Saturday, November 9, 2013

Our Home School Books

I've had a few people ask about what books we use in homeschool. So here we go.

We've been using Susan Wise Bauer's books for history; we are on the first book. It presents facts, dates, names, etc., but also includes stories to help the kids remember the important stuff. There are activities like Q&A, summaries, dictations, coloring pages, crosswords, maps, and tests. I use this with all the kids as it's divided by time period and not age or level. For Emma's tests, I read the test to her and record her answers, but she's almost a good enough reader that she could probably read most of the test herself.

Story of the World: History for the Classical Child

Grammar: We use her First Language Lessons. They are also easy to use and I've actually learned some things that I'd forgotten since I was a kid. We have levels 1 for Emma, 2 for Jeremy, and 3 for Megan.

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For Writing we use Bauer's Writing With Ease. I don't do this with Emma, for her, I write stories with her. Jeremy and Megan use levels 2 and 3, respectively. I really like these books. They have selections of classic literature for the kids to read and then I ask questions so see what they remember. Then they have to summarize (harder than it sounds) and write their summaries, dictations, or copywork.

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 I really, really like these books. They are easy for me to teach from and the kids actually really like the lessons (with the exception of Jeremy who would rather not have to write, but it's getting better).

Product DetailsFor Math we are using Saxson Math. I like the way the lessons are set up, easy to follow along, but I'll be honest, I don't "get" the Meeting Book. We have them, but I don't use them at all.I skip that part of each lesson. Emma uses the kindergarten Saxon Math book.

Jeremy is pretty much at a 3rd grade level in his math, so instead of making him go through 2nd grade math first, I had him skip to 3rd. This is fabulous because I am able to teach Jeremy and Megan together.

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 While I like these lessons, I think they move too slowly. I've had to skip lessons, especially in the kindergarten book. I should have just had Emma start with 1st grade math. Oh well.

To assist with their math and to give me a good idea of where they are since these move slower than what I'd like, I use an online program called  This website graphs where the kids are in their math skills and progressively gets harder as their skills improve. There is a learning curve if your kids aren't used to typing on the number pad section of a keyboard. For a while I would have Jeremy and Emma sit on my lap and have them tell me the answer to the problem on the screen and I would type in the answer. Now, Jeremy does it all on his own. I still do Emma's or I have Megan do it if I'm working with Jeremy.

Science. Oh, science. I bought a book called R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey. . It's only ok. Nothing great. It has some fun labs that the kids enjoy, but the book itself really isn't what I was looking for. We'll do whatever labs we feel like doing and then find something else for next year.

Product DetailsReading. For reading we just read. Anything and everything. Emma has flown through her "Red Books." She's moved on to the classic Dr. Seuss style books and even tries more difficult books. We go to the library a lot.

Megan never stops reading, so I know she's good.

Jeremy doesn't read on his own as much as Megan, but he does read a lot.

Product DetailsIn addition to letting them read what they pretty much want, I introduce books to them often and I take time to read to them every day. We are currently reading A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the 5th, The Austere Academy and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Usually I read a chapter or two of each book because they beg for more. Who am I to argue with reading "just one more chapter"?

We do some fun stuff for P.E. I told them when I was in elementary school for P.E. a student was often picked to lead. They'd get to decide what exercises and how many. My kids love this! I've had to put a cap on how many sit ups and push ups they call out, but usually they like to stay in the 20's. We've also done bike riding, playing at the park, swimming, yoga, and the Pinterest favorite: The Harry Potter Workout.

Occasionally I'll pull something off the internet that I saw on Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers and use it. Usually I do this with American History, Art, and Science. A friend in the Philippines put on her blog pictures of rice fields and pictures of the rice drying on the sidewalks and streets. This was perfect because we'd just learned about Ancient China and talked about how their crops were different from those in Egypt and Mesopotamia because China was able to grow rice and melons. Thanks to my friend's blog, my kids could see what rice fields looked like and what is done with the rice.

So this is what we do. I start the day off with a song, prayer, the pledge of allegiance, and a spiritual lesson (this week we are learning the Articles of Faith). Then since I have everyone I usually do one of our lessons that involves everyone, whether it's history, science, reading, or a special like art. Then I break them up and work with one kid at a time (unless I'm doing math and have both Megan and Jeremy) and give the kid(s) who aren't being worked with something specific to do. Emma usually works on handwriting, reading, her xtramath, or helps Lincoln with making patterns with our math blocks. Megan and Jeremy may be in charge of helping Emma or Lincoln, doing their xtramath, reading, writing, or I may have them study about a specific subject to share with everyone later. For example, Megan and Jeremy read about Halloween, Veterans Day, and tree leaves and shared what they learned with everyone.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Revealed Home School Life

I never ever wanted to home school my kids. I've wanted them out of the house and in public school for a long time. This was the year I was going to have three in school/two at home. And then home school happened.

And let me tell you.

I love it.

Yes, it began because my kids' teachers were awful. It was a "last resort" kind of response to sub-par education, but it became more. As I was preparing and thinking about home school I wanted to talk to other parents who were thinking about home schooling, planning on doing it, or already in the groove. Luckily, I know enough home schooling families here that I feel I'm well supported. It's nice knowing people who also know that home schooling isn't as weird as we all thought it would be and who know that I'm teaching my kids and not using the excuse of home schooling to be lazy. Trust me, there's nothing lazy about home school. Well, I do sleep in later than I did before. But why in the world would I get up at 6:15AM if I don't need to shove my kids out for a bus at 7:30 anymore? Right?

One of these fabulous people I talked to has kids around my kids' ages. And get this, HE'S been home schooling HIS kids for a while now. His wife actually works with Nathan and he stays home with the kids and teaches them. His kids are way smart by the way.

I asked him why he decided to home school. His reply? "I felt I wouldn't get enough time with my kids if I sent them off to school."


That was the exact opposite of how I felt. I was pretty sure we all needed a break from each other, because we drive each other nuts. Plus, I wanted to write my books and sew aprons and clothes and quilts without interruption. Yep, there it is. I wanted some time for myself. With 5 kids there isn't much time to go around. Add to it a church responsibility that is like a full-time job and I'm amazed I have time to breathe, really.

"I felt I wouldn't get enough time with my kids if I sent them off to school."

Wow. I felt awful.

He continued, "There are so many things I want to teach them that I think are important and I thought if I sent them off to school I'd only have them for an hour or so in the morning and then a few hours after school and then it's bedtime. When would I teach them those things that I think are important?"

I began to change my perspective. Home schooling became more at that point. Yes, the awful teachers are a big factor in our decision and the main reason why Nathan agreed to home schooling. No, I don't spend my days constantly teaching my kids the big life lessons, at least not intentionally. But every day I know my kids are learning something, are realizing they can do something they didn't think was possible, are grasping concepts that were out of their reach the day before, and they're doing these things TOGETHER. And I get to see it happen. How awesome is that?!

Our home school days are infinitely better than our lazy summer days. We begin the day with a song, usually from the children's hymn book our church uses, but sometimes the kids ask for a "grown-up" hymn. Then prayer, the pledge of allegiance, the Oklahoma pledge, and scripture study are next. We just finished reading the kid's Book of Mormon, the one with pictures and descriptions underneath. They loved taking turns reading it to each other. Then we move on to other school stuff. Usually since I have them all together after scripture study we do one of the subjects that we can do together like history or science. Then we separate. I'll work with one or two kids depending on what we need to do. I might do math with Megan and Jeremy together while Emma listens to a book on CD or practices her writing. Then I'll switch and do math with Emma while Megan and Jeremy finish their math work that doesn't require me being right with them. Then I'll have Megan listen to Emma read while I do writing and grammar with Jeremy. We go like this, switching around until snack/lunch time. Usually after we eat the kids like to get back together and I read to them. Right now we are reading A Series of Unfortunate Events. We just finished The Wide Window and tomorrow we'll start The Miserable Mill. I'm excited because now Jeremy and Emma have no idea what to expect since the movie only covered the first three books. Nathan and I took turns reading the books to Megan a few years ago, so she remembers some of what happens. Then we do P.E. For this we try to be creative. They can ride their bikes, do archery, or take turns calling out random exercises and a number while music blasts from Pandora. The random exercise days are my favorite because it's so cute watching Emma try to do push ups while Jeremy totally rocks them. Plus, it's fun watching Lincoln try to do any of what they do :)  If they have been really good all day, they might get to do a special P.E. like Just Dance on the Wii or something I love which I stole from Pinterest (thank you, Pinterest!). Have you seen those workouts geared for Harry Potter movies? For example, every time Hagrid says, "I shouldn'ta said that," the kids have to do 20 jumping jacks. Every time someone does a spell, they have to run in place for 30 seconds. And on and on and on. My kids love it because they rarely get screen time. I love it because I can just write the exercises on the white board and go make dinner. They don't simply zone out while watching the movie, at least not for the first hour or so. After a while when they're worn out I let them sit and watch the movie without all the exercises, but we usually have a die hard who will try to make it all the way to the end doing each of the exercises.

The awesome part of all this? We start school 45 minutes later than the public school and end 45 minutes sooner (most days).

I'll write more later about what textbooks we're using. I wanted to include it here, but this is already pretty long. I just wanted to give an update here for those who were wondering what our home school days have been like. I know some of you who know me well wondered if I could really do it. I don't blame you, I wondered, too.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Harry Potter and The Whys of Life

Most of you know that Megan can read a book three times before I get through it once. She is an incredibly voracious reader. She ended the school year with more AR (remember that post?) points than any other kid in her class, and probably in the school, and received a special award for her hard work.

For the last year or so Megan and I have been working our way through the Harry Potter books for bedtime. A couple nights ago we finished Half Blood Prince. As we got further and further into the series and the books got darker and darker, I became more worried about Megan's ability to read these books without having nightmares. Her night terrors resurfaced a couple months ago and I've no interest in seeing them return on a full-time basis. The few she had brought memories of being helpless and frustrated to the forefront of my mind.

I think it was her first grade teacher that did a whole unit on fiction vs. nonfiction during reading. I'm grateful for this because since then, she's done so much better with "scary" books and movies. But still, these books get much more dark and scary than Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal.

*Spoiler Alert: If you haven't read the books and have no intention of doing so, you're all good. If for some insane reason you haven't read the Harry Potter books because you've been putting it off, you might want to skip the next two paragraphs.

We got to the chapter where Harry and Dumbledore are in the cave and the inferi are about to attack. I knew that no amount of fiction vs. non-fiction discussion would be enough, Megan wouldn't be able to handle it. I was right. I wasn't a full sentence into it and I had to stop and ask Megan if she wanted me to skip that part. It was the first time I'd had to skip anything.

Then came the confrontation between Dumbledore and Snape on the astronomy tower. I can't read that part without crying. I'm not sure how many times I've read the books. I read them with Nathan, each once. But I've also read them on my own for fun and also for study (before the last book came out I read each book and took notes on Snape, trying to find out if he was truly a Death Eater or not). I cried and cried through that whole section. When we finished it, Megan and I talked for a bit. She's a smart cookie, that Megan. On her own she decided that Dumbledore was asking Snape to kill him. She didn't fully understand why, but she knew Dumbledore wasn't asking Snape to not kill him.

It was so hard as a mother to not share with Megan all I know about the Dumbledore/Snape relationship. I wanted to comfort her, to explain to her the background information so it would all make sense. I wanted her to pity Snape and see him in a new light. Instead I had to let her grieve for Dumbledore and remain confused and upset with Snape.

If I'd been reading this book with another adult who didn't know what happens in the final book, I wouldn't have been as tempted to share all I know about what's to come and the whys of what happened. I'd be excited for them to read the next book and discover on their own what's to come. However, because it was Megan, my child who internalizes books the same way I do, because I could see the pain she felt and felt it myself, I wanted to ease her pain and explain it all away.

But I couldn't do that. How much more will she appreciate finding out on her own, the right way, than if I told her all I know.

It made me think of our Father in Heaven. He who knows all. He who knows all the whys and hows. Sometimes He gives us little glimpses, but never all the reasons and information. He lets us find out on our own and as we do, He comforts us if we let him. As we go through life and experience the horrible, or difficult, of seemingly unfair trials of life, we always want to know the whys. As Megan had to trust me that all would be well, and trust me when I said I couldn't explain it all right then, we must believe our Father in Heaven when He says all will be well if we trust in Him, despite how grim or sad or terrible things look and how few answers we have at the moment.

We've begun reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We're a couple chapters in now. I'm excited to be with Megan as she ends this adventure. I'm grateful I get to be with her as she learns all the whys and hows. I'm grateful I get to see her face as she makes these discoveries. I'm excited to talk with her when it's all done and over and we can sit and contemplate and mull over this world that was created for us to enjoy. Just as I'm sure our Heavenly Father is excited to sit and contemplate and mull over with us, when it's over, this earthly world that was created by Him for us to enjoy.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Another New Adventure

As I've been preparing for homeschooling the kids I've gone back and forth between feeling more excited and more scared. I feel inadequate a lot, but take comfort in the fact that the text books are easy to use, that there's a wealth of information available online, and that my kids love learning.

Preparing for homeschooling has, so far, taken up a lot of time. Looking at different curriculum, online lesson plans for supplementing and fun activities, changing the bedrooms around and creating a school room, there's been a lot to do and I feel like there still is. Because I am really not good at being organized, I tend to want to over organize and that is time consuming. But all in all, I'm excited and I feel blessed to live in a state where we have some of the best laws protecting homeschooling. I feel blessed to have kids who love to learn and are very proactive about their learning. I feel blessed to know that with the proper text books and with my own knowledge and wisdom, and with Christ's help, I can teach my children what they need to know and how to be good citizens.

Now, in the midst of all this, I am embarking on another adventure. This past Sunday I was given a new calling at church. For those of you who aren't familiar with LDS slang and terminology, a calling is a job you perform at church for a period of time. How long is usually dependent upon which calling you have, as some are held for a few years and others can be much shorter or longer. Before we officially moved here I was asked to create the Sunday program, the paper that says who's speaking, what songs we'll sing, and the announcements, calendar info, etc. Shortly after that I was asked to also teach the women's class (Relief Society) every fourth Sunday. I've loved my calling to teach. (The program calling is fine, mundane and at times stressful because it involves a computer program that I'm not that great at, but it's fine).

On Sunday I was released from my calling as a Relief Society teacher and called to be the Young Women's President.

I've never had a calling like this. The responsibility feels overwhelming at times, but I am incredibly excited. I've always wanted to work with the young women of the church (the 12-18 year olds) and I feel very blessed to have received this calling.

Just like with homeschooling, I will continue to go back and forth feeling excited and scared; I will feel inadequate a lot, but take comfort in my two councilors who will help me, the scriptures, my Savior, and the hundreds of activity ideas online :)  This will be incredibly time consuming and will require sacrifice from everyone in my family. There might be less vacation time and fewer bedtime stories read at night (at least those read by me), but I know that as a family we will be blessed.

Girls' Camp is coming up as well as Youth Conference. I am excited. I know both of these things will put a strain on my family, and I hope that they will bear it well. I find it kind of strange that I'm excited about Girls' Camp. I was never a big fan of it when I was in Young Women's. The rivalry between the different congregations really bugged me and it lost a lot of its fun because of that. I hope here they don't have that same rivalry. If it does exist here, I'll have to find some way of nipping it in the bud.

I have some ideas so far of what I want to accomplish with the girls, overall goals, I guess. I am mostly worried about activity ideas, I guess, and how to get them excited about Personal Progress. If any of you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Big Reveal

 The pictures may not be a big enough clue for those of you who have no idea what we will begin this summer. Personally, I think the globe is a good clue.

If you can't tell, even by zooming on the picture, there are history, math, reading, and writing books on the bookshelf on top of the dresser.

Here's a picture of Lincoln playing with some marbles in the new room. Behind him is a poster of minerals and another of colors and shapes. Sorry if it's kind of fuzzy. I can't seem to get the focus on the camera to work lately.

Here's our reading book shelf. We've got our classics, fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, etc. Even Lincoln's bedtime stories are up there. It's our own little library. And then the whiteboard in front, of course.

And Lincoln, posing with the books and a few more posters.

So just in case you haven't caught on or aren't sure, we are homeschooling beginning this summer. At first, when the kids get out of school in May, we'll do it once a week so the kids can slowly get used to learning at home and get used to my teaching style. It will also help me get more comfortable with the curricula. In the fall we will begin homeschooling full-time.

In a recent post, I wrote about the school here. It's supposed to be fantastic, but isn't. I've gotten so frustrated with the school that I decided that I won't gamble with my kids' education and sit and hope they get good teachers next year. Granted, Jeremy's teacher isn't awful, but still I think they are watching too many movies. Too many movies and excuses and not enough reading and math. Too many classroom activities centered around Smartboards where all the kids learn is more about "technology." Lessons that easily could be taught in a more old school fashion where the kids learn more than how to drag their fingers against a wall are what is needed. It also astounds me what isn't even being discussed in the classrooms, like geography and history and civics.  The closest they come is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents' Day.

When Megan was 15 months old, her pediatrician said we'd have to homeschool her because the public schools wouldn't be able to keep up with her. The thought terrified me. I didn't want to homeschool. I didn't know what it would entail, but I figured it'd be more work than what I wanted to do. As she got older and I discovered my love for writing, I realized that unless I became much more organized and deaf, I would never be able to really spend time writing my books. Unless I was alone in the house, I couldn't focus on my writing with all the kids' noises and having to constantly stop for diaper changes, arguments over toys, making lunches and snacks. So as the kids have gotten older and more kids have joined the family, my time for writing diminished greatly and my looking forward to a day when all the kids were in school full-time increased exponentially.

I only had about 3 years to go before all the kids were in school (Faye being in preschool, so only half day, but still). I was so close to having all morning to write. It's gone now. Yes, I feel sorry for myself. No, I'm not looking for people to say, "If you want to write, you'll find the time," because frankly I don't believe that's true. Yes, I could find the time, between the hours of midnight and 2AM I could get some serious writing done. I've managed it before. However, each time I attempt this, I become a horrible person to be around because of lack of sleep and I get sick more often. So, late night writing isn't really an option for me. After the kids are in bed is my time to see Nathan. Writing when he's around is distracting, too, so telling him to go away after being home for an hour and a half or that I need to leave to find a quiet place where I can be alone and write won't really work for us. Right now, Lincoln and Emma require so much supervision that I can't leave them unsupervised for 5 minutes. Already, while writing only the previous paragraph, Lincoln has gotten into the bathroom and flooded the counter, ruining a roll of toilet paper and dirtying all my measuring cups. I do have planned that we will write, or draw stories in the case of kids too young to actually write, every day. I hope that will afford me time to write my stories as I model it for them.

Saying nothing of the financial aspect of this, homeschooling will be a big sacrifice. I've gotten off Facebook in an attempt to have fewer distractions during the homeschool day. I won't be checking e-mail, answering my phone, texting, or on Pinterest. Facebook became too big of a problem. It affected my moods in a negative way when I saw certain posts and stories.

The kids are sacrificing, too. They are all sharing a room now. We took down Megan and Emma's beds and stored them in the attic. Our neighbors bought a new bed for their teenage daughter and gave us her old bed, a trundle. So the girls share a trundle bed and we moved the boys' bunk bed into the girls' room. As you saw in the first picture, their dresser is still sitting in the homeschool room. There's just no room for a second dresser in the girls' room and Jeremy and Lincoln still have clothes and toys in the closet, too. That's why I added the curtains in the picture--out of sight, out of mind.

I will have to learn to be more organized with my time and errands. I won't be able to run into town every time I need something, not like I can now anyway. We try to limit our trips into town since it takes so long to get there.

I hope to keep the kids busy enough that they won't really have time to argue and fight like they normally do during the summer and winter breaks. We'll all be in this one room for most of the school day. There will be times that I work with one or two kids while one or two are left to work on their own in a different room, but at least for science and history the kids' will be learning from the same text book. Art will be all together, as will music, quiet reading, free writing. We'll also start our day together with scripture study. Scripture study will be fun because I have multiple books for it. Bible story books, a heros of The Book of Mormon book, and a few kid books that tell scripture stories that we'll use.

I'll do a post later that will go over the curriculum I've chosen. I'm still looking at an LDS option to enrich what I've already picked. A friend who is also beginning homeschooling this fall is using the LDS homeschool curriculum, and I'm going to take a look at it when she gets it. I think I'd like to use it in addition to what we will be using.

There you have it, our next big adventure!

Faye's First E.R. Trip

This girl is doing much better after a trip to the E.R.  Last week I dropped her, Link, and Emma off with a friend in the morning so I could work on the house a bit, organizing, cleaning, blah, blah, and when I went back to pick them up, Faye suddenly barfed everywhere. I felt awful. It wasn't chunky or anything because all she does is nurse and once in a while has rice cereal, but still, it was all over my friend's couch and floor.

After we left, Faye continued to throw up the whole way home. Then she fell asleep and woke only to barf. She did this maybe once every 10 minutes. She became totally out of it, not looking at me, no smiles or anything. After she emptied her stomach she started throwing up bile. I decided to take her to the E.R. because the pediatrician office didn't have any openings. It took them forever to get her seen. In fact, Nathan got off work and I went home to pump and take care of the other kids before Faye was taken back there, so we'd been in the waiting room for hours and hours.

She's all better now after getting some fluids in through an IV. I'm glad they gave her the IV, when Emma was dehydrated and couldn't keep anything down they refused to give her an IV and I felt like my whole day in the E.R. had been wasted.

So yay for a happy, healthy baby!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

So There . . . Pbbbt.

Like my raspberry sound there in the title? I had to look up the spelling. Anyway, this is mostly going to be a therapeutic post. I'm frustrated about a few things and while I have no control over most of them, I can at least complain, right?

One of the main reasons we moved to the Elgin area was because we'd heard great things about the schools here. Well, so far, I haven't really been impressed. We'd assumed that being out in the "country" our kids could go to a good school where they'd be able to escape some of the filth of the world for a while longer. We assumed the teachers would do a great job teaching them, after all, we'd heard the schools were great. We were wrong. Our kids ride a school bus with kids from pre-K all the way to 12th grade. Megan has had kids trip her, part of her lunch taken (from a preschooler with an attitude the size of New York), has had a friend's backpack taken and slid under the bus seats, Emma was pushed so hard by another student her head hit the bus window, Megan had an Icee thrown on her, they've heard all kinds of foul language and I don't mean just cuss words.

The kids have asked me repeatedly to take them to school and pick them up. I would love to. Unfortunately, that means I have to make sure Lincoln and Faye are awake and dressed, along with the other three, before 7:30AM. Sometimes Lincoln and Faye sleep until 8. To pick them up, I have to wake Lincoln and Faye from naps. The few people I've told about the kids' request and why have told me that I'll be doing them a disservice. I don't agree, but everyone I've talked to seems to think I'm trying to "shield them from the world" and that they need to know "what the world is like." Well, my kids know what the world is like. With the exception of Sandy Hook, I don't keep much from my kids. Just because I don't want cuss words filling their heads instead of words that will improve their reading, writing, and language skills, doesn't mean I am shielding them. They are aware that there are "bad words" out there that we don't use. They have heard them and know what they are. Do I need to keep subjecting my kids to them so they become desensitized to them? No. I don't think I do, nor do I think I should. Teaching my kids to be desensitized to filth would be the disservice.

It's the problem of the younger two that makes it hard. Lately, I've dropped them off and picked them up whenever I can. I've used excuses like, "Oh, we don't want your class Valentines to smash on the bus, I'll take you today," or "It's show and tell, I don't think you should carry that on the bus, I'll take you." I want to be able to fully commit to picking them up and dropping them off for the rest of the year, though, and I don't want to be bothered by others for my decision.

*Since writing the above I've picked Emma up from preschool. I told Emma's teacher that she will no longer ride the bus to or from school. So now that I've told one teacher, I'm committed to at least taking all the kids to school and picking up Emma.

Then there are the teachers. Nice people. Friendly. I'm sure they care about the students. Just not enough. Jeremy's teacher does seem to be more competent. She's worked with me to help Jeremy and he's really adjusted well. Or as well as an incredibly shy and unsure kid who has a tendency to be too silly is going to adjust.

Megan's teacher on the other hand. We've had some problems with her. At the beginning of the year she handed out gum to the students all the time. ALL THE TIME! And not the good gum. It was the sugary, pink Double Bubble stuff. Can you imagine the child of a dentist chewing that stuff every day? Ugh. No wonder she had her first cavity this year. The gum was taken care of pretty quickly by the mother of another child in the class who's father is also a dentist.

Next problem: movies. I'm not talking about the kind of movies when we were kids that we watched in class once a year at the end of the school year, for example, Where the Red Fern Grows. No, these kids are watching Ice Age, Finding Nemo, The Polar Express, etc. and they are watching them on almost a daily basis. The teacher thinks it's too cold to go outside (it's totally not, they just think it's cold because they haven't been to Cleveland, OH or Logan, UT where you march through 3 feet of snow to get to your classes) so they sit in their desks and watch a movie. You'd think that the kids who want to could read a book, right? Nope. Oh, the teacher needs to grade some papers? Well, just pop in a movie of course! AAAAGH! Are you kidding me? Then they watch movies in what they call "Counseling," a class they have to take to learn to be better people. Be nice. Don't cheat. Work together. Blah, blah, blah. And occasionally, there's a movie they watch that the counselor thinks shows the point she's trying to make. Oh, we read a book in class, now let's watch the ENTIRE movie of it and talk about what is different in the movie from the book. REALLY? If she wants to have that kind of activity, why can't she just show a scene from the movie and then have the discussion? And why does it have to be with every book that also has a movie version? And why can't you pick more books that DON'T have movies based on them??

I talked to the principal about it one day. He was in the hall and I mentioned to him that both Jeremy and Megan had been telling me about movie after movie that they'd seen recently in their classes. He told me that every day that the entire class is present they get a letter toward spelling out "Perfect Attendance" and once they spell it all out, the teachers reward the class. He said sometimes they pick a movie as the reward. Well, I probably wouldn't mind that if they hadn't already watched Polar Express as a Christmas time treat, and a few other movies the week before. Then the next week Megan's class went to an actual movie theater to see Brave because they'd gotten their AR points (more on AR points in a bit). They were supposed to go roller skating!! Now they're sitting on their butts watching another movie and wasting more time because they had to go to a dollar theater to watch it!

Megan told her teacher that I didn't want her watching movies in class and so far, even with me talking to the teacher about it, much hasn't changed. Jeremy's class does seem to be watching fewer, but I walked in on the class yesterday and they were all sitting down on the floor watching some Dr. Seuss cartoons. Now I know this week there are lots of classes that are probably watching some Dr. Seuss stuff. Fine. But I don't think they need to watch more than one. Jeremy's class definitely watched more than one.

Also, they don't bother telling the parents when these movies will be shown or what they are. Megan's teacher once put a movie on that she knew she wasn't allowed to watch. She sat there at her desk for an hour and a half not allowed to read and looking down at her desk for fear of disappointing me for watching the movie. That just isn't right.

Next on the list: AR points. I think it stands for Advanced Reading, but I'm not really sure. Whatever it stands for, it bugs me. Or at least how Megan's teacher does it bugs me. There are three boxes of books, I assume at three different reading levels: one slightly below the grade level for those who are still working their way to reading better, one at grade level, and one just above. Megan's teacher has repeatedly complained to us that Megan doesn't take enough AR tests. The point of the tests is for the teachers to track their students' reading and comprehending levels to make sure that by the end of the year they are all where they should be. Ok. Yes, Megan is in 2nd grade, but her reading level is almost at a 7th grade reading level according to their latest testing. I think she's fine.

But she has to continue taking the tests. For Megan's AR points she has to read books that are on the AR list and then take  multiple choice tests on those books. Her teacher has been encouraging her to read books like, The Berenstain Bears. The Berenstain Bears books are worth a few points each. She's supposed to have about 20 points before the next AR reward party (which will probably be a movie). And like I said earlier, she's been struggling to get her points every single time. Not that she can't read the books or answer the questions, but that the books are boring and there are usually so many kids in the class that it's difficult to get the computer time to take the tests before another student gets there. Reading the books her teacher has encouraged her to read, she'd need to take a ton of tests to get the needed points.

So here is where the "So There" from the title comes in. Megan and I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as her bedtime story. I told her to see if there's an AR test on it and to take it if there was. She got 100% on it and earned 40 points. SO THERE! Points received and for the rest of this AR period she doesn't have to take another stupid AR test again. I hope that when her teacher saw that score that she felt at least a bit dumb for telling Megan to go read some Berenstain Bears books. And the thing is, she knows what kind of books Megan reads and likes. At the beginning of the year she asked me for a list of books that Megan had read. It was quite long and full of fabulous chapter books, so I can't understand why she wouldn't use that list and encourage Megan to take tests on those books.

Finally, math. At the last parent teacher conference Megan's teacher tried to pass off a tenth of a point improvement as being something to celebrate. All year, Megan has only improved a tenth of a point in math? Does the teacher realize that's not even statistically significant? What's crazy, is even though they aren't doing multiplication in that class, Megan knows how to do some of her times tables. It isn't that she's behind, she's still above grade level, but Megan stopped improving because the teacher thinks where Megan is should be good enough for now, so don't bother teaching more complicated ideas. Occasionally the teacher sends home extra work and calls it the G/T homework. It's always a short, one page story to read with three or four questions on the story. It's never been math. Or science. Or geography. Or anything that I think she needs to learn.

Not Good Enough.

There, I'm done complaining for now.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Life After Facebook

So, in what might appear to have been a response to some banter on a couple Facebook posts, but in actuality isn't, I've closed my Facebook account again. I won't say that the banter had nothing to do with it, because it did have a hand. As I was going back and forth on a couple different posts I realized a few things.

1. Emma wanted lunch and I kept telling her, "Just a minute."
2. Lincoln needed some special attention that I wasn't giving him and he needed lunch, too.
3. Faye has been spitting up a lot today and needed some special cuddling.
4. I'm wasting my time with people that I am just making angry, who in the past I have considered friends, but who I know to be very sensitive and easily offended.That was wrong of me on a few different levels.

I also got thinking about how I rarely blog anymore. I noticed that as soon as I joined Facebook, my blogging went down a lot. It was easier to keep in touch with family and friends through Facebook. The blog was supposed to be a way to keep me writing and keep in touch with my family and some special friends. The blog's activity went down and my wasting time on Facebook, not even doing anything close to keeping in touch with people I care about, went up. I wasn't getting what I wanted out of Facebook and I certainly wasn't working on my writing skills. I want to know how my family and friends are doing. I want to see their kids and how they are growing. I want to see what they are doing with their spouses and their family vacations. Most of Facebook is, "I'm at such-and-such store and look what I'm buying" or some attempt to be witty or funny. Occasionally you get little glimpses into their lives from a picture, but nothing more than a sentence is added to it. No real way for us to connect. And yes, sometimes the little witty or funny status updates are fun and amusing, I'll admit it. But it is no longer enough.

I know that to really connect with people I need to see them person to person. And I wish I could. I have quite a few friends that I miss desperately. I have family that sometimes all I hear from them in a week or a month is what I see on Facebook. That's not what I want. I want more of them. I want face time with them. Not their dog or cat or a picture of what they ate for lunch. Opting out of Facebook might mean that I could be the last to know something big that is going on with a friend or family member, or that I might never know. I hope that isn't the case. I hope I'm able to keep my family relationships and friendships going without Facebook. I hope to e-mail, write letters, call, and visit more often. I will try to keep up with friends' blogs without letting myself become consumed on the computer.Those means of communicating are much more fulfilling for me.

I am about to embark on an adventure. An adventure other than getting off Facebook and being a little more Old School, if you can call blogging Old School. This adventure will require a lot more of my time and patience. The internet will call to me for a break. I can't give in. Too many times I have allowed myself to be sucked in by the computer and right now is the time for me to start weaning myself.

I'll make an announcement about the adventure later. Some of you already know a bit about our decision and some of you are completely in the dark and have no clue what I'm talking about. For now, I just want to prepare and that means no Facebook. It's just too tempting as a time waster and I don't have time to waste.

And with that, I'll leave you until next time.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Safety and Innocence

I've debated writing this post many, many times and I think I've actually written a few drafts before deleting them. This is such an important topic, and yet, it can be a very personal one, too. And clicking on "Publish" won't be easy for me.

I've seen all over Pinterest mothers pinning a link to a post on protecting children from sexual abuse. This is great. Moms and dads should be informed on how to keep their kids safe from predators. The site has a lot of good information and I suggest everyone who has kids or takes care of kids or spends time with kids in any way read it and study it.

There's something missing from this website though. And it's something I never would have thought of until it was thrust upon my family in a way I never want to repeat.

Most of you who read my blog are LDS, but I know some of you aren't, and yet are still religious and go to church.

Please don't think your church buildings are safe from the filth and evil of the world. Don't let your children wander the halls alone without supervision. Please.

A couple years ago Megan, Emma, and I participated in the musical, This is Kirtland! It was a wonderful, testimony building experience. We had the opportunity to practice the musical in the church building in Kirtland, just blocks from the Kirtland Temple and Whitney Store. We loved it and we loved the people we got to spend so much time with. In fact, Emma still cries for the friends she made while in the musical. One night during rehearsal, there was a man working in the Family History Center located in the church building. He was a member of the church, but I didn't know him because our family attended church in a different building closer to our home. In fact, I didn't see more than a brief glimpse of the back of his head during the time we were there that night. This man had a friend come visit him in the Family History Center, a man that was not a member of our church.

While I was on stage, the director came up to me and told me to go find Emma. I didn't realize it then, but the entire cast was on stage except her. Because of our roles, I never interacted with Emma at all in the musical, she played the adopted daughter of Joseph and Emma Smith while I played Ann Whitney. Emma wasn't written to be on stage at that point, and so she'd been left in the hall behind the stage and given a game to play with. I went to get her and as I got down on her level to pick her up, a man, the friend of the man already there, came into the building. It wasn't his first time entering the building that evening.

I picked her up and took her on stage and she was written into that scene so she wasn't left alone. The director soon after came up to me and said that someone had told her a man had entered the church building and approached some of the young women in the musical, trying to get them to come to him by saying he'd found a purse and wanted to know if it belonged to them. We kept close tabs on all the children for the remainder of the rehearsal and sent some of the men to search the building to see if he was still around.

As we were leaving that night the director told me it would be a good idea if I asked Emma if anyone approached her during the few minutes she'd been alone. I thought for sure nothing had happened. I thought it must have been the man I saw coming into the building when I went to get Emma and that we must have just barely escaped any possible interaction between the man and Emma. But I figured I should ask anyway. So with a non-leading question, I asked her.

Scariest moment ever followed. The man had approached her and he'd touched her. We don't know the extent of the touching. Emma was barely 3 and had a hard time communicating what exactly happened. She did say the man came up to her, talked to her, and touched her, that much we know for sure.

The next morning I took her to the hospital to have her checked out. There was no sign that she'd been touched sexually, so that was a relief, but then again, that only means that there was no obvious sign. Then, following the directions of the hospital staff, we went to the Kirtland police and filed a report.

It was a nightmare. The man was never found.

Nathan gave Emma a priesthood blessing and she was promised that she wouldn't be affected by that experience. She would continue to be the happy girl she was before. She had nightmares for a few months about the man, but they were rare and eventually left. Sometimes she asked about the "bad man" and we'd reassure her that she wouldn't see him anymore. That he was gone.

Today she never brings him up, doesn't ask, doesn't have nightmares.

I'm still terrified. I still panic if my kids are in the church building and aren't by my side. I hate letting them go to the restroom alone. I know what usually happens at church events and parties.  Groups of kids run around playing in the halls and primary rooms. I know that on Sundays we don't feel the need to walk our 9 yr olds to the restroom. I know it's nearly impossible to keep our kids by our sides after a linger longer or baptism.

All I'm asking is that we teach our kids that we still need to use safety measures at church. Even though we'd like it to be, church isn't a place we can let our guard down.

This is so personal and writing it has not been easy. But I don't want what happened to Emma and what could have happened to her if I hadn't come to get her exactly when I did, happen to another child.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Christmas Time

At a nature reserve near my parents'

Christmas day. Notice the girls' p.j.s and Jeremy's face.  He did not want his picture taken.

All the second cousins with a little help from Ross and me.

Have to put both pictures here since Link did,'t look in this one and Emma didn't look in the other. I don't know how to move heads on Photoshop like Nathan.

Really into cowboys right now. Loves Woody!

Everyone but Daniel. Nathan will have to Photoshop him in, and not just his head!

8 Is a Big Deal

Wow. I have an 8 year old. I knew it would happen, after all, last year she turned 7. But for LDS families, 8 is a big deal. We believe that at 8 years old, a child knows the difference between right and wrong and has enough reasoning ability and common sense to make choices based on that knowledge. Once a child has reached 8 years old, they can make the decision to be baptized and confirmed a member of the Church.

At the beginning of 2012, Megan made a goal of reading the entire Book of Mormon before her baptism day. As a family we read it together to help her make her goal. Usually it was Nathan or me reading it out loud at dinner. That was the only time the kids were relatively quiet due to having food in their mouths.

We missed quite a few days in a row when Faye was born and in the end we were trying to read 8 pages a night, which was hard with 5 five kids. But, guess what? We did it! By the time Megan went to bed on her baptism day, she'd read the entire Book of Mormon and prayed about it, asking God if it really is scripture.

I am so proud of Megan. She is an incredibly sweet child. Helpful, considerate, smart, funny, and friendly.

To help us celebrate her baptism and confirmation, both sets of grandparents came to town. Here are a few pictures from her birthday party and her baptism.

The party was art themed. Everyone had their own canvas to paint.

Happy Birthday!!

My kids LOVE Legos!

On the day of her baptism we surprised Megan with a strand of real pearls. Years ago I gave her a strand of plastic beads that "looked" like pearls. I'd worn them in a wedding, so I removed the fancy costume jewel on it, and then passed it on to Meg. She wore that necklace every. single. day. She loved it. We'd talked about getting her a real pearl necklace for her baptism, but weren't sure how to afford it. Then, just a couple weeks before her baptism, Groupon came to the rescue! It was awesome. Got Meg's necklace, as well as a necklace and a pair of chocolate pearl earrings for me for less than what we expected to pay for just Megan's.

Almost time!
After the baptism with her grandparents

The Primary always gives the kids getting baptized a CTR towel. For those who aren't familiar with LDS talk, it stands for Choose the Right.
Megan and her very happy parents.

We love you, Megan!