Sunday, August 30, 2015

School goals

I have been thinking about a few main goals for the next year, so I went back to look at what I had last year. Uh-oh. One of them I must have forgotten completely, because it's what I was thinking I need to work on for the year ahead.

But, to evaluate, this are the goals I had last year and how we did with them:
  • Recording nature study--The girls did lots of this! It was very disorganized, though. Jaan usually sat with us, but couldn't often get past his art paralysis. So, I would say progress was made, but there's still a ways to go.
  • Reading--Yes!
  • "Enrichment" or whatever you want to call it--Kind of? Did some, could do better.
  • Move along--No. This will have to happen in the next year.
I also questioned whether our schedule would be too busy. It wasn't. In fact, it was just right. We didn't end up getting Bogdan into anything, but that was okay. This year he'll start art school. He's so excited and much more ready for it than he was last year.

I never did "restructure our mornings." Morning School just has to be Morning School, meaning first thing. Although, many days Jaan and Raia did get independent work done before that, just not with me.

A few big things for this year:
  • Move along! At least for the older two, we need to get a whole AO week done each week.
  • Organized and boy-friendly nature journaling--The girls need to learn to start at the beginning of their journals, move forward, and record what they see, not what they imagine. I need to find a way that catches Jaan's interest: writing more? "special studies"? Something once a week will be a requirement for all.
  • Add a bit to Morning School: some grammar, more poetry, pick up the pace with Latin and Shakespeare and Plutarch (since they love those so much!).
  • Start on time in the mornings: no dawdling before school. This is mostly for me.
  • Reading and writing: Asya learned to read in Russian last year; this year she needs to become more proficient in that and start in English. Jaan started written narrations last year; he needs to keep on with that. Raia will start with one a week, too.
  • Math: Asya will do a lesson a day now; she didn't necessarily do math every day last year.
Tuesday is the first day of school, and I'm mostly ready. This has been a very good, refreshing summer. My students are excited to start another school year. So here we go!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Indiana/Florida trip, part 9

I posted photos of my Florida Monday. Here is Tuesday, from Mom's and Dad's pictures:

They took me to Deleon Springs for breakfast.
One side of the table
Other side
Dad's traditional pancake

We went for a slightly rainy walk there.
Found a big spider
Got wet
Also found a cute snail
A little later, at Dad's suggestion, a visit to Grandma turned into a trip to Chick-Fil-A for...
...frozen lemonade!
That evening they had a very nice open house for me at the new home of some new (to me) friends. The beautiful photo that I started this whole long series off with was taken there.
Looking at Ukraine photos
Talking about Ukraine
Some of the group
With Oksana from Odessa
And then I just had one more day left in Florida....

Friday, August 28, 2015

End of summer fun

I wish I had taken the camera to the orphanage today. We had so much fun! Jaan and Raia both went with me. They had prepared different games and a whole backpack full of toys. We actually prayed before we went that the nice worker would be on duty, not the one who doesn't like me. When we got there, both were working. The amazing part was how nice the latter was, too. It was really a miracle. She greeted me by fussing about why we had come so late, and saying that she would only let the kids stay out for 20 more minutes. And then she stayed for a whole hour and let them play. (Often she doesn't even let them play, because it's easier just to keep everyone sitting in a quiet, straight line.) Maybe she actually enjoyed the fun and laughter?

What really floored me was that she suggested sneaking Jaan and Raia in to the building to let everyone keep playing after she had to leave! She's usually so strict with rules. Don't worry; we didn't do it. Just the fact that she suggested it was amazing, though. (Jaan and Raia can't go inside because they don't have medical clearance. They can play outside all they want, and as the weather gets cooler, we'll probably get the right paperwork done so that they can go in, too. But for now they can't.)

Jaan and Raia played so well with everyone. I almost just sat back and watched. Sometimes I'm really proud of them.  They had helicopter-like toys, with a string to pull so that a disk flies. That's actually quite a challenge for a lot of the kids we work with, but they thought up a way for each child to do it: "You hold the string, and I'll pull away from you," or "Here, we'll do it together," or.... Then our two brought out water guns and paper targets that they held while the kids soaked them. You should have heard the giggles! (Once they all realized that I really wouldn't be mad if my children got wet, that is.) Next they blew up beach balls and kept on going with more games until "our" two groups had to go in.

After that, Jaan and Raia were rewarded with another hour of play time with the school kids who are very close to them in age and abilities, but just happen to be in wheelchairs. They played all their games again, braided hair, and discovered that they like the same books.

Recently some Americans who visited wrote to us and thanked us for having our kids involved at the orphanage. They said they didn't really know what to do with themselves at first, until they saw how our kids jump in and get involved. That example was enough to help them know what to do and feel more comfortable. I hadn't really even thought about that before. But it is sweet to watch them interacting every time we have a chance.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Indiana/Florida trip, part 8

(No one mentioned that my numbering in this series stuttered. I just went back and fixed that. I think.)

We finally get to Florida! My flight was late getting out of Chicago, and it was an evening flight anyway, so I pretty much arrived and went to bed.

The next day, my sister and sweet nieces came over. I gave presents...

(All photos after this are from Mom.)
...and got to know them again. Last time I saw them Isla was 3, and Aliana was a baby, so we were almost starting from scratch. I desperately missed having my own children there, because they all would have had so much fun together, but I also enjoyed being without them and therefore able to focus on the others.

Great Grandma came down for lunch:

And then I guess it was that evening that we went shopping. Mom and Dad took me to Trader Joe and Target (? or Walmart?).

By the lake behind the stores
So, it was a nice, quiet family day, and I enjoyed it very much.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Seven quick takes: Duck tales, neighborhood stuff, funnies, etc

:: 1 ::

Our ducks continue to entertain us. Each girl duck has her own barrel for nesting, but recently Belyshka has been laying her eggs in Shokoladka's barrel. Shokoladka actually takes time to line her barrel with feathers and to sit on the eggs. She has mothering instincts that Belyshka completely lacks. Recently, while Shokoladka was in the favored barrel, Belyshka just laid an egg on the ground in the yard. Shokoladka was not happy about that. She tried to roll it across the yard to the barrels. When that didn't work, she built a nest all over and around it, peeping the whole time at Belyshka, as if to explain to her that she shouldn't just leave these things lying around in any old place!

:: 2 ::

Can you handle another duck tale? On the hottest days lately we've been putting out wash basins full of water for the ducks to cool off in. Porosenok gets in and starts spinning at full speed, until he has created a whirlpool that just keeps spinning him. It's hilarious to watch! Does he thinking he's swimming to somewhere fast?

:: 3 ::

There was some neighborhood excitement one morning, when an alarm next door went off. The house there is sitting empty, so they put a burglar alarm on it. Well, when the alarm went off the first time, a security car arrived, but without keys. In the process of getting over the wall to check on things, one of the guys accidentally shot with his gun! Shooting! In our neighborhood!?!?

:: 4 ::

We've really been enjoying the neighborhood children's library this summer. At least one of our older three is there almost every day. Once Jaan made two trips in one day! I took Bogdan and attended one of the little programs that they put on for the kids. He was so funny. They started with games outside, but he kept asking, "Where are the books? When are we going to read?" until we finally did go in for the reading time. Then he was very happy.
From the library's Facebook page

:: 5 ::

(This is shared with Raia's permission.) Yesterday Raia wanted to make my birthday cake all by herself. So, we went over the recipe, and then I left her in the kitchen. A little bit later she came to me with an empty jar of (special American) baking powder, saying that she needed another one, and where is it? What?! She had used up the whole jar! So, I went to check, and found all her dry ingredients mixed together. Most of what was in the bowl was baking soda and baking powder. With her creative translation and reading skills she had decided that "tsp" must mean "tseliy packet" or "tselaya pachka" (whole packet), i.e. one whole bag of baking soda and two jars of baking powder! We laughed so hard together, and that's why she said that I could share; it really was funny. There were mishaps the second time around, too, but she finally ended up with a cake that looks great. We'll be finishing up the decorating of it soon here, and then eating it.

:: 6 ::

The best birthday present for me: "my" Little K. out at the orphanage met her new parents today.

:: 7 ::

Last week Oksana was baptized. I was so happy to be able to be there for that. Please pray for her as she continues to learn and grow in the Lord.

I will still finish my travel log. There are more photos to sort for the Florida part than there were from before, and I haven't had as much time. But I will do it. Soon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Indiana/Florida trip, part 7: Chicago interlude

After the retreat was over, the next morning, my wonderful friend came from Michigan to pick me up. She joined us for sweet time singing hymns together with the Advisory, Auxiliary, and other AO friends. Then she took me to Chicago to treat me to a fun day together. We hadn't seen each other for years, so we had a lot to catch up on. We talked all the way to Chicago, around Navy Pier (an amazing place for people watching! so many interesting people!), at a fun mafia-themed restaurant, and then on to the airport. From there I flew on to Florida. I can't express how good that day in between was.

Thank you so much, Roz!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Indiana/Florida trip, part 6: A magical moment

On the way back to the house after the first day of the retreat, we saw such a beautiful scene that we had to stop and soak it in a bit. And the car behind us had to stop, too, but they were with us and knew what was going on.

Naomi and Amy tried to get video or photos, but nothing shows the beauty of what it was really like. The sunset and the field show up, but not the millions of fireflies. All together it was breathtaking. Plus, there was the added fellowship of enjoying with likeminded friends. We talked about "that part where Charlotte wrote about storing up beautiful scenes in our memories for later," and everyone knew what we meant. (I pasted in that whole section of the book we were talking about below.)

Naomi sent me her photo of the scene, and I also tried to paint it from memory. I want to paint again while actually looking at Naomi's photo; I know now that I need to make the colors brighter.

I also added glitter to my sketch, to show the fireflies. When Will saw it, he thought that the girls had gotten to my painting, so I guess it looks childish, but I like it. I'll probably do it again on my next try at capturing this, too.

Charlotte Mason's vol 1 pg 49-50


Method of.––So exceedingly delightful is this faculty of taking mental photographs, exact images, of the beauties of Nature we go about the world for the refreshment of seeing, that it is worth while to exercise children in another way towards this end, bearing in mind, however, that they see the near and the minute, but can only be made with an effort to look at the wide and the distant. Get the children to look well at some patch of landscape, and then to shut their eyes and call up the picture before them, if any bit of it is blurred, they had better look again. When they have a perfect image before their eyes, let them say what they see. Thus: 'I see a pond; it is shallow on this side, but deep on the other; trees come to the waters edge on that side, and you can see their green leaves and branches so plainly in the water that you would think there was a wood underneath. Almost touching the trees in the water is a bit of blue sky with a soft white cloud; and when you look up you see that same little cloud, but with a great deal of sky instead of a patch, because there are no trees up there. There are lovely little water-lilies round the far edge of the pond, and two or three of the big round leaves are turned up like sails. Near where I am standing three cows have come to drink, and one has got far into the water, nearly up to her neck,' etc.

Strain on the Attention.––This, too, is an exercise children delight in, but, as it involves some strain on the attention, it is fatiguing, and should only be employed now and then. It is, however, well worth while to give children the habit of getting a bit of landscape by heart in this way, because it is the effort of recalling and reproducing that is fatiguing; while the altogether pleasurable act of seeing, fully and in detail, is likely to be repeated unconsciously until it becomes a habit by the child who is required now and then to reproduce what he sees.

Seeing Fully and in Detail.––At first the children will want a little help in the art of seeing. The mother will say, 'Look at the reflection of the trees! There might be a wood under the water. What do those standing up leaves remind you of?' And so on, until the children have noticed the salient points of the scene. She will even herself learn off two or three scenes, and describe them with closed eyes for the children's amusement; and such little mimics are they, and at the same time so sympathetic, that any graceful fanciful touch which she throws into her descriptions will be reproduced with variations in theirs.

The children will delight in this game of picture-painting all the more if the mother introduce it by describing some great picture gallery she has seen––pictures of mountains, of moors, of stormy seas, of ploughed fields, of little children at play, of an old woman knitting,––and goes on to say, that though she does not paint her pictures on canvas and have them put in frames, she carries about with her just such a picture gallery; for whenever she sees anything lovely or interesting, she looks at it until she has the picture in her mind's eye; and then she carries it away with her, her own for ever, a picture on view just when she wants it.

A Means of After-Solace and Refreshment.––It would be difficult to overrate this habit of seeing and storing as a means of after-solace and refreshment. The busiest of us have holidays when we slip our necks out of the yoke and come face to face with Nature, to be healed and blessed by
     "The breathing balm,
     The silence and the calm
     Of mute, insensate things."
This immediate refreshment is open to everybody according to his measure; but it is a mistake to suppose that everybody is able to carry away a refreshing image of that which gives him delight. Only a few can say with Wordsworth, of scenes they have visited
          "Though absent long,
     These forms of beauty have not been to me
     As is a landscape to a blind mans eye;
     But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din
     Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
     In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
     Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
     And passing even into my purer mind,
     With tranquil restoration.
And yet this is no high poetic gift which the rest of us must be content to admire, but a common reward for taking pains in the act of seeing which parents may do a great deal to confer upon their children.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Indiana/Florida trip, part 5

Okay, the actual conference time:

Kathy led some singing, with her little helper.
Donna-Jean led everything else.
Her closing message about Charlotte Mason in hard times, pretty much took everything in my heart and brought it together with tons of encouragement. Homeschooling, orphans, Charlotte Mason, and Karyn Purvis all in one? Wow.

Our 15-year NTBI reunion
Misty and I went to Bible school together and then later reconnected online as moms. She came to the retreat with her darling five-month-old twins.

See? Darling!
Karen spoke on "Believe in mind."
She went from Anna Karenina (of course) to Charlotte Mason (of course) and talked about how minds are living and need real spiritual food. I was holding a sweet baby, so I didn't take notes. It was all good. Read her book.

It was all at a beautiful old church.
I'm afraid they didn't appreciate Karen's talk.
Mingling time
Pretty things
Cindy Rollins spoke Saturday morning.
I had to steal this photo from Amy. I'm in it, so you know I didn't take it. Cindy's talk was so good! When she quit blogging, I had just found her blog, and I felt like it was a tragedy not to be able to read what she wrote anymore. Hearing her in person was even better, though. Again, I didn't take notes, but I'll be listening to the recording again, I know. I don't remember if I had heard about her Morning Time before we started our Morning School or not, but that "liturgy" of hers has definitely inspired me when I have read about it. She talked about just doing a little at a time and building those beautiful habits.

Lunch music
My breakout session on foreign languages
(Photo taken by Melisa)
This is a sweet girl who really ministered to my heart. In a lot of ways she is like the kids I work with at the orphanage, but there's a night and day difference, because she has grown up in a loving family. I grabbed this photo when she got my orphanage photo album out to look at her "friends."

And I'm still going. All this was really special for me. If you're tired of it, you don't have to read....