Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The "Wonder Why" Board

About four or five years ago, I read a wonderful book called The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder Through the Seasons by Amanda Blake Soule. I absolutely adored everything about this book, and flipped through it quite often through the years. It's chock full of reflections, ideas and activities for each season of the year.

One of the ideas in this book was to create a "Wonder Why" board... a place to post all those questions kids pose throughout the day, that we don't always know the answer to immediately. By putting those questions up on the board, you don't forget about them before they get answered properly, as often happens when kids are asking questions while you're trying to get dinner on the table or pay bills. It's a nice message to send to kids, that their questions are important even if you can't help them answer a question right now. After the a question gets posted, someone else in the family can answer it if they know the answer already... otherwise, you can look up the answer together when you have a moment.
Our original "Wonder Why" Board
 circa 2011

We created one of these boards about four years ago, when the youngest kid was about 6. We had it hanging up in our homeschool area of our kitchen, where everyone in the family could see it. We all posted questions and answered them for each other, and it was great fun. We kept it going for a couple of years, but then slowly the kids lost interest and then we renovated our kitchen and Wonder Why Board was no more.

A question from our new Wonder Why Board
But then... the other day, out of the blue, my youngest (the biggest question-asker in the family) suddenly remembered The Wonder Why board, and asked if we could bring it back. Since I get absolutely giddy when my kids show curiosity and initiative, I immediately dropped what I was doing to dig out the old magnet board and some index cards. We hung the board up in the playroom, with a basket of index cards and pens next to it, and it's been in good use this week. I hadn't realized just how much I'd missed the Wonder Why board! I'm very happy to have it back in our home.

The Wonder Why Board is back! 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Not-Back-to-School, 2015!

A week and a half ago we started our 2015-2016 homeschool year! It's all been a bit of a blur, and we're still figuring out our groove, but so far, so good!

The table, all set for our Not-Back-to-School Breakfast
We started our year as we always do, with a special "Not-Back-to-School" Breakfast. I really enjoy this ritual. I make something a special for breakfast (this year was waffles with apple compote!) and I give each child a small gift. As homeschoolers, we are technically always learning, but after a summer of looser schedules and fewer activities, it's nice to have a an official "start date" to get us back into a more structured frame of mind. Now that the kids are mostly teens, there is far more structure to our school year than when they were little, but that's OK, and to be expected.

We do a lot more in the way of outside classes and activities than we they were littler, and as such there is a lot less "home" in our homeschooling. This is where things get tricky for me, as I am the keeper of the schedule, and the person in charge of making sure everyone gets where they need to go when they need to get there. To make this easier on myself, I have FINALLY embraced the technology of using the calendar on my phone. Yes, I know. It took me long enough. I STILL use my big wall calendar, but the phone calendar has definitely been so helpful in managing everything. I love the alerts! (Yes, I know... most of you have been doing this for years... I'm a bit slow on tech!) Because we've had sort of a rolling start to our activities, it's given me a chance to slowly acclimate to our new routines, which has been nice. Some classes and such started the first week of September, some the second week, and now a few more things are starting up this week. It's been nice to kind of ease our way into the busy-ness of the year. By the first week of October, we'll be in full swing. I hope I'm able to keep up!

I've been working on lots of ways to try to keep things running smoothly and peacefully this schoolyear... meal planning and prep stuff, organizational things, etc.  I'm hoping to share some of those things here, in the next week or so... so come back soon! ;)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Reorganizing the Homeschool Area

The last couple of weeks there have been lots of school-year preparations going on! I've been making plans, ordering supplies and books, figuring out schedules and getting our homeschool cabinet all cleaned up and reorganized for a new year of learning.

With another homeschooler on board this year, we're doing a lot of shifting things around. To organize the cabinet and make everything we need to have in there fit, we needed to pretty much do a complete revamp. I pulled everything out of the cabinet, eliminated things we no longer needed, then put back all the things we still need, along with our new supplies for this year. It feels good to have a fresh, clean start!

Here's what our homeschool cabinet looks like this year:

Our Homeschool Cabinet, in the corner of our kitchen.
The cabinets themselves are from Ikea's "Billy" bookcase collection.
To the left of this is our Command Center Wall, which is
also a pretty important part of our homeschool area.  

The top two shelves in the far left cabinet are for my "teaching"
supplies... books, my binder, paper clips, tacks, stickers, sharpies,
highlighter, etc. And a little crocheted rag doll my darling daughter
 made for me, which I love. The next shelf has pens, pencils, rulers,
protractors, erasers and a pencil sharpener. The closed storage beneath
holds science stuff: books, microscope, various lab stuff. 

The next section... we have a 3D cricket puzzle, a box of math
manipulatives and a bunch of assorted math books tucked into
magazine files. Below the math stuff, we have our Nature Shelf.

A closer look at our nature shelf, still filled with Summer Treasures... black-eyed
susans and mint from the garden, a chunk of wasp nest, a cool stick, a hawk feather,
some beach rocks and some sea shells from our visits to the beach. Soon we'll be
replacing the summer stuff with things we find out and about on our fall adventures.

The cabinet beneath the Nature Shelf contains the kids'
laptop and computer accessories, and space for each child's
individual books, notebooks and daily work. The two younger
boys have their daily work in tote bags... the two older kids
mostly do outside classes, so they just have their stuff on the shelf,
and take whatever they need with them for their classes. 

The tower in the corner has assorted reference books, and
some boxes containing word games and maps. In the jars, we
have some writing prompts, in case anyone needs inspiration.

In the next cabinet, we have back-up supplies (extra paper, notebooks, pens, etc)
 in the boxes on the top shelf, and other small supplies in the baskets below.
Under that we have a map and a globe, and assorted paper. 

I'm planning to put cute little tags on the baskets to label them, but at the
moment they are labeled with post-its stuck to the back of the shelf. My youngest
says he actually likes them labeled this way, so maybe it will stay like this.
In the closed storage below, we have Noodle's extensive collection of car magazines
(which aren't really school-related, but it's the only place in the
house where I can keep them tidied up, out of sight!)

So that's it! Our homeschool corner for the 2015-2016 school year! Our official "first day of (not)school" is this coming Wednesday! We're looking forward to another year of living and learning together, and sharing many grand adventures. 

PS... If you're interested in seeing previous posts about our homeschool area, you can find them below:

2013 homeschool area post
2014 homeschool area post

Monday, August 24, 2015

Trouble in the Hive...

It's been quite a while since I've posted about my beehive... since we've had a lot of action happening in there of late, it seems a good time for an update!

The beehive was strong and healthy and growing at a very rapid pace for the first several months. We added as second brood box, and the bees were quickly filling it up with eggs, brood, pollen, and a pretty good amount of capped honey! Then one day in the beginning of August, as I inspected my hive, I noticed there was some capped brood, but no new eggs or larvae.This is a very bad sign... it means that the queen bee is dead, or otherwise no longer viable. Oddly, the bees had been quite agitated the previous week when I had inspected... so agitated, that one of my normally docile bees stung me. My guess is that our queen (whom we had called "Alice") was in trouble then, hence their unrest.

Once I determined that Alice was definitely gone and our hive was definitely queenless, we needed to go about trying to requeen the hive. This is sometimes tricky business, as the hive sometimes rejects a new queen. So, we ordered a new queen from an apiary in Georgia, and upon her arrival, we placed her in the hive, and waited patiently to see if she'd be accepted. After a week, I inspected the hive again. I inspected all ten frames in the top brood box, but found nothing... no queen, no eggs, no larvae. Onto the bottom box... one frame after another... same story: no queen, no eggs, no larvae. About seven frames in, the bees started getting angry. They were buzzing quite loudly, and giving me plenty of warning bumps. One stung me on the wrist. I hoped this meant I was near the queen, and sure enough... on the 19th of 20 frames, I found my new queen (dubbed "Elizabeth" by my cousin, in hopes that she would have a longer reign than Alice!) Along with the queen I found some eggs and brood... hooray! The 20th frame was also full of eggs and brood, so it appears that our hive may be back on track.

In other news... oh my gosh, you guys... it's almost time for the homeschool year to start! We have SO much happening this coming school year. I've been very busy getting our supplies ordered, cleaning out the homeschool cabinet, and getting everything ready! Next post, I'll be sharing some of our preparations, and give you a little peak at our homeschool space.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Old House Blues...

There is a lot to love about living in an older home... the quirky architectural features, the charming details, the sense of history... but along with the cool things there are also quite a few headaches to deal with. Our antique home is always full of surprises, and most of them are both unpleasant and expensive to remedy! Our home was built in 1895, and since I bought it in 2007, I have dealt with things like crumbling walls, rotted studs and subfloors, outdated/unsafe electrical and plumbing, and much, much more. The good news is, we've replaced and repaired so much, that our house has increased in value quite a bit! The bad new is, there is ALWAYS something else going wrong that needs to be fixed, and small repairs often end up turning into much bigger projects (like the time we tried to replace a light fixture in our living room, and found tons of old illegal knob-and-tube wiring which needed to be replaced to the tune of $5000!)

Small part of the
hallway in progress
Currently, we're in the midst of several projects all at once. We didn't really mean for it to be that way, it just sort of happens sometimes with these old houses. First, we were in the process of insulating and replacing windows in our basement TV room, because we've had major problems with frozen and bursting pipes the last couple of winters. We're hoping that better insulation will prevent it from happening again this winter. We have a friend/handyman helping us with that project, as well as fixing the shower down there, which has been on the "to be fixed" list for several years. Meanwhile, we decided to start fixing up the hallways and stairwell, which have suffered some water damage and general wear-and-tear to the old horsehair plaster. That project is still in progress, as it turns out things were in worse shape than anticipated, and our summer has been waaay busier than expected, so we just haven't been able to get it done.

While all this was happening, we ended up with an unexpected plumbing issue, which resulted in this:

Our plumber had to break open the wall to replace some old pipes and such. Since the wall is already torn apart, we're thinking it's probably finally time to get rid of the tile walls we hate, and finally renovate this bathroom. More on that, as it happens! Additionally, we need to have a bit more electrical work done in the basement. And so on, and so on...

In midst of all these home repairs, we've also had to start thinking about the start of the school year! Can you believe that it's mere weeks until Labor Day?? I've already started reorganizing our homeschool corner, ordering supplies and planning out what we'll be doing come September. It's going to be quite an interesting year for me as a homeschool mom... this year I'll be homeschooling two high schoolers, a middle schooler and a fifth grader, and I'll be working part-time. I'm hoping I can handle it all.

Next post... I'll be talking about the latest goings on in my beehive!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Summer Love

We have had a pretty busy summer so far, with lots of kids activities, appointments and such. We've been doing our best to squeeze in small bits of Summer Fun in the midst of it all, but as of the end of this week, theater camp and summer dance will be over, The Man will be taking a couple of days off from work, and we'll finally have some time to really enjoy summer's simple pleasures for a few weeks before we have to start getting ready for the school year. I'm really looking forward to having some unstructured time to relax with my people. Because really, isn't that what summer is really about?

Here are some of my favorites things about summer...

1. Sitting by the fire pit on warm summer nights, watching the fireflies blink.
2. Watching the kids splashing in the pool (and splashing in the pool, myself!)
3. Beach days!
4. Dinner picnics on the beach, staying until the sun sets.
5. Summer flowers, everywhere.
6. Fresh veggies, right from the garden.
7. Summer fruits... strawberries, blueberries, peaches... YUM.
8. Long, warm days.
9. Camping!
10. No shoes, ever.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

It's a BOY!

So it's been awhile since I've written anything here... but I have a very good reason why! Our household has increased by one! IT'S A BOY... oh, and he's 17, and was ours already... but now he's living with us full time! Our oldest, The Man's first-born, who previously lived with his mom out of state, has moved into The Homestead, and will be homeschooling with us for his senior year of high school! It's been a very exciting and very busy time for our family, getting him moved in and settled.

So, now we have three teenagers and a "tween" in the house, which can be challenging but is mostly a lot of fun. It seems like only yesterday I was a young mom with little kids, and now I've got a houseful of these almost-adults, who are all taller than me! At this writing, I am the second-shortest person in the house, with only the ten-year-old still smaller than me (and even he is catching up!) The main thing I've noticed about parenting teens is the driving. There is a LOT of driving involved in parenting teens. It seems most of my days are spent shuttling kids from one place to another... camp, classes, driver's ed, appointments... so much driving! But honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm grateful to be with them, and I'm grateful that The Man and I are able to give them these experiences.

So that's where we are at this moment... embracing having a nice full house! I am keenly aware, these days, of just how fast they are all growing up. While I'm SO proud of all they are doing and accomplishing, there are days when I just want to yell, "STOP GROWING UP! Stay as you are!" I am trying so hard to not wish the days away... sometimes hard to do when things get super busy or challenging. I'm trying hard to pay attention to the little moments, and enjoy these kiddos as much as I can.

I leave you with this quote, that's been in my head A LOT lately...

Enjoy the little things in life…
For one day, you will look back and realize,

they were the big things.