Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Missouri History Museum Trip

Today we all attended a homeschool day put on by the Missouri History Museum at Forest Park, St. Louis.  They conduct a free day most months and wrap it around a theme they are currently displaying.  We have several we intended to participate in but have not been able to do so. Finally, we went to the one today.

The topic was the Lindbergh flight across the Atlantic Ocean. By the time Charles Lindbergh was an adult and began this journey he was a local man and had lots of St. Louis backing so it was natural for the museum to have a gallery and classes.  They have several other displays as well right now but we stuck to the theme. After all, next month will be the Mammoths and Mastodons theme and we will be sure to attend.

So back to our trip. The museum is an original building of the 1904 World's Fair with newer additions of course.  The building alone can be an education process and we did go into the Fair Gallery.  Grace seemed to be truly interesting in the material and was a good student. Faith was not poorly behaved in the museum but during story hour she was horrible and had to be removed. It is clear that her age she is not ready for a lesson in this structure so next month I will take only Grace.   We enjoyed a display and discussion about "Bessie" Coleman from a wonderful woman who dressed in character and told her story from the first person.  We learned about oil spills and how to clean a feathered animal who has been effected. Of course we explored much about the flight and the overall life of Lindbergh.  In the galley there was a replica of THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS airplane that he flew.  This was an entirely new subject that we had never touched on but since we have been learning about pioneers to the west it was still a great blend as we realize that he was a pioneer of his time. 

Later this week is a homeschool roller skating party and next week is another Magic House Monday. I have lots to get covered in lesson times this week. At the end of last week Grace had begun to learn how to carry in subtraction.  Faith is moving forward in her reading and getting faster each day.  We are also reading a book about Sacajawea together as she was fascinated by her in the Lewis and Clark movie. 

I continue to prepare my Master's Lyceum classes onto the PowerPoint presentation and really look forward to the classes. It is time consuming but once they are done I will never have to spend time preparing again when I offer the class in rotation of others I have done.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day Filled with Great News

Today my newest grandson went to the cardiologist at St. Louis Children's Hospital.  They felt he had a double aortic arch but too sick to further evaluate it.  So he has regained the weight and then some.

But here is the confusing part, they tell us that his pulmonary artery was narrowed on the first echo and that the double arch appeared to be low down and not likely to interfere with his trachea and esophagus as would be the primary concern.  So they do another echo and find that the pulmonary artery is improving and we should expect it to get better as he grows. Then he says some rhetoric that ends with him not having a double aortic arch but at some angles it appears to be there but overall is not visible in the other views.

See, I am not trusting when someone wants to make me "not loose any sleep" but still do not hear a commitment to the NO DAA that he is evaluating.  He tells us in the first few minutes that his specialty is cardiac cath and flow while Dr. Sing, who read the first echo, has cardiac imaging as his speciality.  So I will not loose any sleep and will use my grandmother's intuition.

This post is all about me today

So when I get finished with lessons for the girls I am trying to find time and energy to work on the coop classes.  We know there will be a different venue but I still do not have the schedule or the absolute date to begin.  This is important as my class depends on loan items from our conservation office. 

I am rather good at working "friendly" computer programs and have been creating the class within a PowerPoint presentation.  I plan to connect it to a projector that we have and cut down a lot on the material that needs to be printed.  So far I have impressed myself with the presentation. One can only imagine how good it could be if I knew how to work ALL of the programs gadgets.  I do not have time to get a class in for it but my daughter is very familiar with it. When I have it completed I will seek her knowledge for a few enhancements that I know the program can do.

It is 0200 here and I find that I cannot sleep well tonight. In the morning we will take the baby to the cardiologist in St. Louis.  We will learn more about the double aortic arch and when we can expect surgical intervention.  He has gained weight well with the ease of the bottle and the upright position for feeding.  K continues to pump but cannot pump enough for his intake so he is supplemented with formula as well. 

My body has been fighting off an autoimmune flare and so far I am ahead of the battle. I began a round of steroids and I am feeling better today. Well, except for the fact that the steroids have me still awake. 

I hope to find more energy by the weekend when I return to work.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Can I keep the momentum going?

It has been a very eventful and progressive learning environment at the Geralds Learning Academy.  There are eager learners and a teacher who is on a roll.  Now that it has calmed down again the girls are easily focused on what needs to get done.  So what have we done in the past two days?

Since Monday was Chinese New Year we stayed true to the theme of our studies and did not have our KTM (Kitchen Table Monday) activity. KTM usually involves lots of cutting and we could not use knives or scissors so I had to do something else. My mind wondered what sounded like a spur of the moment field trip and I chose the eagle watching along the Mississippi River around Alton and Grafton, Illinois.  As we drove that way the girls caught a glimpse of the Arch. At the same time the asked me if we could go to the Arch instead.  It did not take me but half of a second to reply "yes".  Eagle watching was going to be a cold event and a long drive to reach our destination. We got a later start as I am dragging on Monday's and the Arch was only ten minutes away from us at the time. 

I know that God intervened in our day as it was a much better choice considering our class time lessons. We have been reading and discussing the move to the west. It was rather light hearted as it was intended to be the first introduction to the topic.  For those who do not know this, you enter the Arch underground and there is a large museum, two shops, and three theatres in that area. The museum is called The Great Westward Expansion Museum.  Lets face it, there were very few people there this time of year. We attended the National Geographic movie about Lewis and Clark. We meandered through the museum viewing wagons, buffalo, bear, yokes, peace medals, typical prairie home layout, and a replica of the wharf of St. Louis where supplies were bought. That is only a small list of what they experienced.  Best of all, it was all  about things we have been learning about in class.

Following the museum experience we continued on with our Chinese New Year celebration by eating lunch at a Chinese Buffet.  The girls were bothered by the fact that the ladies had to work on their holiday.  We did have a discussion of how many times ones culture begins to blend with another when they leave their homeland. But wait, there's more.....they recalled the lesson when the pilgrims first went to Holland and left because of the influence on their children and the Indians and pilgrims who realized their children were influenced by one another and the changes that took place.  OH YES!  It appears we have begun to understand sociological impacts. 

Our class is decorated for the Chinese New Year as well and they made a dragon puppet yesterday. G played with the puppet in front of the new baby and realized he liked it a lot. It was brightly colored with yellows, reds, blues, and other unknown blends.  It also was capable of a variety of motions. 

I feel so blessed to have such rich experiences with my grandchildren. K is ready to return to teaching, so she says, but I find she is still so busy with the business of a newborn, busy house, and grabbing some sleep that I think she should relax and enjoy the fact that her mother is handling it.  Well, that just sounds silly!  She knows we are having a blast and knows she is missing out on the little things that are happening.  She wants to be a part, even if it means a little bit dirtier house or a little less sleep. I do wish she would nap a bit when the baby does but she keeps pushing through each day without a nap.  I do not know how she does it but so many other mothers of many do.  Me?  Well, I spread my simple two children out by six years which is so much different that her experience.

We did hear a little about our Master's Lyceum this semester.  It will be at a different location and will begin MAYBE Feb. 17th.  This is driving me crazy as I hate last minute plans. I love spur of the moment activities but this is too big of an event to have so much dangling this late in the game.  The schedule has not yet been released since they just got the approval for the new location.  I look forward to the semester to teach the classes I have planned. I have heard from several parents who plan to participate if the schedule permits. Sometimes there are ongoing classes that get scheduled at the same time so a choice has to be made.

Well this is a long enough post for now.  I hope others are feeling the winter revival that we are experiencing.

Friday, January 20, 2012


We are having a great time as we learn a little bit about Chinese culture and Chinese New Year.  I find that with that dangling in front of them for the last subject of the day they are both eager to move on.

Today they colored in a dancing dragon and did a maze to bring the dragon to the bowl of tangerines. I read about some traditions again with the girls. Now we are ready to get our red envelopes prepared. They also glued on the face to their paper plate dragon. Of course, G had to make hers a bit different from the template. She must be creative with all she does but just once it would be nice to see her follow the norm.

Tomorrow we will create paper lanterns to decorate our class with. First comes lessons then the fun. Gee, if I was a good craft person I could always have them motivated like this.

I have decided to take G to Sylvan this summer and see if we gain a grade level as they promise in math.  She did well today in her math lesson.  I have slowed the phonics with F a bit. I want to make sure I am at her level and pushing her forward not having her try to catch me. Still she is doing well. I just have to keep reminding myself that she is five AND not eligible for kindergarten until fall in the public system.  Still she tells me she wants to go to the six year old class at church.  ummmm NO!

We have finished our Social Studies book so we are going into the health book next. I looked into the third grade History book for next year and found the table of contents. Seems we have done much of that in our independent reading so since G will go to fourth grade language courses next year I am going to go on in the fourth grade history and begin to split the girls in this class. Seems the third grade book covers Lincoln, Franklin, Clara Barton, Daniel Boone and others that we have specifically gotten books from the library to read more than our current books covered. As a matter of fact I have a book on Daniel Boone to take back to the library today. 

I feel so revitalized again today. I hope they keep this momentum going.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


This week has been a productive learning week. My back has been hurting so I have not been to the classroom but we have been at the kitchen table doing our book work. I do not feel it is a good as a whole lesson but actually it seems to be more personal and the girls are responding well to it.  I may sit a chair between their desks when we get back downstairs and keep the same type of lessons going forward. 

We are doing our curriculum but with added material as usual. This week we are learning about the Chinese New Year and making craft decor to put in our classroom. I know they would love to take 15 days to celebrate it and not do any school work but we cannot afford the time away.

G is doing wonderful in her language studies. Seems she is a great proof-reader. F has been very much a five year old lately so I am trying to take first grade material and present it in a kindergarten style. I am not sure what happened to make her stop being too old for her britches but she has made a huge change. Well , actually it is probably the new baby in the house. I am just not use to it. 

G is enjoying the next level of math that we are doing. She likes to carry her addition and I am ready to get into borrowing for subtraction. She seems to enjoy things when they are more like a puzzle to solve rather than straight math facts.

Tomorrow we will finish a dragon mask that they began today. I will take them to the library and we will explore more about China. We talked about some of the traditions and taboos that are observed.  I am afraid Faith will begin to observe a few of them to be honest as it all made sense to her. :)  We will discuss this next week some cultural differences and governmental differences as well. We decided it will include a brief lesson about the Buddhist faith. I think it will be interesting indeed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Can I Be Called to do Something Different?

I wonder sometimes why God continues to call upon me to do the things I do.  I am a nurse and it just comes natural to me. When I am at work the day just keeps flowing along and no matter how sick my client is that day I always make it through without falling apart at the seams.  I am a mother and it just comes natural to me. When I am doing the things that a mother does it just keeps flowing along no matter how tough the situation can become I always make it through without falling apart at the seams.  God sure put me together with some tough thread!

I feel as if He keeps putting similar tasks in my path.  When my children were young I took on the cub/boy scout activities effortlessly as well as the girl scout activities. I had a philosophy then about the activities my children participated in.  Sometimes I would find it necessary to share that philosophy with others. I did not need to take part in everything to the fullest scale that my children did. I felt that we are all called to do something and as long as we served our community in some positive fashion then we are doing our part. If one parent did soccer while another did baseball then we all support each other as I was doing scouts.  Sometimes a coach or youth leader of a program would make mention that not enough parents are doing their part and I would share with them that we all tend to have our own little part in this play and collectively we are making a difference.  I never intended to become a teacher or creator of classes for our Master's Lyceum but the first semester we were active the opportunity was presented to me and I was asked if I could teach one of the classes that someone had all ready prepared. So I sat in on the first class and then recreated her class a couple of hours later for others. When the next semester came around I had found something I wanted to do with my grandchildren but felt it would be more fun with many so put it together as a class instead. That class filled so quickly that the following semester (last fall) I conducted it two more times.  But I felt called upon to also do a class for older students. One that did not specifically benefit my kiddos but would be for older students. So the poetry class was done.

I am now at the same point this semester. I have two classes that will delve into science from a conservationist point of view. One is for younger and one for older students. I am a strong willed person. Nothing about me is meek and mild.  I try to approach things with open arms, open ideas but still I feel that when I do something I do it intensely. I am afraid that the intensity of my calling is sometimes to strong for others and they form opinions that I cannot curtail.  Why should I care? Why try to mold their opinions?  I do not know the answer to either question.  I do not tend to communicate that these type of things tend to be my calling.  I know that inside I am presented with opportunities like these often in my life. Sometimes I respond and other times I feel that I should step back.  So it is not like a announce to anybody that I AM CALLED.  I just do it.

But why is it that the same type of activities I did back then I am doing again now.  I wonder what else I am capable of if He would just present them to me.  Why can't I be a great housekeeper, a terrific gardener, a political activists?  Why is is always about the children or the weak and helpless?

Well God, here I am!  Happy to do what I am doing!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Catch up post, packed with too much at one time

Let me see what to start with.  I like to sandwich good stuff first, mix the bad and then follow with the good. It leaves me feeling hopeful and doesn't block my absorption at the beginning. So here it goes!

G and F are very excited about the birth of their baby brother O.  He was born Nov. 20th and they are wonderful big sisters. His birth has been a great learning experience for them.  The biggest change is the increased responsibility they have learned. After all, if you recall their mother had some issues afterward and had to use a wound vac all this time. But now it is almost completely healed and this week the wound vac was removed. In the mean time each girl has become more responsible for their dirty dish, their dirty clothes and actually can now prepare their own bath water to the correct temperature.  They are using the phrase "A mess by the inch is a cinch but a mess by the yard is hard" as their guide.  I am even hearing F say that when she realizes that if she does not stop now the mess will no longer be a cinch.  It is true that during this phase we have not accomplished near as much lesson time as I would have liked but it does not mean that learning did not take place. While living life we find time to have little spelling bees and math facts. At K's house there are strict rules about television and when we all got exhausted we sat back and watched a lot of national geographic shows or the typical children educational television.  We also read several Magic Tree House books together and discussed them afterward.  Intermittently during this past month we did our curriculum as well.

You may wonder why it was so disruptive. Well, between mother's home nurse visits, doctor visits and such we also had some children who did not feel well. They went to MONKEY JOE'S for a play date with some friends and soon they were ill.  That takes away a week right there alone.  Then there is the baby.  Seems O has a  little problem of his own and was not thriving as he should have been. It is so odd!  At the time he was born every other baby at the hospital was in the NICU but baby O was in the regular nursery and roomed in with mom and dad.  The neonatologist even told K that O was the heatlhiest baby in the nursery.  He went down in weight as they all do but gained it back.  He was at the doctor every other day for a weight though as he gained it back so much slower than they had expected.  Then one day it was clear to K that he was not doing well at all.  She blamed in on the illness of the girls thinking that he must have caught a little something too.  He ended up being admitted to St. Louis Children's Hospital where a few things in our life changed. He struggles too much at the breast to breath and swallow so he must be fed with a faster flow nipple in a more upright position than at the breast.  He got rehydrated there and his weight began to come up big time. He had lost more weight again and was once again below his birth weight.  They heard a heart murmur and checked it out with an echocardiogram. There were other test that they wanted to get completed but he was just to frail to perform them.  So the plan is to see the cardiologist at the end of the month and assess his readiness for further testing and the surgical correction of a double aortic arch.  Of all CHD this is a very rare one effecting only 1% of children.  God lead K to help at the right time.  It may otherwise had gone undetected for a very long time.  His symptoms are just little things right now that we noticed but thought them to be "just him".  His voice sounds like he always has a sore throat and there are times his breathing is loud.  It seems that the aortic arch creates a circle with his trachea and esophagus trapped in the middle.  It does not effect the function of the heart at all. 

G meets O

F meets O

O after his bath and lotion applied by two happy sisters

So you may ask--how are you going to catch up?---  I am not!  We had all ready discussed the fact that we enjoy our early fall time and hate the thought and pressure to do school when the days are so wonderful and we could be camping or hiking in the midst of fall weather.  We planned to do a longer school year and take a July, August, September vacation instead. This will just justify to the girls why we are still doing school in June. Let's face it, they can do school and still hit the pool after lunch time. Where I live the pool does not begin to get direct sun until around 11:00 and it creeps slowly across the pool. 

So back in full swing again and the girls are eager.  G is begging for a test every day. I think she is worried that she will have forgotten material but she is doing great.  I am thinking more and more that we will not seek to complete the first grade material this year anyway. F just turned 5 in October and I am going to take her as she shows ability. With that said, she was excited yesterday. She was introduced to the idea of compound words. She did great with little direction but we only did half of the lesson as it was true work for her. She felt so accomplished!  It seems that G enjoys proof reading.  She is having fun finding all the capitalization and punctuation mistakes and correcting them.  Language classes just come naturally to her.  For math class yesterday we priced items in the house and she went shopping. She is doing remarkably well deciding how to pay. She is finding the may ways to get to the total.  She also seems to like the fraction intro and carrying numbers.  Maybe she will like math more when it  has more action to it.  Today we will begin teaching G guitar as well. 

One of the things they both enjoyed was the chapter on pioneers. They were not to interesting in colonial times but the west is different.  So I went to the library last night and gathered up some other books on the topic.  I know at this age much of social science/ history is introductory but they seem to both enjoy this topic so I am going to stop in the book for a while and go a little bit deeper today and Tuesday.

It has finally turned bitter cold and we have snow.  I use to love this stuff but my house is so cold this year. I refuse to pay another winter of heating bills as high as I have been doing.  Bundle up, lay with the dogs and hope for an early spring. That is my plan.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Magic Tree House interactive display

The Magic House is a children's museum in St. Louis area. They have created an interactive display themed around three different Magic Tree House books. I took G and F on Friday to the Magic House. I knew G would enjoy it since she is crazy  about Jack and Annie's adventures. I also discovered that they would have Mrs. Clause reading a story and sharing cookies and hot cocoa in the early evening. SO WE MADE A DAY OF IT.

Even without these special events the girls love The Magic House and would have enjoyed the day but it was so much better than I had expected.

As you enter the display you walk through the woods and Frog Creek, PA. Then you enter a wooden tree house with three different gates that open to the period of the book. They represented Twisters on Tuesday, Civil War on Sunday, and Thanksgiving on Thursday.  Along the walls of the tree house are books lined along the wall that  compliment each topic.

The first on that we went to was the Civil War period. There both girls dressed up as Clara Barton while the boys present had drummer uniforms.  F began using the sticks to beat the drum to a marching beat and she broke out in the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy.  G went right to the first aid tent and bandaged up soldiers. There was a wooden wagon to represent an ambulance and it was made to create a bouncy rough ride along with a wooden stretcher. The walls to create the back drop of this display showed encampments and soldiers along w/ Clara Barton herself. 

The second on their list was the west and a rough one room school house with a shelter to enter into. The girls dressed up as pioneer children. Once in the shelter it was as if you were hiding from the twister. It was loud and rather scary if you really permitted yourself to feel it. Then there was a huge coal steam engine train to climb on, ring the bell, pull the whistle and shovel coal of course.

Finally, they went to the first Thanksgiving period.  There was a sandy beach with a boat where of course you dress as pilgrims and pretend to be Jack and Annie gathering clams and eels. Once gathered you to to Priscella's kitchen to prepare food and outside of her kitchen is a garden to gather corn, squash and other items. After preparing the meal in one huge pot in the fireplace you carry it out to the large table for a feast. In another area a back drop display has Squanto bent on knee to show what to do with corn. There the girls learned how to grind corn with period tools.

G was explaining the stories to F as she was going through but F was just enjoying the moment while G was reliving her story.

F sang a song on stage for Mrs. Claus and G and F were the only young children present for the first story hour.  Perhaps there was a confusion about where the story would be as we had been told several different locations. They had hot cocoa and a gingerbread cookie with Mrs. Claus as well.

We did take advantage of all the other multitude interactive learning activities offered and also went to the art studio where they created wonderful snowflakes and a painting. Seems odd, we have paint and an easel but they wanted to do this anyway. We go to the Magic House a few times a year of morning homeschool program but we still discovered a new area that we did not know existed. It is a hidden hallway behind a secret panel bookcase and then a huge evidence/detective room and a new slide.  Perhaps they have that section closed off during the short homeschool days but we will find out in February when another day is scheduled.