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Monday, January 31, 2011

Decluttering Month 1

Earlier this month, I shared with you my New Year's Resolution and this is my update post to tell you how I did for the Month of January. I am happy to report that I succeeded in eliminated 31 items from my home, and reducing my clutter. Here is the list of items that I removed from our home:
1. an old purse, that I never use but for some reason insisted on keeping
2. an old wallet that does not fit in my new purse
3. an old camera that eats batteries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
4. a broken camera that I kept with the intention of fixing, but seeming as I've not done it yet I'm going to go out on a limb and say I won't be doing it.
5. a large bag of baby toys that Twiggles has long outgrown and never plays with
6. half of our rather extensive duplo block collection (I had enough blocks for 4 or 5 children)
7. a leap frog toy table that was replaced by a newer model for Christmas
8. guess who board game (we had two of the same game)
9. a bag of baby clothes that twiggles has outgrown
10. a tin box that came with a bath set and I kept it because it was pretty, but I've not used it in over a year!
11. a cookbook - I have too many cookbooks, so I'm trying to eliminate those one by one
12. a spare computer keyboard
13. an old remote
14. diaper bag
15. a little play kitchen (very small and twiggles doesn't like it)
16. two boxes of magnetic numbers and letters that I was going to save for Twiggles, but really I can get him more when he's ready for them
17. a broken utility knife
18. a large set of markers that was missing a few colors
19. a bag of fish gravel
20. an owl music box
21. contents of the medicine cabinet (things that are partially used, unlikely to be used again, samples that we always seem to collect)
22. the water cooler (it broke and I figured I wasn't likely to go and have it repaired)
23. water jugs for the water cooler (5 of them)
24. the large dry erase board that has hung on my dining room wall for over a year and I've used maybe 3 times
25. the fish tank
26. the toaster
27. and old comforter that was in need of repair
28. a baby blanket
29. coffee mugs
30. old water bottles with missing tops
31. the old partially completed workbooks that I was "saving" for Twiggles

So that's the list for January, some items were thrown in the garbage, some were given away on freecycle, and others were taken to Goodwill and donated. The point is that they are gone from my home, never again to return, and hopefully by the end of the year the house will look like we have decluttered at least a little bit. :)

Your turn friends, tell how you've done this month. Did you reach your goal, if not don't worry there's still plenty of time to declutter your home. We'll count January as a practice month ;)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What makes a mother smile?

I don't know about you but for me the things that made me smile before I became a mother are much less important to me now that I have three handsome little boys. I also find that things that never before would matter to me now make me smile.

Things that used to make me smile? A pretty new dress, a houseplant that has outgrown it's pot and needs to be moved, a blanket freshly dried on the clothesline (actually that one still makes me smile), a nice clean house, a meal freshly prepared and pretty on the plate, time spent working on a craft of choice, and of course many other things.

Things that make me smile now? A new baby (any new baby), smiles on the faces of my children, dinner being made on time and children who will eat it, the realization that my children do hear what I say, a little time to myself, and compliments from others on my children.

That last one is what I want to write about today. I am not a vain or prideful person, but when I take my children out to eat at a restaurant and am complimented on their behavior it makes me smile. It makes me smile because I know that as a mother I am doing my job of teaching my children the proper way to behave, it makes me smile because I know that as a child of God my children and I are having a good testimony for the Lord, it makes me smile because I know that I do not have one of THOSE children (you all know what I mean), and it makes me smile because I know that my children have heard me all these years of telling them what is ok and what isn't.

We were all tired Thursday after a hard week of apartment prep and such, and we decided to have a meal out at a local family owned restaurant (my favorite kind). Being that it is still technically winter (though I would hardly call 70 degrees winter) it means that our snowbirds are still here (snowbirds are those who live up north during the summer, and here during the winter, they flee from the snow) which means that almost every restaurant would be filled with snowbirds (of whom nearly all are older folks) and that when Hubby and I entered with our 3 boys eyes would roll at the thought of "noisy children" while they are trying to eat.

We all sat at the table, quietly looked at the menus and decided on our meals. We talked quietly while we waited for our food, and when it came we prayed and then we ate quietly. As the boys were waiting for their sherbet for dessert a couple nearby got up to leave and as they did the woman came over to tell me " You have a beautiful family, and your boys are so well behaved. It was a pleasure to eat dinner with your family nearby!" That brought tears to my eyes, and I thanked her and told her how much that meant to me. The boys finished their sherbet, and as they did another group sitting just next to us got up to leave and two of the ladies leaned over to tell me " We agree with everything the other lady said, your boys are absolute treasures, and you've taught them well." I again thanked them and again had tears in my eyes. Nothing in this world means more to me than my family, and being told that I've done a good job raising my children, that is just a joy for me! I love knowing that my family is welcome in public, and that I can enjoy a meal in public without spending the whole time fussing at my boys. At the same time though it makes me a little sad, because people wouldn't comment on how good my boys are if well behaved children in public was the "norm", if one saw a child every day behave in public it would never be noticed, but that is not what most people see in restaurants and stores, and so when a family sits at the table and behaves it is noticed and it makes me just a little sad for others, but it also makes me smile for myself and my family.

Maybe next time I will have the pleasure of sitting in a restaurant near one of you my bloggy friends and as we chat and laugh our children can quietly talk over sherbet.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Found Struggles

As I said in a previous post we are taking the final part of our school year to work on weak areas for the children. This had brought out some interesting struggles.

My husband brought to my attention that he himself is dyslexic (I had never noticed because it is not a severe case and he hides it well), and that while we were listening to B (our almost 8 year old) read we realized that his reading is getting worse and not better. He's starting to forget (or just not use) some of the phonics he's previously learned. This led me to do a little research on Dyslexia, and in doing so found that B has many (read nearly all) of the signs of both Dyslexia and Dysgraphia.

I am not one who likes to label a child and so I will not take him in to have him tested for it, nor will I ever tell him he has it or bring it to the attention of others who may work with him. Labels tend to follow children for the rest of their lives and I don't think that's helpful. So our new plan is to go back to the beginning and reteach phonics, SLOWLY and REPETITIVELY, until we are certain that he's got it. I have to remember to be PATIENT with him, and I have set aside a time 2-3 times a week to sit alone with him and work on his phonics, meanwhile I will simply remind him of the phonics rules and guide him through his lessons.

In a way it is a bit of a relief to know that there is a reason for all of his struggles, and while this isn't exactly a cure all, it is at least a step toward progress. I am relieved in a way because this means that I didn't make a mistake in my teaching (though I probably still did), and now that I have an idea of what's going on I can work toward fixing it.

I had noticed many of the signs of dyslexia in him very early, but the signs I noticed early on are also just common mistakes children make (such as reversing b and d, or E and 3, or p and q). Now that he is older and nearly 8 years old still making the same mistakes and then some I think it's time to take action. So without labeling him, I am simply going back and reteaching and hopefully he'll improve. If he does not make improvement by the fall then I will consider taking him in for further testing, I hope it won't come to that. I think that with some patience and steady work we can get him over this hump.

He may struggle with reading always, but if I don't do what I can to help him I don't feel I'm being a good teacher. I'm ok if he's never a speed reader, I'm fine with the idea that he may never enjoy reading and writing, but I am also confident that with love, patience, time and review that he can improve in those areas so that school isn't such a painstaking process for him.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ending the clutter

Let me start by saying my apartment is cluttered, it is full of stuff, full to bursting! Now I know that some clutter is to be expected because there are 5 of us living in a smallish 2 bedroom apartment, however my goal this year, my resolution if you will is to be rid of some of the clutter!

I intend to accomplish this with a bit of help from mother's wisdom. I intend to go through the rooms of the house one by one and if I have not used it in the past 6 months, and it has no sentimental value, it will go in a box and into our storage shed, if I do not go out there to get it in 6 months, then off to the trash it will go! Another source of help for me in my goal is this: I intend to remove 30 items from our home each and every month for the entire year!

The rules are simple by the last day of each month I must remove 30 items from my home that I would not usually throw away. The items can not be things like empty milk jugs that are trash anyway but rather they must be actual items that are just taking up space and that aren't necessarily trash, the items can be donated, thrown away, given away, or sold, but the must leave this house by the end of the month!

So far for January I have gone through Twiggles' toys and found two bags of toys he no longer needs or uses, a table toy that is no longer used, and a few outfits that have been outgrown. That's 4! I also have an old camera that has not been used in months, that's 5. An old wallet, that is to large for my new purse, my old purse that no longer suits my needs, that's 7! A game from the big boys that they no longer play makes 8, and a broken camera that I've been saving in hopes of fixing it makes 9.

I know that I still have a way to go yet this month, but if I only find one item a day that's still 30 items by the end of the month (except February, but I don't think it'll be a problem). I am hoping that I'll get so into cleaning up and removing clutter that more than 30 items will go out, but 30 is the goal.

So friends will you please pray for me, that I can see my stuff through the Lord's eyes and realize that it is just stuff and get some of it out of this house? Also, if anyone would care to join me in releasing the clutter feel free to join in and play along. Each month I will post with the progress I am making in removing clutter, and if you care to play along you can post in the comment section or even link to your own blog post where you've done the same.

Birbitt is ready to make 2011 the year of Less Clutter!

Monday, January 3, 2011

First day back.

Today was our first day back to school after a month long Christmas break. I had been doing a lot of thinking over the break of what I was going to do with them to get them motivated to finish the year strong. I had decided to put our Science and History curricula up and away to be used next year or the year after, and to simply use Netflix and our local library to learn subjects that interest them. I decided that we would spend the remaining few months studying hard on our weak areas, so that by the end of our school year (March for us) our weak areas will at least be close to or at our goals.

For us focusing on weak areas means that we will finish out our Math book (not a weak area but we are too close to finished to give up now) in about 2 weeks and then drop math down to a couple of times a week just to keep ideas fresh. We will continue with a daily spelling test from our Sequential Spelling, we will get at least 5 lessons of grammar done each week including at least one writing assignment, and we will spend at least 30 minutes a day practicing our reading skills.

Math is not a weakness for my children, and I had planned to just keep going with math, but after much thought and prayer I feel that it is in their best interest to drop math down to a couple times a week. We will finish our math books because there are only 12 lessons left, and then I have a few books of random math activities we will pick from a couple days a week so they don't forget the skills they have learned this year.

Spelling is still a very weak area for them both, though I'm not going to up their spelling lessons we will just continue on as we have been until we reach the end of the book and then I will re-evaluate our spelling program and see if it really is what they need at this time. If there is no improvement in their spelling we will just have to figure out another plan for them.

Grammar has been a weak area from the very beginning, I think this is in part because we have jumped around so much in curricula trying to find one that both teaches what they need to know, and teaches it in a way they can learn it. I think we have finally found a winner because they enjoy Grammar now and they are learning, so hopefully those gaps and struggles will ease off because they are finally on a steady track with one curricula.

Reading is only a weak area for my oldest child, and I know without a doubt that with time, patience, and practice he will get better. I came across an old public school reading textbook, the kind with just a collection of short stories, poems, and excerpts from books and for now we are using that to boost his confidence in reading, and then we will probably move into Rod and Staff Reading for a couple of years. Once I have them both working well in both reading skill and comprehension I will drop reading curriculum and just give them good literature, to hopefully instill a love of reading and a love for the learning that comes from reading. My goal right now is to keep it light, keep it positive, and keep it (fairly) simple because I don't want them to hate reading. A child who reads for pleasure is a child that never stops learning, even if the child only ever reads fiction there is always something to be learned from a book!

These are my plans, for now...and today it all went well! They took a Latin test, to see how much they maintained over the break, and since I am satisfied with the results we will begin level 2 on Wednesday. We completed all planned subjects today, Math, Latin, Spelling, Grammar, and Reading in only 2 hours! I was impressed with their retention over the long break, and while I did find a few areas we need to go over again, I am overall satisfied with their progress and we are ready to tackle our weaker subjects for a few months and finish out STRONG!

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