Monday, July 31, 2006

Thunderstorms, Candlelight, and Dread Pirates

Today was an ordinary day consisting of errands and household tasks, but as always the unexpected comes along to add spice to the day, or in this case the evening. After a sultry day of temperatures in the 100's, a strong thunderstorm overtook our area while our family was enjoying supper. During our meal we watched as the sky quickly grew dark and great gusts of wind arrived causing the forest of trees surrounding our house to blow, bend, and toss about wildly. Soon came the heavy rain to add to the exciting supper scene we were observing from our table through the glass doors and living room windows. About the time we concluded our meal and were cleaning up, we lost all electricity, which of course caused great excitement and drama for the kids. Gathering flashlights, batteries and candles was all great fun for them, while Mom and Dad on the other hand were concerning themselves with details like the freezer defrosting, food spoiling in the fridge, losing water pressure, how many batteries we had on hand... you get the idea.

Ruby thoroughly enjoyed herself for a long time by shining the flashlight on the ceiling and walls and chasing the light about the room. She giggled the entire time and was purely delighted by this new game she had created, while at the same time seemed to be thinking (by the look on her face) "I wonder why we've been in the dark for so very long?? What's Up??"

Eventually, I decided that a game plan for the eve's activities needed to be made because it looked like we may be w/o electricity for some time, so I said, "Hey how about a game of Dread Pirate by candlelight?" To which there were abundant cheers and excitement by all. If you haven't played this game, it is truly fun and has quickly become a family favorite - after all who can resist an opportunity to "talk pirate" and have some family adventure filled with treasure, battles on the high seas, and lots of booty... all while enjoying an absolutely beautifully crafted board game with pieces that are a pleasure to look upon and hold in your hand. Oh, and did I tell you it's historically educational too (but of course!)? It is truly a child's treasure in itself (and pretty awesome for adults too!).

Soon after our game began the lights came back on and all was calm outside and back to normal inside... but we decided to play by candlelight anyway - it was just too much fun. Who knows, maybe it will now become our family's traditional way of playing. Why not, it adds another element of suspense to the playing experience.

Sadly our game had to be cut short due to bedtime, but it still sits undisturbed in the middle of the kitchen table awaiting the arrival of morning ... and maybe some hungry young pirates who want to challenge one another to a skirmish before breakfast!

P.S. Our kids very much enjoy pirate stories, which adds greatly to the fun of this game as they all decide which famous pirate character from literature they want to be for the game (this is not part of the game - just something they add to it themselves for extra fun). The usual favorites include Long John Silver, Captain Cook, Smee, Black Stashe, The Dread Pirate Roberts, Blackbeard, and so on. If you have a pirate fan in your house, below are some reading recommendations from the Amick kids.

Treasure Island
The Count of Monte Cristo
Robinson Crusoe
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
Peter Pan by J.M. Barry
Peter and the Starcatchers
The Princess Bride

and we're soon to check out Peter and the Shadow Thieves.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Surprising School Year Goals

Today our household has been a flutter of various activities related to school as we continue to add more routine back into our days after the move and transition into our new home.

Yesterday, the kids and I had a discussion about the plans I have made for the school year (subjects, goals, etc) and I asked them what other things they may enjoy doing independently throughout the year and what goals they might have. This was the first time I had ever asked them this since I have always just "planned" all their subjects each year and it was always more than enough to keep us busy; but this year I wanted to be sure there was room for their individual pursuits as well. I was not sure what responses I would receive from them, and must admit I was quite shocked - but very pleased!

Christopher told me he wanted to become a better speller (one of his most disliked subjects currently) so I was glad to hear this news from him AND he told me he wanted to learn cursive writing. Why was I surprised by this you may wonder? Well, frankly because it has always been like pulling teeth to get him to write anything and he was not a highly motivated learner in this area - let's just say we had challenges. Therefore I had decided to hold off on introducing cursive for a bit until the time was right, then I was going to ease into it. Imagine my joy in hearing he WANTED to learn it! Within 30 minutes I had produced workbooks/materials from a box in the garage and he began work that day and is doing splendid. I am overjoyed with how quickly he is picking it up thus far - and he has reported that he likes it! Who would have figured???

Elliot shared that he wants to finish the chess book he began writing last year and write one about knights as well this year. He said his area of interest is to learn typing - I had no clue he was interested in learning this. So, later that day we found an online children's typing program that he began working with and is enjoying. While it's not the best, it will do for now. It would certainly be fun to try to track down a used electronic typewriter for him to practice on now and then though - I know he would think it was wayyyy fun! :-)

Now we came to Gabriella, since we had been taking turns with this discussion, and I can say I was REALLY floored by her answer. She's 5, so I'm thinking "hmmm, maybe she'll want to do some kind of fun art project or something sorta hands on since she already reads, spells, writes, etc very well" (she LOVES learning). So then, what does she say? "I want to learn another language." We all looked at her somewhat surprised. I asked if she meant she wanted to continue learning American sign language (which we jump in & out of), but she said "No". When we inquired as to what she had in mind she matter-of-factly replied... "French". Now for any of you who knew me in my college days you would get a really good laugh out of this since I took French TWICE and dropped out both times because I just could not get it. Now I'm looking at my daughter with her honest, sincere request of me and I'm thinking "Oh man, why didn't I learn it when I had the chance, how helpful would that be now!" Instead of this feeling of... "uh-oh" coming over me. BUT, I proudly share with you that "Homeschool Mom" rose to the challenge at hand. Within a few hours I had researched children's French programs and have watches on several used curriculum websites for the one I want and in the meantime have found a number of very helpful websites that offer free materials for kids to learn French. I was so pleased, and so was Gabriella. She set to work right away and by the time Mike got home from work, she greeted him and had a few exchanges with him in French.

So, today the kids spent some time on each of their chosen subjects/goals and it went smoothly. They also did their piano practice, spent time outside and helped make supper (fry bread with toppings... mmmmmmm). Little Ruby is having fun learning some basic puzzles, which facinate her, and has FINALLY decided to use some sign language with us - which has been fun. She of course has to be a part of all activities happening in each room of the house and can move like lightening to accomplish this task! Her favorite thing to do right now is to whisper in your ear -since it's baby gibrish we all pretend to know what she's talking about - but she is thrilled with us anyway :-)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Home Alone (well as close as I can get)

My first weekend here in our new Brainerd home without Mike and the oldest 3 kids is near to reaching it's blissful end. Ruby and I (as I said, I'm almost alone), along with our trusty dog Pepper have had a quiet, relaxed weekend while Mike, the boys and Gabriella had an incredible time at a Pioneer Campout about an hour from here, with 4 other families. It was rustic camping at it's best, where they made rope bridges and ladders, built a raft, learned knot tying, studied astronomy, cooked over a fire, went kayaking, washed up in a basin, (no bathrooms anywhere)... you get the idea.

Here at home I focused on continued planning and scheduling for our upcoming homeschool year. I need to do more work on it, but it feels good to be getting organized. I made a meal menu calander for the entire month of August with a corresponding grocery list. My hope is that it will free more time up for other things in the day and reduce grocery expenses. I'll be sure to report on how it goes after our first month on board the new system!

Well, my little weekend companion is telling me it's time to finish this up!
All for now...

**The accompanying photo is of Gabriella climbing the rope ladder the group made. It is attached to the top of a telephone pole the camp hosts put up for the weekend. Gabriella won the award for the bravest camper at the conclusion of the weekend due to her perseverance in conquering her fear of heights by finally climbing this ladder and walking the rope bridge after multiple attempts. (The rope bridge could be likened to a low tightrope with a small rope on each side to hold onto.)