Saturday, November 5, 2011

Organizing Our Homeschool

I used to think I was a super-organized person. Ask me where a particular important paper was from 3 years ago, and within short order I could usually find it. I was always so proud of myself for my organizing capabilities, and ability to find whatever I was looking for in whichever stack of paper or box of stuff it was in. I was awesome and proud of it!

Note the use of past tense here. A couple of years ago I had a terrible realization. I actually wasn't organized at all. I had piles of papers, here and there. Boxes of previous years worth of receipts, articles I intended to read, artwork of the kids, and ideas for art, business and more cluttered our storage room and every flat surface in the house. It was a harsh disappointment I faced.

I discovered the reason I was so good at finding things was not my stellar organizational skills, but my own inherent finely tuned visual memory. To this day if I am looking for something (last months gas bill, a toy my kids want to play with, something my hubby lost), I get a clear picture in my head of where I saw it last. I used to be able to use this skill in school to great advantage, pulling up mental images of my notes or pages in a book to recall answers for test questions. It is an awesome skill to have, for sure, but comes with its own drawbacks. Like trying to explain where something is to a family member. Translating my mental picture into words seems to freeze my tongue, until I can make a verbal map to the item. Frustrating, indeed.

So, how does this actually translate into homeschooling our kids? Well, to be honest, it is something I am still trying to work on. I have managed to print out our state standards as a bare bones minimum for us to keep a hairy eyeball on. I wanted to have them partly just for my own records as well as to make sure we don't miss anything (I may not follow any particular curriculum, but we are not unschoolers either). I have also started keeping some 'sample# pieces the kids work on so I can see/show them their progress.

I am still trying to get into a regular time during the day to sit down and practice reading, writing, math, etc. but the whole time-management aspect doesn't stick for long. We ARE good about teaching them different things in a more hands-on fashion throughout the day, so I guess that is a positive. It is a struggle though, and it makes me wish that much more for our own private space again. I miss having our own home, and there are days I feel like I am failing these two amazing, bright kids of mine.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Off To Bed

My littlest is recovering from a cold, and it is BLOWING like crazy out there tonight. Another frustrating night of trying to watch the news while the kids go nuts. I think it is time to re-think the evening routine, since we are all ending up pretty frustrated on a regular basis. Probably didn't help that we were out all day too, and so had to do evening chores late. Sigh. Just noticed that I have managed to at least write here (even though it has been sporadic!) for over a year now. Yay me!! Night all. Hopefully more interesting things to talk about tomorrow.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fowl Thoughts

Owning and caring for fowl can be really interesting, and I have learned a lot over the past 4 years or so. It really takes caring for a number if different breeds before you discover what you like and what you don't, as well as what you really want to look out at every day that makes you happy. I think I have come to a certain point where I can say what birds I really want to have on our farm of the future. So, here is our fowl story so far...

Several years ago we picked up a dozen chicks, after talking about it for a few months. We have always had an interest in heritage or unusual breeds, so we decided on some Dominiques (heritage breed) and Americauna (beautiful colored eggs) hens. We originally wanted Auracauna hens, but had discovered that they are super rare and expensive after doing a lot of research. The vast majority of hatcheries that supposedly have Auracauna chickens actually have Ameraucanas, which still lay blue, green and even pink eggs (they are also called "Easter Egger" hens, a name which I personally find irritating). The trait for the colored eggs seems to be dominant enough for the Ameraucana breed to stand alone. Plus they are a pretty bird with a wide variety of corporation and features that I find attractive.

We lived with them in our tiny suburban backyard for about 18 months, before deciding that we loved our chickens, but didn't want to live WITH them any more. They really needed more space than what we had, so we moved half of them to live at my in-laws place, on their half acre. Unfortunately, several months later, they were killed by a couple of dogs. It was so sad, especially because Claire raised them from chick-hood, carrying them in a sling like little babies. Truthfully, it was almost a year before I told her about it since I knew she would be devastated.

Some time later, we moved the rest of the chickens (and a few more we got from friends) to the in-laws as well, and reinforced the pen so they were more protected from dogs. Along the way, we picked up several other miscellaneous laying hens from a friend, as well as from someone who was moving and couldn't take his hens with.

Then, this spring we picked up a group of 30 chicks (Americauna and Barred Rock), supposedly all girls. Plus 25 free chicks (all boys, of course) that were Rhode Island Reds, some ducks (we adopted 3 runner ducks and their Buff duck buddy), and a group of heritage turkeys!!

Just a few birds around here this summer. Several weeks ago we started to butcher the extra boys (an altogether different story!), and I think I have a few tentative conclusions to make. I love my Americauna and Dominiques chickens. They are colorful, have good personalities, and are fairly mellow. Barred Rocks are ok, but the boys are a little loud. Rhode Island Red roosters are obnoxious - they are push toward the hens, and are rather mean to each other. However, they taste really yummy baked in the oven.

As for ducks, I love my little Runner Ducks. They walk upright and are sweet, but not really to have for a dual-purpose bird (eggs and meat). The Khaki Campbell are ok, and the larger Blue Swedish ducks are ok too, especially on the dinner plate for their size (the males, that is).

And I love my turkeys. They are hilarious to watch and listen to (and for the record, turkeys really do say "gobble, gobble".) Unfortunately we ended up with only two girls and about 8 boys!!!! So, obviously, several will be invited to join us for the holidays.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Too Little, But Not Too Late

Not much to say tonight. My son isn't feeling well. I am doing some online comparison shopping for tattoo machines (!!). Baked another pumpkin for pies tomorrow. Fun Times.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Must Be Crazy

I know, it is a long-standing joke, at least to myself, that I must be crazy already. I haven't blogged (except in my head, and that doesn't really count) for several months. Granted, we have been busy, but I am sure I could have made time somewhere. My creative soul needs to be fed, even if it is through writing instead of my preferred method of the visual arts (or even dance, which I LOVE but just can't manage to do right now). One venue I have been thinking about for a few months is trying NaNoWriMo this year. If you haven't heard of it, look HERE. I don't know that I feel the need to write a novel, per se, but I do feel the need to tell my own story, and the story of my family history in some way.

Being November 1, and the first day of NaNoWriMo, I am still feeling conflicted about it. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. Gah! Or maybe I will do THIS instead....

And I really, really, really want to do THIS!! for November too.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to get this nifty little bagde widget to actually appear where I want it to. This platform is really counter-intuitive to me.