Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May was for Play!

Can May really be over? The weather's been teasing me; if it's almost June, shouldn't it be hot already?? (Not that I'm complaining!)

We began the month with our last Homeschool Skate Day of the year. They'll do one more, but we'll be at Vacation Bible School next week. It's been so nice to see this event grow in our community! We're really grateful for supportive local business owners!

A new geography puzzle kept 'em busy one morning... 

A solar car kit was a birthday present. Eldest was quite focused on the technical construction. It worked -- the wheels spin as long as it's in the sun!

Sometimes we just lie around reading. Even Littlest picked out a chapter book at the library to "read" to himself. (He's also starting to read to me from the Bob Books!)

And then there was the obstacle course-fort...

And the Saturday I heard hysterical laughing outside, and went to see what was so funny... That box entertained them for more than two hours, nonstop! And then it got left out in a freak rainstorm that night.


Eldest spent last week learning how to ride a bicycle!!

Middlest let him borrow his bike to learn on, since Eldest has never wanted one until now. He braved scraped ankles and bruised knees, and went through more band-aids than he's ever used before. (Middlest is the one who's always covered in band-aids.) We're so proud of him!!

Somehow I thought we'd do more school in May... but with weather this beautiful?!!  The boys were itching to be outside even more often than they were itching from allergies.

So, they did a lot of experimental physics this month...

And some chemistry, too...

We did lots of other things this month, too, like start seedlings, go berry-picking, and visit an alpaca farm. But I left my camera battery at home in the charger that day!

How have you been enjoying spring?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Second chances, summer seedlings

Last weekend we had a lovely spring rain, followed by the kind of cool, cloudy weather we usually see in February. It made me feel like our spring had been extended -- and I was being given a second chance at planting seedlings!

So I pulled down my basket of seed packets, and the starter kit that had been patiently waiting on top of the fridge. The boys were very excited!

We planted corn, beans, summer and winter squash, melons, herbs, chard, carrots and sunflowers. We still have a lot of prep to do to get the garden ready for them, but in the meantime, they're starting to peek their little heads out of the soil.

We've been having another minimal garden year around here. I planted quite a few perennials in April, but put off starting my veggies. I did finally get a few tomato and pepper plants in the ground, but that was it.

Last year I limited our summer planting because we were leaving for a month-long road trip at the peak of the season. This year, we'll be home, but without our kitchen. I'll still be able to cook at my parents' house, but I'll probably be too busy painting to do much canning.

Nonetheless, we love having our own veggies growing out back, and some of them will be still be producing in fall -- in time to eat them in our new kitchen!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Homeschool organization

I am constantly reorganizing our homeschooling stuff. (And by "homeschooling stuff," I mean books, toys, games, curriculum, etc.)

My hubby's always saying, "You're moving stuff around AGAIN?"

"YES!" I answer. There's no one perfect way to organize when your needs keep changing; it takes regular effort!

Part of our spring cleaning in April was to sift through the things in the boys' bedroom. Because the three boys share a room, I've tried to simplify what we keep in there.

They each have a drawer or two for miscellaneous treasured objects. The fish tank and hamster cage sit on the dresser. One small bookcase holds chapter books and science books they like to read to themselves.

Legos, Nerf guns, Hot Wheels tracks, and stuffed animals are the only toys in the bedroom -- just their favorites.  I prefer to keep Legos separate from most of the other toys -- they're easier to clean up that way! They also have the biggest floor space in their bedroom.

We reorganized their books, and gave away a few, so the rest fit better on the shelves. I moved the puzzles and games that were being ignored into the cabinet in the playroom. Eldest spent several hours sorting the Legos from one giant tub into smaller ones, and now they fit on the shelves where the floor puzzles used to be.

I've tried to arrange things around the house according to how and where we like to use them. Right now I've got most of our books in the living room, plus some puzzles and games. I moved the game table and four chairs by the front window. The boys have loved that spot for playing chess, cards and Dinopoly, and there's room on the floor for puzzles. Library books are in their own basket in a corner.

The rest of the games are in the cabinet in the schoolroom, arranged by age level from bottom to top, so Littlest can easily reach things he might like. His toys are all at that far end of the play/schoolroom around his rug, which has been working AWESOMELY since I moved everything!  He goes in there to play by himself when no one's available to join him, and he's spent a lot less time on computer games.

Most of my education books, curriculum we're not currently using, and future history literature, are in my little office (currently a giant mess) off our bedroom. The older boys have their Math/Latin/History binders on their desks in the play/schoolroom, which they can easily bring to the dining table if we want.

Science kits, Bible and history books (except ones we're not using yet) are on the dining room shelves, because we usually read Bible and history while snacking. Unfortunately, I'm going to lose those shelves in the remodel, so my next project is to find a new place for them!

What I plan to do is see what I can pull out of the dining room closet, and put the science stuff that's on the dining room shelves into that closet, but make it accessible somehow.  I also want to get a book basket for each boy that can be kept in the closet and brought out for school on the dining room table.

Fyi, while I like to organize, I am not the best at daily housekeeping. Things usually get pretty messy around here during the week, and then we have a big tidying-up on Saturdays. But since everything has a place, it doesn't take very long, and the boys can all help!

I really like the Thomas Jefferson Education idea of The Closet as a means of inspiring learning. I just happen to spread our Closet all over the house!

How do you organize for homeschooling and indoor play?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kitchen planning: What I've been up to

I'm afraid I'm a very bad juggler. I really only like to throw one ball in the air at a time. My blogging ball has been feeling a bit ignored.

I've been too busy alternating between spring cleaning and making plans for summer and fall. Homeschooling plans, yes, but also plans for our new kitchen.

Thirteen years ago, when we moved into our century-old Sears bungalow, the kitchen had just been remodeled and modernized. Nothing fancy, just your basic white laminate cabinets, vinyl flooring and new white gas appliances.

It was a perfectly nice kitchen, especially considering I didn't know how to cook at the time. But a decade later, the inexpensive materials were already showing some wear-and-tear. (I did learn how to cook!) And then there was the water damage under the sink...

Two years ago, friends of ours were remodeling another old house, and offered us their solid wood cabinets. We accepted! I figured out which ones we'd be able to use, and the men spent a rainy day carefully removing each cabinet.

Those "reclaimed" cabinets have been in my parents' garage ever since, waiting patiently for us to be ready for them. This summer, they finally get to come out and play!

As a kid, I used to spend hours drawing house plans and reading House & Garden and Architectural Digest, so this is totally my idea of fun. (I'm such a nerd. Why didn't I become an architect?)

I've been designing this kitchen in my head for more than a year, but of course a lot depends on budget, and how things work out when the walls come down. And walls are coming down...

The counters are stained and chipping. The flooring is scratched and coming apart at the seams. And the oven is literally falling apart. Plus, I'm ready to change the footprint to a more functional shape. So, basically, the whole kitchen is coming out. What's salvageable will be donated.

We've experienced the mess of home renovation before. We lived with my parents during the summer of '04, when Scott, with the help of friends, installed our hardwood floors.

Fortunately, my parents live right next door, and don't mind us invading their space a bit more than usual! We're still planning to sleep at home most nights through this process, but we'll be there for most meals, and any time the dust and mess are just too much.

Demolition is scheduled for June 4.

In the meantime, we've been pricing options for flooring and countertops, choosing paint colors, decluttering the pantry and cabinets, making menu plans for easy eating at my parents' house, ordering homeschool supplies to keep the kids busy in the heat and chaos, trying to figure out where all the STUFF is going to go, and praying not to be overtaken by remodeling anxiety!

This ball has been a big one, I hope you understand. But now that my brain is done obsessing the planning is almost done, I can finally start blogging about it!

I'm calling it our Frugal Farmhouse Kitchen Restoration. Because every big project needs a fancy name, right?
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