Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Growing Pangs

She melts my heart - 8.5 months today.

I think it was just last week or maybe the week before that she learned to crawl. Now she's threatening to furniture walk. I'm not ready for her to grow up this fast.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Schooling at Home

Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 9

I was going to write this post a few weeks ago... but I had to get around to selecting and resizing the pictures I wanted to include (my 'spare time' is after the baby is done nursing for the last time and before I fall asleep where I'm sitting). That was a few weeks ago - now I have so many pictures, I'm going to have to do multiple posts if I want to include them all. Here's to not getting distracted too long between posts!

Life here has been very busy. We've been adapting to a new hybrid type of schooling - not quite public school, yet not quite homeschool either, and I think we've finally gotten a rhythm figured out. I love it, and I think most of my kids have found it mostly enjoyable. And I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what it's like here with two high-school students, 5 different grade elementary students a preschooler, and a now very mobile 8 month old!

Where to start....

(Shepherd on Duty - PC (G8))

Having all the kids home for school, means that I can afford to have a shepherd out with our sheep for a much larger part of the day. Once all the kids have 'checked in' online, I figure out what order they'll each have an hour of Shepherd Duty. It gives the shepherd a chance at some peace and quiet alone time, and it makes juggling 4 computers between 7 students a little easier. Usually, two shifts are completed before lunch and then 3 more are done before supper time.

We mostly work at the dining room table for the offline assignments and at any given time, there's probably two or three kids there where I can easily switch between them. When lunchtime rolls around, we pack everything up, stack it on the end tables in the living room and bring it back out again when class time resumes.

Cricket (preschool), Dolly (G9) and QB (Kindergarten). Then there's QB again, Ricka (G3) and Emma (G7) in the shadows.

Hard at work - In the house (Hal -G1), and out of doors - Butler (G5). QB doing a number sort while Ricka and Hal share a computer behind him.

Math Games


Beside the bookwork and online assignments, there's plenty we do that's not in groups at the table. Some of the favorites include:

Art Projects - Here's Butler's first assignment. ........................................... And PE - Trampoline Time.

Music - Butler on the Piano. Science - Scavenger Hunts outdoors.

And Cooking - which could be classified as Science I guess... Sir ordered a new wok, and some of the kids got to observe it's conditioning process. If I were my mom, I would have made them all write a report on the process... 'just saying!

QB making Sweet and Sour sauce... for Sweet 'n Sour Pork of course! Here, Butler was making Sausage for a Biscuits and Gravy breakfast.

As the wok was being cured - heat reactions. ........................... Trying it out for the first time.

Seasoned and Tried .............................. The Results - Homemade Chinese Food! It was better than take out.

After lunch, and before we get back to the actual 'lessons', I have the kids participate in a group 'class' that I call, Sportsmanship. At first I was met with protesting, and eye-rolling and there were a number of times when 'participation' was exacted it seemed, by tooth and nail, but over time, my persistence paid off, and 'Sportsmanship' is now a cherished part of our school days. For about an hour after lunch, I would supervise a group interaction activity that would require my children to display teamwork, kindness, patience, encouragement and teaching by example towards each other. It usually takes the form of a board game, card game, puzzle or even an Afternoon Tea. I do know, that sometimes you have to make an effort to take time out to play - to enjoy each other's company. Sometimes these occasions are less than peaceful, but practice makes perfect, and slowly we're all benefiting from the lessons we can glean during this little time together! Now the days that we don't actually fit 'Sportsmanship' into the schedule, the kids make sure I know it wasn't their decision! And that makes me happy.

Sportsmanship - Settlers of Catan. .......................... Sportsmanship - Ticket to Ride

Sportsmanship - Geography 3D puzzle. ......................... - Afternoon Tea and Cookies

And yes, there are moments where it seems all is against a smoothly operating schedule. Kids get up late, dawdle getting breakfast, baby decides she needs a 'mommy only all the time' day and wants to nurse four times before noon, assigned shepherds balk and protest the shift they're given and procrastinate getting out the door, bookworms disappear into invisible crevices around the house. Someone everyone wants a snack 10 minutes after we get started on their lessons, some kids take too long 'checking in' online to see if they have assignments or they get 'distracted' by a game on the computer, other kids 'don't have any' or 'don't know' if they have any assignments for the day (or week or in some cases). Some kid will take advantage of the chaos and just disappear and I'll find them outside somewhere in a tree or in the dirt. Lunch gets started late, takes too long, doesn't get cleaned up right away so we can get on with the day. Cricket gets into yet another mischievous adventure like toothpaste cocktails in the bathroom, sharpie murals on my bedroom wall, or letting the dogs out of the kennel without supervision. The phone will ring, the printer runs out of ink... and so on. But I wouldn't trade these days for anything - They are treasures in the chaos that is my life, and I'm so thankful and sometimes overwhelmed by the privilege of getting to see them firsthand!

Ricka's Reading Log - "I can't remember the books I read, because I read so many". And then there's Hal - Playing Hooky.

NOT doing school ........................And a Picnic Lunch

One of the assignments Butler has had each week, has been a themed 'nature walk' that he has to take and document with photos. The nice thing about that has been that I've been getting a pretty interesting picture collection. Although, there's not much to say about these pictures individually, I have enjoyed them and thought they might be worth sharing.

cherry blossoms..........more cherry blossoms ...................willow tree

Bricks and mortar ..................More bricks ................ fences

salmonberry .................Maple ....................Apple set up

tree bark ........................hay close-up

Then there's Little Miss Cricket. When she's not bringing me gifts or keeping Pixie entertained (which is VERY helpful), she's usually getting into all sorts of mischief. I have to make a mental note of her outfit first thing in the morning, and be sure to ask why particular clothing items have changed throughout the day. She wants so much to be involved in this new world of school, but there's only so much time I can spend with just her, and her attention span is only so long. When these limits have been reached, then she finds ways to keep herself busy whether it's washing the bathroom down with soggy bits of toilet paper, 'picking' my Rhubarb plant like we did together previously, 'washing' her shirt in the sheep's water trough or packing all her dollies and doll gear outside to the garden or play house where she forgets them until 15 minutes after I've tucked her into bed. Of course, by that time, she desperately needs them, and I have no idea where in the dark I'm going to find them. I love her independent and creative approach to life!

Proud gift-giver ..............................playmobil display

And that pretty much encapsulates our school days in general. Gradually we're figuring out routines, but we must be enjoying this adventure, because it most definitely does not seem like we've been doing this for more than 5 weeks already!

That's just how time seems to disappear though - one moment you're savoring early morning baby snuggles in a squeaky rocking chair and the next, you're staying up late trying to navigate important teenager chats at the kitchen counter. And it all happens in the blink of an eye!

Morning snuggles from a sleepy baby

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Saga of Progress

June 2017...

My girls have inspired me. Or life is beginning to settle perhaps, because on more than one occasion recently, I've found myself wanting to write. For a long time, even the thought of writing seemed overwhelming. It takes so much energy navigating through life itself, there never seems to be any energy left to spend time recording it. Maybe it's temporary and won't last, but while all the factors line up, I'll write.

Life here is an oasis. We've been staying home, laying low, avoiding the rest of the world for more than 3 weeks now. From what I read, life is almost incomprehensibly different for many many people. Cooped up in their homes, isolated from the people they used to interact with, working, schooling, living - alone. But not here. We have space to breathe, conveniences and services that make it possible to exist in what seems like a protected bubble. Sir works from home - so there's no difference there, now the all the kids will be learning at home, but I've dabbled in teaching some of them at home before, so it's not something really new. True, I haven't tried teaching 7 students at different levels before, but with teamwork and cooperation, eventually we'll have an established routine that works for us. Maybe I'm crazy, but I'm looking forward to it at the moment. Then there's the actual social aspect of all this isolation. I came to the conclusion, that I probably led a rather isolated social life already. I mean, after 2 weeks there were almost NO perceivable differences in my social interactions. And now it seems like I'm connected to even more people because everyone is isolated and interacting remotely. I'm ok with that. In fact, I'm really happy in my chaotic little corner.

My little people are growing up. They have been doing that for a long time now, but now some of them are really beginning to look like it. Dolly... well, she's not the pouty-lipped, little blond flibberty-jibbit anymore. She's a conscientious, intelligent and very capable young lady stuck in that awful stage between a child and adult. She willingly, or at least mostly uncomplainingly takes on many of the tasks that always fell to me. Very often, I don't even have to ask, as she finds needs and addresses them of her own accord. Now it seems as if she shares a great deal of my work. I am ever so grateful for her help and it would be better for me to remember to express that more often.

PC (and Pixie)
PC is going to pass me up in height this year... I can sense it. Already, I catch myself getting irritated with him because I think he's squawking at me or rebelling against my decisions or instructions when really he just got excited and his new voice is just trying to catch up to his emotions. But I appreciate his growing strength - it makes life so much easier for me now. Just the other evening, we were doing barnyard chores together. I commented that we'd need to refill the chicken feeder. I was on my way to the barrel to hoist the 45lb feed sack over my shoulder and carry around to the other side of the barn, but he was closer. He didn't wait for me to get there, but pulled the sack out of the barrel and onto his own shoulder clearly not struggling under its weight. As I uselessly followed him to assist with the feeder lid and chicken house door with just a flashlight, I thought to myself, 'I would have done it, but my arm is much more comfortable not having to.' Dislocated elbows seem to take centuries to heal completely.

Emma (and Pixie)
Emma is getting taller too, although I'm not sure if she's still ahead of Butler in stature. She's gradually stepping into a role of being a guide and helper to the younger children. This has taken great willpower, and continues to cost her much in the way of patience. She is very capable of being responsible and reliable, but still works on being cheerfully willing. I can relate or understand her take on many things, but I'm not sure that's always a good thing as sometimes I feel like I'm being too tough on her. However, she never ceases to surprise me and humble me with her ability to sincerely reach out to others. For all her no-nonsense, impatient approach to life in general, she has an incredible skill when it comes to meaningfully and thoughtfully expressing care and kindness.

Butler (and Pixie)
Butler. Definitely not the tiny toddler rolling firewood rounds across the front lawn anymore, but still just as willing to try as ever. He gets himself into more trouble for silliness than any all of the other children combined, but generally it's because he just embraces life with an enthusiastic gusto and willing attitude. Now mind, he's not ALWAYS willing to do tasks, but he is my 'go-to' guy when I need a helper for the more unpleasant or just difficult jobs. I really value and appreciate this trait of his, and I hope he never loses it. He thrives on being outside and is definitely a hands-on kind of person.

Ricka is another of my kids that seems to be growing up fast these days. She still loves books (you may remember the baby in a basket with a book pictures I posted (here) years ago, and she still would rather not participate in any activity that remotely resembles 'work', but she does tend to be one of my kids that notices when the littlest is getting fussy or when I'm getting frazzled by the said littlest getting fussy, and faithfully comes to aid by keeping the little one entertained. For this I am very thankful. Yes, it seems like an easy job, or a way to get out of doing other required activities, but I love the fact that she sees the need and addresses it without waiting to be prompted. Ricka likes to sleep, and is probably the hardest child of mine to get moving in the mornings, but she is fairly independent and capable of doing many tasks without constant supervision once she gets going.

Clockwise from top left: Dolly, QB, Butler, Hal, Cricket and PC
Then there's Hal. Toothless Hal currently, as he just handed me his 6th (SIXTH!) tooth just a day or so ago. I think four of them came out in the last 3 or 4 weeks. Hal has never waited for anyone to get to him. He's always one step ahead of me. When he was little, he started to crawl before I even noticed he was getting close. He didn't wait for me to stop procrastinating on potty training him, he just started using the bathroom like all the big kids by himself, and now he's reading like a second grader - and no, we never worked through the alphabet together. He's never waited for me to 'get to him'. He just goes ahead on his own. It's nice, but trust me, that boy has made me cry many times because he keeps growing up without me. If I'm not careful, I'll blink and he'll be moving out already.

QB... He's looking less and less like a toddler all the time. He started Kindergarten this past September, and he seemed too little to be sending off to school, but he's grown up so much in the past 7 months, it's not funny. He's itching to start reading like everyone else, and he practices and practices his little sight words every chance he gets. He is physically almost the same size as Hal, and he delights in being mistaken for his brother or assumed he's 'the other twin'. QB has an extraordinary sense of humor and adventure. He's willing to try strange foods, and he quietly laughs to himself at many of his other siblings' cases of drama. He's fun to watch. I think the most distinct thing about QB is his quietness and perseverance. This is noticeable because he's quiet until he's had too much and then he just explodes. Then he gets upset and embarrassed because he lost his temper.

Cricket... (and Pixie)
It's been so long since I've written anything, I couldn't even remember what I called Cricket here. Cricket is THE BOSS. Or so she thinks (and tries to enforce). She's just a itty bitty thing, but don't let her size fool you. She knows what she wants, and she knows how to get it. She's the one who waves the flyswatter around regally in an older sibling's face (like Emma for instance) and says, "Emma! Say, 'buzzzzzzz'!" Emma obediently buzzes as commanded and - SWAT! Cricket triumphantly walloped her sister with the flyswatter. When I called Cricket out for hitting her sister, she very seriously explained, "I was swatting flies." Aside from trying to control her older siblings, she loves to entertain her baby sister. It's adorable, and they get on quite well, actually. Although, I do have to explain from time to time that some things aren't allowed. Like when I gave Criket a bag of cheetos at lunch time, and got busy getting Sir's lunch collected and delivered to his office. When I got back, and picked up the then fussing baby, I noticed the tell-tale orange powder on the onesie collar. "Cricket, I asked "Did you feed Pixie some of your Cheetos?" "No." she confidently began, "I just gived her a lick."

So ready to crawl
And that brings me to my caboose. Sadly, I have never even mentioned my youngest daughter here before and she's already 7 months old. I will adopt Dolly's blog name for this little treasure, and call her Pixie. She really is an adorable delight that has every single person wrapped around her little fingers. From Daddy playing special music for her on his phone, Cricket 'licking the dirt off' fallen soothers, Dolly documenting all the little milestones in pictures (something I'm very very thankful for), PC scooping her up and walking her around in any direction she leans, Emma and Ricka constantly battling over who 'gets to hold Pixie' because the other girl is 'supposed to be doing something else', Butler playing music CDs for her in the boys room so she can dance and the little boys offering her countless toys the moment she makes a peep. This baby is loved, and she knows it. I was worried for a bit that she'd never learn to sit up on her own, crawl, roll over or pretty much anything else babies are supposed to do because she is always being doted on, but in spite of all the attention, she has managed to cut her own 4 teeth (yes, they are very sharp), sit all by herself until she gets too excited about something and loses her balance because she's bouncing too much, and she's almost crawling. She inchworms forward and crawls backwards much to her frustration right now.

Clockwise from bottom left: Hal, PC, Emma, QB, Dolly, Ricka and Butler