The New Twigs, October 2014

How did it even get to be October?????

:: Settling Into the House ::

Mostly messing up the house is going on right now.  Jack has started drawing on walls and has christened a number of doors and walls that Roo hadn’t gotten to when we first moved in.  I don’t know if I mentioned, but she went on a graffiti spree when we bought the house.  Nice things can’t last…

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Anyway, I did rearrange the living room.  We moved the big cabinet you see in this next picture away from the front door on the right and over to the blank wall that you see on the left.

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WP_20141016_16_29_51_ProDon’t mind the laundry, or crafty stuff, or ginormous dry erase board.  *Sigh*  Sometimes my house is in order.  I promise!

We have been brainstorming for a way to put the desktop computer on the main floor so that we can use it more and I am trying to convince Mr. S. to retro-fit this same cabinet into a computer cabinet by rearranging the shelves and adding a sliding keyboard shelf.  He’s not convinced.  I’ve had a lot of crazy home improvement ideas but this is not one of them and I am sure he’ll come around one of these days.

It’s a shame I can’t be trusted with tools.  I’d revolutionize the place.

In other news, Jack put a hole in his bedroom wall in a weak spot that had been patched before we moved in.  He likes to kick that spot with his heels before he falls asleep.

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He’s already dropped a matchbox car into the hole — never to be seen again.

Now that the weather is changing, we are beginning to think about things that need to be done before winter.  The furnace ignition needs to be serviced.  We bought new window covers for the basement windows that need to be installed.  Mr. S. has already taken down the cages and such in the veggie garden.  There isn’t much time in the evenings now that the days are getting shorter.  Nature is starting to shoo us indoors.  Mr. S. has begun walking around the house talking about inside projects he wants to do in the cold weather to make the place more our own…painting, wallpaper removal, new curtains, ripping up carpet.  There’s a list started somewhere.  My wager is that we’ll get to about 5% of it.

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:: Settling Into the Neighborhood ::

We finally met that homeschooling family that lives at the end of the street.  Last weekend while I was putting Evie down for a nap, Mr. S. happened to see the dad and kids over at the park and he quickly walked over there with our older three to introduce himself.  And then this morning at church (more on that in a minute) they were there and the ten-year-old daughter had walked back with her one-year-old brother and she came over and asked if I was Mrs. S. and then introduced herself!  Her mom and I met and chatted while we waited in line for coffee and donuts. Very nice people.

There is another family down the block (near the park) that we see coming and going but they keep to themselves for the most part and though they have two kids (elementary age boy and girl), it never much occurred to me to seek out an acquaintance.  Well, lo and behold, we met them today while they were out selling Boy Scout stuff and their daughter is a little bit older than Roo and the two of them hit it off right away.  They rode their bikes together.

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Now that Roo can ride her bike, she loves her new found freedom.

We ended up heading to the park and the little girl’s mom and I had a chance to get to know each other a little bit. We talked about the neighborhood, vegetable gardens, and the old abandoned mansion that used to be where they are building the new Costco.  They are also Catholic and the two kids go to the private school at the parish nearby.  Something tells me Roo will now be insufferable about wanting to play with her new friend from down the street.

I am not sure whether I will form friendships with the new moms I’ve met (I hope to, but you know how it is), but I am still so grateful for the sweet lady that lives next door.  Yesterday the kids were over at her house all day playing with her grandkids and I walked over with Evie because I was bored and my neighbor and I chatted away over huge mugs of steamy tea. Good stuff.

:: settling into the community ::

We’ve been exploring more.  The metroparks here are gorgeous and free!

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But what I really want to tell you is that we are going to a new parish and we will be joining it as soon as I can get my little tush (and probably four other little tushes) into the parish office to do so.

I can hardly express how happy I am about this.  It is a physically stunning church, a catechism without words, and there are tons of great young couples that have young kids.  (Not to mention our homeschooling neighbors!)

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~~~~~~~~~~~

A long post to make up for my lack of updates ;)

A quick post about shopping and work

We ran errands today and it seemed to take both a heroic amount of effort and an unreasonable amount of time but I didn’t spend as much as I could have because I skipped the grocery store altogether after realizing that I did indeed had to pee and would have to go home to do so. I simply do not have the mental capacity to work out the logistics involved in using the loo with one child strapped to my body, one child unsafe to be let out of his cart cage, two girls known for scattering like cats, and an armful of purchases including one child’s lamp.

It truly is disastrous to ye old wallet to shop with a bunch of children because you seem — at least seem — to employ the “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” logic a bit too liberally.  On the other hand, I have a long list of things we need that really are kind of important, fitting church shoes for Roo, for example, that get relegated to the “I’ll purchase those when I can find them on sale for five dollars” column while poor Roo has to wear hand-me-down sandals with her tights.  Because, fancy this, you have to shop at multiple places on a variety of occasions to score bargains and I frankly don’t do that.  Better to suck it up and buy something full price every once in a while.  How can I find every single thing on sale when we’re lucky if I even make it to the grocery store to buy eggs?!

I tried to whip up Roo’s cake a half hour ago (Jack is napping! Praise the Lord!) but I couldn’t.  No eggs.

Mr. S. should get off of work on time tonight and I might head back out to buy food then. After all, he gets off at SIX O’CLOCK now!!!!! That’s right.  The man finally has an earlier shift!!!! He used to be scheduled until seven and then stay late whereas his two late-shift coworkers use to goof off and skip out on time.  The managers couldn’t get the other two people to work their fair share (doesn’t that make you sick when you think of the number of hard-working under-employed lawyers there are?) so they finally decided to take my husband out of the equation and make the other two fend for themselves for the last hour of the day instead of depending on my husband to hold down the fort.  I think this shift change is the first time he has ever been rewarded in a significant way for working hard and I could not be happier.  Of course the other two might get fired now that it will become clear how incompetent/lazy they are and we’ll be back to square one, but whatever.  We’ll take it!

Last week, the first week of his new schedule (not counting ZouZou’s fifth birthday on Monday), he didn’t arrive home before 7 p.m. a single night and was even out late (we’re talking past my bedtime) on Thursday and Friday night because of work functions. Oh, I am so ready for the early-off nights to kick in around here. I’ve been assured that he’s pretty much forbidden to stay late right now…

Well friends, gotta cut this post off.  Jack’s awake and things are unravelling fast.

Life, Balance, Stuff

Hark!

How goes it?

I’m writing from the Kindle again and I have no patience for this thing’s exuberant and downright sly use of auto correct, but I will spare you further griping on that point.  *deep breaths*

Let’s do this.

Now don’t laugh, but, over the years I have gained a small and random assortment of “followers”, most of whom I assume don’t read any of what I post here and only added this blog to gain a reciprocal follower and boost their own stats.  However I am still kind of creeped out by the possibility that one or more of these weird people do read which is stupid because –hello! —  this is the internet already, Liz.  If you don’t want people to know stuff about you, obviously you need to rethink the whole blogger persona you’ve got going on here!  Anyway when I start to write random updates like the one I’m planning to draw up here, I imagine this post appearing in some more intelligent/articulate/ writerish person’s feed and start getting a little bit insecure about my writing and content and whatever and it puts a damper on my enthusiasm.  I know.  Stupid.  Not sure why I felt the need to share that.

Moving on.

Now that school has begun I am in that mode where the stuff I used to do during school time, like clean, gets bumped to another time slot and my whole internal rhythm is shot to heck.  Lately, there is a sure place for doing schoolwork during the bulk of the first part of the day but then everything else feels like it is piled onto my task list haphazardly until I am out of energy and call it quits.  I am ending more days with an unsatisfied feeling because I don’t quite have enough energy during the second part of the day to complete all of the stuff I used to do during the first part of the day.  And if I manage to do everything, then I don’t have the energy to finish the day on a good note.  For example, it’s 11p.m. right now and there are dirty dinner dishes on my table and I  simply too “done” to clean them.

Why don’t kitchens clean themselves again?

Long story short, there is a total lack of balance going on in my life!  Things are a mess!  I am not confident that there is much of a solution to this imbalance within the parameters of our current situation.  Teaching your kids at home takes time and energy. Time and energy are finite resources.  I guess maybe the best hope for positive change is in better prioritizing my life?

Gosh, I am too tired to prioritize.

I am not regretting our decision to homeschool this year though.  Just trying to make peace with its effect on the rest of life as we know it. I am trying to find time to blog and get a break and all of that. Raising four kids and making it all work is challenging.

Clearly.

It’s funny, I don’t think we have a big family but I do have to remind myself that “normal” in today’s society is much more reflective of a one or two children than it is of a family of four.  Maybe I have internalized an unrealistic normal and am sabotaging doable standards by reaching for unrealistic ones.  Should I put school, cooking, and cleaning on the schedule and relegate everything else  to the margins?

Honestly, I don’t really know.

 

 

10 Things About Evie

From last child to first, I plan to share ten facts about each of my kiddos.  Four posts and here we go…

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EVIE (7 months old)

1.  When left to her own devices, Evie’s most favorite pastime is to shred the edge of the carpet in the living room where it meets the hardwood and then eat the carpet threads.

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2.  She wears mostly 9-12 month clothes and is larger than both of her sisters were at her age.

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3.  The two cowlicks on the back of her head send all of her hair forward in such a way that when she wakes up, you can’t see her eyes at all and she leans her head way back to see.  One clippy really isn’t enough.

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4.  She hates being walked to sleep and shows her displeasure by throwing her head back and screaming bloody murder.

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5.  Evie very rarely blows out a diaper.  But when she does, she does it while in my bed so that I have to change the sheets.

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6.  She *lives* for water.  Threw her first temper tantrum over wanting a bath.

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7.  Her early mobility has evolved into speedy army crawling and enthusiastic climbing. By climbing, I mean dragging her upper body onto obstacles (her mother, for example) like a paraplegic and then popping her little tush in the air.

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8.  She is not the least bit afraid of Isabella the dog.

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9.  However, she has a squeal of fearful displeasure reserved for interactions with Jack.

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10.  If undesturbed, she will sleep until 8:30 a.m.. She slept in until that time every day while my mother was here last week.  It was nice while it lasted.

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Sheesh, it’s so quiet.

You could hear a pin drop on this blog.  What is going on over there in your life, Liz????? You ask.  Weeeeeeell, a bunch of stuff!  Didn’t I tell you?  Oh yeah, no I didn’t.

I don’t know why but I am just not in the blogging mood.  Plus, Mr. S. has been out of town all week in D.C. and my dear, sweet, amazing, generous mother has been here saving me from my offspring.  It’s been so glorious, I can’t quit fathom how I am going to survive the eight hours I’ll be on my own between the time she leaves tomorrow and the time my husband gets back home!  Do I really normally hold down the fort 45+ hours a week?  Not possible.

Anyway, popping in to give my love.

Over and out.

~ Liz

Pictures of Late

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Cut off six inches of Roo hair

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A neighbor came over…with their guinea pig…which they brought in a toy grocery cart…

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finished up private swim lessons

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park times

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trip to the hands on museum

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a friend carries her son and mine!

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Evie chills out on hard surfaces

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hand me down couch and chair

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(Sick) Mr. S. helps Roo take her kindergarten CAT. She did great.

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“before”

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“after”

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high swings

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The ZouZou

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starting to learn with no training wheels

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frozen custard on a hot day

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Daddy’s birthday cake

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Daddy’s birthday dinner (with grilled steak)

Spoke Too Soon…

It is a lovely day today and I thought, let’s get Dairy Queen!

Evie slept peacefully and Mr. S. lay on the living room floor praying his hiccups, which he’s had for almost 48 hours now, would go away when I gathered up the older three and headed out the door.

The kids were all for a quick excursion to this place called “DQ” that they have only heard stories about.  “ZouZou, did you know that when we were driving home from the hospital after you were born, we stopped to get Blizzards at Dairy Queen?”  I told Z.  This was going to be great!

Less than ten minutes later we pulled into the parking lot and got out of the car.  The kids jumped onto the parking lot island while I shut the van door and turned around to herd everyone across the street and into the building.  Jack was being a little pickle, despite my many exclamations regarding the delicious ice cream we were going to get, and as I grabbed his arm to get him going, he yanked away and started crying.  I gathered him up like any other mother with a bunch of kids who doesn’t plan to get sidetracked every other minute and got everyone safely across the street.  Jack was still crying and I noticed he was holding his arm.  The one that I had pulled on.

He held his arm.

He cried in the store.

He cried on the way home.

His hand sort of lay limp in his lap and he cried when he moved it.

And now he is in the ER with his father who just called to tell me that Jack is no longer crying.  Instead he running around climbing on things and using both hands and both arms and acting like he is just as fine as can be.

Unlike his father and I.  We are all emergency-ed out, thank you very much.

A Week of Emergency

It seems to have all started on Thursday.

When Jack fell down the stairs.

All thirteen of them.

We had come in the from the garage and I was walking behind him with Evie in my arms when his little voice disappeared as he turned and tumbled from top to bottom with a good solid face plant somewhere around step number ten.  I watched in absolute horror as any mother would and followed down to swoop his hysterical little self up to assess the damage.

He didn’t sustain a single bruise other than a blister on his upper lip and some swelling around his upper nose.  He was shook up.  As was I. To say the very, very, very, very, very least.  Every time one of my children gets hurt I swear the trauma of it burrows into my shoulders for days.  Suddenly there is danger at every turn and life is too fragile and too tragic and I wonder, now that I have four, what my odds are of losing one.

I took him to the doctor the next day and he was fine.

I thought that I had done something to strain my back in the moment of shock (tensed up oddly, perhaps?), because on Thursday evening, my upper back ached.  By the time we got back from the doctor on Friday it was clear that the aches were not at all related to my back and most definitely related to the fever that had started in the morning.  Thankfully Mr. S. had called off of work at noon and I fell into bed for three hours in the early evening with the first real illness I’ve had in an incredibly long time.  Years?

Lying in bed felt very strange as I never really nap anymore.  I don’t think I’ve rested for that long since I was in the hospital after having Evie.  Granted, I use “resting” in a loose way since I spent a good deal of the time listening to the sounds of home — also known as the screaming, whining, laughing, yelling noise of my four children and my husband (not at all trying) to please everyone.  I think his penance was having to take care of the kids on a Friday afternoon after a crazy week of work and my penance was having to listen to him do it.

And Evie scream.  She likes to scream at her father at dinner time when mom is sick.

The first night involved all sorts of throbbing muscles and shivers and then full-out sweats.  And you know what else, it involved?  Evie.  Waking BY THE HOUR to nurse, all night long.  Halfway through, I remember gasping for Mr. S. to please get me some water!   I was so parched and feverish and Evie (the co-sleeper) had me cornered on the tiniest sliver of bed where I alternated between throwing off the covers in a burst of unbearable heat and cowering in a little ball freezing to death.  It was weird and pretty much the most miserable personal experience of recent memory.

The fever stayed until Sunday and in the morning left.  Like the demons in the horror flicks who move on to the next person, it moved on to Mr. S.  Not feeling all that great, I knew time was of the essence on Sunday and spent the day washing all of our linens and cleaning the whole first floor.  

You know when someone else gets a sickness you already had and you feel validated to hear them say things like “Wow. You weren’t kidding about that dizzy feeling.”?  There was a lot of that Sunday and Monday as Mr. S. started getting symptom after symptom and looking increasing unwell.

Sometimes I fantasize that my husband could breastfeed.  What I wouldn’t give for the “wow” moment of him experiencing what it’s like to be sick and nurse a seventeen pound exclusively breastfed baby!

By Tuesday (last) night, he decided that he might as well be tested for strep to see if he might be in need of an antibiotic since his version of the sickness seemed to be taking it’s sweet time.  At about eight o’clock at night he ran around the corner to the urgent care and called a few minutes later on his way to the ER because he has a fever of 103.4 *F.  When he got there, they took his temperature again and it was down to 99 *F so they gave him a steroid for his sore throat and brought him his discharge papers.  Mr. S. asked them to take his temp again since he was feeling warm and, low and behold, it was back up to 103.7 *F this time.  What the what?

Nothing came of it.

Just a virus.

The serious fever reducers they gave him only lowered his temperature about a degree and they sent him home around 11 p.m. with a temp of about 102.5.  I’m really curious now if I had fevers spiking as high as his!  I really need to start using the thermometer more so that Mr. S. and I can compete to see who can get higher fevers.

I think he’ll be off of work for the rest of the week.  They basically told him to stay far, far away until he’s fully kicked whatever this weird virus is.  It’ll be nice to get back into the swing of normal life around here!

Bedroom Pictures

Finally getting around to posting pictures of what we ended up doing with our bedroom.  It’s a modest little thing, but we tried!  When we started we basically had a bed on a frame, a holey duvet, metal mini-blinds, and two hundred dollars in gift cards.

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We made a headboard.  The fickle stapler made for good times, I assure you.

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I made a bedskirt.

WP_20140309_23_10_59_ProI found a new duvet cover (wow, that was the most difficult part!) and a friend gave us a king size down comforter.  We also switched rooms.

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WP_20140503_16_41_55_ProHe made me some very small nightstands.  We have a tendency to occupy small rooms and I wanted them to be usable if we ended up back in Jack’s room someday.

WP_20140526_15_06_41_ProHe’d never attempted that sort of thing before and to boost the difficulty factor, we learned that our hand-me-down saw doesn’t hold a ninety degree angle.  Needless to say, there was a decent amount of cussing involved in the construction of those tables!

Now our room looks like this:

WP_20140724_12_12_31_ProWe received a crib secondhand and I moved the co-sleeper over to my side of the bed.  Mostly to keep me from falling out of bed in the middle of the night!  Someday when we kick Evie out of our bed, I’ll be able to pack it away again. Or I suppose I could use a side rail, huh?

WP_20140724_12_13_10_ProThe white pillow shams that came with the duvet were king size and our bed is a queen so I decided to resurrect the tan shams from our old duvet and purchased a couple of cheap pillows to put in them.  I still want to find a fun colorful throw pillow.

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I also want to get Evie’s initial and hang it on the wall over her bed.  Right now I’m using a borrowed bumper that doesn’t really fit.  I’ve been keeping my eye out for something better.

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I found two simple candlesticks at Goodwill for three dollars and purchased some burlap to make new mats for picture frames I already had.  The black and whites are postcards I bought in Salzburg and the flower picture is a card from a friend.

WP_20140724_12_14_31_ProThat’s about it.  (Sorry, this next pic is blurry.  I think I was holding Evie at the time.)

WP_20140724_12_15_39_ProBack where we started.

WP_20140724_12_12_31_ProI have a tendency to be minimal to the point of creating rooms with no personality whatsoever and it is extremely difficult for me to hang things on walls!  The idea of decorating with meaningful pieces collected over time appeals to me and I’m sure I’ll add more items to the space as I find them.  I didn’t want to put things in there just for the sake of having more decorations so there are walls that maybe could use more pictures but that’s okay.  At least we have a start.

On a side note, I recently discovered the blog Like Mother, Like Daughter and have been enjoying the many posts on keeping house.  One of the tidbits of wisdom that I found there that I really appreciate is the idea that if you look at cleaning not so much as a chore as an effort to make your home pretty, it can make the prospect of keeping house more appealing.  Now that our bedroom is more put together, I enjoy making the bed and dusting and keeping it tidy much more that I did when it was just a room full of necessary furniture.  Interesting, huh?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Grade Plans

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Though I’m feeling gun shy about homeschooling again this year, selecting a curriculum is a lot of fun.

I was looking forward to attending the local homeschool conference this year and even arranged for Mr. S. to get off work and watch the kids, but instead of going, I ended up traveling out of state for a funeral.  I was disappointed because I would have liked to have seen some of the different curricula in person now that I’m more familiar with how Roo operates in regard to school.  Oh well!  The internet is a beautiful research tool, right?

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I jumped online and poked around at various companies to see what was available in the realm of boxed curricula.  Some of them looked appealing but cost nearly $1000 and others were cheap but I doubted their ability to sustain our attention.  I knew I could swap out certain subjects in a boxed curricula for other things, but I still couldn’t find something that spoke to me.  The reason I was looking around was that part of me wanted to scrap everything I did last year and start fresh, but then when I thought about it, I realized that I chose the curricula I used last year for a reason and it might be a better use of my time to build on what we did last year.  Re-evaluate not so much what I taught, but how I taught it.

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Since there is a rule that you if you homeschool and you blog, you have to share what you are doing, here’s my plan for the year:

Five In A Row (Vol. 2):

In FIAR, you read the same children’s book every day for a week (hence the name) and use the book as a jumping off point for studying social studies, geography, applied math, art, etc.  I really love this style of homeschooling and I think it allows for a lot of flexibility and fantastic exploratory learning.  Also, it allows for more than one child to get involved.  However, it requires planning and organization on my part to get the most out of it.

We used it briefly it last year and I made the mistake of trying to save money by getting most of the books from the library. I think that was my major downfall because I had way too much on my mental plate to plan things week by week. The books were hard to find and I got discouraged.  This time around, I purchased the whole set of books.  I priced them out used on Amazon to see if I could do the program on the cheap and found that there was only a fifteen dollar difference between scavenging for used books and buying a brand new set.  I hope to do the grunt work of planning for seventeen books/weeks before we even begin.  Kind of like meal planning — I want to stock the pantry and know what else I’ll need and when.

Basically Five in a Row is going to be my overarching framework.  My catch all.

STILL, I learned last year that while FIAR can be comprehensive, I need a little help with some subjects.

Enter the local home school co-op…

Co-op: Science, History/Geography, Memory Works

Roo will be doing three classes.  I anticipate doing some history and geography and science in the context of FIAR, but I like knowing I can prioritize other subjects and she’ll still get what she needs.

I don’t know yet what books they’ll be using.  I do know that the Science is taught by a former teacher and that the Memory Works is being taught by a woman who has had some sort of special training in the art of memorization.  (Memorization is a big aspect of the classical approach to education, but I have little confident in Roo’s receptivity to my instruction in that regard.)

There is some degree of parental involvement necessary to be part of the co-op and I’m toying with the idea of lining up a babysitter for Jack on those days to reduce my stress level and allow for some semblance of socialization.

Miquon Math and Xtramath.org

After seeking advice from my all-important facebook forum of homeschooling mom-friends, I’m going to change math curriculum and do Miquon Math.  The main draw for me is that it is cheaper than many of the big names and favored by mothers I trust who don’t have a lot of time to devote to teaching math.  Xtramath.org is a website that does math drills.  Throwing it in here and there should be a nice change of pace.

Explode the Code

I used this program for phonics last year and it worked fine.  It’s not very expensive and relatively self-explanatory.  If it ain’t broke, as they say.

I’m not sure if I’ll need to add spelling into the mix?  I’m thinking that will come about organically with everything else we’re doing and we can get more formal about it next year.

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That’s my tentative plan for curricula so far.  The reason I mention the general affordability of books is because I have come to learn that the cost of homeschooling materials can quickly get out of control.  The more I spend on books, the less there is to spend on supplies and extracurriculars.

Oh, and I plan to include ZouZou in FIAR and start her with All About Reading.  She’s signed up for pre-ballet and story time at the co-op.

My apologies for not providing links to the books.  With seemingly endless interruptions, I’ve probably already spent six hours trying to write this post.  My writing/posting is such a mess lately, it’s tempting to give up blogging altogether!

P.S.  The pictures are of bags of beads and blocks I discovered at a local thrift shop. They were marked five dollars a bag and as I stood in line to check out someone gave me a five dollar off coupon! The girls sorted them out and filled up four gallon-sized bags with beads, wood blocks, foam shapes, and plastic blocks that attach to each other.  

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