Monday, April 7, 2014

Supplementing our Classical Conversations curriculum and fitting it into our daily schedule

A friend recently e-mailed and asked about how I implement Classical Conversations into our homeschooling, especially with two little ones distracting us.  She also asked about what materials I use for language and math.  Here is my reply:

Classical Conversations has truly helped me with accountability and feeling like I am making definite progress with the girls. After trying out several math curriculums, I finally settled on Rod and Staff and love it.  It begins very simply with the basic numbers and addition facts with much repetition. We went quickly through the first lessons, but I love that it really drills basic math facts to the point that my girls cannot possibly forget them.  My 5 year old is a little ahead in math and the curriculum begins so simply that I decided to just do the 1st grade level for both of them right now.  I just don't make my 5-year old do as much of the writing as my 6 year old because she grows weary of it.  I'm not sure how long I will be able to teach them at the same level, but I am grateful for it right now because my teaching time is quite limited due to having a baby and 3 year old as well.   The girls also do Explode the Code for phonics review and First Language Lessons.  FLL does not take long so I also do Language Lessons For Little Ones with my 5 year old and Language Lessons for the very Young with my 6 year old by Sandi Queen just because I like it so much.

I'll be honest, some days we get a lot done and some days we don't.  Learning the Classical Conversations info is actually the easiest part because there are songs for each memory work and we just take a break and dance and sing together when we are tired of doing our "proper" schoolwork :)  My 3 year old loves the songs also so I use my trifold board and they take turns picking out the song they want to sing and dance to next.  My baby just crawls all over us on the floor while we do this.

Our typical schedule is quite flexible because my baby is not a great morning napper. We have 4 basic parts of our homeschool day and they occur in any order depending on how the youngest 2 kids are doing: 1. Worksheets 2. Table Teaching (Math and Spelling Lesson) 3. Couch Lessons (Language Lessons, Read-a-Louds, and Reading Lessons) -- sometimes these are broken up into two different time periods... I often get the big girls up early from rest time to do their reading lesson and read-a-louds if we didn't get to finish them earlier. 4. Classical Conversation Review
I usually place all their worksheets (mainly math, map tracing, and Explode the Code) in a clipboard for them by their places at the tabel in the morning. They can choose to do them first thing while waiting for breakfast and for their turn to go potty and get dressed or they can choose to wait and do the worksheets during rest-time. Then, when the baby is napping, we do "table lessons" (math and spelling review). When she is awake, we do Language Lessons, reading lessons, and read-a-louds while snuggled together on the couch or floor and the baby plays around us. Some days it is easy to get it done but on bad teething days the baby is fussing the entire time and I have to wear her in the carrier while I teach.  

My 3 year old is also a wild card. She currently loves to color the Explode the Code worksheets her sisters do, so they pass them to her once completed. She also has a princess magnet set and a felt set that she often does at the table or other puzzles. If she gets bored, I give the big girls a break and do a language lesson with her from the Language Lessons for Little Ones (#1). She loves to do what her sisters do and she listens to the poems and talks about the pictures and tells me her letters. We just do any of the writing part orally.
I also utilize the Charlotte Mason Scripture Memory System with our CC work -- I buy the pre-made memory work cards at the beginning of the year and each night at the diner table the girls answer several questions before being excused from the table. This memory box actually contains a number of different things we are trying to remember: character traits, manners, phonograms, addition flashcards, scriptures, CC work, and catechism questions. I cannot recommend a memory box highly enough. We would not remember last year's work at all were it not for this box. My husband also appreciates hearing the different things we are learning.
We also still utilize the Sonlight read-aloud list and I try to request those books from the library each week.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Treating ear aches/ infections differently for different children

My girls recently endured a bad virus.  It started with a high fever for less than 24 hours and then had major congestion and a lingering cough and drainage.  About a week later, they all got an ear ache.  At first, I didn't realize it was related, but after they all got it, I realized it must have been from all that drainage.  I am writing this post because I found it very interesting that each child required a different treatment.

When my 5 year old calmly began complaining that her ear hurt, I looked up my homeopathic information and gave her Chamomilla.  She didn't complain again until the next day and I gave her some more and it seemed to help again.  I gave it to her about 3 times a day, only when she mentioned it bothering her again for about 2 days and that was it.  The remedy seemed to stop the pain quickly every time and eventually took care of it completely.

The next day, my 6 year old started fussing about her ear.  But it was totally different.  Instead of calmly mentioning that her ear hurt, she was moaning in pain.  I quickly gave her what had worked for her sister, but it didn't work for her.  Within 15 minutes she was crying and sometimes screaming.  I waited a bit to see if the remedy would work, but then remembered that there are several remedies for each ailment and it varies for each person.  So I looked at my homeopathic workbook again and saw that for such a fierce onslaught, Belladonna looked like the correct remedy.  It took a good 20 minutes, but all of a sudden, she was fine.  Completely happy, as if nothing had happened.  I was amazed!  I am totally a believer in homeopathy!

My 9 month old decided to cut her top two teeth shortly after recovering from her virus.  She was really fussy, but I just attributed it to those teeth.  But then she suddenly had a high fever at night.  She could not lay down to sleep and was only happy when I was holding her.   After sitting up all night with her with a super high fever, I immediately took her to the chiropractor the next day.  Her fever broke, she seemed much happier, and she slept soundly that night!  But the next day her fever returned and she was up the entire night again.  I finally took her to the doctor because she was so congested I was worried about bronchitis.  But he said she had a bad ear infection and it all made sense.   (I felt so badly that perhaps I could have prevented it like I did with the big girls if only I had realized it.  But I had just thought she was fussy because of her teeth!) So I took her back to the chiropractor.  I also started putting crushed garlic on her feet, collodial silver in her mouth, and garlic-infused coconut and olive oil warmed in her ear.  I also rubbed tea tree oil around her ear.  That night her fever broke and she slept soundly again.  She seemed better the next day, but that night, her fever skyrocketed again and I knew she needed one more adjustment.  That was all it took.  I finally had my happy baby back again and never needed that antibiotic prescribed by the doctor!

So to sum it all up, here are the different treatments needed for each child:
1.  Calm 5 year old with minor ear pain: Chamomilla
2.  Distraught 6 year old with sudden, sharp ear pain:  Belladonna
3.  Miserable 9 month old with high fever and major ear infection: 3 chiropractic adjustments on alternating days, crushed garlic on her feet, collodial silver in her mouth, and garlic-infused coconut and olive oil warmed in her ear and tea tree oil rubbed around her ear.  I also gave her THIS mustard plaster twice. (Note:  I have no idea why I did not use homeopathy on the baby... I guess sleep deprivation just made me revert back to what I always do for illnesses and I forgot to look up a homeopathic remedy for her.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Old Fashioned Mustard Plaster for helping drain congestion

My 9 month old got a nasty virus that filled her head with much drainage and resulted in a horrible ear infection.  She has trouble sleeping, not only from the ear pain, but also because when she lays down she begins to cough and choke horribly on the drainage.  I took her to the chiropractor today and he said he could feel a lot of drainage in her head and ears and gave me this recipe to put on her upper chest to help drain it down:

1 part Mustard powder
1 part Baking soda
3 parts flour
enough water to make a paste

I love recipes that are so simple!  He said that for the baby, I should wrap it up in a hankie, with just one layer between her and the plaster, and zip her up in a sleep-in-play so that she can't reach it and get it everywhere.  For older children and adults, however, I could just apply it directly to the skin.  A person should try it on a small part of the skin first, though, to make sure it doesn't irritate it as it is a "hot" compress and could bother sensitive skin.  Leave it on for about 10 minutes and it can really make a difference.

I was amazed that I could "feel" the heat coming off it when I mixed it up for my baby.  A little bit leaked out of the hankie and got on her skin and it was red and seemed to annoy her, so I would personally recommend not putting it directly on the skin.  A hankie works well if you can get it to stay put.  She also seemed really bothered by it after only about 7 minutes so I took it off early.  But the plaster definitely seems to do its job!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Resources for music appreciation

I love music and I want my girls to appreciate it as well.  We sing songs all day long and they love music in general, but I don't have time to do much with classical music appreciation.  However, I have found some great CD's that my girls love that are helping them become familiar with classical music.  We mainly listen to them in the car and during rest time.

1.  Alfred's Music for Little Mozarts Cd's:  There are 2 CD's in each case: a music lesson with fun characters and a CD of fun songs.  These are my 3 year old's favorites!  She asks to listen to"Beethoven Bear and Mozart Mouse" almost every day at nap time.  The music lesson explores the very basics of music theory at a child's level and the fun CD contains a lot of the great classics as well as some songs just for fun.

2.  Classical Kids CD's:  These CD's usually take a famous composer and tell his story while incorporating his famous works.  They are very interesting.  We have Mr.  Bach Comes To Call and Classical Kids Christmas and are hoping to get more.

3.  Beethoven's Wig Sing-Along Symphonies:  These CD's are hilarious (although occasionally annoying) and my girls love them.  They take a famous classical piece and add silly lyrics that usually contain something close to the composer's name and title to help children's remember them.  My girls find them incredibly funny but my husband finds them a good bit annoying.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Family Laundry Hamper

I was talking with my awesome sister-in-law over Christmas about home organization... she also has four children so she understands how very difficult it is to keep on top of laundry, dishes, and everything else :)  I mentioned that I feel like I unnecessarily wash a lot of clean clothes because when I tell my girls to clean their rooms, they find it easier to throw everything that is on the floor into their laundry basket rather than putting it where it belongs.  I also have a "wear your pajamas at least 3 times before washing" rule but I'm pretty sure that mostly clean pajamas get thrown in the laundry hamper as well.  Way too much laundry!  (Yes, there is a heart-issue of laziness that we are definitely working on, but in the meantime, I am far too busy to sort through their laundry to guess at clean clothes.)  My sister in law suggested that I remove their hamper and require the girls to take their dirty clothes to the bathroom laundry hamper.  We have done this for over a month now and it has helped so much!  My laundry has diminished since I am no longer washing clean clothes along with the dirty clothes of 6 people and their rooms are cleaner because they used to "miss" the hamper and leave clothes on the ground.  But with no hamper in the room, both issues were resolved!  Such a little change but it made a big difference!

*update -- this is still a great help for my younger children, but my girls ages 6 and older now do their own laundry by themselves so they have their own laundry hamper.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Teaching my girls to read...

A lot of parents cringe at the thought of homeschooling because the thought of teaching their child to read is daunting.  I've found the opposite to be quite true... it is one of the most exciting and thrilling things I've ever done!  It is such a joy to finally see all those sounds click in my preschooler's mind and see the light come on.  The excitement is so contagious!  I've learned a lot and used many resources in teaching my first 2 children to read so I thought I would share the books that helped my girls the most.

1. The Reading Lesson Book:
Ordinary Parent's Guide To Teaching Reading -- this book makes it easy.  It teaches all the rules as the child needs to know them.  I will admit that it wasn't my girls' favorite initially (because reading is hard work at first and the font is small) but they grew to like it.  It calmed my worries because I was afraid that I would forget to teach something important.


Alphaphonics -- this book has bigger letters so my girls usually like it more initially.  It takes a while to get through the first page, but after that, reading has begun!  We usually start with this book for a while, but then it gets monotonous so we switch to Ordinary Parents.  Once reading has begun, I usually do one reading "lesson" and have them read one "real" book to me each day as well.

Note: These simple reading lesson books are sufficient for teaching reading in most cases, but if you really desire a step-by-step hands-on program, the All About Reading program is phenomenal.  I haven't used it with my girls, but have reviewed it and have friends that highly recommend it and it is the best reading program I have seen.

2.  The first "real" books we love:
Bob books -- these are fabulous little books that the child can read as soon as he starts blending sounds.

Dick and Jane books -- these might seem "old school" but they are seriously the best books for sight words.  I have never ever drilled my girls in sight words because they pick them up easily when reading the Dick and Jane books. They also start out super easy and get progressively harder which is great.  My girls love the silly stories as well.

Dr.  Seuss Beginner Books -- we love them!

3.  Once those are mastered:

You Read To Me; I'll Read To You books -- My girls beg to read these with me!

Ready, Set, Read! by Cole -- A great collection of simple children's literature

4. Now ready for anything!
The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury by Schulman -- My 6 year old is currently reading through one story a day from this book with me.  Her vocabulary is really expanding while reading great children's literature!

Another great resource:
Explode the Code:  These inexpensive workbooks are fantastic for phonics practice.  My second child actually read for the first time the day she begged to do Explode the Code like her big sister.  We still had more work to do before everything clicked, but she began sounding out words immediately!  I will say that with my girls, their brains were ready to read long before their fingers were ready for a lot of writing, so I didn't ask them to write out a lot of the words in ETC until much later.  They did all the circling exercises and x-ing out and we just did the writing part out-loud instead of on paper.  I did not want to slow down the reading process because writing was still difficult for them.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Our "Table Rules"

Food battles.  I never thought I would have them.  My first child was an easy eater and I thought I must be doing it right.  She loved everything I put in front of her and we have videos of her asking for more veggies right around the time most kids get picky.  She would eat taco soup with extra butternut squash and spinach added in and I could put absolutely anything in her home-made tortilla and she would gobble it up.  I didn't understand when other moms talked about food battles they had with heir children.  But then I had my second child.  She had major texture issues and then had to go dairy and gluten free for a while.  It wasn't pretty.  My first easy child took a clue from my picky eater and found her voice.  And then adding in a third very strong-willed child only made dinner time that much more exciting.  My husband had a crazy schedule for a while which meant that we didn't really have a family dinner time and I suddenly found myself with 3 adorable demanding little girls who had horrible table manners.  Something had to be done so I came up with these 6 rules and they have helped tremendously.  They aren't perfect rules for every family, but they have worked for us and I thought they might be helpful to others:

1.  Wait until we pray to eat.
2.  Before beginning, say "Thank you for the meal; the _______ looks delicious."
3.  NEVER say, "I don't like..."  Just quietly leave it on the plate.
4.  Try a bite of everything; pick at least one thing to eat completely.
5.  Do not ask for a treat unless you eat all your meat.
6.  When finished, say, "Thank you for a good meal; may I please be excused?"

Friday, January 3, 2014

My New Year's "Natural Learning" Goals:

As I learn about natural ways to help my family stay healthy and recover well from illnesses, I keep hearing more about homeopathy and essential oils.  I've used them a bit over the years, particularly oregano oil as a natural antibiotic, tea tree oil for cleaning and ringworm,  Nux Vomica for tummy trouble, and Arnica Montana for bumps and bruises.  I've really been wanting to learn more, however, so this year, I used all the money I received for Christmas to purchase a thorough homeopathic kit and a nice diffuser to use with the essential oils I already own.  I also purchased a blend of essential oils for respiratory problems because I think my 2 year old has a bit of fungal pneumonia because we didn't realize the room she was sleeping in had a mold problem (we currently rent a house).  We moved her out a month ago, but her cough has remained.  I am also treating her with collodial silver, a special blend of herbs and oils to rub on her chest, and oregano oil on her feet.  I've been doing the natural remedies for about 5 days and the diffuser for 2 days and I already notice a tremendous difference in her cough!  I am definitely inspired to learn more.  I will write more on the topics of homeopathy and essential oils as I learn more.  I have downloaded a great homeopathic workbook to study now and hope to take an actual class on essential oils in the spring or summer.  Essential oils can be dangerous if not used properly so I don't want to do too much without proper education.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Battling low milk supply

A friend recently emailed me about ideas for increasing milk supply. I've struggled with low milk supply with all 4 of my babies. Right around the time they start crawling, they start drinking more milk and my body just has a hard time keeping up. Unfortunately, I finally figured out that for me, the best solution for me was to nurse at least twice during the night. I have a lactation consultant friend, and she told me that those middle of the night feedings make the most difference in milk supply. So I always feed the baby before I go to bed (she hardly wakes up but will happily nurse) and no longer try to get my babies to sleep through the night at all. I apparently just don't have enough milk during the day but they make up for it at night. My 3rd baby woke up every three hours every single night until she was a year old and decided she didn't want to nurse any more. Then she suddenly slept through the night perfectly. It was an exhausting year but she was my chunkiest baby so it was worth it to me. My first two slept through the night early on but were all underweight. I'm certain those night feedings made all the difference. I also fed more often during the daytime with my last two babies. I've thrown all my "scheduling" books out the window... none of my babies ever could make it 4 hours between feedings! A lot of times I feed as often as every 2 hours during the day even with older babies just because they seem to need it and it keeps my milk supply.
I've also found that I cannot exercise at all while breastfeeding because it drops my supply. I have a hard time eating enough for both of us, I guess, and if I burn many calories my milk suffers. I also try to drink as much whole milk as possible. I don't always have time to eat a lot during the day, but I can always drink so I try to up my calories with healthy fat in the milk instead of just drinking water. I always drink a large glass before bed as well.
When I first struggled with milk supply, my holistic doctor recommended fenugreek, alfalfa, and blessed thistle herbs. And she told me to eat at least a tablespoon of coconut oil every day. Oatmeal and quinoa are also supposed to be good for increasing milk production. And I do believe those helped. But what worked the most for me was more feedings and lots of milk.
Here is a fabulous website for breastfeeding advice and support: Nursing Nurture