Posted by: whimsigal | June 2, 2010

I think I might actually cry.

Tears of joy that is! Our lives have gone through a lot of changes over the last several months, not the least of which has been how we homeschool with the boys. For a long time, we were unschooling and that worked out so well for us and brought us to where we are today. Both boys are amazing people and have impressed us with the knowledge they have gained without the use of textbooks to guide them. In fact, Iain and Ryan have both expressed an interest in doing more schooly-type work so I have been trying to find the *right* thing for them to do. It was not easy but I think I have found something that is a good way to segue back into that school world. A book report!

I knew this would be a challenge because the only books Iain likes to read are graphic novels based on video games like Legend of Zelda and Pokemon. There’s nothing wrong with reading these books, reading is reading, but for the book report, I did want both boys to challenge themselves and read something that was more of a chapter book. So off we went to Barnes and Noble and Iain and Ryan were given the task of finding a chapter book that would interest them. Iain ended up choosing a book called, “The Chocolate Touch” and Ryan chose, “Bunnicula, A Rabbit Tale of Mystery“. I didn’t doubt that Ryan would be able to handle this task because reading comes a bit easier for him than it does for Iain. But this morning, I was pleasantly surprised by a conversation I had with Iain while he ate breakfast.

Last night, I sent both of them up to bed to wind down with their books and by the time Sean and I got upstairs, they were both asleep with bookmarks denoting the last pages they read in their books. This morning when Iain got up, one of the first things he told me was how awesome his book is! He said he is about 25% of the way through it and really likes it so far. When Ryan got up, he told a similar tale. For me, a person who used to LOVE to pass the time by reading a book this was music to my ears. I was incredibly nervous about having them work on a project like this but now, it feels like it was a good move. I cannot begin to tell you the emotions I felt upon hearing Iain tell me how funny his book is or when Ryan said he wants to get the other books in the Bunnicula series. Sometimes, I do think kids need a little push to try something new. If they try it and don’t like it, that’s fine, but you’ll never know if you don’t at least try.

Hope all is well in your world!!!!

Posted by: whimsigal | December 14, 2009

It has been way too long

It’s hard to believe that I haven’t written a post here since May. Incredible! I feel as though my life has just gone crazy in the last several months and I barely have time to think let alone come up with a post. But it’s important to maintain a record so I will try and fill in the blanks!

Over the summer, we joined up with the neighborhood pool. I was hesitant to do it at first because it seemed like a big chunk of change to spend on something but in the end, it was money well spent. The boys took to the water in a way that truly surprised me. Within days they were both swimming and doing really well. Soon they were going off the low-dive, and then the high-dive! It was really amazing to see them accomplish these things totally on their own, simply because it was important to them to do so. Another great thing about going to the pool was, it allowed them to meet and play with lots of other children. They met some pretty great kids, and some not so great but, there was one relationship that really intrigued me. TOwards the end of the summer, we started going in the evening to avoid the intense heat and the crowds. There weren’t many children there at that time but it was ok because the boys were OBSESSED with the diving board and would go off it so many times in a row that the lifeguards would ask them to take a break!! Anyway, there was another family who came in the evenings and they had a son and daughter, twins. The boy had some form of autism that really kept him from speaking. He was 12 or 13 but only had the vocabulary of a very small child, say around 1 or 2. He would swim though, like a fish, and loved being in the water. We knew when he was there because he had some very distinctive yells and whoops that he would make while he was in the pool having a good time. For whatever reason, Iain decided he wanted to be that boys friend and so he set about trying to make that happen. Over the course of several days, Iain would approach Josh and would talk to him, somehow innately understanding that Josh couldn’t communicate in the same way, and Iain didn’t give up. Josh’s sister explained to Iain and Ryan that her brother was a special needs child, although Ryan told me that Josh HAD special needs, which I thought was cute. Anyway, Iain and Ryan both looked forward to seeing Josh in the evenings and playing and splashing with him until it was time to go home. One evening, Josh’s mom came up to me and told me how Josh’s therapist said they had seen a real change in Josh’s behavior and she was so happy about his friendship with Iain. We ended up meeting them in the evenings for the rest of the summer and my boys were so sad on the last day of the pool season. Josh’s mom hugged my boys and thanked them for befriending Josh. I was surprised that my boys actively sought out someone that others would avoid because his special needs might make them uncomfortable. Honestly, I was uncomfortable around Josh only because I had no idea how to interact with him. But Iain and Ryan found a way and made a friend and it was a beautiful thing.

Also over the summer, we took several trips. We took the boys on their first jaunt to NYC and had an absolute blast! We visited the Statue of Liberty, the Natural History Museum, the Empire State Bldg, and Toy Tokyo (which was their fave). THe weather was rainy while we were there but we managed to get out and about and partake in some of NY’s finest tourist attractions, even a carriage ride through Central Park.

We squeezed in a trip to visit our family in PA, which is always fun. AND we went to Disney World in September. We really enjoyed that trip, too, but have decided to try and go somewhere else next year. We think the boys are ready to visit places that might not be considered kid-centric. They really enjoyed NYC so much and we were surprised at the things they wanted to do.

Right now, we’re gearing up for the holidays. Both of the boys are hip to the fact that Santa isn’t real and we’ve really been enjoying getting ready for Christmas as a result. I can’t believe it’s almost here and that 2009 is drawing to an end. I hope that you have had a wonderful year and that this holiday season finds you and your family happy and healthy. Happy Holidays!!

Posted by: whimsigal | May 21, 2009

Blast from the past

So last night, I was combing You Tube for a video of Adam Lambert singing, “Mad World” on American Idol. I didn’t watch AI this season and am actually said now because I missed out on his stunningly beautiful performance of one of my favorite songs. What I didn’t know is, “Mad World” was originally a Tears for Fears song. Yes, I know. What kind of child of the 80’s am I if I didn’t know that? Believe me, my husband told me all about myself last night. LOL Well, that conversation started us down a path…one that kept us up until 1:30 in the morning looking up our favorite 80’s jams and I wanted to share a few with you. Just because. :)

Anyone remember this one?

I freaking LOVE this song!!!! It makes me want to get in my car, crank up the volume and just drive!!!

Here is another fave and I could give a flying crap whether they actually sang it or not. This was my anthem for my Senior Year Spring Break. And yes, I still listen to it when it comes on the radio. Loud.

This song is one that Sean and I bonded over the night we got together. All we have to do is hear this song and we’re instantly together in ’96 at Wal-Mart at 4am looking for a CD with this song on it. We found one and got back in the car, drove back to my house with it on full blast, making out at stop lights. Yes, we’re total dorks and will freely admit that.

What are your faves from the 80s or whatever decade had your fave tunes?

Posted by: whimsigal | May 18, 2009

What Have We Been Doing?

Not a whole heck-of-a-lot. LOL Well, that’s not really true but it has been so long since I wrote here that I’m not sure where to begin!

The boys have been growing by leaps and bounds physically and mentally. They are ready for the summer and all the fun things that go along with that like, swimming, fishing, canoeing, playing outside. Sean began a treehouse for them and got a lot of it finished Easter weekend. They have been enjoying that, too. The only thing none of us have been loving lately is all the ticks that seem to be finding their way in this year. Just last night, Sean pulled two ticks off Iain’s scalp. YUCK! Ticks seriously wig me out. Ryan has been exploring mathematical concepts by randomly quizzing me on addition and subtraction problems. He is fascinated with telling time and figuring out how things go together. It’s very cool to be around him and help him understand all these things. Iain is as sweet and sensitive as ever. He’s a lot like Sean and has great intuition about people and emotions. I really enjoy his insights and often marvel at his ability to really take a good fair look at any situation.

The only thing I think we’re not doing enough of right now is hanging out with other people. We do have some homeschooling friends that we see a couple of times a month but my photography business is making get togethers a little bit more challenging these days. Although I have managed to keep my shoots to a minimum, it’s hard to juggle a new business, a household, and my family all at the same time. I’m starting to get the hang of it but it has taken a while to get used to. I’m hopeful that going to the pool this summer will help the boys get to know some people who live in the neighborhood. It would be nice for them to have some friends who live nearby.

We’ve been trying to figure out where we might vacation this year and, in addition to visiting our family in PA, we’re talking about taking a trip to NYC and Disney World, too. We tossed around a BUNCH of different ideas before settling on those. We thought about driving up the coast all the way to Nova Scotia. We talked about taking the train to Montana and seeing the country while riding the rails. But in the end, it came down to what made sense to do and after discussing all the options with the kids, we settled on NYC and DW. The kids are so ready to go to Nintendo World in New York!!! I want to take them to the Natural History Museum. I think it’s going to be a great trip!!

Sorry I haven’t been around as much lately. Things have been hectic and crazy. Hope all is well in your world!!!

Posted by: whimsigal | March 28, 2009

Ryan’s Birthday – A Year Without Drama

For those who were reading my blog last year, you may remember this time period was fraught with family angst and drama of unreal proportions. I was partially responsible, of course, and Ryan’s birthday was less than pleasant. A year later and all the drama has subsided and it was really lovely to be able to celebrate his special day without the specter of controversy looming over our heads. The only sad thing about Ryan’s birthday this year was that Sean couldn’t be here to celebrate it with us. Unfortunately work commitments pulled him elsewhere and we were left to our own devices yesterday. Where did we end up? To that mecca that all children long to visit, Chuck E. Cheese.

Long has Chuck E. Cheese been the one place I never wanted to take the kids to eat. It was always crowded and even normally well-behaved children act like their hopped up on an illegal substance when they walk through the doors there so we avoided it like Christmas fruitcake. Well, this year, Ryan wanted a party and since we homeschool, Chuck E. Cheese seemed like it would be an okay place to ring in his 7th birthday. And you know what? It was! We got together with my sister and her daughter, and a couple of other homeschooling families that we know and boy, did we have a great time!! One thing the people at Chuck E. Cheese know how to do is throw a party and make it incredibly easy on the parents. I really didn’t have to do anything except hang out with our friends and enjoy Ryan’s birthday. It was a blast!

the party started at 10 and everyone played games for about 45 mins. Iain’s favorites were the ones that are almost like slot machines. You drop in a token and hope you’re going to get a bunch of tickets in return. Well, Iain managed to find a machine and hit a rhythm and before we knew it, there was a puddle of tickets at Iain’s feet. Score! Ryan really liked a skee-ball game called “Dunk the Alien” and he played that one time and time again. By the end of the party he had gotten pretty good at hitting the largest scoring target and was quite proud of himself for that.

When we sat down to eat pizza, all the kids got along beautifully.
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They all sat nicely and had the funniest conversations with each other! My niece was particularly involved here. I think she ate more pizza at this party than she ever has in her life!
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Then Chuck E. Cheese himself made an appearance and led all the kids around the room in a big conga line. The smaller kids were really into it. The big kids like Iain? Not so much. LOL!
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Chuck is no Mickey though and probably could have been a little more pumped up for the party. I guess it’s not too much fun dressing up like a big rat.

We got a cake for Ryan there too so he could blow out the candles.
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Then when all was said and done, we all packed up and headed over to our house where the kids continued to play hard for the next couple of hours before everyone went home.

After a small break, and mental recharge for me, we traveled ’round the corner to my sister’s house where she had prepared one of Ryan’s favorite meals (mini corn dogs) and some blue frosted cupcakes. Look how CUTE these cupcakes were!!!
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She did an AWESOME job decorating them!!!

Ryan sure did enjoy it:
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Until he got a stomachache and we had to go home. But isn’t that how a birthday should end? That way you know you had a good time and ate a lot of good food!

It was a really wonderful birthday and I’m so glad we chose to have it at Chuck’s place. It made Ryan feel like a million bucks! Worth every single penny.

Hope all is well in your world!

Posted by: whimsigal | March 16, 2009

Hellooooo out there!

So after much prodding from one of my friends (ahem, Cate) I finally sat myself down to write a post. I didn’t realize it had been so darn long!!!! The last time I wrote here, we had just purchased and received our curriculum from Moving Beyond the Page. It took us a couple of days to find a rhythm with it and now we have finally settled on something that works extremely well. We only get it out when we can’t think of anything else to do! It seemed like all the boys needed was a jolt and now they’re in a creative burst.

For a couple of weeks now, Ryan has had a real fascination with mathematical concepts. At any given time, he will shout out, “Momma! I just figured out what 7 + 7 is!” and then he will give me the correct answer. He is, completely on his own, discovering subtraction. For example, we bought this package of snacks at the store the other day. It was a “Mystery Box” and cost more than I wanted to spend but it came with 16 packs of snacks inside. The first day we had it, Ryan kept going back to the box over and over again and I asked him, “Ryan, how many of those do you have left? You’re going to eat them all in one day!” Without skipping a beat, he said, “No Momma, I’ve only eaten three. There were 16 in here before and that means there are 13 left.”

Well, he might eat every snack in the house but he’s grasping the concept of subtraction at the same time. LOL

Iain has been in “deep” mode. Sometimes Iain is all about doing, playing, having fun and at other times he is very contemplative. He came down for dinner last night and out of the blue he said, “School is pointless, right Momma?” I asked him what he meant and he said, “well, school wants you to learn things that aren’t important and they put all kinds of pressure on you to learn it. It’s stuff you forget anyway.” I wondered where in the world this was coming from. Had he seen something on You Tube? Nope. Apparently he was just up in his room, reflecting on his life and thinking about how much he liked being home. He said that when he was in school he felt tremendous pressure to perform to a certain level and then felt very bad about himself when he couldn’t do what the teacher expected. I swear, some days, the things they say really amaze me.

I had a conversation the other day with our favorite neighbor, Miss Charlotte. She is a globe-hopping woman who is living a very exciting life and my boys absolutely adore her. She told me the other day that she and her husband get a kick out of talking to my boys. “It’s like talking to little adults,” she said. She finds their perspectives fascinating as well. It makes me feel good to hear her say that. I know people from that generation can have a difficult time understanding how we learn without books and schedules to follow so it’s nice to hear that they see the magic that I see.

Ooooh! I almost forgot! We finally got some serious snow here!
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It was beautiful! Sean and Iain made a giant snowman:
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My niece thought it was way too cold:
too cold

It was really awesome to get one good snow. Now we’re ready for Spring!!

I hope all has been well with you and your world!

Posted by: whimsigal | February 7, 2009

That’s a wrap

What a week this turned out to be. It had some ups and downs but all in all, we had a good week. As you may have read earlier in the week, we started using a unit studies curriculum and got off to a bit of a rough start. As the days went by though, we finally hit our stride and fell into a rhythm that feels right for us. We’re not doing every lesson in the book but we’re reading some great stories and having some amazing conversations and BONUS, I’ve seen the creative spark ignite in the boys again. We had all been in a kind of slump and this little jolt seems to be just what we needed. Example for you. Today, Ryan was bored out of his gourd and was looking for something to do. NOw keep in mind that this house lacks nothing for these children to do. They have a Wii, an Xbox 360, Gamecube, DS’s, computers, DVD’s. And they have no limits on any of those things. You might think that my kids spend all day using the variety of electronic equipment available to them but NO. Today, Ryan dug through our “activity closet” and found a set of Magnetix that had been put away several months ago. Excitedly, he and Iain opened the box and began a project. They wanted to see how long a strand of Magnetix they could put together. After getting all of the pieces out and connected, they could see that it was REEALLLY long but that wasn’t good enough. They had to get out the tape measure and see how many feet long it was. Which led to seeing how long the room was and figuring out the difference between the two lengths. The principles of unschooling never cease to amaze me. This was the really shiny moment in our week.

Last night, we had kind of a scare which we can laugh at now but terrified me quite a bit when it happened. Sean and I were sitting in our family room watching The Office when we heard an extremely loud thud and crash from upstairs. We ran at lightning speed up the stairs and could hear a child crying hysterically in the bathroom. Ryan, our 6yr old met us at the top of the stairs, “Momma, I think we’re going to need our house insurance.”

I looked at him like he was nuts because I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about. When we got to the bathroom, Iain was crumpled up in the tub, the metal shower rod was bent and pulled out from the wall and he was crying a lot. Once Iain got calmed down a little, we were able to gather bits and pieces to put together what happened. Apparently, Ryan was “dropping the kids off at the pool” and was bored while he was sitting there. So what does he do? He asks his older brother to entertain him. At first, Iain says no but Ryan starts to get mad so Iain gives in. Iain stands on the edge of the tub, grabs the shower rod and then hangs from it. Well, it tore out of the wall, and Iain hit his head on either the tile soap dish or the edge of the tub and got quite a goose egg as a result. I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with a head injury but they can be really scary. We had to wake Iain up every couple of hours last night to get him to walk around and talk. Someone had to sleep with him to make sure he didn’t throw up in his sleep or have any major changes. We have to do it again tonight, too. Thankfully Iain is much better today. Right now in fact, he and his brother are playing Tony Hawk and are taking turns “owning” each other. Whatever that means. It was a scary thing to go through last night though and I’m so glad that Iain is ok.

Truth be told, I’m pretty terrible in those situations and don’t handle myself well. Sean had to tell me more than once to calm down so thank goodness he was here or else the kids could have been mentally scarred by the whole experience.

It feels like we did a lot this week. We reconnected as a family and reignited our passion for exploring ideas. In spite of the bumps and bruises both physical and otherwise, I think we had a great week and am looking forward to a great weekend, too.

:)

Posted by: whimsigal | February 2, 2009

Our First Day With Unit Studies

Well, I wish I could say that things went smoothly. All in all, we really enjoyed our new materials. The story we read was great and the conversation that accompanied it was wonderful. The problem is, I think I’m being too schooly. I don’t know how to implement this without being schooly about it. One of my major character flaws is the anal attention to detail I will pay to “following the plan”. Deviation and flexibility do not come naturally to me and I think this is where the conflict arises.

Anyway, Ryan was able to complete many things today without any issues. Iain, on the other hand, was hesitant about our new plan and got bored. He told me later that, he *can* do it, he just needs lots of breaks, with which I have no problem. I think I just expected too much today. It’s going to take some trial and error to get it “right” for us and how we are comfortable.

The whole reason I chose Moving Beyond the Page is because it encourages conversation and not rote memorization of facts. It engages us and entwines the subject matter with real life issues and examples. I definitely think this is a good fit for us, I just need to work on my delivery. :) Ryan chose to begin with a unit study on Cultures. He is very interested in other countries so I wasn’t surprised at his choice. His materials include a huge variety of storybooks: The Irish Cinderlad, The Egyptian Princess, Why Do Mosquitoes Buzz and many other titles. I like it because these are stories that we wouldn’t have come across any other way. For some reason, my boys just don’t like to read and don’t want to go to the library anymore. They will listen to stories though and these seem like they will be great for all of us.

Iain chose a unit called Cycles. It involves the Life Cycle, Water Cycle, and Economic Cycle. With the unit we will be reading, Poppy, Charlotte’s Web, and The Family Under the Bridge. Also, Iain’s kit came with a package of Owl Pellets that go along with the Poppy story. We’re going to dissect the poop and look for bones and try and figure out what the owl ate. That is the one thing Iain can’t wait to do. LOL

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Ryan expressed an interest today in doing the same lessons that Iain is doing so I think tomorrow we might try that. It may help things go more smoothly if we’re all hanging out together and talking about the same things. I will let you know.

If you’d like to read a review of it, you can follow this LINK and see what this reviewer had to say about Moving Beyond the Page.

Posted by: whimsigal | February 1, 2009

What the hell is THAT????

GASP!!! Hold on to your butts unschoolers. I’ve gone mad…mad I tell you!!

Guess what I just got? Ahem…

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No, your eyes do not deceive you. That indeed is a curriculum of sorts and we’re going to start using it this week. I know. It’s akin to an atheist claiming to be born-again. Well, we needed something. We needed a shake-up, something to get us moving again. Unfortunately, neither the boys nor I really knew what to do about it so after a recommendation from a local homeschooling board, we settled on “Moving Beyond the Page” which is a unit-study type curriculum. I have a whole lot more to say on the topic and will do so this week. I want to give it the attention and the detail it deserves since we have been unschooling for almost 2 years now.

Stay tuned…

Posted by: whimsigal | January 13, 2009

JOY

We have had some joyful moments here lately. First, Ryan lost his first baby tooth and then had a lucrative visit from the tooth fairy. Then today, we headed down to one of the parks in our neighborhood and he overcame some fears while we were there. Take a look:

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This slide is really tall, y’all. I mean, it’s 12 feet high at least. HUGE. And metal, and a little bit scary. Iain loves it and will go down with reckless abandon but Ryan…well, he’s my cautious child. In fact, he wouldn’t walk up the ladder at all until he saw Iain do it then he was all about it! The look on his face just warms my heart.

Then, even scarier than the 12ft slide was the (bum, bum, bum) See-Saw! He wanted nothing to do with it but then I offered to help him go up and down without going too fast. He was cool with that at first but then had to jump down because he got scared. They went and did something else then he decided he wanted to try it again, without my help…
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He LOVED it! Oh how he laughed, and laughed!! It was a beautiful, joyful moment and it totally made my day to see him purely enjoying himself and not being afraid.

Iain also was thrilled that Ryan overcame his fear. he had been dying to try the see-saw and they just had so much fun together today.
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Today was a great day!! We are so fortunate to live in this neighborhood. The trails are so much fun for us to explore year-round and we get to see some pretty interesting birds, too. There is this guy:
neighborhood mascot

And at any given time, we hear owls, see huge hawks, and so many different kinds of birds it’s mindblowing! Sometimes the owls freak me out in the middle of the night though. Our neighborhood is well-loved by area birdwatchers and we get a kick out of them when we see them on the trails, too.

We were a bit of a hike from the park so we had to stop a few times and do this:
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I stopped for the kids, you know. Not because I was tired. Nope, not me. :)

Don’t know how much we’ll be out and about as the week goes on because it’s supposed to get pretty darn cold here. I just wish we would have some snow to go along with the chilly temps!!!

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