Friday, March 16, 2012

Ransom turns one.

I am a little late with this, but, wanted to post about Ransom turning one.  He is our super active, determined, always on a mission, little guy.  He seems to be detail oriented and is always watching the stairs for that opportunity when a sibling will leave the gate open and he can charge to the top or when someone will leave the back door open and he can crawl out.

Here is Ransom in his new "front facing" car seat.  No more infant seat for this boy.  He is growing up.

 He was not happy that we wouldn't let him hold the flame...haha.

But, eventually he settled down and enjoyed the process...

...and the cake!

Happy first year to my precious little boy who has brought so much joy to our lives!

The Taming of the Two......year old

Well, it's about that time.  Seth is nearing three so it is time to start the potty training process.  sigh.  Haven't I already done this...four times?  Yes, and you would think that would make me an expert.  Not so.  Every potty training experience has been a little bit different in our home and I have had to adjust to it.

This will be the first time that I am potty training from cloth diapers.  I've heard this is easier...we shall see.  I'm not a believer yet...haha.

I usually decide that my children are ready for potty training when they are bothered by wet and dirty diapers, come and tell me when they need to be changed, can talk enough to communicate with me about the process, can pull little pants up and down on their own, and can get on and off the potty alone.  If they can't do all of these things, then it is more work than helpful for me to potty train.

So, here is what we have done to get ready for potty training this time.

1. Stop doubling the soakers in the cloth diapers. I want Seth to feel wet when he goes so I have only been using one soaker at a time during the day since early February.

2. I ordered little "Superundies" for him.  I really wanted to find a product that would be like underwear, mostly water proof, and yet allow for opening like a diaper...just in case...really don't look forward to pulling those accidents down little legs!  So, pretty much a cloth version of "pull-ups". Most of these products are similar but this one is slimmer, has adjustable snaps in back, and is a "pocket" trainer giving me the ability to stuff with soakers if we are going out or for overnight.  I can take the extra soakers out when we are at home or when he is better trained...minimizing the number of messes that I have to clean up...YAY!  Here is what I found...and in red...his favorite color.  He has been calling them Lightning McQueen and begging to wear them:)  That is always a good sign.

2. Set up a reward system.  It seems that if you really want a little one to learn something you have to bribe reward them...haha.  Sethy really hasn't had the chance to earn prizes as he is too little for the jobs we bribe reward the older kids for doing.  (I heard someone just yesterday say that a bribe is paying someone to do something wrong while a reward is paying someone to do something right.  So, I can say that the treats are a reward and not a bribe...haha).  I created a little chart and bought some skittles (our traditional potty training reward).  If he tells me and tries to get to the potty, he gets one sticker.  If he makes it to the potty he also gets a skittle and the cheers of all of his older siblings as he exits the bathroom.  In our house it's a bit like being a contestant on The Price is Right...cheering...high fives...haha.  Later we will set an "all day" and then an "all week" goal with more fantastic prizes like a trip alone with Mommy to the Dollar Store to pick out a prize.  In the end, we will throw an ice cream party when we feel he is finally "trained".  This adds a little incentive for the older kids to encourage him in the process.  In the end, everybody wins.  Along the same theme, I decided to let the older kids get a skittle when he goes least at first.  This way, they will  honestly encourage him to go:)

3. Explain the process over and over.  For several months now, I have been talking to Seth about using the "big boy" potty during every diaper change.  I wanted him to start making the connection between diaper changes and the new potty routine.

I use a regular size potty as I am not fond of the whole dumping and cleaning routine that comes with a little potty.  It has always created more mess than help for me and extra work.  I do have a little seat that fits on top for him with little handles.  I really want him to be independent with the process soon.

So, the day was finally here today.  I chose a Friday so that we could have a reading and movie day.  This allowed me to be able to focus most of my attention on Seth and the new process.

Here is Seth first thing this morning, before he transitioned to "big boy" pants.  He is such a happy little guy who just loves life!

Here is Seth in his "big boy" pants.  He is SO proud.  I am using no soakers so that he will understand the process.  But when we go out, I will add a soaker or two.

I gave him one Skittle (not sure he has had one before) and told him that each time he went in the potty, he would get another.  I set the buzzer for 15 minutes and took him to the potty every 15 minutes all morning long.  He was originally frustrated that he didn't get a treat for just sitting on the potty.  But, I really wanted to keep that reward for actually going in the potty.  After only two accidents he finally had success in the late morning.  He was SO excited.  He said "It's working Mom-mom!"  We gathered around in the kitchen cheering and clapping for him as we each ate a Skittle.  As soon as he ate his Skittle, he ran straight back to try again.  He kept saying "It's not working, Mom-mom". 

He had more accidents throughout the day, but this was a strong introduction for him and I look forward to having a little more success each day, keeping in mind that there will be set-backs along the way.

What things do you do to make the potty training process fun in your home?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Celebrating Presidents and History

History is such a vital part of our education.  Forget about all the dates and facts that your teacher made you memorize in school and imagine with me for a moment...standing in a small dimly lit room...warm...very warm...and humid...with small windows propped opened...the air crowded around little the First Continental Congress debated over what to do with the demanding king that was taking away their freedoms.  Imagine the personalities and differing backgrounds of these men.  They were leaving their families and traveling in conditions that we would never dare...and upon signing the Declaration of Independence, they were very likely signing their own death sentence.  They were risking it all right under the noses of the British soldiers.  They were principled and were willing to risk it all to birth a new nation.  "One if by land, and two if by sea"..."The British are coming, the British are coming"  ahhhh.  This my folks is true history...imagine it, feel it, breathe it in, and let it change how you view the names that you have read in history books and biographies.

To say that I love American History would be a gross understatement.  I am a true history nerd...through and through.  The "history nerd" in me is so bad that years ago, I was switching off babysitting with a friend and was at her house late one night.  When she came home and found me watching the History Channel she looked at me puzzled and asked if I couldn't get the remote to work...Haha!

So, when I was asked to let my little Abby participate in an event at my church where she would dress as an American Girl and be introduced with women portraying many of the president's could I refuse?  I did some photography for the event as well ( I haven't shared much about my love for photography yet...but it will come.)  This was a fascinating event for this patriotic woman.  I learned tons about many of the presidents wives that I didn't know and now admire them more for the sacrifices that they have made over time.  There just aren't enough hours in the day for all of the biographies that I want to read. So, I was able to sit, listen, and learn.

Here are a few pictures.

This is a picture that I snapped during rehearsal.  Old my children fondly refer to this symbol of American freedom.

 Here is my Abby as "Kit Kittredge" her all time favorite American Girl.

Here is Abby with the other girls who were dressed to represent different American Girls.  Aren't these girls precious?

Here are a few of the "president's wives".

Abigail Adams is my all time favorite! 

She was an amazing woman.  We named our Abby after her.  I have lost myself more than once in the pages of the letters that she wrote to her husband, John Adams.  What an amazing patriot, wise counselor, and strong woman she was.  There were many times that John was away from home and Abigail was alone.  For months or years at a time, he would be meeting with the Continental Congress, seeking financial or military support in Europe for America's independence, or building allies in Europe.  During much of these times Abigail was alone would run the farm, manage the servants and affairs, and school her young children (not all the time as she traveled to Europe to be with him when the kids were older).  She even went through a miscarriage alone at one point while John was meeting with the Continental Congress.  She had written to ask him to come home because she was in labor.  She then wrote to John telling him not to come home after all because it was over and they had lost their little girl.  Such sacrifices most of us will never know.  Strength and wisdom are the words that I would use to describe her.

As you learn through the elections this year, take time to learn about the presidents and presidential families of the past.  There are some amazing stories!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Election Party

What is an election without an election party?  We love to watch the results come in and decided to invite a few families over to enjoy the evening with us.

So, after returning from volunteering at the polls we started getting ready for our Arizona Primary Election Party.  We did some last minute cleaning...not that much really as there would be 18 kids running around...haha.

We then made some cookies for the party.  I had bought some great patriotic cookie cutters a while back and the kids really enjoyed the process of rolling, cutting, baking, and icing.

Here are a few pictures of the kids making cookies.

After baking the cookies, the kids used (clean) paintbrushes to paint the icing on the cookies.  This is my favorite method for icing sugar cookies.  I make the icing a little thicker than then recipe so that there is very little dripping. 

As we painted the flags, we reviewed the parts of the American Flag (my kids fondly call "Old Glory") and the symbolism of each.

50 stars = 50 states
13 red stripes = 13 original colonies

White -  purity and innocence
Red - hardiness and valor
Blue - vigilance, perseverance and justice

Stars and Stripes...Forever. 

Someone made an (almost) Israeli flag...hmmm...I guess they are better educated on current events than I thought...haha. 

We had snacks, patriotic music, an in-house election, and election results on the television, and a last minute president trivia.  What a fun way to celebrate our country and learn through the election process.
I think we will do this again in November! 

Friday, March 2, 2012


One way that I have chosen to help my kids learn through the elections this year is to volunteer.  Now, with six kids, this is NOT easy...but I feel that it is important for my kids to experience volunteering from their earliest years.  I would like volunteering to be a part of who they are no matter where they choose to volunteer...that they would give of themselves for the good of another.

So, on Tuesday, we went to the polls to collect signatures for a candidate that we support.  You know...the people with clipboards that you run from at the library?  That was us!  Most elected positions require a particular number of signatures to get a candidate's name on the ballot.  Usually...this is all that they are asking you to sign...nominating petition to get a candidate's name or a proposition on the ballot.  But, you would have thought that we were asking them to handle a snake...haha.

For better or worse, here are a few pictures of us collecting signatures for Kirk Adams, who is running for US Congress.

The sun was really bright when it chose to peek out from behind the clouds.


For all of those political junkies out there...I did the signature collecting, Brennan just enjoyed holding the clipboard and interacting with people:)

After a while, the kids lost interest and turned to reading or playing games, but they will remember this for years to come.  They now know that running a campaign takes lots of volunteers.  In the two hours, we managed to get less than 15 signatures.   Getting your name on the ballot takes more work than one person can do.  It takes volunteers.

 So, as you learn through the elections, get out there and volunteer on the campaign of a candidate that you support and take the kids along.  It will change who they become.  Because, like I said in a previous post, you may have the next governor or even president living right in your home.  Train them well...while you can...haha!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The advantage of hands-on learning

As an education student (many years ago...haha) I was introduced to "hands-on" learning or learning through experience. As I searched for my first teaching job, a few years later, I looked for a school where I could teach, at least in part, by experience.  So, the Language textbook, for example, was only my guide to what we should be studying.  I created games and experiences to foster learning in a way that would engage several senses and learning styles. 

In January, I taught in our local homeschool PE co-op.  We were learning t-ball.  So, for the first two weeks we worked on drills and explained the was getting out into the field and playing the game that brought about a deeper understanding.  It is the same with education.  We definitely need the instruction but it isn't until we experience things that we truly understand them.

I recently increased the amount of experiential learning that we are doing here in our home.  Here are two methods I use for learning basic language concepts that are easy and reusable...very important to me.  (I have used these same games for math concepts and science classification too.) 

1. Board or wall work.  Choose a theme...(ducks and ponds, frogs and lily-pads, bones and dog bowls, flower petals and stems, etc) creative and choose something that peeks your children's interest. Make large ponds and many small ducks (or whatever theme you are using) out of construction paper (die cuts or clip art printed from the computer work well).  Label each pond with categories like nouns, verbs, etc. and then each duck with a word.

Here is a picture of my "word ducks".

Place the ponds on a chalkboard, bulletin board, or poster board on the wall.  The kids look at their duck, get up and walk to the board or wall, tape their ducks to the correct pond, and explain why the duck went in that pond.  This can be used for SO many different language concepts...and other subjects too.  I did a version of this for learning equivalent fractions and one for science classification.  It engages the senses of seeing, feeling, and hearing and benefits the visual, verbal, physical, logical, and social learners.  If you are unfamiliar with different learning styles here is a great link.

2.  File Folder work.  Use the same idea as above but on a smaller scale.  Paste the ponds into a brightly colored file folder, label, laminate, and use for independent learning/reinforcing games.  You will need to place the answers on the back of the file folder before laminating if you want it to be truly independent.  This is great for quiet time, travel in the car, or waiting at a doctor's office.  

I find it quite amusing that the education that was meant to prepare me for classroom teaching only reinforced my desire...and determination to teach my kids from home where they could learn through life experience.

Now that I am homeschooling three kids with three preschoolers in tow, it is truly difficult to do the hands-on learning...and yet it is SO very important to their understanding, long term retention, and love of learning.

In the busyness of homeschool life with six children, I realized that I was leaving behind the some of the heart and soul of my homeschooling passion...experiential learning...and just playing together.  However, with babies needing regular naps and routines, we cannot be out every day.

So, on "Fantastic Fridays" we do projects, experiments, field trips, Literature club, park days, science journaling, nature walks, etc.  Often times there are projects during the week also but I have my sights set on Fridays.  Click to see some of the things that we have done on "Fantastic Friday".

In a large homeschooling family things really do happen in stages and seasons...only time will tell how long I will keep this particular method up but the kids are really learning and loving it.

So, if you feel overwhelmed by the idea of doing many things "hands on", just try doing one thing every week.  Who knows, you may find that it isn't as scary as you thought.

What things do you use to help your kids experience learning?