We’ve done two days so far of Rightstart math, and I’m definitely liking it so far. I think we’ve started it at just about the right level, because it’s fairly easy for Emily at the moment, so that she feels fairly confident and we get through the lesson quickly, but not so basic that she feels frustrated. I think that in the next few days, it will start feeling a little harder, so we’ll see. I might do lessons that are a bit harder twice, or a lesson one day and some review/games the next day to practice before moving on.

So far each day we practice recognizing a number without counting. Yesterday was numbers 1-3, today was 1-4. She seems fairly solid on this. She was also very comfortable with the other parts of the lessons involving sorting, continuing a pattern, etc. The two things that she might need work on are using her fingers to indicate a number, and ordinal numbers. She understands how to use her fingers to indicate a number, but she doesn’t seem to understand how to use her thumb to hold fingers down, and that’s going to handicap her as we go along. However, she conceptually understands all of that fine, so I don’t think it’s really much of a problem. She can always use tally sticks instead. The ordinal numbers thing isn’t uncommon to take a while, especially as “second” and “third” don’t sound a whole lot like “two” and “three.” She may find “fourth” and “fifth” easier.

I’m looking forward to playing with the abacus, which we don’t use for a few lessons. I’ve never understood them before, but looking through some lessons in Rightstart, it’s like… Oh! So that’s what it’s for. Yeah.

I’ve been majorly slacking off with the other stuff that I wanted to do with Sonlight. I have All About Reading pre-level 1, A Reason For Handwriting K, and Language Arts K. With All About Reading, I haven’t been pushing the letters much, working more on the games to develop phonemic awareness. But today was G, and I wanted to make sure we did some activities that involved looking at G, because the rounded shapes are the ones that Emily struggles to write correctly. So we did some coloring activities with G, I showed her the G in a pan of cornmeal, and practiced writing the capital G on a whiteboard with the A Reason For Handwriting treehouse on it. Tomorrow I’ll probably have her try to make a G with foamboard letters, make it herself in the cornmeal, and then try a sheet of handwriting Gs. Plus math.

I think that trying to do Bible (which involves reading Bible stories, practicing our Bible verse, and talking about a Biblical character trait), the reading of the core books, reading, science, math, language arts, and handwriting is way too much for a day. There are people on the forums I read who talk about how they’re finished a higher level of school in 1.5 hours and they wonder if that’s long enough, and I don’t get it. We usually do school for 1.5 hours, sometimes 2.5 if we do some in the morning and some in the afternoon, and we don’t get everything done. So I’m contemplating either alternating days (Bible, core, and science one day, handwriting, language arts, and math the other day, or something like that), or splitting some subjects into two days. Maybe doing language arts one day, and handwriting and math the other day (plus Bible/core/science every day). Not sure. I’m inclined to do math and science every day, because those are the ones that I want to get ahead/keep up on, and I wouldn’t mind core and language arts taking longer, but… it seems like every time I make a plan for how I’m going to do things, I never end up sticking to it. So, we’ll see.

It occurred to me today that… I actually love vacuuming. Okay, I’ve always been fond of it, because it’s fairly easy, not messy, and you get to watch a dirty floor turn clean and beautiful. But I love it all the more so because I got a new vacuum.

Our old vacuum bit the dust back when we were moving out of our house in New England for a TDY in the Midwest. I hadn’t used it much there because the floors were all hardwood, except for the dining room. Yes, the dining room. So I went to vacuum as we were moving out, and only the hose (the part that you put the attachments on) would give any suction whatsoever. However, I’d lost all the attachments at some point in the last 10 years. Using the hose to vacuum a room? Not fun. But I didn’t do anything about it at the time, as we were provided a vacuum during our TDY and then had hardwood floors everywhere when we went back to New England, and it wasn’t until we got here and I went to vacuum the rug we have in the girls’ bedroom that I was reminded that it didn’t work. So we looked at Consumer Reports, and Amazon, and… it turns out that what CR thinks are the best vacuums are not what regular people think are the best vacuums, and vice versa. I think part of it is that CR tests new vacuums in one limited test, so they don’t deal with vacuums aging, or breaking, etc. But I also care about some of the things they were testing for, and I didn’t agree with their methodology for testing things like maneuverability. So I ended up trusting Amazon reviewers and got the Dyson DC-25 Animal. And I love it. It is so easy to use. It has a ball that it rotates on, so you can maneuver it extremely well and it takes a lot less effort to push and turn it. It has fantastic suction. It has a hose with a pipe and a handle attached, so that you can easily and effortlessly clean under and around things and things over your head. Or clean out messy booster seats. 🙂 You have to empty the canister every time, but I actually love that, because you don’t have to buy bags or change bags. So fun, so easy. Yes, I’m a dork. But I love vacuuming now. In fact, I’m tempted to go clean the playroom right now just so that I have an excuse to vacuum it. But I think I’ll play Wii Lego Harry Potter instead (review on that to follow!).

Mother’s Day Out and a new play structure!

The church that we’ve started going to has something called “Mother’s Day Out.” It’s a program that you sign up for, and you can drop your kids off every Wednesday morning for a few hours (or, well, you can do morning + afternoon as well) so that you can run errands without kids, get things done around the house, schedule appointments, etc. It’s not free, but it’s fairly inexpensive. Hour by hour, it’s slightly cheaper than the *very* inexpensive preschool that Emily went to for a month here before we moved away last fall.

I can’t find the signup form, so I’ll have to grab a new one at church today, but I think I might go for it. Jenny doesn’t want to do it, of course (she cries every time I drop her off at church nursery), but as she did okay at our old church in Massachusetts, I think it just takes her a bit longer to get used to a place. So I think I might sign both girls up for now. You pay by the session, so if it really doesn’t work for Jenny, I can always pull her out later. She plays better independently than Emily does, even though she’s younger, so it wouldn’t be the end of the world to have her home. And I think that Emily will really enjoy it, as it’s almost a bit like preschool. Charlotte I’ll keep home, because she usually naps in the morning anyway. Not only do I not think she would nap there, but also there’s no point in paying the extra money to have somebody else watch her nap. 🙂

Hopefully it won’t interfere with homeschool too much. The family group that I joined also has a preschool coop once a week. But even if she does both, two mornings a week shouldn’t be the end of the world. I’m already hoping to make P4/5 last as long as possible. And I can try to do a few things in the afternoon. In fact, while sometimes I struggle to get our afternoon school session done just because I so want to spend afternoon naptime/quiet time getting things done around the house, having the girls gone in the morning might make me more productive then and more able to fit school in the afternoon. Wow, that was a sentence worth of Cooper or Hawthorne. I hope you can parse it, because I don’t feel like rewriting.

Seth took down a tree yesterday. I was quite impressed. He figured it out by watching videos of tree removal on YouTube. 🙂 He didn’t even crash my clothesline that was almost underneath, or so much as brush the house with a branch. Very awesome. We’ve got a bit more sun now, and once he gets the stump out he’ll have a place to park his car not on the road.

In other news, we got a play structure for our backyard! Yay! And it was free! More yay! I saw it on Freecycle Friday evening and responded immediately (although it had been up for two hours). Late that night, I got a reply and he said I could have it! Seth went over and picked it up. And yay!
This is a stock photo, of course. As ours is from Freecycle and 5 years old, it doesn’t look that lovely. But all the parts are present, Seth will make sure it’s safe, and I’m going to stain it and buy a new canopy, so it should look pretty nice soon! I’ll take pictures as soon as I can.

The house is a disaster, but what else is new?

I know, I know. If I expect anybody to read my blog, I have to, like, actually post in it. Sorry. I’ll work on it, I promise.

We’re still trying to get the house in order. This is where it stands at the moment. Kitchen: No floor. Or, rather, plain, untreated, stained wood floor that needs vinyl. Or something. Walls had several layers of wallpaper and paint stripped off them, so they’re all patchy and ugly. Dishwasher is plumbed and usable, but has no counter above it, so when you open it you need to support the door with your foot, or a stool placed there conveniently for that purpose, or the dishwasher will fall forward. I just managed to unpack my spices today. Of course, the bottle of rosemary apparently did not have the cap tightly sealed, so when I went to lift it out… rosemary everywhere. On the plus side, I have an awesome new vacuum cleaner that made short work of cleaning up the spill of rosemary in the kitchen, and one of the attachments let me suck up the extra rosemary from the packed box so that I didn’t have to take everything else out as well. Ironically enough, I probably still have enough rosemary left in the bottle to last me until my fiftieth wedding anniversary. It is not a spice I use often. The overhead light in the kitchen is not hooked up yet, but there is a switch-light mounted over the sink that serves well enough.

Moving on. Dining room: Not bad, not bad. One large hole in the floor plugged with a board. Another hole in the wall for ductwork blocked with a box so that nobody tries to fit a toy (or perhaps a baby sister) down it. Otherwise, definitely messy (some boxes in the corner, some clutter issues), but otherwise okay.

Living room: Also not too bad. A large pile of boxes in one corner, and plastic-wrapped strange things (I think some are pictures in frames, no idea what others are) against the fireplace. However, we finally got the TV hooked up. It took a visit to my parents for which I brought along my new Wii, and showing Steve the Lego Harry Potter game. Now we’re addicts, and he had to hook up the TV almost as soon as we got back here so that we can play Lego Harry Potter together. It’s been great fun. Of course, we played a little this evening, and just when we got to the big battle of one part of the game, the Wii froze (while making an annoying high-pitched sound) and we lost the game. And the game doesn’t let you save at any point, only at waypoints. So we’ll have to go all the way back when we start over. 😦

Kids’ playroom is also not bad. It has a row of boxes along the wall, but I’ve tried to make use of them, so there’s space to play and all. I just cleaned it tonight and vacuumed (yay new vacuum cleaner!) so hopefully I will have better luck getting the girls to clean it in future.

Downstairs bathroom: gutted. As in, there is some PVC sticking out of the drywall walls, and a wooden subfloor. Yeah.

Stairs: No baby gate at the bottom. I have a pressure gate that I put up, but I keep forgetting, wondering where Charlotte is, and frantically running up the stairs to find her in the bathroom eating the toothbrushes again. So far I have been *very* lucky. I really need to get Seth to set up a mounted gate at the bottom of the stairs, as I’d be less likely to forget to close it. We do have a mounted gate at the top of the stairs.

Bathroom: Wooden subfloor. Toilet flushes, but it has a problem where the water never shuts off, so you have to keep the valve turned off except when you are actively filling the tank. This is hard for me to remember for some reason, but very bad to forget. I did the other day, and it caused a major flood that meant water leaking through the closet in the girls’ playroom (which is directly downstairs from the bathroom). 😦 There is no sink or vanity or mirror. There is a working bathtub, and we sit on the edge of it and wash our hands/brush our teeth in the tub. The tub does not have a tile surround yet, it’s just plastic taped to the wall. There is no bathroom closet or anything. A plastic bin holds our bathroom supplies, and the frequently-used items rest on top of the bin for easy access (which explains how Charlotte is able to get hold of toothbrushes all the time).

The girls’ room is basically done. It’s pretty simple, just Emily and Jenny’s bunkbed and Charlotte’s crib, a small bookshelf for bedtime books, dressers for their clothes, and a standing fan. Plus whatever toys manage to walk themselves (because, ask the girls, they had nothing to do with it) upstairs and into the room. Also sometimes wet pullups. Ick. There’s no switched light, though. None of the outlets work, so a extension cord runs from the bathroom to power the lamp, nightlight, and fan.

Master bedroom: Basically complete, although also has no power and has to use an extension cord to the bathroom. Is sort of a dump spot for household items, plus is hard to clean because Charlotte is napping in there half the day, so is a huge mess. But otherwise is pretty much finished, except for needing outlets and a light.

Backyard: Huge pile of limbs and branches from a tree that has been cut down is diminishing. It was taking up a huge percentage of the yard, but most of it is now chopped up into firewood and in neat stacks on a pallet near the fence. Yay! The yard is a mess of kid toys, but that doesn’t so much bother me. We do still need to hang all our laundry on a line, because the dryer hasn’t been connected yet.

So. If there can be any excuse for the lack of blog updates, I hope that this detailed description of the state of our house will count. I haven’t mentioned the many and sundry toys, clothes, and odds-and-ends strewn about the house, so just assume that they’re liberally scattered throughout the rooms in the previous description.

In other news, Charlotte is, I think, getting close to walking. She’ll sit in a crouch, and then slowly raise herself to standing independently, and hold the position for a few seconds. So it probably won’t be too long! I’m taking bets on whether it happens before or after her birthday, which is the 25th. Either way, I think it’ll be close! She’ll be my latest-to-walk baby. She is so entertaining, though, and such a joy. She’s very cheerful, gets into everything, and just has such a strong and fun personality for such a young child. I adore her.

We’re just about to finish our second week of school. We’re doing Sonlight P4/5, which is the second year of preschool, and having a lot of fun with it so far. I bought Handle on the Arts’ Science and Bible add-ons, which give you some hands-on activities that go with the science and Bible portions of P4/5. The girls have really loved the crafts so far, which is great. We had fun making Noah’s Ark the other day with construction paper for the background and waves, an ark made from a template, and then gluing on cotton balls for clouds and matching sets of animal crackers for the animals. Unfortunately, Emily left hers on the floor, and Charlotte found it and ate off most of the animal crackers and a few cotton balls before I caught her. So I didn’t get a picture of how cute it was.

We took some pictures of us outside reading one of our favorite Sonlight books so far, the Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science and Nature. It’s really a fantastic book. Not only does it give a great overview of so much science, but it does so in verse that is catchy and rhyming and funny and memorable all at the same time.

I also just bought a new math package for Emily. Singapore Earlybird Kindergarten Math wasn’t really captivating her. She seems to detest workbooks in all shapes and forms, which it certainly was. Most math, of course, is in workbooks or similar, though. I kept hearing about Rightstart Math, and finally decided to try it. My initial reluctance was that I had heard that it’s very teacher-intensive. You can’t assign them some problems and then have them work independently, it’s all basically done with the teacher. This can be difficult when you have multiple kids. I finally decided, though, that right now I’d have to work with her anyway, and that Rightstart seems to give such a great foundation that it’s worth it. If I need her to work more independently later, I’ll transition her to another math program then. By then, she may be better able to handle something that is more textbook- or video-based. I love Rightstart’s teaching theories, and I really think they help kids get a handle on math and truly understand what they’re doing. I bought the deluxe kit which has all sorts of math manipulatives, so I look forward to trying it out with her. I have everything ready for the first lesson, but we went on a field trip today to a water event at the park and played hookey from school. Yay for homeschooling. 🙂