Saturday, March 30, 2013

Resurrection Celebration Preparation

While I might prefer to lie around, snacking on stolen leftover french toast...

...there are pressing things that require my attention.

Like green fingers.

Sweet cheeks that need kissing and snuggles to be gotten.

Evan told me no, he won't stay my funny little boy forever, even though I asked him really nicely.

I tried to bargain, telling him he could learn to go potty, but then stay just like this.

But he won't have it.

So I had better get busy. 

Besides, there's company coming for dinner tomorrow.

We wish you all a blessed Resurrection Celebration!   May the joy of our salvation be your greatest gift and treasure!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Newest Addition

Our little funny farm acquired a new member yesterday!

And there was much rejoicing.

The boys are thriiiiiiiiiilled!

But probably not more than their Daddy is.

This is a Really Big Deal.

Yes, after weeks, months, years of dreaming and scheming, we have a tractor!  It may be a little rough around the edges, but it runs great and the price was right.  I don't actually know anything about it, so you probably shouldn't ask me.  All I know is that it's A Tractor.  Oh, I guess I can say that it is a Minneapolis Moline, which is very exciting because my Dad has one that was historic to his family's farm.

Every farm needs a tractor, even if it's only a one-acre farm!  This will greatly accelerate and facilitate a number of projects that have been on hold for lack of shear power.  It makes me smile to watch Nathan using it because it really only barely fits in our small spaces, but it gets the jobs done!

There is also a certain little boy who is more than excited to help get the jobs done!  Evan cannot help but be Daddy's right-hand man on the tractor.  Nathan gets an extra upper-body workout lifting Evan up and down repeatedly while he works.  Evan is very good about standing in a safe spot when Daddy tells him to, and he's always ready to help drive, or pick up rocks and throw them in the bucket.

I'm not sad about this development, since Andrew recently discovered how to push chairs and climb up to the counter when I'm working in the kitchen.  That has always been Evan's place, and with both of them, I pretty much can't do anything.  So maybe if we divide our child labor force, we just might survive these toddler years.  Andrew is quickly becoming more interested in Man Work, though, and as I type this, they are all out getting firewood.

So, spring is springing, I think, and with that comes lots of time outside working, which is just what we've been waiting for.  We'll say nothing, for now, of the constant on-off-on-off of boots/coats/hats and the M U D, but then, that's why this farmhouse comes equipped with a mudroom.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Some Days, Homeschooling Is Awesome

My biggest homeschooling hurdle right now is getting school done amidst the chaos, noise and distraction of toddlers.

Even when those little people are outrageously adorable, they still bring a lot of chaos that has a way of being unendingly disruptive of any sort of school schedule.

In spite of that, I have noticed that often "school" has a way of happening anyway.  I'm so thankful.

For Jonah, for right now, we have chosen a fairly loose, "free-range" form of school.  We have structure, we have a daily, family routine that includes "school time", we have a lot of learning.  But it doesn't always look like school in the traditional sense (actually, um, rarely to never).  Academic requirements are almost non-existent, but learning is an all-day pursuit.  I'm not saying that this is the best way to educate, or that every kid would do well with this.  I'm just saying that this is what we've chosen for now, for our life, for our kids, for what we know of them.  

I love that our school day can begin with a measuring lesson while learning to make oatmeal (I'm gearing up to have Jonah able to prepare breakfast for himself and his brothers when Mommy gets a little busier pretty soon with a new baby) and then go on to "yes, you do have to go out and feed the chickens again today because the chickens have to be fed every day", followed by some time outside learning to provide for the family by helping Daddy stack firewood (not to mention the hands-on physics and good exercise), then back in for a Bible story and a history story about Queen Elizabeth I, after which Jonah will decide to spend an hour alternately reading Peanuts and drawing a giant panoramic World War II scene.

He could have spend all that time sitting at a desk trying to pay attention and waiting in line for lunch.

I love seeing that natural spark --the joy of learning-- that seems to come standard-issue in kids.  I am terrified of blowing out that little flame.  My main goal as an educator right now is to encourage that love of learning and not to squelch it.  The little guys certainly have it, and so far it's still going strong in Jonah.  So far, so good.   I really like to keep the "Seven Keys of Great Teaching" in mind as I think about ways to make learning a joyful experience instead of drudgery.

I have a huge advantage with Jonah in that he is a precocious reader.  That just makes my job so much easier.  He can teach himself so much.  We make lots of trips to the library for books (okay, not actually enough trips, considering the books we took back yesterday were due three weeks ago.  Thank the Lord for  a forgiving, small-town public library!), but I am discovering that it's really important to have a good home library as well.  Every single day, Jonah browses and selects books in a seemingly random fashion, but he's often circling around whatever his current interest is.  Lately, believe it or not, it's been math.

I like to have a variety of math things available, and he does a little here and there, with or without my encouragement, depending on the day.  We use Math-U-See, Life of Fred, Mathtacular, Sudoku, various math games, and his latest favorite is watching Vi-Hart videos on Khan Academy.  The videos led to an interest in Pythagoras, about whom he has drawn pages and pages of comics. No, of course he doesn't understand the Pythagorean theorem --not even remotely!-- but so what?  He's interested, and he'll circle back to it and get more later.

So a few days ago, he found something in an kid's encyclopedia-type book about the abacus.  The entry included instructions on making and using your own abacus.  Ever since, he's been begging for the materials to make one, and today we finally capitulated and got the stuff together for him.  Of course he needed help and instruction, so instead of working on a pile of sewing I need to do, I spent naptime learning about using an abacus.  It's always been a complete mystery to me, but then, I never felt the need to find out about it, either.  So we learned together and it was a very enlightening experience, from both a child-psychology aspect as well as a math aspect.

Once we figured out how to use the puzzling thing (somewhat), Jonah decided he needed to use it to do his Math-U-See page instead of using the set of math blocks that he would normally use.  I was quite dubious of this idea, but went along with it to see how it would go.

And it was HUGELY challenging for both of us.  The abacus requires a very different way of thinking about the numbers and manipulation of them.  At first, there are actually more steps to solving a math problem, but I can see how the brain could learn to make the logical leaps for those steps with enough practice.  It was very challenging for me to figure out how to solve a math problem, and then teach Jonah the steps involved.

But Jonah ate it up, and a few hours after finishing the Math-U-See page, he brought me a sheet of paper and asked me to write out more problems for him to solve.  So I cooked supper while coaching abacus problems and trying not to trip on toddlers and their detritus.

So did we do any history or geography today?  Um... no.  Come to think of it, we didn't even read a Bible story or work on our Easter hymn that the Sunday school kids are learning for church, and usually those things are what I prioritize.  Also, I don't think we've done any math for several days.

But today, we did a lot of math.

Some days are like that.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Late Winter Days...

 ...are good for lots of reading...

...always better with a buddy.

And these late winter days are good for gathering maple sap...

...which is good for teaching boys to work.

I heard recently that some people hang milk jugs on the trees to collect the sap.  I thought that seems a little silly since you'd have to empty them multiple times per day when the sap is running well.  Nathan replied that he has heard several adults complain about that job when they were children... emptying the jugs over and over each day.  Our boys should be thankful we have buckets!

So far the temperatures haven't been good for making the sap run well, but we're still praying it'll get better.  

And Strawberry picked a good late winter day to have a baby!

Actually, it was the middle of the night.  A short night-- the night that we changed the clocks for daylight savings.  And her one big buck kid wasn't quite in a good position to be born and needed a little help getting out, but we managed, and he made it just fine.

Poor cute, little, stubby-eared guy.

We were all very disappointed, actually, that he's not a girl.  We wanted a doe kid to keep, but he's the only kid we get this year, so I guess he won't be staying long.

Aaaaand this is Strawberry's opinion of my paparazzi efforts.

Or, maybe she just wants this late winter to turn into spring, too.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Creative Impulses, Plus a Belly Shot

It's Still Winter (aside: that's an official season in Michigan, hence the capitalization.  All the seasons are Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Road Construction) and we're fighting The Crazy, as I've said before.  I'm using whatever energy I can find to accomplish my small spring cleaning projects, but I get kinda bored with that, so I've added in some creative projects as well.

Today I started seeds for the garden (tomatoes, peppers, onions, cabbages, broccoli, leeks, and nicotiana, so far) because it is that time.   How I'm going to keep them alive and safe from toddlers for 2-3 months, I have no idea, nevermind how I'm actually going to get them in the garden when I'll be giving birth any day. And I tackled a dinky creative project and sewed up a small stack of cloth napkins from remnant fabric because my boys' paper napkin consumption has been appalling.  If one actually needs a napkin, then they all need three.  And since I hate to buy things to throw them away, we're going cloth in that department, too.

But I also have Big Plans.  Curtains, baby books for Evan and Andrew, a springish wreath, scarves and swaddle blankets (post about that upcoming).  I'm making stuff.

That includes a new person.  A new little person who will be joining us soonish.

So for a special treat for you, my dear reader, I present a 30-week belly shot!  Aren't you lucky!  Self-photography is not my strong point, which explains why I heavily doctored this photo.  I took the photo originally to show a friend a maternity top that I altered with elastic ruching because I didn't like being made me look like I was wearing a dumpy bag.  Aaaand I guess you can't really see the alterations in the photo, what with the heavy doctoring, but that's okay because I'm not showing you that, I'm showing you the basketball growing under my previously-dumpy-bag shirt.


That is all.