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12 entries from January 2010

My 2010 Project

I haven't been around much, thanks to herniating a disc in my upper back (those gel-filled cushions between our spine bones, so I've learned since). I hurt it by doing nothing more exciting than stretching awake one morning two weeks ago.  I wish I had a better story, but that's it.  Well, that and years of poor posture.

It has made sitting at the computer difficult, but, although both a pain to have and painful, it's not too bad when compared to much worse things like kidney stones and living under rubble for two weeks. 

Since that thought ends the pity party I had planned, I'm thinking of what I can do on my 2010 Project while sitting ramrod straight all day long.  The four areas of my 2010 Project are: health, learning, income, writing.  Here's what I've come up with to do while I can't move well:

  • Health:  Learn good posture while sitting.  I should have worked on that a decade or two ago! Since physical exercise is out for a while, I'm also working on eating mini meals every 2-3 hours.  I have a tendency to skip breakfast and meals, which has made my metabolism sluggish, so they say.
  • Learning: The children are still able to work on schoolwork, although at a lesser load since they have to take up my chores, too. 
  • Income: Freely Educate was my concentration in January.  It has been doing very well (it's my wee-income-generating blog).  I take 2-3 hours each Saturday to post for the entire week so I don't have to think of it the rest of the week.  It was a blessing to have a week of posts done when I hurt my back!  Also, the Census Bureau called and hired me to work for them for 8 weeks this Spring, starting in late March.  I think it sounds like a fun, short term adventure. 
  • Writing: For some reason, although writing is my favorite area of the four in my 2010 Project, it's the one that gets shoved to the side.  For a week in January, I wrote every morning, but it was of a journaling sort.  I'd like to write with a goal in mind.  You know, like a book goal (gasp! did I really say that out loud?), or an article goal.  Right now, writing is hard because of my back injury, so I'm scanning journal pages into Microsoft's program, OneNote. 

If you're working on a 2010 Project, too, please share an update with me, in the comments or on your blog.  I'd love the inspiration!

p.s. The image is of my friend, Jodi, and I kayaking in the Gulf of Mexico.  I can't describe to you how relaxing that was, out there with my good college friend, our (many) babies safely on the beach with their daddies. Digging up that photo reminds me to stop being so impatient and let my back heal.  I want more kayaking moments with my friend when she next comes to visit.

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An Open Email on What Curriculum We Use in Our Homeschool

Q: Could I ask one question of you? I know you have at least one older kid--how much online-type curriculum do you do, or are you the primary teacher? If you're using an online school/curriculum, which one(s) do you like best?

A: I think you'd say I'm the primary teacher of our kids (grades 1st, 4th, 6th, 8th), although to be honest, I'm learning right alongside them!  I try to seek out the "masters" of whatever we're studying.  Instead of learning from a textbook or a computer curriculum written by somebody paid to write it, we want to learn from someone who is passionate about the subject.  The passionate "teacher" might be National Geographic or Mythbusters as well as Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and Amelia Earhart. 

Ambleside Online is the place I go when I want a laid-out list of what to study, especially for history and reading/literature books. 

I don't follow the Ambleside levels, though, because it made me crazy when I tried to teach 4 different levels at once.  So we study just one level each year, together.  And we veer off from Ambleside a bit because of finances.  If I can't find the book free online (to read off my Kindle), or at the library, I look for an alternative that's free, either through searching online for a good book or by looking at a different Ambleside level. 

For Math, we use Khan Academy, which is an online program.  This month, I've been printing off the math drill sheets at Donna Young's site, since the kids need to work on speed.
For Science, it's Mythbusters and gathering all sorts of kits and supplies and gadgets (rocketry, electronics, chemistry by baking, etc.).  Science is a natural around here -- we're curious, experimenting folk.
The 8th grader needed to start Grammar (online program) this year.  I felt like he was ready (but don't think it's needed in younger years).
Our 6th and 8th graders also needed some Current Events.  I like Izzit for that.
For Art, the kids have the freedom of using any supplies they like when they like.  But this year, to give them some information on drawing basics, we're using Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes.

Oh! I nearly forgot writing.  For writing, we do a lot of copywork (copying high quality literature from their reading books and often the Bible).  Dictation once a week (I read a passage; they write it down.  We then go over it together, discussing spelling and punctuation).  I find that it's best to learn spelling from words you're already using or reading, instead of from spelling lists, so the above methods (copywork, dictation) work well for us, but last year our then-5th grader was having a hard time because she was so-very-phonetic, that after reviewing All About Spelling, I started using it for her (here's a post on why).  I have our 8th grader "teach" it to her (90% of what you teach, you retain, so I've heard).  It's made a difference, but honestly, I think reading great books is making the biggest difference  of all. 

 We have friends who only do co-op classes, a friend who uses a full computer curriculum, one that uses only Sonlight (literature-based boxed curriculum), and ecletic friends like us.  I think we're all going to end up in about the same place. But you want to enjoy the journey, so find what works best for your personality. 

And, since you're a Christian, too, I'll add that a key for me is remembering not to rely on my own strength.  People are continually saying to me, "I don't know how you do it!"  But I'm not.  Not by myself, that is.

Okay!  You ask me a little question, and I fill a page!!  I hope that wasn't too overwhelming; I can get carried away about education. 

p.s. Listen to this sometime, if you can: Sir Ken Robinson speaks on education for TED Talks 

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Beauty in Winter

Winter here is a beautiful thing.  The air quality is pure so the sunlight shines through with a brilliance.  Oh, my, the light! The children hear me talk about it nearly every day.  Look at that dappled light!, I say, Look at the light rippling up in that tree, reflecting off the river!  They've caught the bug, too.  Yesterday our little guy ran for me, telling me to come quickly, there's a sun rain that you'll love!  I came too slowly for that, but he was still happy to show me that although it was raining steadily, our back yard was glowing.

Winter is pretty,  too, for the blooming camellias that make up for the many bare trees.  And colorful buds are forming on those bare trees, if we look closely enough. 

But to me, Winter is the most beautiful for the many visiting birds who use our area to go from North to South and South to North again.   Here is a fellow visitor:

He's a male robin, if I'm reading my bird book right.  He's eating the little fruits on our front yard Bradford Pear tree.  The children saw him first as they piled into the van to go to a ballet lesson and the library.  They were intrigued at his fearlessness, so when I arrived, keys in hand, they encouraged me to go back indoors to get my camera.  Sure enough, the little robin was happy to pose.

The bird book also says that we have some robins who stay here year-round, but that we get a large number of them in the winter.  As a Gulf Coast nearly-native, I say that we don't have any stay year-round, but only see them in the winter.  I wish I saw this fella every day of the year!  He's welcome to stay, but I know he must go... you, maybe?

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Tutorial: A Knitting Pattern for a 'Woven' Scarf

A finished project!  A finished project! This is cause for celebration around here, that I actually finish a project (I'm more about the process than the product).  This year, though, I'm determined to do more finishing.

This project:  A little knitted scarf, the perfect size for our 6yo little gal. She wasn't available for a 'photo shoot,' so I threw it over the birds' cage:

You can make it, too! Here's how:

Cast on 16

Knit 4

Purl 4

Knit 4

Purl 4

Flip it over and repeat the above for 3 more rows, for a total of 4 rows.


Purl 4

Knit 4

Purl 4

Knit 4

Repeat that for 4 rows, too.  Then do another 4 rows starting with knit.  Then 4 more with purl.  And so on until the project is as long as you like.  

I used small bamboo knitting needles - size 4, I think.  They were small enough that this scarf took a long time to make (I swapped this project out with faster crochet projects when I needed a break).  Larger needles would be much faster.

(The blue bird was unimpressed.  I couldn't keep him awake.)

If you make a project using this pattern - or if you already have - let me know!  I'd love to see it.

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 He's 10!  Our little guy has finally (in his opinion; it was too soon for me) reached the double digits.

For his birthday, we let him choose what we did with our day.  The beach? The bay? The movies?  He chose: home

He said, "Why should we go anywhere else?  We have everything I want right here."

Why, indeed?  He'll never know how much his choice warmed my mama-heart. 

He then gave me a list of all the yummy things he'd like me to make....such a big list that we had to spread it over 2 days.  That choice didn't warm my mama-heart so much - it was a daunting list!

After plenty of Xbox 360 and before Monopoly and brownies ("not cake"), we took a walk up the hill to the abandoned farm field where the straw blows in the breeze as beautiful as a rolling ocean, sounding like gently rolling waves. I know that sounds like an over-the-top-metaphor (yeah, okay, it is), but I really do think of the ocean every time I see and hear a field of wheat or straw. 

The kids - 3 of them - sat down for a bit of nature journaling, drawing Pnut, our obviously-staying-stray, and the wheat.  Our big fella and Daddy explored further down the field and through the woods to the river.

I hope our little guy will always remember his 10th birthday as a warm, happy day.

That would warm my mama-heart, too.

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Hi, Strangers! My internet connection has been down for a couple of days (ack!). I hope it's AT&T's problem, not mine, since I have no idea how to fix things like that.

Meanwhile, I'm not quite sure what to do with myself. My life is blurry somehow. I have things to Google!

I also have photos ready to upload and writing ready to blog, so I hope I'll be connected soon. Right now, I'm posting from the public library.

See you soon!

On Haiti

Haiti has been on my mind nonstop these days. I am frustrated with the slow aid and frustrated that I cannot swim over there and help dig.  You, too?

Here is a link to a blog written by an eye doctor in Haiti, who is a friend of my brother's.   The eye doctor and his beautiful family are trying to keep the blog updated when they have an internet connection.

On, my other blog, I highlighted several sites with lesson plans and other educational information on Haiti for parents & educators.

Please share any links you've found in the comments. 

Let's all pray for Haiti!

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On Motherhood & Its Sacrifices

image from

Like you, maybe, I have had to give up opportunities in this season while the children are young.  For now, my priority needs to be family instead of so many things I want or want to do.  No, I don't for a nanosecond wish that I was free of these kids, this man, this house and the responsibilities those require.  But, still, sometimes ...... well, honestly, sometimes the sacrifice hurts a little bit.

Like, tonight, I'm sitting here looking over the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration itinerary, and thinking, "Dadblame it, it sure is hard to swallow that dream of going there"  (my name is still in the jar; maybe we can still make it happen...).   And I'm reading the tweets and Facebook statuses of those gals going to Blissdom '10 and wishing that I could have coughed up the registration fee for that one, too. But I just couldn't. The ballerina needs ballet lessons, you know, and the cadet needs new boots.  They all need food.  Often.  Like, daily.  It's crazy how fast money and time disappear around here.

But this isn't about money or time.  It's about sacrifices.   I do want to make sacrifices for this family; they're so terrific, I'd live under a tree just to be with them!  But.  Still.  It does sometimes sting a little bit when something I really want can't happen.  

And so, a few minutes ago, to slap my face and remind myself what matters, I Googled an old dormant blog of mine for a quote that meant a lot to me when the kids were little:

"As I sat in the grey bathrobe four babies

had nestled against while they nursed,

my brain started clanging this jubilant message: 

There are no shackles in this house, this is no jail. 

These kids are your ticket to freedom like nothing you have ever tasted,

the kind that is not hinged on TV appearances or writing for Life magazine

or being a size six again. 

It's the liberation that comes from the sheer act of living itself. 

When you stop to be where you are, then your life can really begin."

~ Iris Krasnow

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My 2010 Project

image from

It's terribly hard for me to focus on something for long.  I am easily distracted by an insatiable curiosity.  I want to learn, to create, to do and so I lose focus, moving on to the next experience.  The problem is, while chasing butterflies, I've not been accomplishing some things that I really want to accomplish.  This year, I want to see a few things done instead of just started.

So, in 2010, I'm focusing on 4 areas:

  • Health: becoming more healthy
  • Learning: focusing on the childrens' education while always learning alongside them
  • Writing: simply writing, without making it into such a big production that it doesn't get done
  • A wee income: making a wee little bit of money to help out the family bank account
Usually, I make such a Big Deal out of goals that I end up with a neat layout on paper, but it's not realistic.  This time, I'm starting out by keeping things simple: for "health," I'm simply walking; for "writing," I'm writing.  Simple. 

Here's the hardest part:  before doing something/anything, I need to ask:  Will it make us more healthy?  Is it educational? Could I write while doing this? or Will it add to the empty bank account?  If "none of the above," well, it's not going to happen in 2010.  Ouch.  Suddenly it's not so simple.

So far, 10 days in, things are going well.  But, then again, resolutions are always going well the first 2 weeks of January, aren't they?

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(So.  Why the picture of the post office in Seaside, Florida?  Because.  I think it would be lovely to be a postmistress there, don't you?)