Sunday, May 31, 2009

Planning not to Cry

Today was the baccalaureate service at our church. The graduates represented many different high schools, but all attended our church's high school youth group. They were called up by name, given a gift and a hug from our high school pastor, and sat down again to applause from the congregation. The message was on leaving a legacy ~ focusing on those things which are most important. I was very moved as I watched the graduates down in the first several rows, some of their gowns still wrinkled from being newly taken out of their packages. It seems not so long ago that I graduated, and I remember the mixture of emotions I felt that day. Joy at being DONE (!), sorrow at leaving friends, a little fear of the unknown, thankfulness that this milestone had been reached, and overwhelmingly an excitement about the future and a confidence that God had a special plan for my life and I was about to embark on it.

This particular year, most of the graduates sitting up front are young people I do not know. The ones I do know, I do not know well. And yet, I cried. I cried with joy and hope for them. Cried for their parents who are experiencing bittersweet moments. Cried for their spiritual foundation to be strong. Cried over how fast time goes.

In 6 short years, we will be planning a graduation ceremony for our oldest child. I have been looking forward to it already for quite a while! To plan our own (homeschool) ceremony and include all the elements that we deem most significant seems to me a special treat.


When the time comes, it will be OUR daughter up there. OUR daughter finishing her homeschool journey with us. OUR daughter embarking. Is it as exciting to launch as it is to embark?

I have 6 years to steel myself not to dissolve into a puddle of tears and embarrass our daughter on her special day. Six years to enjoy the daily moments with her solidly in our nest. Six years to disciple her and prepare for the launching.

It seems so short.

I know that day will be here in the blink of an eye.

And when it comes I am planning not to cry.

(too much)

Friday, May 29, 2009

More Preschooling with Workboxes

One day this week our daughter had a bunch of fat paintbrushes in one of her envelopes. When she got to that envelope, it was time to paint with Little Man! Since we don't have a space to leave this easel up permanently, we get it out periodically and keep it up for several days, then put it away again. I wish it could live upstairs all the time, but we just don't have the room. It had been a while since we had the easel set up, and Little Man LOVED painting (easel from IKEA).

I have stored small portions of tempera paints in old plastic cake frosting containers for literally years. In 9+ years I have only had one container that got dried out (with sometimes many months between painting). When the lids are off we match the paintbrush handle color to the paint color and get very little color mixing! I got the chubby paintbrushes with various colored handles here.

Playing A to Z Junior with brother G. We acquired this game years ago when Discovery Toys sold it, but you can still find it at Amazon.

This was L's workbox rack one day this week. Notice in his third box he has a large coconut tree with velcro letters and the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom?

That was his special activity time with Little Man. As L read the story, Little Man placed the velcro letters on the tree. He doesn't know them all yet, so he didn't place them in order, just played with them as his brother read (please ignore the large gardening glove next to the tree!). The Chicka Chicka Boom Boom book we have had and loved for years, but the corresponding velcro tree was a gift to Little Man last Christmas.

On that same day he played "Monkey Business" with his brother G. This is a favorite game of ours that requires only a bit of fine motor skill to play. If you understand the concept of balancing sides you will do well according to the rules of play, but our boys think it is hilarious to cause the monkeys to fall off the tree (the top of the tree is magnetic so it eventually falls off when one side gets too heavy) and into the alligator pit below!

Doing a craft with his craft-loving big sister! (from the $1 section at Michael's)

Except for the tiger craft, everything Little Man and his siblings have done together this week were things we already had. I am so grateful that they are being USED and ENJOYED!


Since forever we have had a rule that no toys may be at the table during meals. We learned early on that they provide too much distraction and s-t-r-e-t-c-h out the meal to an interminable length. With each child that came along, this rule has been taught and enforced. Which translates to me saying, "remember the rule about no toys at the table?" approximately 8,672 times. So this week (don't ask me why it took this long) I finally said, "no more reminders. You bring a toy to the table, you lose the toy."

Today at lunchtime there was a toy at Little Man's place. It was a Star Trek communication device that came in a cereal box (who-hoo! a whole new generation to convert into trekkies!).

Me, as I confiscated said toy: "Oh dear, you brought a toy to the table so now the toy goes bye-bye."

Little Man, earnestly: "Well mommy, I didn't bring the toy to the table, it just suddenly appeared there!"

Sorry buddy. Even Star Trek communication devices don't magically beam themselves onto the table.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

For my friend Targetshopper, who hates sand

Aren't you glad you didn't have to clean this up?! :-)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Exercise Accountability Update

Well, I still have lots of room for improvement. Three weeks ago I only walked once. The week after that I walked twice, and last week I walked three times! So perhaps this week I'll walk four times! I know the "busy" excuse is just an excuse, but it's so darn convenient isn't it?

My friend Susan is exercising "with" me (she's exercising too, but we are several states apart) and when we can both run a 5K without collapsing we are going to enter a 5K together. Last week she exercised SIX times!! So the pressure is on. This is a very huge goal for both of us, but I think with dedication it is also realistic. So, pray for me! And for her! And get out of that computer chair and exercise with us!

My Handsome Husband

And believe it or not, this is one of the lesser reasons why I fell in love with him!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

How we do Preschool with Workboxes

I am no expert (still a newbie to workboxes!) but here is how we have done workboxes with our 4 year old this past week. Keep in mind he is not yet doing any type of traditional academic work, just playing and spending time with us, and being read to, and picking up things from his siblings. :-)

As I mentioned previously, I decided to put his preschool activities in his siblings' workboxes/envelopes along with index cards that say, "spend time with Little Man". So one day his sister had a bunch of fat markers in her envelope and a picture of Thomas the Tank Engine. The box their brother's birthday present had come in was really huge and I had cut and taped it into the shape of a train engine. Our daughter did the rest. Didn't it turn out great?! Little Man has had so much fun in this!

The next 3 photos show his special one on one time with each of our 3 oldest children during one day. With his 12 year old sister he spelled words and said all the sounds of the letters with this felt alphabet train.

His 9 year brother played Gobblet Jr with him.

And his 10 year old brother helped him draw with stencils.

Here are a few activities from another day: playing Quirkle.

Making a torn tissue paper butterfly. These were the items in our daughter's envelope. The "spend time with Little Man" index card is velcroed to the front of the envelope. She took everything out and knew immediately what to do, since I had already glued a few pieces of torn tissue paper to the butterfly shape as an example.

I didn't take a picture of this, but his brother G did a color wonder coloring book with him that day.

In addition to these times with siblings, Little Man has two times (at least!) during the day when he reads books with me. One with just me, and one with me and his brother C. So that is always their sibling time together. All of our children have LOVED their time with Little Man so much! And I am so thankful that workboxes/envelopes have made it easier for me to arrange these times and to utilize so many fun activities. Yay for workboxes!!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Happy 9th Birthday L!!!!

9 years ago......

.....and today. Quite grown up, wouldn't you say?

We had the most fabulous day celebrating L's birthday. My husband and I decided that all of the children's birthdays would be days of celebrating as a family, but this year L was the only one who had a birthday on a school day! So the rest of the children were very happy and thankful for him as we took the day off school and just played and had fun all day. :-)

We spent a good portion of the day at a local park with a huge playscape, and had a picnic lunch. For any of my readers who happened to be at my house Thursday night and know that L got sick, he felt fine the next day! (hopefully you all did too!)

After my husband got home from work, we told the children we were going on a quick errand related to L's birthday, but didn't tell them where we were going. We ended up at the library so L could get his very own library card! This is a rite of passage in our home, and occurs with each child when we feel they are strong enough readers and responsible enough to handle checking out books on their own. L was very excited and felt very grown up. He checked out 12 books. (He had previously opened new batman pajamas from his grandparents who live close to us, and he proudly wore these to the library!)

Then we came home and had his requested birthday dinner ~ boxed macaroni and cheese (hubby and I had pizza!) . His siblings gave him their present, which they bought with their own money pooled together (a small secret agent lego set).

He opened presents from his Washington relatives, and was very intrigued by a new book he was given called "The Severed Head" (despite the title, this was pre-approved by me and is the first book in the Elijah Creek and the Armor of God book series. I think he will love it!). The crowning moment of the entire day was when L opened the one thing he had wanted above all else ~ Indiana Jones and the Temple Escape lego set. What joy!

For our movie night we watched the first "Night at the Museum" movie, and the children loved it! (we had previewed it the night before and deemed it appropriate for all with a bit of background explanation and assurances of "nothing bad happens to the main character" for the younger ones). L began putting his lego set together during the movie, and we let he and his two older siblings stay up until 11:00 putting it together. It has been happily played with all morning today.

Happy Birthday L! We love you so much and are so thankful God gave you to our family. We can see God working in your life, and can see you growing and maturing. What a blessing to know that you love Jesus, and that He loves YOU more than you can imagine. Have a wonderful year being 9!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Workboxes - An Organizational Tool for School

Several months ago I heard mention of something called "workboxes" and immediately dismissed it as a preschool thing, similar to preschool activities in a bag. It wasn't until ladies on my Tapestry of Grace yahoo group began raving about this system that I sat up and took notice. After reading their emails about how well this was working in their homes, and looking at pictures on homeschool moms' blogs who use this sytem, I was convinced it could really help our son with Sensory Processing Disorder to focus better on each task, finish everything in a timely manner, and have more independence in his schoolwork. So I ordered this book by Sue Patrick, creator of the workbox system, and set to work setting it up in our home.

This is not a curriculum to add to your already full schedule, but a way to organize the curriculum you already have in a way that helps each student visually see exactly what needs to be done each day, in what order, know when they are done, and allows you to use games and other fun things that typically get shoved in the back of our cupboards. Sue Patrick emphasizes in her book the use of games for review. Her book was very easy to read and I urge anyone thinking about trying workboxes to get her book first and read the "why" behind this system. It was $20 very well spent! (and you all know how carefully we spend our money right now!) One, of many, beautiful things about this system is that it can work with daily chores as well, or with the process of learning to get dressed, or learning anything that requires sequential steps. It's not just for homeschooling. What versatility!

In very basic terms, this system uses a shoe rack and clear plastic tubs for each student. In each tub you place everything needed for one school task. Students work through their tubs throughout the day, and when all their work is finished they have an empty shoe rack and a stack of tubs on the floor. You can put a "fun" activity immediately following some work that was hard for that particular child, and the child can see this coming (since the tubs are clear) and it motivates him to get through the hard task in order to get to the fun one! He can also see his shoe rack emptying throughout the day and be encouraged to keep working because he's almost done. I LOVE the way Sue has set this up. But because of very limited funds and space, I decided to use this system as originally designed only for our son with SPD and use large tubs with tall envelopes for everyone else. The individual school tasks are put into envelopes rather than into clear plastic tubs, and the children work through their envelopes in order the same as they would if they had a tub for each task.

I first used this with all 5 children 3 weeks ago. Here is a pic of the boys working at our school table. You can see some of the envelopes lying there.

This was Little Man's tub one day ~ the cookie sheet was the working surface for the tub of magnetic letters. He also had dot markers in his last envelope. The ones inbetween were filled with books to read with mom, picture cards that said, "run around the house 5 times" and "get a snack from mom" and "special time with _____".

Here he is working at his own special school table! You can see his tub with envelopes in the lower right corner.

On the front of each tub, I put a grid with velcro filled squares, which corresponds to small numbered and velcroed squares on each envelope. As they work through each envelope, they take the velcro number off the envelope and put it on their grid. At the end of the day they can see their grid is filled but their tub is empty. This may not be necessary for the older children, but it really helps the younger ones!

The grids are color coded according to our family color code which we have had for years. Here is son C's tub. You can see he is about to start task 6 (of 8 total).

I made up some "work with mom" labels that I can velcro to those envelopes which contain work we need to do together. Once you buy the Sue Patrick book you can download these little labels (and tons more stuff!) from her website, but I just made up my own.

Here is son L's shoe rack. It very nicely fits 12 workboxes. I got the shoe rack at Target for $14.99, and the clear tubs there for a dollar each. So his was the most "expensive" to set up, but well worth it. It has been working great! The activity on the floor under the shoe rack was his activity to do with Little Man, and it wouldn't fit in the workbox.

He puts the first tub on the table, takes out the work, completes it, and then puts the finished work back in and stacks it on the floor. Each workbox contains everything he will need for that task (even down to a pencil!) so there are less interruptions, fewer distractions, and less wasted time. (as an aside fyi, we were given an exercise ball from a generous friend for L to sit on while doing schoolwork. This helps him with posture and core strength [issues related to SPD]. He just happens to be not using it in this picture. We are very thankful for it though!)

I stopped making a tub for Little Man because I hit on the fabulous idea to put his work in his siblings' boxes along with cards that say "spend time with Little Man". So now they each get time with him throughout the day, he is happily occupied all day long, and I am using all our fun preschool things in a way that would not be possible all by myself! More on this in another post.

As the 3 children who are using envelopes finish their tasks, they put them in my "teacher" tub behind their color coded cardstock. This makes it easy in the evenings (or even during the day) for me to go through their envelopes in order, correct work I need to correct, and re-fill them for the next day.

This system has already helped hold me accountable for demonstrating a good work ethic to the children (correcting work and being ready for each day) and helped them be more accountable for getting all their work done. We have gotton more done, with less complaining, and had more fun in the last 3 weeks than we have in a long time! I am excited and thankful to have found this system when I did so I can be ready in the fall with lots of fun review activities to put in their box or envelopes! I also want to make "schedule strips" to use with the workboxes/envelopes. This is another element to the system that Sue Patrick designed but which I have not utilized yet. More on that later.

I had to put some thought into how to best make this work for us, but now it is flowing along pretty smoothly and we are all loving it! After one week, my husband and I asked each of our children which they liked better, this organizational method or a paper assignment sheet. Each one of them enthusiastically said "workboxes!".

Here are some other blogs with pictures of how they use workboxes:

Joyful Mother of 6 Children - uses workboxes as originally designed by Sue Patrick

Ginger Snap Shots - tweaked the system and uses Sterilite drawer towers instead

Color Me Orange - uses tall envelopes and tubs (where I got the idea!)

Walking by the Way - uses shoe rack and plastic tubs as Sue Patrick designed

Our Lifesong - also uses shoe rack and plastic tubs

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More Butterflies

All 5 of the butterfly pupa (the chrysalis stage) have produced adult butterflies now! The final butterfly emerged this morning. It is really hard to take decent pictures through netting, but here is a shot of a butterfly that has *just* emerged from its chrysalis ~ it is hanging on to the bottom of the paper disc and has not unfurled its wings yet.

This one shows both the underside of the wings (speckled grayish in color, that's what you see when the wings are closed) and the upperside of the wings, which is brilliant orange, white and black when the wings are open!

If you look very closely in this pic you can see the butterfly's proboscis, the long tube through which it sucks nectar. It is very skinny and black and is curving down into the orange slice.

Here is a shot of all 5. When they are all flying pretty well, we may close off one room of the house and let them fly loose! Our zoology book says this is perfectly fine as long as we have a butterfly net handy to catch them later, and there are no other pets in the room at the time. :-) After that we will release them outside.

No-one wants to see them go, but the children realize that butterflies were not meant to live in nets for their entire life span. And their life as adults only lasts a few weeks, so we want them to enjoy their short life in the great outdoors.

This is among the best $14.95 I have ever spent!!