Friday, October 1, 2010


A number of my facebook friends are really into making smoothies for their families. They put all kinds of stuff in their smoothies... like kale, and other stuff that was never found in my Orange Julius as a kid.

At any rate, all the smoothie talk has encouraged me to try smoothies with my own kids. Little Brother is a hard-sell - he's not keen on the texture and temperature of smoothies. Not sure what that's about. He likes to eat frozen berries straight from the bowl, and he likes milkshakes, but he's not a fan of smoothies. Big Sister is a little more adventurous in the Smoothie Realm. Here are two she's liking right now...

Strawberry Smoothie
1 cup of strawberries, either fresh, or thawed
1 cup of crushed ice
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1 -2 Tbsp ground flax seed
dash of vanilla
1 Tbsp sugar (optional)
Blend well. Serves 2.

Choco-Banana Smoothie
1 cup Chocolate Almond Milk
1 medium banana
1 cup crushed ice
1-2 Tbsp. ground flax seed
Blend in blender for 1 minute. Serves 2.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Participating in Peace Day

Today the kids and I participated in the International Day of Peace by making our own pinwheels, and sharing our wishes for peace.

I found out about the Pinwheels for Peace Project in an email I had received from our local Girl Scout council, and I really liked the idea of incorporating this hands-on project into our discussion of peace. The concept of "peace" can be polarizing from a political standpoint, but I like this website's explanation of what this is all about:

This is not political. Peace doesn't necessarily have to be associated with the conflict of war, it can be related to violence/intolerance in our daily lives, to peace of mind. To each of us, peace can take on a different meaning, but, in the end, it all comes down to a simple definition: a state of calm and serenity, with no anxiety, the absence of violence, freedom from conflict or disagreement among people or groups of people.

As we created our pinwheels, the kids and I talked about our wishes for peace. Big Sister went with a very broad wish "for peace in the world". Little Brother was having a really hard time coming up with something. He agreed that peace was something he wanted, but he couldn't think of what he wanted to say. I told him that one of my wishes would be for people not to put others down and make them feel bad. You know his response to that? He laughed. He laughed and told me that I was dreaming. How sad is it when a seven year old is already so jaded that he can't see the possibility for kindness between human beings? I was really surprised by his response, and it makes me all the more aware that there is a need to keep compassion alive in our kids. And we're not even living in a war-torn nation - imagine how ridiculous peace must seem for a child growing up with war and violence in their own backyard.

In the end, Little Brother settled on a message for his pinwheel: Peace means no more fighting. Someday... (oh, the irony of the Kung Fu Panda pencil, lol)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The 2010-2011 school year is underway!

After a busy summer that did not go according to plan in the slightest, we started a fresh school year this past Monday. I'd had high hopes of doing school a few days/week through most of the summer, to keep the kids fresh and in somewhat of a routine, but for a variety of reasons that just didn't happen.

August was a busy month, prior to the start of school. The kids and I spent the first week at Girl Scout Community Day Camp, which all three of us love. This was our second year, and I've volunteered each year. Sons of volunteers get to go to camp and be in the Boys Unit, participating in all the same activities as the girls, but mostly just hanging with the guys. Last year I taught Map & Compass to all the campers (K-6th grade). This year I was the Program Director, writing lesson plans for the station leaders to follow, and generally making sure that Program runs as intended, with volunteers getting the support they need to be successful. I also got to work with the teens more than I was expecting, and I found that to be eye-opening and rewarding - in the way a scientist observing a hive of bees would find that eye-opening. LOL - only joking... a little.

At the end of the next week that followed, the whole family went camping with friends down at Seaquest State Park, near Mt. St. Helens. We had a group campsite with four other homeschooling families, and it was a LOT of fun. We made some pretty exciting meals with dutch and box ovens, did some biking, frisbee throwing, beer and wine drinking, and went to the Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center. It was really relaxing, and a nice way to get to know our friends even better.

After camping, Hubby had to drive back north for work, and the kids and I drove to southern Oregon to visit with my MIL. It's always fun to go visit Grandma on her ranch, and spend a week playing in the creek and having adventures. By the end of our 10 days away from home, we were ready to return home and get back to some nice, quiet, normalcy.

The kids have started back up with great attitudes, and it has made this week a lot of fun. Big Sister must be going through a developmental shift because she is so much more engaged and interested, asking lots of thoughtful questions, and making connections between various things we've read, and time periods we've studied in the past. I absolutely love it. Little Brother is pretty motivated to learn to read more fluently, so has been much more willing to sit down and read to me. Need to find him some better stories - A Friend for Little Bear is right at his level, but he finds it pretty boring. When Big Sister was a struggling reader (older than he is) I was able to find stories she was interested in, but he's really not into ponies, LOL! I'm sure I'll come up with something.

We've become much more "schooly" than in past years, spending a few hours/day (give or take, and depends on the kid) on school stuff. Focusing on Sister's writing this year. Brother is younger and not doing as much book work as Sister, which really bugs her, but she's being a little more mature about it this year. They're doing history together - Age of Exploration. We're finally breaking out of Ancients and Middle Ages - time periods we've exhausted in the past few years. We haven't done ANY American History, which I want to work towards. I'm using our Encyclopedia of World History as our spine, with the kids putting together their own timelines as we go, and getting books from the library for all the jumping off points, and more in-depth info. This week we're reading A World Made New, which is a great look book at what was happening in the New and Old Worlds just prior to contact, really stressing the fact that there was indeed an advanced civilization in place over here in the Americas prior to European arrival. It also stresses how important religion was to the Europeans, and how they really felt stongly that sharing Christianity with the world was their duty.

Also trying, yet again, to really be consistent in my use of Homeschool Tracker Plus. I've owned it for four years, and never managed to utilize it for more than a couple weeks in a row. My follow-through? Not so good at times. I think I've finally figured out how to make it work with our style of schooling, which is definitely NOT to make a plan and adhere to it. I've been entering the kids' work after they complete it, and that's finally working fairly well (lol - one week in. I'll have to get back to you later...).

Classes start up again shortly! A vocals class, and Homeschool PE for Sister, Aikido, Homeschool PE, and music at the elementary school for Brother. Plus Girl Scouts for Sister. Need to work swimming back in, as it's the one thing Sister really, really begs to do, but our local pool shut down and I'm having trouble finding a suitable, affordable replacement. Busy, busy around here!

Friday, June 25, 2010

To Facebook or not to Facebook?

Anyone who knows me, knows that this question surely couldn't be about me, as I have heartily embraced Facebook and espouse it's benefits regularly. No, this question applies to my daughter, and others in the "under 13" set.

Facebook's policies state that no one under the age of 13 is permitted to have an account on their site. Many parents do allow their children to have an account at a younger age, but in order to do that, they must lie about their date of birth. We actually allowed Big Sister to have an account a year or so ago because many of her friends around the country (and out of the country) already had accounts, and it's a convenient way to keep in touch with everyone all from one place.

Still, the whole thing didn't sit right with me. We live in an age where cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying have become more common place, and where we tell teens not to misrepresent themselves as being older because it can get them into trouble. I felt that we were sending our daughter a mixed message about internet safety at a time in her life when we need to be clear about our expectations for her behavior. Why should it be okay to lie about your age to deceive Facebook when you're 10 years old, but not okay in other situations? What it boiled down to was that I didn't want to condone lying on the internet in order to access places where my child doesn't belong.

Yes, I know we can adjust all her privacy settings and restrict who has access to her information. I am aware how fabulous Facebook is as a tool for kids to keep in touch with friends and relatives who are otherwise more difficult to be in contact with. I see how kids can be wonderfully articulate in writing their status updates. All of these benefits don't outweigh for me the blurring of the rules I feel we should set for our kids as they start exploring and making a place for themselves on the internet. I don't feel that it's unreasonable to require our kids to follow the policies and terms of use of an internet site, and I certainly don't want to set a precedent that sometimes lying is okay if it gets you into a place you don't belong.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Like clockwork

I knew we were coming into the end of May because I started re-evaluating all of our homeschooling materials and methods. I do this every year at this time! It's, not that I do it intentionally - I don't have "Have a Homeschooling Life Crisis" marked on the calendar, but it seems to happen to me every year around this time. I find myself noticing everything that my kids do NOT know, and trying to figure out how to cram in everything from ancient chinese history to sentence diagramming to how to re-build small motors. The world is a complicated place, with a long past and an even more complicated future - my kids need to be ready for that! Right? The weight of my children's futures on my shoulders.

There are a lot of cool programs, resources, curriculum, etc. out there on the market, with vendors ready to prey upon my insecurities as a homeschooling mom. I know that I could spend $600-1000 today, and still find myself hyperventilating next May. Thank goodness I know that about myself now (you should see the pile of oh-I-can't-get-rid-of-that-because-we-still-might-use-it-someday homeschool "stuff"). I think it's important that homeschooling parents aren't complacent, and I believe re-evaluating things from time to time is worthwhile. Revisiting your homeschooling goals, and knowing what you want out of your homeschooling is a good way to stay focused.

I have two primary goals in our homeschooling:
1. To help my children learn the skills required to teach themselves anything they should want to know.
2. To help my children to become effective at verbal and written communication.

And I have a whole laundry list of secondary goals...
1. That my kids will have plenty of time for unstructured play, to get down to the business of being kids.
2. That my son and daughter will be more than siblings - they will see each other as friends, and learn that friendships aren't restricted to same-age peers.
3. That my children will be properly socialized. That is to say that they will learn how to behave appropriately with people of all ages, particularly adults (given that they will spend most of their lives as adults).
4. That they will discover their passions, and have the opportunity to explore those before going off to college and wasting thousands of dollars trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives.
5. That my kids will see that there is more than one way to achieve a goal, and not to be afraid of the road less travelled.

So after this most recent evaluation of our homeschooling, I am doing some minor tweaking. Nothing earth shattering. I'm mostly trying to get refocused, and also pulling Big Sister into this process more (or attempting to). I'd like to introduce the concept of goal-setting for each of my kids because I think they are failing to see the value in working towards an end result. Rarely are goals "magically" achieved. I know that I enjoy the hardwork of pushing past an obstacle to obtain an end result, and especially the feeling of achievement when I get there. The hard part is when the goal is not something you've set for yourself, but one that someone else sets for you, and right now it seems that my goals are not necessarily their goals. It's revelations like this that make me feel for classroom teachers who are trying to sell a goal to a room full of uninterested students. At least I only have a room of two semi-interested kids of my own!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A River Runs Through It...

Our backyard that is. We've finally started a "Rivers" unit study that I wrote a few years ago (which I have posted on a blog somewhere on the internet, but can't locate at the moment). On the schedule for tomorrow was to "build a model river", which I hadn't really worked out the details of, but was getting inspiration from this webpage. Presented with exceptionally gorgeous weather this morning, I asked the kids if they'd like to get started on it today, and I'm so glad we did. I can see this is going to be an ongoing project for them (especially since they created a watering hole for their miniature animals four years ago and still use it regularly) - a backyard river system is a natural fit for my kids. Little Brother said it's "our best homeschooling project ever", even better than ice cream in a bag.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When hard work pays off

At today's aikido class, Little Brother was honored with The Purple Stripe. The elusive purple stripe was mentioned in a class a few months ago. It is bestowed upon a student who shows good leadership and acts as a good example for others in class. Ever since he heard about, Brother has had his goal set on earning that purple stripe. He was so proud of himself when he told me about it. He said he was so surprised, and when he saw Teacher Nancy pulling out the purple tape he got really excited, and he didn't know what to think. It was very sweet listening to him recap the whole experience.

Little Brother has always been such a sensitive kid, and so much in life brings him down or makes him feel like a failure. I love that these past five months, aikido class has consistently been a place where he's been excited to go, and always comes away feeling successful. When I watch his class, I can see him working on a lot of the skills I've tried to help him with for years - remaining calm and cool when frustrated, remaining focused on his own behavior and trying not to worry about the behavior of others, speaking up when he needs something. He still can't hold it together in a lot of other settings, but he has a safe place to work on it when he goes to aikido. Tonight I loved sharing in his excitement that his hardwork didn't go unnoticed.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Facebook has brought my blogging to a stand still

I'm a little embarassed that I've gone so long since my last blog post! Time to dust things off over here, I guess!

Shall we step into the Dolphin Valley Academy time machine and go back in time to what's been happening these past few months?

February 2010:
We started out the month celebrating Little Brother's 7th birthday! He had his first friend party ever, and it was a lot of fun. He had three buddies over (one from school and two from our homeschool group), and we celebrated with a LEGO theme. Our pinata dumped LEGO pieces all over the floor - isn't that better than candy?

Big Sister went on a 3-day overnight with her troop where they held a special late-night ceremony, complete with candle-lit pathway to receive their bronze awards. It was her first overnight without Mom, and she did great! Sister also had annual homeschool testing this week. Once again I used the PASS test, and remain pleased with it - primarily the focus on measuring the child's own path on the continuum of knowledge in the three subject areas. Sister was a pill about the test-taking, but was also distracted by houseguests that week - sometimes life throws unexpected curve balls your way, and we rolled with it all the best we could.

March 2010:
March brought the end of Girl Scout cookie season in our area. I was our troop's Cookie Mom again, and was quite ready for the crazy cookie selling season to be over! Hubby and I also celebrated 13 years of marriage this month, and honored the day by taking a day hike, minus our children. It was wonderful. Not that I mind our family hikes - I love them, but there's something nice about being able to cover more ground and see more sights that was very freeing.

Little Brother had an exciting month. He had his first belt test in Aikido, and he got a hand-me-down bike from Sister! Brother started taking Aikido at Aikido Kids! back in mid-January, and has absolutely loved it. The classes have been really good for his self-confidence, and I love watching him help another student when he understands a concept and his partner needs a little help. I'm mostly proud of the manner in which he does it - very matter-of-fact, and without judgment in his tone of voice. Not at all like he talks to his sister at home. ;D

We also turned Big Sister's old hand-me-down bike into a new bike for Brother. We took a very pink, girly bike and painted it a metallic blue. Little Brother is very happy with it (in fact, this past weekend he rode 8 miles on it with Mom and Dad)!

At this point, in March, Big Sister was still going strong with all of her regular activities. By this time, we were drowning in activities for the two kids. Sister was in a year-long drama class that was getting ready for their shows in April, as well as swimming lessons on Wednesdays, and a Girls Tri Club that one of the moms in our homeschoool group started up. This mom is nothing short of phenomenal, and decided to use her passion for triathlons to help create an opportunity for her daughter to have more "girl time" with others her age - a problem many of us were having in common with our 10-12 year olds. They're feeling too old for parkdays, but too young (and really, too silly) to hang out with the teens, so this was a great solution. So, Sister is in training for a Kids Triathlon!

April 2010:
April was show time for Sister's class play "The Ozard of Wiz". She played "Glinda, the Good Witch of the North", as well as a couple of other smaller parts. The whole cast was a little rusty going into dress rehearsals, but they pulled it off in the end, putting on a great performance. It was extra special to be the last show on the old Studio East stage. We're looking forward to seeing the new digs very soon!

April also brought Easter:

And trips to the local park with a farm:

And fun homeschool science (ice cream in a bag):

And overnight camp outs with the girl scout troop:
(Thankfully this 20 minute, torrential thunderstorm was the only nasty weather we had that weekend!)

May 2010:
We went over to Yakima, with my sister and nephew, for Mother's Day weekend. My dad had arranged for the kids to participate in a Fish-In for kids, where the kids got their own rod and reel to keep. My kids weren't particularly successful with the fish that day, but have continued their excitement for fishing. They spend part of each day practicing their casting technique in the backyard. I need to get them back out on the water soon!

Gorgeous, sunny weather coaxed our homeschooling outdoors. With my various volunteer commitments seeming to be kicked into high gear all at once, I've had to resort to homeschooling when the opportunity strikes. This arrangement has us down to doing book work roughly 3 days per week, and I plan to go ahead and work through the summer.

So that's us in the past few months! LK

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Update, Jan26

All is well! We're just keeping busy. We all survived the flu in December, recovering in time to enjoy the holidays.

Big Sister continues to read voraciously. She's struggling with rote memorization of math facts, so we continue to plug away in the math book while doing daily times table review. This makes her scowl, but she admits it's needed at this point. She's also doing daily journal writing, which is off-limits to teacher mom - I just wanted to see her getting comfortable with daily writing, without the pressure of spelling things perfectly. Seems to be working. Retention of spelling words is a struggle - she aces the tests, but can't seem to remember them in her writing. Not sure how to make that connection.

Little Brother is happily homeschooling. He's my eager learner right now, waking with a smile, and running downstairs to start his day. He's progressing nicely, and isn't being held back by a lot of the perfectionism that was paralyzing him when he came out of school in October. He's really into building k'nex and LEGO models right now - builds them, takes them apart, builds them again. He likes following the instruction manuals. Brother also just started an Aikido class last week. He tried it out last Tuesday, and while he did enjoy the class, he initially told me he didn't want to do it again "because they do stuff in there that I don't know how to do". See? The whole perfectionism thing. We talked about how that's kind of the point of taking a class - to learn how to do something you don't know how to do from someone who can share their knowledge with you, or to enjoy doing something with other people, even if you're "not that good" yet. He must have thought about it for a couple of days and decided that it was fun enough to take the risk. His next class is this afternoon - I'll be sure to take a picture in his new uniform!