River's Edge Urban Academy

Homeschooling 4 kids ages 9, 6, 4 and baby while working as a postpartum nurse and lactation counselor.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Wow, did we have a fun field trip today! We went to North Mississippi Regional Park, Kroening Interpretive Center. This place is a true gem. They have a neat little exhibit area inside, with very interactive exhibits. Outside are nice paved (stroller friendly) paths that go along the Mississippi River. The best part though, is the fabulous backpacks they lend. We had a bird backpack that had several bird books, binoculars, a birdcall machine (thing that plays different birdcalls), a clipboard with scavenger hunt items (ex. a bug a bird would eat, pair of ducks, etc), drawing paper (good stuff), and colored pencils, and some outdoor storybooks. There were also tree and insect backpacks.
We saw there: Tons of different birds including Nuthatch, chickadee, canada geese, mallard ducks, blue heron, goldfinch, and more, saw two spiderwebs, kids chased butterflies, saw catnip and other herbs that my friend was smart enough to be able to identify, blue herons on their nests!!! and lots of other stuff.
We also had a fun talk with a state trooper who happened to be in there. She was very nice about talking to the kids and answering their questions as well as reinforcing the importance of riding in their car seats. We also had fun looking at her car. She had a computer radio and even had a thing of baby wipes in the front seat. Those things are so darn useful!
The kids also did some learning about getting along with others and being good friends! grrr! They are both sweet but Joss can be bossy and a little mean to younger kids and Zeff still needs the occasional reminder to use words and take turns! Oh well, this is how they learn!
Well, I gotta go. They are watching a movie so I can do some serious cleaning and I think I have the computer keyboard sufficiently dusted off by now!

Monday, April 26, 2004

well, I'm a bad blogger! I just got home from a BRUTAL shift and just had a couple quick things to say for the record. Today Joss FLEW through two whole Calvert lessons! She is really taking off with her reading! After school went outside to work on her garden. Well, we started preparing the soil and I thought the next step would be to plant our seeds but NO! Apparently there is another step to gardening that grownups don't know: it is necessary to find and name all the worms in your garden! So... maybe we plant the peas tomorrow! We also got our cuisenaire rods and miquon math book in the mail that I ordered. I wil start Joss on Miquon whenever the lab annotations come and have her do it in addition to her Calvert Math. I will see from there, we may keep using both or I may not order Calvert Math for next year.
Well, I gotta try to get to bed. !

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Yesterday and today have been nice and necessary as recovery from our wild Tuesday. Tuesday we had Ceramics in the AM, where Zeff played outside with his friends (fellow younger siblings of ceramics class attendees). We also had a good time watching the ducks including several wood ducks which are very pretty and a little surprising to see at an urban park! Unfortunately, Zeff then did a header off a low wall onto some sidewalk but suffered no apparent ill-effects.
Then t home where Joss received a replacement birthday check from her great-grandpa. She was so excited to have a check for ten whole dollars that she loved the numbers off the original and the bank wouldn't take it. She wrote a thank you letter all by herself. I only spelled about 50% of the words. Then, off to our afternoon activity, grocery shopping and home by 4:30!
After supper we then went to our Mayday parade workshop from 7-9! Did I mention Tuesday was wild!

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Today was sure fun. We met up with our homeschool group at the firestation for a field trip. We drove another family because they had car trouble and Zeff sure took a shine to their two year old girl. I saw him behaving in a very gentlemanly way towards her on a few occasions at the fire station. Once she walked out of the garage of the firestation into the driveway and her mom didn't see. Zeff gently guided her back into the firestation. Another time I got to the back of the fire truck just in time to see him at the bottom of the stairs trying to help her climb down from the fire truck! He hugged her and held her hand, and helped her stay with the group as we toured the living quarters. I could not believe this is the kid who had me tearing out my hair six months ago wondering if he would ever play nice with anyone ever!
His older sister who is usually no problem in the behavior department was AWFUL though, and now realizes that she is on probation at our next hs outing and will miss the following if I see any repeats of the not listening, wild, running around behavior I saw today.
Keian was of course precious and cute and adorable. He is lovin' the solids these days and had sweet potatos with baked apples off my plate tonight.
The field trip was a blast. The firefighters were very sweet and answered all the kids questions and even engaged the very shy Zeffy. They let the kids climb all over the fire truck and showed them all over the firehouse. The kids were very impressed by the TV in the kitchen and each kid inspected every single cot in the dorm area. (That was kind of funny)
Zeff wore his fire station T-shirt. Fireman jacket and "fireman boots" (I thought they were his black snow boots but he educated me on the subject.) As we left the house he said "Come on, fire mom!"
It was a great field trip and we had a nice time playing on the grass and having snack when it was over.
We had a pretty good afternoon of school today. I am also proud to say that I have emerged from my Seasonal Affective Disorder funk (I say that tongue-in-cheek but I do get kinda down in the winter) and have cleaned my house better than it's been for months and finally have a little energy! That had been good for the house, the kids attitude and my own. Is it just me or do kids behave better in a clean house?

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Could it be? Dare I put away the snow gear? Has Spring actually come to stay in MN? It sure feels that way! Hit 70 today, I think!
Monday was lame cuz I was tired from our busy weekend (Jon came home one last time before he goes to Afghani May 1st or so) Barely got school done before I had to go to work.
Tuesday was busy as usual. Ceramics in the AM. We planned to go back home while Joss had class but Zeff met up with two little girls (3 and 5) at the playground and played very nicely (or at least without conflict) for the whole hour and a half! I was so pleased to see how well he got along with them.
After Ceramics we had to go up to my work since I accidently took a pager home the night before. This was actually great fun for my kids since they think it is so cool to see my work and they even saw some babies in the nursery this time.
We then headed out to gym n swim. Zeff and I did the grocery shopping while Joss was at class and really enjoyed our (almost)one on one time. Even baby had a nice trip and I am glad he rides in the seat of the cart now because he is getting heavy! Afterwards we were all too tired to go to the Mayday workshop. In fact I ordered Chinese instead of cooking cuz I was so wiped out! The kids adore going to the local Chinese restaraunt. They call it the chopstick store and love looking at the chinese dragons, goldfish and fat, jade Buddha. They love asking for the chopsticks and the employees always seem to enjoy them too.
Today we had a regular school morning, went pretty well. The latest thing that is lots of fun is for Joss to do her work at her school desk on the porch. She is also psyched that we are almost halfway through and are starting readers in a few days.
This afternoon we went the the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge. We saw tons of neat birds: cardinals, robins, goldfinches, juncoes, red-winged blackbirds, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers and (drumroll please) a great blue heron! No real wildlife and I had hoped we would see wild turkeys again but it was still an awesome day at a great and nearby nature center. We hiked about a 1/2 mile down a bluff, past a pond and back up the bluff. We stopped for about a 1/2 hour at the pond and I lay down on a bench with the baby sitting on my tummy while the kids messed around in the mud at the edge of the pond. They had so much fun and it was so peaceful looking up through the trees at the cloudless, blue sky. Baby squawked and screeched at the trees and bushes and generally had a great time.
After our hike we went in the nature center. The kids played with the puppets while I browsed in the bookstore and purchased three books. Then the naturalist pointed out the different species of birds at the feeder and told the kids little interesting facts about them. He was so nice!
Well, it's bedtime and we have a field trip in the AM so adios!

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Joss teaching Zeff Spanish
J: Gracias
Z: De nada.
J: Good Job! Repeat after me: Uno:
Z: Uno
J: Dos
etc etc etc
She was at the time buttering and sprinkling cinnamon toast for both of them as baby is totally fussy and I couldn't put him down. I set her up and she did the toast preparation! Granted, she is a little more liberal with the cinnamon sugar than I would be!
Kids rock! I swear if I train that biggest one right, I could have it made!! :)

Saturday, April 10, 2004

I have recently been feeling bummed out because we are not making much progress through Calvert. We only took one (or maybe technically 2) more days off than I planned but the last day we did school we didn't complete it before I had to get ready for work and I am depressed realizing that for the last week and a half we have been on lesson 77!
So, I was feeling like a bad homeschooling mom about that and also because I have zero interest or desire to go the annual state conference. I couldn't anyway but it seems like most of the other hs moms at my work are just dying to go to it. I wondered if I am doing a good enough job and if I will continue to be able to do a good enough job as I have more kids to educate.
Whew, writing that all out has me depressed again, but I actually came to a brighter place in all of this as I was thinking about it earlier. In the past 7 months Jossy has learned to write all her upper and lower case letters, learned all their sounds and how to read CVC words, she is learning how to spell CVC words on her own, she has learned proper sentence structure, diff between asking and telling sentences, story ideas such as main character, main idea, details, predicting, retelling stories, she has learned to follow directions to complete worksheets and had made lots of progress at sticking to tasks until they are completed (okay SOME progress!) She has also learned number concepts up to twenty, how to form numbers through 20, bigger/smaller, measuring, graphing, adding, subtracting, basic division and multiplication concepts and facts to 6 or so.
She has also learned many spanish words and can identify several different states and countries on our maps. She has taken ice skating, ceramics, gym n swim and choir. We did a really fun study of volcanoes, won an invention contest and fed lots of ducks. She has made clubhouses and forts and learned to fingerknit. She is working on a costume to be in the Mayday parade and will also be in her church choir's musical this month. She helped her grandma sew an outfit of her own design and painted an apron by herself as a gift for that grandma. She has spent long hours in our yard digging, searching for treasure and playing with her brother in their own magical imaginary world. She has made paper flowers and delivered them to our neighbors. We have brought meals to friends with new babies and done volunteer work for our block club.
So....I think it is shaping up to be an okay year. My dad told me tonight that kids are resilient and no matter what you do they'll probably turn out okay. Well, he can sit back and say that now that his kids are grown and reasonably successful! But looking back at the school year I realize that despite having a new baby and returning to work 2 mos after his birth while trying to homeschool, Joss has made lots of progress. Lots of it had nothing to do with me other than providing her with interesting toys (that abacus has been worth it's weight in gold), books and games. I guess that's a good lesson. Do my best and hope my dad's right and they'll do okay despite my inevitable fumbles and missteps! These kids are bright too, I figure that will help make up for my failings as an educator as well. :)

Friday, April 09, 2004

Wow, it's been a bit since I posted! I worked last wknd and just worked last eve as well. We decided this year to dole out our spring break days when the weather or circumstances really justified it, rather than just taking a whole week off as in PS. That worked out really well this week as we had great weather at the beginning of the week so I just let the kids spend the whole day outside. Yesterday and today we had neat outings planned so we did those instead. Yesterday we went to the nature center with our support group and walked around and through the marsh (we have done this before as a family and I think I blogged about it recently). It was really nice weather and we saw lots of ducks, geese and again a couple muskrats. We were within 10 feet of one muskrat and most of the kids got to see it.
Today we went to the Children's Museum with my good friend and her kids. I adored my membership today as we all got in free. The older kids spent about two hours in one room while my friend took our babies to the young toddler room. It sounds like the babies had fun and the older kids definitely had a blast. I was inwardly frustrated that Joss chose to spend the bulk of her time drawing and writing with crayons which we could totally do at home but didn't say anything about it. She did do some LA on the fly when I had her copy "Clifford" and spell "The Big Red Dog" all on her own. After the kids were done in that room we herded them downstairs for snack and left. I brought our snack so we had a really fun outing for us and our total of five kids for the price of parking ($3)! Awesome!
And Best Of ALL!!! My Little Brother is in town for one last weekend b4 he ships out for Afghanistan! I can't wait to see him and we have mostly kept the secret from the kids as he wants to surprise them. They should be socked although Joss either has ESP or has picked up on our "private" conversations because she said "I had a dream that Uncle Jon came home while I was still 5, but I thought he wasn't going to come home till I am 7"
Well, I should get off the computer. Happy Easter to all.

Friday, April 02, 2004

So far a decent week. It is Spring Break for the public schools so we had a PS friend over Tuesday and will have our cousin over today.
Tuesday AM we completed our household routines and school in the AM. Joss is really coming along quickly with her reading and has surpassed the Math but fortunately enjoys the act of filling in the worksheets so I keep handing them out! I am so pleased to have purchased this curriculum as I probably wouldn't have thought she was ready for the phonics she is doing. Since math is one of her talents it ensures that we don't miss any concepts as she is leaping ahead! Ex. she is comfortably and competently writing and solving addition equations, except she still can't reliably make 5 and 8! Calvert forces us to go through each concept (like number formation) so she has a sturdy foundation for future skills.
When her friend got here we did a craft project (easter hats) and went to the park. We sang an easter song on the way to and from the park and had a great time.
Wednesday was also nice, got a lesson and a half done in the morning then went to Michael's for arts and craft supplies. Of course I spent about twice what I planned! But we got lots of neat stuff including a 99cent sewing kit that Joss is gaga over. She has been sewing paper pockets and is wants to make straw hats like we heard about in Litte House in the Big Woods (just finished listening in the car - our second time with it, we read it at the beginning of winter too). She really gets into the handicrafts.
After Michael's we were going to get our lunch on the road (fast food) and have a quick picnic lunch on our way to the grocery store. We stopped at a nearby nature center, just to eat, but ended up staying for almost two hours and walking the path that goes around and through the marsh. We saw seagulls, Canadian Geese, Ducks and a Muskrat. It was so nice out and we hadn't been to the nature center in so long that it just sucked us in and wouldn't let us out in time to do the grocery shopping!
So I ended up doing a 10pm grocery run with the baby. Oh well, we had fun together and he rode sitting in the cart for the first time. My back can't take constant slinging anymore so I was glad he liked it. I was also glad I had alcohol swabs in my pocket so I could wipe down that bar that all babies desperately want to get their mouth on when they ride in the cart.
Thursday was intended to be a school day. Our cousin Malcolm, a first grader, was coming over and him and Jossy have really enjoyed doing school together in the past. In fact on a recent car ride, Malc taught J all his spelling words and the concept of silent e! (He says it whispers to the other vowel "Say your name! Say your name!") So that was a good plan but we had hs playgroup in the morning and they had agreed to meet at a playground near my house. So our first act when he got here was to get everybody ready and in the wagon to walk the 8 blocks to the park. The kids cooperated very nicely taking turns pushing and riding in the wagon on the way there. The way home wasn't so great but that is to be expected! Especially since we were all having such a good time that we stayed for almost 3 hours!! Those kids were wiped!
The kids had tons of fun at the park. Zeff is playing more and more WITH other kids and less alongside play. He was actually getting along and cooperating with 4 bigger boys as they dug in the sand with some toy dump trucks. At one point he had been away from the kids playing in the sand eating snack and when he rejoined them he ran up and grabbed a truck. They told him pretty nicely that he had messed up their hill. I tried to help him say sorry but he was embarassed and turned away. Now I thought this was really sweet - even though he didn't apologize the two bigger boys said "We forgive you anyway!" And forgave him again when he got up the courage a little later to apologize. What sweet kids for him to hang with.
On the way home J and M were bickering about pulling the wagon. With no input from me they both decided thtat God didn't want them to fight and started cooperating and paying each other compliments, they called it "building eachother up,"
Jossy: You are as handsome as my daddy.
Malcolm: You are as handsome as your mommy and my mommy put together.
J: Your hair is very shiny.
M: I know, I just washed it.
They are in the same Sunday School class, so the building up thing must be from that but I thought it was pretty adorable. They are truly best friends.
After we came home the kids dug in the backyard mot of the pm. When they weren't doing that, they were working on their clubhouse in the kids room (A web of yarn hung all over the bunkbed and crib with construction paper flags and a big cardboard tube taped to the side of the bunkbed.) Did we get school done? No, but a big reason our family homeschools is that we think playing in the mud and building clubhouses are at least as important as "school" for a young child, especially on the second nice day of the spring. I am realizing that we are not going to complete K in the next few months. I probably need 5 more months at the rate we are going but that is fine. We had a baby this year and in the beginning could not always complete a whole lesson a day and were averaging 2-3 lesons/week. We are now consistently completing 4/week but with nice days and summer activities coming up we won't finish before fall. We will keep doing LA and Math and any fun games and activities or Science that comes along, but will not slow down to complete those. Right now school is fun for Joss and only takes 30-45" a day so we should be able to do that while still fully enjoying the summer. Then we will start 1st whenever we finish K and continue at the same rate. I feel good about this plan even if we end up taking more than a calendar year to finish each grade esp since Joss wouldn't officially start K till this upcoming fall anyway. We'll see how it goes with Zeff but for Joss starting "early" has really taken the pressure off.
Well, my big kids are still sleeping so baby and I better get some housework done b4 they wake up. I love this little baby but he needs a sleep mask - he thinks just cuz the sun is up that he should be too! Oh well, he's got my genes too so that shouldn't last long! Bye!