Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wishing for a Whiteboard

I have wanted a whiteboard almost as long as we have been homeschooling.  I could never justify getting one because we used other items instead.  The girls have small whiteboards that we would use for lessons and we have a magnetic calendar that we hang on the wall.  Nevertheless, I wanted a whiteboard.  That great expanse of white, begging for words to fill its blank space, called out to me as I passed it in the school supply aisle.  Recently, I decided that I would get a white board to fill the drab beige space on our school wall.  It would go under the alphabet cards and above the magnetic calendar.  To my utter disappointment, the space at the store where my white board once waited patiently for me to claim it was vacant.  Hoping a store employee could locate it, I waited patiently as she scanned the shelf tag.  Her news was beyond disappointing: they were out of stock and would not be in for 2 weeks.  I drug myself to the next aisle, hoping it wsa just a bad dream.  As I looked up, I quickly forgot about the whiteboard because what I saw was breath-taking.  Before me was a Crayola Dry Erase Poster.  It had colorful lines (also begging to be filled with words), was 17 x 24" big and cost half the price of my white board.  I quickly checked out and brought home my newest friend.  We have kept the poster busy with discussions around the poster, all of us taking turns writing on it.  The girls enjoy copying things from it, adding to it, and participating in group activities again.  My wish came true!

The Sugar Wars

Our 7-year-old daughter has complained of headaches for as long as she could say the word headache.  It's no surprise really, because every woman in my family suffers from them also.  I remember that in third grade we kept a bottle of children's tylenol in the school nurse's office for me.  By junior high, my mom had taught me some relaxation techniques, something that was still developing.  My heart breaks for my daughter because she says that she has a headache almost every day.  After several visits to our family doctor and no progress, we began seeing a neurologist.  One of the first recommendations: cut out the sugar as much as possible.  I was absolutely willing to do that, we had already greatly limited sugar in our household. My daughter and I agreed that it would be better to have less sugar and less headaches. Treats don't have to be sugary because they could also be stickers, extra play time, etc.  As we left the doctor's office determined to make this work, the receptionist offered my daughter a snack to eat on the way home.  My daughter eagerly viewed the selection, but the smile quickly turned to a frown.  The choices: fruit gummies, granola bars, and other sugar-loaded yummies.  Ugghhh!  Fast forward two weeks and we are back at the hospital working with the nurse who teaches children biofeedback techniques to deal with their headaches.  At the end of the hour-long session, the nurse praised my little girl for working hard and pointed her to the prize cabinet.  Upon opening the cabinet, my daughter smiled a huge smile.  The cabinet was filled with an assortment of toys, coloring books, and candy.  Weeks one and two were uneventful because she chose a coloring book and a bracelet.  Week three was a little more difficult. My daughter whispered, "Mom...there's nothing I want in here except a piece of candy.  Can I get it?"  Double ugghhh!    Mind you, this nurse also told my daughter that sugar was not good for kids with headaches.  All in all, we are doing better with the sugar wars.  We keep snacks with us so that when we are at sporting events, church, and other activities we can whip out the better snacks and turn down the junk snacks.  I just didn't expect to fight the battle at the doctor's office too.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Attentiveness and April Fool's Day

When choosing the character quality to cover this week, I settled on attentiveness.  It didn't take more than a few minutes for me to realize the irony of teaching attentiveness during the week that ends with April Fool's Day. Today we copied Deuteronomy 12:28 and discussed what it means to observe and hear.  These go hand in hand with obedience.  If you are truly observing and hearing, you will naturally make right choices and be obedient.  We have a white board where we normally write the date and character quality.  The rest of the space is usually blank for discussions and notes throughout the day.  Last night I erased everything and wrote a letter to the girls. It said:
Dear family,
Today is Monday, March 28, 2011.  Our character quality this week is attentiveness.  I am excited about the audition today at the theater.  If we get our work finished early, we will go to the museum on the way to the theater.
It didn't take the girls long to realize that the homeschool board was different.  They were excited about the prospect of a special trip.  I warned them to be attentive this week because other surprises will be showing up.  I'm not sure what the surprises will be, but April Fool's Day will definitely be fun this year.

As usual, I referred to The Character Journal for Bible verses, songs, and more.  I also went to Character First! for more activities and ideas.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Making Change

As with most parents, there are certain things we would prefer that our children learn sooner than later.  One of the skills we want our kids to learn young is being responsible with their money.  From the day our kids began getting an allowance (which we now call commission), they were taught how to spend it.  The first portion is for giving (or tithes), the second portion is save and the third portion is spend.  Our middle daughter always puts additional money into her save jar and spends the remainder sparingly.  Our youngest doesn't earn enough to be concerned with yet.  Our oldest always has a plan for spending her money.  Enter Dave Ramsey.  My husband and I recently attended Total Money Makeover Live to revive our passion for living like no one else.  While at the conference, we found a program for young people called Generation Change.  We brought it home to our daughter, not realizing the fire we would light.  After a week of watching the videos and completing the workbook, we had some amazing conversations with our daughter.  She decided that she wanted to invest her money rather than just spend it frivolously, even asking me to check several banks for the best interest rate.  She also signed up for a babysitting class at the community center so she can earn some money this summer.  Our house isn't just making a small change, our girls will be living like no one else.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sweet Shoppe Birthday

We give our oldest daughter a $100 budget for her birthday party each year.  Wanting to stretch her budget, she decided to have a theme that would allow her to shop the clearance sales after Valentine's Day.  The theme she landed on was a sugar-loaded Sweet Shoppe.  She knew that she would save money on the candy that would serve as decorations as well as goody-bag fillers.  The day after Valentine's Day, we hit Wal*Mart and bought lots of candy.  Then we struck gold at Target.  Their Valentine's partyware was pink, red, teal, green, orange and yellow striped.  We got a table cloth, napkins, and plates.  We filled in the gaps with plain cups, balloons, and less-expensive candy.  This is what we did:Activities: Pin the Lolly on the Pop (the girls decorated their lollies before the game), Make Your Own Candy Necklace (Valentine's deal), Decorate a Cupcake (the cupcakes were placed on a stand for later), Guess How Many Gumdrops in the Jar, Sweet Shoppe Bingo (with gummy bear markers)
Goody Bags: Prefilled with bracelets, candy flavored lip balm, toothbrushes, and bouncy balls.  As they left, girls (and moms) could fill their bags with candy.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Science, Bargains, and Flowers

My girls love science.  I love bargains.  We all love flowers.  How could these three be related?  Post-Valentine's Day science experiment!  We happened to be shopping the day after Valentine's Day and popped into a store that had their bouquets marked down 50%.  Having always wanted to try to color flowers with food coloring, we purchased a mostly-white arrangement.  Each of the girls chose two colors and two flowers for each color.  We placed the flowers in cups of water and food coloring.  The results were varied, but overall, we found that the blue was best-absorbed and the carnations absorbed better than the other flowers.  Several of our flowers showed color on one side but not the other.  We plan to try this again with fresher flowers and split the stems so one flower absorbs two colors.  For more tips and the chemistry behind this activity, take a look here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Instant Information

When I woke up, I stared at my phone.  Do I check my e-mail, Facebook, etc. like every other morning or do I give it a day off.  What if it turns out like yesterday that I find out about something going on at work or with a friend that needs my immediate attention?  Then I reminded myself that if someone needs me, they will call or message me, not post it on their Facebook status.  After thoroughly thinking through every possible angle of this quandry for all of 30 seconds, I picked up my phone and started through the routine.  It didn't take long for me to realize that I was needed and I wasn't going to get that call or message.  As I read message after message, I realized that my prayers were needed immediately.  Near the top of the page, a friend in Japan posted that he and his family were all safe.  Another friend posted that her son who had just left for his duty station in Japan was accounted for, as well as all other U.S. military personnel.  Then I read about the largest earthquake Japan had ever experienced.  It reminded me of the morning I turned on the morning news like any other morning but what I saw took me to my knees.  9/11.  The biggest difference between the two experiences is the delivery.  Instead of watching the news footage, videos and photos taken by everyday people rolled across the computer.  Isn't technology amazing? I'm so thankful for the ability to choose whether to know at a moment's notice what is going on.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

First thing every morning I grab my phone from the nightstand and check to see what's going on in the world.  E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, I check them all to see what happened while I was getting my beauty sleep.  Sometimes I see that someone commented on a post, but usually I just browse through my group updates and delete lots of e-mail.  Today there was a post on my employer's Facebook page, which is a rarity.  I work on Thursdays at a local municipality, mostly doing their water billing, but performing other tasks as needed (like creating their Facebook page).  The post, entered by a council member at 4:30 this morning, was short and sweet: City water is shut down due to a leak.  Ugghhh...really?  On the one day that I work.  Actually, I worked last Monday to cover for another worker and the water was shut down due to a leak.  It was chaos.  I was the only person in the office and people went crazy.  "I paid my bill, why is my water off?"  "I know I'm late, can you turn my water on? I will pay the bill on Friday." "Why didn't you call and tell me my water was being shut off?  I was getting ready tot ake a shower. By the way, my water bill is high, can someone take a look at my meter today?" "I just moved into town and need my water turned on.  Today." The good thing last week was that I didn't know it was happening until I got to work.  I had a relaxing morning with my family like any other day.  Today, I got to think about it all morning as I rush to get ready and on my way to work.  As a matter of fact, I started my work day at home, calling the media to alert them of the situation and fielding phone calls from the office.  Tomorrow, I'm going to start my day with the Good Book rather than Facebook.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Where Did She Get Those Curls?

My youngest daughter has curls.  We're talking Shirley Temple curls.  Ladies stop us on a regular basis to comment about her beautiful hair.  My other two daughters, one who was blessed with wavy and the other straight hair, just smile as they are passed by without a word.  Then the inevitable is always asked,  "where did she get such darling curls?"  We all just smile because the question is expected.  My hair is straighter than straight, but not because I was born that way.  I once had uncontrollable curls springing from my head also.  Curls that drove me nuts because they never stayed in place.  My sanity came in the form of a flat iron.  I liked straight hair and so did my husband.  (He liked long hair too, but I chopped it short when we were just friends, before he was allowed to have an opinion.)  Only when I was running short on time did I allow my hair to go au natural.  Recently, I was blessed with a new cousin (by marriage) who is a stylist.  Her gift to me was a Brazilian Blowout. Here I am, seven months later, and I am beginning to embrace my inner curl for the first time.  The Blowout is now more out than in and I'm OK with that.  My name is Mama Curls and it's a pleasure to meet you.
Me at the age of 4, but it may as well be my baby because she is a carbon copy. 

A Lesson in Humility

Our family recently began formally studying character qualitiesas part of our homeschool day.  When looking for lessons, I had two main criteria:1. I wanted something that all of my children would benefit from
2. I wanted something that went beyond the basics and incorporated scripture.

I started with comprehensive lists of character qualities found at Character First and the Duggar Family's website.  I used these lists to create a list for our family. Here is the entry on our list for humility:
Humility vs. Pride
Recognizing that it is actually God and others who are responsible for the achievements in
my life
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” James 4:6
Generally, we begin a new quality on Wednesday.  Each child receives a worksheet and writes the quality at the top of the page.  On Wednesday, we talk about the word, the dictionary definition, its synonyms and antonyms, and the operational definition.  We go through the operational definition word by word, taking it down to simple terms.  Then each child tells me what it means to her.  Lastly, we discuss other character qualities that work with this quality.  On Thursday, we review the meaning of the word and relate it to the Bible.  We discuss several verses relating to the quality.  We then talk about a few key Bible figures who do and do not live this quality.  We also talk about how Jesus shows this quality in his life.  Over the weekend, I look for ways to remind the kids about the quality in every day life.  On Monday, we review what we learned the prior week and move on to the application.  We talk about how we can live out this quality as individuals and as a family.  This is the best part, because the kids make connections to their life choices.  On Tuesday, we again review what we learned over the past few days and the kids draw pictures of themselves displaying this quality.  We wrap up the quality by putting the worksheets in a book the kids are each creating. 
A few tips: I found it works well to begin the quality on Wednesdays for two reasons.  Wednesday is the day that we are most consistently home so I can expect to have a good chunk of time to allocate for this.  Also, it works well to be in the middle of a lesson on the weekend. The kids are still focused on what we are learning rather than in between lessons.  Rather than being a gap, the weekends have become an extension of our learning time.  Secondly, I naturally expect our older children to do more writing and thinking in these lessons that what I expect from our younger children.  As with anything, don't allow your children to burn out.  When I see that my younger ones have had enough, I help with the writing or change gears.  Thirdly,  with all of the language lessons built into these activities, you must count this time for language arts hours or you will be cheating yourself!
To study the character qualities, I pieced several things together for our family.  In addition to the lists I mentioned above, I found a good start at Home Life Ministries.  In their Character Journals, you will find a wealth of information including stories, Bible verses, and my favorite, a list of five "I Wills" for each quality.  We work those into each week. 
Do you have another great resource for character studies?  Please comment and share them here.