Classics Challenge - Middlemarch

I gave this 4 stars on goodreads. But that's really an average of my two ratings. Objectively, this is a 5 star book. It's very well written, long but not unnecessarily so. There are many characters but that doesn't mean they aren't well developed. And while the plot is very interwoven and complex, it never veers to the unbelievably coincidental level. I didn't realize it has the sub-title "A Study in Provincial Life" until I first picked it up to read it but that is actually a great description. It really is a story form of a study of characters and life. Which I normally love. And I did spend quite a bit of time while reading it, pondering other relationships (some real but mostly fictional) and comparing them to the ones in Middlemarch so it obviously stuck with me as I read it. So in one sense, I will acknowledge it is wonderful and everything I was told it was but, I still was, personally, underwhelmed.

I say that admitting that the fault lies with myself. For starters, I like happy endings. Big fat happy endings with bows and bells and sparkles and sunshine. It's just who I am. And at about the half way point, I could tell that I just wasn't going to get that. I understand why. So much of the book dealt with an inability to see reality, in others and in oneself; add in an emphasis on bad choices and Eliot could hardly have had everyone end up living under a rainbow. But I still missed it, And what's worse, I think I had a hard time caring about many of the characters because I didn't think they would get that happy ending. In the end, I really only cared about one or two characters - and not necessarily the ones that ended up together!

I didn't dislike reading it but I never feel in love with it. I read my daily goal's worth and enjoyed it, but rarely read more than that. Unlike when my beloved Austen, I just always felt like Eliot was trying to teach me something about humanity by using a story. But with Austen (and another favorite author Gaskell), they offer up social commentary as well as timeless character study opportunities, but the point is the story and the people. So it's a good book and I'm glad I read it, but I don't think I'll be re-reading it anytime soon. Still, one of my lifetime goals achieved!

Middlemarch is my back to the classics long novel selection.


Bob For The Win!

So when last I left you all with the learning to read stuff, we were using The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Reading. But despite knowing that lots of mom/child dyads have done well with it, we had to drop it. I think it would be much better for a 6-7 year old reader but for a 4 year old, well, it's boring. Then I tried the Charlotte Mason style reading lessons and while I think those probably work well, I still don't have a good grasp on what you do day to day with that. So we tried Bob books. And she loved them! It's probably the opposite of what I said about OPG though -if you have a 6-7 year old, they might they these are boring and childish. But they were perfect for Lucy, she found the stories really amusing - and she has enough imagination to fill in the details of what exactly Mag was playing with the rag.

So how do I use them? I'm glad you asked! Oh, you didn't. Well, pretend you did :-)

I do basically the same thing I was doing in The Ordinary Parent's Guide except I'm introducing things in a slightly different order. I started this on my own but then found Brandy's Teaching with Bob page and that was very helpful. I suggest taking a look at it if you are using the Bob Books even if you change things up like I am.
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I pick up the next book in the series and look though it for any new sight words or sounds (blends, digraphs, etc). Brandy's sight has a post for each book that explains what sounds/words she choose. I didn't always use quite the same (sometimes I added a sound earlier than her to avoid as many sight words, sometimes the opposite) but its a great start. Those I write on a 3x5 card. I use blue and green for sight words, pink for sounds but that's just because I had those on hand and I'm cheap. Brandi has a whole neat binder system but I'm not that organized. She also writes a few words as examples for the sounds while I just write the sound/word.

I started out thinking I'd do it in advance and type them up so they'd look all pretty and quickly realized that was silly. This takes about 2 minutes of my time and I just keep the sharpie is our basket so I can add them in a second if I accidentally miss one, which has been known to happen.

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My basket of gear - the opposite of complicated

Then I'd call Lucy. We'd talk about the new sight words and/or sounds. Sometimes we'd practice building a few rules with the new sounds and magnetic letter tiles but not usually. And very rarely I made a fun coloring sheet or activity. By very rarely I mean twice. I did it twice. This time I talked about here and once when the book was all about colors, I wrote the colors on one side of the paper, colored a rectangle on the other and she got to draw lines to match them. So I'm not going crazy here with activities and worksheets is what I'm saying. I've seen Bob book printable freebies online and they just seem like a lot of busywork. But they are out there if that's your thing. It's just not mine.

After we learned any new sounds, we'd do a bit of review. Lucy prefered to review exactly seven from each category so I would pull the front seven green/blues and the first seven pink. Instead of using Brandy's neat binder system, I put them back up in a way that facilitates needed review. It's not as fancy as it sounds - if she got it right quickly, it went to the back of the pile. If she hesitated, guessed or gots it wrong, I put it back at the front of the pile so it got included in the next day's "seven." This was all done without her even knowing it so she didn't feel penalized if she got it wrong, I just keep my finger between the stack in my hand. Every once in a while I would go through and pull the ones I knew she really had down so our pile was never huge and we could work through them all in 3-4 days. That way we never went too long between reviewing any one word or sound.

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Then we read the new book for 5-8 minutes. If we finished it, great. If we didn't, we stopped. If she ever asked to stop or seemed tired, we stopped. We probably averaged 2 days/book but that really varies. Set 3 is a big jump as is Set 5, both in new sounds and in number of words per page. The sight word books contain more new words but are pretty short sentences so those go fast. I think mixing the sight word books with Sets 3-5 works well. When we finished a book, we add it to our Hundred Books List, another idea I stole from Brandy.

We just finished Set 5 about a month ago and honestly, that last book was a bit of a struggle. It's an odd book (she clanged the clong? Really?)  and I could tell Lucy just didn't care about the story so it took us 4 days . But in other books, she took off. She went from sounding out almost every word to just, well, reading! So for now, we've dropped the index cards and are just reading for about 10 minutes a day, either from the Treadwell primer (free online) or the Pathway Reader Primer (passed down to me by my mom). Since I have and like both sets, we are skipping back and forth. She's also started to enjoy easy readers from the library and some of our picture books (although those are a bit harder for me to gauge her on since she has a lot of them memorized already!).

I did look though the Ordinary Parent's Guide to see what rules we've covered and which we haven't. Between the Bob books and my pointing out other rules as we see them, she's knows most of them. And I have a good idea of the ones I need to keep an eye out for so I can explain them if we run into them during our reading practice time. But for now, I think we're done!


It's time for your bi-annual basement update!

Things are actually progressing with the basement again. In fact, the rooms are done for now.

So here is the green room a few days ago. Ignore the random head on the wall. That was Craig decorating his man cave for the 2 minutes it existed. I mean, officially this is still his man cave, just with pale green walls, quilts on the bed, a sewing machine and bookshelves filled with homeschooling and parenting books and craft supplies :-)

This doesn't seem that impressive since it's just a boring room.

But then you have to remember the crack-den before. 

It's got new lights, new drywall ceiling, painted walls, new heating ducts and new carpet. 

And here is the white room. 

And yesterday after I finished up the carpet

Now, obviously the lack of junk helps but the egress window, lack of awkward closet, new ceiling and walls and better lighting help as well. You might notice that this room only has baseboard on two of the walls. We plan to put a closet system in that corner (below) and bookshelves from the closet to wall (that's why the electrical outlet is so high). That will happen once Ikea comes to town this fall. The baseboards are painted and waiting to be installed until after that. 

We've already started moving furniture in and sorting books and craft supplies so it really shouldn't be long before I can put up pictures of real furnished room. Fun!

I do want to say something about the carpet since that is the part I just finished this past weekend. We knew we wanted carpet because we needed to cover the asbestos tile. After looking at other options, we went with these carpet tiles from Home Depot. The savings was just too much to ignore (these only cost us about $500 for both rooms) and I liked the idea of replacement tiles for when the kids inevitable stain it. The reviews for these are great but when the boxes came, they were no directions. 

But installation is really simply and after doing two rooms by myself, I feel like a pro. Each tile has an arrow on the underside, you want to make sure all the arrows face the same direction. I accidentally cut one piece the wrong way and its really obvious. But I ended up having the exact number of pieces I need so it just gonna have to stay for now. 

They go down really fast. Each room was done in just an hour or two. And it's easy too. Proof - I did it all myself while also taking care of a child with a tummy bug! Even the cutting isn't bad since they cut very easily with a box cutter. The cut edge seems to show a seam more than the others so try and hide your cuts on the less visible wall or under baseboards. My first room I put the cuts on the most visible wall instead of under the baseboard like I could have if I had realized it and it isn't bad but it could be better. 

The best way to avoid seams is to get the pieces very close together. The backing is self stick and while it doesn't' seem very sticky at first, it does the job. So instead of trying to push a piece into place, gently put it in the right spot, they using just the fibers, pull it snug up against the others, checking the seam for fibers caught underneath before you press it down. I used an paint stick to hold back fibers if they were being annoying but I also learned that when I ruffled the square and pushed it down into place, to leave the edge untouched so that it would be easier to butt the next piece up against it. 

I won't say these are totally seamless but almost. Even without any furniture in the room, they didn't scream carpet squares and once we put furniture in there, even less so. I was worried they wouldn't feel cushy enough down but I think they are just fine. It's not like a cloud but they are just as soft as our upstairs carpet, maybe even a bit more so. The kids certainly didn't have a problem rolling around on them all night - even before I had finished installing them, ahem. So if you have a basement or playroom that needs carpet on a small budget, I highly recommend them. In fact, I'm already wondering if there is a way to use them in the play/tv area of the big room, whenever we have saved up enough energy to get started with that. 


A Math (Test?)

Craig was out of town this week until late last night. So Tuesday I thought I'd take the kids to a real restaurant all by myself. I have no idea where I got that insane idea from but the kids eat free special means I got a really good deal.

And while we waited for our food, Lucy entertained Jonah with the notebook and crayons I had brought. I may not believe in formal education for very little ones, but apparently she doesn't agree.

Lucy: Here are 3 blue circles and 4 yellow circles. How many circles are your favorite?
Jonah: 3!
Lucy: Uhm, what is your favorite color today?
Jonah: Blue!
Lucy: Oh, I thought it was yellow (it normally is yellow). In that case, correct!

Lucy:  Mommy, use your fingers to help him. Four people are in a tent.
I put up 4 fingers
Lucy: 2 people fall asleep (my guess - not the kids!)
I put two fingers down
Lucy: How many people are awake?
Jonah: 2!
Lucy: Correct. You are doing great!

Squares on the left, a tent on the right

Lucy: Here is a big square and a little square. Point to the big square.
Jonah: that one! Points in the direction of the paper
Lucy: Well, I can't really tell which one you pointed at.
Jonah: The big one
Lucy: Oh, then you are right. You won the math!


My Timelist

I realized I mentioned my "timelist" in this post without really saying what it is but I wanted to go back and remedy that because I'm finding it really useful.

I got the idea of Laurie Bestvater's, The Living Page, which I highly recommend. It's based off of what she calls the "Table of History" but that is described by her and Charlotte Mason as being for Form I, maybe early Form 2, so - elementary age. I guess I should be beyond it by now but I'm not. History really isn't my forte and I've always struggled with dates so I wanted some sort of timeline to help me but nothing big or elaborate. And this isn't. It's not exactly how she described hers but since I'm not in Form I, I felt like I could take some liberties.

The early side (1400 BC to 500 AD)

My photos are pretty awful but this post has been sitting here a week because every night I wanted to wait and take pictures with better lighting and that never happened. So it's shadowy and flashy but even in good lighting, I don't think this would make a good image anyway.

Close up of the my busiest section from the late side

It's just a single piece of paper, divided into centuries, front. If I had any legal sized paper I probably would have been able to fit it on just one side but I made do with a smaller sheet using the front and back and it works just fine. When I come across person or event I want to remember, I just add it to the correct century. I don't worry about the exact dates. Oftentimes a person is born in one century but dies in another, I pick the one that makes the most sense to me, it doesn't really matter. I just want a column of names/events in each century. I've been calling it a timelist because that name makes sense to me and I kept forgetting the official term "Table of History."

Now that I've been using it for a while, I sometimes wish I had made horizontal sections like king/rules and books so I could see the span over time. But I also realize that the beauty of this really is it's simplicity. I don't have enough on there that it would be a pain to redo but I'm not going to. It's working so why mess with that?

It's been about two months since I started it but I don't foresee my giving it up, even if I do get the aforementioned Book of Centuries. Because the things I include in the BOC will be specially selected while this can be filled with anything and everything I stumbled upon, and I've pretty liberal with my inclusions. I've finding that having one makes my ears perk up when I hear (or more likely, read) a name or event that intrigues me. I keep it tucked into my commonplace book so its easy to find and add to. Queen Victoria is listed because I'm reading Idylls of the King and the dedication was to Prince Albert. I ended up reading all about the two of them one evening. I also through Queen Nefertiri when we looked her up after a Doctor Who episode and then last week during tea time, we looked at the N is for Noses page of Museum ABC and one of the pictures was of Queen Nefertiti! Connections - I love them!

If you are another time challenged person, I'd suggest giving it a try.

And remember, head over to Joyous Lesson for the Keeping Company Link-up. 


3 Things I do well

Maintaining a reasonable clean home

I love that expression (stolen from the Like Mother Like Daughter blog - a reasonably clean home. I can do that. I'm a born organizer and between that and a small house, we don't have a lot of clutter. We just can't. And the kids are well trained. They know before naptime and bedtime (and sometimes after dinner if its been a really "fun" afternoon) we have a tidy-up time. So it's pretty easy for me to keep the house at a decent level. It's rare that everything in the house is spotless at the same time, but I'm not afraid of a neighbor popping by.

Reading aloud to the kids

I go through spurts where I do all the pinterest activities I see with my kids and others were I'm more like "Here are paper and crayons. Sit there. I'm making meatballs and my hands will be covered with raw meat so don't ask me to do anything. And don't touch each other." (Hypothetically speaking of course. Not that this happened on February 3, 2015 or anything) I think they are both valid approaches to parenting small children so I don't really feel bad about being on either end for any period of time.

But one thing we do really well is reading aloud. My deep love for children's literature is a big part of that but I know it's good for them too. Every nap and bed time we read 2 picture books and one chapter from whatever chapter book we have going. We also read at other times but that's pretty much the bare minimum. Lucy is quite so rigid anymore but if we were out close to nap time and Jonah would fall asleep in the car I would have to make sure to tell her "book stories" on the way home or she would cry that we were skipping them when I tried to put her down for a nap quickly so I could go transfer him. But it is just what we do around here. Always have, hopefully always will.

Saying I'm sorry and I forgive you

I know the impression I give off on the blog is that I'm Mary Poppins - practically perfect in everyway :-) But in reality, I have a pretty bad temper. It doesn't quite rival Anne Shirley but close. And I don't do well handing my hormonal emotions, which is really bad in this current season of my life because my hormones are crazy. (like lab certified crazy!) But I don't want that to be an excuse for my bad behavior. I still control how I act. So I'm pretty good at apologizing. I've had a lot of practice. And luckily for me, Craig and the kids are all pretty good about accepting those apologies.

One thing I try to do, which started because I wanted to be a good example to the kids, is to say "I forgive you" when someone gives me a real apology. Not "That's alright" or "No problem" but "I forgive you." I don't do that for accidents or little things, of course, but real apologies deserve real forgiveness. And it's a lot harder to say "I Forgive You." Try it! It's hard! But at the same time, it is meaningful. I want it to be a habit that the kids are learning early so hopefully it won't be as hard for them. When I apologize to Lucy for losing my temper and she gives me a hug and says "I forgive you, mommy!" - totally worth it!


3 Things I really don't like

1) Grown-up beverages

Coffee - yuck. Beer/Wine/Alcohol in almost any form - not a fan. Put me with the kids because I'd much rather have a glass of milk with my dinner, lemonade if I'm being "bad." And after a long hard day (or night), my poison of choice would be hot chocolate or tea. Sometimes I wish I liked coffee because being a mom to two small children, a quick source of caffeine would not always be unwelcome, but I don't even like the smell. I do like a few kinds of alcohol. The shandies I had several times in England were quite tasty, although I still probably would have liked the non-alcohol part better on its own. I also didn't hate the last 1/2 of a glass of pink champagne I had so maybe there is hope for me yet.

2) Being late

Being late stressed me out. Even being on time, depending on the situation, is not my preference. I prefer to be early. I'm not sure how I survived growing up with my nerves intact because most of the other people in my do not share this trait with me. But I did. And I married a man who is also a fan of punctuality. Opposites may attract but in this case, the similarity is grand.

3) Being cold

 I really wish I didn't hate being cold so much because I happen to be cold a lot, especially in the evenings. Our bedroom is the coldest room in the house and could probably use new insulation but for now, I put the kids to bed, put on my warmest pajamas and wool socks, turn on my space heater next to my bed and then make Craig get me the water bottle I forgot to grab (see here for more on my forgetting things). Then when Craig comes to bed and starts complaining about how hot the room is, I take off my socks and stick my still cold feet on him with the threat that they be moved until he promises to keep the heat up.