Saturday, October 28, 2017

Praying Consistently

For years, I struggled to pray with any consistency. I knew I ought to, and felt guilty, and tried various approaches, none of which stuck. I wanted to pray for certain people, such as missionaries and government officials, and I'd start, do it for a few days, but then forget. Before I was married, I made a big list of everyone I wanted to pray for, and went through the whole thing every morning - for about 2 weeks, when going through the same list in the same order became so boring and time-consuming I just couldn't get through it. After getting married, life encroached and my prayer life really slipped. I particularly wanted to pray for my husband and all my children daily, but I'd get sidetracked (repeatedly) and forget who I'd been praying for before the distraction occurred. I found it easy to commit to daily Bible reading, but prayer tended not to happen, or at least not much. But now, I finally have a system that, while not perfect, has helped me achieve more consistency in prayer than I've had at other times in my life, and I want to share it in the spirit of possibly helping others be more consistent in prayer, too.

The first part of my system consists of a set of 6 bracelets. I got the idea from a magazine article I read (by a mom with more children than I have!) and it's my "bare minimum" daily prayer goal: pray for my husband and 5 children daily. I have a bracelet for each person, with names spelled out in alphabet beads. I used white alphabet beads and blue and purple glass beads, which match pretty much everything I wear, so I can wear the bracelets daily. In the morning when I get up, I put all the bracelets on my left wrist. Then, even if it's a crazy busy day, I can pray for one person at a time as I do other tasks. When I've prayed for someone, I move the bracelet with their name on it to my right wrist. Sometimes the little ones will keep me on task, as E3 demands that I read the names on each bracelet (serving as a reminder of who is still on my left wrist).

The second part of my system involves a set of note cards. I started making them after buying and trying to use the book The Busy Mom's Guide to Prayer, by Lisa Whelchel (available from Amazon). The book guides you through 20 days of prayer in each of six categories: Praise, Self, Husband, Children, Personal Influences, and Reaching Beyond. A different aspect of each category was featured each day (for example, in the Husband category, different days might have you praying for his priorities, role as husband, role as father, or work). Something particularly helpful about the layout was that for each day's prayer in each category, a Bible verse was quoted, so that you could be sure you were praying out of the truth of God's word. However, note that I said "trying to use". There were items - particularly in the "Personal Influences" and "Reaching Beyond" sections - that really didn't apply to me (such as associate pastor, which our church doesn't have, or coworkers, which homeschool moms kind of don't have by definition), and things that I really wanted to be reminded to pray for more than once every 20 days (such as missionaries and friends). I also simply couldn't make myself pray the scripted "Praying the Word" prayer that followed each Scripture reference - a conversation with God in which my part is already written down for me is not appealing! So I took the basic idea and adapted it to my needs. I took a set of 4x6 note cards and cut them in half (resulting in cards that are a comfortable size to hold in my palm), with some of the halves having a part that sticks up higher than average so I can write a category name on it. I included some of the book's categories (Praise, Self, and Husband), and added some of my own, including a separate category for each child, and expanding "Personal Influences" and "Reaching Beyond" into categories including Missions, Ministries (Christian activity within the USA), Persecuted Church, Extended Family, Local Friends, Other Friends, Leaders, and Thanksgiving. On the basic cards, I wrote out verses that serve as a launching point for prayer. As I do my personal Bible study, sometimes a verse stands out to me and I think, "I should pray that for myself, or for Ari or one of the kids," so I copy it onto a note card and add it to the deck. I have verses for Praise, Self, Husband, and each of the kids, and then just names of specific people or organizations in the rest of the categories. As I receive updates from people, I can jot down specific prayer requests on their cards. Even with all those categories, if I spend a minute or two on each one it only takes about 30 minutes, which easily fits into the time I spend running 3 mornings a week. As I pray inspired by each Scripture reference, I move the card to the back of its category (or, in the case of the children, to the back of the next child's category), so my prayers are different each day and I don't get bored. It makes the prayer more of a conversation, as I'm hearing God's voice through his word and responding in prayer. Over the course of a few weeks I'm praying for everyone and everything I want to, I'm praying based on the Bible, and I'm staying on task. I'm still hoping to move more toward "praying without ceasing" - but at least I'm no longer "ceasing without praying"!

What's neat is that, by being more consistent in prayer, I can see specific answers to specific requests I've made recently. Ari and I had been concerned about one of our children having a constant sense of grievance - nothing was ever good enough for him. As I prayed for that child daily, I asked God to work a sense of gratitude in his heart. A little over a week ago, he came up to me, and said, "There are big happinesses that happen every year, like Christmas and my birthday, and little happinesses that happen every day, like yummy food, and tiny happinesses that happen every second, like having a shadow." It was so encouraging to see his attitude change as a direct result of God's work in his heart!

What have you found helpful in seeking to be constant in prayer? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

First 5K

This morning, E11 and I ran our first 5K. Ever since he started, a few months ago, running the equivalent of a 5K every morning, he's been wanting to run in an official race. But I was reluctant to get up before the crack of dawn to go to something an hour's drive away in Honolulu, at least for his first race ever. Then I saw that the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center was holding a 5K starting at the Waianae Mall, just a 10 minute drive from our house, and that it was a run/walk, not just a race.

Since getting a smart phone back in May, I've discovered a number of useful apps, one of which is a run/walk timer. I like the idea of running, but I have a special-needs left knee. (That's what happens if your car hits a tree at freeway speed and God is super-gracious to you and you don't die, and your husband and unborn baby are perfectly fine, but pieces of your kneecap are visible through the gaping hole in your knee). Almost 14 years after our car wreck, I still have metal in my knee and occasional pain after long walks, so I really didn't think I could run non-stop for any significant distance, let alone over 3 miles. I've tried running a few times since the accident, but always ended up stopping for one reason or another (pregnancy, usually, but the knee pain was annoying too). However, I stumbled upon this site, http://www.jeffgalloway.com/training/run-walk/ and thought it might be worth a try. When E11 started his daily long runs, I started adding very easy runs to my walks a few times a week. I started with 10 seconds of running for every 50 seconds of walking, and at that pace I had no knee pain at all. Then I increased the run times and decreased the walk times by 5 seconds each every week or two, which was a gradual enough increase that I am still not experiencing pain when I run, and I'm doing 30 seconds of running and 30 seconds of walking. So when I saw the WCCHC 5K run/walk, I decided to go for it: I didn't expect to place, but with lots of walkers I certainly wouldn't come in last, and was curious as to how well I could do.

E11, of course, was hoping to perform well. He said that if he could be in the top 10 in his age group (12 and under), he'd start working toward a 10K. The race course was to a certain point and back again, so as I was run/walking toward the turnaround point I started to see the fastest people on their way back. I kept a mental tally of how many of them looked younger than teenagers, and the third boy in that category was mine! So I knew, probably before he did, that he was likely to get a medal. The course was hilly, starting out with a downhill (which meant an uphill toward the very end), but it wasn't as steep as the street I've been run/walking up and down on days I run, so I didn't feel completely spent at the end. I felt the "runner's high" during my walk breaks, and even toward the end I was eager to run again after each walk break. I ran 3 miles last Saturday and it took me 37 minutes, but with the less-steep hills I completed the 5K in only 31:25. E11 had been waiting for me long enough that he was no longer out of breath, and when the times for the first 50 finishers were posted I looked only at his results: 24:51, fifteenth overall, 1 second faster than the fastest female racer, and 3rd in his age group. I didn't realize I had finished in the top 50 overall until they posted the next page of results and I saw the 51st finisher had been slower than me. I actually came in 45th overall and 6th among women 20-64 years old (and the 15th female to finish - there are some fast teen girls out there). So without even expecting to, I met E11's criterion for deciding to start working toward a 10K. And you know what? This was so much fun, I think I'm going to do it!




Here's the young man, in the blue shark shirt and blue shorts. The envelope contained his prize: two $5 gift certificates to the farmer's market just behind me. While I looked for fresh produce for this week's meals, he bypassed the technicolor popcorn and lilikoi haupia (passionfruit dessert) and went straight for a coconut and a dragonfruit.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Return from our Vacation

We're back from our vacation! One of the best parts of living in Hawaii is that, once you get home, your surroundings whisper, "I'm really still on vacation." Ocean, palm trees, mountains... it's good to be back.

We had a fantastic time in Texas. We spent most of it at Ari's parents' place in Fredericksburg. They have a large property with a swimming pool, lake, large pavilion, and even a chapel. The children went swimming and fishing every day, while I enjoyed playing the piano in the chapel and helping B7 assemble 400- or 1000-piece puzzles. We saw more wildlife this time than we have before: in addition to deer and fish, which are usual, there was a tarantula in the courtyard, and in the swimming pool two dead scorpions and a dead rat one day, and a live frog and live grass snake another day. Friends from Ari's grad school days who live in Houston were able to come and spend part of a weekend with us, and all the children hit it off while the grownups enjoyed catching up. Then, Ari and I spent 6 days off by ourselves while the children stayed with their grandparents. We stayed in a bed and breakfast in San Marcos for 3 nights, exploring museums (without anyone to stop us from reading every caption) and riding in a glass-bottomed boat. Then we spent 3 nights in a cabin near Lost Maples State Park (named for maple trees that wandered into Texas during the last Ice Age and got left behind when the cold receded, adapting over the years to the conditions in one particular microclimate and giving Texans an opportunity to see fall colors). The hiking was great, and Ari enjoyed spending an hour or more taking pictures of turkey vultures so close you could see details on their wing feathers. We read Dorothy Sayers mysteries aloud to each other in the evenings as well as editing Ari's new book and even doing some recreational calculus!

Since we traveled back on Monday, and our logistics involved a 4-hour wait at the airport while Ari took the bus home to get our car, I packed many of our school things. We sat outside in the bright sunshine, trying to convince our bodies that it was still supposed to be daytime, and finished much of our school reading and other work. E11 left his reader, Mara, Daughter of the Nile, either at the airport in Texas or on the plane, and H5 left the first volume of I Can Read It at his grandparents' house, but we got through pretty much an entire school day except for math on Monday.

In addition to school, we had extra activities every day the rest of the week, too: we all attended Community Bible Study on Tuesday morning, I gave violin lessons on Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon, P13, E11, and B7 went to archery on Wednesday afternoon, and we did math club on Friday morning. What with getting our household up and running again (unpacking, groceries, catching up on laundry), school went on pretty late every day. Part of it is just that children have a hard time adjusting to "school mode" when they've so enjoyed "vacation mode". Little E3 came into the kitchen a few nights ago, looked me in the eye, and ordered, "Take me to the airport." I explained that even going to the airport wouldn't get us back to Oma and Opa's house, because we hadn't bought plane tickets. The next morning, while I was preparing breakfast, he commanded, "Mommy, buy plane tickets." We plan on flying back at Christmas for a big family reunion, but it's hard for a 3-year-old to understand the concept of 3 months!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

N Minus 2 Is Easier Than N

It will probably come as no surprise that homeschooling 2 children plus a preschooler is easier and less work than homeschooling 4 children plus a preschooler. Despite doing a full school schedule with B7 and H5, I've felt like I'm on vacation this week. I suppose I'm reaping the "It Could Always Be Worse" effect (see https://www.sonlight.com/BA18.html) - if you keep adding difficulties, removing a few of them makes the remainder seem inconsequential. I remember when P13 and E11 were in 2nd grade and kindergarten - I didn't feel nearly this relaxed!

Adding in our Sonlight reading is always fun - it's our favorite part of school. I'm reading History/Bible/Literature B (https://www.sonlight.com/BC1R5.html) to B7, with H5 listening in, and this week we started Charlotte's Web and The Usborne Book of Peoples of the World. It always makes me happy when both boys clamor for another chapter! We've also enjoyed the internet links that come with The Usborne World of Animals, exploring bird calls and enjoying videos of baby animals. And after watching the science video, the boys ran off to experiment with how effectively various magnets could still pull through various materials (notebooks, the table, etc.).

I pulled out the I Can Read It series for H5, because he seemed to feel the Reading Lesson was getting a bit tedious. This series is really perfect for him. It starts out right at his level ("Nat the cat sat on Pat the rat. Nat is a bad cat!") but looks like a "big kid book": the pictures take up half the page or less, and there are several sentences per page; the stories are divided into chapters, and each book is 90 pages long. He was so excited to be able to read from the first book that, for the past two nights, he has asked to take a flashlight to bed with him so he can continue reading after lights out.

B7, after we watched The Tale of Despereaux on DVD over the weekend, checked out the book from the library and has read it twice through. Once H5 tired of doing his own after-bedtime reading last night, we heard voices from their room: B7 was reading Despereaux to H5 by flashlight. It's really neat to see B7 taking care of his little brothers like this - finding himself temporarily in the position of being the oldest shows up facets of his character I hadn't noticed before.

Yesterday (Friday) was really fun. I'm still doing math club for our homeschool group every 2 weeks, and lately we've been making our way through Camp Logic (http://naturalmath.com/camplogic/). But with P13 and E11 out of town, I decided to review some of the ideas we've explored in the past at the intersection of math and art, inspired by the artwork of B7's I posted last week. We had more people attend than ever before - 8 different families in addition to us - and most of the children were really engaged, drawing and coloring mystic roses. I challenged them to use as few colors as possible, and one girl managed it with just 2. Others used as many colors as possible, which yielded a different, interesting artistic effect. Something that I love about math club is that because we have it at a local park, when the lesson is over the kids all go off and play, leaving the adults to chat. It's actually become a de facto homeschool support group, where we share what works and what doesn't, and remind each other that there are actually a lot of us who do this crazy thing called homeschooling. And we do it in many different ways, and all our kids seem to be turning out pretty well so far.

The letters and texts we've received from P13 and E11 show that they're also learning a lot and having a great time. They started in LA, and among other things have seen Death Valley, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon. P13 sent a letter describing E11 climbing down to a big rock and yelling to his grandfather, "Opa, I think this is iron silicate! It's odd on such a pale rock." Thank you, Oma and Opa, for taking over homeschooling the older 2 for a few weeks - we're all gaining from it.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Fourth Week of School

Right now, P13 and E11 are on an airplane somewhere over the Pacific, on their way to meet Ari’s parents at LAX. I’m really excited for them, but I’m going to miss them a lot! It’ll be interesting to see how the dynamics of life in general and school in particular change without the two oldest children around. I plan to do full school with B7 and H5 next week (adding in Sonlight history and read-alouds).

This past week, I added writing to our daily school lineup. H5 jumped in with enthusiasm, dispatching a letter to his cousins on Monday and updating his journal with illustrated stories like, “The ripped book is magical. Flip to a page becomes real.” (I wrote the words on the board, and he copied (most of) them). He has been working through the Handwriting Without Tears kindergarten-level workbook, and is writing quite neatly. I also added reading lessons for H5; this week focused on words using the long /i/ sound. Daily practice yields excellent results, and he is able to read sentences like, “This is mine.” It’s fun to see the satisfaction in his face as he deciphers each word.

B7 has been working on cursive handwriting. He is careful and precise, but doesn’t enjoy it! He can now write his name in cursive, as well as all the vowels and the letter B. He updated his journal, adding a second sentence with reluctance after I told him I expected a 2nd grader to write at least two. He’d far rather read a chapter book like Holes than write words on a page. Artistic expression is another story – he asked me to position 10 points evenly around a circle, and carefully connected the points in a mystic rose. He colored each small section, leading to a remarkable work of mathematical art. (I think he may have seen E11 start working on a similar project with 13 points, which he planned to complete on the plane)

E11 continued to happily produce large volumes of written material in response to science questions (though he objected to the fact that one of the assignments was a quiz). I don’t proofread or correct his journal entries, so he happily writes quantities there, and he sent a letter to his cousin, and updated his blog (which I DID proofread). He is happier to correct assignments if they have been typed in on the computer, so we have a deal where I look at his Word document and bold any mistakes I find. He tries to correct them without me telling him what they were, which is like a game and thus easier to stomach.

P13 watched the first DVD of Andrew Pudewa’s Student Writing Intensive B, detailing how to take notes on a passage or article and use them to re-create a written document, and practiced a little. She also sent a letter, updated her journal regularly, and updated her blog. While they are on the mainland with their grandparents, the only school-like assignment I have asked them to complete is a daily journal detailing their activities. Since they will be experiencing geological sites all the way from California to Texas, the educational potential in this assignment is rich. Of course, I also look forward to reading what they've done.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Third Week of School


Another week of school is over, and we’re settling into a routine. Of course, after just another week, P13 and E11 will be flying to the mainland to spend a month with their grandparents, and the rest of us will join them in early September, so our routines will take a hit – but at least we’ll have a general idea of the pattern we need to return to.
We added in science and current events this week, and everyone enjoyed them. One thing that always helps is that I am excited about both, and I like to think my enthusiasm rubs off on my children.

P13 and E11 are studying Earth Science this year using a textbook from Novare. This is the best science program I’ve used, and we’ve tried many. I described some of my reasons for choosing Novare in my “update on our experiment” post. Having used it for a full week now, I can add a few more loves. Firstly, to use E11’s words, it “doesn’t underestimate [his] powers”. The science is in no way dumbed down; the chief difference between this book and my college geology textbooks is that it explains fewer, more basic topics with greater clarity – but with the same level of respect for the reader’s intelligence. The spiritual content isn’t overbearing, but is introduced conversationally, in much the same style as the asides I would always insert when we were using secular programs, and with a genuine sense of wonder at the glory and beauty of God’s creation. The end-of-section questions don’t require mere regurgitation of the facts, instead calling for reasoning based on a deep understanding of the concepts. (For example, after the section on lunar phases, the children needed to determine what phases an observer on the moon would see on Earth during each lunar phase). On Friday, we covered the section on eclipses, a timely lesson given that we plan to wake up early on Monday morning and take a home-built viewer somewhere with an eastern horizon to try to see the sun rising partially eclipsed.
As I had hoped, the fascinating content is inspiring both P13 and E11 to write excellent responses to the end-of-section questions. Frequently, when a single sentence would suffice, E11 (my reluctant writer) is writing entire paragraphs in explanation. His spelling and mechanics are atrocious, and I have struggled with how to correct him without discouraging him. After watching some more teacher training from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, I am resolving to choose one writing concept to focus on at a time (capitalizing each sentence, spelling new vocabulary correctly, creating a “frequently misspelled words” list and proofreading based on that) and not badger him about things we haven’t yet focused on. He doesn’t always handle correction well, but I know if I expect more of him, he will be able to produce it. The only end-of-section question that really upset E11 this week was the one asking him to calculate Earth’s orbital speed, given the orbital radius. The tantrum he threw! “There shouldn’t be any MATH in SCIENCE!” I laughed and laughed. I’m laughing again now. Oh, child, the sooner you lose that misconception, the happier you’ll be! Fear not, gentle reader, he calculated the orbital speed (after an hour of moaning).

Because I already had it lying around, I’m using Sonlight Science B for B7’s science. Because it covers animals, magnetism, and light, areas he hasn’t yet become obsessed with, a presentation aimed at children his age isn’t hopelessly too easy for him. It also doesn’t take me more than 15 minutes a day (except on days we do experiments), which means it gets done! H5 occasionally listens in, so I consider it to fulfill his science requirement, as well. I’d like to add in some more advanced chemistry content for B7, which didn’t happen this week but hopefully will in future weeks.
This is the first year we are including a discussion of current events as a formal part of our studies. I considered a variety of news sources, and finally settled on CNN 10. It is a 10-minute show, available online, covering selected world and US events 5 days a week. Because it is aimed at students, it does a good job of providing necessary historical and geographical background without assuming the level of awareness of an informed adult. For my own edification and in order to add more background and commentary, I have been listening to World Radio, which gives a Christian perspective on world and US events, with frequent in-depth analysis from various commentators. After the children have watched the daily CNN 10 show, either P13 or E11 describes one of the news items to the whole family at dinnertime, which often launches an animated discussion with further analysis. For example, E11 discussed the cholera epidemic in Yemen resulting from the current civil war, which launched a discussion of water-borne disease.

Next week I plan on adding in writing. I’ll have P13 go through Student Intensive B from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, and give her assignments based on what she’s reading in other subjects. All 4 of my school-aged children will be writing letters and journal entries weekly, and I’ll have H5 and B7 work on handwriting daily while E11 and P13 do weekly blog entries. I’m also going to resume H5’s reading lessons. Right now, he is able to sound out CVC words and has read the first dozen or so of Sonlight’s kindergarten readers. I’ve been using the appropriately titled The Reading Lesson, which claims to get a child to a 2nd grade reading level by the end of the book. I’ve used it with all the older children, and we’ve never finished it: the child always takes off and begins reading fluently before we reach the end, so I have high hopes for H5 as well.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Second Week of School

Another week of school is over. In addition to circle time and math, we added exercise, required musical instrument practice, and Greek lessons for P13.

One of the results of our experiment last February was that P13 tried several languages and settled on learning Koine (Biblical Greek). I've wanted to learn Koine myself, so we're working together. We've been using Elementary Greek by Christine Gatchell. It's laid out to be used by people (like me) with no prior Greek knowledge. Each lesson consists of a memory verse (or portion of a verse), five vocabulary words, and a grammatical concept. We had completed about 10 lessons by the end of last year, and did occasional review over the summer, but it slipped off our list of priorities for the last month or so. However, neither P13 nor I had completely forgotten all the vocabulary or grammar forms, and after a few days' worth of diligent review at the beginning of each day, we're back up to speed. The pace is fairly slow, designed for children as young as third grade, so now that we've reviewed the material, we may start doing 2 lessons per week.

Over the summer, I did not require my children to practice their musical instruments on a daily basis. Instead, I presented them with goals: a certain piece (or pieces) to be thoroughly learned, and rewarded with a trip to McDonalds for ice cream. When we go, everyone gets an ice cream cone, and the child being rewarded gets two. The result was that E11 made significant progress in violin over the summer, H5 occasionally took out his violin but not regularly, B7 avoided the piano entirely, and P13, uncomplaining child that she is, never mentioned to me that I had forgotten to set her a goal, so just played piano and recorder for the fun of it. H5 earned one ice cream treat, and E11 earned 2 or 3. Now that we've started school again, I'm asking H5 and B7 to spend 10 minutes a day practicing, and E11 and P13 to spend 15 - and all 4 of them have goals to work toward. E11 spends more than his required 15 minutes, playing through all his repertoire and learning a new piece. P13 practices willingly but not enthusiastically, precisely until the timer beeps, and I can hear improvement. H5 requires my constant attention and encouragement during practice time, but is also improving. B7 has his own ideas of how to practice. His goal for the next reward is to learn the next 2 pieces in the book. I asked him to learn the first one hands separately, paying particular attention to the pattern in the left hand. If I don't swoop in and stop him every day, he will play the first two bars of the piece hands together, find the third bar difficult, go on to the second piece, play the first two bars hands together, find the third bar difficult, and go back to the first one. He complains that playing hands separately is "too easy". When I actually coerce him into doing it, he makes many mistakes, proving my point. He is impatient, wanting to hear the piece the way it will sound when he has finished learning it, and thus is unwilling to put in the time to learn it. I think that having to slow down and do something that doesn't come easily to him is good for his soul, which is why I will continue to require him to practice!

For exercise, I realized that I needed to set a good example. It's one of those things that easily moves down the priority list until we go hiking as a family and I realize, puffing to keep up, that I'm not as fit as I could be. I have the T-Tapp 15-minute workout DVD, so a few weeks ago I did "boot camp" (doing the workout every day for a week), and now I'm doing it 3 days a week. I wanted to add some aerobic exercise, and struggled to think of when to fit it in. Finally I realized that in the morning, while the oatmeal is cooking, I can go for a walk while I pray instead of sitting in my room trying to get E3 and H5 to stop barging in and asking for things. Usually Ari is still eating his breakfast at that time, and if he's gone, P13 and E11 are able to take care of the little guys' needs. It wasn't my example that inspired E11, though. 2 1/2 weeks ago at church camp, one of the speakers compared the Christian life to a marathon, and asked if anyone in the congregation thought they'd like to run one. The enthusiasm of E11's response was impressive, and convinced us to try to find a race for him to compete in (maybe shorter than 26.2 miles, to begin with). Every day this week, he has run almost 4 miles. He requested an alarm clock so he can wake up at 6am, run before the heat of the day, and make it back for breakfast by 8:15 or 8:30. Nobody else's choice for exercise is quite as impressive. P13 has a ballet lesson DVD and some aerobic exercises of her own devising, and the little guys like to walk to the playground and run around there. Archery will be starting up in September, so P13, E11, and B7 will participate in that.

Math continues in much the same way as it did last week. The Life of Fred math book E11 is using has a section called "The Bridge" after every 4-5 chapters, consisting of a 10-item quiz of which 9 must be answered correctly before going on to the next chapter. E11 hates these, because the problems lack the fun narrative of the chapters, and because too many careless errors can mean he'll have to do the next one as well. There are 5 different quizzes in each "Bridge" section, and he has thus far completed the first 3 with up to 80% accuracy (and thus, more than 80% tears). I'm hoping he rocks the next one on Monday. H5 has been working to understand place value, and enjoys playing the "Trading Up" game. This game requires base ten blocks (unit cubes, ten-sticks, and a hundred-flat), a 6-sided die, and a whiteboard and marker. H5 rolls the die, takes that number of unit cubes, and, if appropriate, trades up 10 unit cubes for a ten-stick. The game ends when he trades 10 ten-sticks for the hundred-flat. Each turn, we write the number of tens and ones on the whiteboard, and H5 reads the number. He finds it endlessly entertaining (that makes one of us), and is starting to grasp the concept pretty well.

The last couple of days, I tried starting Circle Time as soon as I finished my own breakfast (as opposed to waiting for every slowpoke to join the Clean Plate Club). This has more than one benefit. Firstly, we get started sooner, and people have less time to disperse (and to create a need to be rounded up). Secondly, since E3 is the slowest poke, starting before he's done eating automatically gives him something to do quietly while I read. E3 has seemed somewhat emotionally needy this week, so I may try finishing Circle Time by reading a story just for him.

Next week, I plan to add in science and current events. Check back here to see how it goes!