Friday, May 29, 2009

What Happened? Why Homeschooling?

Granted many families know from the get-go that they want to homeschool. This was not the case for us. Jeff had mentioned the possibility of it to me years ago, but I quickly turned it down. I loved school and have fond memories of it; I wanted my kids to have same.


Our oldest son, Will (age 6 1/2) just completed his first year of kindergarten in a public school and the year was much less than what I had hoped it would be. Although it started out well, his original(and wonderful) teacher was diagnosed with breast cancer right before Thanksgiving and she had to take a leave of absence for her treatments. The class went through three different substitutes; the last one was a (newly) certified teacher and she was hired for the remainder of the school year.

With each substitute came transition periods, different teaching styles, and just plain havoc on the much needed structure of a 5-6 year old's day. There were days Will didn't want to go to school... and I didn't want to send him... and sometimes I didn't. We had "family vacation days" where we just de-stressed together.

The teacher that remained was new to teaching, had done her studies with 3rd graders, and had no children of her own. Now, you certainly don't have to have children of your own to be a good teacher, but it does give you a different perspective. I know I am a completely different person now that I have kids. (If I had been thrown in a room with 14 kindergartners before I had children... that would have been rough on me, too.)

Without the knowledge of how kids behave at this age, Will (and the other students) were getting in trouble for normal 5-6 year old behavior. There was very little positive feedback for the kids and only a handful were going to the "treasure box". Kindergarten is supposed to be fun! It is supposed to set a good foundation for years to come! It is supposed to fill a child's brain and heart with positive memories! It just wasn't doing any of those things as far as I could tell.

So in the middle of this crazy year, Jeff and I seriously considered removing Will and homeschooling for the rest of the year. Before deciding, Jeff and I met with the principal and the teacher individually. After the meetings, I explained to Will what homeschooling is and just tried to "feel him out" for his thoughts on the subject.


However, at the time there was the possibility of the original teacher returning in April so we decided to stick it out in hopes of a ending the year on a positive note. Remaining in school would also allow Will the opportunity to take the Metropolitan Readiness Test easily, of which he scored 98% out of 99% and was later invited to the gifted school for 1st and 2nd graders! Go, Will! :)

As the year progressed, it was obvious that things were not really improving. The teacher would threaten to take things away when she got mad: snack time, parent-student kite day, rest time... anything the kids looked forward to. Too bad for her they were always things she couldn't really take away. Empty threats. (Apparently she even threatened to take away the end of the year party and Will thought she had because he told me the night before that that there would be no party. So sad. He was so disappointed. I told him not to worry about it... there WOULD be a party!) UGH. Just makes me mad. Will also mentioned that she can be as "mad as a wizard sometimes". Not really what you want to hear your child say about the person they are spending a good chunk of their day with.

Well, his original teacher was not able to return in April and by then there were only two months left in the school year, which meant field day, the kindergarten play, parties, and more fun (hopefully).

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, homeschooling became a choice and not a necessity (which will be a different post). I think that was a very important step for us that has set a better foundation for the year(s) to come. As part of our choice, we decided to give him a "natural" end to the school year instead of an abrupt removal.

Was that the best choice? Would I do that again? Honestly, I really don't know, BUT... kindergarten is behind us, we have summer to look forward to, as well as what is sure to be an unforgettable 1st grade! :)

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

An Update of how the container garden is coming along...

I finally got the second tray of seedlings in pots.

The tray consisted of herbs, melons, a jalapeno plant, cucumber, broccoli, and cauliflower (6 of each). Almost all of the herbs sprouted well in the tray, but only 1 of of the watermelon and 3 of the cantelope sprouted. The broccoli and cauliflower did ok, but I was told it was too late in the season to bother planting them, so they got chunked. :(

The day after I transferred everything to pots, I completely lost the parsley, cucumbers, and thyme. I lost all but one of the cilantro and pepper plants. I don't know if I disrupted the roots too much or if the massive amount of rain we've been getting just drowned them. Either way, I was disappointed.

Since then, I have lost the watermelon plant (the leaves were broken off either by the wind and rain or three little boys... idk which.) I also lost a cucumber and cantelope by the same means.

However, from my original tray of seedlings, I have a cucumber plant thriving that actually produced a blossom for me yesterday!!! Excitement!

After walking around the yard a little bit more, I noticed several watermelon plants that are doing pretty well. They must have planted themselves from the seeds that got thrown into the compost because here is one where the compost pile used to be located:

One in the current compost:

And another one right outside the where the compost is now:

I'm having good luck with the carrots I planted straight into containers instead of starting as seedlings.

After the excitement over last year's carrot harvest, I knew we'd need more this year!

And since these guys were doing so well, I went ahead and replanted the parsley, cilantro, basil, and thyme directly into their respective containers that I had lost them in. Hopefully I see some improvement in them if they don't need to be transferred.
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Kindergarten is OVER!!!

Hallelujah! We made it through the first year of public school! This year certainly was not what I was expecting or wanting for our first experience of public schooling, but at least the end of it was fun! LOL!

Tuesday of this week was awards day and all of the kindergartners were awarded a certificate for completing the year. At first, I didn't think I would be able to go to the ceremony, so I told Will that I would check him out early that day instead (and go for ice cream... shhhh! don't tell the other boys!) :)

However, Jeff pulled a few strings and was able to do some work at home that morning so I could go. Will lit up when he saw me at the back of the gym taking pictures! I'm so glad I was able to go!!

After lunch, I went back and checked him out early while my MIL stayed with the other two boys. We went for ice cream and he chose a big waffle cone dipped in dark chocolate with a scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream... topped off with a helping of peanut butter chips! He only finished half of it because it was so sweet! Then we ran a couple short errands together before heading home.

Yesterday, he received his report card. High marks on everything except for behavior... N's in music and PE.

Today was the end of the year party. I brought Nathan and Witt with me since I knew they were keeping the party simple with just chalk, bubbles, and a quick snack. We arrived for the outside part of it and the boys had fun checking out all the kids.

After the popsicle treat, Will was ready to go. So I signed him out early and we headed home for naps. It was nice to not have to wake up Nathan to go pick up Will from school. In fact, Nathan is still snoozing. :)

Now, with Kindergarten over, you might be wondering what was decided regarding homeschooling. Well, at first I thought I wouldn't make a "formal" announcement because I received some negative comments when we were frist considering it, but this is my blog... it's about our life... and it's what we're doing. I'm not going into the whys of our choice in this post, but am putting it out there that we will begin homeschooling 1st grade in the Fall.

The family (including grandparents) are on board with our decision and we are all really excited about it. Will gets a gleam in his eye when we talk about mommy being the teacher for 1st grade. In fact, we received part of our curriculum for next year in the mail today shortly after arriving home from checking Will out. IT WAS LIKE CHRISTMAS!! Two hours after I put the curriculum away, Will came begging to see the model of the human ear! How could I resist such a request!?! :)

So, anyway, we're looking forward to summer and to putting the boot-camp kindergarten teachers behind us. (Just yesterday, Will said that his current teacher can sometimes be as "mean as a wizard!" - so I am really glad to be done!)

So there you have it... the final "big thing" that is going on. No wonder I'm looking forward to our much needed vacation!

Wishing you all a great summer!

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Try It Tuesday: Rendering Lard

Yes, you read that correctly, I rendered LARD.

Why would I do such a thing? Well, I want to cut out shortening and vegetable oils. And since I don't believe in re-inventing the wheel, I'll just point you in the direction to an article that explains why lard is better than the "normal" options.

I've already replaced vegetable oil with coconut oil for baking, but many times that coconut taste just isn't appropriate for sauteing meats or veggies. And, since we can't use real butter due to our youngest's dairy allergy, I am hoping that home-rendered lard will give us the non-hydrogenated and non-transfat option I want, while boosting flavor for meats and veggies... all while giving us a much needed healthy dose of Vitamin D! Wow, sounds like lard is going to do a lot of good things for my family! :)

So on to my experiment of rendering lard at home:

1) I used fat back and cut it into small pieces (about 1" square). This particular slab of lard was salted (and not preserved with nitrates as far as I could tell). Next time, I will remove more of the salt than I did this time.

2) After about 2 - 3 hours on low, it had mostly melted except for the "cracklins". You know it's done when the cracklins fall to the bottom instead of float. I strained it with some cheesecloth inside a collander.

Here are the cracklins (which can be eaten this way, btw, or ground up with onions and peppers into a spread, or crushed and fed to birds, etc) :

And the hot, clear liquid part - it was reddish brown:

3) I let it cool for about 20 minutes and then put it in the fridge for a more rapid cooling. By morning, it was a yellowish-white.

There is more information on rendering lard at The Nourishing Gourmet. She discusses the difference between wet and dry rendering. In her example, she uses leaf lard instead of fat back (as I used).

I haven't actually done a taste test, yet. I'll save that for another "Try It Tuesday". {grin} One last note I should make for myslef, is to not make this right before company comes over. The house does fill with the smell of pork.

All in all, I am quite please with my little experiment and look forward to trying it out!

To check out what other new things people are trying, head over to Naturally Knocked Up:

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Dangers of Genetically Engineered Foods

I ran across this and wanted to share. I can't help but wonder if this isn't part of the problem with the increase in food allergies.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Witt (2 years old this past Sunday)

"K" - ok

This is one of those words that I wish I could bottle forever. I need to get it on video somehow. At night when I rock him, he rests on my shoulder sucking his thumb while I sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". Then I say, "It's time for bed," and then he pulls his thumb out of his mouth to whisper, "K". SO cute.

Witt is also terrified at the doctor's office. About two visits ago, the nurse talked to him first and said she was going to check his temperature in his ear. Then she finished the statement with, "Ok?" Witt whispered a really shaky, "K" and let her take his temperature without screaming! Then when Dr. P was going to listen to Witt's lungs, he also prepared Witt with, "I'm just gonna take a listen, ok?" Another shaky, "K" from Witt, but no screaming!

I guess I need to get more buy-in from this kid for more peaceful transitions. :)


For time outs, we send our kids to the corner. Standing up, nose in the corner. Witt included. Sometimes he gets into such fits (foot-stomping included) that I think he forgets what he's fussing about. Then I finally just ask him, "Do you need to go stand in the corner?" He nods almost every time! I tell him to go, and he does. Within 10 seconds he's calmer and a much happier child. I think it's hilarious that he thinks he needs to go to the corner! :)

And then he lays his head on me and says, "Sah- E" (sorry)


Mine, shur (share), turn (my turn), gen (again) are all common parts of his vocabulary, too. I guess those words are really important to a third child! :)


Nathan, age 3 1/2

Apparently there are two other little boys at school that say "guys" a lot. Nathan has picked this up:

"Hey guys!", "Come 'ere guys", "Watch guys" :)

Nathan is FINALLY getting to full-fledged sentences.

"Hi, mom and dad."

I asked him what daddy's name was and this was his response was a full sentence!

"Daddy's name is Daddy Jeff." (cute!)

We're still having some obedience problems. He doesn't want to do what he's told to do; he wants to do the telling.

"You bey me" - "You obey me"

He is, however, making an honest attempt at not making "the face" when he's mad. The face is made when he tilts his head down, snarles his eyebrows and looks up as far as his eyes will go. I don't know if that makes any sense, but once you've seen the face, you'd know what I was talking about. :)


Will - age 6 1/2

Although Will talks A LOT, I can't seem to remember anything specifically right now.

Still inquisative about trains. I bought him a book entitled "Yesterday's Trains" and he loving the pictures and having us read it to him.

He has little desire to read on his own, but loves a book read to him. He can read, he just doesn't want to, so I'm trying not to push.

He's starting to show an intrest in dogs. He loves watching Wishbone, and we are currently reading a Wishbone chapter book together. He also asked to watch Hotel for Dogs, which was really cute. He's also asking for a puppy, but I keep telling him that we've got two huge "puppies" in the backyard that need our love. He's taken on the chore of feeding them and seems to enjoy it.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Nathan's Nose

I don't think I mentioned this, but last month I took Nathan to see Dr. P, our pediatrician, because of a sinus infection. Nathan never really seems to be able to breathe and he's always plugged up. Lots of sneezing in the morning. He has been on Allegra twice daily for 18 months now.

Dr. P decided to do a sinus x-ray to see what was going on. The sinus cavity below his right eye was 100% packed and the other was 75% packed. He was put on a very strong antibiotic (Cleocin) 3 times a day for 3 weeks. Nathan was on this same regimen last year for the same problem.

If the sinus infection didn't clear up, we'd be headed to an ENT.

Thankfully, it did clear up. This past week, I took Nathan back in and had a follow up x-ray taken. Although he wasn't congested, he still couldn't breathe really well through his nose. The x-ray showed why... there is is some sort of polyp or cyst or something that has grown in his right sinus cavity. It fills 1/4 - 1/3 of the cavity! Dr. P gave Nathan a steroid nasal spray and switched him to Zyrtec because I felt like the Allegra wasn't working for him. The remaining instructions are to return mid-July for another x-ray (if Nathan makes it that far without getting another infection). Oh joy.

Wanting to be an informed mother, I dutifully google sinus polyps when I get home. Here's the highlighted paragraph that lead me to stress:

It should be noted that although nasal and sinus polyps are rare in children, they should be taken very seriously. Any child with nasal and sinus polyps should be screened for cystic fibrosis, Kartagener's syndrome, and allergic fungal sinusitis.

Again more googling.

The characteristics for cystic fibrosis generally include: No bowel movements in first 24 to 48 hours of life, Stools that are pale or clay colored , foul smelling, or that float, Infants may have salty-tasting skin, Recurrent respiratory infections such as pneumonia or sinusitis, Coughing or wheezing, Weight loss, or failure to gain weight normally in childhood, Diarrhea, Delayed growth, Fatigue

Thankfully, he only exhibits the that I've highlighted in red.

As for the list of common symptoms of Kartagener's Syndrome:

  • chronic rhinitis
  • recurrent or chronic sinusitis
  • recurrent or chronic bronchitis
  • bronchiectasis
  • olfactory impairment
  • infertility
Characteristic features of fungal sinusitis are signs or symptoms of chronic sinusitis unresponsive to antibiotic therapy. Well, that's ruled out, too. It might take some strong antibiotics t knock out his sinus infections, but at least they do respond.

Now, I must point out that Dr. P did not mention any of this. Sometimes I think the internet gives us too much information. Dr. P only said that the "growth" was unusual and that if the steroidal spray did not reduce or remove it that we'd need to go to an ENT.

Now five days later after his appointmetn, Nathan's nose is starting to run again. The sneezing has decreased, so I think the Zyrtec is doing a better job than the Allegra, but he's still not breathing normally. I don't think we'll make it to July and truthfully, that's ok with me because I'd like to get this taken care of so my little boy can be comfortable. Poor little guy. :(

Say a little prayer for Nathan, please!

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Witt!

My BABY turned two!!!! Where did the time go?????

Lovin' on Gran (Jeff's mom):

Gran and PaPaw gave him a T-ball set!!

Will boxed up some of his trains and cars to give to Witt! :)

Help from Nathan in opening the spiky blocks (for lack of a better description) from us:

And he got REALLY excited about the punching balloon!

Smiling through Happy Birthday... (When asked what color he wanted the frosting to be, he replied, "Ore"... so that's what he got!)

Clapping when we were through...

Blowing out the candles!

Stuffing little faces...

Happy Birthday Little Bit! We love you!

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