Sunday, October 15, 2017

Full House

There are two families here. SIXTEEN PEOPLE. Not to mention that there are closer to 25 TWENTY FIVE people here during the day and the odd friend here and there that spends the night. But now there are TWO housekeepers. This is a construction zone, AND to go into town seems to take ALL DAY LONG.

Somehow, it's not the relaxing tropical vacation it was when we were renting next door, and I'm not too sad to be going back to the cold windy prairie of Alberta soon. But of course I will miss Vanuatu, but we will come back.

We will be able to finish the construction with fresh eyes and in the meantime, it will be JUST my little family, and hopefully we will quickly move into a house in the town of Cardston, and be two seconds from the grocery store and a dollar store.

But we will be leaving many great things. Like climbing pohpoh trees

And making tropical gardens:

And ziplining:

And going to places like Chocolate factories:


And going to colour festivals held by white sandy beaches:

I'm not sharing this on Facebook, but just so you know, the day of the color festival, was the day Dustin sold his business. It was quite the momentous occasion of his life: Like-next to marriage, kids, and baptism, this was the next big thing-type of big.

I'm very proud of him, and I had to shout it out SOMEWHERE that we've reached the goals we've been shooting for!

But reaching humongous goals is kind of crazy, isn't it? There's all this stress and hype leading up to it, and then when you're there, it's like "Okay, well, have we arrived? What's changed?"

It will be good to go back to Cardston and be in the same city as his business partner (sold the child but kept the marriage I guess you can say.)

As for school, I feel so accomplished if I actually get to everything on my kids' progress charts, and that only covers reading writing and arithmetic.  I SWEAR I'M NOT LAZING AROUND! It's just really is a mad house here.

Hyrum LOVES his chart and is constantly looking at it and has BREEZED his way to his first prize while his brothers aren't even close. He is reading a ton and writing a ton.  I'm not sure if people out there will apreciate this video, but my ten year old with severe dyslexia, ADHD, language processing disorder, and a few other conditions, has gotten over the hump in reading. He can read smoothly.

It's a true breakthrough. (although, noticed how he keeps saying "the" for "he?" a new glitch. I know he'll be okay now. It's been YEARS of consistent tutoring, baby steps that take hundreds of hours, and his mother's (my) tears to get to this point.

Thankfully, because of homeschool, he has no idea that he's behind and is confident and has a high self-esteem.

Maxwell's basics have been going a bit slow because of slow internet. That is one thing I won't miss about this place.

But on the days it works, this math program has proven to be dry but good. They have focused on the "Mathematical Language" which, in my mind, is one of the most important things that can be learned in math.

William is making progress. Have I mentioned yet that although he doesn't have all of issues Hyrum has, William certainly has ADHD and is probably my most severe Dyslexic boy yet? Yep. Those DNA codes are strong with us. I have to admit that I haven't told Dustin that I want to put him in public kindergarten yet. (Dustin never reads my blog LOL!)

Maybe they have some secret sauce to help William. But he's learning with me anyway:


That was William typing his name. He's sitting at my side right now because he got a bonk on his head and refuses to go to bed.

I've also been teaching other people besides my kids. I've been going to the tutoring sessions our church holds after school here. In the past, the LDS church has held english lessons for locals, but now they are trying out tutoring in a hope to get kids ready for a GED equivalency.

It's a pilot program, and I've discovered that I'm a true homeschooler. I was way annoyed at a few things that happened while volunteering, but everyone was super nice, and we all made peace quickly, but hey, if I can't even deal with this, I would have never made it as a public school mom. Or at least I wouldn't make it NOW.

Eventually, I found my nitch of playing math games from Rightstart with the kids.

We also have been volunteering in the relief efforts for the Ambae Vanuatu Volcano refugees. It's almost calmed down now, but their volcano dropped acid ash on all their crops and ruined all their water as well. They all had to leave. So we helped them with some supplies:

Volcanic activity really went well with our Geography year. (ummm....not that I'm cashing in at other's expense.) Along with the earthquakes that we've been feeling from the volcanic activity! And the other things we've done to study Geography so far is to study map terms like longitude, latitude, legends etc. We talked about how no map is perfect, especially a flat map of the world.

I had them make their own worlds on mandarins and had them try to make a flat map of the world with it to illustrate this point.

I also taught land formations such as archipelago, delta, and isthmus. 

We've done this studying our island of Efate:

Then I had them make their own worlds where they had bays and channels etc.

We also are made 3-d relief maps that have these landforms, and we're going to paint them----sometime between now and wednesday when we fly away?

We've also memorized a few of my geography songs:

And science you ask? No science. I've been meaning to do some Southern Hemisphere Constellation stargazing, but I can hardly find the North star, and I've seen it my whole life, so how can I find NEW ones? I haven't been on the ball. We'll wait for Canada. But we haven't forgotten Canada, and to prove it, we had Canadian thanksgiving:

Sunday, September 10, 2017

First Week Down, and Slowly Gaining Speed at a Cranky Pace

Homeschool's hard. I think it just gets harder. I have a BIG family, and the demands of homeschool just get more and more as they get older and older.

I thought I would be able to have Maxwell be an independent learner this year, but now that I've started to delve in, that's just a joke. His math is going to be video taught. It's a program called "Video Text."

It's like Khan academy but they were doing it when "Khan" was in diapers. It's short videos explaining a concept with worksheets and quizzes to go with the video. It's what Rightstart math suggests, but I haven't been able to get very much advice from my social media peeps about whether it's good or not. No one seems to use it. Ummm..... well, here's to trusting my gut and Rightstart!

Thankfully, they sell an internet bundle so I can actually access it out here in Vanuatu.

HOWEVER they say that this is just a supplement to an actual human instructor, helping the student through the program....uhh...I want an A.I. teacher please.

Also, I want to make sure Maxwell can type. So I've really neglected to teach typing because I've neglected writing because I've thought that dyslexic boys (or rather dyslexic mummas) need a break until they can actually read fluently. I'm finding that I shouldn't have done that.

Introducing Typewriting Without Tears (by Handwriting Without Tears. Which btw has added an overall name of Learning Without Tears.) Maxwell is in Grade One level that we skipped a bit. He should be in grade Grade 7 and be a graduated typer by now. You know, I didn't learn to type until Grade 8. Well....oh bother. Whatever. He'll zoom through the grades I'm sure.

But now ALL my kids (and I mean ALL) are doing typing.

Did I ever mention that Homeschool is just one big experiment, and you never know how you're hurting or helping REALLY?

And I'm going to figure out a good Grammar program, and Maxwell really needs P.E. You would think being in a tropical paradise with the ocean in your front yard would be enough P.E. but perhaps we've been more focused on construction than anything lately, and maybe a certain boy loves reading and only reading.

SO Maxwell and I are now going to go on hikes and adventures. Including exploring ruins:

And writing. I'm doing writing seriously this year. I love THIS POST that shares how to treat spelling. Basically, if it's creative writing, let it go. If it's during a grammar/spelling lesson, correct it.

I really needed this philosophy in a dyslexic crazy spelling family. I feel like I've taught spelling. And I mean TAUGHT SPELLING not just memorization but spelling rules and methods.  And yet.....oh boy.

You know how happiness is the difference between expectations and reality? In a dyslexic family, it's REALLY hard to have realistic expectations. When you've taught something a MILLION TIMES it's hard not to just EXPECT that what you've taught will have some sort of manifestation in REALITY. And then where's the happiness in teaching? I'm starting this year out grouchy.

Oh boy. you guys! I feel quite worthless sometimes. I have a secret. Here in Vanuatu I have....wait for it....a HOUSEKEEPER!  That's right! Someone who's here 8am-4pm five days a week cleaning and cooking, and yet I'm still a grouchy unproductive homeschool mum.

How can things be easier? Yet I feel like I'm failing so often.

If you ask on Facebook, (and I've seen the polls, so this is real) what moms like me would want the most in life, they would all say a housekeeper. But if they actually got one, I bet some would be like me and feel like they were more worthless than ever because they don't even have the excuse of being a housekeeper on their list.

Oh blah. I'm not THAT down in the dumps. But this thing called life: it's not for the faint at heart.

And anyways, there are SIXTEEN (16) people living in this house (which is basically a tiny house UNDER CONSTRUCTION....with construction workers everywhere...with a tinier cottage UNDER CONSTRUCTION...with construction workers everywhere.) And FOUR of them are little minions who want nothing more than to run around naked playing with Penises and POOP everywhere.

So hey, I have a right to be grouchy sometimes...Right?

And going back to writing, sometimes they just make me smile. I just love them. At this point I'm letting them write whatever they want, and they've gotten to writing me letters to tell me things. Check these cuties out:

"Hey mom can you tell the toenail fairy how I almost forgot to let you know that all my toenail fell off last night. I know that the toenail fairy could not get you one thing last night, so I want you to tell the toenail fairy that I want a Box with a code lock."

"William found a girl iguana and I know where Daniel’s iguana is, and and I got the iguana and I was wondering if they would mate and we waited and waited and waited….but they didn’t. Then they ran away. "

And I DO see improvement. So that's something. When I think of Hyrum's reading at the beginning of last year and his reading now, I know something's going right.

Daniel, whom I've always thought would be my ONE CHILD to read at regular pace, has his struggles, and is not a typical reader after all, but one interesting discovery was that it's just as easy to read upside-down as right side up:

Daniel and Hyrum's math has been going good. Rightstart has sworn me to secrecy about how I'm able to do math in Vanuatu without manuels being mailed to me, but let's just say Rightstart math has the BEST customer service EVER and math is up and running for Hyrum on down.

But I've found it hard to take my littles away from their tropical paradise because of the "good better best" conundrum. For instance: all week the only thing Daniel's wanted to do is garden with our gardeners (yes, I have gardeners....but since I've never gardened, they don't make me feel worthless haha.)

Of course I want him to learn how to garden!!! So I have a hard time taking him away from it, but it's not like he is constantly doing school anyway.

Especially since I have FOUR boys I've teaching this year! Yep, William is in kindergarden. Of course, I did teach him preschool, as you can see from his ability to write his name:

Oh the cuteness thereof. Soon he will see the difference between "m" and "w" my truly dyslexic boy!

He's been starting Handwriting Without Tears, which has been a lot trickier than Rightstart to figure out. There's all the supplies that I didn't bring to Vanuatu. I've had to improvise and I've also had to personally make worksheets.

But it's worth it because there's no better program on the planet, I'm convinced.

All this new school stuff has been tricky. We had a special time of getting father's blessings to help us, which was incredible. William drew a picture of us at the occasion: most of us are sitting on the bed:

And I instigated a rewards system where they got to choose their own goals. They spent HOURS choosing, and they won't get them at least until we get back to Canada any way, but whatever. Here's Hyrum's because he's been the most adamant about this whole thing:

As for geography, well, we didn't do any true activities. BUT check out the movies that I made that we are learning!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Brand New Year

September is rearing it's ugly head in front of me. It's that time again. WHAT?!? This summer (which is actually winter here) Hyrum and Daniel have been doing Barton reading, and Maxwell has done a little writing. Nothing compared to my good intentions for the summer. Now it's time to get serious.

But how do you get serious when you are in a developing country that DOESN'T EVEN HAVE A POSTAL CODE, no BOOK stores,  and has SLOW internet, and you JUST moved into a new house that is NOT FINISHED. And you feel like you should be painting walls instead of teaching ABCs?


Thank goodness this year's history is actually geography, because we are certainly learning that by being on the opposite side of the world in a different culture.

I've talked to Canada's Westwind school, and they've agreed that I can be part of their system, especially since we'll be back by mid October. (Or at least that's the plan!)

I need to organize my thoughts:


So we've been doing Bislama (the language of Vanuatu) scripture study with our Bislama teacher, but often not very many of my kids take part because they're not interested in Bislama.

We also have been going through the Gospel Principles book each day (when we actually do it) because church is in Bislama, and I want to make sure my kids actually learn the gospel.

But now I really need to do memorizations. Memorizations of geography, memorization of articles of faith, and maybe memorization of the Family Proclamation to the World?


I don't need to read with Maxwell!!! He's a reading machine!! But I DO need to read everyday with Daniel and Hyrum, and they both need Barton program as well.


I need to have all the boys do daily writing, but most important Maxwell. He needs key boarding, writing and spelling every day. It's going to have to be consistent and I haven't figured out the best way to do grammar. Also I want to do Visualizing and Verbalizing with Hyrum when I'm back in Canada.


He's in kindergarten!!!! So excited and overwhelmed am I!!! When we go back to Cardston, I plan on putting him in actual public school kindergarten. I've always wondered if kindergarten would have been a magical reading experience for my boys, and it's only half day and it's only for a few months, and I plan on doing this experiment!

But for now (and I'll do this even while he's in "real school") I really want to start Handwriting without Tears, and Rightstart math, and I'm not sure exactly how/when I am supposed to do that.


He's supposed to be in "scholar" mode and be able to choose his own adventures i.e. photoshop courses and 3D design courses etc. Would work better if we had good internet!


Ahhh! Who what when where why and how? I don't have my curriculum here! Oh whoa is me, I need to figure this out. Maxwell is starting a whole new math program since he's graduated from Rightstart.


We're doing astronomy and earth science this year, and I'm totally bummed that we missed the total eclipse that happened in Idaho. But we WILL study the southern hemisphere constellations while we are here, but I'm not going to start my science club until Canada because....I don't have my curriculum here. Hmmmmm. Maybe there's a way....


Doing what I did four years ago I guess, but maybe in a different order:


  • begin continents song
  • maps-make topographical map out of salt dough
  • maps-paint map
  • maps- mercator maps on oranges  
  • maps-draw your own country using geography terms
  • begin mountains song
  • maps-start BIG map with longitude and latitude 
  • maps-"Temple cruise" packets started
  • government-democratic/republic Prime Minister Election
  • government-dictatorship/totalitarian Dictator game* (explained below)


  • government-monarchy/theocracy one kid is king and has all kids "harvest" all the tiny candies that have been scattered on floor and give it all to king who only gives one or two pieces back.
  • begin deserts song
  • government-anarchy/revolutionary play uno for a little while and then change rules every couple of rounds.
  • culture-clothing-international fashion show
  • culture-natural resources- play settlers of Catan
  • culture-food-international taste test
  • begin seven seas song
  • culture-population-play "who sliced this pie"**(explained below)
  • religion-Eastern religions-learn yoga, fortune cookies with Confucius sayings stuffed inside.
  • religion-Islam-make model of mosque (talk about five pillars)
  • religion-Judaism-play dreidel (ICG p39), compare with mormonism, sing hebrew songs.
  • religion-Christianity-put on pageant of New Testament story


  • begin americas song
  • Mexico-make little zapotec people and a saturday market setting Saturday Market
  • Cuba- tody bird
  • Jamaica-Rasta bracelets 
  • Guatemala-banderitas (NPLH p65)
  • Costa Rica-worry dolls (ICG p126)
  • Panama-Bird Molas (ICG p101) or link
  • Columbia- maracas made from hollow eggs dyed with coffee
  • Ecuador-god's eyes (ICG p108)


  • Peru-arpilleras "Tonight is Carnaval"
  • Chile-rainstick (ICG p118)
  • Brazil- carnival mask
  • Argentina-Goucho gord mate mug.---humm not sure where to get a gourd
  • begin Europe and oceans song
  • Sweden-saint lucia and/or majstang (ICG p78 & 87)
  • Norway-windmill
  • United Kingdom-Christmas crackers


  • Denmark-woven heart (ICG 92)
  • Ireland-crois bride (ICG p70)
  • France-bilboquet (ICG p65)
  • Germany-schorenschnitte (ICG p85)
  • Poland-stuffed cabbage (NPLH p41)
  • Austria-watch sound of music
  • Switzerland-cow bell (ICG p69)
  • Italy-homemade pasta
  • Spain-castanets 
  • Russia-russian architecture 


  • begin eastern Europe/Middle east song
  • Ukraine-matreshka dolls (NPLH p43)
  • Romania-dracula party
  • Greece-moussaka
  • Turkey-pistachios and turkish fez
  • Syria-Hamsa 
  • Israel-grogger (ICG p44)
  • Saudi Arabia-prayer mat (ICG p55)
  • Kuwait-machboos


  • Iraq and Iran (I know they're very different, but whatever)-baaghlava
  • Afganistan-homemade kites
  • Pakistan-henna hands
  • begin Africa song
  • Egypt-Nine men's morris (ICG p20)
  • Nigeria-hammered metal picture (ICG p15)
  • Ghana-adinkra banner (ICG p6)
  • Congo-double drum (ICG p11)
  • Ivory Coast-folding fan (ICG p12)


  • Zimbabwe-mancala
  • South Africa-sotho beaded doll (ICG p27)
  • Mozambique-galimoto (ICG 14)
  • Madagascar-tribal beads (ICG p29) or spoon painting
  • begin Asia song
  • Mongolia-wind chimes (ICG p63) or link
  • China-dragon boat (ICG p37)
  • North and south Korea (again, VERY different, but compare and contrast)-paper lanterns (ICG p52)
  • Japan-tanabata lanterns
  • India-jingles (ICG p47)


  • Nepal-rangoli
  • Thailand-pellet drum (ICG p54)
  • Philippines-sarimanok
  • Australia-decorate boomerangs 
  • New Zealand-knitting/poi balls
  • Figi- leis (ICG p49)
  • Tonga-palm woven hat (green construction paper)
  • Vanuatu-grass skirt
  • Samoa-decorate something with shells

*Dictator Game: Each person is given the same amount of points or treats. In the game, there would be advantages and rebellions. For example, the dice 2 and 6 would be "advantages" 1 and 4 would be "rebellions" and 3 would be "cooperation." There would be around a 2 min. round time. They would sit in a circle.The teacher who is in charge of the treats would have sign saying "army" the teacher would choose the dictator, and then we would begin. The children would take turns rolling the dice. If they got an advantage, the army would give the dictator the treat (regardless of who rolled the dice) If they got a rebellion, then the one who threw the dice would get a treat taken away. It would be up to the army whether or not the dictator got the treat. A cooperation they would simply pass the dice. At the end of the round, the next child would be the dictator.

**Who Sliced this Pie: (Got this idea from public school teacher with 30 kids, but I'll use paper dolls) Divide room up into continents (Frustratingly Australia and Russia go together statistically)
Population (#of students/paper dolls)
Middle East=9.88=3
North America=5.17%=2
South America=8.52%=2
Australia/Russia=3.14%=1 (if just Australia 1/2)

Distribution of food production (#of chocolate kisses) btw-I couldn't find new statistics for this one, so these statistics are at least 10-15 years old.
Middle East=oh bother, um, not sure. goes with asia statistically
North America=16%=4
South America=9%=2
Australia (Not Russia too---problems when you take statistics from different studies urg)=1%=1/2 kiss
none for antarctica

Wealth (# of caramels)
Middle East=4.1%=1
North America=33.67%=8
South America=6.44%=2

Interestingly, I took the newest population and wealth statistics I could find, and asia has gotten richer and other nations poorer from when this lady first did this activity. Hummm.

Left Over Tid-bits

So before I start with next school year's posts, here's a post to wrap up the summer, and anything else, including repeating some stuff from the "checklist" post which I don't plan on including in my printed yearbook blogbook.

Speaking of Yearbook, here's their "yearbook" photos!!!

First, Daniel passed off his times tables! Just a few days after he turned eight.

Maxwell gave a involved presentation on reef fish in our area:

And I had a couple more science clubs. One where we talked about DNA and genetics:

And one where we dissected rotting crabs....okay so that was not a legit science club, but a last ditch effort to feel like I had taught something.

And throughout the summer we have learned a experience.....not by my awesome teaching.

And we "caught up" on anything I didn't teach throughout the school year about science and history with good ol' Youtube and Brainpop.

And Maxwell read

 and read
and read

He read the Chronicles of Narnia:

Harry Potter series:

Fablehaven series:

Swiss Family Robinson:

And he's towards the end of the Little Britches series:

Can I just tell you that to reward and punish a dyslexic child by READING privileges is pretty AWESOME!

And Daniel randomly asked to be taught cursive, so we did just a bit of that:

and when I looked through the "checklist" post, here's some things I wanted to remember:

Inquiry--Daniel's inquiry have been so amazing!!! just a few days ago he asked "Since bones make blood, what happens with animals that have no bones? Do they have blood and if so, how do they make it?

Inquiry-Hyrum is also asking excellent questions. He is always asking to research things. Like the other day he really wanted to know why our knuckles pop (it's actual bubbles!)

Inquiry-Maxwell is always asking awesome questions about science. That is what sparked the Reef fish presentation. He wanted to know if Sword fish really stab things (they don't.)