Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Virtual Make-Over

Gramma is wanting a new hair style, so I pulled up ivillage's virtual make over program. After laughing as some of the crazy hairstyles we tried on Gramma, Emma wanted a turn. It's free, and lots of fun, so why not :)

(She really wanted me to give her crazy lips.) 

It's a really good thing I am opposed to child beauty pageants, because seriously, my kid is cute! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Our Learning "Started"

When I first thought that I might want to homeschool Emma, she was maybe 3. I say, "I" because at first, Jared was not really thrilled by the idea. He had all the stereotypical objections- socialization, qualifications, organization, etc..


Emma was in day care, I was in cosmetology school, and Jared was working on his bachelors at ISU. Emma did enjoy school for the most part, but she cried every day as we dropped her off, and often times she would cry at some point during the day. She would settle pretty quick (with lots of love and hugs from one of the teachers), and she was always well behaved, but still wasn't as happy as I felt a 3 year old should be.

No one was really happy. Emma was super shy and would fluctuate between clinging to me when we would get home, to not wanting anything to do with us. I hated being away from Emma all day. I hated cosmetology school (who wants to live in a soap opera all day every day!). Jared was distressed by our distress. 

The turning point came when I picked Emma up early one day from school. When I got there they were doing letter worksheets. Emma was sitting at the table with a little boy from India, who spoke very little in his native language and even less English. I felt bad for the little boy because, despite the fact that all he was doing was tracing the letter 'A', he was still doing it wrong according to "Handwriting Without Tears," a program designed to help kids learn to write. A little amazed that someone could trace a letter 'A' wrong, I watched for a bit. Apparently there is a "proper" place to start and stop each of the lines for each of the letters. 

Many people might be thinking, "Really, this bothered you?" Well yes. My 3 1/2 year old, who doesn't really need to learn her letters yet because, well, she isn't even 4 yet, is being corrected when she doesn't do them "correctly." What else is she being corrected on already? 

I believe this was my awakening moment because all I could think was, "I don't care how Emma does it, if it looks like an 'A' I am happy."

(Now, I have talked to my mother-in-law who taught K-3 for 30+ years and she said that "Handwriting Without Tears" is a good program and it helps later on when learning cursive, but my reply to that was, "Who needs cursive?")

Anyway, as I had mentioned, no one was really happy. I missed being home with Emma, watching her grow and learn. I hated school, and I hated having to drop a crying Emma off everyday for someone else to raise and comfort her.

Jared and I did some number crunching and we decided that we could probably manage for me to stay home until Emma was old enough for school.

I dropped out of cosmetology school, (every time I say that, all I can think about is the part in Grease about the beauty school drop out), pulled Emma out of day care, and we started living frugally (well, more frugally than we had been before). 

I started to research about homeschooling. I learned about unschooling. I learned about life schooling, radical unschooling, earth schooling, Waldorf, and other versions of learning outside of the public (or private) school system. 

Everything I learned, I shared with Jared. We decided to give unschooling a try, knowing that public school wasn't going anywhere. Our days didn't really change much, because when we sat down and evaluated our lifestyle, we realized we had been unschooling all along :)

Within the first year, we were amazed at the change in Emma. Yes, it could have just been an age thing, but while she was in day care (getting socialization), she refused to talk to anyone outside of her comfort bubble (basically me and Jared). If we had gone too long between visits to Gramma, she would even hide her face from Gramma. We never forced her to talk to anyone (especially strangers- why force her to talk to them then turn around and tell her not to talk to strangers), and just let her be herself. 

I was slowly becoming aware of her comfort bubble opening up. When someone would comment on her outfit, hair, or toy when out and about, she would look at me, then respond with one or two words. For Jared, the realization was a lot more drastic. 

One day while shopping at Target, Emma (about 4 1/2ish) noticed that the cashier had a band-aide on her finger. Emma looked right at the cashier and said, "How did you get that owie?" Jared was startled. He had never seen her voluntarily ask a stranger a question.

As far as her learning, she developed a passion for horses. When she turned 4, she got all horse and dinosaur stuff (books, toys, clothes) because those were her interests.

Horses, over 2 years later, are still a passion of hers. What does that have to do with learning? Over the past 2 years, we have used horses to "teach" so many different subjects.

Homemade horse biscuits = math, reading, direction following, nutrition, etc. Horse (riding) lessons = focus, patience, compassion, anatomy, etc. Horse breeds = research, history, geography, culture, classification, etc. Model horses = budgeting, currency, priorities, organization, etc.

I could go on, but I think I have made my point. We also sprinkle worksheets, and other more structured educational materials around the house for Emma to discover. A few times we have even attempted to sit down and do, "school" but Emma really does not enjoy this and we usually end up frustrated and annoyed with each other.

So, we have come to realize that our lives work best when we just go with the flow. Emma (as well as Jared and I) are learning all the time, and we love it that way.

Over the next few weeks we will be following along with Stephanie over at Ordinary Life Magic, providing posts with insights into how we go about our lives as far as learning is concerned (although here, that really includes everything we do).

Feel free to follow along, learn a little, and if you would like, maybe even teach a little!

Monday, February 27, 2012

LEGOs and Vets

Gramma loves to buy things for Emma. Gramma will shop all year long for Birthday and Christmas. 

Sometimes, Gramma is not very good at hiding the gifts she has purchased. 

Our last trip up to Gramma and Boppa's, Emma had spied a LEGO box with a horse on it. The kit was for making a vet clinic with horse, dog, and hedgehog included. Gramma explained to Emma the the LEGO set had been intended as a going away gift, something new for her to play with when we moved to Montana. Obviously Emma didn't want to have to wait till then. Gramma was ok with Emma opening it then, but I already had enough things to pack at the moment, and really didn't want to have to pack that as well. Not the best logic because they don't take up a ton of room, but I also wanted her to have something new and exciting to play with when we got to Montana. 

We are once again visiting Gramma (it is, after all, our second favorite place to be). When we got here yesterday, I was unloading the car when I noticed that the LEGO kit was still in the same spot. I saw it before Emma did and I thought, "seeing as we won't be moving to Montana until next year, it would really be a shame to wait that long seeing as Emma is really into LEGOs right now." 

So, I told Emma that if Gramma was ok with it, she could open it anytime she was ready. 

She didn't wait very long. 

Last night: 

All I did was explain to her a bit how the directions worked, helped her open the (many) plastic baggies, and occasionally held the directions for her. She started working on it while dinner was cooking, took a quick break for a bit of mac and cheese, then went back to work while the rest of us ate and chatted. 

She wasn't super excited when bedtime came around, but I told her she could work on it some more as soon as she woke up. 

Which is exactly what she did. 

She had quite a bit done by the time I got up 30 minutes later. She had some help from Boppa before he had to head off to work. 

A play break was needed after all that concentration. 

And now back to the directions. 

Her favorite stuffy, Pepper, was happy to hang out and keep an eye on things.

All done!

And the horse is already getting good quality care :)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Horse Books Rule

If I could go out right now and buy a handful (or two) of easy reader, or easier to read books that have horses as the main subject, I would. Emma would be reading by the end of the week.

Not that we are really in a huge rush or feel that she HAS to be able to ready by a certain age/time. I like reading to her. I have been reading to her since before she was born. And I plan to read to her until she won't let me anymore.

About the only time I wish she would hurry up and learn to read is when she asks me (for the 10th time in 20 minutes) what her computer says. Without trying to read it first.

I really need to set our computers up closer together.

We made a stop at our new local book store on Friday because it had been a very long time since anyone had gotten a new book. We use to go to Borders all the time. We were so sad when Borders closed, but BAM opened up not to long after, so we were happy that we had a book store again.

I miss Borders. At Borders, there were no tears when Emma was refused a toy (because they didn't have very many). At BAM, it seems the kids section has almost as many toys as they do books. This was our second or third trip to BAM, despite the fact that Emma asks all the time if we can go. So she can get a Barbie. At a book store. It's a little sad really.

So on this trip I mentioned that we were going for one book each, no toys, nothing else. Just books. From the bookstore.

After browsing through almost all the books in the kids section, we managed to find two great books about a pony named Pal.

Emma got two books because, well, all the books and magazines I wanted were $15 and up, so I decided to just get her a second book, saving us at least $11. Jared got a mountain bike magazine. 

Anyway, after picking out her two books, we were off to find Da when Emma spied a stuffed unicorn. I had a feeling we might be in a bit of trouble when she turned to me with a sad puppy dog face and said, "I really wish I could get the unicorn instead of the books."

I gently reminded her we had come in for books, nothing more. She seemed to be a bit sad, but o.k with the decision. As we wandered looking for Da, she asked again if she could get the unicorn. When I told her, again, that we were just getting books she started to cry. "But I really want the unicorn!" I hugged her and told her I understood that she wanted the unicorn, but that we had come for books. She settled down a bit and, once again, seemed like she would be ok. 

When she asked for a third time, and started crying again, I may not have handled it as well as I could have. "Emma, if you want, I can put these books back and you can get nothing."

Which of course made her cry harder and made me feel like an a$$. So, I snuggled her a bit more, tried again to explain to her that I understood that she wanted the unicorn, but that is not what we were spending our money on today. Today was for books. 

All this time I am thinking in the back of my head, "She must be tired. She usually only acts like this when she is tired."

Anyway, to try to shorten this story up- Once we found Jared, he asked Emma if she would like to show him the unicorn. She said yes and off they went so I could look real quick at the magazines (why do all the magazines I like cost as much as a book?). I met them as I was headed to the register. Standing in line, I saw those peanut butter cups shaped like eggs. I love the specialty peanut butter cups. I looked at Jared and pointed at the peanut butter cup. He shrugged a "Sure, why not" at me.

 But then I stopped. What an awesome display of a double standard that would have been. I can have something other than a book, but Emma can't? Didn't I just finish telling her that all we were getting was books? 

So, we paid for our two books and one magazine (which counts as book in my eyes), went home, and took a family nap. 

We didn't end up reading the books Friday night, but we did read them last night. Or, I should say, Emma read one of them and I read the other.

The book ended up being longer then we expected, so I helped with a page or two, but she really did a great job. The longer she read, the less she paused to look at me to see if she had gotten the word correct. Towards the end, she didn't even need me to reread the page (which she sometimes has me do if she was so focused on the words that she didn't grasp the meaning). 

Looks like letting her read a few board books may have helped out after all! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Resources Updated

I just did a quick update to my resources page. If you know of any good ones, please share!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Staging Legos

Legos just might be a girls best friend. In our house anyway. I am not sure what prompted Emma to stage and photograph her Legos, but that is what she did today. 

Her first photo

This is when Emma asked me to come see what she was doing. I asked her if she would like some back drops for her photos. 

I also really wanted to get a picture of her photographing her Legos so I gave her an old 35mm (with film) camera and had her take a few pics. 

She really wasn't a fan of the tiny view finder. Technology, aint it grand?

Providing a spear for this Lego man

At this point I just sat back and enjoyed the show. 

Umm, those aren't Legos. 

This, apparently, was the final battle (and photo). 

The other thing of interested from today (other than the fact that I ended up taking a 3 hour nap and that I will now be awake until 2 a.m) is that Emma read me a book tonight.

One of my favorite things about our library is their website. I can search through the library's book collection on-line, and reserve any of the books that catch my eye. Don't get me wrong, I love wandering up and down the isles of books, pulling out a random book here and there, but not when Emma is with me. She gets ansty, complains, asks, "When can we go to my section?" about 20 times a minute. So, I prefer to reserve my books on-line and have them waiting for me when I get there. Emma knows our first stop is to pick up our reserved books, then head to the kids section. At this point, I sit and look through the books to decide if I really want to take them home, while Emma searches for books that she would like.

When we went to the library on Thursday, Emma was drawn to the bin of board books. Seeing as she likes to listen to books that are geared towards kids who are 8 and older (we are currently listening to Inkdeath, the third in the Inkheart Trilogy), I figured she should also be able to read/listen to the books geared towards kids 3 and under. Plus, I got to sit in the super comfy extra wide glider rocker to look through my books while she searched for hers.

A sneakier reason for letting her pick out board books is that they typical have easy words, and not very many of them. When confronted with any book other than an easy reader, she will tell me that she can't read, and she believes it. Won't even try. So, I thought maybe a few simple books would help boost her confidence.

Here are the three we read tonight.  

This is from 'Cuddly Animal,' which Emma read to me.

Beautiful Babies (A Horse!)

Now if only she would stop telling me (and herself) that she can't read...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Food, Food, Food

It seems that food has been a very large focus in our house lately.

Ok, for me it seems like food has been a big deal. Made from scratch, nutritional, and delicious food. The kind that is lovingly prepared using the best ingredients I can find (and afford). New foods to get excited about, old foods to get reacquainted with.

Emma and Jared, on the other hand, could really care less if we ate cereal and PB&J every day for every meal.

But, seeing as I'm the one who plans the meals, shops for the ingredients, and makes the food,  they get to deal with enjoy what I come up with.

In case anyone feels this might be unfair, I use to ask Jared and Emma, every single time I was planning the meals, what they would like me to cook. After weeks of getting, "Mac and Cheese" from the little one, and only slightly better suggestions from the bigger one, I decided I would just do what I wanted.

About the time I decided to get a little more structured with our meals, Kira, over at Oops, I Craft My Pants offered up this fun freebie.

Not only do I love the artsy meal planner (as well as just about everything that Kira does), I am at the point were I seem to agree with the statement as well. 

So, each week has a basic flow to it for food. 
Monday- homemade pizza (At Jared's request)
Tuesday- Something new and interesting 
Wednesday- Warm It Up Wednesday (a fancy way of saying leftovers)
Thursday- Brinner night (Breakfast for Dinner). Would also most likely work out to be meatless.  
Friday- Mac and Cheese (sometimes with added ingredients, sometimes not)
Saturday- Spicy Saturday (tacos, enchiladas, chili, etc.)
Sunday- "Traditional" Meat and Potatoes kinda meals.

So far this week, we have had:

Monday- I don't remember, but we didn't have pizza, because we actually ordered Papa Johns on Saturday and ate that all weekend. I was pizza'd out.

Tuesday- Veggie Sushi! Made with rice, nori, avocado, cucumber, and carrots. 

For me anyway. Jared complained so much about the vinegar concoction that I was making to add to the rice (yes, it did smell like vinegar, which was a bit over powering, but was it really necessary to state, "I am NOT eating anything that smells like that!"), that when I actually made the sushi, I didn't offer him any.

His loss, the sushi rocked. My technique needs some lots of improvement, but seriously, for my first ever attempt I think it came out awesome. So awesome that I made two, and ate both of them. All. By. My. Self. Yum.

Lucky for Jared and Emma, I had also planned to make Octopus.

This was a pinterest find. Love pinterest. 

In my mind I envisioned lots of ooh's and aah's from Emma about how cool it was that they looked like octopus. Reality is never what I imagine. She gave me this weird sideways smirk looking face as I gave her the plate. "They look like jelly fish." Yeah, I guess. Turns out she didn't really like the hot dogs with the noodles stuck in them. Made them taste funny. 

Jared, thankfully, ate his without complaining. 

Wednesday was indeed leftovers- bean and ham soup and other odds and ends that had been in the fridge. 

Thursday- Today is Thursday. While we didn't have Brinner, everyone seemed to enjoy tonights meal. I had some left over cooked chicken breast that I really needed to use up. So, earlier today I made some more tortillas, so we could have  


I shredded the chicken then heated it up in the skillet with some chopped red pepper and onions that we are growing ourselves (another pinterest idea). 

While the chicken was heating, Emma was nibbling pieces of shredded chicken, mozzarella cheese, and warmed up tortilla, and I was mixing up some guacamole. 

Once the chicken was heated, I moved it to a bowl, tossed a tortilla into the skillet, threw some cheese on top, added a scoop of chicken, a bit more cheese, then topped it with a second tortilla. Using the main part of the skillet as a weight to press my quesadilla together while they cooked in the cover of the skillet worked out wonderfully. I guess the hefty weight of the skillet is useful for more than an arm workout. 

When we had stopped at the grocery store for the avocado for the guacamole , I also picked up some ice cream so we could have this

 for dessert. Homemade with love from scratch chocolate chip cookies with (store bought) vanilla ice cream. I think this might have to be a once a month dessert, planned and added to the menu/grocery list so we can also make the ice cream. Emma and I have made homemade ice cream before, but we are not allowed to make it very often for the simple fact that we (Jared and I ) end up eating the entire batch in one or two sittings. 

Funny enough, I think my meal planning might just work out despite the fact that, just today, Jared made the comment that I should buy some more sushi next time I was at the store. My reply was, "I just made some!" To which Jared dared to say, "But I didn't get any."

Maybe that will make him think twice next time about criticizing the smells coming from the kitchen. But, because I love him, I did pick up an extra avocado at the grocery store.  

And just for the fun of it, a few photos from our walk yesterday. Puddle jumping was required :)

It would have been awesome to get the picture between these two.