Sunday, February 28, 2010

I've Never Felt So Old

I was pretty young when I got married.  I had just turned 20.  When I had my first baby almost exactly one year later (her due date was on our anniversary) I still didn't feel old because, I reasoned, I was pretty young for being a mom.  In fact, this was my reasoning through many of the big milestones in her life that would have made me realize that I was getting older.  (My little girl is starting nursery...I'm still pretty young for having a child in nursery, my little girl is starting school....I'm still pretty young for having a child in school, etc.)  It was nice to feel young despite the evidences around me that I was getting older.

I thought that I might feel sort of old when I turned 30, but I didn't.  I think I had met enough 30 year olds by then that 30 still seemed young to me.

When I started noticing more and more gray hairs on my head - I blamed it on the fact that my mom's side of the family gets gray hair early - so normally, I wouldn't be getting gray hair at my age.

The first time someone asked me, "How many kids do you have?" and I answered "Five",  I felt old for a minute, but I reasoned it away quickly - remembering that I was still pretty young for having 5 kids (nevermind that I had several friends who were younger than me who had 5 kids).

This week, however, I had a dose of reality when I was sewing cub scout badges onto a cub scout uniform.  I hadn't really thought about it when we went to the scout store to buy the supplies, nor when we went to the Blue and Gold Banquet a few days after his birthday.  For some reason, reality didn't hit until I started sewing the little numbers on the uniform sleeve.

I had a flashback of when I was asked to be a den mother about 8 years ago to the Wolf and Bear scouts in our neighborhood in St. George.  At the time, I thought it was strange that I would be asked to be a den mother when my little boy was just a baby.  He wouldn't be a scout for ages!  I wasn't good friends with any of my scout's moms because they were all older women who were busy with older women activities (their older children).

Suddenly, I realized that I had become one of those older women!

It was sort of a shock.  I shed a few tears about how fast time has flown by (and because I kept pricking my fingers with my needle - sewing isn't one of my strengths).  I couldn't believe how fast my little boy has grown up.  Nor could I believe how fast I had grown up.  The sad thing is that time just kind of keeps going by faster these days, and I don't see any chance of it slowing down.

I made a resolution, again, to enjoy and make the most of each passing day.  They go by much to quickly.

My little boy - running off to scouts:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Table Time and Study Time

This post is part of my thought on educating the kids.

I've been meaning to write what we do for study time at our house.   Basically, study time is the time when the kids get to study whatever they are interested in.  It seems pretty simple, but I have found that it's not as simple to them as it is to me.

When I first told them that study time is a very exiting part of the day because they get to choose whatever it is they want to learn more about, they knew exactly what they wanted to do.  After a few days, they began to ask, "What should I study?  I don't know what to do for study time."  I've heard that children need to experience a "vaccuum" of things to do (which is why it's necessary that we do not have a TV or other things that keep their minds entertained instead of curious during this time) which makes them get creative about the things they study.  This works really well.  However, since they asked what I thought they should study, I didn't mind sharing my opinion :-)

I mentioned before that whenever there is something that I want my kids to learn, I first ask myself why I think they should know that particular thing right now.  Sometimes the only answer I can come up with is: Because everyone else is doing it - or - they will look bad if they don't know it.  When that is the case (like in teaching grammar at a young age, for example), I choose to let it go.  I don't think those are good enough motivations.  There are just too many other things that I can find good motivations for - so I try to stick to those things when I work to inspire them to study.

According to TJED, it's not a good idea to separate their learning right now (at their age) into different subjects (ie. math, science, grammar, art, etc), but that the subject ought to be "The Love or Learning".  I love this idea.  When they are exited about something, I let them study it to their heart's content.  The difficulty for me comes when they are not exited about anything (I guess it must be when I'm not being inspiring enough!) and they don't know what they want to learn about.

For these times, I did what I always do when I need to figure things out - I made lists.  For these lists, I asked myself: What are some things that I think they should be learning about and why?

I presented these lists to the kids and explained to them that our brains are like our muscles and that we need to exercise them in order for them to work well.  I told them that there are different areas in our brains that we can exercise or "warm up" so that when we do want to learn about something - our minds can be ready to learn it.

These are the areas that I thought were important (they all intertwine, but these are their basic functions imo).  The lists of ideas follow after these explanations:

Analytical Thinking:
This is important so that we can solve problems by breaking down the big picture into small parts or principles.  I thought this quote explained the difference between "systems" thinking and "analytical" thinking pretty well:

"In the systems approach, the properties of the parts can be understood only from the perspective of the organization as a whole. Accordingly, systems thinking concentrates not on basic building blocks, but on basic principles of organization. Systems thinking is "contextual," which is the opposite of analytical thinking. Analysis means taking something apart in order to understand it; systems thinking means putting it into the context of the larger whole (Capra, 1996)."
 Analytical thinking is what we often exercise when we try to solve math problems.  We're taking a problem and breaking it down into smaller parts.

Creative Thinking:
This is where we take parts and make them into a whole.  I think this is a big part of the "systems" thinking explained above.
"We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of what end were we created? We were created with the express purpose and potential of experiencing a fulness of joy.  Our birthright—and the purpose of our great voyage on this earth—is to seek and experience eternal happiness. One of the ways we find this is by creating things.."-Elder Uchtdorf
We mostly work on this during meals as I've explained before, but there are plenty of things they can do to help them develop their ability to memorize so I give them this as an option.

This is to how I refer to the ability to express and share our thoughts and ideas.  Obviously, this is important because great thoughts and ideas are not going to do much good to mankind if we don't know how to share them.

This gives us an appreciation for beauty and an understanding of the universe that we can not gain any other way.  I'm not a musician so I don't grasp this very well, but the glimpses I've seen into the power of music in my studies are enough for me to realize that it is a higher language that we would do well to learn to appreciate if not to speak or fully understand.  Here's a good article about music in the universe: (Not that I understand much of it!)


Once I explained to the kids why these things were important, I gave them a list of ideas of things they can do to work these parts of their brain.

When it's "Table Time", I ask the kids (Spice and Bud) to get out their planners.  They look at their goals and write down what they want to do for study time that will help them reach their goals.  If they need more ideas, they look at the following lists.  They usually pick one thing from each list.  The difference between Table Time and Study Time is basically that I will be at the table helping them with any table work they want help with at the beginning of study time.  This has the advantage of getting them to do some of the more "writing" type of activities at the beginning of study time so that they don't get put off when they get into a book later.

Study Time Ideas:

Write or recite:
A Poem (E)
Scripture (E)
Article of Faith (E)
Historic Document (E)
Play Lines (E)
Adage (E)
Musical Memory
Timed Math Facts
Math Wrap-Ups
Timez Attack
Singapore Math Book (M)
Math Worksheet (M)
Life of Fred (M)
Logic Game
Sum Swamp
The Farming Game
Key Math Cubes
DaVinci’s Challenge
Math Wizardry
Piano Wizard
Practice your lesson
Practice a Song
Play a Music Game
Watch a Music Video
Compose a Song (C)
Spelling Practice (M)
Copywork (M)
Handwriting Practice
Language Game:
Grammar Punk (C)
Beyond Bladerdash (C)
12 Tall Tales (C)
Online Spelling Game (M)
Grammar Worksheet
Story (C)
Letter (C)
Journal (C)
Poem (C)
Research Paper (E)
Invent Something on Paper
Book Summaries (E)
Experiment (E)
Research Project
Other Study Ideas
Find a book to read
Practice a Play

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dissecting Eyeballs and Other Fun Things

Here are some of the fun things we've been up to the last couple of weeks:

Field Trip to Welfare Center:  We got to see how they make applesauce, store food, make cheese, package Atmit, and other fun things.  We had been reading The Long Winter from the Little House on the Prairie Series so we discussed the importance of being prepared. 
Where they store wheat:
Another Bonus:  While we were there, my friend, Julie, found me a book that I have been wanting to buy called The Big Book of Virtues at D.I. for only $3!  We've REALLY been enjoying reading it during morning devotional lately.

More cute pictures at the zoo:

Watching the Second Act of Swan Lake preformed by Ballet West.  It was preformed for a school audience, so they did a little presentation before it about how they use math on stage and told us about Tchaikovsky (whom we had been studying before we went):
An attempt to get a picture without using the flash on my camera:
  I left Bazinks at a friend's house because I thought he might not like it.  He had a good time with his friend though!  Here are the kids and one of their friends posing after the ballet:
Baby Ray flapped his arms and seemed to really enjoy the music.  I thought I might have to wait in the foyer with him, but I was able to take him in and he loved it.

We had some illnesses (Ray had pink eye, Bazinks had pink eye, Little Miss had an ear infection, Bud had a fever and a cold and so did Rock).  We made one doctor's visit for Little Miss' ear, but she said she felt better when we arrived.  We switched the appointment and made it for Ray's eyes so we could get some eye drops for his pink eye.  The kids played with the camera while we waited, and waited, and waited in the waiting room:

We had been discussing sight because Mary goes blind in the Little House series.  One of the moms brought cow eye balls to our book discussion.  We got to cut them open and talk about what we saw. I was a little worried that the kids would not want to touch it, and I didn't want to have to cut it open myself.  Once I willed myself to do it - it was really, really amazing.  I thoroughly enjoyed it - and you can see by the kids' expressions that they loved it as well:
Cutting through the optic nerve behind the eye:
Taking out the lens behind the cornea:
Splitting the eye ball in half to see the vitreous gel that holds the shape of the eye:
(some kids were squeezing this out through the pupil and playing with it - it feels like hair gel)
Cutting open the optic nerve:
Drawing pictures of what they saw:
Bazinks and Ray seemed to have a good time (when I asked Little Miss what she learned she said, "I learned that watching [Ray] is a lot cuter than watching eyeballs":

Grandma and Grandpa Worwood came to visit yesterday.  The kids had such a great time doing the crafts their grandparents brought for them, listening to their grandma read them a book and reading to her, painting fingernails and chatting with them.  They invited us swimming at their hotel pool!
The water was a little cold, but the older kids were brave and got in it.  Bazinks just played in the hot tub and watched them in the big pool.
Grandma threw coins for them to find in the pool.  Spice LOVED this game and she kept throwing them back in so she could get them again.  She made $2.60!

It's been a fun couple of weeks.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My ONE Goal and More Details than Anyone Would Care to Know About My Day

"When we fail to plan our time, for example, we find ourselves living in a constant state of emergency. This is a stressful way to live. A crisis life-style makes us feel pressed and out of control, as if too much is expected of us. Often the problem is not our situation (too much to do) but our own behavior (failure to plan)". - Val D. MacMurray, Ph.D.
I've decided to try something.  I've had a problem - I set goals for myself and then I remember half of them one day and the other half another day and all the time I'm remembering that I'm forgetting something, but I'm not sure what it is.  It was getting a little frustrating and my mind wasn't clear to think about things I wanted to think about because I was worried about what it was that I was forgetting.

At first I thought I should just drop some of my goals and work on a few until those became habits and then add a little more at a time.  I just couldn't decide what I wanted to drop, and I thought I was capable of following through with them if I could only REMEMBER what they were!

So then I thought: What if I write myself a detailed list of everything I want to do in a day so I don't forget it?  This, of course, would never work because I would forget to look at the list.  Then I thought: What if my ONLY goal for the next 6 weeks is to look at the list as soon as one task is completed and do the next thing that it says?!  I can't forget to look at it if it's the only goal I have right?  Of course, things come up and children have needs when I don't necessarily plan for them so the things on my list can't have a specified time frame- maybe one day we'll only have study time for 30 minutes instead of the 2+ hours that I prefer, but I'm thinking that once I get in the habit of doing all these things in order - my time won't be wasted on figuring out what I was supposed to do next and I'll have more time to do what I think is important!

Also, it will clear my mind so I can be more sensitive to what I may be being prompted to do.

Do you think it will work?  I'm going to see.  For the next 6 weeks I will not fail to stick to my list unless a field trip or something important comes up.  We have different things we go to on most days so I allowed myself to skip certain things depending on the day - the bold letters before some of the numbers are the initials of the days that I am allowing myself to skip those certain tasks (the explanation for this is at the bottom of the list).

       1. Scripture Study/Prayer
       2. Exercise (If I made it to bed at a decent hour and the baby didn't wake me up at night)
       3. Blog or write in my journal (until 7:30am)
       4. Clean room/ get ready for the day
       5. Take laundry downstairs and start it.
       6. Remind kids to do their morning list
       7. Check to see if anything needs to be made early for dinner (rice, beans, bread, soup) and make it with the Kid of the Day.
       8. Make breakfast with the Kid of the Day,
       9. Eat breakfast (during breakfast: recite poems, read a baby Spanish book)
       10. Clean up from breakfast (Speak Spanish)
       11. Switch Laundry
F.    12. Set timer for 30 minutes for our weekly jobs - speak Spanish the entire time (whatever is unfinished in 30 minutes is done during play time).
       13. Planner Time
       14. Devotional
W,F 15. Family Work - Speak Spanish (I may switch #13 and #14 around depending on the day and Ray's nap schedule)
F.   16. Discovery Time
       17. Remind kids to clean up the house before lunch
       18. Make lunch with Kid of the Day
       19. Eat lunch (during lunch: read a Spanish book, verbally quiz some memorization)
       20. Clean up from lunch (Speak Spanish)
       21. Fold laundry and put it away (Speak Spanish)
       22. Set books out to interest kids
Th. 23. Table Time - help kids with their table work, remind kids to look at their planners, check my planner and do the things on my task list (phone calls, etc.)
Tu, Th 24. Study Time - get kids started with their studies if they need my help and then study myself
       25. Practice piano when baby wakes up
       26. Remind kids to pick up before play time and to finish and undone weekly jobs
Tu. 27. Play Time (play with Kid of the Day and whoever joins in) (slip in some Spanish)
       28. Remind kids to pick up, make dinner with the Kid of the Day
       29. Eat Dinner (dad asks the kids about what they learned and who they helped)
       30. Clean up from dinner (Speak Spanish)
       31. Everyone gets ready for bed while I get the baby ready.
Tu. 32. Family Reading Time (scriptures and a classic)
       33.  Tuck kids in and find out how they are doing and about their day
       34.  Personal study time, plan discovery time for the next day, and time with hubby.

Obviously, every day can not be like this because we have certain things we choose to go to.  I realize have to make a conscious decision about what to skip or I'll skip the same thing too often.  This also helps me realize that when I add an activity to my schedule, something else has to go - and I can purposely decide what that will be.

Mondays - Stick to List
Tuesdays - Skip Study Time (#24) and Play Time (#27) to go to the library (every other week - 2nd and 4th Tuesdays - opposite of Little House Group weeks).  Skip Family Reading Time (#32) every week for book club or temple.
Wednesdays - Skip Family Work Time (#15) and Play Time (#27) when we choose to go to the Nature Center or for Kindler's Club (monthly).
Thursdays - Skip Table Time (#23) and Study Time (#24) for the Little House Group (every other week - 1st and 3rd Thursdays - opposite of library weeks - this way I am only skipping Study Time once a week).
Fridays - Skip Weekly Jobs (#12), Family Work Time (#15), and Discovery Time (#16) for Knights of Freedom and Virtue Girls

Ha ha!  Looking at this list makes me realize why I so often forget to do some things.  It's not a short list.  I better put it in a lot of places in the house because it looks like I'll have to look at it about 34 times per day!  The thing is, I don't put anything on my schedule unless I have thought it through and have decided that it is important enough for our time.  Most of these things are already habit so it's not as bad at it seems at first glance.  I'm glad I'm writing it down - I'm sure I'll get a kick out of it when I look back in later years!

I am also giving myself permission to change the list if I see the need.  I'm not going to stick to anything that looses meaning for me, but I will look at the list (even if it's a changed one) and do what it says for the next 6 weeks.  Wish me fortitude!

*Added later: This didn't work.  Click here to see why.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Making Time for Each Child or The "Kid of the Day"

This post is part of thoughts on teaching kids to work and educating the kids.

"Don't step on a crack or you'll break your mother's back."

I've been wanting to write about this for quite some time now, but since it was really just an idea in my head that I hadn't gotten around to actually implementing - I kept putting it off.  I have so many habits I am trying to establish right now - sometimes just working on those things takes up all my efforts and I don't have the energy to add much more (until we establish those habits), but I know this is important enough to me to put forth the effort right now.

I got the original "Kid of the Day" idea from the Thomas Jefferson Home Companion (I think).  They suggested that you use it to help things run more smoothly (like the Kid of the Day gets to pick his seat first, pick chores first, say prayers, etc.)  I've decided to do a little more with it in order to teach the kids some adult skills and to have some one-on-one time with each of them.

Here is what the Kid of the Day gets to do at our house:
-Pick weekly jobs first
-Help mom make the meals
-Play or learn something with mom during play time
-Run errands with mom if it's a Saturday

Here are some examples of how it looks with different kids:

When Bazinks is the "Kid of the Day", for meal time I will let him mix things or hold measuring cups while I put ingredients in the bowls.  For play time, I'll play a game with him- like where he pretends to be a baby puppy and I'm the mommy and we go on a picnic - or - I'm Princess Leah, he's Luke Skywalker and we're killing bad guys.

When Spice is the "Kid of the Day", I'll let her make a part of the meal on her own while I work on a different part or I will ask her to do it all while I supervise.  She is working on her cooking skills so once she knows how to make a certain thing without any help from me, she will get to add that recipe to her own recipe book.  She and I would like her to have a big book of recipes that she can make all on her own.  For play time, I might teach her how to crochet a flower or help her on a sewing project.

When it's Bud's turn I might play catch with him for play time, or research a bug or something he wants to know more about on the internet.

Little Miss likes me to read to her while we cuddle or to play "Littlest Pet Shops" or other pretend games.

I needed to implement something like this so that I could make sure they got some individual attention from me.  It's not always one-on-one because sometimes siblings want to join in on the activity, but they seem okay with this because they got to choose the activity and they know I'm making time to do something they like.  I also needed to schedule some time to teach them some basic adult skills, but it was easier doing things myself, so most of the time, I would just get the cooking and other things done as fast as I could.  This Kid of the Day idea gives me an opportunity to slow down and teach them some important skills.

Since we are just starting this, I haven't had time to work out all of the glitches, but so far things have gone well.  Maybe I'll write an update post about how things go after implementing it for a while.

Here's how we remember who is Kid of the Day:  I have magnets with a picture of each of the kids on them on the fridge.  They are lined up vertically with a paper next to them that has an assignment for setting the table at meal times.  For example:  right now,  Spice is on top so "Place-mats" is next to her name.  Bud's picture is under her picture so "Drinks" is next to his name.  Little Miss is next and "Food" is next to her name.  Bazinks is at the bottom and "Silverware" is next to his name.  We rotate the pictures everyday (so tomorrow Bud will be at the top next to "Place-mats" and Spice at the bottom setting the silverware).  The child who's picture is at the top is the Kid of the Day.

How do some of you teach your children adult skills and make time to spend with them individually?  Do you think one-on-one time with mom is important for them?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy Birthday Bud!

The night before his birthday, Bud ran down the stairs looking very exited.  He exclaimed, "Mom!  Tomorrow I'm going to be 8 and I'll be able to get baptized!"
"That's true!  Are you excited?"
"Yes!  And all my sins will be washed away!"

We then had a little talk about it and I am so happy that he is so excited about the covenants he'll be making.  Turning 8 years old is a really important milestone.  He'll now be accountable to God for the choices he makes.  He is such a sweet, good, kind little boy.  I think he'll take his commitment seriously.  I can't believe he's so old!

(Picture courtesy of Spice)

One of my favorite character traits about William is his passion and zest for life.  When he finds something he is interested in he goes after it with his all.  Insects are one example.  He was afraid of insects a couple of years ago and then he found a praying mantis.  Praying mantises don't bite, so he picked it up and decided to make it his pet.  In order to feed a praying mantis, you have to catch bugs.  He researched everything about praying mantises - habitat, food, etc.  He then researched everything he could about the bugs he would find to feed his praying mantis with.  He then researched as much as he could about insects in general.  He got so into bugs that he now says he wants to be an entomologist when he grows up.  Right now, we have a praying mantis egg in our front room.  In the Spring, it is usual for us to have 5 or more different containers with different types of bugs living inside them.

Another thing he loves is the Harry Potter books. He read the entire series twice!  He knows many of the spells and he often plays Harry Potter with his siblings.  Lately he's also into the Wii (he got a new game from grandparents for his birthday) so I get to hear all sorts of details about that - and he has read about all of the short cuts and tips for his game.  He has also been reading the Chronicles of Narnia.

Harry Potter reading Harry Potter

He gets such joy out of the simple things in life and he helps us feel it as well.  Often, when he's reading, he'll burst out in laughter.  We'll all look at him and he laughs as he tells us something funny that he just read in a book.  We can't help but laugh with him because he thinks it is so funny.  He is often laughing at the cute things Baby does and the funny things Bazink thinks of.  Life is just so fun with Bud around!

He is a very analytical thinker.  It is expressed in his art work.  When he draws something - he doesn't try to draw it in a cute or even realistic way - he draws the characteristics that differentiate it from other things.  He likes to tell a story with his drawings and you can tell what is going on because of the distinct features that he places on his drawings that differentiate them from something else.  It's really intersting.

He loves analytical games.  He plays chess nearly every day.  He also loves games like DaVinci's Challenge, Set, or other games in which you have to think in an analytical way.  He's very good at them.  The other day he decided to figure out how many different ways a king could be put in check mate in chess.  What a great "game"!  I think he'll make a great scientist someday if still he wants to be one.

Bud is also very kind and loving to the people around him.  I have seen one of his friends being rude to another child.  Bud tries to be kind to both of them and tries to help them be friends.  He is a natural leader.  When he is in groups, he doesn't hesitate to organize a game and get everyone involved.

He has really been into playing the piano lately.  He's not interested in any formal instruction, but he loves to figure out songs on his own by ear or from simple sheet music.  He likes to play the same song in different places on the piano to see how the sound differs.

For Bud's birthday, we took him and a friend to play laser tag.  He had so much fun.  I think his dad may have enjoyed it the most though, he's the one who has been asking to go back :-)  They also played in the Pirate's Cove at the laser tag place and ate pizza.  Baby Ray was sick with pink eye though.  I'm not sure if he had much fun :-(

On his actual birthday, we "woke" him up in the morning with a song and presents.

There's not any pictures of the rest of the day because he chose to play Wii almost the entire day!  I let him choose whatever activity he wanted and since he is usually only allowed 25 minutes of Wii per day -  he took full advantage of playing it as much as he could on his birthday.  He was especially exited about it because he got a new game from his grandma.

We did get him to pull away from it for cake in the evening though :-) 
I sure love that little boy!  I am so proud of the young man he is becoming.