Friday, April 26, 2013

A Homeschool Day

I thought it was about time that I chronicled another homeschool day. I want to occasionally describe what a typical homeschool day looks like for us because, before homeschooling ourselves, it was something that I was curious about. What does a homeschool day look like? It can vary enormously from family to family and from day to day.

Today was an absolutely perfect spring day. There are only so many perfect days like today, so we made sure to take advantage of it while also getting a fair amount of specifically school time in. Noah screamed for most of the night last night, so I rolled out of bed rather unwillingly around 8AM. In a rare display of homogeneity, the kids all wanted the same breakfast, so four bowls of oatmeal later, we were already on our way to the backyard. Shoes and pants were, unfortunately, an after-thought.

Around 9:45 I decreed that we really must get some formal schooling done, and the kids tromped in and gathered at the table. For the next 45 minutes, Alexander worked on a writing prompt, Jack worked in his phonics workbook, and Kai worked on his preschool skills workbook. Alexander abhors the task of physically writing and  requested that I take dictation or allow him to type. However, the purpose of today's exercise was penmanship over creative writing, composition, or grammar, so I encouraged him to forge on. He worked slowly, but didn't really complain too much. To his credit, his penmanship has improved immensely since the beginning of this school year. We plan to tackle cursive as soon as his workbook arrives and, since it is something novel, he is excited. We'll see how long that lasts!

Jack isn't much for physically writing, either, but I think for him it is more due to his perfectionism. Even if I tell him that a letter is done well enough, if he isn't satisfied he will insist on erasing it and trying again. Because of that, it took him the full 45 minutes to write out 8 words. But, he did have to first figure out what word to write and, ultimately, his work was very well done.

I want to be clear that I don't force Kai to do schoolwork. I don't even say, "Kai, would you like to do some schoolwork?" He sees his brothers doing work and asks when it will be his turn, or where his work is, or whether he can do it, too. So I find something for him to do because if I don't, he will beg me until I do. Today he was working in a general preschool skills workbook. He asked me to read him the directions on several pages, most of which involved coloring things certain colors and then tracing the color word. Next came a page where he was to circle the letter that each of several pictures began with. I read him the directions and then focused on Jack for a while. A few minutes later, Kai exclaimed that he was done and, sure enough, he had gotten all of them correct except one, where he chose a lowercase /b/ instead of a lowercase /d/. Hardly a mistake to jump on for someone who just turned three!

After 45 minutes of sitting and writing my children were, of course, starving. I made some biscuits which we took outside so that we could enjoy the weather and a short break. At 11:00, after half an hour, we broke out the books. I gated off the deck and brought out a few toys for Noah so that we could stay outside. Alexander started a Flat Stanley adventure based in China, since he is learning about Asia right now. Over the next hour, he read the entire book. There are still a few days where he wants to know what the minimum chapter requirement is for reading time, but often he prefers to just read an entire book in one sitting. I don't blame him; I have a hard time putting books down myself! This was double-duty reading and social studies for him.

Jack and Kai were also reading during this time. They are both working their way through Set One of the BOB Books (easy readers). Another quick brag on Kai: He can read, not just recite, at least the first four books of the series. These include such simple sentences as "Mat sat on Sam." and "Dot has a cat." Part of his reading precociousness is that he just happens to pick it up quickly. Part of it is the exposure, of being raised in a homeschool household. I've always read to my children frequently and taught them letter sounds and numbers and all that. But Kai is the first one to be exposed, at his age, to actual and specific reading lessons. He crashes Jack's reading lessons 99% of the time. Jack's no slack, either. He will enter kindergarten (at home) already reading at a basic level. I'm so proud of all my readers!

After an hour of reading, we headed back inside where Jack and Kai had lunch while Alexander used online games to practice multiplication and division for about 45 minutes. By that time it was about 12:45 and we all had lunch, played with Legos, and rode bikes and scooters for a little while.

At 1:45, we left to visit a retirement home with a group of homeschoolers that we belong to. We go there once a month to do an activity with the residents. They love just being around the kids and I love seeing the kids bring people joy just by being there. Today the activity director had set up some carnival games for the kids to play with the help of the residents. Noah was taken all around the room by one of the employees to say hi (and, later, bye) to all the residents and I love that just seeing his cute little face made them happy. They all said how cute he is. Kai did great and was led around from station to station by a few of the residents. Jack is much more reserved and actually hid under a chair for a few minutes when accosted by friendly, but batty, Millie. Millie is wonderfully cheerful and loves to sing to the kids, but she's a little much for a shy kid like Jack. She'll sing a rousing little "Whoop dee doo!" song, and then babble on in Millie-ese for a while. It freaks the kids out a little bit, but I have to stifle a laugh. She seems to be enjoying herself, in any case!

After the retirement home visit, the three homeschool families all met up at a playground for more socialization, exercise, and outdoor time. We've met up with one of the families several times now, and the kids are definitely starting to consider the little girl their friend. As we were leaving, Alexander and Jack both picked bouquets of dandelions for her. Alexander also said to me, "A---- is my new Anna! I've been looking for a new Anna and A---- fits the part perfectly!" Anna was his beloved neighbor and friend back in Frederick. I am so glad to see the kids starting to feel really connected to at least one kid here! There have been a few that we've played with, but no one that they really talked much about after the fact. When we got home, Kai insisted on drawing a picture of A---- on his Magnadoodle.

We finally dragged ourselves away from our friends, the beautiful weather, and the playground around 5PM. Alexander made homemade chicken strips, boxed Mac-N-Cheese, and steamed veggies for dinner. (He cooks every Friday.) I put Noah to bed. When Justin got home, I spaced out a little and said to him, "We should go to Dairy Queen. Oh, wait, we can't. Noah's asleep." Justin suggested that I could take the kids to Dairy Queen while he cleaned up the house. I suggested that, perhaps, I was living in a fantasy land. I go eat ice cream and you clean? Deal. Does that make me a bad wife? I did bring him home a Blizzard if that counts for anything!

A pretty successful day of homeschooling in my book. Most days do go pretty well. Some days are lazier, some are jam-packed with academics. Rare is the day that I truly question my decision.

Until next time, friends. ;)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, Here's Some Shots

On Monday I took Kai and Noah to the pediatrician for their birthday well visits. Happy Birthday, here's some shots.

Kai actually didn't have to get any shots for his three-year visit. He insisted that he did NOT want a check-up. However, he said it would be fine if the nurse and doctor asked him questions, weighed and measured him, and looked at his body. But absolutely no check-up allowed. Kai can do everything that a three-year-old "should" do. He is now 38.75 inches tall (75th percentile, down from 88th at age two, so he's probably due for a growth spurt). He weighs 34.6 pounds (also in the 75th percentile, up from the 59th at age two, so again, I think this means he's due to stretch out soon).

Noah, on the other hand, did need three immunizations, but did well for the shots. Unfortunately, he's been quite the little bugger since Monday and I'm not entirely sure if it's due to the immunizations, teething, or both. He's been pretty impossible, though. Poor kid is miserable, and I feel bad for him. But I feel pretty bad for me, too!

Noah is healthy and can do all of the things expected of a one-year-old. He seems to be following his own idea of a growth chart, though, which goes down and down! He is gaining weight at each interval, so the doctor isn't overly concerned, but Noah is definitely getting thinner and thinner. Until four months old, his weight was always above the 95th percentile. At 6 months, it dropped to the 75th percentile. At 9 months, it dropped to the 50th percentile. And now, at 12 months, he's dropped down to the 35th percentile. Meanwhile, his height has only dropped from the 95th percentile to the 90th. His measurements now are 31 inches tall and 22 pounds.

It's possible that he's just determined to be a slim little guy. Maybe he has his eye on the skinny jeans. But we do just want to make sure that he is, indeed, getting enough calories and nutrition. The doctor suggested that we use Pediasure in Noah's sippy cup in order to provide some extra calories and also to entice him to actually drink from the sippy cup, assuming he would like the flavored Pediasure. We could then begin to slowly dilute the Pediasure with whole milk until he was drinking the whole milk exclusively. Unfortunately, this plan hasn't worked so far. He is still refusing to drink anything from the sippy cup. He is also not eating much this week aside from one surprisingly large dinner. He is nursing more again and I'm not sure if it's because of his teeth, for comfort, or what. I certainly don't mind nursing my babies past age one. All of them have done it. But his doctor does believe that he needs to be getting most of his nutrition from food at this point, and that breast milk is just an added bonus.

Noah is a sweet, happy little guy much of the time. But when he is miserable, like lately, I have a hard time figuring out what the problem is. He refuses to take naps and doesn't want food, drink, or comfort. He cries to be picked up and then tries to wriggle from my arms. He begs for food, but then spits it out. He reaches to accept an offered sippy cup, but then lets the contents dribble out of his mouth. He does nothing but fuss, but refuses to sleep when put down for a nap. However, I am grateful for a healthy, developmentally perfect little boy. I just hope he cheers up soon! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Happy Third Birthday, Kai!

Our other April Baby has had a birthday! Kai is three, and oh so three.

We decided that, this year, it didn't make a lot of sense to have a big party for Kai and/or Noah, but we had a really fun celebration as a family on Sunday for both of them.

We started with Kai's choice of breakfast: chocolate chip muffins. He then went grocery shopping with me (his choice; he loves it). The highlight, of course, was picking up his bakery-made Yo Gabba Gabba cake.

After lunch, we took the kids to the King of Prussia Mall, which is far too large. After walking approximately seven miles, we had found our way to the Build-A-Bear store, where each of the three older boys were allowed to pick out a new outfit and accessory for their stuffed friends that they had created at Alexander's 8th birthday party. We had "rewards" certificates burning holes in my pockets from Alexander's party, so this leg of our celebration cost us next to nothing. Alexander's bunny is now Darth Bunny. Jack's bear is Yoda Bear. Kai's penguin is Penguin Woody. We also got a new puppy friend stuffed for Noah since it was also his birthday celebration and he hadn't gotten one at Alexander's party.

Next, we headed to the Lego store where Kai chose his main gift, some sort of Batman/Joker funhouse. The older boys had earned some money doing yard work and were able to pick out small sets for themselves as well. (They're all so spoiled rotten!)

After coming home and playing with the new stuff for a while, we headed out for Kai's choice of dinner: KFC. Kai is a lovely, charming, smart little boy... who is definitely very, very three. I had to put him in time out twice during his own birthday dinner! The first time, trying to be considerate of the other diners, I whisked him outside for his time out, where he screamed for two minutes. Only when we were coming back inside did I notice that I had plopped him down about ten feet behind the drive thru, where people were actively trying to order food. I can't imagine that his screaming was helpful. Whoops! So, the second time, I opted to take him out the other door. Whoever named the "Terrible Twos" was off by a year. Am I right or am I right?

Still, Kai truly is a gem. He has THE most gorgeous eyes. He is smart little cookie and knows all his letters both uppercase, lowercase, and their sounds. He can recognize about 10 words and has actually sounded out a few words already. I do not believe in forcing academics on little kids, but he simply drinks it in and asks for it. He loves playing hangman, writing or typing all the words he knows how to spell, and asks almost every day to "do school."

I can't remember when it started, but Kai has insisted, for months on end (possibly up to a full year), that he is a kitty cat. If someone says something like, "Aren't you a cute boy?" He will say, "No, I am a kitty cat." He even talks about himself in the third person as a cat. Like, if I were to say, "Who wants cake?" he would say, "Cat does!" Once, for an entire day, he claimed to be a monkey, and I thought we had turned a corner. But, the next day, he was back to cat. Silly boy.

Kai likes Yo Gabba, Super Why, riding his scooter, playing Legos, doing sidewalk chalk, doing puzzles, and playing games. His favorite foods are bagels, macaroni and cheese, cereal, and crackers. And, obviously, pretty much any junk food allowed.

Happy Birthday, my Kitty Cat. Love you!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

My Baby is One!

A couple of days ago, my littlest monkey turned one.
I'm very ready to not have an infant, to never again have an infant. I don't long for the nights of 10 awakenings. I don't long for the 45 minute nursing sessions with only 15 minutes in between. I don't miss the projectile poop, or the need to constantly wear a baby. I don't miss getting stuck in my chair for hours on end because the only way my baby would sleep was in my arms. I don't miss the screaming that would occur during every car trip. I don't miss having to tell my older kids to go grab another Smuckers Uncrustable and juice box because I can't get up to get them something real to eat. I don't actually enjoy letting my bathrooms get as dirty as they do when I have a newborn. Showering is something I would enjoy doing more often than three times a week. I could go my whole life without having another baby spit up in my hair, poop on my jeans, or pee on my shirt. (To be fair, all of those last three things were still happening as of this week.) But. But. BUT....

Those teeny, tiny baby toes! The beautiful blue-gray eyes! The milk-comas! The warm, safe feeling of a baby's slowed breathing as he sleeps on my chest! The fuzzy, perfect little noggins! The first smiles, the first laughs, the first steps. The adorable, diapered tushies and perfect little belly buttons! The coos, the snuffles, the bare, pink gums. I don't want another baby, but I think sometimes it would be nice to be able to fall into a remembered moment and enjoy it again and again. When I look at old pictures of my kids, I often want to reach into the picture and give that Alexander, that Jack, that Kai, that Noah just one more hug, one more snuggle.

So, yes, I am more than happy that my baby is now, officially, a toddler. I'm so excited for the adventures that all of us will have together. But there's still a slice of bittersweet pie on this birthday. Just a sliver.

Noah is a sweet, shameless flirt. He often tries to get the attention of nearby strangers with little grunts and noises, like he's saying, "Hey! Look at me! I'm cute!" He makes friends wherever we go. Sometimes I feel a little like the third wheel, stuck in between the flirting!

He's walking beautifully, babbles adorably, and gives tender little hugs. He's finally started eating more foods and only nurses about three times per day. He still hasn't quite figured out the sippy cups. He's ingested a few ounces of water a few times, but most of the time, whether it contains water or cow's milk (which I introduced a couple of weeks early), he tends to suck the liquid into his mouth and then let it dribble out. He's sleeping much better, though, and sleeps through the night probably about half the time now. He's entering one of my favorite stages and I am so excited. Happy First Birthday, Noah Everett!