Tag Archives: homeschool

An activity bag for the car

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activity-bag-outsideI’ve had this project in my head for years but finally took the time to make it up this weekend. This is a sturdy canvas bag to keep in the back of my car. It’s filled with items to keep my kids occupied in waiting rooms, at a sibling’s soccer practice, during a long restaurant wait, or similar. It contains a set of high-quality wax crayons, a full set of colored pens, pretty coloring books (we like many of the Dover ones, including this one), learn-to-draw books, and blank book, and a book of games and puzzles. We don’t actually call our homeschool “DeWees Academy,” but it seemed like a cute thing to put on the outside of the bag.

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I put in a zipper closure so all the crayons don’t fall out.

pencil-case

This little pencil case goes inside and holds the writing tools.

diaper-bag

This is another bag I made at the same sitting. I don’t carry a diaper bag for Daphne, but have a large zippered pouch in my purse that holds all her necessary items. My previous pouch was unlined to keep the bulk in my purse to a minimum, but unfortunately that also made it flimsy, and it was falling apart. This new one is made from home dec scraps from another project and lined with a thrift-store sheet. Ever since I bought an assortment of colorful zippers from Amazon.com I make a lot more pouches! But new, handy little bags are always helpful. This one already has been.

 

No cute crafty blogging today

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I have no cute, completed crafty projects to show. I have two small people with big colds, one baby with a double ear infection, a ponytail, and a ginormous mug of coffee. And I’m trying to finish the project, now in its second week, of transforming my 8-year-old’s bedroom from one of the circles of hell to a livable, organized space. I’ve carted out four huge bags full of trash. Seriously. May the craftiness be with you, and maybe later this week I’ll have time to look at your blogs and know that crafty life goes on! And melodrama. It always goes on. And homeschool math. It always goes on too, or at least it should if I get off the computer and go make it go on. Cheers!

Early snow

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snowWe had our first snow day of the year! We take the day off school if our neighbors do, because it just doesn’t seem fair not to. I think I’m going to like snow days this year because all children old enough to want to play in the snow are old enough to play in the snow by themselves while I sip coffee and watch over the toddler inside the warm house. It seemed a little odd to be hauling out the snow gear in November (this is Kentucky, not Vermont!), but at least last year’s sturdy boots still fit.

car

After my rosy-cheeked big kids finished their snow man and their hot chocolate, they turned a big box into a car. How is that a big box can be more fun than any toy?

10687065_10205313835111208_1337218845321174890_nAnd a little homeschool funny. Dorothy was asked to think about a time she’d been given a chance, or if she couldn’t think of one, to write a note to her teacher about a chance she’d like to be given. Apparently she couldn’t think of an opportunity she’d already had (really?!), so she wrote this to me: “Dear Mommy, I would like to not have so much school work or I want a coupple [sic] days off once in a while. I would also appreciate it if I could do more reading than school work each day. I would totaly [sic] like it if we could do more science and more work-book stuff than curriculum stuff. I love you and hope all of these changes will happen. Sincerely, Dorothy.” She giggled like a fiend while I read it, which meant that it was ok for me to laugh too. Imp! She basically is saying, “I’d like you to leave me alone to read my own books, or for school I’d like to do just the parts where I read, you read to me, or we do review. I don’t want to answer questions about the reading or learn mathematics.” Nice. And if you’re laughing now too, you’re welcome. 🙂

What a mess: One mother’s response to the latest mommy wars

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wipes

I think I need to weigh in on the articles and blog posts that have been circulating in the latest round of the “mommy wars,”–whatever that is. I’m not big on making sweeping judgments about other people’s lifestyle choices. Feel happy and fulfilled and like you’ve got your financial shit together working outside the home? Great! You’re a good mom, and you’ve probably got awesome shoes. Feel happy and fulfilled and like you’ve got your financial shit together while staying out of the paid workforce and raising your kids? Great! You’re a good mom too, but you’ve probably got less awesome shoes. (Like me.) Send your kid to public or private school? Great! They are probably going to turn out fine, and they leave your house for eight hours a day, which is clearly a good idea. Homeschool your kid? Great! They are probably going to turn out fine too, and I’m sure you have a reason for keeping them there that makes their relentless presence in your house worthwhile.

Now moving on to the details. Lately these so-called “wars” seem to have descended from these more obvious issues and into the petty realm of party and event planning, and whether or not you keep your house clean. I think these articles that bash a “culture” of Pinterest-obsessed mothers who plan picturesque birthday parties or set leprechaun traps are meant to make mothers who opt not to do these things feel better, but is that really the way to do it? Why are we giving other mothers a hard time at all? No mother is out there posting cupcakes on Pinterest or scrubbing her kitchen floor to make you feel inadequate, nor should they be asked to stop because of your negative response. What your house looks like is between you and the other people who live in it. It’s not about the articles or the bloggers or the playdate mamas. There is no vast conspiracy of military-industrial anything telling you to plan Pinterest holiday events or keep your mail slots beautiful. You do what feels right at your house, and let’s stop spilling ink on whether or not it’s a contest.

All the articles about how the Pinterest stuff takes it too far, and no one else’s house is really that clean, and every birthday party doesn’t have to be magical, and that’s not even really a holiday, blah, blah, undermine other mothers. Because mothers who plan elaborate parties love their children. Mothers who don’t plan elaborate parties love their children. Mothers who use Pinterest ideas to turn small holidays into big moments of wonder love their children. Mothers who would rather eat roadkill than handle glitter love their children. Mothers who are too up to their eyeballs in case work, or shift work, or depression, or a dirty novel to even notice this conversation is going on love their children. Making a plea to other mothers to stop doing whatever they are doing–whether it is icing gorgeous cupcakes, or cleaning their house before a playdate, or having a job, or not having a job–is not an act of sisterhood. It is trying to take another mother’s behavior and make it about you.

Maybe what we need is to stop talking about the behavior of other mothers. Maybe all the moms just need a nice shot in the arm of self-confidence and the space to get a grip on what is important to them and what is not, and then mind their own business. If you know you love your children, and you make your decisions based on what is right for you and for them, then what everyone else is doing is just not relevant.  And housekeeping, for pete’s sake, why is this a conversation in 2014? It’s not a ranked activity–it’s your own private thing. The dirty underwear on your floor is, quite literally, your dirty underwear (or to be perfectly honest it’s probably your toddler’s) and if it bothers you that much go and pick it up. And if it doesn’t then literally shut the front door and no one else will see it. No one on Pinterest or the blog world or uninvited to your house is going to know about it.

By the same token, if looking at photographs of “perfect” birthday parties or Hallmark holiday celebrations on Pinterest or blogs is some sort of trigger for you, why don’t you stay off Pinterest and the blogs? You are a grown-up. Read bodice-rippers or dirty fan-fiction in the time you would have spent “getting ideas” about how everyone else’s life is better than yours. That always puts me in a better mood, and I never end up spending $50 on new art supplies next day. But I’d like to point out that the problem is probably not that other people are posting blogs or Pinterest photos of parties and celebrations, but that you are responding to them by feeling inadequate. I doubt that anyone ever iced cupcakes just to make someone else feel bad. Get a backbone and say “I want to make these cupcakes” and then really do it. Or say, “I am never going to make these cupcakes, and I’m having a negative reaction to seeing other people’s cupcakes, so I need to work on my self-esteem. I’m going to remind myself that I’m a mother who loves her children, that quality mothering and cupcake baking are not actually correlated. Now I’m going to shut down this browser and stay away from cupcake photos. I will not resort to the middle-school coping mechanism of running down the mama who baked the cupcakes (who also loves her children) to make myself feel better.”

I’m a cupcake-baker. I have cute birthday parties for my kids. Sometimes I even have cute half-birthday celebrations for my kids and blog about them. Sometimes we totally forget about the kids’ half-birthdays, and if anyone happens to remember at the last moment we run to the corner gas station and buy packaged cupcakes. Or we don’t even bother. Sometimes my house is beautifully clean and my mail slots are worthy of Pinterest. Sometimes random piles of crap appear all over my house and there is no clean laundry and my mail slots overflow. Sometimes I like to browse ideas on Pinterest. Sometimes I like to read dirty novels and pay no attention to applesauce on the floor or the yogurt being dumped on the dog or the fact that yesterday was a Hallmark holiday I missed. And I LOVE MY KIDS. I don’t judge myself based on anyone else’s criteria because I am comfortable in my own skin. That is a gift, I realize, but it is also a choice. I honor that you are a good mother because you love your kids. I am not going to judge the choices you make about working or schooling or (the biggie!) crafty holiday decorations. I’m not going to ask you to lie about your house, or to lie about lying about it. Because you are your own person, and, like me, you probably keep your house the way it needs to be right now for you. And you love your kids.

Now I’m a little embarrassed that in a state where slightly more than a third of children live in poverty I have just spend an hour acknowledging any importance in the petty “mommy wars,” in which well-fed mothers argue over things that don’t really matter. Except that niceness always matters. And making some theoretically heroic summons of sisterhood for mothers to stop fussing over Hallmark holidays (if they enjoy it) or planning cutesy birthday parties (if they want to) or having a tidy house (or lying about it?) isn’t nice. It just isn’t about you. Take it or leave it. It didn’t become a contest until someone who felt like they were losing started whining about calling off the contest. You can decide what to look at it and what to avoid. Live you own life. Love your children. Go talk about things that matter. And if you have something to say to another mother let it be positive.

I’ll start. I honor you and the mother that you are. I don’t care what your house looks like, even if it is spectacular. I don’t care if you are baking picture-perfect cupcakes (though if you are and you have extra, my favorite flavor is lemon). I don’t care if you are picking up cupcakes from the gas station (though if you are and you have extra, my favorite flavor is that waxy orange with the white squiggle on top). I hope you are in an employment situation that feels right to you. I hope your children are in educational situations that feel right to you. I hope you have the self-confidence to look at ideas and tuck away what you like and discard the rest. I hope you realize how beautiful you are. I hope you realize that you are the right parent for your child. And I know you love your children.

Peace, Mama!

Right Start Math bags

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math-bag math-bags

Since last spring I’ve had this niggling feeling that I should better organize our math manipulatives. We use the homeschool math curriculum Right Start Mathematics, which is a good fit for me and my third-grader, and it comes with lots and lots of little bits and pieces and sets of cards. I have a small secretary desk in my living room that is dedicated to holding our math supplies. The problem was that I couldn’t close it anymore because it was so crammed full with our manipulatives, cards, and the various sandwich bags or dog-eared envelopes I was employing to hold them. I bought some white zippers in bulk and used canvas left over from our field trip bags to make 13 zipper bags for our math supplies. I took the time to embroider a label onto each bag, which seemed like “OMG, have I really become a person who embroiders labels on to homemade canvas bags to hold math manipulatives?” but yes, it seems I have. Assuming we stick with this curriculum, I’ll be using these supplies for many more years, and I’d have been mad if my previous disorganized system had caused me to have to re-purchase supplies I could have kept track of better. I am not, under any circumstances, going to follow this project up by crocheting a cozy for our abacus. So here we go. Hopefully these bags and I will have quite a future together, and it’ll be worth the time spent when my current toddler learns her fractions with their help. And if there is just a little voice in the back of my brain that says, “really? You made special bags to hold math supplies?” I’ll just tell it to shut up. In Latin, because that’s all homeschool-y, right?

My kids’ recent projects

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cape

Dorothy sews a lot these days. And by a lot, I mean I sometimes wish I’d never taught her and had not ceded a part of our family room and my fabric storage area to her needs. (Honesty!) But in the bigger picture, I’m very glad she enjoys it, is creative with it, and can envision and execute a project in ways that will serve her even better than the basics of hemming and button sewing. She likes to get ideas from two books I got her, Sewing School and Sewing School 2, both of which I heartily recommend. The instructions and patterns in the book are clear enough that she can trace, cut out, and follow them without my help. My favorites among her projects, however, are the ones she dreams up on her own. Like a cape for her baby sister!

snowmanOr an Olaf (snowman) costume for her brother. Seeing this project spread out on her sewing table before she put the carrot nose on DID give me pause, but then I recalled that she was sewing costumes for a theatrical production of the movie Frozen she, her brother, and their cousins had in the works. She’s very results-oriented in that she prefers to complete a project in one sitting than to bother with niceties of hemming or facings, but who can blame her?

painting

Both big kids recently rediscovered the swirl-and-spin art kit. I loved seeing the line of brightly-colored squares waiting to dry, so I…

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made them into a poster using Publisher and had it printed at Costco. We gave copies to both the grandfathers for Father’s Day and they were big hits.

on-the-mantle

I never got a great picture of the printed posters, but you can see it on the mantle behind my father-in-law in this snapshot. Both grandfathers were told the prints were for the garage (how much wall space does one have to spare, anyway?) but both chose to frame and hang them inside, making my little artists beam with pride.