Monday, February 25, 2013

Packing Up...

Hard to believe that Xander was Greta's
age the last time we moved...
Well, this is moving week.  We are hard at work packing 'virtual boxes' and working on transitioning to a new home on the internet.  As I prepare, I'm finding some of the emotions that I felt when we moved into our physical home 7 years ago resurfacing:

What to pack up, what to leave?
How do I want to pack it up?
Daydreaming about what my new home will be like...
Missing the idea of the familiarity of my current blog home.

But all in all, change is good and I know that God is leading me every step of the way.  I started to freak out on Saturday as I started thinking through what I needed to do to get ready and God was ever so kind to bring to mind Psalm 127:1

"Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain."

I found myself reciting it over and over again as I fell asleep.  I awoke this morning wit a renewed purpose to rely on Him - His leading and provision, not only for the building of my new blog home, but more importantly the building of my physical home.  The place where we love, learn and live!  Speaking of home, I had linked an amazing post on the 'perfect home' on my facebook page.  I've read Ann's post now several times and nod my amen each and every time I read that "a home is a safe place, a refuge, a place to be real and alive and truest true." If you haven't read it yet, do it.  I promise you'll be blessed.

So be watching, because when it is ready {enough}, I plan to invite you all to a house-warming party!  I'm shooting for Friday, but definitely by next Monday. I'm so excited to share and give away resources and things that my family loves and that goes into the 'making of our home!'

For now, here is a tiny sneak peek. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rainy Day Reading

Incentive was high today to get through the basics quickly.  It was raining and that is cause for celebrating here in the desert! Late morning, we piled into the car with our umbrellas in tow.  As we headed out to the mountain range near our home to hike, the rain picked up.  With the streets starting to flood, I realized that hiking was out of the question.

We made a quick detour to the library. With a stack of fresh books in hand, we settled in for the rest of the day! 


We are wrapping up our exploration of astronomers.  I was pretty disappointed with the offerings on Isaac Newton at our local library.  I was reminded once again how important it is to preview books in this day and age...  I'm thankful for Amazon reviews that saved me the trouble with this biography.  {Have you ever checked amazon reviews before checking a book out from the library?  It has saved me on more than one occasion.}  From the cover it looks quite engaging.  But why, oh why do authors feel the need to devote an entire chapter of a children's book to wild speculations about homo se xuality?  ugh.  After a little bit of research, I discovered that this author incorporates homosexual content into several of her biographies.  She's now on my 'avoid' list. 

Based on our enjoyment of the biography of Johannes Kepler that I wrote about a few weeks ago, I made the trek up to "Oma's library" this morning and retrieved this engaging biography about Isaac Newton.  We are hooked.  It is so fun to watch my kids become wrapped up in the story and learn some great science in the process.  We've been eating apples and jumping off chairs to test the limits of gravity this week!

:warning: soap box rant ahead...

We live in such a sex-crazed culture and it grieves me that it has infiltrated our children's books.  I think we've lost touch with what is appropriate for children and what isn't.  In my opinion, discussing a person's sexual orientation, in the context of one's scientific achievements is irrelevant.  This is  especially true in a children's book.  There is a time and a place to discuss the ways of our fallen world, but this is not the context and this is not the time.  And besides, wouldn't we much rather our children hear about the beauty of marital love before they understand the ins and outs surrounding how it has become twisted?   Maybe I'm alone in this - and that's ok, but I would prefer to protect my children at this age and discuss these topics on my terms and in the timing that I deem appropriate if possible.

I'm thankful that there are options and that I have the freedom and opportunity to select books that are not only rich from a literary standpoint {another one of my soap boxes}, but also that steers clear of inappropriate content.

Yup, we'll stick to the Sower Series whenever possible for biographies!  And at the rate that libraries are ditching good books, I'll probably start buying books that we find especially delightful.  Maybe someday, my grandkids will get to benefit from 'my' library just like my kids get to now.

We did find a few good books at our library on various astronomers including: Nicolaus Copernicus: the Earth is a Planet, I Galileo, Galileo's Journal.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When Your Homeschool Day Gets Hijacked

The last few weeks have been going so much better as we've finally hit our stride and slipped into a rhythm that works well for this season, only to get hijacked... the teething toddler.  Poor thing has been miserable as sharp bits of enamel and dentin make their steady outward push.  She has wanted to be held, rocked, comforted, nursed and fed on a rapidly repeating cycle...  She has desired 100% of my attention.  And that has rocked my precariously positioned rhythm.

Fickle-being that I am, I started to melt down inside.  The boys did too.  It is hard to focus on things like math when there is crying and mom is pacing around, only half-focused on the lesson...  Read-aloud time, my normal go-to during times like this, didn't even work.  Frustration grew - not at her, poor thing, but at the situation.  I found myself starting to grumble and looking for an escape.  Mercifully, the computer was not an option as she won't tolerate my attention being diverted to that bright beast.  In fact, she handles spelling lessons while I juggle her in my lap far better.

Have any of you ever felt like your day was hijacked? I know for me it can sometimes happen when a child repeatedly melts down in frustration, sibling bickering seems unending, we find ourselves in an unexpected financial situation with extra bills to pay or some situation crops up with a friend that deserves my prayer, but not my focused thoughts all day...

When any of these things interfere with what I need to be doing I sometimes flail about feeling defeated, but sometimes I listen to that little Holy Spirit nudge and seek to refresh my perspective.

He usually nudges me to do this:

Pray and release my concerns and circumstances to the Lord.

Pray for perspective.  It is a short, short season.  We have an opportunity to grow in compassion.

Pray for fresh eyes.  Life is beautiful, even in its mess and even in the midst of challenge. Necessity of the mother of invention. Focus in the midst of new challenges helps us find creative solutions!

Pray for renewed focus.  What COULD we get done that day?  How could we better capitalize on naptime? 

On this particular day, I grabbed my camera and searched for beauty.  I searched for tiny remnants of progress.  I looked to see where God was at work in our lives...

I calmed down, held my baby girl and focused on what could be done instead of what we could not accomplish...  And this turned around our entire day!  Everyone, even poor little Greta, felt better.
And I'm reminded yet again how much influence I have on the culture and atmosphere of our home.

 {spider diagrams for a writing assignment can be done while pacing!}
 {Auntie, Opa and a little cousin arriving for lunch help us relax and see the beauty as well!}

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Everyday Cultivating of a Marriage

I am so very excited today to introduce you all to my friend, Jamie.  Jamie is a real-life friend who has a beautiful blog and a big heart for cultivating marriage!  I remember sitting with her and discussing marriage last year with some other ladies from our homeschool support group and leaving so inpsired.  Her enthusiasm is contagious.  And she is here today sharing a bit of her heart for how we can cultivate our marriages!  Oh and by the way, be sure to check out her post on Ways to Bless Your Hubby.  I'm a firm believer that when we work to build our marriage relationship that the whole family is strenghened as a result.  Thanks Jamie for continuing to inspire me!
Hi, everyone! I’m Jamie from One Blessed Lady and I am absolutely tickled pink to be here.  I just love Heather and all she does to cultivate learning and family here at Cultivated Lives.  Thanks for letting me invade your blog today, Heather.
I love that I get share with you some of the ways that my husband and I cultivate our marriage in the everyday.  Like some of you, we homeschool three out of our five with two toddlers in tow, so it would be very easy to let our marriage slip to the backburner. 

We are absolutely not willing to let that happen because marriage happens to be a passion of ours.  Not just our marriage but yours and yours and hers over there.  Marriage is hard enough in real life.  I hope I can help encourage you today.
One of the ways that we make sure that our marriage is getting the time and attention it needs is by being fiercely protective of our time together.  It sounds really easy, yes?  {We are all nodding here.}   With our busy schedules, it takes real intention to keep bits of time for each other.  And I’m not just talking about planning date nights, although those are always good.  I’m talking about when you’re living day-by-day, down in the trenches.  Here’s a confession that might shock you… After our kids go to bed, I do nothing except be with my husband.  Did some of you faint?  Of course there are those nights that are the exception, but for the most part, that time is his.  Sometimes we read or watch tv or unload the dishwasher.  I let him decide because it’s his time.  If that means dishes are left in the sink or laundry goes unfolded, so be it.  We also get up early together to have time to pray and share a cup of coffee.  While some mornings it’s hard for me to pull myself out from under the protective layers of covers, it’s always worth it.  When can you squeeze out of your day just for your spouse? 

Another way that we work on our marriage is by cultivating a sense of fun and excitement/adventure with each other.  I really love that I can be my complete and absolute silly self with my hubby and vice versa.  We laugh about the craziest things every time we’re together.  We have dance parties, bubble-blowing contests, races, play “Would You Rather…”, lip sync to every kind of music under the sun and make fun of people on tv.  Every couple is different and being silly might not be your thing.  But what makes you laugh as a couple?  Whatever it is, do it!  Flirt, get your sparkle back, remember why you fell in love in the first place.  Don’t be afraid to be foolish together.  When those tough days come, as we all know they do, being able to laugh will act as a pressure valve between the two of you.   The best sound that your kids can fall asleep to at night is the sound of their parents laughing together.

Thanks again, Heather, for letting me visit over here today.  I hope you have a great Valentine’s Day!

How do YOU cultivate your marriage in the everyday?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Birthday Balloon Surprises and C.H.A.N.G.E.S. Coming!

Last month my niece turned FIVE!  To celebrate her birthday, we set to work writing special birthday notes and pictures that we tucked inside tiny balloons.  In honor of her 5 years, we also tucked in 5 one dollar bills.  I had seen a similar idea on pinterest and decided that this would be the perfect way to celebrate her birthday.  The boys were thrilled to put the gift together, popping balloons to retrieve treasures on the other end eagerly carried out.  As a bonus, mailing that big box didn't break the bank.

Knowing how fixated my kids are when they earn or receive dollar bills, I figured that would be the highlight.  When I asked my sister if the money gift was a hit, she told me that my precious niece actually valued the copious amount of rolled up notes and pictures.  She carried them around as 'treasure' for several days.  I just love the hearts of young children...

Oh the joy of planning little surprises.

Speaking of surprises, I'm excited to let you know that big C.H.A.N.G.E.S. are coming to the blog!  As in BIG.  I won't be here in a few weeks.  I'm moving! {to a new blog address}  Similar heart and content, but with a renewed focus and a new home! I'm so excited for the direction the Lord is leading with this and can't wait to bring you all with me for the big moving party!  So be sure to check in, or better yet subscribe via email so you won't miss a thing!

Monday, February 11, 2013

President's Day: Favorite Books and Fun Games

We had so much fun learning about the Presidents this last year.

My little guy will still recite his summary of William Henry Harrison's presidency that he did for our Caramel Apple Election event last fall.  In fact, in a bit of silliness, we decided to share it with you today!  I have to say that trying to make a 'movie' with 3 goofball boys and a teething toddler made for an interesting adventure. But the fits of giggles as we watched each attempt were worth it. I went ahead and included a few of our 'outtakes.'  Enjoy the little history lesson!

{If you can't see the video, click here.}

With President's Day around the corner, we thought we'd dust off a few books and a few activities, including a fun game that I put together to help them learn about the presidents. 

Favorite Books:

The President's Stuck in the Bathtub was probably one of my children's favorite books.  These zany poems were engaging and enticed my children to delve in and discover more about the life of each of our presidents!  If my memory serves me well, I think this is where Treyton was inspired to put together his summary for President William Henry Harrison.

Woodrow the White House Mouse ~ we loved this delightful book about a parallel U.S. presidency for mice.   It was such a fun introduction to learning about the presidency.  We read this when we were learning about the three branches of government.  I think we enjoyed the companion books, House Mouse, Senate Mouse and Marshall, the Courthouse Mouse, even more!  If I had to pick, I think Marshall, the Courthouse Mouse was my favorite simply because it helped make the Supreme Court understandable, even for the preschooler. My mom ended up buying all three books for her 'Oma library' and we will definitely be visiting her library to borrow these again!

We loved these books so much that I jumped at the opportunity to preview their newest book, President Adam's Alligator.   It was released just last week! When this book arrived, the boys tore open the package and insisted that we read the book immediately.  It was a fun, light-hearted book that introduced us to the many pets our presidents have owned.  For instance, we learned that William Taft owned the last cow that lived on the White House grounds.  I think the boys favorite page detailed Tad Lincoln crashing his mother's tea party in the East Room when he hooked up a kitchen chair to his two goats, Nanny and Nanko.  The illustration on that page alone kept them in stitches for a while...  I think we'll add this to our regular reading routine each President's Day!

And finally, recommended reads for President's Day couldn't be complete without including books about the big birthday boys this month, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

Have you read any books by the Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire?  If not, then you are missing out.  I was tickled pink to find a homeschool mom nearing the end of her journey who wanted to sell most of their books at a great price!  We love the engaging text and mesmerizing illustrations.  Their book about Abraham Lincoln was no exception.  Our local library didn't have many of the D'Aulaire books, so I'm excited that these now have a permanent place on our bookshelves!  The boys enjoyed reading about this lanky lad's childhood and the factors that helped him become one of our greatest presidents.

We've read this George Washington book several times.  Again, the boys are drawn to the illustrations and don't mind the quantity of text.  The length is almost short chapter book in length, but with the rich illustrations, they stay glued to me on the couch as we dive through this book in only a setting or two.  This book too followed George Washington from childhood until the end of his life.  It was so much fun to get a feel for his personality as we read this book.

But enough of sitting on the couch.  If you want to have some hands-on fun, I'd check out some of these activities.

Guess Who? President's Edition
I saw this idea floating around Pinterest, but there wasn't a complete printable included, so I set to work to put one together where I could mix and match from all of the presidents.  The result is endless variations of Guess Who? games!  I even added information to ask answers that help you learn presidential trivia as well, including the president's by century, political party, whether they served in the military or not, war-time presidents, presidents who appear on currency, etc. 

Presidential Breakfast
What better way to start the day than by eating George Washington's breakfast of choice.  We loved reading this delightful book and then making his breakfast!

Presidential Sorting and Sequencing
I love the idea of using these printable president cards and sorting out the order that Toddler Approved put together. We did this with President flashcards that we bought from Target last year and plan on doing it again next week to see how much the boys remember.
President Quotes Copywork
I was inspired by reading these quotes from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln that Ami from Walking by the Way put together for some President's Day copywork that I pinned to my Patriotic Holidays board.  I'm sure you will be too.

Abraham Lincoln Audio Book Freebies
And finally, Homeschool Freebie of the Day is posting free downloads on Tuesday and Wednesday for MP3 audio books about Abraham Lincoln's childhood and teen years!  You'll want to be sure and check their website on both days and download it while you can. {Freebie's are only up for this week before they disappear!}

*Disclosure: we were sent a copy of President Adam's Alligator to preview.  The review and recommendation are entirely my own.  I'm downright picky when it comes to reviewing products and to date have turned down nearly every offer that has come in.  I'll only review products that I am very interested in and would buy regardless....

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Motivating - No One Size Fits All Solution

Potty training has to be my least favorite part of parenting.  It is messy and stressful.  And oh the pressure I felt from friends, the culture and myself.  Ugh.

After a couple of messy starts with my oldest, I waited until he was good and ready and then accomplished the feat of diapers-to-underwear, in a weekend with only an occasional accident afterwards. "Naked time" proved to be the trick for him.  My extended family found it a little disturbing, but it worked and I wasn't left with soiled underwear or carpet.

Fast-forward to Keegan.  I knew enough this time around to wait.  As a seasoned parent, I now knew EXACTLY how to do this! Sure enough shortly before his third birthday he showed signs of being ready.  Confidently, I planned for our weekend.  My hubby took Xander and Treyton out for the morning, so we could focus. {Oh my heart leapt at the thought of being oh so very close to less diaper changing!}

The weekend was a flop.  This son of mine hated naked time, could care less about his pride or my carpet and refused to 'try' when I asked him too.  Frustrated and convinced that this stubborn son of mine would be in diapers forever, I started to put the train, airplane and dino undies away...  Keegan balked.  As cheerfully as I could I got down at his level and explained that it was ok, but he wasn't ready.  With three little boys running around, mommy didn't have the patience or inclination to deal with wet underwear and carpet.  Keegan persisted in asking for the underwear.  Finally, in a moment of Providence, I agreed to give him one more chance.  I calmly told him that he could wear underwear, like his big brother, as long as he kept them dry.  With a steady, focused gaze, this nearly 3 year old son of mine agreed to my bargain, grabbed the underware and got dressed.  That week he potty trained himself.  This boy of mine was self-motivated.  When he put his mind to a task, he was tenacious.  While Xander thrived on words of affirmation and having me there for guidance and encouragment, Keegan simply wanted to be left alone.

And then son #3.  Don't get me started...  This happy-go-lucky guy took his own path.  A messier one.  But we survived.

What I learned through all of this was to value them as unique human beings. They each had special temperaments and abilities.  What ultimately motivated them was as unique as they were.  I'm learning day-by-day to embrace their distinct personalities.  I'm learning to rely on the Holy Spirit in communicating with them and reaching their hearts.

When it comes to homeschooling, these same lessons apply.  There are moments when I just sit, befuddled.  How do I teach this one?  What am I doing wrong?  This 'technique' or that 'approach' worked for 'so and so', etc...  Just like with the potty training example, I'm learning that each of my children are wired differently.  God created them special and unique.  He entrusted them to me which means that God is going to provide me the means to figure them each out. 

And you know what?  He's going to do that for you too.  As you read, pray and try new things with your children, He is going to provide.  He always does.  Sometimes we live such noisy, distracted lives that we don't hear it. 

I've been praying a lot lately for wisdom in how to motivate these unique human beings that I'm called to train and educate.  And God dropped this little nugget in my lap.  I found this great article by Marilyn Boyer on the 4 Motivational Types of Learners.  She talks about 4 primary motivational categories:
  • the self-directed learner
  • the sensitive learners
  • the slothful learners
  • the steady learner
In addition to describing characteristics that apply to each, she also gives a treasure trove of ideas on how to motivate them.   It was eye-opening, encouraging and practical.  This mama of 14 {no, that is not a typo} would know a bit about unique learning styles, wouldn't she?  I need to print this off for my lesson-plan binder.  I also enjoyed the reminder to embrace their differences when I read her related post on Struggling Learners.

Pause, pray and then move out in faith.  If God has called you to teach these children of yours, He will give you the grace and ability to do it!