Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Protecting Ourselves From the Sickies

It's upon us now. Not in our family yet, but all around us. This is the time of year when I start making a plan to deal with the winter cold/flu season. So far we've been pretty lucky. Last year, Sunshine and Gem both got sick enough to take to the doctor, and for both of them, it was because Mama's strict immune-building regimen wasn't followed. Sunshine, after disregarding my advice as "hippie junk" last year, remarked to me after her doctor visit, "Mama, next time I'm going to follow your advice."
Even so, having five children, I don't think that's too bad of a track record.
And also for the record, I believe mainstream medicine and doctors have their place. I am greatful that we have antibiotics available to fight things like pneumonia, which I have had to deal with twice in mothering my children; it's scary. I do think that most of the time, we can do better with helping our bodies work properly and letting our bodies heal themselves.

The first thing we do is cut out refined sugars (including high fructose corn syrup) and processed foods, which weaken our immune systems. I get lax over the summer, giving in to pizza, ice cream, and other fun stuff, but now is the time where I become very strict about our diet. It's hard to do most of my cooking from scratch when I am working, but I have to remind myself that avoiding the illnesses or fighting them off quickly is worth it in the long run. We strive to stick with whole foods as much as possible, ie, foods that grow out of the ground or that we make ourselves. If I make it, I know everything that goes in it. Snacks will be fruit and raw veggies, with the occasional homemade muffins (made with ingredients like whole wheat flour, rolled oats, and honey instead of sugar.) I think I'll post another blog soon with ideas and recipes for healthy snacks for the kidlets.

I'll begin giving my children vitamin supplements with extra C and zinc.

At the first sign of sniffles or scratchy throats, I'll begin giving elderberry syrup, which is an anti-viral. I usually also add an ecchinacea/astragulus blend for good measure.

Our grandmothers were very wise in using chicken soup to treat colds. I don't mean canned chicken soup, I mean the real homemade stuff. I usually have a big pot of some sort of homemade soup simmering on my stove throughout most of the winter. The chicken broth will help keep us hydrated and has protein which will help our bodies to heal. Throughout the year, anytime I have chicken, I will simmer the bones on the stove for a whole day, strain, and freeze the broth for later use when I am sick and don't feel like cooking. I add lots of onions and garlic to my soups, which not only help it taste good, but offers protection for our immune systems. If we want an even bigger boost, we add a bit of cayenne pepper and/or miso.

Herbal tea is another thing we keep on hand, particularly chamomile or peppermint. Chamomille is soothing and healing. Peppermint soothes upset stomachs. To make full use of the medicinal properties of tea, we steep the herbs for at least 20 minutes. We add honey and lemon to our tea; both have immune-boosting and healing properties.
For coughs and sore throats, ginger tea is easy to make. In fact, while you are looking at the ginger tea recipe on the Learning Herbs page, look at the other links to the right. I use many of these natural remedies mentioned. They work well for us.

We stay healthier and feel better following a natural health regimen than we do eating "convenience foods", getting sick, and treating it with over-the-counter medicines and doctor visits. It may seem to some like I go to great lengths, and it may seem like a lot of trouble, but really, it's just what you get used to. It's worth it to me if it cuts down on us missing out on our work/schoolwork/activities or if it keeps us from going to the doctor.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Sunshine Won Grand Champion!

This year, on the spur of the moment, I took the children to enter some of their artwork into the county fair. They had fun and were proud to see the ribbons they won...
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Caveman got a first and a second place ribbon for his artwork, a bee drawn with crayon and a flower painted with watercolor:
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Mojo got second place ribbons for her crayon drawings, a butterfly and a dolphin:
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And Sunshine got a blue ribbon and grand champion!
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She draws people as animals, and the grand champion drawing is her self-portrait. The sky is raining candy.
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Way to go kids!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Juju Bear is walking!

Last week, while I was at work, I got an IM from Bear. It read "I have not confirmed, but the kids insist that they saw Juju walk." He went on to say that Juju was smiling and clapping as if he seemed awfully proud of himself about something.
I hurried home that morning eager to see for myself if there was something to this rumor. It didn't take long for Juju to show off for me. It was true! Of course I grabbed the camera. It's hard to get a good video, because when he sees I have the camera, well, you know how babies do. And he only takes about 5-6 steps and sits down. But here is one I got today...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Our Homeschool

I am not even going to pretend that I will keep this up throughout the school year, but I do want to share on occasion what we're doing in our homeschool. This week is easy, being our first full week and all. While we have our lesson plans and about half of our books, we are still waiting on the other half of our books to arrive at any time. That's OK, we're not in a rush, and there are plenty of fun things to learn without books!

I always like to see how other homeschool families do things, where they teach their lessons, and how they have their areas and supplies organized, so I'll share some pictures of our school for any other curious folks. And for those of you who are unfamiliar with homeschooling, here is just one example of what it can look like. Each family is different, and there are so many different ways to do things! Some moms/dads are much more organized than I am, and some moms/dads are much more laid-back than I am. It's all good.

We do our work at the dining room table, and we have a bulletin board and dry erase board to help us keep track of lesson plans, activities, library books, etc.
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In the corner is a file cabinet with all our supplies and folders of the children's work. We like to recycle and reuse as we are able, and large cans work very well for organizing supplies.
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Off the dining room is a little nook, joining the children's bedrooms and bathroom. In this little nook is where we keep our homeschooling booksheves. Each child has a shelf with their books and personal supplies, topped with arts and crafts supplies. On the opposite wall is our "library". The books for the older children are on the top shelves, and the board books are on the bottom where little hands can reach them. (I didn't take a picture of this shelf because it's a mess right now. I'm looking for something a bit more sturdy this week.)
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We use Accountable Kids to help our children learn responsibility. We want them to understand what is expected of them and to become self-directed in completing their daily tasks.

Here is what we are working on this week. Mojo is brushing up on what she learned in 2nd grade...how to write fractions, "trading" (what we used to call carrying/borrowing), synonyms/homonyms/antonyms, adjectives and adverbs, being verbs and helping verbs, and states' capitals. She is a strong reader and naturally curious about science, so we mainly follow her interests in these areas. She currently learning about dragonflies, since we saw so many on our picnic the other day.

Caveman is learning how to categorize things, how to listen to and follow intructions, and practicing drawing straight lines and counterclockwise circles in preparation for learning to write his letters and numbers. He loves drawing and coloring, and I think he does remarkably well at staying in the lines. Sometimes I can't tell the difference between his and Mojo's work! Except that Mojo chooses more "realistic" colors for her coloring pages, and Caveman prefers to be more "bright and creative."

For Gem, we will focus on a different letter, number, color or shape, and theme each week, using Letter of the Week. This is the preparatory curriculum, as she is only 2 1/2, and it's mainly intended to keep her busy while we work on our lessons. But the older kids still enjoy coloring along with whatever they are doing. This week our letter is A, our number is 1, our shape is a square, and our theme is cows.

Our saint this week is St. Augustine, whose feast day was on August 28.

Our Scripture memory verse is 2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (The younger ones will memorize an abbreviated version.)

To go along with our saint and Scripture, we will be practicing the virtue of Knowledge, which is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I found some good information on the virtues here.
"The gift of knowledge perfects the virtue of faith. It enables those who have it to judge the whole spectrum of creatures and objects from a supernatural viewpoint. Through infused knowledge the faithful can see God’s providence in whatever enters their lives and put creatures to the right use.
The gift of knowledge is often called 'the science of the saints' because it enables those who have it to swiftly discern between the impulses of temptation and the inspirations of grace."

We will practice this virtue by learning new things and memorizing our Scripture verse. In addition, Mojo will begin to work on memorizing the books of the Bible in order. To give the children a visual, and to keep the virtues we will be learning in the children's minds, I made a poster! Yes, I know I am a nerd, patting myself on the back for my awesome creativity. :-P

We are also incorporating our music education into our letter of the week. This week, we will be learning about Aaron Copland and listening to some of his music. I am adding another ipod to the right of my page with the music we will be listening to as part of our music education, if anyone else would like to listen. I plan to give Moriah piano lessons this year, but I will also encourage the younger children to be able to find and tap out the beat, hum the melody, and identify instruments as we listen to our music.

And we are continuing our unit study of the American flag. We will be learning the words to some of our American hymns and coloring pictures of our flag to hang on our wall for Labor Day. Mojo will write a letter to a soldier who is serving our country somewhere overseas, and we will address it properly and prepare to send it off. In the evening, we will take our flag down and learn to fold it properly, recalling what each of the folds mean.

So there ya go. This is what homeschooling looks like in our family.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Our First Day of School

What? Didn't school already start weeks ago?
Not for us, it didn't! I have this hang-up about starting school in August. It's too hot. August is still summer. I'm just never ready then.
Last year, since we had a new baby on August 18, we didn't start school until October. No harm done. This year, I circled September 1st on my calendar as the day we would begin. The weather has been cooler, with a little chill in the evenings. Yesterday was a beautiful bright, sunny, warm (not hot!) day...perfect for the first day of school. We decided to kick off our school year with a picnic.
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Mojo is in 3rd grade, and Caveman is in kindergarten this year. I would not even bother starting "sit down lessons" with Caveman if he weren't showing such an interest. I think little boys are often not ready to start sitting still with a pencil in their hands at the time we impose it upon them. But Caveman shows interest in what his sister is doing when she reads and writes, spends a lot of time at the table drawing, attempts to write letters, and he really wants to learn to read. I'll provide him with instruction in the areas he shows interest. But I feel no need to push him at this age.
He is excited to be starting kindergarten. This morning when I told the children to get started on their chore cards because we would be starting our lessons soon, Mojo groaned. Caveman said "But Mojo, homeschool is FUN!" I got all the children some new supplies, including cool pencil bags, new lunchboxes, rulers, and fresh new crayons and glue sticks. Everyone also got a new pair of shoes.

We will be using Kolbe Academy this year. At this time, I appreciate the lesson plans and having everything all laid out for me. Between teaching a 3rd grader, teaching a kindergartner to read and write, keeping a 2 1/2-year-old entertained, and keeping a 1-year-old from getting into everything...I need things as streamlined as possible at this point. I will also once again be doing Preschool Letter of the Week with Gem, as she enjoys doing "school" as her attention span allows.

In addition to our core curriculum, each week we will learn about a Saint (following our Catholic calendar of feast days), practice a virtue, memorize a Scripture verse, and learn about a composer and listen to music from that composer for the week.

As all of our books are not in at this time, we've been reviewing what we learned last year with Mojo and practicing how to hold a pencil/crayon and letter strokes (like slanted lines or drawing circles counter-clockwise) with Caveman.
We are also doing a small unit study on the American flag. We are learning the history behind our flag, how it has evolved over the years, the meaning behind the symbols, the pledge of allegiance, the Star Spangled Banner (and what the words mean), flag etiquette and care, and the meaning behind why the flag is folded the way it is. Did you know that each fold means something? I didn't until now. Just one of the many reasons I love teaching my children at home!