Friday, March 23, 2018

Exploring Shadows

 We were at the park yesterday for our homeschool teen get together.  My two older girls and the rest of the group had chosen to spend their time outside playing soccer, or at least trying to.  While the teens kicked the ball around the field I was biding my time over on the playground with the 7, 2 and 3.5 month olds.  My son was at a geography class.  It was a bright and blustery day;  a bit chilly for park time when your main activity is sitting on a cement bench watching the clock tick by.

The wind was making my daughter's runny nose run even more.  I was out of tissue and the wind was whipping her hair into that gooey mess.  Gross.  The baby didn't enjoy the sun in her eyes and was starting to fuss.  I was tired of fumbling with the snacks and stroller. I was thinking about all the cleaning I needed to get done at home and wondering if my time was being well spent at the park.  Ever have moments like that?  You're mind is everywhere and nowhere at the same time?

"Let's go for a walk around the fields, girls."  It was my effort to get something beneficial for myself out of the experience.  If I'd been wearing my fitbit I would have been more excited about the walk.  As it was, I just wanted to get moving and warm up.  After hefting the stroller across the rocky and muddy remnants of last summer's stream, we began our lap around the fields.  Two minutes into the walk my 7yo pulls out a lollipop that she had won at the arcade earlier that day.   "Hide it!" I warned her.  Too late.  2yo was already begging and pleading, then whining and crying, then refusing to walk, and finally up on my shoulder wailing into my already partially deaf left ear.  OK.  I was ready to go home already.  7yo picks up her pace so as to remove the lollipop from view and enjoy her sugar high in peace.  That left me lugging a toddler and pushing a stroller. it.  Mom life, right?  Actually, I was feeling good about myself for not getting too annoyed.

Another five minutes into it and the wailing had waned.  I put her down.  We walked in silence.  The wind died down and the sun felt great on my cheek.  Then comes her question: "What are those lines on the ground?"  Imagine her cute little 2-yo voice and the question is even more curious. Lines on the ground?  Like the lines that divide the cement squares in the sidewalk?  No, wrong lines.  I keep trying to figure out her question.  Ah!  Then I realize.  Shadow lines.  Shadows?!  How could I have let my 2yo go this long without showing her the magic of shadows?  Shadows are cool!

It occurred to me that maybe in my daily rush to homeschool, run the house, etc I have neglected my sweet littles a tad.  With my oldest entering highschool this year and her siblings close on her heels, not to mention the new baby, I don't think I've given my 2yo the same focus and attention that I've given the others at this stage.  I felt sad for a moment. I had lost time.  Wasted time.  Missed out on memories with her.  I have so many good memories of story time, play dates, long walks, and snuggles galore with my older children.  But what about with this one? Her toddler years have been somewhat lost in the shuffle of two hectic moves, a new baby, and a stressed-out-homeschooling-mom of six.*

I pulled myself out of that sad moment and realized that there's no time like the present to DO something.  I didn't want to waste THIS memory.  I dove into the sweetness of the moment and did my best to show her what a shadow is.  "See my shadow?  That's me waving at you!  Hello!!  Can you wave at me with your shadow too?  There you are!  Can you step on my shadow? I'm going to step on the stroller's shadow.  I wonder if we run fast enough will our shadows keep up?  Let's see!"

The light bulb came on!  And it was amazing to watch.  "Mommy!  That's me!  It's me!"  Yep.  That's you Sweet Girl.  The twirling and bending began as she experimented with all the things her shadow could do.

Thank goodness for these moments. These are teh moments that keep me going.  The sweetness of the daily details overshadows the sometimes mundane-ness of  the routine.  Just when I was wishing we hadn't come, I was so glad that we had.

So, the truth is that she wont' have the same experience as a toddler that my older kids had.  That's the reality of having a larger family.  There's only one of me and six* of them.  But when I am granted opportunities like this to make a memory, I sure hope I'm not to busy to recognize it.

*I always feel bad saying that I only have six kids. It feels to me that I am dishonoring the memory of our 5th daughter that died in 2014.  She would be 4 years old now.  In her temporary, but long-term absence, my daily reality is that of a mother of six.  Someday I'll have them all together.  Someday it will be seven kids again.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

My Newest Student

I'm a little late getting around to birth announcements.  So let's not call it that.  Let's just welcome the newest student at Cedar Heights Academy! 

Isn't she sweet?

At our church we don't have what people would call a christening.  Instead we have a "blessing day" when the baby is presented to the congregation and her name is formally added to the church records.  This ordinance is performed by the father who, under direction of the holy spirit and by authority of the priesthood he holds, also takes the opportunity to give his child a blessing.  It's a big day.  A big deal.  Normally we have family come in and stay with us so they can attend this event.  Unfortunately, nobody was able to come this time. So it was just us celebrating our newest little member.  Still, it was lovely and tender.   We love our little one.  She brings the essence of heaven down with her and reminds me that our Hazel is still waiting for us there.

Perks of Having Older Children

A few weeks ago I was at a church meeting with some moms that had small children.  As I watched them wrest with their small ones I was grateful that I had been able to leave my 2-yo at home with my older girls, leaving me to more efficiently participate in the meeting.  I jokingly leaned over to one of the other moms and said, "See, this is why we should all have our teenage girls FIRST, and then have the younger ones."  yeah.  That'd be nice, huh?

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way around that stage of parenthood when all the children are small and needy.  Ugh.  There were days when I just watched the clock waiting for bedtime.  I remember when, at the end of a long and taxing day (and weren't they all?), I would finally exhale a huge sigh of relief as I slowly, silently released the bedroom doorknob and tiptoed away to find peace in my own quiet thoughts.  That is, until someone leaked out of said bedroom in tears and/or a dirty diaper.  Nope, there's no way around it, but through it.

Fortunately, it doesn't last forever.  These little people grow and become their own unique, talented, spirited, driven, contributing members of your home and community.  It's a truly amazing process to witness. That little person you nursed and swaddled at all hours is now mowing the lawn, doing laundry, babysitting for you, making your grocery lists, washing the car, and...wait for!!

Yes.  Cooking! And Baking!  And it's wonderful (most of the time) to have someone else share the load in the kitchen.  Take today for example.  My newly-turned-15-yo made a wonderful artisan bread that disappeared WAY too fast.  It's becoming a weekly routine.

Photo credits go to my 7-yo.  
She has an eye for great photos.

Here's a link to the recipe

As far as homeschooling goes, having older kids is such a blessing!  For example, my artsy 7th grader has at times taken over the art lesson while I change a diaper.  My 9th grader gives her brother a spelling test on occasion.  Even my 2nd grader helps out by entertain the 2yo with all sorts of imaginary fun.  My son (5th grade) often makes an effort to include his little sister in his online math lesson by letting her push some of the buttons on the keyboard or showing her the fun little cartoon that plays when he gets an answer right.  

It's a family effort to run this homeschool.  The older the kids get the more they are able to take on, both as independent learners as well as interdependent supporters.   I love watching how the younger kids observe the older ones.  They learn how to learn by watching.  This, of course, makes my job so much easier.  

I remember being amazed when my 4th child learned to read with SUCH ease. Really! It was a dream. I couldn't move fast enough for her. And I think it had a lot to do with the fact that our homeschool was well under way when she was born and she has had a lifetime of full immersion in our homeschool. She observed her older siblings and soaked up all the learning that was happening around her.  When it came time to "teach" her formally, she was SO ready.

I'm curious to see how it goes with my next two kids (ages 2 yrs and 3 months) and observe how our ever changing family dynamics affect their learning as well.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Animal Cell Models

I have to say, I'm enjoying our science studies this year.  Truly.  We are taking a break from the Apologia series and going back to Real Science 4 Kids.  We're using the middle school series for grades 5-8 that covers Physics, Chemistry and Biology.  I have three of the kids using it this year and they are in 2nd, 5th, and 7th grade.

So far this year we've finished Chemistry and we're well into our Biology studies.  I break each unit up into 2 lesson. The first lesson is me reading aloud from the student book while encouraging the kids to take notes on what they are learning.  I write notes on the board for my 2nd grader to copy in a very simple form.   She doesn't always keep up with her note taking but it's amazing how quickly she is developing this skill of hearing information, picking out important concepts, writing them down, asking clarifying questions, and using her notes to retell what she has learned.  All the kids are learning this to varying degrees (see there's more to science than just science!)

Then the second lesson is dedicated to the lab experiment or activity for that chapter.  This keeps our lessons in enjoyable bite-sized chunks without me or them experiencing science over load.

Right now we are in chapter 2 or 3 learning about plant vs. animal cells.  I extended this chapter quite a bit by purchasing a model of a plant cell that they can take a part and reassemble.  I used this in our year-long study of botany last year as well.

I also printed out plant cells for them to color as we discussed the different organelles.
cell drawing

In a different lesson we learned about the animal cells and then made a model of our own.  I happen to have a bunch of thick Styrofoam  in the house due to a recent furniture purchase.  So we used a box cutter to cut out circles and use them as the base of our model. 

I then gave the kids pony beads, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, fuzzy balls, macaroni noodles, and a bit of left over modeling clay to create the organelles.   It was nice that I didn't have to buy any new materials for this project.  I was able to pick through our art cupboard and use materials that I have been gathering and using over the years in our homeschool.  If you aren't already in the process of building an art cupboard, I would highly suggest it!  It helps keep our room organized and provides many of the materials we use in any number of projects.

The kids had a great time with this activity.  Everyone was happy and busy.  I even heard, "Mom, I love homeschooling!" during this project. worth it!

 I think they turned out pretty great!