Monthly Archives: October 2011

Blood, Candy, and Other Related Subjects

I need to take a moment to thank the BTDT (been there, done that) homeschooling moms who recommended we look into Apologia Science for our kids this year. It has been the most wonderful journey for all of us!

Still,  I remember wondering after the first few days if we’d made a horrible mistake! This book was NOTHING like our previous science books and we’d had plenty of them! The only science our kids took prior to this year was Abeka, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, we knew we needed to change things up a little this year for homeschooling, based on a request from our rising 6th grader.The science-y part of what we learned . . .

After we settled on Anatomy and the book arrived,  I was very concerned that it would be WAY more than our 2nd grade student could handle and WAY more in-depth than our 6th grader would care for (given anatomy isn’t her fave to begin with!) – BUT it has turned out to be nothing short of a perfect fit for all of us!

Each chapter covers some aspect of the human body. So far we’ve studied cells, the skeletal system, the muscular system, the digestive system, nutrition & vitamins, the respiratory system and last week, BLOOD! This format changes things up enough to keep everyone interested, but it’s thorough enough that I don’t feel like we’re just skimming the surface of these very important subjects. To say I can’t wait to order and teach the rest of this series would be an understatement. We don’t know what the Lord has for us in the years ahead, but suffice to say, if He continues to lead us to homeschool our children, Apologia Science will be a staple! Did I mention that science has never really been my favorite subject? I don’t mind it, but I tend to glaze over when things get *too* scientific and I cap out at about 2 hours of wandering around the various Science Centers we’ve visited as a family. (Which just makes it all the more miraculous that I enjoy teaching this subject to our kids!)

Anyway, when we came to the chapter on BLOOD, we were especially excited for 2 reasons –

1. The kids have always wanted to know their blood types


2. Since my Dad is the manager of our community Blood Bank, we knew a field trip would be in order!

Here are some pictures from our recent adventures . . .

First we had to make a model of blood, because who doesn’t love a good edible model? We included the 4 components: Plasma (corn syrup), Red Blood Cells (red jelly bellies or cinnamon red hots), White Blood Cells (we used a white tootsie roll since you’re supposed to show that it’s larger than the red cells), and Platelets (candy sprinkles!).

Mmmm, blood!

Who knew all 3 would be so excited about making blood??

Later in our study we took the kids on a tour of their local blood bank. Here they learned how the blood bank separates blood into the 4 necessary components, and how they store them for transportation to local hospitals. Everyone also had blood typing done – turns out all 3 have the same blood type! A special shout out goes to the retired science teacher turned lab technician who graciously included our kids in his work. They learned so much!

Getting a lesson in how to separate the red cells

Examining the bags to be sure no plasma or white cells got in!

Putting the newly separated plasma into the blast freezer!

The 'girl with the purple gloves' is ready to tell Ems her blood type!

It was the perfect end to a very interesting science chapter and yet again reinforces why I’m so happy we chose this curriculum (and this lifestyle) for our family this school year! Thanks to all the participants who made this lesson possible. 🙂 Not only do we know all our blood types now, but the kids have an increased awareness for the need to donate blood (when they’re old enough) and what happens to it when they do!

For anyone in Florida, Georgia or Alabama interested in donating blood or learning how to host a blood drive, click on the Life South logo below to locate your nearest Life South Community Blood Center!

Unlocking the ‘Mommy Guilt’ Code

I never knew there was a choice!

I don’t make New year’s Resolutions. As one friend of mine so eloquently put it – “Why should I set myself up for one more opportunity to fail?” I think we’ve all felt like this at one time or another. I felt like that last year. In lieu of resolutions, however, another friend of mine revealed that each year she selects a word, just a single word, to represent what she is hoping to focus on in the coming 365 days.

ONE word? As a writer, I wondered how on earth I would ever do that? (Which was the key, really, because it meant the gauntlet had officially been thrown down – by me – and I had to do it.)

I sat down and discussed it at length with my better half. We both came up with words for the year. His word apparently scared me so much that I didn’t write it down. Anywhere.  (No doubt it was “CHANGE” and not in the presidential way. 😉 Because we all know how I feel about that word.) After much pondering, I went with “Deliberate” for my word in 2011.

Here is what I had to say about my selection on the day that I came up with it:

My word for 2011 is going to be “Deliberate” – as in, on purpose, intentional – particularly as it pertains to parenting and my routine here in the home. My goal is to avoid the “accidental parenting” that happens when I fall into patterns I don’t even especially like but are easy and familiar. I want to seize the opportunities presented to me by my children in these current ages and stages in an effort to minimize any regrets later that I “missed” so much of this or that. I’m sure I’ll still be able to think of plenty of things I could’ve done differently when I’m 50 and reviewing these early parenting years, but my goal is to be present and engaged and, well, deliberate.

Here is the irony of this whole process – I have not thought about my word from that day to this. In fact, if another friend hadn’t brought up HER word for the year earlier this week, I probably wouldn’t have even remembered it again before next January! (Yes, another PRIME example of why I don’t make resolutions. But anyway  . . . ) I looked up my word and was stunned to see how closely it aligned with the parenting decisions we’ve made this year – most notably our decision to homeschool – although in making these decisions, I can honestly say that I never even considered the word. So, apparently it played no part at all in my “deliberate” parenting other than being the initial articulation of something I’ve had stirring in me as a mommy for several years now.

Can I please read the clif notes instead?The thing is, as parents, we find so many opportunities to beat ourselves up. We continually feel we are making the wrong decision, even when 5 seconds before we were confident it was the absolute right one. I’m not sure why this is, but after 11 years of parenting, I learned to refer to it, without affection, as an undeniable case of “mommy guilt” that cropped up anytime I least needed it to.  All difficult parenting decisions came with a nice , warm cup of it, and any awkward conversations with my tween, her teacher or a fellow parent had the potential to further convince me that I was NOT making the grade in this Parenting 101 class.

However, in the days I have spent homeschooling this year (all 60-whatever of them, so don’t be thinking I know what I’m doing or anything) I think I’ve finally determined why I was so quick to feel like I had the words “epic fail” stamped on many of my parenting missteps.  Don’t get me wrong, homeschooling comes with it’s own, built-in fail-o-meter, and it’s a HUGE one. Fail at this, and you can potentially ruin your kid’s chance at getting into a good college, being successful or worse yet, being a productive member of society! Umm yeah, no pressure.  So why is it that I’m feeling far less guilty these days than I did last year. The year that prompted me to select DELIBERATE as my word for the parenting days ahead? I think it’s because it isn’t the act of failing that makes us feel like we’re not making the grade. It’s the times we wonder if we’ve done enough. Otherwise identifiable as the fear, regret, guilt cycle. Did we really put all our effort into that conversation, decision, project, study session, etc etc etc? Did we? (FEAR)  We decide we did not (typically when we make all our sound mommy decisions, circa. 1am), enter REGRET. Finally we are engulfed yet again by the ubiquitous and inevitable MOMMY GUILT. *Ugh!*

No. This lifestyle isn’t a perfect cure-all for the modern mommy guilt. I don’t want to portray that myth and add to the guilt! Yes. There are definitely days I’m almost comatose by 4pm just as it’s time to take everyone to swim, dance, soccer etc. HOWEVER, there are far MORE days when I am finally satisfied with the effort I’ve put in to my day with our kids.  I don’t lie awake at night anymore wondering if I’ll regret saying “no” to that last bed time story. Instead, I remember that I said YES to several other opportunities to make memories today – including reading aloud from a variety of books. I now plan our time together – I am deliberate in creating the moments we will spend in each others company. We will take trips just for fun. We will spend time reading. We will bake together (and clean the kitchen)! We will take walks to enjoy the sunshine and bundle up when we realize it’s really freezing cold instead! We will  have a range of discussions on every subject – scheduled and unscheduled – because we simply have more TIME together.

Taking time to smell the roses - or wildflowers in this case

I wish I had known, for the last 11 years, that what I really needed to do to relieve myself of heaping amounts of mommy-guilt, was just to say NO to the pressures around me, and take more TIME tending to the things I constantly felt like I could be doing better . . . instead of habitually feeling like I didn’t have enough quality time or questioning if we were spending it the way we *should*  (who decides that anyway?!).

Yes, we took family trips before. Yes, we ate dinner together as a family most nights. Yes, we sat on the ends of our kids’ beds at night while they discussed their day or their friends or their homework. Yes, we cheered them on at their soccer games and swim meets. Somehow it still didn’t feel like enough to me.

And that’s how I can quantify this decision to be more deliberate. Because now I feel it’s enough. I feel like they finally SEE the effort and care that I want them to know we put into this endeavor. Into THEM, not just their education. I’m not saying at 11, 9, and 8 I expect them to really “get” it, or even articulate their appreciation for it, but I know that they see it. And that’s finally ENOUGH for me as a parent.

I didn’t realize that my desire to be more deliberate was really synonymous with homeschooling – but that’s exactly how it has played out for me.

I guess it means I need to be more aware of whatever word I select for 2012?!

You have not because you ask not . . .

Because the sky is no longer the limit - for small boys OR astronauts!I have decided that small boys are like little sponges. They will soak up whatever information you give to them – good, bad, or indifferent! In addition, I’ve realized that they will also give you ONLY what you ask for. They will not attempt to exceed the bounds of whatever task you assign. They do not typically seek ways to over-achieve, but they will work hard to deliver exactly what you have asked for . . . hmmmm.

Applying this theory in our homeschool has been interesting. For example, if I expect my small boy to write neatly (knowing he is mechanically capable of doing so), then he will. If I let it slide when he writes with less care, he will continue to do so until I remind him that sloppy letters are not an option, at which point he sheepishly corrects the sloppy letters and reverts to his beautiful (and apparently time-consuming) printing method instead.

2 weeks ago, before Fall Break, I asked each student to select someone they wanted to learn more about. I got the idea from another homeschooling blog I read – the report is called “Person I Admire” and it gives me the chance to fine tune their writing skills (including addressing things like writing an outline, bibliographies, note cards, and rough drafts etc where needed) and provides the opportunity to do an oral presentation (costumes + our kids = a win!).  Spencer decided he wanted to do his report about the first man to walk on the moon. I selected some readers in his level from our local library, and he has spent 2 weeks absorbing all sorts of knowledge about Neil Armstrong.

I modeled the requirements for our written work on a similar assignment students are typically given at our previous school, with one notable exception – 2nd graders are not assigned this report. They are not expected to write anything of this length until closer to 3rd grade. But why not? I wasn’t sure how to go about this with a 2nd grader, but I decided we’d never know if I didn’t try . . .  so I just typed up my expectations, printed them out and handed them to him. He looked at the guidelines, asked a few questions, and simply accepted that this was normal. Aren’t all 2nd graders writing a one page paper on a person they admire and then completing an oral report in costume? No? Well, never mind, he is! Why? Because I asked him to.  😉

I'm not planning to have him write the report in Cuneiform - but apparently he could!

Today we sat down and discussed his outline. I explained that it was like a plan and I wanted him to have one so that he knew where his report was going and how he would get there. This apparently made sense to him. We talked about rough and final drafts.  I told him I didn’t expect it to be perfect because we would be making corrections together before his final draft. He knows to look up any words he is unsure of how to spell in our Scholastic Children’s Dictionary. I had to help him find the word “exciting” – and then tell him the word he actually needed for his sentence was “excited” (LOL) – but other than that, this small boy just turned out a complete paragraph about the early life of Neil Armstrong.

Oh. My. Word. Can I just take a moment here?? Who knew 8 year olds could do this??

Tomorrow I’ll have him write about his early career and the next day we’ll tackle achievements and accomplishments. The final day will be a paragraph on how this person has inspired him. ( I admit, I can’t wait to see what that paragraph looks like!)

So, now that the cat is out of the bag, it leaves me wondering . . . what else should I throw out there for my small boy to tackle?! I feel like this is a bit of a guessing game – “guess the student’s potential” – and it leaves me scratching my head a little. What else is he fully capable of and yet no one knows simply because no one has ever asked him to try? I was planning on beginning our times tables after Christmas . . . now I’m not so sure, maybe we’ll pull out the Schoolhouse Rock DVDs around Thanksgiving and get a head start. 😉

Of course, I do plan to check the report for accuracy . . .


I understand leaves look like this in places with seasons - just not around here. So apparently FALL has arrived, or Autumn, as I’m more accustomed to calling it. Either way, we’ve noticed a distinct drop in the humidity and, for at least 3 whole days, a dip in the temperatures too.  To celebrate this auspicious occasion, and because we’re currently studying poetry as part of our Creative Writing curriculum, I am including a Haiku written by my small boy. Yes, it is his very first. No, I didn’t help him at all (except to confirm that he did indeed have the required number of syllables per line).

Who would’ve thought my little engineer would have such a way with words? And yet he is consistently making me smile with his couplets, Haikus and other expressions. Just one more thing to love about being the one to teach him these things – an even deeper appreciation for the effort and glee that went into the making of these 17 syllables . . .


October is fun

It is fire pit season

It is raining leaves

Today we finished school a little early. Not by any real design other than the fact that everyone got their work finished by lunchtime. To celebrate, I broke our usual routine of quickly made deli sandwiches and instead served cheese quesadillas with left-over chili, fritos and a homemade brownie for dessert. While they surveyed their Mexican feast (+ brownie), knowing they were done for the day and all that awaited was the promise of a lazy afternoon, the oldest sighed and said . . . “No offense (previous school), but I LOVE this.” The others nodded and agreed through mouthfuls of lunch before running off to play.

Our afternoon has been spent with me perusing blogs, recipes, and information overload via the internet with one-eye open, and the kids playing with Barbies and Lego in the other room, while a slight breeze blows through the house from our open windows. It somehow makes the last 10 weeks even more worthwhile knowing that they are enjoying an extra 3 hours of childhood today.

And so we have made it to the end of our first quarter where despite some rocky days (Did I mention it IS possible to have a deficiency in homeschool? Why yes, it is!) and some hectic days (broken vacuum cleaner and customer service reps extraordinaire, anyone?), I think we are all holding onto the promise that homeschooling is the right forum for us to facilitate the education of our children this year.

Onward and upward and into the second quarter we boldly go . . .

How our pirates spend their time now . . .