Rawlins Family

Rawlins Family

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Times and Seasons

Life has been crazy around here for the last couple of weeks, and I'm starting to lose my mind. I've noticed that when life gets out of control with my kids it's easy for me to really slip in other areas of my life. I get a little blue and start feeling negatively about EVERYTHING when things are hard with the kids. I think being stuck at home - away from friends and social activities - compounds all of the hard feelings I'm already having. Plus, I'm stuck in the house that I'm usually too busy to clean because I'm dealing with cranky littles all day. And being in a messy house exacerbates the all of those "down" feelings. I can handle mess for a little while, but once it creeps into the corners and takes over bookshelves (which, in 1800 sq. ft., with seven people happens pretty much all the time always) my brain just about explodes. I don't like clutter. I put up with a certain amount that just comes with having five kids, but it really makes me crazy.

SO, yeah. Not really feeling like I'm in a great place right now. And I need to shake myself out of it! So I'm writing it all out here so that I can hopefully gain some clarity and perspective.

I need to remember, at this time and season of my life, that I've chosen to bring five entirely new human beings into the world. The window of time during which their world will revolve around me is so short, and I have to make the most of it. I'm blessed to be homeschooling because it allows me to extend that time a little bit, but I can already feel it slipping away with my big kids who are involved in so many activities. I feel my soul itching for better time management that will help me refocus my energy on them. I want so much to be more present, instead of constantly half-listening to them while I work on other, less meaningful tasks. I have time set aside each day that is mine, and that's important, too. But that time needs better boundaries so that the me time doesn't bleed into the hours that should belong to my sweet babes. That time management and self-discipline is my biggest goal of the year. If I don't accomplish anything else this year, I want to get that one thing right.

In the same vein, I want to use my personal time effectively. I can't fill anyone's cup if mine is empty. I was doing really well reading the scriptures and working on personal improvement (ie. taking care of this overworked body through proper diet and exercise) over the first few months of the year, but I've started to slip up a little and I can FEEL it. Whole 30 was a huge eye opener for me. It showed me that my body really functions best when it's treated to good, healthy, whole foods. I had so much energy, slept so well, and felt generally amazing. I held onto those habits for several weeks afterward, but when the kids got sick and I kept getting sick (three rounds of antibiotics in three months just makes a girl sad, okay?) I just stopped caring and went for what was easiest. I've been trying hard to get back into the groove, but I know I need to make a more deliberate effort. I know that effort into pays huge dividends in my ability/desire to be a more effective mom/wife/person. So, back to work!

The last thing I really, really, reeeeeeeeeeeeally want to do is get control of this dang house. We've lived here for 8.5 years and blossomed from a family of four to a family of seven. We hope to be in a new house sometime next year (hope!!), but in the meantime I need to go through the nooks and crannies and purge the heck out of this house. We'll do some renovations later in the year, and a little work now will save me big-time effort later. And I'm just overall feeling the need to edit! We don't need so much stuff. I love throwing things away. It makes me happy.

So three big areas to refocus on. I think I got this. The important stuff won't ever happen if I don't plan for it to happen, right? We're going to finish out the school year strong and then switch to our summer schedule in about a month. I'm so looking forward to days by the pool...

Here are some recent pictures of the kids. Thanks to Tara Peckham Photography for the great shots.

Cameron, 11, 5th grade. Loves scouts, legos, backstroke, having "hang outs" with friends, and reading books about ninjas. Is a phenomenal big brother, and is always helping around the house. Puts up with the insanity of being our guinea-child. Sorry for practicing on your, kiddo!
Miles, 9, 3rd grade. Loves climbing trees, Hobbits, asking deep and meaningful questions when he's supposed to be in bed. Has boundless energy, a great zest for life, and incredible compassion. Can't even imagine my life without this crazy kid!
Sophia, 7, 1st grade. Loves reading, being outside, gymnastics, swimming, and being awesome at life. Wishes we would finally cave and get a pet, but she'll settle for being a veterinarian when she grows up. But she doesn't want to be a nerd. Apparently. Whatever. She's smarter than me! And she keeps us laughing with her silly antics. She's a true light in our home.

Haley, 4. Loves playing ponies and Barbies, kissing her baby sister, reading books with mommy and daddy, going to the library. Also loves snuggling with mommy and daddy in the morning, which is awesome. Gets the award for being the easiest, most mellow kid ever. She's dreamy.

Emilyn, 15 months. Loves walking fast, binkies, babbling, eating things from the floor of random public places, following big sisters around, is president of the Daddy Fan Club. She has been the perfect capstone on this crazy family. She's a super trooper and puts up with being dragged everywhere, but really loves when she gets mommy to herself. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Curricula 2014-2015 School Year

As of January, we have officially completed two years of homeschooling. When we set out to homeschool we had no idea what we were doing. It really took us some time to discover the truth behind, "When it comes to curricula, there is no one-size-fits-all." But I feel like we're finally in a great groove, and using things we really love, that really work.

Cameron (fifth grade):
  • Language Arts - this has been the hardest one to nail down. We found right away that Easy Grammar was a fantastic fit for us, but we've been through the wringer trying to find something to meet our needs.This year I set writing on the back burner and focused on reading A LOT. That gave him a much needed rest from being constantly harangued about writing! After Christmas, though Success with Writing. He doesn't love it, but it keeps him fresh and working. I've got a pretty great writing curriculum all lined up for next year.
  • Math - Cameron is in the final chapters of Math U See Epsilon. MUS is a mastery-based math program, so one major operation is taught through mastery in each level. By the time all sixth levels are complete, the student has completed the equivalent of sixth grade math. Epsilon focuses on fractions, which I was totally dreading. But, MUS came through again, and we allllllll understand fractions at a much deeper level now. In addition to MUS, Cam is working through Life of Fred: Fractions. We love Fred around here. 
  • Geography/History - We're using Trail Guides to US Geography. I don't love it, but it does get the job done. See my other posts for our US history units. We're loving them!
  • Typing/Programming - Somewhere along the way, a friend recommended SpongeBob typing. It was inexpensive, so I picked it up. It's working. I just stay far, far away from the computer when I hear it going. SpongeBob gives me the shivers. For programming, we're using level one of Kid Coder. It's fantastic, but we find we simply run out of time during our regular school day. I plan to use this course over the summers when we're usually just doing math and reading.
  • Science - We're using, and loving, Sassafras Science:Zoology.
  • Civics - Cameron is completing a civics workbook. It also serves as reading comprehension work. It's not my favorite, and it's not his favorite. I may have him work at a slower pace, or simply set it aside for another year. I haven't decided yet.
  • Music - Cameron is still plugging away with our piano lessons. He doesn't have any of the passion for the instrument that I do, but he told me that he wants to stick with it. Occasionally I will hear him sit down to play FOR FUN, and that's my favorite!
  • PE - Cameron continues to swim year-round, and he's working really hard to clean up his strokes so he can swim in the same lane with the best swimmers this summer. We also meet for regular PE classes with our homeschool group. That's where we do old-school PE stuff, like kickball. I love our homeschool group!
Miles (third grade):
  • Language arts - Miles is using Easy Grammar, Success with Reading Comprehension, and Success with Writing. Miles is my busiest kid, and reading was a struggle for awhile. Thankfully, we've reached a place where he can finally sit down and focus on his work. He's cruising through and doing so well! We're incredibly proud of him and all his effort. For spelling, we're using Spelling Workout, which is quick and painless. Cursive has been a fun new skill this year. Miles' printing skills are pretty on-par for most serial killers, so I'm happy to see that his cursive is quite pretty!
  • Math - Miles is finishing up Math U See Gamma, which focuses mainly on multiplication. He is a bit of a natural with math. He's also working through the Life of Fred elementary series. When it was time to memorize his multiplication facts, we used Times Tales. I would recommend that to anyone, public school or homeschool. It's a really great resource.
  • Geography/History - See above.
  • Typing - SpongeBob. Shootmeinthehead.
  • Science - Sassafras Science: Zoology. We ended up using Zoology because of Miles. He has been all about animals since he was a little guy. He gravitates to books and magazines about animals, and has a million animal facts running around that brain of his. This is a favorite subject for him.
  • Music - Miles has started lessons with me. He's going to be my kid who loves music. Like me, he started by playing by ear. I left him alone until just recently because I knew he needed to conquer his focus issues before we could work on anything else. He's picking up quickly and I know he'll zoom through his lesson books...if only he can stop playing the Star Wars and Lord of the Ring themes long enough to practice!
  • PE - Miles is also swimming year-round. He's a solid swimmer, and he enjoys it. What he really enjoys, however, is climbing ALL OF THE TREES. ALL OF THEM! He is often ON MY ROOF, or 20 FEET UP in a tree. And he's happiest there. He's incredibly sure-footed as well, so that's why we're putting him in climbing classes later this year. I'll feel better when he's clipped to something.

Sophia (first grade):
  • Language arts - Sophia is using Success with Grammar, Success with Reading Comprehension, and Success with Writing - all at a second or third grade level. She is reading all of the books that were ever written, and killing it with Spelling Workout. If I can't find her, it's because she's sitting somewhere reading. Right now she is systematically checking out every Garfield comic anthology the library owns, while also reading the Goddess Girls and Magic Tree House series. There's no pinning her down.
  • Math - Sophia about to finish up Math U See Beta, and has memorized her times tables so she'll be able to skip through the first part of Gamma sometime this spring. At some point I expect she'll start teaching math to me. She enjoys the antics of that wacky Fred just as much as the boys.
  • Geography/History - Don't judge me, but I'm about to tell you a cold, hard truth. I don't care if my first-grader knows a thing about history or geography. I'd rather her be outside playing. She plays Stack the States and is the fastest one in our family to put together the US map floor puzzle. She knows where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are, and that we don't live on the same continent as the Egyptians. That's enough for me! She's done. A+! Sometimes she'll stick around while I'm working with the boys, and she's always present for any supplemental videos we watch. So, yup. That's it.
  • Science - Sassafras Science: Zoology
  • Typing - Again with the SpongeBob. I actually fought her on this one. I didn't want her stressing over her fine motor skills (not her strongest feature, and she's almost a perfectionist, so she DOES stress), but she insisted, I relented, and here we are. My adorable seven-year old talking about Crusty the freaking Crab. Erg.
  • Music - Sophia, I love you, and I want you to know that first, because I'm about to tell you that you can't carry a tune in a bucket. You'll get there (one day, fingers crossed). But you go ahead and keep singing your heart out to the Annie soundtrack. (Too honest? Well, let's all take a moment and consider the people on American Idol whose parents were outside the audition room swearing on a stack of Bibles that their baby was the next Mariah Carey...) Also, Sophia is currently cast as "Molly" in Annie. Saying she loves it would be an understatement. She lives for it! She gets her drama from me, no question about it.
  • PE - Sophia is part hobbit, and lives out-of-doors barefoot in all weather conditions. She also swims year-round with the boys, and takes gymnastics classes. But mostly she's running around looking slightly homeless. Please don't call CPS.

Haley (preschool'ish?):

Me: "Haley, let's keep working on our letters and numbers!"
Haley: "Okay, mommy! Let's do that. And then I'm going to scrub every memory of it from my brain so that I never, ever, ever remember those letters and numbers you keep trying to teach me. Oh look! The sky is bluepink, and this apple is black, and tires are squares, and why are you bothering me right now because I want to play and you're messing that up."
Me: Sigh.

Emilyn (Age Perfection):

"Hey mommy, let's be best friends and you never put me down ever in my life ever. Mmmkay? Except, oh wait, what's that? Books on the book shelf? Who put those there? Let me down immediately so that I can go pull all 147 books off of those shelves."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Baby girl turns one

I know I'm not caught up on anyone's birthdays, or any events, or anything. And it's too overwhelming to try to get caught up! I've got pictures and blurbs posted all over the place, so I'll have to compile those at some point and get it organized. But for now, THIS GIRL!

This girl has been the dreamiest of dreamy babies. So dreamy, in fact, that I was in deep, deep, way down deep denial about her birthday coming up. She just kept getting better and better at being a human. Who wants that kind of baby-ness to end? AND, she's my last little person. I had some serious thoughts that Haley might be my last, but it was never a sure feeling. I always had the idea that we might have another wiggling in the back of my brain. But throughout my pregnancy I felt a peace and contentment at the thought of Emilyn being my last. And so she shall be!

On her birthday we had our family come over and eat some pizza and cake with us. And Emilyn ate her cake with GUSTO! I think she must have been expecting me to take it away any minute, because she double-fisted that sucker. Yummo.

Happy first birthday, Emilyn Pearl! You have the most amazing ability to make everyone happy. We all light up when we see you, and you love unconditionally. And thanks for finally learning to sleep. That helps.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Bill of Rights is like giving the Constitution an upgrade...

Yes, Miles. The Bill of Rights IS like giving the Constitution an upgrade. I love that kid's brain.

This week we completed a quick unit on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Below are the resources we used.

Our Constitution Rocks, by Juliette Turner -  this is a resource we own, and I think it's a pretty great book. I'd like my older kids to read it eventually, but it was too much to get through in one week, so it stayed on the shelf. The story of its creation is pretty great, though.
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Shhh!! We're Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz - another great one by Ms. Fritz. Did you know that the residents of Philadelphia were so concerned about being quiet during the Grand Convention that they covered the cobblestone streets in front of Independence Hall with gravel? I love the fun tidbits of information that Fritz always includes in her work.
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...If You Were There When They Signed the Consitution by Elizabeth Levy and Joan Holub - this is another series of books we really enjoy. It's a question/answer style of writing. We read this late in the week and were able to skip over a fair amount that had already been covered in other books. At 70+ pages, this one is long!
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We the People: The Story of Our Constitution by Lynn Cheney - Lynn Cheney has written a series of children's books about American history. We've enjoyed them so far. They're a bit wordy, but they're always beautifully illustrated. I did feel like this one didn't do as great a job at explaining the finer points in the legislative branch, but that's hard to do in a children's book.
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We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States by David Catrow - I like how this book breaks down the big words, and explains those big ideas. This is short and sweet.
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The Bill of Rights (True Books: American History) by Christine Taylor-Butler - a thorough presentation of all of those individual rights that are so important!
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Rather than do a big, elaborate poster of the three branches of government, we did a simple one on the white board and called it good. Cameron will be completing a workbook to finish out the year. That will cover his social studies/civics requirement for the year.
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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Sassafras Science Review - Zoology

Because I love to read reviews before purchasing curricula, I've decided to start reviewing the stuff we love! Hopefully it will help others.

This year we are trying a new science curriculum that I'm really loving. It's called Sassafras Science Adventures, Volume 1. It's an elementary science course that teaches through literature. If you're looking for a super-intense, experiment-based science program for your five-year old, this is not for you (and also, you should slow down). If you're looking for a fun, age-appropriate, engaging science program with lots of hands-on projects, this program IS for you. I originally intended to use this with my 3rd grader, but after day one I realized I wouldn't be able to do that...because the rest of my kids wouldn't ever leave us alone! They were all hooked. So I ditched our plans and went with it. That is, after all, the point of homeschooling.

Sassafras Science is a book about Blaine and Tracy Sassafras, a twin brother and sister who hate science. After a dismal year, they are sent to spend the summer with their crazy Uncle Cecil who happens to be a scientist. He sends them on adventures where they are able to learn about various habits and wildlife. As students, you're encouraged to track what you're learning. You can do that in a simple blank notebook, or you can purchase the SCIDAT logbook. That was totally worth the money, in my opinion. It's great for keeping information organized, and it keeps the kids involved. There is also a separate teacher manual. It provides suggestions for how best to schedule your studies, additional reading material, experiments, activities, etc. I found it really helpful at the very beginning, but haven't used it much since. One activity from the manual that we've really come to love, though, is the habitat poster. As we learn about a habitat, we make a poster and then add the animals as we learn about them. It's my kids' favorite part.
I've read that this curricula is intended to take half of a school year, but I don't know...that would be moving at a pretty fast pace. We are taking the full school year, and it's given us plenty of time to do additional reading and activities without feeling like we're only ever doing science! I have to be careful not to let exciting subjects totally dominate our lives. But maybe that's just me...

We plan to continue on next year with the twins as they take on Anatomy. Cameron will be in sixth-grade, so I'll be adding more meat (pun intended) to his studies to make sure it's rigorous enough, but I think it will be great.

This series is still in production. Volume 3: Botany was published in late 2014, and Volume 4: Earth Science is slated for 2015 (hopefully!).

*This review was for my own purposes, and I am not affiliated with Sassafras Science. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Revolutionary War unit and book review

We've been having so much fun with some of our units, I've decided to keep track of them here.

Our journey to finding a good history course has been long and annoying. We tried Joy Hakim's The History of US. It's a wonderful series, and one I will use with my kids as they get older. However, it wasn't a good fit for our family at this point, so we abandoned it. In the end, we decided to use a literature-based approach and do our own thing for US history (and probably all history going forward). Along the way, we found some fantastic resources, and had a great time!

Books we loved:
Jean Fritz has written a slew of excellent children's books. We are big fans! We read Where was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May?; Why Don't You Get a Horse, Sam Adams; Sign Here, John Hancock; and George Washington's Breakfast. We own, but didn't get around to What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin; and And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? We also didn't get into Why Not, Lafayette? because it was a little over the kids' heads.
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If you've never heard me say it before, let me say it again: WE LOVE THE WHO WAS... SERIES FROM GROSSET & DUNLAP. We read bios of Paul Revere, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.
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As a family, we listened to Johnny Tremain. I somehow escaped childhood without ever reading it. Cameron was originally going to read My Brother Sam is Dead but disliked it and read Give Me Liberty by LM Elliot instead. Miles' assigned personal reading was a Magic Tree House fact tracker book on the American Revolution. Together, the boys read George Washington: Spymaster for a book club we hosted. And we finished up with a few supplemental items from Kids Discover magazine: American Revolution!, and TIME magazine for kids. Kids Discover magazine has free vocabulary cards and lesson guides to go with several of their editions. Cameron used the vocab cards and the boys both completed the worksheets found here: http://www.kidsdiscover.com/free-lesson-plans/ . We found additional worksheets for the girls at education.com.

For the littlest (and biggest) among us, we read several great picture books. When Washington Crossed the Delaware, Let it Begin Here! The Battles of Lexington and Concord, The Scarlet Stocking Spy, Geroge vs. George, and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere which was beautifully illustrated by Christopher Bing.

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Liberty's Kids series from PBS, and American Ride from BYUtv were favorites and helped provide a visual reinforcement for what we were reading. We also watched a reenactment video on YouTube. It would have been cooler in real life, but I'm glad we watched it.

Activities/Field trips:
Certainly nothing brought history alive more than our trip north over the summer! Walking the grounds of Valley Forge, PA; Philadelphia; Mount Vernon; and Washington, D.C. was an incredible experience for my kids, and has given us something to refer to when we discuss the events that occurred in those places. (pictures to come...blogger is being super lame at the moment)

This Valley Forge, PA. This was the Continental Army headquarters during the brutal winter of 1777-78. Washington stayed in that house, and the soldiers stayed in small huts. Soldiers had little clothing, little food, and endured sickness. Thomas Paine wrote, "These are the times that try men's souls..." the previous winter, but I can't imagine a time more trying than the winter spent at Valley Forge.

Independence Hall! There's just something cool about walking around a building where Ben Franklin hung out.

Three or four kids ago I never would have dreamed of dragging a baby on a month-long vacation. But this particular baby makes everything easy. She slept on and off all day, only cried when hungry, and never seemed bothered by the heat or her stroller. Dreamy, dreamy baby Emilyn.

The Liberty Bell.

This is the "Declaration House." It's the boarding house where Thomas Jefferson was staying when he penned the Declaration. It's located next to the Free Library of Philadelphia, which, as my sister Alyssa pointed out, is poetic. Did you know our Library of Congress was started by good ole' Tom? A great book about that is Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library.

The tomb of Ben Franklin. It's covered in coins, but I'm not sure why. We couldn't get into the actual cemetery without paying a ridiculous sum, so we stayed outside the bars.

While in Philadelphia, we went to The Friends Meetinhouse - an active Quaker congregation still meets there.

This is an inexplicable cat fountain in the courtyard in front of Betsy's house. My niece thought it looked like a nice cat.

The burial site of Betsy Ross is located right in front of her house. It was a quick visit, and the actress playing Betsy was so snarky with me! I don't think she liked the questions I was asking.

To finish up our unit, we decided to create a picture timeline on our wall. We first time-lined the events. Then, the kids picked one or two battles or events that they wanted to draw, and those were placed on the timeline as well. Cameron - being a big 5th grader this year - was assigned an oral presentation of all the material we studied.

While we enjoyed learning in such depth about this topic, we are all ready to move on. We'll do a brief unit on the Constitution before heading into the Westward Expansion/Native Americans/Pioneers/Gold Rush...

Friday, October 11, 2013

No matter how it tried...

I recently found a poem. I'm in love with this poem. My kids are working on memorizing it.

All the water in the world
No matter how it tried
Could never sink the smallest ship
Unless it got inside.

And all the evil in the world
and every kind of sin
Can never harm a human soul
Unless we let it in.

-Author Unknown

I think this is a powerful message, and especially powerful for children. The world is crazy right now. There are so many things that are out of our control. There is so much sin, hatred, and sadness plaguing the human race. And, if we don't know better, we could feel like it's enough to drown us where we stand.

But we can be untouchable! We can create homes - and even better, HEARTS - where sin isn't permitted. Where we can feel a refuge from the storm, and a safe place to rest our heads regardless of what is happening outside our doors. Heavenly Father has given us the power to do this! It's just up to us to keep the water out of the boat. And, when that water gets in, because that water DOES get in, we can use the Atonement as the bailing bucket.

What a blessing.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Favorite fall recipes

I'm not a great summer recipe gal. I mean, I manage to keep my family fed during the summer months, but it's just not my forte. And frankly, I get sick of it. By the end of the August I'm done with salads and quick-cook meals. I'm ready for hearty, stick-to-your-ribs meals. And I'm ready for SOUP. Oh, I love soup. I cook it in the middle of the summer on a regular basis because I love it that much. Been hiking on a sweaty mountain? Let me treat you to a nice, steaming bowl of tortilla soup. Yeah. That's right.

I have lots of fall and winter recipes that I really love - things like a meal in a pumpkin, white chicken chili, shepherd's pie. But there isn't anything I love more than a bowl of simple Butternut Squash Soup. I found a recipe I loved years ago, but haven't been able to find it again. This resulted in me being forced to come up with one on my own. Thankfully I remembered the general gist of the recipe. Because, while I may enjoy doctoring up existing recipes and making them my own, I'm not so great at generating actual recipes from thin air.

Here is my favorite fall soup. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup

6 cups diced butternut squash (I used to actually gut a butternut squash - and I still will every now and then - but Target sells frozen butternut squash, so I use two packages of that. Because I enjoy my life outside of the kitchen.)
1 apple - your choice of type
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 large baking potato, or 2 small, chopped with the skins still on.
4 cups chicken broth
Generous splash of apple cider if you're in the mood.

Put it all in a crockpot on low for the day. When everything is cooked through and tender use and immersion blender (or transfer to a regular blender) and blend until smooth. Then add 1/2 C - 2/3 C heavy cream. Salt to taste.

Goes great with a salad and crusty bread. Or just stick your face in the pot with a straw and go to town.