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The kids and I have been tossing some crud bug back and forth for several weeks now. Putz the younger had strep last week and now is sick again. We are trying some allergy treatment on him this time to see if that helps as the last time we gave him regular cold medicine, it had no effect.

The weather has been unseasonably warm so we went on a hike on Monday. We identified several varieties of evergreens and the kids had fun looking for quartz in the stream beds along the hike. Putz the younger started sneezing and coughing almost continually about 20 minutes into the hike. Another reason why I think he has allergies.

They have both taken to the new curriculum very well. They like the increased independence and the ability to work at their own pace. Next week we will start on the two evaluation studies mentioned in the last post. I want every one reasonably healthy so their impressions and how they receive it isn’t tainted by their feeling sick.

In addition to being sick with a cold I have been feeling more than a bit tired for some time now so tomorrow I begin a “sleep study.” I get to sleep like a lap rat, all hooked up to wires and monitored by video. I am not sure how well I will sleep but I and my boys need me back in top form again so I will do my best. I am tired to feeling like I could fall asleep at any moment all the time. I want that spark and drive back!

Our church is less than three weeks to moving into out new I-90 Ministry Center! This has been a decade long journey where GOD has shown his hand in so many ways. GOD has even used the construction to introduce this church to more of the community. The slow economy has meant that when ever there is a code inspection, we get not one but several inspectors to walk through the building. In one case the fire department used the inspection as a class to teach a larger group of fire code inspectors. In all these cases, as they walked with our building and construction coordinators, they got a chance to hear the gospel and how GOD has blessed this project from start to finish. They can see that we are not just building a church but a place for the community to gather and be cared for and ministered to.

Here is the latest TV spot we are running on our local cable networks. If you are in the area, please drop by and share this time with us!

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I have made some curriculum changes as we have worked through our first year homeschooling,learning what works and what doesn’t. If your not interested in the details please skip to the last paragraph for a great link to an incredible science tool, “baby soda bottles.”

As we entered the new calendar year it became apparent that some of the curriculum choices I had made were not working as well as I expected. Was it just a poor choice on my part or were there some real mechanical reasons why changes were needed. I had to do some serious soul searching and re-evaluation of the learning dynamic between myself and my sons. Was it something that I was doing or not doing? Was it a mismatch between the curriculum choices and the learning styles of my children. Or worse, was it that the task was harder than I had anticipated or perhaps I wasn’t trying hard enough.

In truth, it was probably all of the above but the biggest factor turns out both my son’s prefer to work independently on book/seat work. My wife and I have always taught our children to be as independent as possible and the subjects that they did best on, were the ones where I could just give them an assignment and let them go. The youngest has competed a year and a half of Math-U-See as of this writing. He will likely finish the second year and be one grade ahead by the end of the traditional school year. The older son has done a bit better completing almost 2 years to this point. I did have to back him up a year because I felt that he needed re-enforcement of his understanding of place value. He struggled at first and then a light went on and he flew through a year and a half of curriculum in just 4 months.

They have both done an excellent job in Math and Science. Those are my strongest subjects as well, yet the progress they have made has been mostly self driven. I have set the pace for them to so that they are disciplined and consistent but they have needed very little instruction beyond what is contained in the course material.

I tried to teach them other subjects in the more traditional methods. I would teach the lesson and then send them off to work their way through the material. I found that many times I spent more time re-explaining things than I spent teaching the lesson initially. Each of them learn so differently that most any explanation I could give in the standard teacher-student instruction method was understood to one and confusing to the other. If I tried to explain things in different ways so that each of them was taught in his own style, the instruction was tedious and to long to hold their attention during the parts that were directed at the other child. If I gave them the material and let them work through it without a teaching session, they seemed to get it just as quickly and in many cases with less intervention on my part. I prefer the one on one approach so it really works out well.

Just after the first of the year, I ordered two subjects from The School of Tomorrow. Some of you may know this as the the ACE Curriculum. It is a self instructed self paced curriculum that my older children used when they went to Shorewood Christian School in SW Seattle over 20 years ago. It worked well for them so I thought I’d give it a try for the boys. They took to it completely so last week I ordered more subjects. In general we will continue to use Math-U-See and supplement the science curriculum with lots of hands on experiments at home along with lots of field trips and hikes as the weather begins to warm. They are almost as excited to get the new material as I am. I will let you know how it goes.

I have signed up with TOS (The Old Schoolhouse) to review curriculum and post me review/experiences and comments. Look for something on Firefighters and Australia in a few weeks.

I found a great source for “test tubes.” They are actually pre-forms for liter soda bottles and are referred to as “baby soda bottles.” I found them for about 50 cents each. Google “baby soda bottles” and make sure that they include caps. They are virtually indestructible and dishwasher safe but they are NOT flame or high heat resistant. Beyond that, you can use them for just about anything you want. The best price I found was from Steve Spangler Science . This supplier also provides suggestions for use and a video of some experiments done with the baby soda bottle. There are many suppliers and different sizes. Some vendors even sell test tube racks of the appropriate size for the baby soda bottles.

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Two days lost to sickness and one to taking care of family matters and by the start of the second week of school we are already playing catch up.

We got Mom and Dad settled in their new digs this weekend. It was a hard weekend with way to much going on and Dad was exhausted. He walked as much on Saturday (moving day) as he normally walks in a week and then on Sunday, he wanted to go for a walk at the new place and they got lost in the hallways. It isn’t that hard if it is your first day there. In the end, Dad was so tired that he fell several times and on the last fall he bumped his head. It was a minor bump but the rules where they live say he needed to go to the ER and get checked out. That was a 8 hour nightmare. Next time we will find a 24 hour urgent care facility. He also broke his little finger so now he has a splint on one hand. It makes it harder for him to hold on to his walker. I will need to go down a bit more often than I had planned. That means changing they way I do and schedule homework so that the boys will be able to do some work on those trips.

We did manage to get in several hours yesterday and a whole day today and if I am honest, the only real problem is that MY schedule is off. This kids are doing fine and work hard. The first of the year is designed around review and reinforcement before we hit the harder stuff so the fact of the matter us that they are blowing through pretty fast right now. I just have to get over the fact that MY schedule is changed and the kids don’t know the difference. This whole home school thing as all about me isn’t it? Sigh!

On another subject …

Last October my wife walked out of her job to start her own investment firm. We had been talking and praying about it for a long time and even though the stock market was in a free fall, we knew that God’s timing was perfect. Well it was and things are going well but that is not exactly what I wanted to talk about.

Starting the business meant that we had to budget much differently than we had in the past. As a result, I began to look at open source software to meet my computing needs. I was amazed at the abundance of very high quality, free software that is available. I wrote about some of it in the spring but I have since found a lot more. I will write more about my favorites with respect to homeschooling in my next post. Stay tuned! I found some real gems.

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Dear GOD

Dear GOD, please help my father and mother through these difficult times. Give Mom strength, patience and understanding but above all please give her your perfect peace. LORD, please help Dad to understand more and to not be so demanding and strong headed. I pray that he will understand what Mom has to do to help and care for him and that he will give her grace when it doesn’t go the way he wants it to. Help them both find comfort in their new home and wash them both with your peace and grace. AMEN

Today I moved my 82 year old father and 80 year old mother from my brothers house, 165 miles to an assisted living facility that while no closer to me is much closer to all of the grand kids and great grand kids. Dad was diagnosed with Parkinsons over 10 years ago and it has taken it’s toll on both him and Mom. The medications have increased his physical quality of life over the years but they too have taken a mental/cognitive toll. Together, the disease and some of the side effects of the medications have greatly reduced his cognitive abilities. He is able to get around with a walker but needs help getting into and out of a chair or bed or anything in the bathroom. He is becoming increasingly combatitive toward Mom when things don’t happen how and when he wants.

They will have been married 60 years this November and Mom gives every ounce of her strength to care for him as he gave his all to provide for her for so many decades. As the disease has progressed, Dad, once the most patient and even tempered man you could have ever known, has grown increasingly demanding and intolerant of even the littlest things that are not as he wishes. This change in behavior has tasked Mom to her limit.

In the summer of 2004, we moved Mom and Dad from their home in Sequim, to a cottage on our property outside of Issaquah. Even then he had a difficult time making the adjustment and it was a 4 weeks before he stopped asking when he was going to be allowed to go home. In 2007 we moved them into my brothers home in Ellensburg because Mom needed more help and my sister in law has many years of experience in long term care. That move was even more taxing than the first and it was many weeks before he finally settled into his new home. Now Dad requires more that Mom can give alone and this weekend we moved them into an assisted living facility.

This was the longest ride that Dad has taken in over 10 years. They are both exhausted. Thankfully I have an extended family that has stepped up to the task. My daughters were waiting at the new place to help unpack, make beds and do everything they could to make Dad comfortable and to help Mom get “back to normal” as quickly as possible.

Dad has served GOD sacrificially for over 50 years. He was a prayer warrior and a humble servant to anyone who called upon him for help. He was truly a man after GOD’s own heart. Now, while his physical body is recognizable, the rest of him is not. I am not angry with GOD but my heart and mind scream to heaven … why?!? I understand we live in a sinful world and that sickness, pain and suffering are a result of the fall of man. I understand that our reward is not on this earth but that we will surely receive it when we are with HIM in heaven. Yet I still cannot bring myself to accept that Mom has to suffer these things?!? Dad, though he is weak and often frustrated with his lack of mobility, for the most part is either content or unaware of what is happening to him. Mom now bears the burden fully and does so with the faithfulness of a saint.

Dear GOD, please give Mom strength and patience and more than anything, please give her your perfect peace and grace! I know that the heart that you gave Dad to serve and sacrifice is still there. Please, please heal what ever is wrong in his mind that robs him of who you made him to be. I am not asking you to make him strong or asking you to give him years. I am asking, no I AM PLEADING with you oh GOD to let the heart that served you so faithfully for all those years, bless Mom and give her peace and grace! Let these last years, months or days be filled with sweet memories and without the pain. PLEASE GOD PLEASE?!?

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We don’t get but 4 or 5 days of temperatures in the 90s each year. This year we not only had about 15 but we also had 4 that were in the 100s. One day even hit 108. Add in about 40% humidity and you have some pretty miserable weather. (For those of you not familiar with the Puget Sound, we live about 25 miles east of Seattle in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The temperatures are generally about 10 degrees warmer on sunny days and 10 degrees cooler on clear nights. If it is windy and rainy, the temperatures stay pretty uniform around the area due to the winds mixing of the atmosphere.) I generally don’t mind the heat having spend many weeks in the Army training in full combat gear when the temps were near 120. You get used to it and though it isn’t fun, it is tolerable. Well the opposite is true when you get used to the mild weather of the Pacific Northwest. You become much less tolerant of temperature extremes and they become down right miserable. Well today was one of those days. Yes 95 was MISERABLE! Try it with the flu, a fever and no air conditioning and see if you don’t agree. On second though … pass! It wasn’t any fun.

I did get the weather station back up and running again. I will get a web feed from the weather station and post a link in the blog sometime next week. Yeah I’m a geek but you should have seen Putz the Younger’s eyes light up when he saw the information from the base unit appear on the screen of the computer. He tried to hide his delight but his eyes told it all. Now he keeps sneaking back into the room to watch the graph change as the temperature changes. He is learning graphs and he doesn’ even know it!

There was no homeschool today. As I said before, I have the flu and Putz the Younger though feeling better was still running a fever and neither of us were in any mood to try school work. Putz the Elder even ran a fever for part of the day. When he doesn’t even care if the TV is turned on or not I know he is sick.

Now for some rest!

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Summer is over! … But then I suspect you knew that already.

We started homeschooling this week and now the flu has swept in, slowing things down some. At least no one will be behind “the rest of the class” when we get started again.

I spent the better part of the summer researching curriculum and finally settled on a mix of curriculum sources. We are using:

Math-U-See
KONOS
Stick Figuring Through the New Testament
Phonics Road
Artistic Pursuits
and material from the folks at Critical Thinking.

Our science materials are due in any day. We went with Academy of Science for Kids.

KONOS is a unit study format and the other subjects such as literature, history, science and social studies are covered therein. Some of the other subjects like science are also included in the KONOS but I am a bit of a geek/nerd so I really wanted the science kits to play with …. er I mean to use as a teaching aid. Yeah that’s it!

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In case any of you doubted, yes I really am the stay at home dad and I do the cleaning. Yesterday I was cleaning in preparation for the visit of my wife’s father and step mother and my Hoover died. Well is still sucks but is the self propelled version and it was that portion the quit. Now in order to vacuum carpet you have to plant both feet and push with a great deal of strength to get it to move. I vacuumed one room that way and I felt like I had spend an hour at the gym. So I got on the phone to my lovely wife …

“Hi sweetie. How has your day been?”

“Good, I’ve gotten a lot done today. Have the cretins been helping with the cleaning?” she asks, knowing the answer beforehand.

“Well Matthew is picking on Jack and Jack is whining louder than that vacuum cleaner. Speaking of the vacuum cleaner. Can you stop by Subway and pick up dinner on your way home and oh …. stop by Costco and pick a new vacuum? I am glad to hear you had a good day. I’ll talk to you when you get home. Bye dear”

“Hold on just minute there big guy … why do we need a new vacuum?”

So I tell her the story and she agrees that we haven’t much choice. She calls from Costco and we discuss the selection and decide that since there are only two “better” vacuums to choose from and one of them is self propelled we’d go with the other one … the Dyson. The $400 Dyson. Gulp!

My wife quit her job of 9 years in October and started her own investment firm in January so our cash flow is under constant scrutiny. A $400 vacuum is a big purchase right now and I wondered whether it would be worth the price.

Well … after one day of use I have to say that it is the best vacuum I have ever used. In the past 10 years I have burned up two Hoovers, a Eureka and something else my wife had when we got married. None of those vacuums ever came close to the cleaning ability of my new Dyson. I had vacuumed one room before the Hoover quit and this morning I re-vacuumed the same room with the Dyson. I was stunned at the amount of dirt that came out of that carpet. The Hoover was a model that rated tops in Consumer Reports and had been serviced within the year. In other words, it was doing as good a job as it was designed to do and yet the Dyson was able to get a significant amount of dirt out of the carpet even after the Hoover had given it’s best. I love this machine!!

Yes, I am a 56 year old retired Army Sergeant swooning over a vacuum. Get over it! I like it and I don’t care who knows it!

You laughed. You know you did so share it already!

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