Sometimes being home with the littles can be pretty isolating. We moved here with three littles, so I didn't get out much right off. Nate was a little baby, but very adventurous, making the park a real challenge. In the past I always found a MOPS group to get involved in, but here I had Kate starting home school, so that was out too. We're slowly finding relationships with people around us, but this summer has been a real treat for us.
We've had friends from west Tenneessee visit for an overnight with their three girls.
We had friends from Justin's home town visit for dinner while they were vacationing with her family in town.
We had friends from Kansas (who had also left, but headed off to Indiana) stay with us for a few days with their boys.
Then a friend that was visiting her parents here in town stopped by for a playdate with her girls, when she was here from Maryland--I didn't get a picture of that group.
The kids have loved having extra people around, and I always enjoy it too. I have teased my introverted husband that we should open a bed and breakfast when the kids are grown. He's not quite on board yet with talking to strangers over breakfast each morning! But we are thankful for all the visits and to get to see so many people without loading up our entire crew.
For the first three years, we chose the Independent Home School option. We registered with the local school district (we've lived in two different counties, so we have registered with two different boards of education at different times), provided a list of what we would be learning, the kids immunization records, and my college transcripts (since it is required you must have at least a high school diploma to teach your children in TN). At the end of the year we submitted our attendance record (a calendar with the days we completed four hours of instruction marked off).
We never had any bumps in that system, but we made a change for last year. We switched to the other option for home schoolers in TN. We were expecting Elliana and wanted to have more flexibility in when our school year began and ended (the calendars for the local district ran from July 1st to June 30th. We could begin earlier with a Church-related Umbrella School. We chose HomeLife Academy for our umbrella school.
In addition to the benefit of a bit of extra wiggle room in the calendar this option also means our children will not be a part of the testing that is required for students at certain grade levels (5th, 7th, and 9th). We aren't opposed to all testing, actually we paid to test Kate before and will test all the kids again, since some day they will probably need to take standardized tests, I don't know what is on those tests to prepare them at all.
On the down side of the umbrella option, we do have to pay enrollment fees, since hey have expenses on their end. I also submit an education plan and grades for each student with this option. There are subjects that are hard to give grades, and without anyone to compare the girls to, I am sure I sometimes grade them a little harder. Thankfully they do have a pass/fail option for grades too, so I do use that for classes like art. They maintain records for us, provide digital report cards, and will generate a diploma when the time comes. These are things I can do, but it is nice to have off site copies too. I have not used the resource, but our umbrella school also offers counseling services and they will handle paperwork for driver's licenses and ID cards.
Both have their benefits and drawbacks, but over all we've been pleased with both options when we've used them.
When I was a little girl, my Daddy built a swing set for my sister and me to play on. We spent a lot of hours on it--two swings, a tire swing, trapeze bar, and a set of monkey bars. It also had a balance beam next to it. We made a little obstical course out of it. Across the beam, up on to the tire swing (without touching the ground), across the step for the monkey bars, and onto the trapeze bar, where we would flip over. I remember growing too tall to set the trapeze bar so that I could sit on it and flip without hitting my head one way or the other.
When it became clear that Kate was out growing our metal A frame swing set, I had my old swing in mind.
Justin and I opted for a web swing in place of the old tire swing, and we'll still have a baby swing up for Ellie, but for the most part, it is my old swing set. We added an extra post to stabilize the bar for the web swing too, since it is made to hold up to three children.
This summer each of the girls has chosen a skill to work on.
Kate picked cake decorating. I didn't happen to take a picture of the first cake we worked on together, but I did get the next two!
We went to visit my parents for Father's Day. Since we hadn't seen my mom on Mother's Day we made a combined cake. On half I drew the outline of a vase and placed roses (one of the skills one would learn later in cake decorating). On the other side I outlined a tie.
Katie filled in the outlines with different tips, drew the stems, leaves, made her first attempt at writing on a cake, and did the edges with a little assistance.
I think it turned out quite well!
The next week I mentioned a gal from our small group at church was having a birthday. After confirming we would see her that evening, Kate set to work on a cake for her.
I helped mix up the icing for her and gave advice. I helped squeeze the bag as she lettered "Happy", but by the time we got to "Birthday" her hand was tired of the constant steady squeezing required, so I helped more on that word. I did very little else, aside from the bottom on the sides with the handles--a tight place to work.
Kate and Ellie with our friend
She really enjoyed doing something special for someone. Our friend felt special because she was thought of too. Well that, and because Ellie lets her hold her!
I can't wait to see how Kate's skills blossom as she grows in strength and dexterity and with practice. I sure wasn't decorating cakes at her age!
I've been working on cleaning out things we aren't using bit by bit. I had compiled a nice stack of books to take to the used bookstore.
First, all the books didn't fit in the box I had, so I put some in a backpack. Next, the box I put the books in didn’t fit in the back of the van, so I put them in the passenger’s seat. Then I had to get the stroller in, since I couldn’t carry the box, a full backpack, and Ellie.
I asked the kids to get the green diaper bag, but then I remembered that I had moved the diapers to the smaller black bag because we didn’t take Ellie into the service on Sunday, so we didn’t need all the toys to distract her. Nate cries because he wanted to carry the diaper bag to the car, but he had the green one and Gabby beat him to the black one.
We are finally on our way out the door, after everyone has on day clothes, shoes, and has freshly tinkled. As I’m locking the door, Nate begins to wail—it turns out he and Gabby were racing to get to open the van door. I get down two steps and he gets to me, bleeding. Of course, I had already successfully locked both the deadbolt and the knob, since we are using the front door due to the 400 lbs. of concrete sitting in the garage for the swing set.
I pick up the baby, head inside, and convince Nate to sit down while I fetch the things to treat his, rather wide, but thankfully not deep scrape. I ask him if he wants to try again. He does.
We get to the book store. I unpack the stroller, put the baby in it—brakes on. Get the books out, brakes off and I have to verbally coach Kate on driving the stroller, including not jumping the curb when there is a ramp right there.
We drop off the books, return to the car to drop off the box, my backpack, and the stroller, so I can wear Ellie in the Moby wrap, since she’s much more likely to stay happy that way. Kate can’t find my wallet I asked her to retrieve from my backpack, because she’s looking in the diaper bag. And I can’t remember how to fold the stroller back down. I have the baby strapped to me and my three older children trying to help by putting the brakes on. Ha! I figured it out shortly, but we must have been a sight.
The old books are out of the house and the store credit we got almost covered the cost of what we picked up. Since you can't leave without buying something, right? Ha!