Friday, August 26, 2016

7 Quick Takes Friday


The big news around here is that these Luddite parents allowed the children to purchase off-brand MP3 players with their allowance money after our mulling over the matter for at least half a year.

We purchased them as a tool because the children need to be listening to professionally performed versions of the pieces they're learning on piano and violin. If they hear only their own efforts, they don't know how to play the song really well. You know how music you listened to as a youth (for good or for ill) gets into your very soul? A musician needs good music in his soul. (Listening to music is a very important learning technique: see here.)

However, I have only the one computer for the children to sit around and listen to their various music lists, plus I must supervise any use of YouTube because of the inappropriate commercials that pop up, and how one video rolls to another automatically. Thus: MP3 players would really help in this regard.

Thomas listening to Suzuki violin music

We let the children load their piano and violin songs, some classic children's fairy tales, homilies by some traditional priests (at their request, they love them), and one book (currently requested were "Kidnapped" and "Alice in Wonderland").

Still, the lure of technology was so strong for these bunchkins, and it made Mama very anxious. For the first two days, the children asked to listen to their players all the time (yes, I keep them in a bin and permission must be obtained). Chris has tried to calm me, to remind me that the novelty will be really strong this first week, and assured me that we could navigate these seas.

I have embraced the opportunities to teach that we don't sit around, each of us listening to separate things on MP3 players, and thus shutting each other out.

"But I want to listen to the classical radio station"

"Great, then let's turn it on the stereo and we will all listen to it and comment on the songs we like and don't like."

"I want to take my MP3 player on our walk."

"No, dear, this is a family walk, and we're going to talk and enjoy each other, or just enjoy silence."

"I'd like to listen to some more of 'Kidnapped.'"

"Honey, even though that is fine literature, you've already listened to six chapters. Either pick up a book and do the hard work of reading it, or go do some alternate activity, like playing outdoors or doing your chores."

We're navigating our way. I have no idea what rules other families have about this kind of technology. (One of ours: no MP3 players in bedrooms after bedtime.) I was relieved to see that on Day 4 (yesterday), everyone actually forgot to ask to listen to their players even once.

Whew. All is not lost.


Scholastic Scenes

In case you missed it, I wrote a status report of our first five weeks of school (click here).

We used Math Facts Pro over the whole summer and we love it! LOVE IT. The kids are all fast on their way to knowing their math facts, in which 'knowing' means spitting them back within 3 seconds, and the facts are for addition, subtraction, and multiplication.

This week, Margaret (six weeks into Kindergarten) finished All About Reading Level 1. Normally, I just take a photo of the child holding their finished level or book, and I take them to Daddy's office to tell him the big news (and he picks them up, hugs, spins around, etc.), but I decided to make a bigger deal out of this one.

I baked Margaret a cake to celebrate! She's such a middle child and her accomplishments don't get the same attention as did the older children, so I wanted to lavish her with some attention.


Family Books of the Week (in progress or completed)

  • Read-alouds
    • "Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints" (Loreto Publications, originally published 1894)
    • "Clare's Costly Cookie" (2013)--Reading to Margaret
    • "Swallows and Amazons" (1930) by Arthur Ransome
    • All of listening on CD in the car to "The Silver Chair" (Narnia)
  • Mama
  • For Connecting with History:
  • John
    • about one "Imagination Station" book per night
    • Listening on CD to "Kidnapped" by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Mary
    • "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson
    • "Caddie Woodlawn" by Carol Ryrie Brink (1935)
    • one of the Narnia books again
    • Listening on CD to "Alice in Wonderland"
  • MARGARET--Margaret has graduated to having her own bullet in this list because she is reading independently now! 
    • Reading sentences out of "Almanzo" by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which I am reading aloud.
    • "What Do You Say, Dear?"

Now, some evenings I come into Joseph's room to read aloud his bedtime story only to discover that his five-year-old sister has been reading aloud to him (really reading, not reciting memorized books!) while I read a chapter book to The Bigs. What a joy!

Margaret reading aloud "What Do You Say, Dear?"

Speaking of reading, this is a delightful little article, "74 Books I Read Aloud to my Children" by James B. Nance. Of course, I read the list comparing to our own little family and--while it is hard to distinguish between books I read as a child, books I've read to our children, and books our children have read themselves--I will say that our children have heard 31 of these stories ("one" counting as all seven of the Narnia books) either by my reading aloud, our family listening on audio CD, or the children reading the books themselves . . . and we're in the midst of reading aloud another one of the books on this list. Fun!


Miscellaneous Moments

After exercising modestly but steadily from about four months postpartum until eleven months, I crashed and burned for the prior month because the stress of learning how to homeschool for the first month took all my time and energy. But this week, I'm back on that old, tiresome horse and have begun each day this week with a brisk, two-mile walk with most or all children in tow. Of course, this alters our homeschool schedule yet again, but we're still getting it all accomplished (even later in the day), praise God.

I used to use cloth diapers full time. I loved the softness on the little tushes, and the old-fashioned frugality of it. However, I couldn't keep up once I had the third baby (and two were in diapers).

My success from this week is that, after four years and two more babies of hoarding those cloth diapers, clinging to the prideful idea that I'd be able to get back to the practice, I donated my entire stash of diapers--and another mom who really needed them is now able to enjoy them instead of their being locked up in my closet, benefiting nobody.

Sunday morning scene . . . Joseph (3) seemingly running the pancake griddle and Margaret (5) feeding and entertaining the one-year-old. Who's running this joint?!

Four monkeys, only three of them stuffed!

Driving one afternoon, we spotted this impressive geyser of water from something like a burst underground pipe. I indulged the children by making a U-turn and driving past it three times.

The children have really gotten into playing cards with Daddy lately . . . I mean, these kiddos sit down to play with him at least once per day! They're becoming so good at playing Gin Rummy, 500 Rummy, and Hearts. (Next on our list is that we want to learn Spades as a foursome.) I had to chuckle with pleasure one night when I came down from tucking in the littles only to see this scene of discarded items: their playing cards and their rosaries. While I'm tucking in the smallest ones, the biggers are praying the rosary . . . and then, if they have time, out come the playing cards!


Meals of the Week 

. . . shared to show that "My career is homeschool mother, not gourmet chef!"

  • Saturday
    • Taco night
  • Sunday
    • Luncheon served at a goodbye party
  • Monday
    • Chicken thighs, roasted potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, green salad
  • Tuesday
    • Hot dogs, homemade macaroni and cheese, tater tots
  • Wednesday
    • Personal pizzas
  • Thursday
    • Grilled chicken; pasta with various jarred sauce choices; sauteed carrots, Vidalia onions, and bell peppers with salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and thyme (so good!); chocolate cake to celebrate Margaret's reading
  • Friday
    • Invited to another family's home for dinner


Random picture taken by my three-year-old . . . when I look in the mirror, I generally see my 25-year-old self, but when I see a picture, I realize there are a whole lot more wrinkles and imperfections now! I hope that my soul, which counts more than my skin, is much sweeter now, though.


Bonus Reading

Even Business Insider is talking about homeschooling (click here)!

You Are Here

"This 1897 Text Gives Three Clues Why So Many Students Can't Write"
For more Seven Quick Takes Friday, check out This Ain't the Lyceum.


  1. Oh, I love Flannery O'Connor! I had a phase where I ready everything I could by here about 12 years ago (Yikes, I can't believe it's been that long!) but I haven't really picked her up since then. Congratulations to Margaret for reading independently! That's so awesome. I've also been working on getting my miles in before we start the school day. My two year old, in his jogging stroller, is typically my only companion. He's like a little drill sergeant, always telling me to go faster and up more hills. Have a great weekend!

  2. I indulged the children by making a U-turn and driving past it three times.---> What a good mama you are. :)

    Congratulations to Margaret! Reading is a whole new world...

  3. Is the math facts pro a game?

  4. What kind of MP3 players did you get? Are they easy enough for the kids to navigate and use all by themselves? How do they keep track of where they left off listening to their books? Do the players play the radio station, too?

  5. M: Yes, Math Facts Pro is a free, online game to memorize one's math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). I like that it is mostly "just the facts," instead of video game style. The "reward" for the children are these little corny jokes they get to hear twice per five-minute session.

  6. Frances: I was too busy to research MP3 players, so I tasked my retired stepfather (research nerd) with the job: He recommended the SanDisk Clip Jam, which is what we bought:

    They are super easy for the children to navigate themselves. I was armed with the booklet of directions and was struggling. The children just grabbed the devices, began exploring them, and had it figured out that first day, and then they instructed the five-year-old. I still ask the kids "how do we do such-and-such?" and they show me.

    I don't know how the MP3 player leaves off in a book chapter, but I could ask the kids!

    Yes, these MP3 players come with a radio station, which we do *NOT* like and which we didn't realize until they arrived. In fact, a lovely friend with a large family emailed me about her bad experience with this same ignorance, and how her kids were doing unauthorized radio listening and became exposed to and obsessed with pop stars and pop music, so she and her husband had to take away all MP3 players. We are exploring what to do and how to proceed, as our children have only ever heard the local classical radio station.

    Some families buy earlier generation MP3 players on Ebay, as they did not contain radio players. Chris found an extensive chart on Wikipedia (that I'm being unable to find at this moment) that shows all generations of MP3 players and what features each one had, allowing one to search on Ebay for the right names of an older version.