Friday, July 20, 2012

Tomato Staking, Part 2

(I started typing this post, and typed several paragraphs before it started sounding very familiar.  I check my previous posts and realized that I already posted some of what I said in this post, but I'll leave it, because obviously it is a big thing that is going on in my life, and has been on my mind constantly.  So sorry for the repeated info!)

Oliver is SO cute!  Look at those chubby cheeks!  He's so sweeeeet!  Those comments have been coming less and less lately, as Oliver gets bigger and loses his baby innocence.  He can still be very sweet and charming, and he is still cute, but OH MY WORD.  This child has a mind of his own, and he knows how to use it.  He smiles his way into trouble oh, I don't know, maybe 739 times in the course of a day.  I was desperate, people.  Desperate!!!!

Friends heard my desperation and began suggesting a book to me.  Several friends suggesting the same book to me means that that book WILL be purchased and in my house within a week or two.  Well, most of the time.  Unless you're talking about something like 50 Shades of Grey.  That book, and all perverseness of the sort, will never be inside my home.  But that's another topic for another day.

I have read most of the suggested book, Raising Godly Tomatoes by L. Elizabeth Krueger.  The boys think the title is hilarious, as we actually started to get ripe tomatoes on the plants in the backyard around the same time as the book arrived.  Well, I'm working on growing up some tomatoes of my own, but inside the house!  I am finding out just how helpful it is to have Oliver right beside me throughout the majority of the day.  He washes windows with me, he helps me push clothes into the dryer on laundry days, he sits in his high chair and watches me cook (I feel like I have my own little cooking show most of the time now, "Watch Mommy chop the carrots!  Now I will put them into the pan and stir them around.  Hot hot!" as he waves his hand around, indicating that something is hot.)  It is hard.  Everything takes longer with him around, because I am constantly correcting him and teaching him and showing him what to do and correcting him again and showing him what to do again...

I have been working on specific behaviors with Oliver.  Things I want him to do the first time, every time. Eventually I'd like for him to be obedient in everything.  But I started training him late, when he was already used to getting his own way in most things, so it will take him a while to get the hang of listening to Mike and me and doing what we say right when we say it.

The first one was "Sit With Mama."  This means no squirming to get down, no sliding down my leg, no pounding on me while he is sitting on my lap, no yelling in my face, and all of the other things he would do when I tried to hold him before if he didn't want to be held.  I have always told people that Oliver is "not a snuggler."  I am finding out that I simply hadn't trained him to sit with me.  Joy!!  He turned out to quite like snuggling with Mama.  I just have to enforce the "Sit With Mama" rules, and he does great.  We're working on longevity at this point.  He is up to about 30 minutes of sitting with me.  Most of the time, we are reading books or singing songs or "doing" something.  I'm getting him used to being on my lap, under my authority.

Next we started working on "Lay Your Head Down."  At any point while I am holding him, I need to be able to say, "Lay Your Head Down" and have him obey quickly and quietly.  Right now, I am requiring it when he is tired and is ready to go to sleep.  He hated this one when we started, and fought and kicked and screamed and turned bright red and asked for Dada.  But I persevered, telling him, "Lay Your Head Down," and then if he didn't do it right away, pushing his head gently down onto my shoulder (there is no abuse going on in this house, folks).  If he arched his back and pushed against my hand while I tried to push his head down, he got a swift pat on the bottom, which at first made him scream even more and arch his back and push harder.  I just kept on, push, arch, swat... push, arch, swat... push, arch, swat... until he figured out that, Wow, Mama really means business!  He would give in, crying, laying his head down and relaxing, until about 30 seconds later he would hear an interesting noise and his head would pop up again.  "Lay Your Head Down."  Push, arch, swat... push, arch, swat... and his head would be down again.

It is a work in progress, but he has come so far in only a week or two!  Now, when he gets to "Sit With Mama," he sees it as a privilege (most of the time) and he wants to be in my lap.  We're still working on the longevity part.  :)  He'll bring me a book or two, and we have our favorite songs that we sing with wiggling fingers and tickling crawling spiders and little lights being blown out and covered up...  He whimpers for a little bit when I tell him, "Lay Your Head Down," but he does it, usually right away.  If he doesn't want to lay his head down, he does it anyway, but sometimes it will pop back up after a few seconds, and then we go through the push, arch, swat routine until his head is down for good.  It is taking less and less time because he KNOWS what is expected, and he knows exactly what will happen if he doesn't do what I am telling him to do.

My foot has healed enough that I can wear socks and my Crocs and walk around without too much pain.  So, I think the next thing I will work on with him is "Come To Mama."  I'm going to have to be brave when I do this one.  He runs away from me when I say this, so I have been avoiding saying it altogether, and never while I am standing up.  He only comes to me when I am sitting down, because when I am standing, he thinks it is a game and I will chase him, which I'm not going to do.  Now that I am feeling better, I am ready to be 100% consistent with this and spend time training him.  He doesn't know what my expectations are, because I have been inconsistent.

So that's where I am right now!  Making progress, although it feels slow and I get discouraged sometimes, especially because it is so hot and the heat makes me tired.  But God will give me the strength to endure, because He will never give us anything we can not handle, and obedient children is something we are taught to pursue in the Bible, so I know I have God's blessing in this.  Parenting is hard, but it is so worth it!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tomato Staking, Part 1

I have been using the techniques in Raising Godly Tomatoes, by L. Elizabeth Krueger.  Well, Oliver knows what to expect now.  He knows that when I tell him to do something, he gets a tap on the bottom if he doesn't do it right away, and will keep getting nothing but a tap on the bottom until he obeys.  I have been working on "Come to Mama," and "Get your drink," both of which he knows how to do... but doesn't always want to do if he doesn't see the point.  I'm not trying to get him to do really hard things, I'm just making sure that he will obey when I give him instructions.  He has been doing well, but still has his struggles (don't we all!).

Oliver has come to love hugs and snuggles -- I thought he "wasn't a snuggler," but it turns out that he is just really strong-willed and didn't want anyone else to be in control of his time!  He doesn't like to sit still for long, so I have been working with him on sitting on my lap calmly for longer periods of time.  We're up to about 10 minutes now with no squirming!  Yippee!!  I might be able to go to Park Day with my homeschool group in the future if he learns to do this.  He wears me out otherwise, and I refuse to chase him all over the gym or the park with a hurt foot (It's getting better!  It doesn't hurt to put pressure on the blister now, it just feels like I am stepping on a big caterpillar when I walk.). 

Okay, so here is why I need prayers.  Our current issue, for the past week, is that he has learned how to climb on top of the coffee table and the dining room chairs.  He climbs up on a regular basis, and I tell him to get down, and he just sits there and stares at me.  He knows what "get down" means, but I thought he was refusing to do it, so I have been swatting him (my swats don't hurt, but he knows they mean that he is doing something wrong) when he doesn't obey.  Yesterday, I finally figured out that he can't get down by himself.  He needs me to turn him around onto his belly, and he can wiggle off of the table from there.  But he KEEPS CLIMBING UP!!! 

So this morning, I am trying a new tactic.  He climbed up on the dining room chair as soon as his feet hit the floor.  I was in the kitchen making coffee, and he started calling, "Mom!"  "Mama!"  "Maaaaama!"  "Mooom!"  and I walked over to him and there he stood, on the chair, waiting for the swat that he thought was coming, waiting for me to help him down, because I have always had to help him down in the past.  Hmmmm.....

Can you guess what is coming?

I decided to leave him up there.  "Get down," I said, and left the room.  He started crying and quickly flipped over on his belly and backed off of the chair.  He bonked his ribs on his way down, and that hurt a bit, but he was down really quickly, and he hasn't climbed back up... on the chair. 

He was a busy bee this morning, and learned how to open the gate if it isn't locked.  We have gotten lazy and have stopped making sure we push the gate latch down until it clicks to say that it is locked.  Oliver hadn't figured out that he could open it... until now.  He opened it about 3 times in 30 minutes, then I wised up and figured out what was going on. 

So he moved on.  He climbed up on the big black speaker in between the TV cabinet and the shelves in the living room.  Now he is stuck.  The speak is smaller than the chair, and he doesn't think he has room to flip over onto his belly.  He has been up there for about 20 or 30 minutes, and is desperate to get down.  It is not very high, and he could turn around and wiggle down with no injury, but it is a small space, and he doesn't think he can do it.  I am letting him stay up there, with no swats, just little gentle reminders to "Get down, Oliver." 

I had parked myself on the couch, watching him to make sure that he didn't pull all of the books off the shelves (a favorite thing to do while he is on the speaker -- can you tell he has done this before?).  But there he sat, happy as a clam, patting the shelves, patting the speaker, jabbering his baby-talk to me as I sat there talking back to him.  Hmmm.... 

I am now sitting at the dining room table, where he can't see me very well, and Griffin and Sammy have come downstairs and are eating their breakfast.  They feel sorry for him and want to help him down, but I'm standing firm. 

So, pray for me to have patience and not back down... and for Oliver to get down soon!

Update: I did help him down.  Mike came upstairs from working and suggested that maybe he really couldn't get down, so I went to him, and he climbed me like a tree in his effort to get off of that speaker.  He knows, though, that next time he climbs up he can expect to have a lengthy, lonely stay on the top of the speaker.  He is avoiding it like the plague now.  We'll see how long that lasts!  :)   

Second Update: He climbed up there first thing the next morning, and I left him there again.  Short memory, I guess.  He stayed there crying for 20 minutes, and I had resolved to leave him there for 30 minutes and then get him down, since he truly believed he could not get down.  Sammy came into the room and, not knowing what was going on, helped Oliver off the speaker.  And he hasn't been back up there since!  Yippee!!  He learned his lesson!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

Oliver 1 year ago.

Mike and I watched the movie A More Perfect Union a few days ago.  Not a lot of action and adventure, but it was a great movie!  It is all about the convention, led by George Washington, in which the state representatives went through weeks of voting and discussion about the Virginia Plan written by James Madison, which (after revision and much rewriting) eventually became the Constitution of the United States, and was signed by the founding fathers.

I didn't realize how many states there were when the Constitution was signed, and how many people were already in the USA at the time (they said that Virginia alone had 800,000+ people!).  I don't know my US history very well, apparently!

I had always pictured tiny towns with struggling people, fighting off the Indians and barely surviving.  This movie showed the well-established towns and that the people were doing quite well, with the exception of the high prices that England was charging them.  The states were starting to argue, however, about the lack of order and about the rioting and court-burning that was going on because of their inability to govern properly.

George Washington was signed in as President of the United States shortly after the signing of the Constitution, and a new government was born!  It was exciting to watch this movie so close to the 4th of July, when at the same time of year so many years ago all of this was taking place.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July! 

Sunday, July 01, 2012

A New Homeschool Year!

Here he is, my (big) little man!  15 months old today.


Griffin had a birthday, and I got to cut the cake!

Birthday Boy!  Talk about growing up fast.  8 years old!

Sammy the Ham 

   We started our school year two weeks ago, and we are slowly adjusting to the many curriculum changes that we have made.  Our schedule has changed dramatically from last year with the addition of a very active toddler who likes to get his way, so we are easing into school gently this year.  Last year, both of the boys had independent work only, and only needed to come to me when they had questions.  It worked great for us last year -- with the addition of a new baby, I needed all of the time I could get -- however, I could sense that the boys wanted more time with me during their school time, and I knew that they were just doing their workbooks to "get it over with" so that they could move on to much more important things, like playing the Wii!    

Here is our curriculum line-up for this year:

Bible -- We are following Sonlight's plan for Bible, which includes daily Bible reading, verse memory, and reading through the book Leading Little Ones to God: A Child's Book of Bible Teachings, by Marian M. Schoolland.

Character Training -- We're reading through the book Character Trails: Learning to Walk in Paths of Righteousness, by Marilyn Boyer.  Each week we read about a different character trait.  We read stories about people in the Bible, people from history, and modern kids (fiction) who display good character.  We'll cover attentiveness, availability, boldness, compassion, courage, decisiveness, endurance, flexibility, generosity, joyfulness, orderliness and thoroughness.      

History/Geography -- Sonlight has a great history plan, so we'll be following that this year.  We're using Sonlight's Core B, Intro to World History, Year 1 of 2.  Next year, we'll do Core C, Intro to World History, Year 2 of 2 and finish our study of world history.  We'll be reading together on the couch.  I haven't been great about reading to the boys, so that's one reason I love Sonlight.  It forces me to do it, and I already love our snuggle time!  I wouldn't give it up for anything.  Sonlight uses lots of Usborne books, missionary story books, and A Child's History of the World, by V.M. Hillyer.  Each week, we'll be praying for an unreached people group from one of the 5 main groups: the acronym is THUMB, and the people groups are Tribals, Hindus, Unreached (or Unchurched) Chinese, Muslims, and Buddhists.  We will be using a Book of Time, which is a big, spiral-bound book with sturdy pages, and we'll record the people and events we study on the timeline.  We also have a markable map and some wet-erase markers so that we can find the places we are reading about and mark them. 

Language Arts.-- We're using Sonlight's Language Arts1 and Language Arts 3 programs, which is a very gentle way of learning about the English language.  Charlotte Mason-ish in its approach, each of the boys will be doing some copywork, dictation, creative expression, phonics/grammar, and spelling each day.  Not all of the subjects are covered each day, but it is enough work to last about 15-20 minutes.  This program is known for turning out kids who love to read and write.  It doesn't matter to me if the boys have memorized all of the rules for phonics and grammar (who actually knows them all?).  However, I really want for them to love sitting down with a good book in their spare time, and I would love for them to be able to express themselves effectively in writing as well.  We have extra workbooks that I can pull out if we need extra practice or have time to fill and bored children --  Wordly Wise for vocabulary and Explode the Code for phonics.

Science -- Apologia Astronomy!  We do this together as well.  All of the Apologia elementary books are written at a 4th grade reading level, and are intended for use with 2nd-6th graders.  There are 6 books, though, so I figure that even if Sammy doesn't remember any of what he learns this year in Astronomy, he will have at least had fun.  And I can say he has done all of the elementary books.  Ha!  Griffin won't be doing a couple of the books, since he will only be using the elementary books for 4 years, but science is right up there with art, in my opinion.  Sure, there are things we all need to know about the subject, and most of those things the boys learn just by being at home and playing outside and walking on the trail and looking at the stars... and Wikipedia!  But Apologia really dives in deep with the elementary books.  We'll learn about astronomy, botany, flying creatures, swimming creatures, land animals, and human anatomy and physiology.  Sammy is really excited to be doing "official" science now.  Last year we just looked up any science-related questions on the internet or borrowed books from the library about science topics.  We will get to do weekly projects and experiments, and they each have a notebooking journal that goes along with the textbook that has coloring pages, mini books to make, science phrases and Bible verses to copy, and fun activities to do.  It will be an exciting year for science!

Math -- Sammy is using Horizons Math 1 this year, and he loves it!  He finishes quickly, and will often hunt through the next few lessons to see if there is any extra work he wants to do.  Griffin is using Teaching Textbooks 3, and it is a transition period right now.  Sammy will switch to TT in 3rd grade as well, because they can do their work in the student workbook and/or on the computer, and the computer program grades their work and keeps track of missed problems, and shows me if they have looked at the solution if they missed the problem... SO wonderful!  Griffin loves math, and the work is mostly review right now, so he is starting to get bored, but there are new concepts in there that I don't want him to miss, so he does the lessons to humor me.  :) He does like the fact that it doesn't take him long to finish a lesson. 

Critical Thinking -- We love The Critical Thinking Company's books!  Their book series Building Thinking Skills is wonderful!  The books really get the boys looking at things in different ways, and I have seen progress in other areas (math, writing, etc.) as a result of using these books.  They are "easy" and "fun" -- or so the boys say, but they are learning from them!  These books are also a great way to prepare kids for standardized tests, which we will be doing with Griffin this year and every year 3rd grade and up for both boys.  I know that many homeschoolers are opposed to standardized testing for many reasons, but we will not be sharing the results with the boys or moaning over low scores or exulting over high scores.  We have learned, through an acquaintance who didn't have any way to prove that her children were progressing in her homeschool, and eventually ended up losing her children for various reasons, that legally it is best to have record of our children's progress over the years if our schooling were to ever come under fire.  We want to be prepared!  I also don't want to have to keep every test and workbook in order to prove that progress.  Homeschool grade cards won't stand up in a court of law, because I could have just written them up yesterday and fudged the scores, as awful as that sounds.  The standardized test results will fit nicely inside our fire-safe box of important documents, and I won't have to pull out tubs full of work to prove that they are learning in our homeschool.    

Griffin told me that school is easy right now, but he sure doesn't complain when it is time to start working!  He finishes his independent work before lunch most days, and then we wait until Oliver takes his afternoon nap before starting our reading.  We tried doing our "couch time" with Oliver running around the living room, but that boy likes to be the center of attention, or at least have someone watching him, and he would screech and howl until we had to stop.  I am looking forward to putting together some Busy Bags, an idea I have seen in various places.  I want to get together with a bunch of other moms, and each one of us will make a bunch of the same bag, and then we can swap them until each of us has one of each kind of bag.  They are to use for little ones when you need them to be entertained while you can't be sitting right next to them.  There are tons of ideas on Pinterest!  I'm excited to get started on that.  Then perhaps our together time will be a bit more flexible, and we won't have to be quite so quiet!  The volume can get pretty loud during science, our "fun" subject!  :)

I'll be updating about school as our year continues!