The Quarantine Marches On

Conference Sundays are busy here with the time difference and Saturdays are always busy. I’m sending my email tonight to lighten my weekend load.




In other events... several times this week, I thought, “This is what I’ve always wanted...” Homeschool Monday was a good day and Tuesday was awesome.

I told the kids to use their textbooks and make their own assignments, do their own study, and right off the bat Moses assigned himself a project for science that I remember doing exactly, but in the the grade after his.

Ruby has already been good at going over everything in her books—she’s already done with some—and Herbie has become quite self-motivated himself within the last year or so. So no problems there. 

Archie always resists doing anything at the beginning of a new subject, then he gets down to work, and then he doesn’t want to stop to switch to a new one... transitions are the most difficult part. 

Herbie loved his new astronomy class, he kept blurting out tidbits he’s learning, also from his book about Ben Franklin.

Penelope told me she loved homeschool; she was learning so much more. She loves pretty much everything she’s doing, even her class math book (which is sometimes a struggle for the other kids, but once they get started, they’re fine). She’s even fine writing out her multiplication tables like her teacher always makes her do.

She’s started reading George MacDonald’s princess books, which makes me happy. The Princess and the Goblin was one of my favorites as a kid.

Moses, however, told the missionaries it was “boring.” But he has been surprisingly interested in art history. I was unaware that there were so many good books for kids for this, but I found several.

But I’m mostly surprised at how much Moses loves Tarzan of the Apes (the original by Edgar Rice Burroughs). Not that it isn’t a fun read (surprisingly for most of us with modern impressions of Tarzan being a buffoon), but that I would’ve predicted it to be above his reading level.

Linus unpleasantly discovered that he had a class Zoom meeting just when he was scheduled to start computer science. He burst into tears. I had no idea he was looking forward to it so much.

He was further annoyed when no work was done at the meeting. “They’re just telling jokes!” And that the class scheduled another meeting right after the first one (40 minute limit on free accounts). 

Woo chatted with his teacher where we learned that the meetings weren’t required. They were just for the kids in his class to socialize if they wanted to. Linus happily ditched it and Herbie got him set up on Scratch.

The kids are now reading good books across a variety of subjects... I couldn’t be more pleased.

Also, I’ve always wanted the kids to memorize more poetry, and that is happening now too! I only had one teacher do this (in 6th grade, and even then I could tell that this was a great thing to do). 

Tuesday, I selected 10 short poems to start that either teach a lesson or are beautiful examples of the English language. I told the kids that in a month (or earlier, if that’s too easy—it’s looking like 2 weeks might be perfect) I’d make cookies and every child could have one cookie for each poem they memorized. Then I wrote the poems out and taped them to the window.

I could not have gotten a better response. As soon as it was lunch they all gathered around and immediately started reading them out loud, began committing their favorite to memory, mapped out when to memorize what when, and copied them down for their own portable copy.

Penelope and Archie surprised me by not picking the shortest poem (“Nothing Gold Can Stay”) first, but started with their favorite “Which Loved Best.”

I included that poem because I knew they liked it, but I didn’t know they liked it that much!

Archie came and gave me a hug every few minutes while he was memorizing it. Also, asking him: “which child are you being right now?” or “what would Fran do here?” were great motivators.

Ruby came up with the smartest plan, I think. To start with the longest poem (“If” by Rudyard Kipling) and work down from there. The poem was a challenge for her (which I was hoping it would be). It also broadened her vocabulary. Then she heard all the other kids repeat the shorter poems so often, they were already familiar when she started in on them.

Moses really went to town. He memorized 6 poems by Thursday, and worked on it frequently during his free time.

Linus told me he never had to be bored anymore because he could always work on the poems. 

Herbie, however, did not lift a finger to learn any of them after that first burst. He’d heard “in a month” and decided to do it later; he’d have plenty of time. Also, he was afraid he’d forget everything he’d memorized by then. He was very unhappy when I reminded him that I’d said “or sooner” and all the other kids were doing so well, it most certainly would be.

The schedule worked really well—almost all kids were happily busy almost all of the time, but the last twenty minutes on Monday seemed to be a struggle for everyone, so I decided this was the perfect time for a spelling or geography bee, and I was right!

I felt like one of those one room country teachers. This is also definitely the case where six students are better than one. I asked each kid grade appropriate words, and we had a lot of fun.

I went to bed so excited Tuesday night at what an awesome day it had been and then Wednesday was horrible. Maybe the kids had been up too late running poems through their heads?

Anyway, it was a rainy, dull day. The kids were cranky. The missionaries called (yes, they’re still here) to give us a spiritual thought which was nice, but they talked a lot about how we’re stuck in the house and can’t go anywhere, and we were all packed together to be seen on the screen while they were talking and I started to feel really stir crazy myself. The power of words is incredible. I really think if they’d never mentioned it, it would’ve been better.

Our spelling bee that day turned into a tantrumy mess as half the kids were horrible losers and they were very upset when they spelled a word wrong... (by Thursday they were already much better with the disappointment), but immediately afterwards they started quizzing each other on world capitals in preparation for the next day.

Anyway, I was flat out exhausted when Wednesday ended.

Thursday was better and Friday (today) was even better. The kids know what the pattern is and transitions are getting easier.


We are ready for conference. We’ve been doing our thing about the restoration. The kids have their bingo and matching games ready. I did my baking beforehand so I can relax and enjoy, and we have our questions to be answered. Mostly...
Archie: Mom, I already have my question for conference! 
Do you want to hear it? 
Me: Sure. 
Archie: It’s: Who’s going to speak in conference? 
I might have raised an eyebrow.
Archie: I already know some of them, but not all of them... 
Happy Conference everyone!


Encounters with Hecklers and More

Monday was complicated by our discovery that some of the kids’ school teachers were going to try to continue doing their job. Ruby, Herbie, Moses and Archie each were sent a bunch of assignments. 

Each of them completely obnoxious... Ruby had one sent Friday night, due Sunday, and she read the email about it Monday afternoon. (However, this turned into a great missionary opportunity as Ruby described to her teacher why she didn’t do homework on Sunday—Ruby is a natural missionary.) Also it seemed she needed a computer for an online meeting whenever a teacher called for one.

Moses’s assignments were all sent by WhatsApp group chat with all teachers sending assignments and all students answering on the same thread. When Moses read it, it was hundreds of texts long and completely overwhelming for him to find the actual assignments.

I was gone at that point. Someone needed the church to be unlocked to print something for their student visa (which of course needed to be done that very day before 3...). It was a female student, so I was the best person for the job, but I was in the middle of a logistics puzzle myself when I heard and couldn’t even think about it until I’d gotten in the shower and could take time to decide when to meet her.

So Woo patiently helped Moses navigate his WhatsApp mess.

Herbie had been checking WhatsApp and his personal email, but he had not been checking his class email, where on Monday afternoon he unpleasantly discovered many back assignments.

The actual work is not overwhelming... most of them are tiny assignments completed in a couple minutes, but seeing the huge number of messages in inboxes was disheartening.

The worst for me personally was Archie’s teacher (who is clearly the most tech savvy of all the elementary school teachers), who sent me about 5 online assignments a day last week, over the weekend too. We were not in a place for me to mention a single one to him until Tuesday, where he got them all done in an hour.

I realize everyone is doing the best they can in a difficult situation, and the teachers are only trying to do their jobs, but I really wish they would just leave us alone. (So I guess we’re still not isolated enough for me :)

Woo had to talk us all down from our alarm, and by Tuesday we had a handle on it. In the end the work from the teachers didn’t amount to much, so I was still glad that I’d made work for the kids myself.

We came up with a really fun game for track club... the original thing is for us all to jog in a line and the back person sprints to the front. Then they slow to a jog and the next person in back sprints to the front, and so on (still don’t have a good name for this, although it seems like there should be one right on the tip of my tongue... )

But this time, instead of only sprinting to the front, we also did things like skipping, running backwards, high knees, kicking-the-bum, running sideways, egg-beater legs, etc. and rotated through everyone getting a chance to pick what all the rest of us did.

I really felt like Maria von Trapp at that point.

The first time was more fun than the second time (although Herbie had some issues the first time). The second one Archie was super tired or something. On his turn he’d get overwhelmed and then completely give up. There was a lot of yelling at him to “Just GO!” until we finally figured out that WE should just walk during his turn so he could have confidence to get to the front.

Usually Penelope is Archie’s greatest advocate, but I guess this time she wasn’t.

I also enjoyed our last time in “the wilderness” as Herbie, Moses, Linus, Penelope and Archie all worked together to rehearse the Princess Bride movie script that Linus has been working on.

Ruby has had online seminary all year, but she’s supposed to do one lesson a week with a real person. She and I were doing that while sword and wrestling and wit duels were going on. Also, some excellent tracking by Prince Humperdink. Rolling down the canyon was too much fun and rehearsals were suspended so that all kids could take multiple turns. Ruby also joined in at that point.

I say our last time in the wilderness, because we are no longer allowed to go there.

Except one other thing to mention... Woo met us on his bike just as we were about to cross a street entering into town (so a group of all eight of us in close proximity on the road) when a guy in gloves and face mask drove by and was so clearly appalled by us that I almost expected him to stop his car and yell at us.

Some of the kids were afraid to leave the house the next day, but we went out in the morning without incident. We were not so lucky in the afternoon. While near a roundabout we had a few cars honk and one guy yell, “Stay at home! Stay at home!!” from his truck.

I had decided that the time had come for us to run around in the garage and play cards or read on our tiny balcony for sun, but Woo encouraged us all to go out to our last remaining safe place yesterday, which we did without incident.

We are not doing anything wrong. Families are allowed to go outside for bits of exercise, but no one else’s family is nearly as large as ours. People who don't know us assume that we are multiple families congregating.

Woo did not go surfing most of this week. Partly because of less than optimal waves and partly for fear it wasn’t allowed. He decided that it was allowed as long as the group was small enough, and he and Herbie ran out for a quick surf Saturday morning.

Woo’s always been frustrated by the church’s hymn app, and I guess he was finally moved to action after practicing parts with Ruby, Herbie and Moses during home church at the end of their lessons. 

He spent his extra time working on an app that allows you to adjust the hymn’s tempo and pull out the music for specific parts. We used it today and it worked great. With our extra 10 minutes after our testimony meeting we taught (or tried to teach) the kids the alto and tenor parts to Abide with Me.

Archie and Penelope switched bedrooms this week. Penelope has been complaining that she’s getting too big for hers (really a large closet), and Archie’s isn’t dark enough at his bedtime.

Archie was less excited about it, but changed his mind when Penelope listed all the pluses for him (the reasons she chose it herself in the first place), and they spent happy amounts of free time helping each other move their stuff around.

Woo recorded Archie singing nonstop in the tub. It’s part Portuguese and part English (with some German colors thrown in), but mostly English. It’s very cute 7-yr-old stream-of-consciousness and reflects almost everything going on in Archie’s brain and our family.

Linus needed a project to fill his mind during spare moments and he found it in building a marble Olympic park. Like everything Linus does, he thought deeply, planned carefully and built with precision.

All kids asked me to cut their hair this week.

Other tidbits:

Moses praying about his overwhelming load of homework (which turned out not to be) got the revelation to be writing everything that is happening to him in a journal.

Herbie praying about overcoming contention and rudeness got the revelation to make a scripture reading chart for Archie. If Archie reads great 7 times in a row, he gets to sit on Herbie‘s bed (something he’s always trying to do).

Penelope loves, loves summer schedule. Her favorite things have been Japanese and reading the Story of the Amulet.

We had a zoom call with everyone in Woo’s family. This is where rarely watching movies pays off—our kids were mesmerized (and it was not short).

This would be the end of Spring Break for us and we’re moving into homeschool next Monday. I’m excited and also glad we did summer schedule first because I knew what I needed to tweak for homeschool. I talked it over with the kids individually and told them that they were the teacher now and responsible for their own learning. The kids were very excited and Archie got up Thursday morning and immediately started to read JS-H for five minutes (one of the goals he’d set for himself during unscheduled time), even though we hadn’t started yet.

Ruby has been finding a ton of names to reserve for the temple.

Linus has a zoom call scheduled for his class on Monday and he feels very grown up to be having a zoom call already in fourth grade.
Archie: Mom, I like the book of Omni, because he let his whole family write in it! 
Me: Yeah, that was nice of him. 
Woo asked everyone their favorite animal.
Penelope: Pesaguses! 
That’s our week. Hope yours was great!


Week One

Parts of this week were exhausting. I remembered the first week of the summer schedule last year, when I wondered if this was really going to work (and I remembered the promise I'd gotten the summer before that--that it would be the last hard summer... because the very first week of the summer schedule definitely wasn't looking or feeling easier).

This week was not as hard as the one last year, and I already knew that it takes time to deal to adjust to a new thing--deal with everyone's panic when they've forgotten passwords, other kids upset because they actually didn't want to do cooking (or some other thing). Also, as much as I wish all my kids could adjust to something different at the drop of a hat, some of them just naturally take more time.

Anyway, the end of the week was already much better. Woo and I believe this whole isolation thing is a great opportunity for us to overcome contention and rudeness as a family and to become one, and I continue to believe that.

There were many instances where a new awesomeness unveiled itself. Ruby and Herbie spent one evening giggling together and being best friends. That hasn't happened in a long time.

There were many times where all the kids played or worked together wonderfully on a shared game or project. Archie always seems to love, love, when everyone is home and he has so many big brothers and sisters to play with.

Portugal moved into a state of emergency with many movement restrictions last night. Woo paid the rent this week (in case it got more difficult later--it has to be done at the bank), and he and I went grocery shopping yesterday. It looked like they already had the restrictions in place, except they let us in during the time that will be reserved for people 65+.

There was a line outside (all of us standing 2 meters apart), and all the carts were removed. You could only enter the store with a cart, when someone else came out with one and passed it on to you. We all wore gloves; there were new plastic guards in front of the cashiers; they frequently sprayed stuff in their area down; and other than that it seemed largely the same. The store was fully stocked.

Woo and I always fill up two carts when we go shopping, but we checked out separately and generally tried to not look like we were together to avoid scaring everyone else into thinking we were hoarding and emptying out the store.

Monday we learned that all parks and beaches had been closed, but we were still able to get outside for track club and play at other times by going to parking lots or deserted jogging trails. Group athletic activity was restricted to 5 people to a group, then down to 2, so Woo and Herbie are still okay to surf together. They just make sure no one is there first, and there usually isn't. The entire town largely feels deserted.

Also, we are lucky to live on the edge of town, and can easily walk to a large expanse of dunes that the kids call "the wilderness." Every time we went, I thought of Maria packing up and taking the Van Trapp children on an outing in the mountains, and I felt like her (even though there were no other similarities). Many years ago when we watched the Sound of Music, Linus said, "I wish that girl was my mother!" This may be the closest you're ever going to get, Linus!

And when it's raining, we have a completely empty garage to run around in.

Penelope has a very cute and surprisingly accurate British accent that she learned from her English teacher. (She was very excited to start English this year, and I guess she did learn something after all). She and Ruby linked arms one walk back from the wilderness and tried to talk like they were from "1987" (Penelope's year). When they got home they sat in Ruby's room and read Emma out loud to each other in their British accents.

Another fun moment was when Herbie, Moses and Archie all tried to speak German with each other, and then later, when Ruby, Herbie and Linus spoke French.

Penelope and Linus take their language study very seriously, frequently pausing their app to take notes. Penelope even gets her notes out to study Japanese on off days from the summer schedule.

One day at lunch, I took a break in bed while the kids were in the living/dining room. I surprised them by playing some of the youth music through that speaker. That music (or any music) has a powerful and instant effect on Moses. He started from that moment on to be a infallible peacemaker and motivator of his brother's and sister's to do what they're supposed to be doing. He gobbled down his food, started and finished his chore, and spread the news that anyone who finished eating and doing their chore could play with him and his Pokeman cards, the sooner the better---singing out loud all the while.

Archie didn't get to read Frog and Toad or learn German one of the earlier days because he hadn't finished his morning chore in the allotted time. He was very upset, and even more upset when he learned that he got to do his homework from his teacher instead. (This kind of thing makes the first few days exhausting.) However he did much better the days after that.

Oh, and Linus tripped and hit his eye on the stair. He has a nice swollen black eye.

And that's all I have. I hope you're all doing well!