Sunday, April 29, 2007

Update on school

Sometimes life gets away from me, and I don't have time for things like blogging or laundry or cleaning the kitchen... I just have time for feeding babies, keeping toddlers happy and wiping noses all day. Sleep comes in somewhere in between, and if it wasn't for my dear husband, we wouldn't eat meals often.

This week we've had a bunch of sickos in the house. Just a cold, but sometimes that can be even more work with little kids because they aren't sick enough to lie in bed all day. They feel good enough to be underfoot, complaining and whining all day long. I know how they feel! I am the champion of whining and complaining when i am uncomfortable (Maybe that's where they learned it??).

Anyways, here's a long-winded update into what our week has looked like:

Math: we're trying to get back on track with learning our addition facts. We spent last week doing the +8s and this week doing the doubles.. Next week we'll move on again. We went back to the basics and began to enjoy using the MathUsee blocks again with our work. Everyone thinks this is great fun... and I've let go of my controlling attitude and let little snapdragon and H play with them at the table. The fine motor control they are developing while stacking the little blocks is worth it! I have pictures, but you'll have to wait, since I'm sitting on the couch with the laptop and a sick baby and can't go get the camera.

We've also been doing a daily drill of calculadder. This is a timed math sheet that you do every morning. I set the timer and she gets two minutes to finish the page. When she can get through the whole page with no mistakes in 2 minutes we move onto the next level. This is really good practice in the slow and steady method that we both need to work on.

Being the perfectionist, all-or-nothing kind of person that I am, it's been fun to speed through math and reading to see how smart my little girl is, and go go go!! But I'm realizing that it's more important to develop good habits of constancy and discipline in these areas, and take little steps each day, instead of big bursts of speed every few weeks (or months in my case). Think the fable of the tortoise and the hare. (isn't homeschooling grand! It's teaching me so many things too!)

Reading: We're still moving incrementally through our new lesson book, and E is so much happier now. I just need to remember to add in more reading practice throughout the day. I have lots of nice easy reader books she can read to me... perhaps after lunch or maybe at bedtime.

We also listened to many books on tape, and watched our traditional Friday family movie night movie: Jonah and the whale (veggie tales).

Science: We are into the desert unit, and are reading a little each day from One Small Square:cactus desert. Yesterday we were at our local zoo and got to see their desert exhibit, and we want to go to the garden centre next week and buy some cactuses for our house.

Religion: We are still working our way through the Treasure of my Catholic Faith. It's pretty work-bookey, but full of really good theology, and fun for the kids to use. A real keeper for us.
We are also finishing up our Easter Lapbook... just have to do the Ascension and Pentecost. I'll have photos of this soon.

Life Skills, etc: The kids were busy washing the walls for me at the beginning of the week, and have been very good with their chores in the kitchen (unloading the dishwasher, clearing the table, washing it down), and their bedroom chores (cleaning their room at night, laying out their clothes for the next day, making their bed in the morning and getting dressed right away).

We also had a fun opportunity to visit the University and participate in some research. The child psychology speech development lab and cognitive development lab are always doing research, learning more about how children develop. It's quite interesting. Anyways, we are in their database, and they called us last week. E was in an experiment on memory where she got to watch a puppet show and then respond to some questions about the characters, and the twins were in an experiment that tracked what their eyes were following to see if they can tell the difference between colors and shape at such a young age. It was fun for all! The babies got free t-shirts and E got to pick 2 prizes.

Phys Ed: What a beautiful week here! Spring has finally arrived, and the kids spent upwards of 3 hours a day running around outside in our big yard. They blew bubbles, made mud roads for their trucks, built houses out of wood scraps, played chase, princess, and many other games. What fun!

A crazy fun-filled week, and at the end of it all we celebrated my birthday, and I thanked God all day for giving me life.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

More catholic mom blogs...

On my sidebar, if you scroll down you'll see a link to Catholic Mothers Online. This is a new blogroll for catholic moms on the internet... go check them out. It's always nice to know I'm not alone in this big wide world...

This post, brought to you by the letter U

So we've been using this very very good program for teaching reading and spelling called Spell to Write and Read. It's a great program that teaches phonics in a way that really sticks with the kids, and teaches lifelong spelling habits that persist throughout their lifetime of learning, reading and writing.

However, said program is also very teacher-intensive. It's too time-consuming and requires way too much patience and concentration for all involved. Especially in this household where I have 4 little distractions running around. It's been so good for us, up until now. She's learned cursive really well, and she knows most of the phonograms and is reading at grade level. But it's boring for her (Because it's tedious hard work), and it's frustrating for me, because I just don't have the time to devote to it.

So, following the wisdom of one of my friends,I have decided that the most perfect reading program in the world is not the most perfect program for MY family, if we never use it, or don't use it the way it's intended... or start crying half way through a lesson because it's too frustrating.

We've moved back a step, and have begun to find the joy in learning about things step by step, day by day again. We don't need to jump to jr high level spelling in one week! We don't need to be PERFECT in one day!! This is what I have learned over and over again since the twins have come.

So here we are back to the original program I bought and we are enjoying the slow pace. It has delightful stories, a fun workbook, short lessons, and most importantly... CRAFTS! The added bonus is that it's often very easy to incorporate lessons for our little preschooler Z into it.

Today, we learned about short u. E already knows that u can say three sounds, and she knows how to write them, and she can read words with them slowly. It was such a nice lesson, however, because instead of being boring, she had her confidence raised by being able to easily do it, she got in good practice of reading easier words, and she enjoyed the craft (making an Umbrella.. u).

Z did his all by himself too! He drew a circle first, then cut it out. Then cut it in half. I drew the zig zag for the bottom and he cut that out and then he cut out a J that I drew for him for the handle.

E's umbrella is done without any of my help or suggestions LOL. She even drew a secret message under the umbrella handle.

While the kids were making their U crafts, I set little snapdragon up on the floor to distract her from bugging her siblings, with a mat and some nesting cups to build a tower. She had so much fun that the older kids got distracted themselves from their work and abandoned the art project to play with the cups too.

I love this part of homeschooling.. the interactions and relationships that blossom from spending so much time together with their siblings.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


We love Storynory around here.. a podcast for children where you can listen to free stories online. Good stories! Classic fairy tales, Alice and wonderland, legends, etc...

I've posted a Storynory Widget on my sidebar where you can browse through their stories and enjoy them like we have. Even the 3 year old boy listens to them.

Here's whats on today (click on the grazr link below, or scroll down a bit on the right sidebar of my blog).

Open Grazr

Even on sick days...

Yesterday morning, I came downstairs to a quiet house with little E laying on the couch, sick.

A cold or something of the sort was makng her feel quite draggy and ill. There goes my plans for a good homeschoolinhg day, I thought.

I persevered, however, against the relentless tide of requests for the traditional sick day movie-a-thon, and decided to sprinkle the house with opportunities for discovery and learning instead.

First there were the books I layed down on the couch where she was lounging:
- A picture story book of the Greeks

- How to decorate birthday cakes

- Volcanoes

- Birds

- Tree identification guide

(it helped I was rearranging furniture all day and had the books all over the place to organize them!)

Then there was the podcasts we listened to:


-12 dancing princesses (did you know it wasn't orignially a barbie thing?)

-Alice in Wonderland chapter 7

-The happy prince (oscar wilde)

And the online audio books from our library:

-The Jungle books by Rudyard Kipling (the first chapter), and

-Anne of Green Gables (in it's entirety)

And finally, there was the Klutz How to Build Castles kit that I placed on the table for the kids to discover.

The result... at the end of the day, instead of having sick, whiney, TV doped kids who were grumpy and restless, I had curious-feeling-a-bit-better kids who learned a lot, and I enjoyed Anne of green gabels very much. So much, that I ordered the DVD to watch later.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Look at me mom!

Well since JP was featured in a post yesterday, his brother must have gotten jeallous...
Here, dear readers, is his twin brother: Super Peter! He's learning how to crawl.

No lounging in the sun for this kid, he wants to MOVE!

Isn't he so cute?
Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 23, 2007

Yes, JP, there IS a sun...

Finally, a nice day in our part of the world. The twins have been stuck inside since they were born practically, and today JP enjoyed the warmth of the sun on his skin for the first time. His twin brother was sleeping, but JP was happy to explore the outside world nonetheless. So this is what sunshine feels like!!

I was in heaven walking through my backyard in my barefeet this morning. Warm sun on my skin, soft grass under my feet, smells of spring and fresh air filling my lungs. This mamma is happy!!
That, and this cutie pie slept through the night last night, so mommy had a better sleep. (now we just need to teach his brother)
And the VERY FIRST flower of the year in our yard!!!! A small, beautiful crocus. Welcome Spring. Please make yourself at home and stay awhile! pretty please?
Posted by Picasa

a great man...

My mom loves to scrapbook digitally, and this is one of her latest pages... Little Peter's namesake: great-grandpa Pete. May you grow to be as wise and gentle as my grandpa was, dear Peter.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Getting back to my roots

My mother's grandma was born in the Ukraine, and my grandma Sonia grew up speaking both English and Ukrainian, living in central Alberta with her mother, father and 8 brothers and sisters. I love looking at old pictures of my grandma's family, and of my mother as a little girl. Hard working, living off the land sort of people. The kind of genes I really need in my own blood right about now (because God knows how much hard work I'm putting into raising this little brood of my own).

Grandma Sonia always tells me stories of things that she and her siblings did as children. About going to school, learning to read and memorize poems, learning to cook and watch her mom, listening to her dad play the violin, playing in the woods with her brothers, helping her mom make butter, growing into a young woman who was the cook at a logging camp filled with strong hungry men, marrying my grandpa and raising her own family. She also likes to tell me stories of when my own mother was a child. Washing clothes on a washboard and hanging them out to dry, playing in the river, building their own house. Some of my favorite memories are of spending time with her and gr Pete. It's wonderful that my own children have the privilege of playing with her too. (and we miss dear gr Pete each time we go over there).
Since starting school again on Monday, we've decided to leave Fridays open to outings to the library, and to visit grandma Sonia. Math was never invented to be done 5 days a week anyways right?
From Easter bread ...
This Friday, we invited ourselves over to grandma Sonia's house so she could teach us how to make Ukrainian Easter bread decorations. Since she was a little girl, she remembers her mother making these cute bread birds at Easter time. Easter was the biggest feast of the year when she was a child. They always went to church (a Ukrainian Orthodox church on the prairies), and she remembers lots of fun and games after church with treats and punch.
From Easter bread ...
Anyways, we had lots of fun rolling out the dough, shaping it, brushing it with egg glaze and baking them. Actually, Grandma teases me that I had the most fun of all, because the kids just made one bird each and then ran off to play, but I sat at the table and made 5 or 6 while grandma held the babies and we chatted about the olden days.
I really enjoy those hands-on skills and crafts. It feels so good to get my hands into something and create things of beauty and goodness. One of the reasons that I enjoy staying home to care for my children and husband so much is that I get to do exactly that each day-- make things beautiful and good with my own hands all day long. (It might just be a clean pile of laundry, a sparkling bathroom mirror, or a yummy homemade birthday cake, but it's made all by myself to sustain my family, and I love that!).
From Easter bread ...
Here are some pictures of our day. You'll notice we also made cinnamon buns. Grandma Sonia is so great at just whipping up these treats.. no cookbook - just good, simple ingredients and common sense.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What's missing here?

Do you see what I see? Now I have two kids with missing front teeth :-)
And doesn't little brother look happy that he is the same as his big sister?
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Angela, my 'twin' (Catholic homeschooling mother of five kids, including twin toddlers) is hosting a lovely carnival this spring on where we find JOY in our lives. I am way to late to add mine today, but here is my contribution for my own sake.

Where I've found joy this week:

1. The good Lord gave me a quiet thirty minutes of peace yesterday afternoon when the four youngest were sleeping and the oldest was doing what she loves best- artwork. So... what was I to do but take a bubble bath. Ahhhh... the relaxing warmth of the water, the quiet silence through the house, the lingering smell of bubblebath.

2. That sounds so nice, I think i'll run up and have another one right now, since they are all asleep at the same time again!!!

Stay tuned for more joy next week LOL

lesson two

-before you take pictures of people (especially of yourself) make sure their faces have no food on them
Posted by Picasa

grade one photography

Lesson #1
-don't drop the camera
-press this button to take a picture

Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 16, 2007

Back at it!

So the twins are already 6 1/2 months old, and since that means we haven't really done math or spelling for that long, I figured it was about time we started up again. Plus the kids are growing restless with a lack of routine, and I"m growing bored with the current messy crazy chaos our house has erupted into.

Last week we wrote up a schedule together, and talked about how we would start school again on monday, so they were ready for the new routine. The most exciting looked-forward-to part of the schedule was the addition of a formal 'recess'. Apparently, after hearing about this in books and on movies, the kids wanted to have their own recess. (not that they dont' play all day long already.. they just wanted to experience real recess!).

Anways, the day was a success. We began with our morning routine:

Get dressed, make bed, have breakfast, clean up kitchen, kids unload dishwasher

And then we started into our schoolwork:

Religion, (faith and life)
Math (calculadder..a timed math drill we are trying out, and lesson 10 in Math-U-See on adding 8 to numbers)
Snack time (bagel and cream cheese)
Spelling (list H2 in SWR, practicing phonemes, and writing in cursive)
reading (she read to me a short story from Little Angel Reader A)
Recess (they played and played for hours outside with grandpa. This was the highlight of the day for sure. We found lots of signs of spring: worms, ladybugs, tulips and rhubarb emerging from the ground, strawberry plants starting to grow... and they started to build a playhouse out of rocks and boards they found. They just need some cement they tell me... sure..i'll get right on that)

Posted by Picasa

Fancy Excuse that is...

"WHY aren't you done your math yet??," I yelled down to my little first grader this morning.

" Sorry mom, the baby was trying to eat it".

Can't beat that for an excuse. At least the baby stopped crying for a few minutes ;-)

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 15, 2007

E holding Z when he was one hour old

Posted by Picasa

Happy Birthday Big Boy!!

Where does the time go, my sweet baby boy? Seems like you were just born and your big sister was holding you... and now you're four years old already, and getting your turn to hold a baby.

Happy birthday sweetie pie.
Posted by Picasa

Adventures in Sewing

E wants to learn how to sew, and so does mommy. I've done lots of quilting, and cross stitch, and dabbled in other crafty needle crafts, but have never made anything to WEAR since grade 7 home economics class when I learned to sew straight lines on paper, thread the machine and, made my reversible apron, and boxer shorts.

Before I start to teach her how to make anything with the machine, I decided that I needed to get a few projects under my belt first, so I started with some pajamas for the girls. I figure this is a good thing to start with because then they can wear them in the dark where people can't get a good look at all the mistakes I made while learning how to sew :-)

I used this pattern, and this is how they turned out. Pretty cute... but the elastic is too tight on E's, and the toddler's isn't finished yet because I ran out of elastic.

Later on, the preschooler wanted something for himself too, so I made him this cute jacket out of an old pattern that I found in the basement. I used a tablecloth that I shrunk by accident, and a dress shirt of Sean's that got shrunk by accident too for fabric. I needed to go this route because I just can't get out of the house like most people to buy fabric... it's too hard to drag all the kiddies with me. (and NO, I didn't shrink his shirt on purpose to use the material!).

Here are some of the lessons that I have learned so far:

1. The cute country/handmade look (think crooked seams etc..) is great for quilts and handicrafts around the house, but not so cute on dresses and jackets.

2. The seam ripper is my best friend!

3. You need to be pretty exact when you are cutting out fabric from the pattern. Don't cut corners (literally), and work slowly, or things won't match up.

Stay tuned for more adventures. I want to try a tierd skirt from the tutorial I linked to in my google reader on the sidebar (right, under Blogs I"m reading today), and also some skirts for myself. I'd also like to make a new quilt for my bedroom, as well as some nice placemats and a table runner.. but I don't have time for all of them so we'll see what we get to.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Our new personal Chef

School work has taken a definite unschoolish bent since the twins were born, and one thing that our little first grader has been enjoying learning is kitchen skills. She is already very good at unloading the dishwasher, she habitually takes her dishes to the counter when she is done eating each meal, and she can peel carrots almost as good as grandpa Ed.... but ever since I came home from the library with a children's cookbook, (and she since found the other one she got as a present last year) she's been in the kitchen nearly every day attempting to make something.

First, Sean came downstairs to find her with a mixing bowl on the kitchen counter, her cookbook propped open, and flour, milk and eggs surrounding her on the table. She was making blueberry pancakes. With some assistance from Daddy, she learned how to measure, mix, crack eggs, and flip the pancakes.

The next day, after waking up to the sound of kids in the kitchen (how do they keep sneaking downstairs before I wake up?), I found them setting the table with a lovely breakfast of fruit shishkabobs they had made all by themselves for us. They couldn't find long skewers so they used toothpicks, and they knew they weren't allowed to use a knife without me, so they broke the banana with their fingers, and put whole strawberries on. Yummy!

The very next morning (do I detect a pattern here?) I found them in the kitchen with flour and milk all over the counter, trying to mix bowl full of flour, eggs and milk. They were making crepes. Crepes? My goodness! What ambitious little kids. I helped a bit with that recipe, but we had a nice breakfast that morning too. I was impressed with their ability. E read the recipe and figured out how much of everything to put in all by herself, and they even cracked the eggs by themselves and were insistent on telling me that they remembered to wash their hands after they did the eggs. Good little kids!

Now I just need to teach them how to make dinner for me, (and how to clean up after) and I'll be set!!
Post Script: She just walked by the computer and saw what I was blogging about, and now she's in the kitchen preparing to make slurpy spaghetti for dinner! Yay, it's working!!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Photograpic artistry

My cousin is an artist... something I really admire about her. She works so hard, seems like she must have lots of fun, and produces some great work. Her latest photo she has done is above. It's called The Dream, and it's part of a series of young adventurous girls. The sort of art that could only come from a mind that was raised on great books.

Below are three other pictures in the series (Bound, The Explorers, The Reader). My favorite is on the right.

On her website you can view some of her other works, and here is a photo tour of the making of some of her work:

It's interesting to see how they are all put together... it gives you an appreciation of how much work goes into these. It makes me want to go out and buy some original artwork from someone... In the age of superstores where you can buy cheap prints of just about anything for pennies, it's nice to be able to support original artists. My husband often likes to find obscure Catholic musicians on the Internet and order Cd's from them as well. I believe you can also support writers by purchasing the hardcover editions of books as they come out, as it shows support for their works, and more money ends up in the actual author's hands.