Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Life Skills Week

The public schools take a few days off in early October for "Fall Break". And although I am sure the children (and teachers) appreciate the break, our children had a better idea !!

They decided we would take a week off from "formal schooling" too, but instead of just taking a "break", they wanted to focus on learning Life Skills instead. Charlotte Mason encouraged "Handicrafts", which were not really "crafts" but rather skills to be used in real life -- woodcarving, sewing, repairing of clothing, cooking, weaving, and also many "life skills". What a wise woman she was -- to have seen the benefits of such training resulting ultimately in skilled, accomplished, competent adults !

For a good list of REAL handirafts and lifeskills, check this article by Simply Charlotte Mason.

So, the children have been busy learning the hands-on details (the HOW's and WHY's, if you will) of getting ready for winter. These lessons are great preparation for adulthood, for owning their own homes, for being car owners, and ultimately are great training for being better "stewards" someday.

We washed all of the "millions" (HA!) of windows in this house, inside and out. We used commerical cleaners, dish soap, and just vinegar --- to test the results. (We decided plain vinegar works better than commercial cleaners by far for the inside panes, and that dish soap mixed with water works best outside to cut the grime.)
Everyone took turns learning how to caulk around the windows -- selecting the correct types of caulk for certain projects, how to apply it properly, where to put the beads of caulk, and of course the "why's" were covered too. This house has settled since it was renovated in the early 90's and almost every caulk-line was dried and split -- no wonder it was so drafty in here last winter. HA ! Needless to say, everyone got plenty of practice !

We also caulked around all of the "pipe holes" under the sink cabinets. Cherub 3 did a great job of this (and did not mind having to lean into the cabinets while working either).

We set up the wood rack in the carport and filled it with our first load of firewood for the season. The Chimney Sweep came on Monday to clean the chimmney and to Safety Check the woodstove (and taught many Life Skill lessons to the children while he was here -- the basic how's and why's of chimney cleaning and wood heating).

We removed all of the old smoke detectors, not knowing how old the ones in this house were. (By the way, regular "battery type" smoke detectors are supposed to be replaced every 5 years despite the packages listing 10 years. This is according to the fireman we spoke to about it. Also worthy of note is that batteries should be replaced every year, even if they are still "good", at a designated time to ensure they continue working well. We usually do this at the end of October.) We then installed 12 brand new smoke detectors. (This was an important project for us, after our house fire in 2007. Our smoke detectors were BLASTING when the fire started ! We promise that you can never been too careful when it comes to good working smoke detectors, and there are "proper" places where they should be placed. Please ask your local fire department if you need more information.)

On Tuesday afternoon we lit our first fire in the woodstove. This old house stays quite toasty IF we can get the walls warm before it gets too cold outside -- if the walls are cold (as well as the weather), this house is tough to get "toasty". So, we are trying to get an early start as the nights are getting quite chilly here.

We applied large amounts of weather stripping around all of the exterior doors after removing the old weather stripping -- Cherub 3, Cherub 4, and Cherub 6 really enjoyed this project. Because it was breezy on Tuesday, we lit a candle and held it in front of the "cracks" in the doors to look for drafts ... then we applied new weather stripping, and checked it again with the candle. It is amazing, again, that we stayed warm last winter -- every door was in serious need of weather stripping.

We also rolled a bit of new insulation in the basement and tried to seal up the little windows that are down there. It is tough to "winterize" the basement though because part of it is concrete (floor, walls, ceiling) but a lot of it is just a dirt crawlspace which is open to the rest of the basement. But we gave it our best try. Our children were tasked with finding a few more economical ideas to help winterize the basement -- so we will see what they come up with.

While in the basement, we gave the pipes, wires, power box, and hot water heater a good dusting and cleaning.

We used brooms and mops to brush a year's worth of cobwebs (and dust !) from the exterior of the house. The spiders seem to enjoy building webs along the exterior of the house -- the children giggled that IF we participated in Halloween, we would already be decorated with REAL webs rather than fake ones. HA ! We were able to identify several new kinds of spiders, and tried very hard not to hurt the spiders but only to remove the summer's worth of webs and debris.

We "swept" the ceilings and cleaned the ceiling lights and fans inside the house -- spiders like the inside too. (HA !) DadToCherubs taught the children the basics of how to change a ceiling fixture when he replaced a non-working light with a new one. And he had a whole bunch of helpers, of course.

We scrubbed and dried all of the woodwork and doors -- there is A LOT of woodwork in this house. HA !

We raked up the fallen leaves and hauled them to the garden, where they can rot into the soil for next year's vegetables. This project brought about another big discussion regarding soil -- how to build good soil, what to and not to use, how decomposition works, and more. We will continue this project until the last half of the leaves have dropped.
* The chicken house got a good cleaning, and all of the "rakings" were added to our compost pile. We lined the floor with several inches of wood chips, and stuffed the nest boxes with fresh straw. Oh, and we bleached the waterers. The "ladies" seemed very pleased with the results of our labor. HA !

And we mulched our brocolli plants, that are still growing well, with a heavy layer of straw, as well as our green pepper plants that are still producing pretty heavily. It looks like we might have some fresh brocolli in just a few more weeks, but in the mean while we have to protect the veggie plants from the cold nights.

Beds ... we stripped the "light" linens from all 7 of the beds, flipped mattresses, and then remade each one with flannel sheets and heavy blankets. It is safe to say that ALL residents of Beck's Bounty LOVE their flannel sheets --- it is agreed that they just make the bed so cozy to climb into on a chilly night. (Also worthy of note -- Cherub 6 moved from his toddler bed into a twin bed for the first time -- he looks SOOOO tiny in that big bed now. HA !)

Today, we are touching up the paint on all of the exterior doors and doorways. We are removing spots from the carpet, and we are applying those insulator pads to the backs of all of the switches and outlets in the house. We are also painting the Guest bathroom. this afternoon, DadToCherubs is going to show everyone how to check the fluid levels and filters and tire pressure on both of our cars this afternoon.

We decorated both mantels with pumpkins, leaves, and other "autumn" accents. We also have plans to make a scarecrow at some point this week -- with a flannel shirt, some old jeans, and straw stuffing.

And our final "Life Skills" project for THIS week will be the putting away of the summer clothing, and getting out the winter clothing including hats, gloves, and coats. This is an enormous project, as you can guess, for such a big family. We are planning this for Friday. Once we have sorted the clothing and put it away, we will have a good solid list of "needs" for winter, which we will take on a shopping trip we have planned for the first weekend in November. This shopping trip will entail many "life skill" discussions -- how to "fit" clothing properly, quantity vs quality, budgeting, brands, materials, and more.

We have one more project planned, but have to wait for a Big City trip .... the plan is to make heavy curtains for all of the HUGE windows in this house (right now there are light sheers on nearly every window). The fabric stores are not close by. So when we go "shopping", we will also get yards (and yards and yards - HA !) of fabric to make our winter curtains. Everyone plans to help make them -- as Cherub 1 and Cherub 3 duly noted, "Who needs to spend $20-50 per panel when they can be made for a fraction of the price ?!?!?" (well said boys !)

It is such an incredible blessing to be able to share these projects with our children as part of our homeschooling. We have a great time working together, and as a parent it is comforting to know that someday not too far away our children will be better prepared (skill-wise) to be homeowners than DadToCherubs and I were. I dare say we might be raising more Do-It-Yourself'ers. (HA !)

On Monday, we will get back into our "formal" school work again, and will be warmer and toastier for our efforts. And someday, the children will repeat this process in their own homes, having the skills necessary ... having worked through so many "handicrafts" projects (Charlotte Mason style !) ... what a blessing !


Jessica said...

Good to meet you. I'm Jessica from Arizona. What a great fall break. You make our fall break look worldly and lazy. :) I am motivated to get some things done around this house and teach my kids along the way. Your kids are lucky to have parents who teach them what will help them later in life. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you are doing a fantastic job of preparing your home for the change in seasons, and your children with knowledge they will use for decades to come! KUDOS to you for being so "common sense", and for preparing like all of us SHOULD. You are living the way I dreamed I could live, but it never materialized. . . Bless you for all you do for your precious children!!!