Friday, May 28, 2010


We've had so much rain and hail this May, it's amazing. While I'm ready for it to dry up I know it's fantastic for our yards and all the grass we keep in this desert, and of course the wildfires that plague us come summer.

Anyhow, I slipped outside today to see what's buzzing in our backyard.

My sweet peas are already so very sweet. Nothing un-sweet about these little leaves and tendrils:

Our three year old lilacs are blooming this year...for the first time. What a dream come true!
This little spider found a home in the lower part of our treehouse. We've been watching him for a few weeks. I don't mind spiders a bit.

I had a lovely time photographing this bumble bee. These huge bees come and stuff their pockets full of pollen every year when this bush blooms. I love how he tucked himself in the petals. He moved so quickly it was tricky getting a good shot. Enjoy your long weekend!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Outdoor Hour: Snakes & Why We're Making the Hour

This week for our outdoor hour the boys and I checked out snakes. We brought home a handful of books from our local libraries and read some interesting facts about snakes. We looked at dozens of photos in those books and those of the snakes that are listed as native.

Snakes that are native to the area are;

  1. Rattlesnakes. Enough said. For that very snake we did not go poking around in the Canyon to find snakes. We leave rattlers alone.
  2. Gopher snakes. Gopher snakes gain much respect too, as they have a mock rattle to scare away predators. It works.
  3. Rubber snakes...the boys & I found these to be quite interesting b/c they really look rubbery.
There are a few more, but on to a bit of what we've learned about snakes in our reading and research.

  • Snakes are cold blooded, which means they have no control over their internal temperature. So in order to keep warm they lie in the sun or on sun-warmed rocks. Snakes have to get warm enough just to eat or move.
  • Snakes shed their skin as they grow. The shedding starts at their mouth, the skin peels off over their body and they wriggle out of their old skin.
  • Snakes are carnivorous. Meat eaters. Some snakes are egg eaters. They eat the eggs, crack them and eat the nutritious meat of the egg. Then they spit out the shell.

We read billions of new things, then the next day we took a field trip to our local pet shop to get a better look at some real live snakes. This proved to be an interesting visit. Both the gals that were working in the shop were happy to let us look at the snakes but not interested (loathed & hated) in snakes, therefore, our list of questions that we brought went unanswered. They were, however, willing to unlock the cage so I pulled out a ball python for the boys to touch and hold. I didn't get any photos, as I was doing the handling. :)

The most interesting things we learned in the pet shop were;
  • "I thought that snakes weren't slimy!" Joey said. Snakes are so soft and smooth that they can feel and appear slimy. But they aren't. They're smooth and dry.
  • Pythons, even babies that are a a foot long, squeeze their prey to kill it before they unlock their jaws to swallow their food in a single "bite."
The boys have had a wonderful time reading about and checking out the snakes, I'm hoping we'll see some on our hikes in the future...or at least be looking.

LOOKING. Why we're looking.....

I'm starting to see why it's important for us to be doing this hour. The art of observation.

Little boys, little sweet-two year old boys are incredible observers. I think it has much to do with their inquisitive nature, and the fact that they're down low to the ground and not moving too fast. But big kids...they move so fast. Teaching these bigger ones to slow down and observe...and what to look for is so important. Now that we've been taking some time to observe, the boys are naturally starting to slow down and observe nature themselves, pointing out lichens and birds, identifying flowers and types of rock. I love when a boy comes screaming in the door, "Mom! We found a bumble bee! I know it was a bumble bee because it had little pollen pockets on his legs!"

Today life has a hard pull on people to stay indoors. This is the other great part of the Outdoor Hour for us. We are encouraged to get outside for just a bit, and it usually leads to more time outside. Being outdoors is so important. Connecting with God through His creation never gets old and He reveals Himself through nature. Creating competition with technology and lethargy is the work that this hour can accomplish. I'd encourage you to join us with Barb at Handbook of Nature Study for her Outdoor Hour.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

thoughts on school....

C.S. Lewis said that we should teach far fewer subjects far better. Dorothy Sayers said that we should teach a student the tools needed to teach one subject and then show them how to use those same tools to study any subject.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Even the Stones Cry Out

Luke 19:38-40
"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"

"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."

The way I see it....

the rocks do cry out.

They simply are.

They only exist.

They were made, and they are all they were made to be.

It makes me rethink what I think it means to be all that I can be, all that I should be for God.

How much do I work, or think I have to work to be what God made me to be, to be a reflection of Him. I want to be a conductor of His love, His grace. And sometimes I just try too hard.

But then one day I was running and looking at the lichen growing on the rocks, and I thought of this truth. The rocks, they do nothing but exist...and they reflect God perfectly. His beauty, His creativity, His love for things large and strong and small and delicate.

And I think of how if I were to simply be who I was made to be, that I would be perfectly glorifying God.

How much freedom is there in that?

To be, is what God wants for us.

To exist as you were made to exist is to His Glory.

To do as He called us; to love Him, to love people is His will for us.

I was wondering, what does it mean for me to be? I pondered this. To be for me, a mom and a wife....

it's to love my husband. To encourage him, to pray for him.
It's to nurture and teach my kids. To love them and care for them.
To build my home, to be anchored in God so that I can be peaceful and fun for my family.
It's to be a loving, available friend to my friends. To encourage.
And to look others in the eyes, to see people and not look past or through them. To be kind and gracious to all the folks I meet.

A rock for my family, friends and to God. A rock that is beautiful just because it is, and who lives free from the worry or trying to be what I'm supposed to be. And my life too will cry out in praise to my great God.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Cannon Beach, OR

My sweet sister and I took a getaway last weekend. We drove off to the coast, just us, our tent and snacks for the weekend. Our sweet husbands stayed at home keeping the home fires burning..or not, rather.

It was a beautiful weekend to visit the Oregon Coast. Hazel and I walked on the beach for hours, combing and talking. I found wonderful rock-treasures, and we had a lovely time.
I came away with some very sweet pictures, and somehow without a photo of the two of us (no one to take it.)

School Scheduling & Reading Aloud

As much as I try to schedule out my days, weeks and years for school I usually work pretty loosely with what I've planned. I am, by nature a bit spontaneous and work best when I can comfortably make changes that keep school interesting.

So most days the plan is scratched or dented. Some days we focus more on math and do less reading. Some days math all comes out in play and science I just let them practice math without touching their normal curricula. Lately I'm pulling out other books &

workbooks so that we can keep it interesting for this last stretch. Some days we just go on a hike instead of paper school, or head out for a field trip.

It's become pretty standard that every few months our schooldays shift drastically. Whether I'm working with all three boys together or individually, whether I'm starting school at 9 a.m. and pushing through until it's done or starting school when I get a few things done and working through a subject then taking recess. I make changes to keep school interesting to myself and the boys, to work best with our ever changing family-life.

Going into this school year, I'd planned to follow the public school year as we have in years past. School starts in September, ends in early June. But after Spring break I realized that I really, really love the structure that even a little school does for our family.

But "year round" just ain't going to cut it around here. My boys are totally put out with the idea that they'd be doing school while they're public school friends are at home, playing the summer away. So I've come up with some sort of a compromise. We're going to take a summer break, I've just shortened it. We'll run school through most of June to make up for days of Spring that we couldn't stand to be inside for paper school & sick days. Then in August when the boredom sets in we'll start up again bit by bit.

Of course we have camping trips and a vacation planned, and that time will be off. I think we'll take off nearly two months of play time. When we're not camping or off playing I hope to continue reading aloud to the kids. I will also be buying a cursive handwriting curriculum for the boys to try out. I'm hearing more and more about teachers that are starting with cursive rather than printing because the flow of the letters is easier to start with. Now, I've heard opposing views on this, but I'll give it a shot. With 4, 6 & 8 year old boys trying can't hurt.
Maybe they can work on this while I read to them sometimes.

This brings up another good topic. How on earth does one read aloud to three wiggly-pants-different-aged little boys.

Reading Aloud To My Boys

Well, it's not as romantic as it may sound. Sometimes I read while the boys are eating. This of course, keeps them seated & satisfied, but doesn't last that long. Mostly I read to them in the living room where we all can get comfy. Sometimes I have a boy or two next to me, but mostly they're posted in different spots around the room, one drawing at the kitchen table, two on the floor building with legos or blocks. This keeps their little hands busy while I read and allows them to imagine what they will of the story we're reading. Maybe my favorite way to read to the boys is up on our bed. The boys will pick out story books to flip through while I read, or I give them beeswax to work their little fingers while they listen. It's so cozy that way.

It's taken time and practice for me to be able to read to the boys, with them all busy and quiet. They still interrupt to ask me questions about the story, but that's okay. I'm oftentimes reading over their heads a bit (especially little Eli) so their understanding needs to be clarified.

So tell me about you....will you take a summer break? Year round school? And what are your favorite stories to read and of reading with your family?


One summer we took a complete academic break - but our walls of routine fell as well. We suffered physically, mentally and spiritually. Then, in the fall, I suffered along with my oldest son, who had to re-learn his entire math knowledge base. The 1-2 months it took to get us back on track did not seem to be worth it - to be completely learning free in the summer.
We will continue our normal routine this summer, Handbook of Nature Study, Journal Sketches, and a page or so of math every other day. I will not go out of my way to assign academic work, but I will keep our daily routine the same. :)
Angie, over at Petra School

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Things With Bubbles

Drawings that Joe and Nate made to contribute to Sketchy Tuesday.

The first drawing here is "Laundry Soap" by Joe

"An Astronaut Blowing Bubbles" by Nate

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Eli says...

This morning Eli climbed in bed with me to snuggle while waking.

"You're the warmest lady I met in the whole wide world." he says.
(in other words, happy mother's day)

Nate says...

The other day Nate and I were talking about umbilical cords. I told him how after the baby is born, the cord is cut & the it dries up for awhile like old skin. "Guess what is under the skin when the dead skin falls away?"

Nate says, "A baby!!" :)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Let the words of my mouth....

I wish I could have a few minutes of air time to air a commercial. Or a statement, of sorts. Not that anyone would pay attention, but really!

Earlier today I took Nate to the eye doctor. In conversation (I was so glad the dr. had sweet bedside manner with my 6 year old) the doctor asked Nate, "So I guess you're in Kindergarten?"

"Yup." says Nate.
"What's your favorite thing in school?"
"Oh, um....well I guess Math. I really like math."
To which the doctor replied in a joking manner, "My two favorite subjects were lunch and recess" and he chuckled it away.

I'm sure I've heard this joke a million times and harmless as it seems, I was thinking how he, as a doctor was basically saying " school stinks" which may very well have been his experience. But still I'm you realize what you just said? You just told my sweet little 6 year old that you didn't like school.

Fast forward about 3 hours, the very same boy and I went to the store. At checkout, the cashier noticed some school supplied in our stuff. She looked at Nate with sympathy and said, "Oh man, you have to do school? That's when all the fun ends. "

What?! Oh boy, we have a skewed opinion about learning!

I quickly corrected this woman and told her how fun learning can be. I agree, sometimes it's just work ("and it's your job" I remind my little ones) but to hand the attitude to generations to come is an awful track to set them on. Oh, let's mind what we say. Little ears are listening.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heartBe acceptable in Your sight,O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. ~Psalm 19:14

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day Peace

Honestly, I can't feel but that Mother's Day is a loaded holiday. I'm not even sure where I got the idea. When I was a girl my dad would take us to the local gardening spot and my sister and I would choose a hanging basket for my mama, and we may have gotten her a card and just given her extra hugs and kisses. Thanks, Mom. We love you. That was the message of the day.

But somewhere in the last years I've begun feeling all this strange sort of pressure for Mother's Day. Commercialism, is my guess. Diamond rings...a day at the spa? They both sound great, of course, but I only want the gifts that come with a giving heart, not obligation because of a day on the calendar.

This year I thought it would be fun to go camping on Mother's Day. Kahneeta was booked for the holiday (popular idea?) so we went last weekend. It was so relaxing and we had a few teeny hikes, played games. Nate brought me a sweet bouquet of wild flowers and I thought "THIS. This is Mother's Day. Gifts of the heart and sweet little smiles. Playing with my family and giggling in the early morning over 4 year old jokes that make no sense at all."

These things are thanks enough:

  • a loving husband who supports my staying at home and schooling the boys
  • all the pictures with flowers and x's and 0's from my cutie boys
  • hugs and a million kisses
  • a boy who wants to follow me around the house while I clean and tell me about the dream from the night before or a story hatching in his mind
  • someone who offers to help clear the table just because
  • the beautiful stones the boys bring to me because they need to be seen
  • when the boys point out pretty birds or birdsong to me, because they know I love it
And I really want to thank my mom. I'm going to spend Mother's Day with her awhile, and maybe I'll draw her a picture with x's and o's and bring her a bouquet of flowers. And I'll tell her thanks. I know there are a million times she loved me and helped me that I don't even remember. Thanks, Mama. Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Our Homeschool Journey

I'm not sure when or why I started thinking about home schooling my boys.

Maybe it was the sweet teenage girl I met when my oldest was just a baby. Something about her was so genuine and interested. She conversed easily and looked me in the eye...she was home schoooled. I took note.

Maybe it was the books that we read & the early childhood experience I had, proving that sending your little ones to school when they're little isn't always beneficial. That boys especially need extra time to let their little person bloom close to home before they're put into school.

Maybe it was simply an extension of the attachment parents we'd seemed to me that it was just the next natural step, teaching my kiddos at home where they could be close and I wouldn't miss out on a thing.

At any rate I would say our journey began with the birth of our first son. Moms and dads are teachers from the start. We read to our babies, held them, talked and sang to them. We coaxed and coached our toddlers into walking and babbling first words, we watched them 'read' their books and sing to their babies. We were modeling how to share, how to speak kindly, how to make a friend.

So counting each raisin and sounding out the letters in the grocery store came naturally with our 3 or4 year old. Teaching comes naturally. I remember asking myself, why should I be "relieved" of the duty of teaching my boys about book work, character, mannerisms, social life? Why should I turn over this work to someone else? This work that is so very important to me?

There was also the hope that somehow we could impart Christ and a real relationship with God to our boys in a way that they just couldn't experience anywhere else.

So we launched into preschool, my 4 year old and I. In kindergarten I seriously considered enrolling him in school. Truthfully, I felt overwhelmed. Now I had two more little boys, a three year old and a one year old. Sending Joe to school for several hours a day sounded like it would simplify life. I agonized an entire summer about what to do. At last I came to the conclusion I didn't yet want to be relieved of the duty of teaching my son. I wanted to be with him. I wanted him to be with us.

We pressed on. We moved through Kindergarten and school became a sweet rhythm to our family.

Now my youngest son is the preschooler. I have a kindergartner and a second grader, not that grades much count. They work at their own customized level. Their own customized style of school.

There is the traditional student who works text books like they're candy. He devours books and loves to bake.

I have a boy-shaped-student who would prefer to be in a tree and learns best on the fly & with hands on studies. He loves nature and begs to just hike.

And the preschool boy, well, he's a quick learner but I think what he loves the most is my time and the opportunity to learn like the big kids. He learns as they learn, sometimes more quickly.

Our days are routine; chores, school and activity or play. The boys have tons of free time and for that I'm so grateful. They get a great kid/student ratio....something like 80/20. They are involved up to their eyeballs too, music classes, art, reading group and field trips.

Our months, however, are not routine. I find that there really aren't more than two or three months a like. Change is the variable that is consistent when it comes to the seasons of school. I'm constantly trying new things to keep school fresh and interesting to all of us. But I don't mind that, it's a rhythm within itself that steps things up and keeps us loving our work, all four of us.

It is, truthfully, not always easy or fun to school at home. Some days are hard...when I'm struggling with motivation. My house will never be as clean and tidy as the other empty-all-day-homes. Finding the curriculum and social groups that best add to your students' experiences can be grueling work. Lesson planning and laundry somehow overlap leaving little time for structured planning and tasking. Having your kids at home so that you can teach them about a relationship with God goes hand in hand of allowing them to see your weaknesses & faults. They're home all the time so I have no time to hide on the bad days or wait until they leave to fall apart. The lines of home and school blur and some school days are overcome by sick kids or mom crisis. I remind myself that these, or others, are challenges that most any job or career gifts you with. I will take the challenges that come with the blessings of getting the time and experiences of learning with my kids, and all the learning I do while teaching them.

I started homeschooling the boys for the purpose of giving them an extended childhood at home. More time to build character, to learn to surf the social waves of life outside home. I continued schooling because I saw learned just how different my little ones are and how their needs are. And I started to fall in love with having them home.

Now I'd have to say that I have them home because of the rich relationships our family has. The boys have very special friendships with their brothers and I feel that my husband and I know them in a way I'd never get the chance to if they were away from home for hours a day. There are so many things I love about homeschooling, but this stands far above the rest, the sweet relationship I get to have with them. After all, they're only around for awhile.