. Personally, I do not teach any specific things for physical education, although many families do. We spend LOTS of time outdoors when the weather permits, which allows for great physical stimulation and wear on my boys. But we do make sure both boys are involved in some kind of extra-curricular sport. In our area of the country, sports are a big part of our culture and rarely will you find a family that does not have a child involved in some kind of athletic group or activity. Because of that, home-schoolers have an advantage that many areas do not: public sports organizations that are not affiliated with the private and public school system. Locally, we have the YMCA and numerous sport organizations that have a wide offering of athletic opportunities. There are also home-school organizations that have formal physical education classes during the week at gyms or parks when the weather permits. These are typically taught by a parent in the co-op.

Over the years, both of our boys have been involved off and on with baseball and soccer. At this time it seems they've both settled into soccer. My husband coaches the eldest son's team and has for 4 completed seasons now, this winter season being our 5th season. We've kept the main core of the players this whole time, which has been very beneficial for team synergy and relationship building. The parents are dedicated, involved, and reliable. It's been such a blessing, not just for JK's stability and friendships, but for us as well!


Pregame huddle with Coach and all the little Vipers. I have loved watching our firstborn work hard under Daddy's tutelage and improve season after season. He's a very dedicated and focused child and is beginning to understand the concept and benefits of a hard work ethic.


Our youngest is starting his 3rd soccer season, but unfortunately, he has had a different team and different coach each season. Doesn't make for good team synergy or relationship building when there isn't consistency through the year. But coaching the preK age requires a special person...not too many people can handle that for more than a season. I'm not even sure I can handle it. Ha! Since we're homeschooling this year, we've bumped our youngest up to a Kindergarten league. If he were going to public, he'd technically be in preschool. But since he's doing some Kinder work at home and has a natural talent for soccer, AND he is the appropriate age, we do not feel there is any foul there. One of the benefits of home-schooling is there is flexibility with "grades". While we generally know what grade each child is in, we are not grade-focused, but development focused. There is no need to label.


This guy doesn't really even have to work hard. Lots of natural skill that just comes very easily. While Daddy works with this little guy often, we hope to find a coach that can partner with us in stoking the passion. In the meantime, this is a great bonding experience for him with Daddy and older brother when they practice, keeps him healthy, and runs off his truly endless energy.

I take great comfort in my husband not just supporting and encouraging my teaching at home, but for him to come alongside me in this specific department and just kind of take over. This takes a lot of pressure off me and allows him to be a part of our education. We are also blessed in that not only is this important to him as a father, but his schedule allows him to participate. I know of many husbands that don't care to do this, or even if they did, their work schedule just does not allow for it. Which is unfortunate, not specific to sports alone, but to the child's education and development as a whole. I think there is truly no lasting mark on a young boy than a father that takes a focused daily LOVING interest in the development of their son!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Impromptu Nature Study with a Side of Anxiety

Every afternoon, the boys have a Quiet Time. It's generally 60-90 minutes of them quietly playing in their room, while I take a break from the noise and chaos by napping or paying bills. We're working on the habit of not coming out unless it's an emergency. If they come out, it's an additional 10 minute penalty. My 7 yo does well with this, my 5 yo not-so-much.

Today, I was catching up on some emails at the computer, when they both came thundering down the hallway panicked and near tears, before their time was up. I was annoyed with the interruption - will I ever learn to overcome this? - and I have no doubt my face expressed my displeasure.

JK: MOM! You're never gonna believe this!
B: Dere is a huge 'piduh (spider) in our bedwoom.
JK: It's huge Mom. I thought Evan was faking, but he wasn't. It's huge! *holds fingers up to show me it's about 2 inches in diameter.
Me: *huffing impatience and getting out of my chair* Show me.

If this was a silverfish or a cricket, I was gonna be pretty stinkin' mad. Both boys lead the way down the hall and excitedly point me to the basket the spider was on. Their room was in such disarray that I actually had to move a few things just to get a view of it.

Me: *BIG FAT GASP!!!* Holy crap!
B: I tol' you Momma. It's huge.

Yes. Yes it was.

Now. I'm arachnophobic. Have been since I was a child. As in heart rate and blood-pressure sky-rocket and I have to work very hard to not hyperventilate or empty my bladder. And this one was the biggest I'd ever seen not in captivity. In my babies' room. Which was full of scattered toys and chaos. If he decided to bolt, there were literally hundreds of places for him to hide where I'd have to be up close and personal to find him. I considered the shotgun. Maybe overkill?

I asked one of the boys to go get one of N's shoes by the front door - I was gonna "beat the fool" out of it as one of my friends would later say. They brought a flip-flop. Too flimsy. I asked them to go get an empty pickle jar under the sink, thinking I could capture it. They brought it and I realized in order to cover the spider with a jar, meant my hand had to be within a few inches of that monster and that just wasn't going to happen. So I stood and hyperventilated for a few minutes, literally praying that the Lord bless my hands and protect me if I just somehow removed it and didn't kill it. I asked the boys to go back to the kitchen and get the grill tongs and a paper bag. When they got them, I used the tongs to very gently pick up the basket Mr. Charlotte was sitting on and dumped all of it in the big paper bag. Which was then grasped by the tongs and removed from the house and unceremoniously dumped onto our neighbor's cleared driveway. (Nobody lives there...he's doing construction on it.)

We all breathed a sigh of relief. And I struggled with a panic attack for the next two hours, even though we were perfectly safe.

I'm completely frustrated with how tiny this picture makes him look. He was not.

After we released him, I very carefully scooched a quarter towards him so we could see how big he was in proper scale. See? He's big!

What made me most proud and made the event seem not so terrible? After we went back into the house, we had this conversation:

JK: Mom, we have GOT to put that into our Nature Journal! 

Yay for Charlotte Mason! Homeschool Win!

Me: You go right ahead baby. I'm having a glass of wine!

(I am accrediting the Lord's strength and our recent completion of E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web" for saving this arachnid's life. I hope that big furball is thanking his lucky stars! Because if it weren't for those two things and he HAD run away hiding someplace in the bedroom, we'd be at a hotel tonight while the house was fumigated. Not kidding.)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Geography and Our Sponsor Child

This year we are learning about Africa in our geography lessons. Which has been a lot of fun since we're already "in" Africa with studying about Ancient Egypt for our history lessons. We are on Winter Break right now, no formal lessons until January. But last night I found a very sweet book at our church library "Beatrice's Goat", and decided I couldn't pass it up! I would use it as a review of our geography lessons AND use it as an opportunity to introduce the boys to the Ugandan child we've sponsored for around 8 years now.

N and I started sponsoring Emanuel before we had children. There was a big push at our church with hundreds of sponsor profiles to choose from, because our church (2,100+) was going to sponsor an entire village. This was during a very trying point in our marriage, as we were dealing with infertility and pregnancy loss at the time. Emanuel's little face popped out at me and called my heart. He was born on our wedding day, so I thought it was meant to be. :-) So we picked up his profile packet, signed up and have been sponsoring him ever since. We have watched him turn from a tiny, chubby, sad-faced little 4 year old into a lanky, ornery smiling 12 year old. 

For whatever reason, I've just never found the "right" time to introduce this part of our lives to our very own biological children. But upon seeing "Beatrice's Goat" at the library, I knew it was time and the book was going to be the perfect tool. So that is what we did today. Read the book, talked about life in Africa and how hard it is, and then introduced Emanuel and some of his life details. JK was immediately interested, because all of Emanuel's updates explain how much he loves soccer and JK loves soccer! We decided to send a little package to Emanuel, including some of the details of both JK and B's lives. We plan on gathering some small gifts and plan on sending a care package. This will be the first time we've reached out personally to our sponsor child, so I am a little nervous and a little excited. I'm thrilled the boys are involved with it!


We typed up a little questionnaire for the boys, which asked them the same questions that Emanuel gets asked to send us personal details: favorite game, what does he do with his time, what are his chores, dreams, etc.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving Nature Walk

My in-laws live down in the Texas Gulf, so we spend time there every summer with my husband's siblings and all the cousins. This year we did our first Thanksgiving there. While not all the family could join, we had a lovely group of extended family and the traditional festivities of football watching and overeating and napping.

School-wise, we still had some things unfinished from the previous week, but I decided to return to it when we got back. While with the family I would just focus on the relaxing atmosphere of being on vacation and do some personal nature journaling. Although we did take a few nature walks down at the beach. It was super fun to do that in a completely different topography than what we're used to!

The first morning there, we went beach combing and got a ton of shells and crab exoskeletons that had been gifted by the previous night's high-tide. It was so chilly, nobody had been to the beach to snag them yet. So much fun to collect treasures in spite of the mist and wind. The boys had never been down to the beach during cold weather before, so it was strange to them to not get in the water. No swim suits!

We found some huge angel wing shells that were whole, not broken by the surf. They are very fragile, so this is rare. JK was very proud of his finds!


My sweet husband showing JK how you can spot clams by their bubbles.

Yet to be identified beach flowers.


Obligatory trip selfie. As the family photog, sometimes this is the only way I get into a shot. Note the cold, red noses. Brrr!


This was our view from the balcony the second morning. Ahhh! Much better weather! Mid 60's and not a cloud in the sky that day.


The weather was a little too chilly for my youngest on the first day. He wasn't interested in beach combing in the cold at all. But the second day, he was happy to get out in the sun and help Memah walk her dog on the beach. He is my animal whisperer...loves creatures, great and small. I find it so interesting that they respond to him in kind...like they know he will love them.


Family portrait.

Both boys watching and listening to a cousin (forefront) and Dedah (background) play guitar in the garage. I love that I've married into a musical family! My prayer is that one day these boys pick up an instrument and fall in love with it.

Sunset the night before we left. The perfect way to end our trip.

During a wrestling match with little brother and Dedah the morning of departure, this guy lost his first upper tooth. We teased him by asking him to say words with the letter S. :-D


We came home and washed and dried and organized our shells for our nature journaling.



I had fun with this journaling, although the details of the shells were HARD. I enjoyed creating a more artistic format I had wanted to try. Boys are still working on their journals. JK is learning to label his drawings, but B seems to have lost interest altogether in journaling. He's still young (Y0/prek), so I'm not pressing the issue at this point.

All around, it was a fun and yet different trip. My MIL works hard to be a kind and gracious hostess. There is never anything a guest is in need or want. She even lets me take over the kitchen in order to cook safely for my food allergies, so for that, I am incredibly grateful! It was indeed a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Unexpected Find

We took a little nature walk with Daddy yesterday. GORGEOUS fall day! After nearly 10 days of freezing weather, we jumped on the opportunity to get out.

JK: Mom? Does that sign say there are snakes that live here?
Me: Yes, but I wouldn't worry too much. It's been so cold lately, those snakes are in hibernation.

The fall leaves were brilliant. This picture just doesn't do it justice.

We have become experts at spotting shelf fungus. And the poison oak and ivy mantra: "Leaves of three, leave them be."

Scoping out a picnic spot. And then a bird's nest! It was old and empty, but what a FUN find! 


We all agree that lunching on a nature walk always makes the food taste better! It's the same fare we would eat at home, but the conversation, the breeze, the sharing of food family style - makes it a whole new experience that's so much more fun. We also introduced the boys to pomegranates. I should have taken a picture of the red streaks around the mouths of two happy boys. They loved it!

And then towards the end of the afternoon, my husband hears my youngest screaming, "DADDY! A 'NAKE! A 'NAKE!" He could tell by the tone that he wasn't playing around. He rushed over to see our boy stooped over something on the edge of the creek, his face about 12 inches from the ground. And what should we find? A poisonous juvenile water moccasin. *gulp* I was HORRIFIED. My baby had his precious little face a foot away from it, respectfully studying it. He did not touch it, thankfully and surprisingly. This being the child that found a dead mouse in our driveway one day and wanted to tickle his belly. So much for the winter hibernating snakes.


 They say juvenile snakes are more dangerous than adults as they haven't gained control of their bites and poison release. After spotting this little fellow, is when Mommy said, "Oh, looky there. It's getting dark. It's time to go home." So we did.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Last Week of First Trimester! (But we're not done...)

Grace. That is the word of the week. At some point between Sunday and Monday, I was INCREDIBLY contaminated with something on my long intolerance list. It could have been a new hair product or breakfast on Sunday, or coffee from Starbucks on Monday, or a combination of any of the above. Whatever it was...knocked me flat for three days. TKO. It was ugly. And this week was already behind because Monday JK woke up vomiting, so we focused on our "homeschool lite" schedule. (Reading, writing, arithmetic.) And then Tuesday through Thursday was a bust because I was down for the count. Not good.

Today, Friday, was the first day I've been fully upright and functional as a mom, teacher, and just human. Every day we managed to do something, but not everything needed. So in the final week of our first Trimester, we are behind. Honestly, I'm just grateful it's at the end of the trimester and not the beginning! We are going into a 5 week break, so while I'm not thrilled about doing school right now, I'm not totally stressed over it either. We'll slowly get through it the next few days before Thanksgiving hits. I will say praises to God for watching over my children when I was recuperating. Those three days, I slept a LOT. The boys? They played quietly, gently, and really well together. For three days straight. I didn't break up one fight or argument. Now if that doesn't say something about God's Grace, I don't know what does! Thank you Lord!


But today we're back on the wagon and getting some stuff done! We caught up on math and are almost caught up on our literature, copywork, and history. To celebrate, we spent the afternoon on a suburban nature walk. A local friend had mentioned that she had some oak trees in her front yard, so we went to collect leaves and acorns. We're doing a comparison on white and red oaks and their different shaped leaves and acorns. But while we were there, we found some other treasures.



Our dear friend Ms. Georgia introduced us to Matrix pansies, HUGE burr oak acorns, and yaupon holly berries! Her two grown boys are Boy Scouts, so she is familiar with the bouncy, chatty, dirty little mugs I brought with me. Thank you Ms. Georgia for hosting us today and always encouraging me in my motherhood. You are SUCH a blessing to our family!

Afterwards we headed to a local park to throw rocks in the creek. I absolutely love this place because it is just gorgeous. But at the top of the falls (pictured), there is a good 20 foot drop into the water. My anxiety gets the best of me here herding two monkeys, so we didn't stay long.

Goodness they are cutie pies! My silly willy (left). My contemplative observer (right).

I can only get them to give me good genuine smiles when I say things like, "At the count of 3 everyone say 'turtle toots'!" Of course they crack up and that cheesy Lifetouch smile disappears. #sneakymommy But I love this shot. Dirty fingernails, glue in my eldest's hair from our craft earlier today, holes in their jeans, smudged faces...such a perfect capture of who they are right at this point in life.


After we got home, we laid out all our treasures and recorded some of them in our nature journals. This will likely be a two part process since we were too close to dinner to finish. B is a little young still, so I sketch out a few items and he colors them in (right). JK drew a few of his favorite things and will likely complete them this weekend (left). Considering how the week started, I would say we REALLY needed to end our week on a high note. I'm glad we took advantage of the nice fall weather!

JK drew his yaupon berries and leaves, matrix pansy, a snail shell, burr oak acorn, and a hitchhiking roly poly.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sneaky School

Sometimes in the afternoons I want to reinforce something from our lessons, but don't always want to tell the boys we're going back to the kitchen table for more work. Part of my objective with homeschooling is to make learning fun!

Me: Hey, boys? Who wants to do a color by number picture?
Both boys: *excitedly screaming* Me! Me! Me!

They have no idea this is helping them meet part of their math objectives. ;-)

#sneakymomma #homeschoolwin