New York Times best-selling author, slow cooking expert, mom of three
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Totally Together

Back to School, back to work

August 26, 2011 by · 9 Comments 


Photo inventory:

1 basket of clean laundry, unfolded and dumped on the living room floor

1 basket of clean laundry, folded and left on couch

2 “used” baby socks

2 brand-new shoes still bungee corded together

1 too-expensive rolling backpack

45 whole crayons; 3 broken

1 broken blue bead necklace (hanging from the couch cushion)

3 empty Target bags

and when I swivel away from the living space to look at the table:

Photo Inventory:

1 new lunchbox that is supposed to be used FOR SCHOOL ONLY

2 new BPA-free water bottles

1 water bottle ‘cozy’ that came with the lunchbox (completely unnecessary)

random leftover lunch stuff: sliced turkey meat, cut up apples, tortilla chips & hummus

1 abandoned laptop and 3 notebooks

1 very cheeky 19-month-old baby (helping herself to hummus)

106 new gray hairs

I mistakenly thought I could get some work done while the children played peacefully inside or frolicked in delight outside (isn’t that what children are supposed to do? Frolick?) . Yeah. I know.

delusional.

But you know what? This is real life. Not a glossy magazine. Stuff happens. Mistakes happen.

Life happens.

and it’s okay.

Give yourself a hug—- you’re doing a fantastic job. Already.

 

School begins for us on September 6th. I loved having everybody home with me for the summer, but I’m done.  How are things going with you?

I’m a Closet Homeschooler (teaching kids at home even if they go to school)

May 23, 2011 by · 29 Comments 

Beat Summer Brain-Drain with these "totally not boring" activities and workbooks.

Beat Summer Brain-Drain with these “totally not boring” activities and workbooks.

What is “Closet HomeSchooling”?

When I was pregnant with my first (10 years ago), I informed my husband, Adam, that I “reserved the right to homeschool.” He was (skeptically) agreeable, so I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could about homeschooling in case the day ever came when I felt that I could do a better job teaching the kids than our local school.

We now have three little girls: 9 1/2, 6 1/2 and age sixteen months. We’ve moved a few times since I “staked my claim” to homeschool ten years ago, and now live in a very good school district.

so my kids go to public school (the baby is home, of course).

The children are happy, and are thriving. They continue to excel in class and are all naturally inquisitive and have a thirst for learning. I’m happy with a lot that the school provides, but continue to supplement at home as much as I can. I try to be “around” the school a lot, which allows me  opportunity to see firsthand behavior issues, and the time wasted moving from activities or lessons. I do not think this is necessarily a bad thing–it’s just something I’m very aware of. Adam says I’m keeping score. Maybe I am!

I’m greatly looking forward to having the kids home with me when school lets out (8 days!). No matter how involved I am in the school, during the school year, Adam and I are not in charge. The teacher is. I wish I could say this doesn’t bother me, but I’d be lying. The school calendar dominates our day to day life, and I’m looking forward to getting a more natural flow to our days.

It’s Pretty Much “After-School” Homeschooling

I have gotten a few emails in the past week or so asking what activities I do with my children during the summer. My oldest is going to attend a 2-week enrichment program (3 hours a day), [updated, 6/1: just got an email that the program has been canceled due to lack of funds/enrollment. NOT HAPPY. ] and my 6 year old will attend a gymnastics class twice a week. I’ll probably throw in a week of swim lessons, and we’re hoping to get a sponsor for a late-summer book tour to Albuquerque, and will visit the Grand Canyon.

Otherwise, our days will be pretty loose— park trips, library visits, and playdates. The television will be turned off for the day by 10am, and the kids will have free range of the art supplies, books, games, and the back yard.

will they fight?

A.B.S.O.L.U.T.E.L.Y.

will I lose my temper (more than I should)?

Y.O.U. B.E.T.C.H.A.

will they complain that they’re bored?

W.I.T.H.O.U.T. A. D.O.U.B.T.

I can not wait.

Resources shown above, and what I use in our (closet) homeschooling curriculum:

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons — I taught my big kids to read with this book. It’s actually not shown in the above picture because I lent it to our neighbor to use with her 3-year-old. I do not use the writing exercises at all. At the end of the 100 lessons, your child will be reading on a 2nd grade level. I started just for fun at around age 3 1/2 with my girls. I followed the lessons in order, but didn’t have a set time frame. If the kids wanted to sit with me and practice, we did. We would go months without even opening the book, but sometimes we’d do 4 lessons in a day. They each finished the book in it’s entirety before entering first grade.

BOB Books. — I’ve put these books away until the baby is ready. Warning: they tear easily! These are fun, whimsical books that teach reading both through phonics and memorization. I actually think it’s mostly from memorization, but many disagree. Empowers young children that they can read an “entire book.”

Brain Quest decks — we have at least a dozen of these decks. I love giving them as gifts, and love receiving them! I toss a deck into the diaper bag to pull out at restaurants when we anticipate a long wait, I use them in waiting rooms, in the car when waiting for music lessons to dismiss, etc. I keep a basket on the shelf on the end table and the kids pull them out when they’ve got some time to kill.

Brain Quest Workbooks — we were given a few of these, and the kids use them, but there’s definitely a workbook feel. I keep them “out” and sometimes they’ll do a page or two on their own, but mostly they are used for playing school with playdates.

Summer Bridge — I bought a set of these a few summers ago mostly to pacify myself that the kids were on the right track and their brains weren’t turning to mush. I’ve since relaxed a bit on worksheets, but if you are a person who likes order and want the confidence of knowing the kids are *actually* learning or your kids like completing worksheets this is a good summer project.

Never Bored books — Mazes, word searches, brain teasers, coloring pages, etc. My kids like these better than traditional workbooks. I would recommend buying up an age group for a bit of a challenge. Some of the activities require scissors and glue.

The Story of the World series, by Susan Wise Bauer — This series of books is written by the same author of The Well-Trained Mind. We only have the first book and are only a third of the way through. It starts with Ancient Times: Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor. The book is written in story form, and is written from a secular perspective.

The Daring Book for Girls and The Dangerous Book for Boys — We have both of these books. Practical guide to pretty much anything: letter writing, fire building, camping, tying a variety of knots, how to be a good friend, proper restaurant manners. These aren’t books to be read cover to cover, but used as a reference guide. I like to give these as gifts.

The Little House on the Prairie books — I have girls, so I’m not sure how well this series would fare in a house full of boys. I read this series outloud to my big girls, starting when my oldest was 6 (I skipped over some of the Laura and Alfonso stuff). Reading this series outloud was hands-down the best history lesson my kids have ever had (thus far. they are still quite young!). We refer to “Laura and Mary” quite often in our house, and apply the knowledge of this time period to other history lessons to provide perspective. I plan on rereading the series in a year or so to refresh all of our memories.

I Can Draw books and Pocket Doodle books — My first grader loves to draw and doodle, and will happily work for hours creating and recreating animal or people pictures. These are the easiest-to-understand for little kids drawing guides I’ve found.

Soduku Unifex game — If you’ve never played soduku, or are intimidated by it, this is a FANTASTIC way to learn the game– for little kids and for grown ups! This is a one-player game, and once the fundamentals are learned, soduku is a solitary game enjoyed throughout your whole life. Math, reasoning, strategy, and spacial awareness are all key aspects of this game. The box says ages 7 and up. My kids enjoyed playing (with help) at age five.

We play a lot of board games! I’ll be back next week with a board game round-up. Happy Memorial Day!

Tuesday, November 23

November 23, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

327

Hello! Good morning! How are you today?

I’m helping the first grade make Stone Soup today, and I’m going to take the baby.

WHO IS WALKING.

at ten and a half months.

My hope is that she’ll just stay in the books/blocks area and I can still help the bigger kids with the cutting boards and knives. If not, I’m going to strap her in the stroller and continuously feed her pirate’s booty.

BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT GOOD MOMS DO!

bwhahahahaha!!

Today:

do the stuff you have to do

daily 7

print out copies of Albuquerque the Turkey to sing at the table

find a few moments to yourself to chill

thank goodness it’s friday.

November 5, 2010 by · 14 Comments 

309

You know how everything is supposed to work out the way it’s supposed to work out but you don’t always know how it’s going to work out until it’s all worked out later?

so. I woke up yesterday with a pretty bad toothache. My teeth have been hurting on and off for the past three weeks—I had some dental work done during the summer, and the two teeth worked on are the ones that are bugging me. I’ve tried different things to help the pain go away—I’ve switched to sensitive toothpaste, bought a mouthguard in case I was grinding my teeth, and have taken large doses of Advil.

The Advil is the only thing that works.

so. When Adam called around 9am to check in and said it looks like we can all go with him on a work-related trip in the next week, I asked if he’d come home early so I could go to the dentist. fine. all good.

so. The dentist appt was only 20 minutes because it looks like I need a root canal (or two. ugh. but the good news is that I get to try valium for the first time, which I’m kind of looking forward to. is that bad?) and need to come back later. I got a prescription for antibiotics (it looks like I also have a sinus infection along with the inflamed nerves, which was discovered during the xrays, and the reason I didn’t notice was because of the LARGE quantities of Advil I’m consuming. note to self: buy stock in Advil.) and called home to see if I should go get the prescription or come home.

It was decided I’d come home and grab a kid or two.

so. I get home, become sidetracked (because hello that’s who I am) and realize OH MY wehavesoccerrightthisveryminute and get cleats and the needed accoutrement and head towards the door. But. I see a bee.

and then another.

and another.

and another.

they’re coming out of the fireplace. The kids are now screaming and the baby is crying. Adam shoves us out the door and we go to soccer.

and he fixes it (seals fireplace with plastic,  calls exterminator, and uses the Lands End catalog to kill the ones in the house). because he’s home. and he’s only home because I had a dental appt., and only because we’re going away, and OH MY if the bees decided to come out while we were away, we would have come home to a HOUSE FULL OF BEES.

so there you go.

life is weird.

Today:

daily 7

(me: go to the pharmacy, pack stuff for 4 people, and the stuff the 5th person ALWAYS forgets, but that’s okay because he just saved us from a hive full of bees, sign up for independent study for the kids so the school still gets state $$, wait for the exterminator guy)

buy more Advil

breathe

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