Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Twins' 8 Year Letter

Dear Charlie and Olivia,

Yesterday was your 8th birthday. We spent the day together as a family, splitting up for a bit so the girls could go get lunch and get Olivia's ears pierced, and the boys went to help Charlie spend his birthday gift card. He chose three Minecraft figurine sets and a glowing light saber. Then we all came back together to see the movie Moana and spend some time at a park. It was cold, but we had so much fun!

We are now looking forward to Saturday when you will both be baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. What a special day that will be.

Now that you are both 8, I am going to adjust my yearly letter format. I am so glad that I wrote you each your own letter every year, or every few months. You were developing and changing so quickly that it made sense to do it frequently. But now you are a bit older, and development is happening at a slower pace than it has in the past. For this reason, I am going to write one letter to both of you, emphasizing individual things as necessary. Then, I will follow the letter with a few questions about you at your current age. I am hoping this will capture the things we want to remember, and allow you to participate a bit in recording those memories. :)

This has been a wonderful year of growth for you both. It has been such a pleasure to watch you enter Love of Play, which is the latter end of Core Phase. There are these sparks of learning and interest that have pushed you along this past year of life. Charlie's interests have been Great White Sharks, money, building, math, and copying, illustrating, and occasionally writing books. Olivia, you have enjoyed gymnastics and learning about Shakespeare this year. Both of you are coming along with learning to read at your own pace. You are enjoying books and making progress, and we are so proud of both of you. There has been a lot of excitement and exploration as well!

Both of you are great helpers around the house and I can count on you to help out whenever I need it and to complete the daily tasks that are yours. It has been rewarding, and a bit of a relief, to see you taking on these responsibilities so well. 

As you move into this next year of your life, there are some exciting changes coming. Charlie will be starting Cub Scouts and Liv will be starting Activity Day Girls. Both you of have been invited to attend those activities this month, even though you weren't yet 8. But in January it will be official, and you will begin attending weekly. I think it will a good opportunity for each of you to develop some friendships outside of our family. While our family relationships are the most important right now, you are beginning to take steps outside of these walls of our home, and I am excited for you. There are so many wonderful lessons to learn and relationships to form. 

Every year, as I take a look at who you are and how the past year has continued to shape you, I am ever more grateful for both of you. There are challenges, both individual and as a family, that we face all the time, but we are doing it together. It may look messy, and we may not always get it right, but we are moving forward with the Lord's help. I could not make this journey without either of you, and I love you both to the moon and back.

Happy 8th birthday to my Bear and my Peach!

Love,
Mom



Olivia
I am this old: 8
My favorite TV show is: The cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas
My favorite book is: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
My favorite movie is: Pete's Dragon
My favorite thing about homeschool is: Playing a game together
The thing I am best at is: gymnastics
If I could change my name, it would be: Abigail
My favorite color is: black and white
My favorite toy is: Bunny
When I grow up, I want to be/do: a missionary
I like to take these to bed with me at night: my snugglies - Bunny, my kitty, and my tiny pillow.
My favorite season of the year is: Winter and Fall
A food I really like is: cake and ice cream
My favorite animal is: cat and dog
My favorite sport is: gymnastics
My best friend is: I have five. Addison, Annie, Jordyn, Kaylee, and Logan.
My favorite holiday is: Christmas and Halloween
My favorite thing I did this year: getting my ears pierced
I really love to: do cartwheels
Something I want to stop doing next year: hitting when I'm angry and telling on people.
Something I want to start doing next year: do things without being asked.







Charlie
I am this old: 8
My favorite show is: The cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Odd Squad.
My favorite book is: Winnie-The-Pooh stories
My favorite movie is: Pete's Dragon
My favorite thing about homeschool is: building with our blocks and using my Minecraft figurines with them
The thing I am best at is: football
If I could change my name, it would be: Carl
My favorite color is: every single one
My favorite toy is: my Minecraft figurines
When I grow up, I want to be/do: the best football player ever
I like to take these to bed with me at night: my froggy, lizard, Pikachu, and Jackie's Nemo fish.
My favorite season of the year is: Summer
A food I really like is: block cheese
My favorite animal is: the Great White shark
My favorite sport is: football
My best friend is: my Dad
My favorite holiday is: Christmas
My favorite thing I did this year: buy my Minecraft figurines for my birthday.
I really love to: play with my Minecraft figurines
Something I want to stop doing next year: hitting. I'm going to try.
Something I want to start doing next year: start saving my money.

Triplets' 5 Year Letters

Dear Jack, Luke and Wendy,

Another year has passed! You're FIVE years old! Time has truly flown, and the three of you have really grown. 




Dear Jackie,

What can I say? You bring so much to this family. You are clever, expressive, thoughtful, and sweet. I love to just sit and watch you play by yourself, which you could do for hours at a time. When the rest of your siblings are outside running around, you prefer to be alone in the quiet house with your cars. setting them up, moving them around, and building roads out of blocks for them. Most of your days are filled with this activity, and they are generally accompanied by your sweet little voice singing songs you have learned in Primary or your favorite songs from movies. 

This summer, Dad bought a basketball hoop and a variety of balls to play with outside. You grabbed that basketball and kept shooting the ball for hours at a time. Over and over you would shoot, and pretty soon you got to the point where you could make most of them. You exhibited such determination and commitment. You also moved from your pedal-less bike to a 2 wheel pedal bike this summer. You were hesitant at first and asked us to put the training wheels on, but after about 2 weeks of training wheels, you changed your mind, hopped on Luke's 2 wheeler and took off. You also enjoyed your first round of swim lessons this year and proved to be fearless in the water. This summer has also seen a huge increase in dramatic play with you and your siblings. You have all put on a lot of plays for Daddy and I and you love to pretend that you are characters in your favorite books. The Pevensies and characters from Winnie-the-Pooh are favorites.

Recently you've hit a stage where you like to share your thoughts and ideas with us. It is so wonderful to have a little peek into the inner workings of your mind. And we are finding that there is quite a lot going on in there! Very recently you have enjoyed joining Charlie and Liv in really attending during our family read-alouds. And you very much enjoy snuggling up with a good book together. It has been so fun to watch you start making connections between what we have read and things that happen in life. I have also noticed an increase in your interest in math. Oftentimes you will ask me if 2 and 3 makes 5, or some other problem. The other day you told me, sadly, that you could only count to 20. When I told you that if you could do that you could count to 100, and explained how you immediately counted to 139 before you tired of counting. 

Lastly, I must not forget to mention your love of nature and beauty. We have a nature shelf where we display the various rocks, feathers, nuts, shells, pine cones, etc that we collect on our nature walks and time in the park. You have contributed so many items to this, and find special excitement when you find more walnuts. You love to try and identify rocks, birds, and bugs in our various nature books. It is thrilling for you to discover something new and beautiful. Frequently you will point out beautiful things that you see, and you will show them to me with such awe in your voice. You even have ideas about beautiful ways to decorate our home or beautiful ways to dress.

Thank you, Jack, for continuing to bring light and beauty, compassion and joy, excitement and fun into our family and lives. It is an absolute pleasure to watch you grow, learn, love, and enjoy every moment of it. You are a wonderful example to me in so many ways. I am thankful for you, and I love you endlessly.

Happy 5th Birthday baby boy! Because you will always be my baby. :)

Love Always,
Mommy



Dear Luke,

Something wonderful has happened this year. From the very beginning of your life, you haven't been incredibly fond of physical affection. I couldn't nurse you because you didn't want to be held so close for so long. You wanted to move and explore and DO. But this year has brought you to a place where you crave and appreciate a good snuggle, especially with Daddy.  Sweetness just oozes out of you, and you give kisses freely. 

Another difference has come about recently. Just in the past week, you have started to look for time to play quietly by yourself. Generally with cars... if you can find a time when Jack isn't using them. :) The other day, Jack was telling a story while you were drawing quietly at the art table. Very politely you said, "Mommy, could you ask Jackie to stop talking? I need some quiet time." This was SO out of the ordinary for you, but I am grateful that you finding time to be still and think. In a house so full of busy people, and being a busy person yourself, it will do you so much good to have those calm moments.

But you still enjoy playing with your siblings and seem to prefer that. Working together to create shows, dramatic play, and sports are some of your favorite activities. You spent a lot of time with Jack at the basketball hoop this summer, and the two of you really like playing "20" with your dad. This is one of the made up games that he created for you. Basically, you take turn shooting the ball until someone makes 20 baskets. The other game the whole family enjoys is called "Smear." Dad sits in his chair and throws the "quaffle" (an inflatable volleyball), and everyone tries to get it back to him. There are points and penalties, and I don't really have any idea what the rules are, but you  love it! And of course, you have built one trillion tents. My sofa cushions have never been put to so much good use. 

This summer has been a fun one for you. You transitioned from your pedal-less bike to a 2 wheeler in 20 minutes. You asked for pedals but were unsure of not having training wheels. After a few brief tries, you gave up and said you wanted training wheels. But after a couple days, we hadn't gotten around to putting them back on, so you decided to bite the bullet and ride. In 20 minutes you taught yourself to ride the bike. You also had a great time at swim lessons and really enjoyed the water.

Most of all, you still love to have a purpose in all that you do. Helping me cook, washing the dishes, cleaning the toilets, vacuuming, and sweeping when you feel so inclined, are incredibly enjoyable to you. If the job involves water, all the better. This has morphed into a love of writing. You like to write little notes throughout the day, and the same letters always get top billing. M, W, I ,O and T. Over and over I see these letters... I even noticed them on the wall in your bedroom. Ahem. But, I'm glad to see you enjoying this.

I'm really excited to see what this year will bring for you, Lukie. You are a very special guy, and Daddy and I love the pieces out of you!

Happy 5th Birthday, my love!

Love Always,
Mommy





Dear Wendy,

Our little princessy girl! You have done a lot of growing and developing this past year. You are talking up a storm lately, and doing a wonderful job using your words to express your needs and desires, and to just carry on same fun conversations. It has been wonderful to get a better look into your thoughts with this more in-depth mastery of language and communication. You're a pretty funny girl!

You have cemented your love of beauty this year, and it is so refreshing to have around. If something is beautiful, you love it. And almost everything IS beautiful to you. Including yourself, which I think is fantastic. This year you have developed a great love of books, too. I will often find you taking a quiet moment to look through a beautifully illustrated book because, of course, those must be beautiful too. "Bootiful books" make you so happy.

A very closer relationship with Luke had grown this year, and spend a lot of time playing together. That is not to say that you don't also enjoy playing with your other siblings. You all get along - and argue - very well together! The relationships you have with everyone has grown, and it is so wonderful to see how close you all are. This year, Grandpa and GG moved from their condo and downsized in the process. Because of this, they could not take some of their furniture, so they gave you and Liv a new bed. You were both very excited about the prospect of sharing a bed after having bunk beds, but let's just say that this change has brought you closer together as well as solidifying some points of contention. Namely, the fact that you have such a hard time sleeping and letting Liv sleep.  And though this causes a lot of tension (we probably should not have thrown the bunk bed away...), you are still very much loving sisters. Olivia comforts you when you are hurt or sad, and you seek out that comfort. It is such a sweet thing to witness. Lastly, it is official. You are a Daddy's girl. He is the one you want to comfort you and snuggle with you. When you are up late, it is Daddy who can calm you and help you sleep. And this relationship has also grown over the past year.

So it would seem that this year of your life has been a focus on relationships. You can still throw a mean tantrum, but your communication is improving and helping, and you are building strong relationships with your family members. It is good to see and it is vitally important to your life. And for that, I am exceedingly grateful. You are a bright ray of sunshine to our days, Wendy. You bring us such happiness, joy, and love. We are grateful for you, and we love you.

Happy 5th Birthday!

Love,

Mommy

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Charlie and Olivia's 7 Year Letters


Dear Olivia,

First, Happy Birthday you big 7 year old! Second, THANK YOU. Thank you for a wonderful year. You have blossomed into this wonderful, beautiful, fun, FUNNY, creative, sensitive, helpful, caring young girl. Your Daddy and I are thrilled with the person you are and the one you continue to become. This year has brought so many magnifications of who you really are. 

You are so loving with your little siblings and you continue to develop your relationships with each of them. We have noticed how you will sacrifice some of the things you want to do in order to play with them the way they want to play. They are almost always included in your play, though the last week or so has brought a desire to do things more independently. 

It is clear that you are moving into the next phase of childhood. You want more independence and responsibility. You are delving a bit deeper into your interests. We started homeschooling in March of this year, and while you were doing wonderfully in public school, it has been such a privilege for me to watch you forging your own educational path here at home. On your own, bit by bit, you have continued to work on learning to read. We have not forced it or drilled it, but your interest and desire has spurred you on, and you are now reading things with very little assistance. If there is s sign, you'll read it. A birthday card, you'll read it. A book you are interested in, you'll pick it up and read it. You are persistent and patient, both of which are excellent qualities.

Art is also a passion of yours, and you enjoy it in all of it's forms. For a large portion of the day you can be found at your art table drawing or coloring while singing songs you make up as you go along. We went to see A Christmas Carol at the Palace Theater right after Thanksgiving and since then you have enjoyed putting on performances for us. With Charlie, you rehearse your shows and then invite us all in for the big show. Very little of your day is not centered around the arts in some way. 

Another fun little thing about you is that you are also extremely interested in people and take little "favorite" surveys all day long. To family and strangers alike you ask, "What's your favorite color?" "What's your favorite shade of a gray?" "What's your favorite holiday, animal, restaurant...?" 

But even with these fun educational achievements and interests of yours, the best thing from this past year has been to watch your character develop. You will always help when help is needed, and MOSTLY with a cheerful attitude. :) Your prayers have become so sweet, tender and thoughtful as you pray for those in need around the world. You sense the emotional weight of issues and events as they arise, and being one with a flair for the dramatic, we can read you like a book when you are bothered or distressed about something. You CARE...deeply. For your family, your friends, and those you have never met. You are an inspiration to me every day, and every day you teach ME how to be a better person. I'm told by a very wise Grammy of yours that this is how it should be. And I think she's right. We want our children to be better than we are, and my little Livy Lou, you are. I am so thankful for you.

Happy 7th Birthday!

Love you to the moon and back...and around Jupiter...and to China...and to California...and to Georgia...and to the Universe...and back. :)

Mommy









Dear Charlie,

Happy Birthday, Bear!! I can't believe you are 7! Tonight, as I tucked you in and cuddled with you for a few minutes, we talked about the how tiny you were when you were born and how I wasn't able to hold you after I left the OR for awhile as you were in the NICU and I was recovering in my room. You were so tiny, and I can still see the image of you being held up by the nurse as they wheeled me through the NICU on the way to my room. You have tubes and wires everywhere. And now, here I am with a healthy 7 year old boy I can hold and cuddle...but probably not for long.

Charlie Bear, my heart is aching just a little bit tonight, as a Mommy's heart often does. Watching our children grow, and watching YOU grow, is such a beautiful experience, but it doesn't come without some heartache. We have been through a lot together over these past 7 years, and I am grateful for all of it for it has taught me much. You have taught me much, and I am still learning. And I thank you for that.

In ways that I can never hope to be, you are incredibly intelligent. Math and science just click with you, and you have really enjoyed exploring various aspects of those since we started homeschooling. Experiments are a favorite and more recently you have begun building and engineering. You love to solve problems and fix things. Math just seems to click, and while I still often have to count in order to add two figures together (laugh all you want), it just comes naturally to you.

An unexpected benefit of our move to homeschooling this year has been for you. You were doing just great in academics in Kindergarten, but you were struggling when you finally came home at the end of your day.  You did all you could to keep it together while you were there so when you came home you had just had enough, and it made it difficult to get along with people and to feel happy and good about yourself. While we have continued to work on some things here at home, I am SO grateful that the stresses of your school day have been lifted. Here at home we can work on things at a pace that is comfortable and exciting to you. We go where your interests lead us, and more importantly, we are spending our time focusing on building a solid foundation in YOU as a person upon which you can build all of your academic knowledge and capabilities as you feel ready to do so. We have the opportunity to love together, work together, and learn together. And when we need more of any of those, we go for it.

You are an amazing person, Charlie Bear. You are determined, intelligent, logical, focused, and caring. When something is wrong, you know it. When someone is WRONGED, you know that too, and it affects you in a very real way. Daddy and I are seeing the makings of an incredible man in you, but for now, I am very glad to keep you as my little boy, and I will cherish every precious hug, cuddle, and "I love you Mommy." Because I love you too, Charlie Bear. More than you will ever know.

Happy 7th Birthday!!

All my love,
Mommy






To both of you:
There is a reason you came to this earth together. You are the yin and yang of our family. Of each other. You love and you fight, but you balance each other out in every way. You are the best of friends, and sometimes the very worst of enemies. But MOSTLY, you are the best of friends. What a gift you have been given in each other. Do not ever take it for granted. The two of you have something special, and it is a blessing to us all to be able to witness it. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

4 Year Letters to Jack, Luke, and Wendy




Dear, Jackie,


You are still my snuggly little guy, and my very favorite thing to do with you is tuck you in at nap time. For some reason, that is your cuddliest, sweetest time of day. We say a little prayer and sing a little song, and you use your little baby voice, and tell me you love me. I know that these days are coming to a close, but for now I am relishing every moment.

Your keen mind is always at work. Every little detail of whatever you are engaged in gets your undivided attention, and you occupy a large portion of your time in quiet play by yourself. This does not mean, however, that you do not have the necessary social skills. You are so much fun! This past year has brought you into the spotlight with all of your brothers and sisters. It has become clear that you are the life of the party when you want to be. Your laugh is loud and infectious, and your goofy humor is well received by all. There isn't a sibling with whom you do not get along, and everyone loves playing with you. The love you have for others is palpable.

There is something very methodical about your play. You still love your cars, and spend a large portion of your day arranging and rearranging them. Lining them up according to color, and finding how best to fit them into certain spaces. Besides cars, you love building forts, coloring, and reading. Your favorite book right now is Ocean by the Smithsonian Institute. You love the pictures of volcanoes. But whatever you do, you are constantly thinking and problem-solving.

This year has brought out a little bit of fight in you. Up until now, you have been extremely easy going, but you realized this year that you don't always have to like...or take...circumstances as they are. So you are currently working on exploring appropriate boundaries and learning when it's OK to challenge and when you really just ought to follow the rules. ;) There is also a tendency to put off doing something to the very last second. If we are cleaning, you will suddenly have to go to the bathroom. If you need to come to the dinner table, you just need to do "one more thing." When you aren't happy with things, you let us know! Your tantrums are loud, and intense, but once you have calmed down you are quickly back to your good natured self.

One of the little traits that I just adore about you is that you sing everything. You sing yourself to sleep, you sing the songs you are learning in Primary at church over and over, and you make up little songs as you play by yourself. It is so precious to sit and listen to you serenade us, quite unaware of the show you are putting on.

You have blessed our lives, Jack, and we are so grateful for your presence in our family. Your personality adds such a wonderful balance to the mix. You are extremely smart, creative, funny, thoughtful, careful, and loving. Every day I learn from you and am amazed at all you know and all you are. I love you immensely. Happy Birthday, Jackie Boy!

Love,
Mommy




Dear Lukie,

I love having you around. This last year has revealed so much more of your personality, and I am so thankful for that! For the first couple of years, I struggled a little, feeling like I couldn't quite get a grasp on who you are. As a mom, that can be a difficult place to be. But as you have come into yourself a bit more this past year, I feel like we are bonding more than ever, and I know and understand you now. :)

While the other people in our family tend to be combinations of personality types, you are all choleric (from Personality Plus, by Florence Littauer.) Basically that means that you are a go-getter who thinks that you can get anything done all by yourself. If a have a REAL purpose and task to complete, you are happy and if not, watch out! It is highly likely that something from the refrigerator will end up on the carpet, or that bottle of soda you hadn't finished will suddenly be...well...finished, or you may possibly find something broken.

You don't care for toys, and if you are found playing with them it will either be with cars (as long as you have other siblings playing too), or dressing up as a fireman. Building forts are a top pick right about now as it involves constructing and...DEconstructing! You will listen to picture books when we read aloud as a family at night, but otherwise sitting and listening to me read is not nearly purposeful enough for you. I am still trying to figure out how to incorporate reading into your day so that you can be active and productive while listening without being disruptive to others. We'll get there! So because I can't simply hand you a toy or a marker when you start to get fidgety, I have to keep you occupied with jobs around the house. You are the only one to whom I can say, "Do you want a job?" and my question is met with an enthusiastic, "Can I clean the potty?!?!" Indeed, scrubbing the toilet is your favorite thing to do. I will be totally honest here and say that you are the main reason Daddy and I are considering a move to the country. We just don't have enough jobs to keep you occupied around our tiny suburban home. You need a farm animal to care for and some wood to chop! Haha!

I see so many wonderful qualities in you, Luke. You are independent, driven, purposeful, and not afraid of hard work. You are also tender and sweet, and you have a wonderful little sense of humor. I look forward to being able to work side by side with you around the house as I teach you how to do those things that fulfill your little spirit. I have no doubt that one day you will be teaching ME the things you have learned how to do all by yourself. Thank you for your love and example. Happy Birthday, Lukie Boy!!

Love,
Mommy



Dear Wendy Jane,


What a little lady you are turning out to be. There is no doubt about it, you are the nurturer of the family. And you are also all the things I never was as a little girl! You love animals and babies, and you want to take care of everything. You love soft, tender, beautiful things. I love that about you. :) There are a few neighbors who walk their dogs by our court every day and seeing their pets is the highlight of your day. It is only a matter of time before we will have to give in and get a pet of our own. But I admit, we are waiting until the last possible second!

Your relationship with "Wivia" (Olivia) has continued to grow and strengthen over this past year. You just love your big sister so much...sometimes a little more than she would like. ;) For instance, if you had your choice, you would fall asleep laying beside her every night. Liv, however, has different ideas and isn't incredibly fond of sharing her bed. This has been a point of contention, but the past couple of months have been a little better. Other than that, the two of you get along superbly. Both of you enjoy drawing, dancing, and singing and one will often find you both engaged in those activities together.

Despite all that is feminine about you, there is a stubborn, hard streak that comes out every now and then. Generally when you are playing with your brothers. Let it be known...you can hold your own with your wild and physical brothers! They don't dare touch a toy you might even be considering picking up without knowing that you will bring the wrath. To say that you can go from zero to sixty in 2 seconds would be an understatement. You are the queen of all out tantrums. We are working on learning how to calm down, but more importantly, we are learning how to stay calm in the first place. It's a tough thing to do in a large family, and you are very protective of your time and your things.

I believe that you have naturally come up with a way to combat these negative confrontations by pulling away from the group play periodically throughout the day. You have developed a LOVE of books, and can often be found sitting with a pile of them just perusing the pages. In fact, your love of books has brought about a complete lack of naps. That's right. In the last month, you've probably fallen asleep once during nap time. The upside is that you can read quietly by yourself for a good hour in your room. So I'm gonna ride that until you tell me otherwise.

You are such a beautiful little girl outside and in. I enjoy spending time with you, and watching you turn into a wonderful little person. You have blessed our lives,and we are so thankful for you. Happy Birthday, Janie!!

Love,
Mommy



To All of You:

Happy 4th Birthday!! I can not believe that 4 years have passed since you entered the world and our family. You have gone from little bitty babies that were small enough for me to carry all three of you at once, to strong, enthusiastic, smart, loving, and energetic children.  You have undoubtedly brought joy and love to our family in abundance, and for all the chaos of these first few years, we are so very thankful for each of you. The dust is beginning to settle, and our family is forming a culture and routine that will provide us with wonderful memories over the years.


We started homeschooling this year, and I am filled with gratitude that the Lord prepared all of us with the right philosophy and method for our family. And I am grateful for the perfect timing. While I think it was important to our journey as a family for Charlie and Liv to have a (however brief) experience in public school, I am at peace with the fact that you will not have the public school experience. For our family it is the right path, and I think we have all enjoyed these past 6 months as we have made adjustments and worked together to find a rhythm that works for us. I have personally been filled with so much joy as I watch you being able to work and learn side by side your siblings.

Our family is full of special, wonderful people, and it is a true blessing to Daddy and I to be able to watch you grow into the beautiful spirits that you are. We love you are dearly and look forward to this next year with you!



Thursday, March 26, 2015

At It's Core...

I have had several opportunities to talk with people about our decision to homeschool over the past couple weeks. And everyone has been intrigued, curious, and kind, but they have all expressed sentiments along the lines of, "I could NEVER do that! I need a break from my kids, and they need a break from me!" or "It's a good thing you have a background in early childhood education because not just anybody can homeschool their kids effectively," or "What about the social aspect?" or "We tried homeschooling and it was horrible. My child just ended up eeking out a GED," or "Aren't youworried about them falling behind? What about testing?" or "What exactly do you do with your day?"

And all of these are great questions that I was asking or thoughts I had  as I pondered the possibility of homeschooling our children. The problem is, it's more difficult to answer those questions or respond to those ideas that I had previously thought. The reason it's difficult is because we aren't doing "school." But if you've heard of "unschooling," we aren't exactly doing that either. We are getting off the "converyor-belt" style of learning...or the one size fits all learning. So it's almost as if we are speaking another educational language that most of our society doesn't speak fluently, though it tends to ring true for people once they understand it. 


What we are doing is weaving education into the fabric of our family life. We aren't doing online courses, though we could. We aren't doing worksheets, though we could. We don't have set times when we study history, science, math, reading, etc, instead we have time set aside for learning and we choose each day what we will spend that time studying/reading. What we have is a "life of learning." And it isn't just the kids. In fact, it's VERY MUCH the parents. 

The whole goal of A Thomas Jefferson Eduation (TJed) is to develop leaders...of our children and ourselves. To develop critical thinkers who have a VAST liberal arts education that gives us the ability to encounter problems and solve them...or know how to find the necessary information if we have not yet learned it. To be life long learners and readers.

To do this, the parents MUST lead out. As we delve into the classics (books, art, music, science, math, etc.), not text books, and as we begin to study ourselves, our children will naturally follow. I have seen it already in these first couple of weeks. It is vitally important that, as parents, we are engrossed in our own education, let our children see us learning and reading, and then share with them what we are excited about. 

As our children are very young, we are in what TJed calls Core Phase. And for the first (approximately) 8 years of life, children are in this phase. The lessons they learn here are not academic, they are moral. They learn right vs. wrong, true vs. false, bad vs. good. Instead of spending their time focused on learning addition and subtraction, or even being TAUGHT how to read (they often come to this ability on their own if not pushed), this is a time when they must gain a sound understanding of these moral underpinnings of life. If they do not, life and learning will be a struggle. So while we read, read, read, read, read with them (we are currently doing a family read aloud of Charlotte's Web, we read scriptures at breakfast and a picture book at lunch, and have additional one-on-one book time throughout the day), and we do fun science and cooking activities, or a fun Letter Musical Chairs game, our MAIN focus is on the  principles mentioned above. If this phase is not completed well, it will hinder their futures. They will struggle with key leadership characteristics like honesty, integrity, hard work, and responsibility. 

So how, then, do we accomplish teaching our children these things? Most of you may not even ask the question because it seems so obvious, but it is worth mentioning a few things. 

1. We are an example, just as we are with academic pursuits. We model the desired values, and use teaching opportunities as they arise. They often come through classic books like fairy tales. *Sidebar here...Disney pretty much stripped the fairy tales of any redeeming educational or moral value. I had no idea until I started reading the originals. That said...I love me some Disney. So we'll do both. :)

2. We work on better parenting techniques. We set firm limits and rules in our home, but we administer consequences with firmness and love. 

3. We do chores WITH them. Doing meaningful work around the home is key to helping them gain an understanding of hard work, team work, responsibility, etc. All of which they will need as they move farther into their own studies. This is not an easy thing to do and I struggle with the logistics of this, but Charlie and Liv have both showed more voluntary interest in helping out around the house since we began homeschooling. 

4. We took back control of electronics. Minecraft (Charlie's obsession) and video games are gone indefinitely. This alone has changed our family culture DRASTICALLY, and he has begun to engage in age appropriate play again. The TV is off most days, and when it's on we are watching a documentary (yes, all the kids actually like watching these!), movie versions of classics, or classic movies themselves. *A necessary point to make here is that a "Classic" does not mean "old." It refers to a work that you can come back to repeatedly and continue learning something new from it.* We also limit tablet time and educational computer games. They do not happen every day. Maybe once or twice a week. We do use the internet and YouTube a lot as the kids have questions or interests, but always with an adult.

5. We give them as much freedom and unstructured time to play, explore, read, and delve into their own interests as possible. Because along with those important values, we also want them to fall in LOVE with learning. And as they do, they will naturally move into the next phase, aptly called Love of Learning, and they will begin studying more on their own.

But for now, we are firmly in Core Phase, and my role is to be the Guardian of Core Phase. I'm not perfect, but I feel this responsibility keenly so I am working hard to improve. I want my children to emerge from Core feeling valued, capable, excited about learning, curious, moral, and LOVED. And it's working. We have our struggles, but now that all of my kids are home, I can tailor their learning and education to what THEY need...to THEIR strengths, interests, genius, and ultimately their missions. Because everyone has one. Some major contribution to make. And they will find it at home, surrounded by family who value the things they value, who dedicate life to learning, growing, and achieving...and making a difference. 

As I put Wendy down for nap today, she snuggled under her covers and said, "It's so COZY, Mommy." And it is. It IS cozy. And cozy is just what we need right now.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Jack Has a Hole in His Head

Jack has a hole in his head. No, really. There is a hole in the back of his head now. Last night, the kids were playing and Jack got pushed...into the garage door. And he hit the back of his head on one of the metal parts of the door. He screamed. I came running.

When I saw the back of his head, I'm not gonna lie, I almost passed out. Blood was already streaming from the wound into his platinum blonde hair. I could already see it. There was a hole in my baby's head!! I called Eli immediately and asked him to come right home. I put pressure on the wound and it stopped bleeding fairly quickly. Jack calmed down equally as quickly, which helped me calm down...or not.

Upon Eli's return home and his inspection of the wound, we both decided a visit to the ER was in order. I loaded Jackie into the van, firetruck footie PJs and all, and headed to Children's Hospital. We were there from about 8:00pm to 12:40am. It was a long wait, but I was so incredibly impressed with Jack. We read some books, made a couple trips to the vending machine for PopTarts and potato chips, colored with some new friends, and took about 50 laps around the giant fish tank counting all the blue fish.

After an hour (1 hour past bedtime, 9:00pm), Jack started to ask if we could go home yet. He asked calmly and politely, a simple inquiry to let me know that he was feeling done with our wait. He asked a couple times, but never complained when I told him we had to wait for the Doctor to see us. An hour and a half after THAT (10:00pm), he started to tell me he was feeling tired. Again, he never complained, even when we had several unsuccessful attempts at helping him fall asleep. So I relented and turned on Dragon Tales on my phone. 30 minutes later (10:30pm), we had a room to ourselves...where we continued to watch Dragon Tales for the next 45 minutes. At this point (11:15 pm), a kind nurse came in to tell us that they were going to put some numbing gel on his head that had to sit on the wound for 30 minutes before they could stitch it up. But, she did promise a purple, red, purple, red popsicle when it was all said and done.

After another 15 minutes (11;30pm), she came back in, applied the gel, and wrapped Jack's head in such a way that he reminded me of Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol. He leaned against me and moved on to a few episodes of Peppa Pig, while I prayed that my phone wouldn't die. Let me tell you, Nickolodeon is NOT kid friendly at midnight. Friends may sound innocent enough, but it just isn't. W needed that phone to work. So we continued to wait.

Once they came in for the stitches (12:00am), it took all of 15 minutes to do...maybe. Not even. But again, Jack rose to the occasion. He laid perfectly still, let us know it hurt to push on that tender spot, but never cried, yelled, or lost control. He was so matter-of-fact.

He came away with a cool bracelet, a red popscicle, new friends, and a lot of quality time with Mom. We were both so hungry after we left that we made a late night stop at McDonalds for a cheeseburger and got home just before 1:00am. We had FUN together. Even at the hospital. And I learned a lot from my little guy. Don't sweat the small stuff, even if it's a small hole in your head. Most importantly, I have a greater understanding for what our Heavenly Father feels for us when we are hurting (physically or emotionally). I know that sometimes he doesn't want to look when the stitches are being put in, but he does...because he knows that the Savior has already applied the healing balm of Gilead. And if He looks, He can see his children heal and grow...and see the wonderful men and women they are becoming. All the while, He will be holding their hands.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Poem

Originally a Facebook post that I wanted to include on our blog as well...

Today (January 30) we went for lunch as a family. We arrived and were seated near an elderly gentleman. We got our food, and as we typically do, we said a small prayer (it was Jack's turn to say it), and we blessed our meal and began to eat. During our meal, the man next to us made some small talk here and there, and asked me where we attended church. When we were done, I took Wendy to the bathroom, and as we walked away, Jack was by the man asking him about the small notepad he was writing on.
I found out later what was on that paper, as Eli asked if he could take a picture of it and then deciphered what turned out to be a poem, written by a gentleman who had watched as our family prayed over our lunch. This is what he wrote:
Tis a joy in the heart of those that believe,
To see children bowing their heads;
Thanking God for the food they eat,
Knowing by the Spirit, they will be fed!
It's to the Glory of God, these children are taught
To follow the way of The Lord;
They will be blessed throughout their lives,
And at the end, they will reap everlasting reward!
~Author known...even if we do not have his name

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