Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Review: No School Today

A couple of years ago, I was searching the Internet to find comics about homeschooling and I was not finding much, but doing an image search I discovered a delightful but virtually unknown comic strip artist, Cristina Ramos-Payne. She not only devoted her talents to portraying the lighter side of the homeschooling lifestyle, but had a blog, Home Spun Juggling, where her comics could be viewed by the public.

Now the really interesting thing is that Cristina does not just juggle her life at home, but she really does juggle! Since I have found this delightful woman, I have spent hours giggling through her older posts as well as waiting in anticipation for her latest rendering of homeschool humor. I have even featured a few posts on her work with links back to her website in the past.

I highly recommend No School Today? A Home Spun Comic Strip Collection to all homeschooling parents! First of all, any homeschooling parent would get it and probably has lived through it. Second, true to the backbone spirit of homeschooling Cristina published the book herself. Third, it is only $10 for about 200 comic strips in a book that you can take anywhere, even where computers cannot go, and she has some in the book that had never been published on her blog.

Now if I could just get my copy back from my daughter! I could use a laugh today, how about you?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spring Swings

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four-and-twenty hours. ~Mark Twain

It has been a wild week! The weather was wild. The horses were wild. Schedules were wild. It all is swinging back and forth, up and down, upside down and right again. It has been enough to make me dizzy with its anticipation and apprehension.

It was the only normal day I had the entire week and when I say normal, that is including teaching the Princess how to add and subtract unlike fractions. Finding the lowest common denominator and such things that can make her mentally zone out for the rest of the day, if I did not head her off. It was a pretty good day.

Weather predictions on Tuesday were that it would be partially sunny in the late morning and in the 60's, so the Princess and I looked forward to work some of the minis and ride. Our partner family would be there for the chores, but had other obligations that day and I was thankful that it would be just the Princess and me. The mother offered to stay to help us saddle the horses if we would like...all I can say is that I was glad I was on the phone with her at the time, so she could not see me shaking my head and rolling my eyes to stifle the spontaneous laughter that so wanted to be released at that moment.

Tuesday, however, was cloudy, breezy, and a bit too cool all day long. The paddock was mucky, but the arena was in good shape. We groomed one of the most docile of the the minis and planned to lunge him--actually that would be train him to lunge--but Annette, did not have the type of whip the trainer had used the previous Saturday. I tried to improvise with what we had available, but it just was not going to work. We also need rope halters for the minis to give the pressure needed on the nose, so that they will respond better and these we do not have, but I plan to buy a few.

Giving up on the idea of working with the horses after it began raining, we went on to the milk farm. We got our raw milk and diamotaceous earth there. I saw a couple of Sharii and Midnight's relatives. The Princess trotted off to the petting area and saw the baby pigmy goats.

Wednesday my husband took the day off and went with us on the field trip to the tack store. The Princess decided to ride in the 4-H van with all the other children and we drove our own van. The children spread out looking at everything but were well behaved at the store. There the Princess bought a whip, grooming brushes, a comb, and a hoof pick. I bought the the same for myself and a canvas bag for the grooming supplies. We both spent about $40. The whips are not exactly what I wanted but can be modified to shorten the drop so they will work. Most of the 4-H'ers are girls so it was not until after the shopping frenzy subsided, that the owners' son gave a talk about bits and pressure points they use, which was very informative. We stopped to eat on the way home, although I did not eat as it was my fasting day.

Miss Annette scheduled her farrier to come on Thursday morning at 9:00 this week because school is out in our county. (Oddly, though, the three of the four families there were homeschoolers.) Although it would crunch our shopping time, I really had not planned on getting much this week, so I felt we could attend. Thankfully I did bring my mud boots, but I wish I had also brought my gloves; I should know by now that hardly anything at Miss Annette's is for just spectators. I was helping children getting horses from the upper pasture to bring to the farrier. They watched as he trimmed the hoofs of each and every one of the four horses, two ponies, and five minis. Only Molly gets shoes on her front hooves to correct her aging posture.

Miss Annette asked me to hold the ones who tend to be less compliant. The impatient Senoia, a regular horse, is a bit of dancer, but she was rather good for me. Ribbon, a mini, was fine until he picked up that same back leg that she gave me fits about two weeks ago. It was the third hoof he worked on so it was not about the order. We are thinking that something is going on with that leg, but there was no noticeable swelling anywhere. The last problem another mini, Blue. Actually, his name is Chip of the Blue Moon, because he is all black with a sliver of a crescent on this head. My daughter and an inexperienced teenager went to get him, but I could see him wildly running around in his paddock and kicking up his heels. The Princess told me later he almost kicked her. I brought him up and had him in place but then he suddenly pushed sideways against me. I did not fall, just got off balanced, so Annette took hold of him. I was still fasting and kind of tired after dealing with Ribbon, so I gratefully handed him over to her.

While there, the mother that works with me on Thursday said that she was personally going to be lunging and training Blue. I just looked far off to the upper pasture as if something had caught my attention. I plan not be lunging the minis until we have those rope halters, but we will be walking them just to get them used to the idea that they will be exercised. Still, it is very hard not to say what I am thinking when she says such things. I think she has a good heart, but she just sounds like she is more knowledgeable and experienced than she is, perhaps the opposite of me because I was thinking I was not all that knowledgeable or experienced and recently I have come to realize I know more than I thought I did. Obviously, Annette thinks I handle the horses well enough.

I really do not feel it is my call to make about what the other mother does, it really is up to Annette, but when I am one out there with her, I can only make it understood about what I will or will not be doing. Annette did lay down the rule that all her horses were to be ridden with bits and no more halter reining. I think she feels it gives the horses too much opportunity to foster bad habits in not responding to their riders.

Although fasting had done its work and all my upper back muscular tightness was gone by Thursday morning, I had made a chiropractic appointment for the afternoon, so we were getting home later that usual. Around 5:00, my husband calls me as I am driving the last three miles home, asking me if we would like to go out to dinner. He was leaving for Denver in a few hours, a last minute thing, and would be back sometime on Saturday. After feeding all my own furry ones and changing clothes, we went out and parted at the restaurant.

The temperature Thursday was in the 70's and then it turned very windy towards the evening. One of our neighbor's trees is now resting at a 45 degree angle toward our fence caught in the branches of another tree close to our property line. Sometime between Wednesday and Friday morning, our phone lines went out, but our Internet service on the same line was fine.

I was expecting the piano tuner at 11:00 in the morning, but my phone is still out so he would not get through if he tried calling for directions or to tell me he would be late. I used my husband's work VOIP phone to call him and he had car trouble so he said hoped to be here around 3:00. That would cut into the time I had set aside just for me, but then I was not sure that afternoon would go as planned either.

On the last Friday of the month, a skating rink in the neighboring county has a skate just for homeschoolers. The Princess has a standing invitation with her best friend of homeschooling family in our neighborhood. Last month they did not go and they were planning to go this time but they had a snag with their own schedule so they would not know for sure until just before the time to leave. They said they would call to confirm...well, we had to resort to low tech because the phone is still out of commission and my cell phone does not do well at home, so her child got some exercise by riding her bike to our house to tell us they would be leaving at 12:30.

Saturday I finally have a working phone line. My husband is coming home, but it shall be a very late dinner for us; he will be bringing fried chicken. The Princess cleaned her room and is picking out some of the items with which she no longer plays. Then she will be trying on clothes to determine which ones will be in the consignment sales coming up. I am signed up as a seller in two of them, so I have work to do.

~ My Lord, my mind is going in too many directions. I need its swinging to stop and rest my thoughts on You. Help me to do that, please, my Lord. ~

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It Could Be Seasonal

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. ~Anne Bradstreet

My husband took today off to join us on a 4-H field trip to a tack store just across the state line to Alabama. It is about an hour drive. There they plan to talk about the different types of bits and their purposes. The Princess will be using gift moneys she has been saving to buy brushes, hoof picks, and combs to make a nice grooming kit. We also plan to buy a couple of lead ropes and two halter whips, which I think is the type the trainer used in the horse clinic last for lunge training.

Last Saturday the Princess and I attended a horse clinic with the 4-H club. It was a great clinic about ground manners, loading horses onto a trailer, proper lunging, and riding stubborn and problem horses. We have some stubborn ponies and some miniatures with ground manner problems at Miss Annette's. A large part of the problem is her horses do not get worked regularly and when they do it is by a variety of children, with no horses of their own and little to no experience with horses. They love them, but do not know how to train them, so there is no consistency and way too many treats as if rewarding their bad behavior. Often these horses are being unintentionally trained to have bad behavior or to do the wrong things because of inexperience; it helps to have some insights in how to think like a horse. We have many educational clinics throughout the year for that purpose, but often the very people, who really need learn, cannot or do not attend.

The Saturday clinic was all day for just $10 per person. It was great! Some of it I knew and some of it was new to me, particularly the lunging technique he used. Quite effective as he got one pony who would only lunge in one direction to work in the opposite direction for the first time ever. However, these horses need to be worked regularly and I am thinking of starting the Princess working the easy-going minis first until she gets some confidence, while I try out more challenging ones. I would like to start this Tuesday, but school is out for our county this week and some of the other children might be coming out during the day or the borders may be there to ride their own horses, so we would not be able to do so if that is the case.

My other concern is the family I am partnered with at this time. The mother does not like the idea of any strong disciplining methods used on the horses. While her two girls were there for the clinic, the mother was not, so I do not know how she would respond to the techniques the trainer used that were quite effective. Also, Miss Annette feels that bad ground manners need to be corrected and can be dangerous for the children, so she was very pleased with what she saw and hopes that her horses would be worked in that way by the 4-H'ers. She is unable to work them herself and most of the people who work at the barn do not have horses, therefore are less experience also.

At this time, I am one of the most experienced parents without a horse coming to the stables. There are a few parents who have been feeding horses for a bit longer than I have, but they really had not been around horses much previously or don't have as much confidence with them. The family that does the Tuesday night feeding just bought a horse for their daughter so they are looking for a replacement so they can stop coming; these change-overs happen every time people get their own horses. For now I am quite content for the Princess to learn to work with a variety of horse personalities and sizes at Miss Annette's so she gains her confidence. Besides, I find it rather challenging too.

Miss Annette did mention to me on Saturday that she sees what I was talking about with the other mother, because she is still going out there on Friday nights also. Friday nights are for beginner's night, so Annette tries to come out that night when she is able. She said that she could see the mother acted afraid of her horses and I can see that Annette does not feel comfortable about them being there alone, although they did that once when the Princess and I was sick. I do not feel comfortable with them even letting the horses into the barn alone yet because every now and then the horses do a barn scramble just to make life more exciting, I guess.

The mother is very nice, but I feel that I cannot trust her in a way because her actions and abilities are not what she portrayed. Actually, I am very frustrated by the entire situation.

I am angry with myself for feeling resentment towards the mother. I believe her intentions were good, but as I stated, I feel I cannot trust what she says nor can I count on her to handle a horse when it is necessary to really handle one, if you get what I mean.

I feel saddled with extra responsibility and concern for this family because they really don't know anything about handling horses, especially horses with some ground manner problems, so I am concerned about them getting hurt. My husband says it is not my responsibility, but I feel it is and at the same time I cannot keep my attention on my own daughter to be sure about her safety, who is so easily distracted by other children.

I would rather the Princess and I work with a couple of horses at a time on the ground and that only the two of us ride so I could work on training the two ponies to behave themselves better.

I just need some patience. I know that everything is for a season. This family will be leasing horses at another barn soon and even though the mother plans to come every Tuesday morning until public school is out for the summer, she may change her mind before that time. That would be fine with me. The Princess likes having other people there, but then she goofs off more and not putting her full attention on whatever she is doing with the horses, even just grooming. Last week after working with the boy, I found my daughter crouched down polishing Mack's hoof and without any part of her body touching him; although Mack is a sweet pony, it is a very big no-no to be in that position--too easy to get stepped on or kicked--but the other mother watching her for me did not even seem to know that. Things like that concern me very much.

Personally, I am really not there to socialize with much of anyone lacking four hoofs. I really want to work on training more. I was even thinking of taking off a week of homeschooling soon and daily going out to work on their ground manners and lunging, weather permitting.

I would love to go out there twice a week instead just once a week, but that would really crimp our homeschool schedule. It would be nice to have another day to work with the horses when the weather is bad on Tuesday.

Mostly, (sigh)...I wish I could be rid of this frustration I am feeling!

~ My Lord, help me to have a more forgiving and loving heart. Help me be patient for the change of seasons in my life and to seek to please You most of all. ~

Friday, February 17, 2012

Back on the Horse - Part 3

Heaven is high and earth wide. If you ride three feet higher above the ground than other men, you will know what that means. ~Rudolf C. Binding

I talked to Miss Annette the following week to see if we could ride Molly, Mack, and Peanut and she said we could. She reminded me not to leave Molly's halter on. I told her that it was my intention to take it off last week, but Molly had intentions of her own. She told me not to let Molly get away with such things, but I was already determined to get her behave the next time and had a secret plan.

I also talked about how things had gone the week before with the other mother. Annette was a surprised as I had been. She also was under the impression that the mother was experienced and had plans to teach her children about how to train and handle horses. I thought she might be thinking I was just complaining, but instead she thanked me for telling her as she felt this was information she needed to know.

The mother asked that I specifically work with her son grooming Molly, which I agreed to do that day. We also needed to walk the minis. I was planning on handling Blue, but while I was helping clean Ribbon's hooves, another mini, she decided that three cleaned hooves were enough and tried to bite and kick me. I promptly took her out to the arena were she continued that behavior and more. I finally thought she was settling down and stopped. Then she tried to swing her backside around and kick me again...very deliberately. She was walked and walked and walked some more until she stopped.

By that time, I was a bit of a nervous wreck thinking I still had Molly to contend with as well. I asked everyone to not go into the higher pasture until I had a chance to get Molly alone. Earlier in her stall, after she had eaten, I opened an empty vial of rosemary oil essence for her to smell. She liked the smell very much. As I approached slowly her in the pasture, I made sure I was upwind of her and opened the vial again. She actually stood still and calm with ears up while I latched the lead onto her halter. She walked back to the barn easily.

The youngest girl loves Peanut but dislikes Molly and she believes Molly hates her. She reminds me of my own daughter, often saying things that she just makes up as she goes, like she is an expert mostly because she is so enthusiastic it just has to pour out of her somehow. On Saturday afternoons, the family has been going for training in judging horses' confirmation at another place so she tries but often judges Molly wrongly because of her bias. She stated Molly's ears were down and she was being aggressive when they were just back and she was alert. This time she stated that she did not think Molly could possibly be a quarter horse because they are usually a solid color and Molly is a buckskin. I tried to patiently explain that quarter horses can be any color and that my aunt had two buckskin quarter horses and one bay. If I was Molly, I think I would bare my teeth at her too.

Once Molly was in her stall, I held her lead while the boy began grooming. She is losing her winter coat so lots of hair was coming off. He had to be trained in how to groom, but was constantly afraid of her biting, which she was not trying to do at all and she could not have gotten to him even if she was of the mind to do it--I, on the other hand, was in the more vulnerable spot. She was the calmest I have ever seen her be in her stall. The boy did everything, even cleaned the hooves which was his first time. Molly took her bit and saddle easily.

I had the boy walk her in the arena while I put on Mack's bridle and cinched up the two ponies. Later we all were in the arena. The children all rode and changed their mounts. Mack and Peanut were still being stubborn, but Molly was doing well. We only walked them, although the girls did lead Peanut into a trot. They all had fun. I rode Molly, which was my first time with her and I have got to say that she is the best trained one of those three; just a shift in weight and she turns. I enjoyed riding her; many of the older 4-H members learned to ride on her. I also rode Mack to get him to respond to me and have some ideas about getting him to do better.

This week we did not ride as it was too wet and we did chores in record time. The mother told me that she is now planning to lease three well-trained horses at the other place she has been going to on Saturday afternoons for training in judging horses' confirmation. It is open to 4-H members, but our weekends are pretty busy and with my husband traveling as much as he does, it is the only time I can reasonably count on him being home and rested, so we have not gone. The mother has told me that she will keep coming on Tuesdays but they have to go the other place daily when they begin leasing. I am not so sure that will work out for them to do both. They need saddles and helmets now as well. Their grandfather is paying for the leasing of the horses as they thought they would only be able to afford leasing one. I am happy for them but....

Here is the trouble I am having...I envy them. I have given more time and effort doing the grunt work at the barn, while learning as much as I could, with only a handful of riding times for the Princess and this family who seems to have much to learn is being handed so much. I know that from now on the Princess will be riding more often whether they continue on Tuesdays or not, but I would love to do something like that for her. However, we are determined to not add anything extra until we pay down our debt. If all goes well, it should be about a year from now. Realistically, though, we need to replace the siding on the house so I am not sure if that is likely to happen then either. Part of me feels that I would like to lease a horse right now, but the other part is telling me that the Princess will continue to learn, become more experienced, and be more responsible, if it is a few years later before we would do something like that. And, maybe, God has a plan that does not involve leasing but actually owning. He plans are often bigger than mine.

~ My Lord, help me not to be envious but thankful, patient, and trusting. Your plans are far better than mine. I help me keep my faith in You. ~

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Back on the Horse - Part 2

There are only two emotions that belong in the saddle; one is a sense of humor and the other is patience. ~Unknown

Now that we had another family coming to help with chores at the horse barn on Tuesday morning, I thought it would be less work, but I had to haul two 50-pound bags and fill the feed bins as her son was not there and she has a heart condition that causes her to be tired and weaker.

Now the tack has been organized and labeled, so we now can find the tack that fits each horse easily, but I wondered if I really felt confident in saddling a horse.

Now there was another woman with more experience with well-trained horses and horse training itself (besides having been a paramedic which is handy around horses), so I felt confident she would know all the things I did not about riding.

Now, finally, I felt more comfortable with the idea of letting the children ride and Miss Annette had given the okay for Molly, Mack, and Peanut to be ridden that day.

Molly is the lead mare and she lets everyone know it; she only takes a back seat to the lead gelding. Molly has been in season because it has been a warm winter, so she is moody. She is also rather aggressive when she is eating. Most of the less experienced children give her a wide berth, but when she is not pinning her ears back, stretching her neck, and showing her teeth, she is the sweetest horse. She is very well-trained and shows it with a good rider, but getting her prepared to ride can be a challenge. I fitted her halter before releasing them all to the hay, but she was not in the mood to let me catch her later in the upper pasture. In fact, I could not even get near enough to get her halter off. The Princess was very disappointed as she wanted to ride Molly, knowing she was more responsive to her rider.

Mack is an Iceland pony, which is a heavy, draft-type body. He is very easygoing but a bit stubborn, only doing what he is supposed to do with an experienced and determined rider. He will follow anyone walking or another horse, but likes to stop near the gate of the arena and not go at all.

Peanut is the smallest pony with a 100-pound rider limit. Although a bit over that, I have been on him for only a few minutes to see if he would respond to me and he will. He is another stubborn one. Originally, he was cart trained and had not had a rider, so he still is learning what is expected of him.

We need to give the horses about an hour to digest their grains before we can ride so we used that time to clean the barn, stables, and paddock areas. We also exercised the miniature horses. One of them, Blue, was acting up with the other mother. Blue gets itchy and likes to go down for a roll to scratch his back, which she allowed him to do. Usually, he then is as good a gold, but not this time. I was walking out from the barn and she told me he had just bit her on the thigh. I grabbed up his lead and walked him back out to the arena and made him walk with me three more times around, giving the lead a small jerk every time he tried to bite it. He did not try to bite me.

In fact, I have not really been bitten by a horse although we used to have one that tried often at my aunt's, so I might be more prepared mentally for such behavior. I have only been kicked once and I was so close to the horse it was more of a push and he was not trying to hurt me, but warn a young filly about hunting for milk on him. I have not been thrown, but I have been in a number of odd positions trying to hang on, all probably amusing to onlookers. The thing is that I am always on my guard with horses. I have always been taught that horses are most unpredictable when they are predictable.

Before riding there is grooming. There is only one grooming kit to share. Most everyone who works at the barn, eventually gets their own grooming kit and we will be doing that next week when we go on a 4-H field trip to a tack store. However, for that day there were three children sharing one kit, as the boy was helping his father with a plumbing job.

All went well until it came time to pick the hoofs. Since it has been wet, it is very important to clean the hoofs out. The mother asked me to help because Mack had not lifted his hoof when she tapped on the lower cannon (foreleg) area as she had done with her family's horses. Now I have to admit something here. I do know how to clean the hoof, but I have not done one since I was a teenager and then my cousin was the one who handled most of the hoof cleaning. So, in reality, I have had very little experience with getting horses to lift their hooves, but the Princess and I attended a field trip to a farrier's school last year that was very informative and I paid close attention. I just ran my hand down the length of the leg as I had seen done and up came Mack's large hoof. I ended up doing all four of his and Peanut's also.

The family grabbed the saddles, placed them on the ponies, and then asked me to help because the mother did not know how to cinch them, which in most cases requires what we call the 7-11 knot but it may be known be other names. In any case, she was unfamiliar with it and that really surprised me. I began to wonder just how they used to cinch the saddles on their horses.

At this point, I am practically in a daze because I had talked to this woman a few times on the phone and she just seemed so self-confidence but I just did not see it in action. The three girls shared the two ponies with us mothers walking beside or in front of them so the ponies would follow. I rode Mack a short time to see if he would do what I wanted without any leading and he did.

We finished up, cleaned up, put everything away, and left. It was about 12:30 pm and I am so thankful that I have given us ample time on our homeschool schedule because after running an errand, we both showered and had a late lunch. I was really tired and the next day, I was quite sore, like I had done a gym workout. That being my fasting day did not make any better, but I recovered mostly by Thursday.

I should have called Miss Annette that day to let her know how things went, but I was still in a state of disbelief. I realized that I was far more comfortable and self-confident than I thought I was, mostly because I had to be. Ah, but there is more....

~ My Lord, thank you for showing me that I am capable of doing more than I thought I could with the horses. ~

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Back on the Horse - Part 1

The daughter who won't lift a finger in the house is the same child who cycles madly off in the pouring rain to spend all morning mucking out a stable. ~Samantha Armstrong

About a month ago another homeschool family joined the Princess and me on Tuesday morning at Miss Annette's 4-H Horse Barn. They had joined the 4-H Club in the middle of December and had been going out on Friday nights, as I had started to do a year ago and continued through the summer. In August, I went to Wednesday mornings and then changed to Tuesday mornings in October, which was the ideal morning for our schedule.

Difficulties arise in finding a replacement for us when the unforeseen happens and we cannot fulfill our obligation. Miss Annette used to do Tuesday mornings herself, but her schedule has changed as well and it is not convenient for her to do so now. There are only so many homeschool families that can take mornings and of the ones we have not all of them want a morning. Still, I was torn about the idea of having another family out there with us on Tuesdays until I talked to the mother, a very sweet woman with two girls about my daughter's age and a teenage boy. It seemed like a good fit especially because she seemed to have more experience with horses than I have had, although she admitted to not have been around them since she was a teenager, again much like me.

The lady seemed so knowledgeable and organized also that I was excited for the Princess that she may learn more on handling horses with this family coming, even though she told me her own children had no real experience with horses. The first day, they arrived just minutes before us and opened the barn to allow the horses into their stalls before the Princess and I could walk to the barn. Most of the people with which I have worked in the past there wait until the other group arrives and do it that together. It concerned me a bit because they are newer and I felt responsible for training them as I was not sure of their familiarity with these horses. On Friday nights at the barn there could be a number of families and more children than horses. It was difficult for my daughter to get any time with the horses, so I was not sure how much experience this family had gotten in just a month.

On the other hand, I thought to myself as I approached the barn, maybe they were just very confident and were more experienced than I thought. I mean, I had spent some time on the phone with the mother and she seemed to have definite ideas about training and handling horses. Actually, I may have felt a bit knocked off my high horse, so to speak, because she seemed so much more experienced than I ever was. Her family had a farm with well-trained working horses to help them run it. Maybe she is the take charge type and I should just be open to learning from her.

When I got to the barn the first thing I noticed besides the horses were all in their own stalls and had not acted up this time, as they are known to do especially with inexperienced people, was that the lights were not on. In the evenings, the lights are usually not needed because of the angle of the sun but they are usually needed in the winter mornings, even more so when it is dark and rainy morning as it was that day. I suspected that the family did not know where the light switches were, which made me a bit concerned about what else they might not know about the barn.

The first thing we are to do when we get to the barn is read Miss Annette's white board for special instructions. Sometimes there is a change in hay feeding or medicines need to be administered or one horse or pony needs to be kept separate from the others or to remind the children the limits on treats...just things like that. On Friday evenings there are so many families that such routines may go unnoticed by the newbie, because someone else already did it and has passed the instructions along verbally. I asked the family, as they were on their way to the feed room, if they had read the white board before allowing the horses into the barn...and was met with blank stares, as I suspected might be the case. I know it takes some time to get used to the barn routine and to find where everything is, particularly when you are on your own, so then I took point and just continued with the chores as the Princess and I usually do, teaching the new family along the way as if starting from square one.

The feed room has everything labeled well: Which horses get how much of a scoop of which feed. One mini is allergic to hay and must get a special feed. A couple of the older ones get supplements for joints. We even have a colored bucket system so that each horse or groups of minis have their own color. That way, when there are a number of children, they can each take a bucket or two and know which horse to feed. It works well.

Then there is checking the water. Does it need filled or dumped, cleaned and refilled? Taking hay to the upper pasture for when we release the large horses and ponies from the barn. I like to clean the barn, stables, and paddock areas while the horses are grazing on hay, but on rainy days the paddock usually does not get cleaned up.

That is all we did on the first time. The second time, the weather was very nice, sunny and cool, so everyone wanted to ride and that is when it got...interesting.

~ My Lord, some changes are never easy even when they are good and make things easier. Help me to be more accepting of changes. ~

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Valentine Gift!

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. ~Johann Sebastian Bach

The Princess has been preparing for months: learning notes, timing, dynamics (softness and loudness), and finally memorizing to play without sheet music. One was a Musette, BWV Anhang 126, by J.S. Bach and the other Etude in A Minor, Op. 47, No. 3, by Stephen Heller.

The day had come. Saturday was the judging.

Although no was was to be in the room where the judging took place, in a church this time, I could hear well from the choir room. Her first piece was excellent except for she hit an extra note next to the one she meant to hit, but it did not faze her in the least. Her recovery without a timing mistake made it almost unnoticeable, except to a mother who had heard it played for months, her piano teacher, and, of course, the judge who was reading the sheet music as she played.

The second piece...I knew as soon as she started it that instead of coming in piano (softer), she began too loudly. She had been struggling with the dynamics of it for the last few weeks, but I though she had it down. There was also one part in a run going down that she had to cross her fourth digit (ring finger) to hit a black key over the the first (thumb) that is on a white key. It was a bit awkward for smaller hands and sometimes that note was played just a bit more softly or delayed just a fraction off the beat, which it was the first time she played it but she nailed it on the repeat.

Thinking she was done, I finally exhaled and waited, but her piano teacher and I looked at each other in surprise as we heard the Princess begin the second piece again. This is not usually done in judging. She began it just like the first time and did not make it through the piece as she messed up. I though that maybe the judge was giving her the opportunity to fix the dynamics on her own, which she did not do. Later the Princess told me that she liked the music so much she asked her to play it again and she also told her that she plays very well for a ten year old. I still think the judge was hoping she would correct her dynamics.

That evening, Miss Trudy, her piano teacher, called to report she scored 95. That was three points better than last year at her first judging. A score of 92 and up is a superior rating earning five points. She now has ten points. When she earns fifteen points, which takes at least three years to do, she will earn a trophy...and she really wants that trophy next year!

~ My Lord, thank you for hearing my prayers and giving her peace so that she could play her best. Thank you for her gift and may she always use it to honor You. ~

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Homeschool Good Days and Bad Days

Children are entitled to their otherness, as anyone is; and when we reach them, as we sometimes do, it is generally on a point of sheer delight, to us so astonishing, but to them so natural. ~Alastair Reid

You may have noticed I have not been posting much nor visiting other blogs much lately. I have some good reasons and some maybe not so good just time filling and relaxing for me. As spring has sprung here with daffodils in full bloom and horses shedding winter coats, I have some gardens to prepare now in addition to all the other things I have been doing, so it is mostly a matter of adjusting my priorities for the season at hand. I do have a few tales to tell but for now I am publishing this post this because it has been sitting in draft mode, just waiting for its own little time on my blog.

Now that I have relaxed back into our latest homeschool schedule after holidays and illness, I have to say that it is working quite well. Most days we get through everything in the time I planned. I am pleased with the Princess' progress and the quality of work she is doing for the most part, even her handwriting has improved. Our greatest challenge currently is her listening and following directions, but having her explain the directions back to me seems to be smoothing our some of those wrinkles.

Even though the Princess says she does not like lessons and most particularly math, she enjoys learning very much. She likes history and science the most. She loves to read fiction and non-fiction. I have come to realize how much she dislikes repetition, which is generally common with math and somewhat with classical language lessons, but if she can breeze through the the lessons, she can tolerate them. I have also found, as I suspected, that if we focus intensely on a new concept, yet move faster through math that she usually gets it, which we have to do since she only does seatwork math three times a week. Still, the girl can multiply numbers like 13 x 15 in mentally, so what I am doing is working for her.

The Princess is still a random learner and I am sequential, but we connect well with the abstract that we both share. I have learned to adapt to her need for random presentation whenever possible, but she also must learn that some things must be handled sequentially. Her father is the exact opposite of my learning style so we complete each other; he shares in her random style but being concrete, he can only attempt to appreciate her abstract side.

Recently I thought deeply about how homeschooling my daughter has shaped her and me and our relationship. At times, I have pushed in the wrong direction wanting her to fit in my plan. I once had to help with a sick family member and drop homeschooling for several weeks, but then I had this wonderful opportunity to watch my Princess learn without my direct guidance and I thank the Lord for helping me see that. Many times I thought we are not doing enough "stuff" and many other times I thought she would learn more if I loosen the leash. Overall, I think I have finally struck a balance that fits both of us, tailored to what we both desire.

Each weekend, I prepare lessons for the upcoming week. Then I intertwine what I can so that we do social studies or science with language arts. We place emphasis on what would probably be seen as expendable electives in a school system, music and horses, but which are her personal interests enhanced with light unit studies. Having most of our seatwork on Monday, Wednesday morning, and Friday with days when we are mostly out on Tuesday and Thursday. Wednesday afternoons are set aside for artistic works.

My ongoing hard decisions are with math. Currently, we are on long division. She seems to get it, but then suddenly will start making the silliest mistakes. I have to decide if she is bored with the repetition or if she does need more practice. Would it be better if we just need to step away and review it later to see if it stuck with her? I remember my own boredom with English Grammar in middle school and how my grades slipped because of it. I knew it but just how many times did we have to go over it? For this reason, I have chosen to evaluate her performance in math weekly. It is difficult to keep that balance of not moving too fast or too slow...especially for a sequential that likes things in a predictable progressive order. However, this is exactly why I only prepare lesson plans a week at a time so that I will make better decisions about her upcoming assignments for the week. She has been surprising me for the most part so maybe I have found what will work for her.

~ My Lord, this is a good life You have provided. I am very thankful for it. Help me to continue to see the paths You are guiding me to take so it will continue in goodness. ~