Sneaky Learning

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I love how I get to pretend I'm a home school mama during the summer. Actually, I catch myself feeling like a home school mama year round, because Flint is a great big family (a small school, but a LARGE family!) and generally feels like an extension of home. And because we rely heavily on Charlotte Mason philosophy, which was originally for, you know, home education. 

I'm grateful that my tinies are still young enough to think it's TOTALLY AWESOME PLEASE CAN WE DO SOME MORE? to do "school work" in the summer. Hopefully we can keep that attitude going in years to come! But they think the only school work we do is in the Summer Bridge Activities workbooks that I bought (and totally recommend!) and will only ALLOW them to do a few pages of each day because I am cruel and heartless and know my Tom Sawyer.

HOWEVER, those workbooks are just the teensiest drop in the bucket of my summer lesson plans. And yeah, I hear it... I have summer lesson plans, blah blah blah... but it's involuntary I swear. I think in lesson plans. And I'm sneaky. We're playing Uno because number recognition, matching, turn taking, rule following, logical thinking, good sportsmanship, consequences yay, game night!

I'm working from a list of learning experiences that I want them to have this summer, a list I keep adding to and modifying as we go. There's the regularly scheduled stuff, like swimming and reading, and also whatever I've picked from my List for the week. We have a big storage bin full of cheap craft and science activity kits that we've accumulated, so sometimes I just pull something from that. 

(Although I will say that you probably get what you pay for when it comes to science experiments, and I bought this one supah cheap at Five Below. In hindsight, maybe paying a little more would have gotten us some instructions with less typos? I mean, I'm not much up on the science, I'll admit, but skipping trivial little steps like ADDING WATER seems like it might mess with the results of your chemical reaction, I dunno.)

Sometimes it's more of a Summer Bucket List type thing with ulterior a backyard cook-out and s'mores fest that magically turns into an astronomy lesson.

This one turned out even better than I originally planned because Scotty opened our eyes to the wonderful world of astronomy apps like Star Chart. OH my goodness, this has to be the coolest thing ever! We are now all obsessed with waving our various devices around, seeing the constellations and planets on the screen and in the sky. 

Thanks to Charlotte Mason's influence, we also have a Habit that we are working to develop this summer. I waited a little while to choose the habit because I wanted to see what was needed the most for smooth sailing, and that requires a little observation. Aaron and I hashed through what was driving us the craziest each time we felt really aggravated, and it was apparent pretty quickly that the common root was a lack of patience. Maybe this is a big family thing? Like get your two cents in FASTER AND LOUDER than your siblings so you don't get lost in the shuffle? Or just a developmental thing? Or (surely not!) some sort of characteristic that you inherit from your saintly mother? IT'S A MYSTERY. Whatever the cause it was making us crazy to be nagged and interrupted all the live-long day. Reflecting on my own example, I realized that all the instances I could think of where I lost patience with the kids were times when I was trying to have three conversations at once, or being shoved unceremoniously out of the way by someone who was determined to beat her sister to something, or being nagged brainless about something I was clearly already doing.

(My sweet, perfect angels! It's shocking, I know.)

For the most part they already know better, they just weren't bothering. I decided to cut out the gajillion conversations we were forced to have about these issues and give the kids a tangible redirect instead. Enter The Jars:

Patience is sweet. Every time we forget to use patience, our day looses a little sweetness. So every time someone interrupts or nags, etc., I just say, "Jar!" and they have to move an M&M out of the jar. And...that's kind of it. Nothing terrible happens if too many M&M's get moved in a day, nothing amazing happens if only a few are moved. Sometimes we talk about the levels at the end of the day. Sometimes if I catch someone being extra patient I let them eat an M&M. Other than that it's stupid basic. It's also been shockingly effective. The offending party usually grins sheepishly and says, "Oops, I forgot." moves an M&M, and we go on with our day free from any angsty maternal rants about YES OF COURSE I'M GETTING A PLATE FOR YOU, YOU CAN SEE IT IN MY HAND DO YOU REALLY THINK I'M GOING TO FEED YOUR SISTERS LUNCH AND LET YOU JUST SIT THERE AND STARVE? HAS THAT EVER HAPPENED IN THE HISTORY YOUR EXISTENCE? NAME ONE TIME I EVER FORGOT TO FEED YOU, CHILD!

You know, hypothetically. ahem.

Quick Takes

Friday, June 24, 2016

1. This boy. We like him.

2. Especially since he's starting to sleep a bit better. He's started rolling over, so he can't safely be swaddled anymore. That was a hard transition, but an important one, I guess. Now he's getting much better at getting himself settled back to sleep, and I don't have to spend fifteen minutes easing him into his crib like an adorable little bundle of nitroglycerin.

3. Success!

4. I'm in the process of going through all of the bookshelves and culling out everything that would be bad for Avalon to stumble across, since she can READ it all now. It's kind of shocking, how many inappropriate books I've apparently accumulated. I filled two big bags with trashy novels I don't want to keep but...there are still a lot of books on the shelves that I DO want to keep, but don't want her reading. And maybe I'm just projecting onto my mini-me here, but I was a fairly obedient sort of child and I can guarantee that I would absolutely have read any book in sight regardless of being told not to. I'm looking at you, Clan of the Cave Bear. So, yeah, still working on this.

5. The two biggest girls had VBS camp for most of this week, so I had lots of extra one-on-one time with Phoebe. As a direct result of this, I have concluded that she just might be the funniest little person that I know. We're introducing some basic French vocab this summer, and she really digs greeting people with an enthusiastic "BOON-JOO!" or "SAWOOOOOO!" at every opportunity. It's safe to say that I'm crazy about her.

6. Also, I think it's safe to say she's totally potty trained now. Even for night-time. I guess a benefit of waiting an ungodly length of time to potty train will do that! Aaron has converted her crib to a "big girl bed" and everything.

7. Her big prize for success was to go pick out a toy with Aaron. They came home with an oversized Batman who immediately went to live in the kids bathroom, which needed some male members of the Justice League represented since we have a BOY now and all. However, this keeps happening, so idk...

Linking up!

This Ain't The Lyceum 

Father's Day Weekend

Monday, June 20, 2016

After a completely sleepless night with Tristan (as in, up from 3:00 AM until forever) I finally caved and woke Aaron up so I could get twenty minutes of sleep before I needed to get the kids ready for church. So much for my intention of letting him sleep in as much as possible on Father's Day! And then I woke up nearly three hours later and he was wrangling all four of the kids and had made bacon and eggs for everyone and was telling me I should go back to bed for the rest of the morning. Which I'm pretty sure is the exact opposite of what's supposed to happen on Father's Day, right?

That's just so Aaron of him. I don't know anyone in the world with more of a servant's heart. I'm pretty sure he's the best person I know! Our babies are beyond lucky to have him as their father, as are all of the other (bigger) babies who have adopted him, and I couldn't ask for a better partner in crime for raising all of these humans.

He took us all for a picnic lunch (which he made) at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens on Friday, and gave the girls all notebooks and pencils to sketch the flowers. 

We DID let him sleep in as long as he wanted on Saturday morning, and the girls appropriated all of the Aldi bags from my grocery shopping trip to make him a Father's Day castle. Because...he's... the king? Or something. I don't know, I just go with it and supply water colors and stickers. 

On Sunday, once I rejoined the land of the living (still sleepy enough that I went to make a bottle in the Breza and neglected to put a liner in the bottle first, resulting in stinky milk allergy formula everywhere because I'm with it like that!) I got to give Aaron the Father's Day present that I've wanted to give him since I found out we were having a boy:

Also, those letters where you ask your kids questions about their dad and fill in the blanks, with varying degrees of accuracy. My favorite was where Phoebe said Aaron is twelve years old and if he could do anything for fun it would be to eat a tortilla. 
We finished up the day with wings and the championship game, and the girls made strawberry-lemonade cookies.

Summertime Snapshots

Friday, June 17, 2016

Why is my baby in a laundry basket? How long can her hair stay in the same braid before it becomes permanent? How long has the clean laundry been sitting there, anyway? These are the sorts of pressing questions on my mind these days. This summer-time life is seriously wonderful! Blog updates are getting away from me more than I had envisioned, mostly because Tristan has declared a moratorium on sleep in any form. Is it a growth spurt? The four-month sleep regression? Early teething? yes. All at once, my friends. All at once. Which means that I am either a.) trying to coax him to sleep for longer than ten minutes during times I would ordinarily be free to write, or b.) wandering around blankly like a zombie, trying to remember simple English phrases and where I put my coffee mug. But luckily he's so cute that I can barely mind.

This too shall pass, y'all. I'm not worried about it, but all the rest of my time and energy is devoted to making sure the girls have fun. ALL OF THE FUN!

Last week we came home after a full day of swimming and theatre camp, only to see a street party in full swing in our neighborhood, complete with bouncy house. "Oh that's right, I forgot the street party was tonight." I exclaimed as we pulled into our driveway. "It looks like fun!" "Yeah, but Mama?" quoth Avalon. "I think we've already had enough fun for today." Score!
I'm not trying to run them ragged or anything (although hey, they are sleeping great these days!) I just want to fill them up. This week we started our weekly one-on-one Mama Dates. Tuesday mornings I take Phoebe to a storytime at the library just the two of us, Wednesday afternoons I take Avalon to ice skating lessons at the mall just the two of us, and Thursday mornings I take Lainey to reading lessons at my mom's house...just the two of us. And then we get Starbucks, you know, just to be sure I'm still awake enough to drive. Safety first! It's pretty much the best thing ever and I can already foresee trouble when the school year starts again and I can't do three of these dates a week. 

We're also hitting the neighborhood pool at LEAST three times a week...Avalon can now swim across it without floaties, which is pretty major. If you see her anytime in the near future she will definitely tell you all about it. Lainey and Phoebe are content to stick to their floaties for now, thankyouverymuch! Phoebe isn't even entirely sold on being in the water at all yet.

They "did" their Snow White play, writing, casting, costuming, directing, and performing the whole thing without help from any grown-ups (well, the roped Scotty into playing the Huntsman and Prince Charming, but he's still not sure if he counts as a grown-up) and they pulled it all off beautifully.

We played Messy Twister, which quickly devolved into a full-on paint war, solidifying our neighborhood status as That Crazy Family. Oh well.

Obviously Tristan didn't play...and he seemed a little bemused with the rest of us. Phoebe made it through exactly one Right Hand Yellow before she realized that Messy Twister was going to be, in fact, messy, and she was having none of that!

My niece was in town for a nice long visit and we basically stole her from my mom for a great big chunk of it, much to my children's delight. Which is why there is an extra small person in a lot of these pictures...we were confusing people all week with this. Especially when we still rocked matching outfits!

Bryan and Angela Douglas, the amazing drama team at Flint, put on a week-long intensive theatre camp, culminating in a theatre-in-the-park style performance of Robin Hood. It was CRAZY good and I was so thrilled that the girls got to have that experience. I was up there for part of the camp, throwing together some costumes, and I just couldn't get over how great the camp was. And how fabulous it was that like twenty of our Flint students are so in love with theatre now!

Phoebe was too young to participate...but...well. She's in a place where it seems like she's too little to do ANYTHING her sisters are doing, and she notices it. She had been feeling horribly left out all week, and the night before the last day of camp she had the saddest little breakdown, wailing despondently into my shoulder, "NOBODY WIKES PHOEBE!"
Yeah. Listen carefully, you can maybe still hear my heart breaking into tiny little pieces. I had a wee costume that fit her, and we thought maybe she could just wander around and contribute to the general atmosphere of the show...instead she did exactly what the rest of the little girls did, kind of perfectly. Everybody wiked Phoebe!

AAAAAND an abrupt end to this blog post because Tristan says so and he's the boss of me right now!
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