Friday, June 24, 2016

Can he be sincere?

It was Isaac's turn to say our family prayer yesterday morning.  In his prayer he said, "We are grateful Mom and Dad make us do extra work this summer so we don't get bored."  What?!  Did my ears just hear things?

I really, really like these kids of mine.

A lot.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Big Ridge State Park (and the muggiest hike I've been on)

We have been enjoying summer so far.  My only complaint is the built in alarm clock we all seem to have.  The boys and Piper are up at 7 and I can't sleep past 7:30 even when I decide to be lazy and sleep in.  It doesn't matter, the sun comes out and I'm awake.  I still require the boys to do some minimal school work (piano, Spanish, reading, Life of Fred) because I hate them just sitting around and filling their time with computer games and TV.  I let them do that the summer Mike was gone and I broke my knee and it was a disaster.  There was fighting, aggression, and irritability and I vowed we wouldn't have another summer like that one.  So far this summer the boys have been wonderful.  They have been so helpful, pleasant, and happy.  Keeping busy is a good thing.  

It's gotten really hot lately which makes us in the house a lot more and that is tough.  For a couple of weeks we were in the 80's and the boys and their neighbor friends spent hours outside playing games like basketball, football, and capture the flag.  They also built a hideout in the forest behind our house.  When the weather got too hot and the mosquitoes got too obnoxious, they abandoned the hideout for cooler days.  Will counted 21 bites on one leg!  The humidity is oppressive.  Oh, and one weird thing is that we have been getting Ozone Layer Effect warnings for the last week.  I'm sure it has to do with the Smoky's and is similar to the pollution warnings you get in Utah.  

I like the kids filling their time up with activities and not having to be responsible for their entertainment but with the hotter weather I find that I have to get more involved with finding things to do.  This is also our last year here in Tennessee and I really want us to experience as much of the cool things in Tennessee as we can before we leave so I'm trying to schedule activities that will accomplish that.  

This week we went North to Norris Lake and Big Ridge State Park.  It was overcast when we arrived and the kids immediately went to the park.  We probably should have let them play and explore but some of the kids wanted to go on a hike so we cut their playing short to hike before it got too hot.  I had anticipated a really short hike but it ended up being about three miles.  I didn't take pictures of the hike.  It was beautiful and it felt like we were walking in a jungle.  We found cool bright red mushrooms that looked fake and crazy ferns.  There was a cemetery in the middle of this jungle of a forest.  We also explored a mill that was right before the trail head.  I was impressed with the boys and the two little girls (Piper and her friend Hayley) for doing so well on our hike but I hadn't really prepared for a three mile hike so it wasn't as nice as I had hoped.  The actual hike wasn't that long (1.5 miles) but to get to the trail head we had to walk a ways so it ended up being much more than I had planned.  I ended up having to carry Piper a couple of times and hadn't brought enough water for the five of us for that long of a hike so we ran out of water.  I also carried the backpack and my clothes and garments were dripping with sweat.  It was disgusting and really unpleasant.  The forest was almost dark because the trees were completely covering the sky but it was still so muggy and hot and then we finished the hike and had to walk back to the vans and by then the clouds had parted and the heat had risen.   

Once back at the vans we had lunch and then changed into swimming suits.  The kids all swam in the lake and had a great time.  

Besides being so hot and sweaty, it was a perfect day activity.  I think next time we will skip the hike until a cooler day and just play at the park and look for shells.  Tennessee is really beautiful.  I used to love that in Utah you could drive a short distance and be right in the mountains but I've discovered that Tennessee has so many outdoor opportunities as well.  It is a different kind of beautiful but it's really amazing.  I especially love the mild, almost sweet aroma that you can smell as you walk through the jungle like forests with all the different flowers and plants.  

Our next adventures are going to be West or South of us.  We have the Cumberland Gap area to explore and the Chattanooga area to explore.  I'm so excited to see what the rest of this amazing state has to discover.      

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Waterguns and firelflies

I don't have a lot of pictures of our summer so far but we started things out by an awesome watergun fight.  I wanted a super low-key activity for the kids that I didn't have to do anything for.  I just sent out a facebook post saying the time and place and to bring waterguns.  We had at least 15 kids show up and the kids had so much fun.  The boys and I filled up some big plastic tubs and the wheelbarrow with water for fill up stations.  Everyone brought their own guns and I provided Otter Pops after the kids were done.  It was awesome.  My kind of activity.  

We also made a trip to Elkmont Campgrounds in The Smokies to watch the synchronized fireflies.  There is only a handful of places where you can see them.  There is about a two week period where you can catch them.  The Smokies put on a week long event where you have to buy tickets and they take you on a trolley to the viewing place.  The tickets sell out quickly (I've heard they sell out within hours) and cost $100 per person.  We decided we didn't want to spend that kind of money so we chose a date a couple of days before the scheduled event.  Our friends decided to camp but we decided to drive home late at night after seeing the fireflies.  It started to rain an hour before we were supposed to leave so we worried that we wouldn't be able to see any fireflies at all.  It stopped raining and we got to the campsite about 7.  We went for a short hike, listened to stories around the campfire, and had S'mores.  At 10 we hadn't seen any fireflies and the campsite was totally quiet and dead.  We figured out from another camper where to go to see them and drove to a parking lot and then hiked a short distance in the dark with flashlights off.  Not far into the trail we started seeing the fireflies.  

They were amazing.  We didn't see as many as we thought we would but I think the season was just starting and I wonder if the rain from earlier contributed as well but even then, there were so many and it was so cool.  It really was magical.  The kids kept saying it looked like Christmas lights.  It was definitely worth the trip.  At about 11:30 we drove home and got home about 12:45.  It was a long night but I'm so glad we went.  We move in one year and I wanted to make sure we got a chance to experience this before we move.  If you are ever here at the end of May or beginning of June, I highly recommend this experience.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Beginning of the year/end of the year photos

As I've reviewed our year I realize that it has been a great year!  I was so incredibly nervous about homeschooling.  I worried and cried about the decision.  But here we are, one year down and it was a really positive experience for me.  The boys are happy and Piper loves having the boys home.  In fact, I really feel like her relationship with them has grown so much.  I have discovered that even though it's not always easy to have the kids around all the time, I really love having my kids around, if that makes sense.  I wondered if I would feel ragged and just want to send them back but I truly enjoy them and appreciate the time they are in my home.  This year has been cushy as far as Mike and his schedule.  He has been busy but flexible.  He has been home for a lot of studying and therefore, when I need to run somewhere he is available to help with the kids if they need to knock on his door and ask a question.  This coming year will be harder, he won't have the flexibility to work from home and I will have to get used to taking the kids everywhere but at least I had this one year where I could figure things out with a little help from him.  I asked the kids if they wanted to go back to school and they each said no so we will carry on this way again for another year and reassess things when we move and are in another school district.  There are many, many things I need to do better and differently this coming year and I hope to be able to tweak things to make our experience even better but I feel satisfied that even with all my weaknesses and shortcomings, I still feel like it was a better year than last year when they were in the school and I feel like overall, it was a success.  (P.S.  They were so little when school started!  I can't believe how much they are growing and starting to look so old now)

The last two months of our school year

April and May:

The boys join the Beekeepers Association with Mike and our bees come!

The boys didn't win the Pinewood Derby but they did cut, sand, and paint their own cars.  

We took the opportunity to include our garden planting in our homeschool day.  The boys helped plant and water the garden and continue help care for the garden every day by watering.

Bee keeping, while it makes me nervous, has been a fascinating thing for us to learn about.

Feb and March homeschool highlights

February and March highlights:

The kids always think an art project is a highlight but teaching them about Kintsugi was probably more a highlight for me than for them.  

I was grateful a group of homeschool families in the area had a Valentine's Day get together

Probably the boy's favorite activity of all this year was the Great Egg Drop.  They LOVED this activity

I enjoyed putting together a History review/Easter Egg hunt for the boys.  

Another highlight was definitely having John come spend a week with us.  We went to the zoo, played board games, played at the Muse Museum, etc.

I loved being able to include so many days from our trip to Williamsburg as Homeschool.  It was an awesome vacation 

The boys were very interested in making their field journals from our trip to Virginia Beach.  

Monday, May 23, 2016

Highlights part 3

December and January highlights:
The boys played basketball again this year so we took as many opportunities to practice basketball skills during P.E.  That was definitely a favorite for the boys

I tried to incorporate a lot of spatial awareness and executive skills games this year.  We discovered some really cool, new games to play.  A favorite was Swish

We took off to Maryland in January and did a tour of the Herr's potato chip factory.  Everyone thought that was a cool field trip

Mike was home a bit during December so he spent a fair amount of time doing fun science projects with the kids

We enjoyed learning about space and doing art projects to go along with it.

More science projects (with dry ice)

We continued baking lessons for Christmas treats

We learned about the phases of the moon

We took many trips to the zoo 

Highlights continued

October and November:

Studying rocks

The kids loved the rock kit I bought.  I liked being able to incorporate cub scout requirements into our school work

I made the kids do Yoga with me.  

We continued our baking lessons 

The boys worked so hard on baking yummy goodies to sell at our bake sale

Olympic games

A highlight for me was requiring each boy spend time one on one with Piper daily as part of their school.  They did all kinds of creative things with her and their relationship with her deepened.  

We had fun at the pumpkin patch with other homeschooling families

We made laurel wreaths to wear during our Olympic games

I took advantage of the boys and made them practice folding clothes while we read The Mysterious Benedict Society