Sunday, October 28, 2012

the best $20 I ever spent

Timmy has been slower than molasses in winter in learning his phonics sounds, but since he should be moving into 1st grade, I pulled out my secret ammunition in the war on illiteracy: How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. This book goes tiny step by step in teaching a child to read sounds, then short words, then short stories in about 15 minutes a day. I have used this book with 5 children now, after being advised to buy it from the mom who first introduced me to homeschooling 15 years ago. We have never gotten through all 100 lessons, usually quitting at about lesson 60-75 to move on to real books and the Faith and Freedom readers. 

Timmy is still having trouble recalling the short a sound, so we have repeated 2 lessons, but in the past 2 weeks he has started sounding out 3 and 4 letter words. My goal is to have a child who loves to read, so I don't want to overburden him with excessive practice each day, just a slow and steady progression from "the cat sat on the mat" to eventually reading his way through my extensive children's fiction collection.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

faster than the wind

I did very well in two of my last races of the season, winning the female title in the Harvest Run cross country 5K on such a cold morning that the ballpoint pens used for filling in registration forms froze and I had to thaw the ink by repeatedly holding them up to the propane heaters behind the tables. But when 10am arrived, I stripped down to a thin shirt and shorts, pulled on some spikes over my shoes, and ran through the puddles and over the slick grass. Then the following weekend the weather was much more agreeable for University of Maine's homecoming and I came in 2nd in the Black Bear 5K with a new PR of 21:05. This might be an all-time best, including high school, but since finding out would involve searching through a huge Rubbermaid bin of memorabilia, I won't worry about it anytime soon. I've secured first place in my age bracket and moved into 2nd place overall in the Sub5 series standings. Somehow, despite all the logistical chaos of my life with 3 kids in school, homeschooling the little boys, and having to guard all our possessions from a destructive preschooler (her latest feats involved ripping off several keys from Will's old laptop and sprinkling a 1/2 pound of shredded Cheddar all over her bedroom floor in the middle of the night), I have still been able to train and improve my running times.    

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

3 distinct personalities

Will knew what to expect going into school this year having been down at St. Dominic's for a semester. He also has been in umpteen Scout troops, comfortable being the new kid almost every year and practically jumped out of the car at camp, so eager to be with 100 other boys, despite not knowing a soul. Maggie is my theatrical diva, so outgoing and flamboyant that I wonder some days if she really is the child of two introverted parents, but since she looks just like me and the other girls, I have to assume there was no switching of babies at the hospital. 

Mary is much more beautiful than I ever was, but personality-wise she is almost my exact replica, a little shy and needing to recharge her batteries by reading and being alone for small periods during the day. She does enjoy school and seems to have made many friends as well as impressing her math teacher with her wry sense of humor. However, being "on stage" for 7+ hours a day really takes its toll on her.

Yesterday she was practically vicious when she got into the car because of this pent up stress. She was rude to me, mean to her sister, and when I pulled the car over and told her to apologize, she wasn't sincere in the least bit. I informed her that soccer practice was not going to happen due to her horrid attitude and after arriving home I had to practically stand over her with a stick to make her practice the piano for the required 45 minutes. After she had a short calm down I came up to her room and told her that I understood her feelings, but that it was not acceptable for her to be horrid to us just because we are her family and "have" to take it. We hugged several times and she was pleasant and calm for the rest of the evening. 

She has undertaken a huge transition in her life at a very dramatic point in her development, puberty is fraught with emotional upheaval already, but adding in going to school for the first time didn't help, I'm surprised she hasn't been worse. I can't promise that this afternoon won't be a repeat of yesterday, but at least she knows that her mother understands and will try to give her a little quiet time each day to recover. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

basting woes

Earlier this week I finished a new quilt top, a throw to go on the back of a sofa. I wanted to use all stash fabrics, and managed to do so, even using a great number of scraps, but just didn't have enough of any one deep red fabric for the outer border. Tim and I put the rails on my quilt frame, but put one of the ratchet mechanisms on backwards, leaving me with not enough tension to properly baste the quilt sandwich. 

This is what it looked like afterwards after having pulling out 1/2 of the stitches with a pair of scissors and tweezers. It took me much longer to undo my mistakes than it did to stitch them of course. I re pinned everything back on the frame on Sunday evening and finished basting it again yesterday. Now I am ready to start quilting a leaf and spiral round wreath on each Snowball block and a trailing vine with tiny leaves and spirals through the alternate blocks with some teardrops filling in the background. 

I really love free motion machine quilting, but I'm a little hesitant to try something radically different for fear of having to rip it all back out. I've done all the "unsewing" I plan on doing in the near future, hopefully my sewing will proceed forward rather than back in the next few weeks. The last time I machine quilted the lopsided sitting messed up my hip. With 3 races left in the season I have promised myself not to sew for too long at any one time so we shall see if I can get this quilt finished in time for Christmas.

Monday, October 08, 2012

slow but steady wins the reading race

Last year I was starting to get really nervous about Charlie's reading skills. The other boys in his Cub Scout den were reading directions to various projects from their Wolf books aloud while Charlie was barely sounding out the words. I vowed that night to repeat all his 1st grade readers because it was obvious that he was struggling too much. I heard from the Cub Scout dads that they made their boys read for 30 minutes every night, while my 7 year old was still content to listen to me read picture books with his younger siblings. 

But like the tortoise in Aesop's fable, my 4th child is now reading well. I didn't push him beyond his comfort level, but he did practice reading and phonics every day and now he doesn't blanch at 6 page stories in his Faith and Freedom reader. He also walked to the library after his piano lesson on Friday and checked out several Magic Treehouse books, and he is actually reading them for fun. 

The big kids have mentioned several times that they seems to be called on in class to read aloud more often because they are such good readers. My guess is that all the dramatic reading of picture books to Timmy and Julia Ellen has paid off in terms of style. Even Julia Ellen practices reading with inflection as she sits on the floor flipping pages of the practically memorized Green Eggs and Ham while lisping, "I will not eat them in a BOX! I will not eat them with a FOX!"

My technique to encourage life-long readers by teaching the basics of phonics, requiring a small amount of reading aloud starting in 1st grade, and providing a plethora of interesting reading material seems to have worked. Only 2 more children left and I will be able to see my ideal Sunday afternoon come to life, a living room full of children draped all over the furniture, all so quiet you could hear a mouse squeak, because everyone is concentrating deeply on what they are reading. 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

driving me mad

 I have been overheard this past week saying, "If there was an orphanage in Bangor, one of you would be dropped off," meaning Julia Ellen. In the past 4 days she has sniffed out the bigger kid's candy stash and ate every last Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, leaving the wrappers all over the girl's floor while they were at school. She pulled dozens of books off the shelves in the schoolroom, leaving us to pick our way across the floor. She screamed every single time she didn't get her way (which was about every 10 minutes), interrupting school time and grating on my nerves. The final straw today was finding this morning my pretty lime sweatshirt that I had just bought covered in black acrylic paint. 

Yes, it was partly Charlie's fault for leaving his paint somewhere she could reach, and I guess I shouldn't have left my sweatshirt downstairs, but I'm a little tired of the whole toddler/preschooler age. I'm not even pushing the potty training, as I said to another mom of many at the soccer game the other day, "Don't I get a pass after going through this five times already?" I know I shouldn't wish time to go any faster, but I sure do look forward to the day when our home is not quite so messy.

Monday, October 01, 2012

speed demon

Saturday morning I got up, put on my running gear, and drove the Jeep to Blue Hill for the Great Pumpkin 4K race. I was all psyched to run fast and come home with 10 points for the Sub 5 track club series standings. Unfortunately, when 9:30 rolled around I went inside the grocery store and asked, "Has the race been cancelled?" "Uhh. The race is tomorrow," was the reply from the manager. 

Apparently the original series schedule had the race mismarked as being on Saturday, when all subsequent info had it on Sunday at 10:30. So, admiring the lovely town and the beautiful fall foliage coming into peak, I drove home,only to repeat all my preparations the next day and return, this time with a lot more precipitation coming down. When I told one of my friends what had happened, he said, "I can't believe you didn't go ahead and run the course for practice." I replied, "A real runner would have done that. It didn't even dawn on me to do so." 

The rain only let up for the 15 minutes we ran, and I took off in front early with a 6:08 first mile pace. The course was mainly downhill and since doing very well in my last few races, I knew I could maintain that pace for another 1.5 miles. I finished with a time of 15:16 and was the first female finisher, winning a $100 gas card. This was my first win with serious competition and I was grateful for my fellow runners' heartfelt congratulations. 

My racing didn't end in Blue Hill, I had to get home, change, and drive up to Bangor to teach CCD in record time, but we made the cutoff then too, pulling into the parking lot a mere 2 minutes before class began. What I really wanted was a nap, but I made it through class and Mass before collapsing in bed, completely exhausted from my fast paced day.