Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Wow, is it here already?!  Have I got alot to do! 

Everyone is looking forward to a visit from Grandparents for Thanksgiving.  We  really appreciate the fact that they're the ones who are willing to travel "over the river and through the woods"!  Social Butterfly and I have been busy looking in cookbooks and making out our menu.  Looking in cookbooks is kind of silly though.  I know where the recipes are; in my head, or on the back of that old envelope in the file box, or on the napkin placed in  between the pages of my favorite cookbook.  Social Butterfly will say something like "Here's a great recipe for sweet potatoes, Mom!" and my response is "No, we'll be using Mom Mom's recipe".  Or, "Can we try this recipe for cranberry sauce mom?"  "No, we'll be using Grandma's recipe for that." 
I know we could try some new things, but to me Thanksgiving is all about tradition.  I guess that's why I still roast the turkey instead of frying it, and why I know my Aunt Virginia's recipe for stuffing by heart.  I might vary the vegetables, but the basics are still the same. 
This year, I'm looking forward to cooking Thanksgiving dinner because I will have two helpers!  Night Owl and Social Butterfly have become quite the chefs and I have nothing but confidence in their ability to help with the traditional Thanksgiving fare we will be serving.  So, what's on the menu?

~Turkey!  (Really?)

~ Stuffing (Aunt Virginia's wonderful recipe, minus the oysters.  Sorry, mom, I just can't do it.)

~ Mashed potatoes (This is my recipe, made with cream cheese, because, well, everything is better with cream cheese, right?)

~ Sweet potatoe casserole (This is my mother-in-law's deliciously fattening recipe!)

~ Cranberry salad (This one is mom's recipe.  Social Butterfly will be making it this year.)

~ Yeast rolls (This is another one of Mom Mom's recipes.  Night Owl, the resident bread baker and meat roaster, will be making the rolls.)

~Broccoli Salad (This is requested by my husband this year.  I've made it before but I will have to find a recipe.  Social Butterfly would like to make this as well so she's our salad chef this year.)

~ Vegetable.  (It's a toss up between corn and greenbeans.  I have 2 votes for each and Beany likes both.  Whatever we decide I'll probably avoid the mushroom soup though!  We have to have something that is relatively healthy!)

~ Pie!  (Grandma's bringing the pies and everyone is waiting in anticipation!)

~ Wine and sparkling grape juice. (The kids love sparkling grape juice for holiday feasts.  I serve it in pretty  glasses and they feel grown up.  Since we usually don't drink anything but water, the sparkling grape juice is one of the high-lights!)

I think that just about covers it.  I'll start preparations a day or two before Thanksgiving.  Having 3 cooks will help, but it also makes the kitchen a bit "busy".  Dividing things over a couple of days should keep things from getting stressful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Few More Adjustments

I've had to make a few more changes to our routine.  For whatever reason, the schedule that worked so well last year just wasn't working this year.  One of the things that I am learning about homeschooling is that each year looks so different from the last.    I find this both frustrating, and invigorating.  On the frustrating side, just when I think I have something that works great and I plan to use it forever (like a math program, a methodology, or a schedule) something changes and I end up changing the whole thing.  This should be obvious to me since each of my children are so different.  They all have different talents, learning styles, favorite subjects, etc. 
On the other side, it's also invigorating each year to have to change things a bit.  This keeps things from getting stale and I think, for my personality, keeps me from getting burned out (I am one who loves change!).

The adjustments I made involve our morning routine.  Earlier in the year, I read
Jennifer's blog post about workbaskets.  Like Jennifer's other ideas, I thought this one was great.  But, I couldn't imagine my boys sitting very long since I was already struggling to keep them still for morning prayer.  I also thought I'd just stick with my original plan of morning prayer followed by  workboxes in the school room.  So, like many great ideas that I read I decided to put that idea on hold until maybe next year.
Six weeks into our school year I found myself talking to my consultant from
Mother of Divine Grace in frustration.  Things just didn't seem to be working  out and I didn't feel like we were far enough along in a few subjects.  As usual, she was very reassuring and helped me to see what we were doing right, and encouraged me to  try some things to help us get on track.

At about that time I had decided that the kids and I would do well to start the day with a rosary.  I knew this would be difficult for my younger boys, so I allowed them to color pictures, dealing with our faith, during this time.  It worked like a charm!  First, I had a picture of a rosary for them to color, and for each Hail Mary, they filled in a bead.  Even Social Butterfly, who is perfectly capable of saying a rosary without coloring, enjoyed doing it this way.  I also noted that despite the fact that my children were not being totally still they seemed very prayerful.  As a matter  of fact, they seemed more prayerful than they have ever been.  For Jetter, I think that is because he is a child that can actually concentrate better when he is moving.  He recites poetry better if he can spin on a stool or jump on the mini tramp.  He listens to read alouds better if he can build with Legos at the same time.  Why do I expect him to be attentive in prayer when I make him sit still?  Builder is a different child than Jetter, of course, but he is still a little boy and sitting still for an entire rosary just wasn't going to happen.  The coloring pages seem to work wonders. 

So, we were getting through prayer time beautifully, but I was still frustrated that the academics weren't being accomplished as I felt they should be, specifically history and science.  I recently read this post in which Mary Ellen, another fantastic homeschool mom, refers to Jennifer's morning basket post and workboxes which I also use.  This peaked my interest so I went back to the original post by Jennifer
and read this quote:

As my children grew and I added younger children to the mix of older children it became clear to me that expectations might be changing, but our philosophy hadn't changed just because a child reached a certain age. There was a need to anchor the day for all of us in our familiar, gentle way. I began to brainstorm a basket of inspiration that could be ageless in its offerings, that spanned abilities, that spoke to beauty and loveliness, and gave the day an inspiring start. My idea was to gather a collection of offerings that all the children would want to be a part of...a collection that could almost stand on its own for the day's work if needed.

Yes! This is what I needed.  And now, with our prayer time coloring working well, I knew how to keep my boys focused long enough to cover some of these subjects that were becoming hit or miss with them.  I also discovered a way to work in some of that art that I have trouble getting too!

Here's our newly adjusted morning routine:

We start our day with prayer, and we are currently saying a rosary or praying the Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.  Much of our "Morning Meeting" is very much like I describe here, except we are equipped with our folders, markers, and colored pencils.  The folders contain pictures of church symbols that the children may color while they are praying.  Since both the rosary and the Liturgy of the Hours Morning Prayer are long, the coloring helps them not to get antsy.  Social Butterfly is encouraged to read along in a second book for the Liturgy of the Hours.  As Daniel becomes more adept at reading, he will be encouraged to do so also.  I'm hoping that following along will also keep the "antsies" at bay. 

As usual, after prayer, we discuss the feast day.    This works beautifully with our prayer because in the Liturgy of the Hours, there is a prayer specifically for that saint.  After prayer and what I call the "Living The Liturgical Year" part of our Morning Meeting, we go over our Catechism lessons and then dive into one of those subjects that we are lagging in.

On Monday,  we do history.  We start though, with a reading about the particular saint that we are high-lighting for the week.  This actually ties into history since we often talk a bit about what life was like for that particular saint.  Then, we read from our history resource.  This is usually Jetter's history text, Our American Heritage which is very well written.  Sometimes we read an historical fiction book that goes with the time period we are studying.  If the kids get antsy, they can do one of two things during this time.  They can color from one of the many Dover coloring books we own, or they can do some drawing.  For her art lessons, Social Butterfly is using the Drawing Textbook which is very simply written but an excellent resource for learning how to draw.  Jetter enjoys using the Draw Write Now books.  Several of these coincide with the period in history that he is learning about so they work perfectly.  Social Butterfly is given the option here of going into the other room to read  her history.  She usually chooses to wait though, since this is a favorite time of the day.  After history, we finish up our "Morning Meeting" with a Religion lesson for each child, and then we take a break.  This is the time where I reboot the laundry, run the dishwasher, or do whatever needs to happen to bring some order to things.  The kids, who have been still for some time usually do a bit of running around, which they need!  Social Butterfly and Jetter sometimes practice piano at this time too.  After our break, we head down to the school room where we start in on our workboxes and individual time with me.

The other days are similar, but we cover different subjects.  On Tuesdays, we still read about the virtue we are studying, then we go on to Science.  Once again I read from Jetter's text.  It's a middle of the road reading leveled book so all 3 of the kids learn from it.  Social Butterfly also has her own Science to do.  Once again,I give her the option of leaving to work on that, but she usually likes to stay.  If she begins to struggle and is not able to get her work done, I will insist that she begin her own science work during this time.  One of the benefits of doing science upstairs is that we are right by the kitchen so occasional experiments are easy to perform. 

On Wednesday, we are still learning about the parts of the Mass as I described in my original morning post, but now we are adding Geography studies after that.  Social Butterfly is using The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide for geography and has many exercises in which she needs to label maps.  This is an activity she can do while she listens to me read from one of the new geography-related books we have this year.  Jetter colors from his "United States Coloring Book" (another fantastic Dover book). 

Thursdays are the days that we have added poetry recitations.  The kids are constantly working to memorize a poem, and this gives them an "official" time to recite it.  This is also the day that we do an art project.

(This is Social Buttefly working on the Native American head band project.  Do you see the chairs stacked behind her?  This is to keep Beany from climbing on the table!)

 Fridays we leave the house to go to piano lessons, so nothing new has been added.

So far,  our new morning routine is working well.  I am pleased that we are covering so much more in history, science and geography.  Social Butterfly is finding that the history and science, in particular, are review of what she is also learning.  She is able to add a deeper understanding to certain concepts because she has studied them more in depth.  I've always felt that having to teach a concept forces the child into a deeper understanding.  Social Butterfly loves to   teach us what she knows, and I know she is gaining knowledge in the process.

What I've learned:  
As I stated above, I have come to the understanding that each year in our homeschool journey is going to look different than the others.  What I have learned and need to remember though, is that the beginning of the year is often a time of adjustment.  I dive in, thinking the routines, curriculum, methodology etc. are going to work great, and then get discouraged when they don't work.  I need to be more flexible during the first month (or maybe even 2) of the school year, testing  how things will go, and being willing to make changes where needed.  As I continually remind myself, God has blessed me with this  homeschooling lifestyle, one that I just love, and He will provide the grace and wisdom necessary.