Working With Dad

Nate told me he was going out to work on the yard.  

Jonny heard and quickly put on his shoes to help.

I heard him say, "Dad, you can ask me to do anything for you."

Praying he always feels that way.


Chicken Scratch - Part 2 - Bringing Them Home

To read Part 1, Click Here

"Farmer John" lived fairly close.  He said he'd be happy to help us get started in this chicken adventure with three laying hens.  No charge.  You can't beat that, right?!  I'd find out...

So, I loaded up my kids in the van and tried, in my eager anticipation of making this new found dream a reality, not to speed.

I desperately wanted multiple breeds of chicken, just like the three well-mannered, albeit spoiled, chickens in The Book.  The difference in colors of feather appealed to me.  I also wanted free range chickens so they would be healthy - eating bugs and fresh grass out in the open fields just as the Lord intended.

Farmer John, decked out in grubby pants and boots, came to meet us as we drove up his long, steep driveway.  He led me to the rustic coop where thirty-ish Isa Brown chickens were skittishly jolting about in one large mass.  This was definitely not the picture perfect image I had in mind.  Instead of being a variety of beautiful colors, these chickens were a dirty brown.  Their feathers were not "shining in the sunlight" like I had imagined.  Their eyes, round and beady, unnerved me.  Their frantic clucking unsettled me.

Farmer John stepped in the coop and roughly grabbed three squawking, flapping chickens and put them in a metal cage for me to inspect.  Instead of having beautiful plumes, all three had red, raw spots on their backs and necks.  This is a fairly common occurrence, I was to find out, in raising chickens, especially if there is a rooster in the mix, but I was not prepared for this.  That Book never mentioned such revolting atrocities.

I walked around the cage, examining the cowering, abused, ravaged beasts.  This was NOT what I had in mind, but I did want to try raising chickens.  I was convinced that under my watchful, loving protection these birds would flourish.  So, after asking a few basic care questions, I had Farmer John load them (still in the cage) into the Tupperware container that was in the trunk of my van.

As we drove away, the kids and I excitedly talked about how it would be to have fresh eggs and to be able to watch the hens as they delicately pecked around our yard.  This was going to be just wonderful, we were sure.  There was a pause in our conversation.  We listened for the chickens.  Not a cluck was coming from the back of the van.  Then, ever so slowly, I started to smell the most foul stench.  The stressed out chickens were pooping over and over again in the container.  Once again, That Book never mentioned chicken poop.  For all I knew, chicken poop smelled like roses!

The 10 minute drive felt like forever.  Finally, after suppressing the desire to throw up, we arrived home.  I was sure that once these poor, abused chickens got out of the car, they would behave in a similar fashion to the model chickens in That Book.  I would treat them well.  They wouldn't be locked up in a cage with 30 other birds.  They would be free to eat the nutrient filled grass and roam around the yard in civility.

With new vigor, I cautiously opened the door to get the chickens out.  Once I was sure they wouldn't jump out of the cage, I picked up the container and carried it to the back yard.  I crooned to the birds because that's what The Lady in That Book said she did.  She'd talk in a sing-songy, sweet way and those chickens would just purr...I mean, cluck, right back at her.

I was proud of the freshly painted chicken tractor.  I had set their table with clean water and tasty food.  I'd even fluffed their pillows.  Now, I just had to get them inside their new home.  I was tempted to make my 4 year old daughter pick them up and put them in.  Instead I did what every responsible adult would do.  I stared at the cage for a long time.

My kids were asking, "What are you doing mommy?" and "When will you put them in their home?"

Finally, I had a brilliant idea.  I put the entire cage into the chicken tractor and hastily opened the door of the cage.  They'd eventually find their way out, I hoped.  Even though That Lady loved to have her chickens perch on her shoulder, I couldn't bring myself to touch a feather.

To be continued...(Part 3)


Chicken Scratch - Part 1 - I want Chickens

I can't remember what exactly possessed me to raise chickens.  Maybe it was living across the street from cows.

But maybe it was a desire I've had since childhood.  One that I'd pushed deep down inside myself.

I've always been interested in farm animals.  Never chickens, that I remember, but horses.  Like many young girls, I wanted to tame the wild mustang and ride bareback and barefoot (of course) across the prairie with my beautiful long hair (too bad it was short) flowing in the wind.  I'm sure that somewhere in the recesses of my brain I desired other farm animals to keep my wild mustang company.

Or...maybe it was just the cows across the street.  Anyhow...

My husband's colleague had a chicken tractor in his backyard.

He raised about 4 hens every summer to have fresh eggs and then gave them to his farmer neighbor for the winter.  I had never heard of a chicken tractor, but it immediately peaked my interest.  I looked on the internet and checked out books on chicken tractoring and raising a small flock of hens.  I was currently reading books and magazines about hobby farming, veggie gardening, and homesteading.  We only lived on half an acre, but we didn't plan on staying there long.  Someday, in my mind (not so much my husband's...), we'd move to a parcel of land that I could fence and till and harvest.  But until we moved, I wanted some chickens in this thing called a chicken tractor.

My husband, Nate, did not share in my excitement.  However, he graciously listened as I threw my pitch for this sustainable, money saving chicken tractor that would fertilize our grass as well as provide fresh, free eggs all summer long and possibly into the winter (I was sure we could winterize the thing) with minimal effort on my part.  So, after being not-so-fully convinced, but wanting to save some money on eggs and please his wonderful wife (or just get me to stop bugging him about it), we spent $150 (not looking good for saving money so far) and built a very sturdy, heavy, shingled chicken tractor.  Because chickens need shingles.

I read a Book that made raising a three hen flock sound like a romantic, fun-filled walk in the woods.  This Lady would watch her hens from the kitchen window.  They would perch on her shoulder when she was outside mingling with them.  She'd feed them special treats from her hand.  She'd call them by their chicken names.  I'm pretty sure they could talk.  It all sounded so picturesque, so dear and wonderful.  I could almost see my own colorfully plumed flock behaving so appropriately - sharing their grubs and pecking those tasty treats ever so daintily out of my open hand.

I had to get some of these sweet-tempered, well-mannered birds!
To be continued...

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


Chore Chart Woes

Something I find myself thinking/talking about a lot (especially to my hubby, Nate) is the issue of keeping our house clean.

Just last night, I was talking to Nate about how frustrated I was that I clean something, like the bathroom, and as soon as one of our boys uses the bathroom it needs to be cleaned...again.  Or, take our kitchen floor, for example.  Right after we sweep, we eat, and the floor needs to be swept again.  It's a never-ending process.  I always have laundry to do, dishes to wash, bedrooms to clean, surfaces to dust, and shoes to put away.  I get frustrated because I want everything to be organized and look like those beautifully, clean living rooms in the magazines.  You know, the ones with the perfectly stacked books and a large (very breakable) glass vase on top of the coffee table?

So, I rant and rave to my dear husband and he listens, calmly reminds me, "this is life," and then he makes us this chore chart...

This is not something that he really sees as an issue because, in his eyes, our house looks good the majority of the time (except for the tub - it gets washed every day when we take showers right??), but he hears me complaining about it enough and is enough of a systematic, analytical, engineering type that he wants to present a solution to the problem at hand:  A chore chart.  I, on the other hand, am more spontaneous.  I'm not always very systematic or analytical and therefore have always had problems following any sort of chore chart for myself or our children.

It's not that I don't enjoy these types of ideas.  On the contrary, I get all excited when I read about how to organize my life and even go so far as to type up a very pretty, colorful list of important things I should do on each day of the week.  I put that orderly list on the refrigerator or in a "Home Management" binder (something I made in a frenzy of excitement and then quickly abandoned.  ahem.) and...look at it...a lot.  Then, I find myself cleaning something else that isn't on my list of things to do that day.  I eventually realize that I am not following the chart and out it goes.

So, will this chart work?  I wonder.  Maybe it will because I didn't make it.  Or maybe I'd better realize that a chart will not work unless I work to follow the chart.  Not for following the chart's sake, but for the sake of my sanity (because what I'm doing now isn't working so well), my children (because it's important for them to learn how to do work and do it well), and Nate (because he gets kinda tired of hearing me complain about the housework).

This new, not so pretty or colorful chore chart is on our refrigerator right where the kids and I can look at it every day. 

At least today is Friday.  There's nothing on the chore chart for today, so I'm doing great so far!  

And, just because they're cute, here are some pictures of the kids.  :)


Happy 1st Birthday Tommy!

Today Tom-Tee-Toot turned one!  We celebrated last Saturday with my side of the family and we'll celebrate this Sunday with Nate's side of the family.

Today we went to some garage sales, got ice cream, and ended up at the park to play for awhile.  Tonight I'm sure we'll sing to him again and generally make a big fuss over him (plus give him a couple presents). 

We've sung him Happy Birthday many times today already.  He's such a fun baby.  And he's very, very loved!


Curriculum for K and 1st - Looking toward 2nd

Curriculum for Emilia's K year:

Science:  Sonlight A - Kindergarten Although this isn't exactly what we did (because I bought it used a couple years ago), it's similar. (We really enjoyed this - the DVD was super fun!)

Read Alouds/History/Geography:  Sonlight K (Enjoyed this as well, but wanted a more chronological approach to history for the future)

Reading:  Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons (Great book!  However, we transitioned to easy readers with more pictures around lesson 70 or so - which seems to be pretty common the more I hear about this book.)

Math:  Horizons K (Liked it - colorful workbook pages - didn't use the teacher's manual.)

Curriculum for Emilia's 1st Grade year:

Science:  Sonlight 1st grade (Enjoyed it once again, but want to try something different for 2nd grade.)

Read Alouds:  I looked on Sonlight's list and checked some of those books out of the library instead of buying them.  Emilia also reads well, so I'd have her read some to me.

History:  Story of the World: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer (Chronological, but not based on a Christian Worldview.  I also found some things to be inaccurate that were stated as fact.  It was a pretty good study, but not good enough to do again.)

Geography:  United States Coloring Book by Winky Adam (fun and easy).  The Story of the World also had mapping activities in the workbook.

Art:  Come Look With Me Books - Animals in Art and World of Play (Pretty neat, easy way to introduce art to kids.)

Music:  Stories of the Great Composers for El. Students (We enjoyed this book.  Tells a fictional story based on fact and then has music for each composer.  Comes with the CD.) 

Math:  Horizons 1  (Still like it - she learns well with workbooks.)

Unit Studies:  Amanda Bennett Unit Studies: Magnificent Moon and Davy Crockett (Great!  Wrote a post  about those.)

We were involved in a small homeschool group this year that had holiday parties, field trips, and get-togethers.  That was a lot of fun for both the moms and kids!

Jonny joined in when we did history and sometimes for the read alouds.  In February of Emilia's 1st grade year, Jonny wanted his own math book and wanted to learn to read.  So, I bought him Horizons Math K and he started Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  Grama Robin also came over on Tuesdays (when Emilia had dance class) to teach Jonny to read.  He'll officially start K in the Fall of 2011.

Edited on Jan. 6, 2012 

For Jonny's K year he has continued through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons as well as working through Horizons K Math books 1 and 2.  He also joins with Emilia in Apologia Anatomy Science (although it's a little advanced for a Kindergartener) and occasionally in her History book.  He'll listen in on the read-aloud books occasionally as well.  I also added in a couple Handwriting Without Tears books. 

For Matthew - Although he isn't officially in any "grade" (he'll be 4 in Feb.), he really enjoys "doing school" as well.  The first part of the year I had him rainbow tracing numbers - something like this.  I'll have him work on his letters - rainbow tracing or putting letter blocks, papers, or magnets in alphabetical order.  We've also been making crafty animal letters from this book and working on saying each letter and its sound.  He has his own 3 ring binder with all of his animal letters in it. 

Curriculum for Emilia's Second Grade Year:

Science:  We're going to try Apologia Anatomy based on a recommendation.

History (which incorporates Geography):  We're going to try The Mystery of History.

Read Alouds:  Still going to get the list from Sonlight and check the books out of the library.

Art and Music:  I have websites online that I'm going to use.

Unit Studies (which incorporate Geography):  Either free or Amanda Bennett's Download 'N Go Unit Studies

Math:  Horizons 2 (She's already started the workbook.)

Edited on Jan. 6, 2012 

Spelling: I realized that although she can read well, she couldn't spell very well, so we've slowly been working through Horizons Spelling and Vocabulary 1.

Language Arts: I also wanted her to have some sort of grammar/language practice.  When I was at our local homeschool used book sale, I picked up Language Lessons for the Elementary Child not knowing much about it except what I saw on the cover (mentioned "informal" and "Charlotte Mason" which both caught my attention - just what I was looking for!).  I have been very pleased with this book.  We do as much or as little per day as we choose.  It's been a great tool for recognizing/studying art, poetry, copywork, grammar and more.  I'd like to purchase more of these books in the future.

Phases - Napping

My sweet Matthew Bud is 3 1/2.

It seems like each of our children have gone through a phase around this age of kinda, sorta needing naps some of the time and kinda, sorta not needing naps other times.

Matthew is in this phase right now.

Some days it's very evident that he needs a nap (whining and crying A LOT).

Other days, it's very evident that he doesn't need a nap (happy, going with the flow, etc.).

And even other days, it's not really evident that he needs a nap until it's too late (as in, it's a couple hours before bedtime and he's having a meltdown).

It's days like that when it's so good to remind myself that this is just a phase.  It too shall pass.  See?  He's giving me the thumbs up (apparently he just learned that from Emilia who took the picture :) ).  It's gonna be okay!

I've linked up to Raising Olives if you're interested in hearing more about napping!

Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett Review

A new friend of mine (homeschooling mom of 7 children - 5 of which are ages 10 and under) recommended The Magnificent Moon Unit Study by Amanda Bennett.  Since we were almost done with our curriculum for the year and needed a fun boost to keep up our spirits, I decided to spend the $7.95 and see how we'd like it.

We loved it!

The Magnificent Moon unit study is a 5 day lapbooking study that you "Download 'N Go".  There's no prep for mom, which I love.  I tend to like learning along with the kids instead of researching everything first.  Then it's new to me as well as to them.  I may have to change my tactic as they get older, but for now this works.    I did this study with my first grader and not yet kindergartener (sometimes, when not napping, my 3 year old would join in and he thought it was super fun - especially the online videos).  The kids asked to do it as soon as they woke up in the mornings - even on Saturday!  I didn't oblige them on Saturday...  :)

We had never done a lapbook before, but really enjoyed it.  I love how they get to cut, color, paste, and write, as well as use it as a creative memory tool.  One of their favorite parts was assembling their lapbook - making it look exactly as they wanted.  Their next favorite part was showing it off!  My favorite part was the amount of information they could share.  They learned a lot and were able to remember it - all in a very fun way!

After finishing the moon study, we had a moon party complete with a moon cake.  The following Saturday we went to the public museum and saw a show at the planetarium.

The kids were asking (begging!) to do another unit study, so we bought Davy Crockett and we were equally impressed. 

Each unit study has videos you watch (one or more per day - these may be long or short), articles to read, and questions to answer - all done online.  I printed off the first day of papers for the moon study, but quickly realized that I didn't need to do that for my children because of their ages.  We discussed what we read and only wrote on the lapbook components. 

There are also practical, hands-on things to do (ex. "go outside and draw the moon" or "this is how you can find your way if you're lost in the woods...go outside and find the north star...").

Overall, I highly recommend these unit studies.  Amanda Bennett's website is www.unitstudy.com.  She seems to have deals fairly regularly.  I'm a fan on facebook, so I see the deals on there.

However, even though I really like these, I'm not a fan of spending $7.95 on each one.  So, I did some online searching and found this website with free lapbooking unit studies. I've checked out some books from the library for the Leonardo unit study.  We'll see how that goes compared to these! (Here is what I thought of the free unit study on Leonardo that I tried.)

A Beautiful Day

The weather was great for a walk today.  We went down the road to our neighbors' houses to see their goats, chickens, and ducks. 

The kids brought grass for the one goat who can make it to the fence (the other one is too sickly) and bread for the ducks (apparently the ducks aren't eating gluten...only the chickens were partaking of this snack).

We ended up in our backyard - laying in the hammock enjoying the fragrance of the newly blooming lilacs and the leisure of the afternoon.

Matthew, of course, had to do a little exploring.  He found a worm and other bugs under the rotting wood.

Trying to move the large rock proved to be a little more difficult than moving the logs!

Emilia was giving receipts and stamps in her "office".  It ceased being a "house" last summer.

Here's my compost pile (I made the crooked crate compost bin...sorry to my carpenter dad who would be shaking his head at this hack job!  Ha!) in case I ever decide to be a gardener.  That'll be the day!  ;)

Tommy (who turns one TOMORROW!) was enjoying the day and looking as cute as ever.  :)

I love days like today.  Relaxed and restful.  So glad to have this time with our kids!
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