Tag Archives: kids

Busy Kids = Happy Kids: Christmas Break 2016, Part 1

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I am going to be spending a lot of time with the cousins this week.  I am planning on some super fun activities.

Yesterday, Michaela was telling us how much she wanted to decorate sugar cookies for Christmas.  So, last night, I made 2 batches of gluten-free dough.  I wanted to chill them all night.  Because I am so sensitive to wheat, I don’t even keep regular all-purpose flour in my house, so everyone will enjoy gluten-free cookies this year.

Lovana came to the rescue and went with me, bringing her expertise and creativity.  We made royal icing and buttercream.  She tinted the frosting several colors and we pulled sprinkles out of our cupboard and my sister’s cupboard.  We had tons!  She decided to bake the cookies first, then ice and decorate.  We often decorate first, then bake, but Michaela wanted to do it this way this time, so we did.

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They made lots of pretty cookies.  We froze some for Sunday.

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Here’s the recipe.  I got it from a little magazine I bought years ago at the check-out counter called “Gluten-Free Recipes.”  I tweaked it a bit.

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup softened butter

1 egg

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill One-to-One gluten-free flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 Tablespoons milk, more if necessary

Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in egg.  Add salt, baking powder, xanthum gun, cinnamon, vanilla and flour.  Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistancy is reached.  Add more if dough is too dry.  Chill for at least 15 minutes.  Roll, cut out, and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until brown.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies, depending on size.

I was a bit baffled by the instructions about the milk.  I made 2 batches.  The first time, I put in the 2 tablespoons.  It was really stiff.  I put in a little extra the 2nd time.  It was almost too much.  Lovana rolled and cut out the cookies and she had trouble working with the 2nd batch.  On the other hand, the cookies themselves were much more tender with the softer consistency.  The first batch was super crisp, then second was softer.  Both had excellent flavor.  Everyone loved them, whether or not they needed to eat gluten-free.

The rest of the day was filled with kids playing with toys, lunch, tons of dishes and cleaning from the cookies and playing (I also had Jake do his regular chores such as “pick up 8 things”) and then we had a huge game of Apples to Apples with Lovana, Alissa, her friend Kim, Michaela and myself. Earlier,  Jake and I had played a version of Life which sort of resembled what the directions said, so he played other things during this game.  Ja’Ana and Patsy were off to the doctor and errands with Rob, who is off work for 2 weeks now. (He works at a school.)

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We took a few home for Patsy to do, since she didn’t want to be left out of the fun!  It was a great day, and we have a great one planned for tomorrow.

 

 

 

Snow Day

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Last Thursday, a few lazy flakes began to fall.

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They turned into a few more.

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I was so proud of Michaela–she conquered her fears and went outside!  Snow is hard for her, but she went out twice and had a great time swinging on her swing set in the snow.

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Patsy and Alissa sledded down the driveway as the snow continued to fall and accumulated almost an inch!

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Jake is the cutest snowflake on the block!  He would have liked to take his entire fleet of vehicles out, but we limited him to just a few toys.

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Really early in the morning, we all realized that, although not one flake had fallen, school was cancelled due to the expected storm, and my sister and her husband both still had to work.  Thankfully, my aunt was able to take the earliest shift and headed over to the house.  I joined her a little after 8.  Let’s just say–it took both of us.

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4 of the kids played outside for a few hours.  1 kid sat on the couch for a few hours, not wanting to get cold and wet.  Projects were made, including a batch of fudge, Perler beads, those little kits where you melt the plastic crystals into metal frames, a sewing project cut out, lunch, and some tv.  By mid-afternoon, it was melting, the kids’ Dad was back home (he’s a professor and finals had to be given, but did not last all day), and my aunt and I headed to our respective homes, leaving a huge pile of wet and soggy clothing and coats.   It was a great day with the perfect amount of snow–enough to have fun in, but not enough to be dangerous.  I was glad to get home safely, as it cooked off again and froze to the branches and made icicles on the wires.  Where we live, freezing rain is a very dangerous weather event.  All evening activities were cancelled, so we enjoyed a rare evening at home.  I think everyone had a great snow day!

Black Friday, 2016

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This year we did not go shopping on Black Friday.  Not even to buy a single pair of socks at the annual Fred Meyer 1/2 price sock sale.  Not even for flannel at JoAnn’s.  Nothing was shopped for.  Instead, we went with family members to a very special outing.

We went to ride a historic holiday train.  My niece, Michaela, adores trains.  Her mother, my sister, decided to treat us all to a train ride.  So, today, we went.

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My niece, Rachel, and Lovana took they selfie.  I thought it turned out super good.  I love it!

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Everyone enjoyed the fun experience, but Michaela was in train heaven!  She LOVED the train ride.

The train departed from Oaks Amusement Park in Portland, Oregon, and traveled along the Willamette River almost to the Ross Island bridge, and then returned.  During the ride, we could see the river and some wetlands containing birds.  We also saw great views of Portland itself.

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After riding the train, we ate lunches out of our car trunks, and then headed for the roller skating rink at Oaks Park.  The rides are closed for the season, but the rink remains open year-round.  Bless Auntie Gail’s heart!  She helped Patsy skate.  I watched.  Although I admire her gumption, I wouldn’t want to be her tomorrow.  I’m sure she’ll be sore!!

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Alissa enjoyed her first time roller skating!

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Ja’Ana loved whizzing around with Kim, one of Alissa’s good friends.

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Even Michaela tried it out with help from her Mama.  It was a LONG trip around the rink, but she was proud and happy that she did it!  The non-skaters had a great time encouraging the skaters, sipping soda, and visiting.

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Afterwards, we ended the day with dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory.  The kids enjoyed the balloon toys a roving balloon-toymaker crafted for them.  It was a great follow-up to Thanksgiving Day, and gave many of us the chance to keep visiting.  On the way home, we enjoyed seeing many Christmas lights that busy people had hung up while we enjoyed our day.  It was a great start to our Christmas season!

Thanksgiving Week Fun–Mission Mill Museum

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The schools around here have the week off.  We decided to take the homeschooled girls on a field trip, and they are doing a small amount of work that was left over after they both got colds last week, but that’s it for them for the week, as well.  My sister planned it, and my aunt and I took the kids.  I had never visited this historical sight before, and enjoyed it tremendously.  It is located in Salem, Oregon.

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We toured the old woolen mill, and the houses surrounding it.  Some houses img_3593had been moved to this sight, but the mill was always there.  We were amazed to see that the machinery still worked (at least some of it) and they ran some of it while we were in there.  In other places, buttons could be pushed to start machinery, which was a hit with Jake especially.

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These homes were residences of early missionaries to the Oregon Territory.  They took a ship to Oregon before the time of the Oregon Trail, started out in one place which turned out to be flooded too often, so moved.  It was fun to see the houses.

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In the parsonage, there were quite a few interactive exhibits set up with kids in mind.  Jake loved “cooking” with the play food, building with blocks, and other fun activities.

Does anyone know the purpose of the crinkly cast iron base and iron pictured above?  The base has grooves in it, and the iron part (on top with a handle) has a matching grooved surface.  So, you can hold the handle and roll it back and forth.  But why?  It wouldn’t be good for ironing, since it is crinkly.  Our best guess was an old-fashioned panini press–ha-ha!

After we had gone through all of the buildings, we browsed our way out through the gift shops, bypassed the cafe although it looked good, and enjoyed a wonderful lunch my sister packed for us–in the parking lot.  It was a great day!

 

Field Trip to the Columbia River Gorge

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The Columbia River Gorge is famous for being windy, among other things.  Yesterday was no exception!  We stopped at Crown Point, a very high view point, and almost got blown away.  It was fun and the view was amazing!

 

Multnomah Falls was our next stop.  It was a beautiful day for a little hike.  Some of us went up to the lower bridge, and some stayed below.  Jake felt that someone should carry him, the the girls took turns.  Finally, he started hiking around on his own, but he milked it for as long as they were willing to carry him!

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There were salmon spawning in the little river at Multnomah Falls.  It was awesome to see them fighting their way up a tiny little rapid and then laying eggs in the calm waters near the edge of the stream, often near branches that extended over the water.

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When we got to the Bonneville Dam Fish Hatchery, Jake was not at all sure he wanted anything to do with feeding the huge rainbow trout that were in the holding pond.  But, by the time we got to the second area, a pond, he became very excited about the idea.

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He loved throwing the food, or flicking the food, as his mood dictated.  We took a nice stroll around the grounds and saw several ponds with various fish in them, including some massive sturgeon.  We did not go into the visitors’ center, though.  By that time, they were hungry and we went back to the van and ate our picnic.  I’m sure it would be fun for another time.

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After that, we went over to Bonneville Dam itself.  To get there, you need to go through a security point, then drive over the dam.  Jake especially liked doing that.  Then, in the visitor’s center, we looked around and went down to the viewing windows in hopes of seeing fish.  We thought we would, because of the ones in the stream at Multnomah Falls, but we did not.  Still, the whole experience was fun.

Back into the van we went, and drove up to Cascade Locks for ice cream (or onion rings as some preferred), and headed for home.  Everyone was happy and had a nice day.  The weather was so nice!  It was a great fall trip, and I’m glad we did.

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Halloween, 2016

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Halloween is not my favorite holiday.   I don’t like scary things, blood, gore, or any of the other creepy, evil characters and costumes.  They scare me:)   In the past, we have celebrated many different ways, mostly running or attending harvest parties.  This year, the big girls had parties through their youth groups, but Rob and I did not participate. We did, however, manage to have some fun with it this year, because it’s always fun to be with the kids.  When your life changes, you either change with it, or sit at home and sulk.  I prefer to have fun!

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Alissa and Jake carved a pumpkin.  It is pictured above.  I stayed far, far away from that scary knife:)  Lovana supervised Patsy’s carving and hers came out really well, too.

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Rob came over to my sister’s house right after work to help out with the festivities.  Most of the kids dressed up.  Ja’Ana decided not to, but willingly helped Jake be safe as he went up and down the street.  Rob followed in the van with Michaela riding shotgun, eating the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Tootsie Roll candies he bought her.  She never left the van, but had a marvelous time.  Afterwards, she came home and went straight to bed, probably in a blissful sugar haze.

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Captain America was ready for his excursion!

After Alissa, Jake and Michaela’s daddy got them ready, including putting Alissa’s wig straight, finding all the lost parts and pieces for Jake’s costume, etc., he ran off to teach his Monday night Bible study class, which was meeting as usual.  My sister did not get home from work until after 8, a super busy day for her.

I stayed at the house with Lovana and the dog, handing out candy to all the little kids who came knocking at the door.  After a while, most of our kids got tired and Rob came back to the house with them, where Jake and Patsy handed out more candy.  It was an exhausting, fun, candy-filled night for everyone and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

 

International Field Trip Near Home

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Last year, I promised Ja’Ana that her homeschool year would be filled with many field trips.  I was not able to deliver on that promise, due to all that happened with Rob’s job, moving, etc.  This year, I am determined to make that happen for her and Alissa.  So, I am calling for ideas from the whole family.  The response has been terrific.

My sister, Rosalie, has a friend who came from Eritrea, a country on the NE part of Africa.  She arranged for us to go with her to visit last Wednesday.  Ja’Ana and Alissa Googled Eritrea, a country we really had never studied before and Ja’Ana read interesting facts to us all the way up I-V.  We had been warned by Rosalie that her friend was going to cook for us, and that we should bring some food as well.  So, the girls decided to make peach crisp and cut up veggies with ranch dressing.

They were served huge plates full of Eritrean food that Harnet had made!  There was flatbread made from teff and barley flour, a spicy red sauce with chicken and hard-boiled eggs in it, and some greens cooked with bits of meat.  The spicy sauce was very SPICY!  I was EXTREMELY proud of both girls.  They were very polite and ate as much as they could.  Ja’Ana actually enjoyed almost all of it, and Alissa liked some of it, but they never blinked an eye.  I love the spicy chicken, so it was no hardship for me to eat it, and I enjoyed it very much.  The greens were good, too.

Later, Harnet made us coffee.  I though she was making a pot, and told her not to make me any, I didn’t like coffee.  OOPS!  That’s not what she meant.  I quickly changed my tune.

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She set up this coffee-making station in the living room and proceeded to roast coffee beans, grind them, and make coffee!  It was very strong, highly sweetened, and I drank my little cup-full.  I was touched by the trouble she went to for the girls and myself.

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Harriet’s little girl, Dinuite, loves Wo-Wah (Rosalie).  She calls her something like that.  The girls took her a little doll and a couple of balloons, and by the end of the visit, she was warming up to them as well.  But she LOVES Wo-Wah.  Of course, Wo-Wah loves her too, and they played for quite a while together.

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After eating all that food, the girls helped sort out some clothing that had been given to the little girl.  They helped pick out the things that were the right size and would be useful to her.  As you can see, she decided to wear some of it on the spot!  Then, she put on the coat and boots Wo-Wah brought her.  She wore them for the rest of the time.

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All-in-all, it was a great day.  The girls got an insight into a country they had never studied before, and a little glimpse into the food and hospitality of the people who live there. They learned that in some places conditions are not as nice as they are here.  They learned about a place where the army can draft you, keep you for how ever long they want to, and not pay you.  They learned about people who wanted to come to America because they could have a better life for themselves and their children, and that it takes amazing courage and incredible perseverance to do that.

I had a wonderful time getting to know Harnet a bit–I’d only met her one other time before.  It ended up being a long day, because we got back in time for church so went directly there, and then I took both girls home afterwards.  I got a lot of mileage out of that tiny cup of super strong coffee–although I told Rosalie that I was going to have no problem sleeping, it took me until 1 a.m. to go to sleep.  Hmmmm.  Guess I won’t be taking up Eritrean coffee as a habit!!!

I am very thankful to Rosalie for arranging this interesting, informative day, and to Harnet for her hospitality.  It was an authentic experience that no amount of money could ever buy–and we felt very special to have been able to enjoy it.

Cousins by Love

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These two have been fast friends since they came into each other’s lives.  Alissa came to live with her mom and dad when she was a very tiny baby.  Rob and I got the privilege of spending many, many days and nights with her as she grew up.  When she was about 14-15 months old, I agreed to watch her and her 2 older sisters while their parents went to Mexico for a week.  Little did I know……

We had applied to adopt again and had  been waiting about a year for our new child/children.  We were open to a single child, or a sibling group.  Since they are supposed to choose 3 appropriate people for each child or group, we had been to “committee” a couple of times already, and someone else was chosen to be their parents, not us.  Ouch.  But, that’s how it works.  We got another chance to possibly be selected for Lovana, who happened to have a younger sister who may or may not be freed for adoption soon, and were asked if we wanted to take the risk.  Of course, we said yes, and our file was presented.  We were denied on the basis that we were not black and the children were.  Our caseworker was livid!  That was not only unfair, it is illegal.  It is a federal mandate that no child could be denied a home based on race.  Because it was so wrong, they took it back to committee and to the top of the state.  We were successful the second time.  Guess what week was chosen for transition week?  You got it!  The same week I had agreed to watch the 3 nieces.

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It was a long, exciting week.  I was extremely busy, to put it mildly, with 2 toddlers (one of whom did not know me at all), a very shy 5 year old who turned 6 the day after we got her moved in, my 2 special needs boys, my autistic niece, my other niece, and my other, older children.  (Probably 2 out of the 3 as I believe the oldest was away at college by then-  I can’t remember)  It is a blur, but there were 9 or 10.  There were lots of visits going back and forth to get the girls acquainted with our family, and had been for a week before, but this was the week to do an over nighter, then have them stay a couple of nights, then have them move in.  It was Easter week, and we were hosting, and Lovana’s birthday was on Easter that year.  We had no control over the timing.  I was not sure I was going to survive, and certainly relied on the Lord’s strength.  I have rarely felt such relief as I did that Easter Sunday morning when I had them all lined up on the back pew, dressed in their finest new Easter clothes, on time for church to start!  I bought an ice cream cake (so rare most of my kids had never had one), and the family all pitched in with the dinner.  It turned out great, even though you are never supposed to overwhelm the new child with a lot of family too soon.   Or move them when it’s right around their birthday, or some other huge anniversary.

In the end, something beautiful came out of that chaos.  Something happened I could have never foretold.   Ja’Ana and Alissa took ahold of each other’s hands and held on.  At an age where children don’t usually play together, they were inseparable.  They became best buds and have gone camping, to plays, parks, amusement parks, Disneyland, the Redwoods, the beach, and mission trips together. Through the years, they’ve hit a few growing bumps in their relationship, but through it all, have remained bonded for life.  Years ago, they dubbed themselves “the twins separated at birth” even though they were 6 months apart and really didn’t resemble each other very much:)

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Now they are forging a new path together.  No, it’s not golf with their science experiment, although they did seem to be trying that today, too.  They are embarking on a grand adventure of learning together.  The homeschool class at my house doubled this week, as we gladly welcomed Alissa to our party.  Because, when those 2 get together, it often turns into a party.  Alissa’s mom and I have some really fun stuff lined out for them this year, and I’m here to say we are off to an excellent start.  Today was very fun and educational.  Their Auntie Rosalie surprised them with gift cards to McDonald’s, which were burning a hole in their pockets.  So we went there on the way to the pond.  They gathered pond water for an upcoming experiment, and that is just the beginning.

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May they always stay so close.

 

 

How To Help When Schoolwork Is Hard

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We homeschool Ja’Ana.  She is in 10th grade.   There are a lot of things that are easy for her, like cooking, sewing, music, and dance.  There are some things that are hard, like math.  The sad thing is that math is hard for me, too.  So, what’s a mom to do?  Especially when the time has come for Algebra?

Because all of the home-making areas, and music, and language arts are my strong points, we can sometimes get into trouble when it comes to math, when you add up my weakness with her extreme reluctance, due to how difficult it is for her.  I’ve taken some steps to make the process less painful for us both.

First, I bought a math curriculum that has cd’s with explanations for every single problem–Teaching Text Algebra.  I am aware that it is less difficult than Saxon, for instance, but it is just right for us.  In the past, I went through other Algebra curriculums with other children, and had to start from page one and do the entire book to be able to help them do the problems when we got farther into it.  I was hoping to not have to do that this time, and so far, so good.  This is especially important because no one has reached the Algebra level for quite a few years, so I am super rusty on the concepts.

I have actually used this brand of curriculum for a few years with her, and love the fact that the Algebra is now self-correcting.  So, if she punches an answer into the computer, it tells her if it is right or wrong.  Then, it will show how to do it, if necessary.  I use that feature at times.  I also am willing to look back at the explanations in the book, and carefully study the examples, and use them to figure out how to do the problems.  I have a brother-in-law who is a math professor, and have asked him if I get really stuck on something.  The fact is–you can’t teach something with any kind of confidence if you don’t understand it yourself.  So, the first step is to make sure I understand the problem.

The most successful method I use with her is to sit side-by-side with her, with each of us having our own pad of paper.  I have her read over the first problem and see if she knows the answer.  They are usually true or false.  Sometimes the wording is tricky and we need to discuss what it means.  After she is confident on what it means, it is usually easy for her to decide if it is true or false.  I would love it if she would listen to the explanation on the cd., or even read the explanations in the lessons, but she is usually in a big hurry and doesn’t really do that very often on her own.  When I am sitting there, I make sure she has done that.  I often need to re-word things into a way that she can understand more clearly.

Then, we both work each and every problem.  When we are done, we see if we agree on the answer.  If we do, she punches it into the computer.  Hopefully, we are right.  If not, we re-do it, using more of the examples in the book, or the explanation given.  One of the problems we have is that she was having so much trouble getting the right answer when she was doing it on her own, that she seemed actually afraid of punching the answer into the computer, for fear of getting it wrong.  I’m trying to get her to see that  learning how to do the problems is what matters, not the final score.  I’m also working with her on the fact that everyone makes mistakes, including me, and that’s ok.

On the story problems, I draw pictures to try to illustrate them.  That seems to help most of the time.  When it doesn’t, and all else fails, there is the explanation on the cd–our lifesaver.

After a chapter is done, I give her a test, with no help from me, except making sure she understands the questions.  If she cannot do the problems, we re-do the chapter, with me correcting it with the answer key because the computer grade book is already full.  I don’t care if we have to do it 3 times, I want understanding more than speedy completion of a book. After all, the reward for finishing a book is a harder book, and if you don’t understand the easier book, you have no hope of doing the harder one.  I also don’t care if one book takes 2 years.  With my children, my goal is slow, steady progress, coupled with understanding.

When she works hard, I heap her with praise, letting her know how proud I am of her.  When she get a problems right, and I don’t, I point that out and praise her.  She clearly can see for herself when she’s wrong, so I matter-of-factly say “let’s try again, boy that one is hard” etc.  I try to remember that doing a school subject that is very difficult for her, or any child, is the same as asking me to do something very hard and foreign to me, such as re-build a car engine.   I’m just glad she is attempting Algebra, even though it’s hard.  This method is working for now, and we both feel less like screaming with frustration:) Even better, she is understanding things she was not sure she could accomplish, and that’s got to feel good to her.