31 December 2007

A Day of Science

Corwin went back to work today. Technically we aren't past the Winter Vacation yet, but I told Tiffany that if Dad was at work she has to be at school. I let her spend the morning calling friends and cousins that were also on holiday. After all, they are usually at school all day anyway.

After lunch, I let her choose a fun subject to get started with. After one science lesson, she didn't want to quit, so she did three hours' worth. I think that was five lessons. She finished the unit on the different kinds of rocks. She made a clay model of limestone turned to marble, by stacking thin slices of different colors and squeezing, rolling, and twisting the clay. Then I cut it half, so she could see the swirls she made.

The next unit is about soil. I put some soil in a bowl, where she picked out the pill bugs and cutworms (I had no idea there were so many living insects in the soil in the winter). Then we filled a jar with the soil and water, shaking it, then letting it settle, so she could see the layers of sand, silt, clay, and humus floating on top.

There were other activities, but those were probably the best of what we did. We finished just in time to cook dinner and attempt to clean up before Corwin walked in. We didn't do a very good job of it, and he had to help motivate the girls before I served dinner.

My brother and his wife invited us over for the evening. Our kids played with their kids, and generally had fun. Of course, they didn't want to leave, but my brother loaded us up with two plates of cookies his wife made- probably because I was nibbling on them through the evening ;) But, she seriously does like to make cookies. :)


I finally downloaded the photos off my camera. Now I am in the process of editing the various entries to include photos.

Entries I'm adding photos to are:

Day 3 of New Schedule
Christmas Vacation Update
Cabinets Are Finished!
Roller Skating

29 December 2007

Roller Skating

The girls went outside with their skates for the first time today. Actually, it snowed last night. I shoveled the walk this morning, and by early afternoon the sun had melted what was left on the sidewalk. Tiffany and Katie put on their skates and coat then went out. I put my old skates on, too. Because it's easier to help if you can roll, too, right? I couldn't keep mine on for very long, however, since I outgrew them in pregnancy. They pinch my toes pretty tight. I doubt I'll try to squeeze my toes in them again.

Tiffany and Katie actually lasted a couple of hours skating outside. Katie got distracted at last by playing in the slush in the gutter, and eating the snow off the grass. Tiffany got quite good at skating, progressing from the walking shuffle to more of a glide. Katie stayed with the shuffle, but didn't fall down much. Overall, I'm impressed with how quickly they are catching on. I remember falling down a lot when I learned to skate many moons ago. Maybe learning on the sidewalk is actually easier than a skating rink, what with all the extra friction the concrete provides.

We just finished watching Night at the Museum with the girls. It was awesome! Katie jumped a lot and covered her eyes at first, but then she was ok after she figured out it was more fun than scary. Both girls think we should buy it to add to our collection. They loved it!

Corwin took our Christmas tree down today. He put it and several boxes in the attic. Normally, we would wait for New Year before taking the tree down, but it was easier this way what with New Year in the middle of a work week this year. Corwin is planning on working both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. So we'll back to the grind after tomorrow. It was great having him home all week, though!

27 December 2007

The Cabinets are Finished!

I had to make two more runs to the hardware store today. First was for the mdf on the bottom of the drawers. The second was for another piece of 1"x4". I ended up with pine this time since I was too lazy to drive clear down to Home Depot. Instead, I opted for the nearer hardware store, which didn't carry the same stuff. The board was for the backs of two drawers that I had measured too short, so I didn't really care if it matched perfectly. It works.

Here's a picture of the sliders installed:

Even though I measured the width of the drawers a little shorter for the other three drawers, they ended up the same as the first drawer, a little too snug. Corwin sanded the sides down, so they fit better. He did the finish sanding, also. Then we installed them. That was it. It was done.

I filled the drawers up. They don't fit quite as much stuff as the shelf did, but all the stuff is now accessible. Yay!

Only one problem. The cabinets look exactly the same as they always did from the outside. Somehow that is very anti-climatic for me. Without seeing the work that was done, it feels like we didn't accomplish anything. After we were finished, I opened the cabinet doors for a while just so I would feel like we had done something.

Here's a picture of the finished cabinets, closed:
And the finished cabinets, open:

26 December 2007

Christmas Vacation Update

I didn't want to post until we got our project done, but since it's taking so long, I thought I should put an update in here.

Saturday, we cleaned house, then we decided to start a project.

You see we have these extra cabinets in the kitchen. They were added by the previous owners. They are white and don't really match the oak kitchen cabinets. And they are made of mdf and chip board. Really, none of that constitutes the real problem that they have been. Lacking space for a pantry, we have been storing our food- canned goods, cereal and the like in these cabinets. Now, here's the real problem- the door openings are only 10 inches wide, and the shelf is 2 feet deep. I buy canned goods, put them in the pantry, and often, they disappear when I need them. I have things that were stored in the pantry since we moved in 6 years ago. So, the project is to remove the thingamabobs the doors hit, then install full extension drawers to hold all the food, that way I can pull the drawer out and get all the way to the back.

Here's what the bottom cabinet looked like before we started:

Ok. So, Saturday. We bought the drawer slides, 2 eight foot 1"x4"s of poplar, and a 2'x4' panel of mdf for the bottom. We started by attempting to remove the dividers (thingamabobs). They were screwed in in little pockets. The problem with this is that they aren't regular screws. They use a square head. After searching high and low for a square bit, we tried a combination bit used for decking, a flat bit, turned diagonal, and a triangle bit, all to no avail. So I made a trip to the hardware store and bought three sizes of square bits, which cost about $1 a piece. Corwin used the smallest to get them out, but the middle was really the correct size. It was really hard to see in there, let alone get a screwdriver in there, so I don't really blame him, and besides, it worked!

Then we set about making the first drawer. The opening was now 24" wide and 24" deep. We purchased 22" drawer slides, unfortunately they didn't carry 23" ones. So, I measured the drawers wide enough for the opening minus the slides, and 22" deep, the same length as the slides. Corwin cut the pieces on the table saw. We used simple butt joints with a groove for the bottom to sit in. It all fit together perfectly.

We glued and screwed the drawer together. Then I realized a problem. In measuring, I didn't account for the drawer sliders sitting in their plastic mounting bracket. I had to subtract more from the sides of the drawer. So, before the glue dried, we knocked off the back. I measured and drew some lines. Corwin cut some more off the sides and bottom. We put it back together, glued and screwed. Then put it in for another trial fit. We had forgotten something else. we didn't leave room for the divider to be put back in. Well, it was bedtime, so we put it all away for another day.

Sunday was church. We didn't work on the project that day. There were several beautiful Christmas songs performed by the talented people in our ward. There was a lovely violin, flute, piano trio played by some of the young adults. A brother in the ward sang a touching rendition of O Holy Night. And we had one speaker talk about Christmas and giving.

Monday morning we allowed our children to open their gifts from my parents and siblings. We planned on traveling to Corwin's parents' home that day, so we didn't want them to have to wait until after Christmas to open them. My mother crocheted lace to the tops of several pairs of socks for each of my girls. She also made a wall hanging with hooks to hold necklaces. Later that day, we drove the two hours to Corwin's parents' home. Even though it had snowed earlier that day, by noon the roads were clear and dry. We met Corwin's youngest sister's family there as well. We stayed the night and combined efforts to fill stockings. Christmas morning, we allowed the children to open their gifts that were there, decreasing the commotion that would come later. Corwin's other sister and her family came a few hours later. The family was complete with 2 grandparents, 6 parents, and 8 children. The children had fun together, played together, and on occasion argued with each other. We opened the gifts then ate a large luncheon. We had a good time together. We drove home later that night where we gave our children their gifts from us, roller skates for the older two and a ride on toy for Emily. I think Emily was a little disappointed that she didn't get skates as well, for she tried the others' on and actually did quite well walking across the living room floor in them.

Unfortunately, the girls haven't been able to try the skates outdoors yet. It's been snowing off and on here, so the roads have either been snow coated or really wet.

Back to the project. We continued working on it today. I talked Corwin into ripping the dividers from 3/4" down to 1/4", so they wouldn't be so bulky. We knocked the back off the drawer again and cut it down another 1/4". It's perfect now. Oh, and Corwin sanded the sides so they wouldn't fit so tight either. Now, it's perfect.

We went back to the store and got the rest of the sliders, and more wood. Measured and cut, I messed up the measuring on one board, Corwin messed up the cutting on another. I made another trip for more wood. We got it all cut, then I found my calculations were wrong, and the bottoms are actually 1" too short. So, we're saving the trip to the hardware store for tomorrow.

We actually finished the upper cabinets today. Corwin reinforced the top of the cabinet, then removed the front door divider, which he ripped to 1/4" like the others.

I measured, and he cut a shelf for the right side of the cabinet. I measured and marked where the shelf brackets should go. He drilled the holes, installed the brackets, and set the shelf in place. I measured, glued, clamped, and screwed the divider in place on one of the doors. That was it. It's done now. I did the same for the other two doors and dividers on the lower cabinet as well.

Here's a picture of a door glued and clamped:

after which, I put a few screws in:

And the bottom doors done:

21 December 2007

Day 3 of New Schedule

It's the third day of implementing my new schedule for Tiffany. She's not fussing near as much about doing her work. There are occasional fits now and then, but they don't last near as long. And she's getting through the required subjects. The fun ones are starting to lag a little, but I don't think it will be a problem.

Winter break has begun, so Tiffany will get a rest. I think I'll let her do some of the fun subjects during the break, if she wants to. Corwin is home all week as well. We're hoping to get some home projects done. We'll be deep cleaning the kitchen, and hopefully get to all the things we've been putting off.

While I was helping Tiffany this morning with Language Skills, Katie decided to make a "Valentine". She got the white glue, and proceeded to glue whatever she could find to a piece of paper. Her collage included crayons, pencils, a pencil sharpener, play money, and a few other odds and ends that I removed. Mostly, I left it intact. Though I was shocked and horrified at first, I am glad that she has some creativity (and the glue didn't go anywhere except the paper!).

19 December 2007

Prewriting Tips

I talked to Tiffany's teacher (D.W.) about her trouble with writing. Namely that she balks anytime I mention writing something. D.W. suggested we spend more time with the prewriting process, so Tiffany can be more secure, knowing she has ideas to write. So, here are the suggestions she gave:

1. Text to Self- fold a piece of paper down the middle. On one side write something about the character of the book you are reading, on the other side, draw from experiences in your life that are similar to the character. The purpose of this exercise is to help the student relate to the character better.
2. Text to World- the same thing as above, only use experiences you know about other people in the world.
3. Text to Text- again, the same as above only relating to characters in other stories.
4. Senses- close your eyes and describe what you smell, hear, feel or imagine to be in a setting in a story and describe what it would be like to be there.
5. Face senses- Draw a face on a piece of paper. Think of an event or setting from the book. Label the eyes with what a character would see, the hears with sounds, the mouth with tastes, the forehead with thoughts, etc.
6. Hand- trace your hand. For each of the fingers answer a w question. Who, What, When, Where, Why.

I think Tiffany expects things to come naturally without effort, and she is frustrated when they don't. These ideas could help her to take the time to think about what she wants to write. I see a lot of value here. Writing takes effort, and it will take a while before things start to come naturally, and even then, writing will take some thought-- and editing, and rewriting.

A New Schedule

Yesterday was a horrible school day. Tiffany didn't want to do anything, she whined a lot, and the only thing she got done was to type her composition. I came to the conclusion that part of the problem is that I really need to have a set in stone schedule. It's been more of a hodge podge of how we've been getting through the subjects. I have been giving her a lot of choice in the matter. I made a schedule that she could move the subjects around on, but she hasn't been sticking to it. She wants to do all the fun subjects- art, science, and history, and leave all the necessary subjects like language arts and math until the end of the day where there isn't any time to finish them.

Today I made a real honest to goodness, set in stone schedule. I only put the subjects she has to do everyday on it, leaving lots of room for her to fill in the fun subjects. She did much better today. I did have to run a few errands, though, so she had to do literature after dinner. I feel better that she got through the subjects that she always tries to put off. I'm going to continue with this schedule before tweaking it in any way. Also, I added a morning routine before she has to dive into the books. We now sing two songs (so each girl can pick one) and recite a scripture or Article of Faith. We recited the first Article of Faith this morning, and the second after lunch, because Tiffany liked the morning routine so much. :) So far, my plan is to go through the first four that Tiffany has memorized as a refresher, then spend more time on the others to help her memorize them as well.

Ice Skating

As an attempt to get the children out and about more, we signed them up for ice skating lessons. The older two, not little Emily. She'll just have to hang out with mom while the others have fun. Lessons don't really cost a whole lot more than admission and skate rental, and they get to skate free in the public session the day of their lesson. The lessons start in January. They are excited, and so am I. I'm glad that even though they are at different age levels the lessons are back to back, so I only have to make one trip to the skating rink.

18 December 2007

Tiffany Gave a Talk

Tiffany was assigned to give a two minute talk in Primary last Sunday. Primary is the part of church where the children gather together and are taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ on their level. They sing songs, a child is assigned to give a prayer, another leads in reciting a scripture that changes monthly, and one is assigned to give a talk. They may also play a game centered on a gospel topic. I guided Tiffany in preparing the talk herself. I showed her how to find scriptures to support what she wanted to say, but what she used or didn't use was all her own idea.

A talk is really just a short speech or lecture on a gospel topic. Children are given the opportunity so that they can build skills of gospel study and public speaking. As they get older more is expected of them. After their twelfth birthday, they prepare talks a little longer (5 minutes) to give in front of the whole congregation in Sacrament Meeting. Then, finally, in adulthood, they may be expected to give a much longer talk (15-20 minutes) in Sacrament Meeting.

With that background, I won't delay any farther the text of her talk:

In the Friend, the First Presidency message says ”The message of the birth of Jesus Christ gives us the knowledge of what we must do to return to live with our Father in Heaven. As we keep the commandments and become more like our Savior, we will find peace in our hearts and joy in our lives.”

Jesus taught us that we need to be baptized. He asked John the Baptist to baptize him, but he said “I can't do it because you are better than me.” But Jesus said, “Heavenly Father gave you the power to baptize and I need to be baptized to show other people that they need to be baptized” So, John baptized Jesus. And he told us to be baptized so we can be a member of his church.

Jesus taught us to be nice to other people. He fed thousands of his followers. Matthew 15:32-38 tells us this story: “Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude? And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full. And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.” We need to be kind to each other like Jesus was.

Jesus taught us to love each other. He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40)

Jesus taught us how to pray. He gave an example prayer. It is found in Matthew 6:9-13. “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”

Jesus once lived on Earth, and I have faith that he will come again.

Kids Spell

Skipping a grade level in language arts is great. Tiffany's reading at her own level now. She's learning the basics of sentence structure and paragraphs.

But there is a drawback. She hasn't done a lot of writing at this point, and she has trouble spelling even the most simple words. 3rd grade language arts has a spelling component, but the words there are way out of her league. I tried guiding her through the first couple of weeks. It was apparent that even if she did the assignments and tried really hard, she just wasn't learning to spell.

So, talking to her teacher (each child is assigned a real teacher in IDVA), we decided to work on more simple spelling words, such as the Dolch 220 sight words. There are plenty of websites that will create wordsearch or crossword puzzles from your own word lists, but so far kids spell is the only one I could find where you could play online games with your own spelling words. Now, some of the games, for some reason won't work with my keyboard, but the ones we can use the mouse for work fine. So, Tiff is finally spelling some new words. I think the real challenge is just getting her to write, then a lot of the spelling will come naturally.

17 December 2007

Studying the Digestive System

Tiffany did a unit in science about the digestive system. It was fun. She and Katie took some crackers, a banana, and a little water and mashed them inside a plastic baggie to simulate the stomach grinding up food. It totally looked like vomit when they were done.

Part of the unit said to make a model of the digestive system by connecting panty hose to a balloon, to something else, etc. It was really a lot of work that I'd have to do for this model, and I didn't see a huge payoff for it. Instead, I turned to youtube. I found a perfect video with a catchy tune. Needless to say, the kids loved it! They asked me to play it over and over. They asked for it again days later. I finally had to bookmark it, so I didn't have to search for it anymore. Tiffany has now memorized most of it.

Here's the video. Beware, it can be addictive for small children.

Why do I school at home?

I didn't have very good experiences with the learning environment of a traditional school. There were times when I got all my work done in 5 minutes, then sat and stared at the wall while my fellow students struggled. Of course that wasn't for all the subjects, but eventually in the subjects I caught on well with, I ended up average by 8th grade. I also know kids who struggled but were pushed ahead anyway.

I know schooling at home doesn't meet all the needs of a child. A child needs to grow socially as well as academically. But I also know that the traditional methods are severely lacking in academics. I don't think the social environment there is ideal, either. Perhaps it is better than being at home around the same people all day. I'm still trying to work through that. I'm trying to take many opportunities to get my children out and about during the day to partially make up for that lack.

Tiffany is seven. She attended traditional school for kindergarten and part of first grade. She was reading before entering kindergarten, and I had her doing basic addition as well. Needless to say, she was way beyond the academic offerings of the school for her grade level.

I took Tiffany out of school during first grade, and taught her at home the rest of the school year. I had heard about IDVA, but by that time, enrollment had closed. I picked up some textbooks from local thrift stores. She had formal lessons in spelling and math, learning basic multiplication and division. I took her to the library often, and she read whatever she could get her hands on. Our local school district has a basic list of what children should be learning at school. I used that list to keep her up on health and other lessons. I kept her partially enrolled at the school for PE and music classes.

This year is Tiffany's first year enrolled in IDVA. Even though she is in second grade, she is taking third grade courses in language arts and math. I love that she can always be challenged. If she knows a concept, she can test out of the lessons or units. If she's struggling with something, we can spend more time on it. The hardest part is actually putting in more than five hours a day. Overall it is a very positive experience.

We don't plan on doing this through high school. Corwin and I both feel that the social hierarchy of school can teach a lot about the social aspects of adult life. Also, there are many more opportunities that our kids can gain in high school that we cannot provide at home. The teachers are specialized in their fields and the children can be in classes that they can really learn and grow in that are much more tailored to the child than in grade school. I realize that this is where many parents fear the social aspect of school, but I believe if a child has a good foundation, we won't need to fear so much for her.

In the Beginning

Why is it when I finally get around to creating a blog, my mind goes blank?

I'll start out with why I wanted to do this in the first place. I'm schooling my oldest at home through the Idaho Virtual Academy, which uses the K12 curriculum. I thought it might be fun to document our journey and some of the different methods and motivations we're using.

That's really the main reason, but it won't be the only thing I'll do. This could also be a way to keep my long distance family members updated a bit on what my family and I are up to.

Really, I just thought it might be fun.