Sunday, June 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ray!

Little Ray turned 2 last month. We celebrated with cake at my mom's house.  He enjoyed blowing out his candles and eating his yummy cake.
We got him bubbles for his present - he was very exited about that :-) My mom got him a plasma car that Bud has claimed as his own.

He looked at us like we were crazy when we came into his room in the morning to sing him "Happy Birthday", but he got used to it throughout the day. 

Ray is such a funny little guy.  He loves to sing and dance.   I often wake up to the sound of his singing in his crib.  Sometimes he sings in his sleep.  I need to capture his singing on film sometime.  In fact, I think I'll go do it right now....

Okay, here are a couple of his favorite songs:

Food, Glorious Food:

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star:

Something really funny that he does is he dances in a circle every time he hears the "Angry Birds" theme song.  He can go on for a long time!  It's almost like he can't stop himself as long as that song is on.  Here he is:

Here he is doing some real dancing at my cousin's wedding reception (it's sideways, I don't know how to fix it):

He's a late talker and sometimes we wonder if we should be concerned - he seems to be trying to imitate everything so I think I'll give him a while before I decide if he needs some sort of intervention. I'm not too worried about it for now.

Ray loves to eat bananas, put stuffed animals to bed (complete with a bed time song for them), jump off steps, climb on me, and be read to. He makes us laugh a lot everyday. Happy 2nd birthday little Ray!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Practice Scholar... help?

Well, in case you're wondering, I haven't had a baby yet.  I'm at 39 weeks today.  I love this time of anticipation and knowing I'll be meeting a new little miracle soon!  The reason I haven't been posting very often has more to do with a greater need for sleep and because I've been trying to get more read.  I'm one chapter away from finishing a wonderful book a friend recommended on education called Norms & Nobility: A treatise on education.  It is not an easy read and I want to write about it so I can assimilate some of the thoughts into my own words.  We'll see if I get to it.

I'm going to sprinkle this post with some pictures of our latest doings even though they are un-related :-)
Camping in the backyard (the kids and their dad - I slept in my comfy bed, thank-you very much!) I did join them for s'mores.

I've also been trying to read about scholar phase.  Little Spice has decided she wants to have some "Scholar Days".  For those of you unfamiliar with A Thomas Jefferson Education, there are different phases of learning.  A child starts with "Core" as they learn to discern truth from error, wrong vs right, work vs play, and those core childhood lessons.  As they mature, they begin to fall in love with learning.  In this "Love of Learning" phase, they explore the world and get curious about the things in it.  They read and play at learning.  As the child matures, they enter the "Scholar Phase" in which they become interested in deeper study.  A child in deep in scholar phase will want to study 8-10 hours per day.
Playing at the dinosaur park last week

This often sounds really strange to people because in our culture we sort of do this backwards.  We put our young children in school and into a lot of educational experiences and classes when they should be playing and learning core values, but as they get older we expect them to play more and have more fun.  This creates the fairly new term of "teenager" instead of youth preparing for adulthood.

Anyway, that is a very poor synopsis of the phases, but there's a lot of great information on it here if you are interested.  So, the reason for that tangent is that little Spice has been asking for more study/reading time.  She has a lot of responsibilities at home and she feels like she is not getting enough time to read and study.  This signals to me that she is ready to become a "Practice Scholar" and, since I have never had a child in this phase, I've been trying to re-read some things about it so that I don't mess anything up.
Ray was scared of all of the growling noises and big dinosaurs so Spice and I took turns holding him.  I was eventually able to get him to sit in the stroller :-)

Apparently, I am supposed to offer her "Scholar Days".  She can pick on any given day if she wants it to be a Scholar Day or a Love of Learning Day.  On Love of Learning Days, she follows the family schedule.  We work together, do devotional, etc.  On her Scholar Days, she has a stewardship she is responsible for and she can spend the rest of her day studying.  She thought this sounded wonderful.  I wrote down her responsibilities so that I could see how much time she was spending on work and what I should have her keep as a "stewardship".  For those of you with scholars at home, how much work is appropriate?  Here are her responsibilities on a Scholar Day:

-Clean zone and room in the mornings (10 min)
-Get ready for the day (10 min)
-Walk dog (10 min)
-Deep clean some aspect of zone (Mon-walls, windows; Tue - zone bathroom; Wed - zone mop, Thr - dust and vacuum zone, dog's bath; Fri - none, Sat - ask dad where he needs help) (25 min).
-Weed and clean outside zone (15 min)
-Put away laundry pile (10)
-Kitchen job after meals (10 min per meal x 3 meals = 30 min)

-Feed and walk dog (30 min)
-Quick clean zone and room (10 min)
-Get ready for bed (10 min)

Is that enough? It adds up to about 2 1/2 hours.  She no longer has to help with the family work project and some or the family weekly jobs (except her zone ones listed above).  This gives her from about 7am-7:30am (scriptures and journal) 9:30am-4:30pm (with lunch in between) and 8pm-9pm for study time.  That adds up to 8  hours of study.  I was thinking that a scholar would be given a bigger stewardship, but I don't see where she would have time for any more work if she is to have enough study time. Maybe her current stewardship is enough.

She had a "Scholar Day" on Wednesday.  This is how she used her study time: she did about 30 minutes of math online, she practiced typing with an online program for about 15 minutes, she wrote in her journal, read her scriptures, practiced piano for about 30 minutes, practiced spelling for about 15 minutes, talked to me about study skills (and I had her write down some ideas), and she read The Lord of the Rings (with a dictionary and notebook near by) for pretty much the rest of the time.  She loved it and said she wanted every day to be a Scholar Day.  I told her that she would probably need some Love of Learning Days in between, but that she was welcome to pick when she wanted one.  She knew some friends were coming over yesterday so she chose a Love of Learning Day so that she could play with them. 

Anyway, I don't want to mess this up so I would love any help or advise on this.  How much work is appropriate?  I'm also trying to figure out what the difference is between what the learning looks like in each phase.  My friend that came over yesterday told me that the way she differentiates a Love of Learning Day from a Scholar Day with her son is that her son has a plan on Scholar Days and follows through with much of his plan.  On a Love of Learning Day he just kind of goes with what he feels like doing.  I think this will help me see the difference.  How do some of you differentiate?

As for the other children, Bud is pretty solidly into Love of Learning (right now he is re-reading The Hobbit in his room).  He recently read White Fang and his insights about the book were pretty amazing.  He has read all of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and would like to re-read them again as well.  He loves observing nature and is often telling me about the habits of the wildlife in our backyard -even the chickens.  He thinks he has figured out their "pecking order", but he keeps watching the changes.  He takes very good care of them as well.  He likes to play physical games a lot also and that is mostly what he does when friends come over (sports, field games, bikes, plasma cars, etc).

Little Miss is mostly into Love of Learning, but she enjoys Core phase plenty too.  She just finished re-reading Heidi (in two days), she picked up James and the Giant Peach last night and finished it this morning.  Before that she read Candyshop War (not normally the kind of literature I would have available, but they were pretty inspired to read a Brandon Mull book after his presentation a couple of weeks ago), and before that she was reading the Lord of the Rings. She made it 3/4 of the way through the book, but finally got bored with it and put it down for something lighter.  Right now she is in the backyard with some young neighbor friends and Bazinks playing that they are all hamsters.  She has been liking to do her reading outside in the nice weather and it is not uncommon to find her up in a tree with a book.  She is also starting to practice her writing.  I'm glad she took her time on wanting to write - it is much easier to teach her to write now that she has read so many books.  She practices the piano, but is not interested in lessons.  She just likes to play by ear for now.
The girls on a daddy-daughter date to see the play Annie

Bazinks is solidly in Core phase.  He loves being read to, playing in the yard, racing in his plasma car, and following the bigger kids around to do whatever they do.  He likes to practice his letters when the older kids are writing.  Sometimes he complains when everyone is reading because he gets bored, but he is coming along on his reading lessons (we're not very consistent on them, but he's getting there).  He likes playing with his little brother as well.

Ray is a funny little character.  I need to write his birthday post (it's almost been a month since his birthday!) so I'll get to that soon (maybe).

It was hard to trust this learning process at first.  I worried about them not being "caught up" with everyone else if I didn't make them do their math everyday or if they weren't doing worksheets.  The kindergartners around here write a lot at school so Little Miss and Bud seemed to be behind in some respects, but once they chose to learn it, it's been easy for them to catch up (they are not completely "caught" up in writing I don't think, but it doesn't matter much to me because I see how fast they progress).  Little Miss hasn't done any formal math lessons yet and I'm not worried at all.  In fact, I think they are somewhat a waste of time at her age!  I would never have said that a few years ago, but I'm seeing a lot of value in letting them focus on core values when they are little and then advancing to learning activities as they are ready.  It's been a beautiful process to watch.

Rock has scout camp tonight so I better go fix dinner before he has to be on his way.  I have a several things I would like to write about lately - we'll see if I can get to them before this baby is born - or maybe after?  We'll see how it all goes.

Rock taking a picture as he rides 100 miles in the Tour de Cure.  He did great - his training paid off!  Way to go hun!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Schedule

Hike on Monday with my brother

I just printed our summer schedule for the kids so I thought I would share.  It looks an awful lot like our non-summer schedule, but I wanted to include things in there that we seem to be forgetting as all of the neighbors are home from school and we are also leaving the house more often to enjoy nature in this nice weather.

Here it is:
Summer Schedule
1. Morning List, Journals & Scriptures
2. Chickens
3. Breakfast (ready at or before 8am)
4. Family Work & Yard Zone*
5. Skills Practice
    Cassia: Writing, Typing, Math, Piano
    William: Writing, Math, Piano
    Jessalyn: Writing
    Dallin: Reading
6. Devotional (starts at 11am)
7. Quick Clean Zone
8. Lunch
9. Free Time (finish skills or jobs if not done)
10. Dinner
11. Quick Clean Zone
12. Bedtime List
13. Gratitude Journal
14. Family Reading
15. Chickens
16. Bedtime

Friends are allowed during Free Time on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  On all other days, we must stay inside, in the backyard or in the wild (a trip to the mountains).

I should mention that "Free Time" is where I hope the real education takes place.  "Skill Practice" is only for learning skills that will help them gain an education.  They have each told me what skills they want to work on and then I help them with those, or they work on them on their own during skill practice.  The reading, exploring, researching, observing, creative writing, etc. all take place during their free time at their choosing.

Perhaps that helps in understanding why I don't want them playing with friends everyday during free time.  It's also because they tend to pick up some rude ways of speaking towards each other when they play with friends too often.  I liked an a post by Nicholeen Peck that I read recently.  She explains that to establish a family culture, children need to spend most of their time with their families.  I have found this to be very true.  When I get lax about letting them play with their friends too often, we seem to grow distant and start to forget the vision we have for our family.

Nicholeen breaks down the number of hours that her kids spend with friends.  Since we are not involved in any groups during the summer (like Knights of Freedom, etc) they do get a little more neighbor time then they do during the school year.  I added it up and it adds up to 13 hours per week (including scouts and Activity Days).  During the school year they are involved in more clubs but neighbors don't get home from school until 4 (and free time ends at 5 for dinner) so it works out well.

Spice will be joining a scholar group this fall.  She'll be doing that for about 5+ hours/week at first (The "+" is because they do several activities outside of class time).  She's also starting Young Womens so that's 1-2 hours per week.  She'll still be taking piano, choir, and she'll be involved in a play.  That will be about 3 more hours per week.  That will be about 10+ hours of peer time already.  She's getting to the age where she needs more of that I think.  I'm going to miss her though :-(  However, I think she'll do great.

Anyway, that last part had nothing to do with our summer schedule, but it sure has been on my mind lately.  They grow up so fast!

*I divided the yard into zones, each child is responsible for weeding keeping their zone nice.  Each child has a part of the garden, a part of the front yard, and a part of the backyard.

More summer pictures:
My grandma was able to stay at our house for a couple of days during her visit from Mexico. We took her to the Church History Museum while the kids were at choir practice. When they got done (it was a dress rehearsal - they don't usually dress like pioneers) we went back to temple square and toured the Conference Center. It was beautiful. The kids miss their great-grandma
More from the hike:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Learning from People - and the Oliver Performance

I've had some blows to my pride lately.  I won't tell you what they were because humbling incidents are not all that fun to talk about and share with the world.  I've just been pondering about what I can learn from some of these experiences.

One thing I want to do better is to find what I can learn from others.  We all have such different backgrounds and experiences, so we can all learn something from one another.  I want to listen to people with the intent to understand and perhaps learn something about how people see things and why.

Sometimes I feel so "different" from many of the people around me because of the way I raise my kids and some other weird things I do.  I don't necessarily like it when people think I'm going about things the wrong way.  It used to bother me quite a bit, but it was probably because I was somewhat insecure in new territory.  I don't really feel defensive anymore (I have plenty of evidence that it is right for us), but I do have this desire to share the things that have enriched my life SO MUCH with the people around me and I sometimes get discouraged when they are not interested in what I have to say.  I wonder how often the people around me feel the same way (like others are not interested in what they have to say).  Don't we all feel "different" in one way or another?

I wonder how many others sometimes feel lonely in a room full of people.  I bet it's more normal than I realize.  I want to be more sensitive to this.  Instead of thinking about how differently I see things when I am listening to someone,  I want to think about where we see things the same.  I think I (and possibly those I talk to) will come away more edified if we focus on what we have in common.

This is probably sounding like I'm walking around all the time being judgmental of others.  In truth, feeling a love for people, and an interest in how they are, has never been hard for me.   I have just found myself feeling more distant and lonely from many of the people around me as I have chosen to do strange things like not watch TV, or to educate my kids differently, or to have a  home birth, and other little things.  I'm pretty sensitive to how people perceive what I say and I know most of the time people just don't understand and pretty often they don't want me to go into some long tangent about why I have made the decisions I have made and I don't know how to phrase it all in a short concise way.

However, I think Satan loves it when we start feeling different and separate.  It's the opposite of unity after all.  I don't want to feel that way.  I am going to focus a lot more on what I have in common with others.  I don't think there is anything wrong with feeling like I have something worthwhile to share as long I remember that others do also, and if we find common ground and compassion, we will both be more able to learn from and share with each other in a colaborative effort.

Maybe it's my pregnancy hormones that are making me more sensitive to feeling lonely etc, but I'm thankful for the introspective thoughts anyhow.  I hope I can do better.

Some pictures and videos from the kids' Oliver performance (all of the videos turned out really bad - I need to take a better camera than my iphone to these things):

This first video isn't from the performance, but Spice filmed it right before we left. Bud usually plays this song a lot better, but I thought his face expressions were so funny that I'm posting it anyway.

At the performance:

"Food, Glorious Food" Part 1 (Spice is in this, but you can't really see her well)
"Food, Glorious Food" Part 2 (You can see Spice better in this one if you remember that she's short and she's wearing a brown skirt, apron and a cap)
"Where is love?" - Spice is towards the front center and Bud is on the right group, I didn't get Little Miss - she's in it though, just not within camera shot - again they are hard to see.
"I'd do anything" - All of the kids are in this one again, but they are hard to find. I put it on here anyway because you can clearly hear Ray singing along in the background. I try to distract him from singing with the phone which makes the video even more blurry :-)
Finale (Spice comes out with the first group, Bud with the 5th and Little Miss with the 6th):
They did a great job.  We'll miss choir this summer.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Educational Goal

I've been asking myself some hard questions such as:

What should my children know before they leave my home?
What does God want my children to know?
How can I teach them to turn to God and be happy regardless of their circumstances?
How can I help them continue on their path of discipleship?

I've learned a few things in the past years as I've pondered these questions.  An important pattern has emerged in the things I've read lately.  I hope I can accurately express it in this post.

“In life’s adventure the central problem is character building...  In the next life your righteous character will be evaluated to assess how well you used the privilege of mortality.” -Elder Richard G. Scott (Nov 2010, Ensign)
I know that an education is not simply filling my children’s minds with information.  I want them to seek truth and work to apply it so that they can become disciples of Christ.  I have noticed, as I've read, that God cursed the ground for our sake.  He wanted us to learn to overcome the natural man without taking away our agency - so He gave us weeds.  We would have to eat bread by the “sweat of [our] face” (Moses 4:25) so that we could learn to yield our natural tendencies to our desire for that which is better.

I like to think of this pattern as a Cycle of Happiness.  I now see it in many things I read:

Seeking Truth (light and knowledge) + Work Ethic = Righteous Character

It was sometimes said in other ways:

Desire + Action = Becoming

Elder Dallin H. Oaks recently stated, “It is our actions and desires that cause us to become something.” (Apr 2011, Ensign)

In educational circles it is often described as:

Love of Learning + Hard Work (Study) = Education

In the TJEd community we might phrase it like this:

Love of Learning + Core = Scholar

Most recently, I have noticed it in this familiar formula:

Hope + Faith = Charity

“Hope is the desire of [Christ’s] followers to gain eternal salvation through the Atonement...hopes can lead to dreams which can inspire us and lead us to action” -Elder Steven E. Snow (Apr 2011, Ensign)

Faith is “the principle of action in all intelligent beings.” -President Joseph Smith (Lectures on Faith)

“Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” (Moroni 7:47)

This is the pattern that we notice when we read the Book of Mormon more than once.  The first time we find much truth.  As we apply truth we become, as I recently read and wrote about,
“informed: we will in other words be taking on the form of truth, coming under the formative influence of the Being who is its source, changing so that we are more like him, more “of the truth.” -C. Terry Warner (Foreword, Arm the Children: Faith's response to a violent world)

The next time we read the Book of Mormon we have become more Christlike so we seek and are able to see more truth.  We are filled with more joy and understanding.  We work to apply this new knowledge, and we become more Christlike.  Thus, this Cycle of Happiness continues.

“Faith and Character interact to strengthen one another.  Character is woven patiently from threads of applied principle, doctrine, and obedience.” -Elder Richard G. Scott

The simple, basic practices in our home such as prayer, family home evening, and scriptures study will all feed our desire, motivate our actions and help us become.  We must also have the ability to work hard to accomplish what we are motivated to accomplish.  This is why teaching our children to work is so vital to their progression.  They need to know how to do hard things when called upon to do them.  Too often this cycle of happiness is broken after someone feels motivated to to something, but then they lack the effort to follow through.  Work, along with gospel study, needs to be a priority in our home.

Another place that I have seen people move away from this cycle is when they confuse play with entertainment.  Young children learn through real play which requires effort, creativity and imagination.  As they get older they really do progress to learning in other ways like reading and writing.  They continue on their path of seeking light and knowledge.  Children who are given entertainment instead of the opportunity to use their imaginations for real play, often continue to seek this false lifestyle of big fun for very little effort.  I know adults who use their free time to entertain themselves instead of using it to seek the real joy that comes from putting forth the effort to seek more truth, light and knowledge.

I may have quoted this before, but it is worth repeating:

"We should not bring up our children to respond to the exciting, the thrilling.  Americans don't get told this, but the thrilling and the exciting are bad... if we inure our children to stability, to repetition, to normal life, if we get them interested in sameness and in the variety that can be found in sameness and exclude the exciting and thrilling, then they will live decent lives.  But if they want always to have a thrill and titillation, their sex will go that way, their aesthetics will go that way, even their religious experience." -Arthur Henry King (Arm the Children: Faith's response to a violent world)

I am learning that a simple lifestyle in which we have a real environment, without the quick entertainment, and in which we learn to work is producing a desire for more light and knowledge and an ability to work for it.  That is my educational goal - for my children to be firmly planted in this cycle.  I used to think that an education was for a career so that they could support themselves and their family.  I now understand that being motivated by money is the way Satan gets us to loose focus.  I firmly believe that if we "seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness...all these things shall be added unto [us]. (Mathew 6:33)

Instead of seeking for my children to have successful careers, I want them to be people who seek for truth and light, work had to apply what they learn, become more Christlike as they do so and thereby seek more light and knowledge throughout their life.  This is eternal progression.  This is the cycle to eternal happiness.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Some of the Latest Doings and Some Deep Thoughts

Renaissance Festival:
This worked out well since we had just finished listening to Howard Pyle's Robin Hood and were very much in a Renaissance mindset.
Petting goats

Knight initiation
Horse Vaulting

Renaissance Music

Magic Shows
My cousin's wedding:
I loved this day.  The temple ceremony was beautiful.  The sealer had some wonderful things to say.  My cousin's new husband is a very good man and they looked so happy together.

Ray dancing with my cousin at the reception

Ray dancing some more:
He does get into his dancing

Rock and I at the U2 concert in Salt Lake:
(I often have my eyes half closed in pictures)
Someone did thank me for not going into labor on the tram - there were so many people that we were packed as tight as sardines in the AmTrax... I must love my husband (he's the U2 fan).  Did I mentione that we drove to Vegas a couple of years ago to see them in concert there?  I'm beginning to feel like a groupie.  
 Part of a song - they had a pretty neat set-up:

Homeschool Reading Party with Brandon Mull: 
He gave an inspiring presentation.

A cute chicken coop:
We found a great deal on this coop.  The kids have been doing a great job taking care of the chickens.  We found our big white one was a rooster, so they were a little sad to see her him go.  Hopefully we don't have too many more roosters in our flock.

"Sweet Mama" the rooster.
Some more Moab pictures I just uploaded from my phone:

The kids did a great job on their play Mingling of Fantasy, but I didn't take any pictures.  My brother took some and as soon as he e-mails them to me I'll post them on here.  They had so much fun with it.

That's pretty much what we've been up to, besides working on our daily routines and on doing them better.  I'm starting to feel very pregnant and tired - just 4 weeks left :-) I do love this time of anticipation though.  The kids have a choir performance of Oliver next week that they are looking forward to.  It's on the evening of the 8th in Salt Lake for any family or friends that want to come watch it!  They'll also be doing their play again on the 13th - let me know if you want more info on that.

Latest Thoughts:
For those of you in the mood for some deep thoughts on education (I can call them deep because they are not my own, I've been reading them - I'm too tired for many deep thoughts lately), I've been re-reading parts of one of my favorite books and I have enjoyed seeing how new things pop out at me that I hadn't thought of before.  It is interesting that you get from a book whatever you are ready to get from it.  It really makes me think about the importance of a solid "core" phase ("core phase" is the foundational educational stage - it's when you learn right/wrong, work/play, good/bad, etc.)  If we are making our children read books, but we are not as focused on building their character - they're not going to get all that much from the books that they read.  I loved this thought:
Learning the truth is a moral endeavor.  It is a process of becoming truer, more faithful, and more responsive.  Just as the light radiates from the Lord as it "proceedeth forth... to fill the immensity of space" (D&C 88:12), so, I think, do we irradiate our situations with this same light to the extent that we are resonating with it" *
In other words, the closer our characters get to the true light from which they came, the more we are able to connect and understand truth.  We can not assume we are educated just because we know stuff.  It is correctly interpreting the "stuff" that makes a person truly wise, but a person can not correctly interpret anything if he himself has not become the truth that he knows.
When we are in tune [with the light of truth], as it were, there is nothing in us that diffuses or obliterates it... we will be yielding ourselves to his law, his power, and his love.  Instead of merely receiving information (what a paltry conception this is!), we will, quite literally be informed: we will in other words be taking on the form of truth, coming under the formative influence of the Being who is its source, changing so that we are more like him, more "of the truth." *
 As our children are immersed in truth and beauty in their formative years, they will begin to become truth and they will resonate with other true things.  They will see clearly to see the truth in the things they read, watch, hear.  There is no point in stuffing out kids with information if they do not have the ability to know what to do with it, or how to let it penetrate them in a way to mold their character.

I've been amazed at some of the insights that Spice has been sharing with me as she's been reading Anne of Green Gables, and I was surprised to hear some of the comments the children made recently as I read to them The Princess and Curdie.  They saw so much truth and made so many connections that it made me realize the incredible capacity even young children have to understand if they are being raised in a true and real environment - without the distractions so prevalent in our world.  I still have work to do in making our environment as true, real and full of the Spirit as I would like, but it made me happy to see that even my small efforts are helping them see things as they are.

*Quotes from Terry Warner in the preface to Arm the Children by Author Henry King