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Category Archives: Homeschooling

Our Week in Review

First, a pop quiz:

Who Am I?

Jackson even had a hard time guessing! He guessed right, but then asked, “Right? At least, I think so.” He can never tell them apart when they are wet in the bathtub, which I think is hysterical! Greg and I can see how they look alike at times, but even we are baffled at the endless “are they twins?” questions from strangers. Thank goodness they aren’t; I shudder to think of the hard work real twin mommies have to put in. I’m lucky that my girls are 18 months a part!

ANYway, our week! Busy! Busy! Add a bit more “busy”! We just finished our second week of school, and things are going much, much smoother! We are in a routine, and the children know what is expected of them and when. It is still hard to juggle London and Brooklyn, but its getting better. So, here are some of the things we did this week!

Dress up! Lots and lots of dress up! The girls are really into this right now, and they alternate between princesses, ninjas, and super-heros.  Whichever they’ve chosen for the day usually stays on ALL day, especially with London. Brooklyn usually just wears it for a few hours and is done, but not London.

Letter of the Week is going really well! Last week was Ee for Elephant. This particular activity has her matching up letter disks to their partner on the page. She LOVES this game, and is very good at it!

The Daily Five is working AWESOME for us! One of his centers is Word Work, and he gets to choose from 5 activities right now to do with his spelling words. Technically he doesn’t have spelling words since we are using All About Spelling and don’t have traditional lists to memorize. I found these lists online and have been using them.

We visited China this week in Expedition Earth! Jackson learned how to write and count to 10 in Mandarin Chinese, how to write his name, how to say “Hello!” and “Thank you”, and learned lots of interesting facts. For fun {yes, fun!}, we made up math problems in Chinese for each other! We read “A Grain of Rice”, which I highly recommend. Jackson loved it! This week is a short week because of Labor Day, and since we only run a 4 day school schedule, we only have 3 days this week. I have to catch up on Science, so we won’t visit South Korea until next week. Instead, we will just keep studying about China and read books like “The Story of Ping” and “Tikki Tikki Tembo”.

Have y’all ever heard of whisper phones? They are great! During Jackson’s Read to Self center during the Daily Five, he can use this to whisper to himself. He is whispering so he isn’t disturbing his sisters while I work with them, but the phone amplifies his voice in his ear, making it seem like he is speaking out loud! It is works great for having kids hear themselves read and creates an awareness of phonetic patterns and mistakes they may be making while decoding without realizing it.

We also play lots of games! This one is a favorite of the kids. Its Bingo by Leapfrog, and comes with several different options. You can do numbers, shapes, colors, etc. Jackson is a good sport and plays along with his sisters, helping them find the right answers.

We also took a field trip to the Children’s Museum with a few of our friends! Usually its pretty expensive, but they were running a summer special of $6 per person, so we jumped at the chance! The children LOVE this place and could spend hours there! When we move closer we may have to get a membership…its a great place to escape the heat and burn off some energy!

On Saturday I celebrated my 31st birthday! We went to Joe’s Farm Grill for lunch and spent the weekend enjoying each others company.

So, on to week 3! Only 33 more to go, lol!

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First Day of School!

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3rd grade and Pre-school.

Let me get this out real quick.

AAAAHHHHHHHHH!

1. I can’t believe that London is old enough for school! What?!

2. I can’t believe that I now have two kids to teach at the same time (deep breaths).

3. I guess it could have gone a lot worse.

For a long time, I was sad that we missed out on traditional “first day of school” mornings. Then I decided that I didn’t want those memories, anyway. I could make better ones that didn’t include me waking up before dawn and rushing around the house in a mad dash to get everyone out the door on time. Ones that didn’t include me bawling my eyes out in parking lots while I left my child behind (even though I know they’d be fine…but still). So, no longer do I miss those would-be memories.

Now, our first day of school mornings include homemade blueberry muffins. Muffins that we wouldn’t have time to make together if we were rushing to leave the house by 7:30. Or 7. Or whatever break of dawn time school starts, lol!

They were delicious. I leisurely drank my coffee, praying my worries away for the day, and took the time to enjoy blueberry covered chins. You could say I was dawdling, perhaps a tiny piece of me trying to avoid the inevitable chaos I was sure to find around the corner. Here is the get real time: I am ALWAYS nervous. It may seem like I have it all together and homeschooling is a breeze and gosh, I must be so patient…nope. Not in the least. What I do is hard, and requires a dying to self almost minutely as soon as the school bell rings. *gulps coffee*.

The first day went as well as could be expected, I suppose. We start off with calendar/ circle time.

We sing a Days of the Week song, a month of the year song, a color rhyme, the weather, today/tomorrow/yesterday, and Days in School. Jackson also does a section on time and money, which he really likes.

After calendar, I get Jackson started on Read to Self, and then get London started on her first activity.

She did awesome! She colored in her tree and traced her letters.

She laced an apple card. This will take some practice for her; in fact, the whole program will. I am going to slowly build up her stamina for learning; right now she worked on her coloring page and laced the apple and that was it for her. She had decided that she was D-O-N-E. That’s fine. Throughout the rest of the morning I gave her random things to do like color puzzles and pom pom sorting.

Brooklyn got in on the pom poms, too. They have little pinchers they use to pick up the balls and put them in the cup. London loved this and sat there for at least 10 minutes. Progress, right?

After Jackson was through reading, we did a lesson from First Language Lessons, and then I sent him on to Word Work. Today, he did “Write and Stamp”. He took his spelling list and wrote the word, then stamped it out. This was a winner; he loved doing this!

I took time to work with the girls while he was doing this. Then we did a lesson out of Writing with Ease, and afterwards he grabbed his Work on Writing box which had some worksheets on “First, Next, Last” for him to complete. This year we are really focusing on elements of a story and different genres, so we are jumping in head first! I LOVE this idea I found on Pinterest, and can’t wait to use it starting tomorrow!

As we go through stories, we will use Post It notes to jot down the various elements of the story. I think this is really going to help Jackson grasp the concepts of good writing and comprehension.

After a lunch break, we worked on Geography, which will be M/W/F (Science is T/Th). We are using Expedition Earth, and this week is studying the globe. Jackson is learning about the Prime Meridian, hemispheres, etc. this week.

Math is this afternoon. I always save it for when the girls are resting so Jackson can concentrate. He starts multiplication this year, which he is really excited about!

Here is a peek at our schoolroom/playroom. It is divided down the center of the room, which I really like. Whoever isn’t in school can play on one side while the other can work. I left it messy. 🙂 You can see our workbox system over in the corner; I am really going to like that! It will take a week or so to get Jackson in the routine of just getting the box he needs at the right time, but it will come together.

If Jackson is working on something where he needs to spread out a bit, the girls sit over here and play. This little table has really come in handy!

Here is a larger image of our circle time corner. The palm tree is for Chicka Chicka Boom Boom; every week we put up the letter we have been working on and read the story. You can see our All About Spelling board to the right of the calendar, our Story Map board, and then the girls workstation to the right of that. On the floor they have little carpets to sit on. Work in progress still, but its coming together!

It went pretty well, I think. I only thought to myself twice about throwing in the towel and giving up, lol! I just have to remind myself that these first few weeks are the hardest, but it will all come together as the kids settle into our new routine.

So, we are off! Is it May yet? 😉

2 Weeks and a Preview

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It’s been two weeks since I left Facebook.

The first few days were hard. Isn’t that sad? But, I’m happy to report that “status update” is no longer part of my mind chatter.

I do miss the people. I miss the support. I miss just feeling like I’m not the only person in my head sometimes, or that no one knows what is going on with us. For example, some of my status updates this week would have been:

“Our garbage disposal bit the dust. It stopped working, we tried to fix it, but we ended up making it smoke and trip its circuit. Not good.”

“Epic Fail: breaking your OWN window when you lock yourself out. We were loud. Cross one off the bucket list.”

“Air conditioner quit today. Bad compressor. Fixed with a “bandaid”, but looking at a $4k repair really soon. Have I mentioned we just fixed the air in our Honda for $1k?”

“I’ve been waiting for Greg’s car to die for years. Check engine light came on. Now, with the new house, we NEED it to keep working. Little Toyota, I’m so sorry I hated you. I love you again.”

This all happened THIS WEEK. Needless to say, I’m riddled with anxiety. It seems like everything is falling at once, and the list of projects is getting longer and longer, while the bank accounts take hit after hit. But here is what is good about not being on Facebook. I would have put those status updates, and that would have been it. Now I’m forced to put it here, and give a real update. The update is this: I am not in control. No amount of stress or anxiety is going to make it better. I need to learn to be content with where I am at and remind myself of our great blessings. We have been blessed beyond measure. While this cheaply built home is driving me insane right now, its a HOME. A fantastic home by some standards. At least we have money to fix our air conditioners in the 115 degree heat; 2 years ago we wouldn’t have. Even if Greg’s car dies, we still have one. Even if all the stuff falls apart and we somehow lose our new home, I will be okay. Devastated, but okay, because I serve a God who is greater than my worries, my pride, my anxiety, and my control. I’m trying to find rest in that.

Enough heavy. 🙂 Because I simply cannot wait any longer to share some of our school room, here is a sneak peak at one of the parts!

This is part of our reading corner! I love how it is coming together, so organized and pretty. The top holds our All About Spelling cards, our build a word box, and a basket to catch random things. I’m going to purchase a file holder to also put up top to hold my hanging file folders for Letter of the Week, Expedition Earth, and any other lesson plans I may need for six weeks. I don’t want to keep it all out, so I’m going to rotate every six weeks. The second shelf hold my supplies bucket (extra manipulatives, craft supplies, etc), our Letter of the Week bucket (to hold our alphabet tiles, magnets, marbles, beads, etc used for some of the activities), and our Art bucket (paint, paintbrushes, modeling clay, etc.) The next shelf holds our curriculum. I found those plastic holders at Lakeshore Learning, and then organized them to hold our supplies. The Readers bucket holds all the books that Jackson can choose from during his Read to Self time, the Read Alouds (which is still mostly empty since I haven’t ordered them yet) will hold all the books that I read out loud to the children, and then there is Math/Science/ Logic and Writing/Grammar/Spelling. The bottoms shelf holds one more curriculum file, which is History/Handwriting/Electives, and then the blue basket which contains all the books we used last year. In our new house, a huge shelving unit is going in the schoolroom closet that will hold everything from past years, which I’m excited for. To the right you can see the CD player where Jackson can do Listen to Reading for any books we may have on CD. I’m going to replace these camping chairs with bean bags. Remember when we were kids and bean bags were cheap? What happened?!?!? I swear, bean bags are RIDICULOUS now. Inflation hit beans hard, apparently. 😉

Today I’m working on our calendar for Circle Time, which means I will have the “Days of the Week” song stuck in my head all day. Have a lovely Wednesday!

Our Curriculum for the 2012-2013 School Year

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Wow.

I really can’t believe that its time to start school again! I’ve been in crazy lady mode as I print/laminate/copy/organize/plan everything; this is the first year really managing TWO kids at the same time. Jackson will be doing 3rd grade and London will be starting preschool. Brooklyn will do some stuff here and there as she is interested!

There are lots of changes this year! I’ve added in new things and replaced things that weren’t working as well. Our schedule has changed and the amount of seat time is different. I’m really excited to see it work; this is the most organized and in control I’ve ever felt, lol!

First things first…my planner. This year I am using the Ultimate Homeschool Planner. I am in LOVE with this thing! I saw it at the conference I attended back in March and couldn’t wait to order it and start using it.

It gives plenty of space to plan for multiple children, which I love. I’m basically running it by listing everything that needs to be done for each subject for Jackson, and then checking them off as we complete them throughout the week. London’s is planned out by day (hence why I added Mon-Fri above her section). It also has monthly planning pages and a yearly planning page.

Now, for the curriculum!

London: Preschool

We are using Letter of the Week by Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler.

While I actually haven’t used it yet, it was super easy to plan because she actually GIVES you the lesson plans for the week! Woo-hoo! All I have to do is print and laminate what I need for that particular week, write what I choose in my planner, and we are good to go! What’s great about using a curriculum like this is the blogger has posts about every lesson and how she did them…perfect for if you have any questions or would like to see how she intended an assignment to go. I have Letter A all printed, planned and ready to go. My goal is to having everything prepared for the entire year for LOTW so I can just grab it and go instead of spending an hour every week getting everything ready.

Jackson: 3rd Grade

We are stepping up our game this year! I am super excited to introduce The Daily Five into our Reading Block routine. For those of you who don’t know what that is, basically there are 5 stations that a child rotates through everyday. Those stations are:
Read to Self
Read to Someone
Listen to Reading
Word Work
Work on Writing

Doing this is going to make teaching two kids at the same time SO EASY! Basically, I will get Jackson started on Read to Self. I will spend some time teaching him how to pick out a book, what I expect of him while he is reading, etc. Then, he will find a cozy corner and read for 20 minutes. While he is doing that, I work with London. I get her started, working…by the time she is going strong, Jackson is ready for the next station. I’ll spend some time with him in a lesson (from Language Lessons and Writing with Ease), then start him on his next independent task, like Word Work. As the year gets started, I’ll do a whole separate post on The Daily Five so you can see it in action!

As for the books he is reading, I’ve chosen Core C readers from Sonlight. I will have to add more throughout the year since he reads through them so fast. We will use Sonlights Core A Read Alouds for our read out loud time.

Spelling: All About Spelling, Level 1. Level 1 we will fly through pretty quickly, so I’m sure I’ll be adding Level 2 and 3 throughout the year.

Grammar is First Language Lessons, Level 2. We loved Level 1 last year, so we are just continuing on!

Writing is sort of the hard one. I’m using Writing with Ease, Level 2 which is great for teaching comprehension, dictation, and narration. What I don’t like is that there aren’t any actual writing assignments. So, I’m supplementing with stuff I find from some of my favorite bloggers on Teachers Pay Teachers. I’ll do mini units throughout the year, and he will have to write everyday as part of Work on Writing in the Daily Five. Out of all my subjects, writing is the one I’m the least confident in.

Math is Math U See: Gamma. This is our third year using this curriculum and we love it! This year Jackson is learning multiplication!

Science: We are finishing Apologia’s Young Explorers Human Anatomy and Physiology. We started this in April and took a break during the summer. We will finish this before the school year ends, and then I’ll choose the next book, depending on what he is interested in at the time.

Geography: We are using Confession of a Homeschooler’s Expedition Earth! Just like her LOTW program, she has is all planned out. London and Jackson will be doing this together, but Jackson will have the country/continent/people group reports. I made their passports this morning…it should be really fun!

Electives: I haven’t added these in yet because I need to see how my day runs with our core. I have Artistic Pursuits for Art and am looking into a Latin language study. I probably won’t add these in until October.

As our year starts, I will blog about each of the elements in our Core, such as Expedition Earth, LOTW, All about Spelling, and The Daily Five; our daily schedule and how I organize my day; and tips and tricks of the trade. I’m really excited to see it all come together!

Switching Things Up: My perspective and curriculum.

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I’m lucky to be able to say that I’ve taught in the public school system. It solidified my decision to not have my children go there, for sure, but it also gave me a huge advantage when it came to teaching my own children. I know, for the most part, exactly what I need to do and when I need to do it. I know what to look for in curriculum, how to adjust my style of teaching across a group of students with different learning styles, how to change things up at a moment’s notice if I need to, and how to research.

Even with all that, though, I still struggle. I still struggle with patience. I struggle with being quick to anger. I struggle with my expectations.

I struggle. It has taken me a looooong time to come to a realization that has been life changing for me when it comes to homeschool: I am SUPPOSED to struggle. Of course this isn’t easy! You know how you pray to be more patient, more kind, more organized, more…everything? If you want the fast track to the Refiner’s Fire…then homeschool. I can honestly say that there has never been a period of greater growth for me when it comes to those areas than since I’ve began the responsibility of teaching my children. Can everyone do this? YES. YES, YES, YES. I am not special…I am just learning. I am putting myself last and them first…and there is never a day where that is easy. Except today, since we went to the pool, lol! 😉

So, part of this whole journey is trying to figure out what works for us. I am lucky. When you teach in the public schools, you don’t get to choose your curriculum. If the school chooses Saxon math, you do Saxon math, even if  you or your students don’t understand it. You don’t like a certain literature book? Too bad, you are doing it. Science curriculum too dry? Too bad. So, its extremely nice being able to use something and stop it halfway through and say, “This isn’t working, lets try something else.”

I got to this point with our Sonlight Language Arts program and our Sonlight Science program. I love Sonlight, I do. But this is why these two parts didn’t work for us. Here is a picture of the “sample” piece of writing that Jackson was supposed to do this week:

from my iPhone, sorry for the quality, lol!

Really? Raise your hand if you have a second grader who can write a story like that. *crickets* Now, I understand that they aren’t expecting this EXACT paragraph, but this is the only sample they give, so its hard to know exactly what they are expecting of a student. It would be much better if they would show the work of other second graders, or give realistic samples!

Also, another issue is that the Language Arts program is tied to the level of Readers (what they can read aloud to you) is. You don’t get a choice. So, if you have a student like mine, whose reading level is FAR above his language arts ability, you have a huge problem. We ended up stopping halfway through and went with a different LA program, which we love. We will still order all our literature (both Read Alouds and Readers) through Sonlight, but we won’t use the LA program.

As for Science, I can’t WAIT to show you pictures of what we are doing! We stopped using Sonlight’s a few weeks ago. This is why: you would spend all week learning about a particular sub-unit, like the animals of the rainforest or something like that. Then, you’d do an experiment on the fourth day that was a completely different lesson that had nothing to do with what you are learning about. So, we’d do rainforest animals all week, and then do an experiment on magnets. That doesn’t even make sense, and it would make it so much harder for me because I’d have to teach an entirely new lesson! So, we now use Apologia and it is phenomenal! I was lucky enough to attend a few workshops led by the author at a homeschooling convention I attended about a month ago, and I cannot speak highly enough of her or this program. Awesome stuff!

We are finishing up our first lesson in Apologia: Human Anatomy and Physiology (one lesson takes two weeks) and I’ll post pictures that show what we are doing. You will LOVE it! 🙂

Side note: For those of you who send your kids to school…make sure to take some time to truly thank your child’s teachers. Most of them spend their own money outfitting their classrooms and buying supplemental stuff. They make, on average, about $33-35,ooo a year (in Arizona, at least) for about 50 hours a week of work, if not more. They are up late every night preparing and grading, researching and printing, cutting and pasting. So, as this school year approaches its end, perhaps bless them! Popular things they love are restaurant gift cards, movie tickets, Starbucks cards, gift cards to your local learning stores (like Lakeshore Learning), etc. A lot of teachers use a site called Teachers Pay Teachers, where they can buy pre-made unit studies, so a gift card/online code would be fantastic as well! I promise you, you will make their day! 🙂

I’m off to make an edible cell with Jackson! Enjoy your day! 🙂

The Holy Week

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What a week! When you believe that Jesus Christ is the living Son of God, and want to impress these truths upon your children, the week before Easter is a busy one. Praise the Lord above that their salvation is not based up my works, but on His grace, but the thought of eternity for your children is a heavy yoke to bear. My constant prayers and never-ending character building means nothing if I don’t take the time to teach. To impress the truth on their hearts. I can not wait for a youth pastor in 10 years to do it, or a Sunday school teacher once a week to do it; it all begins at home, and it all begins now. Yesterday, actually. Or really, 6 years ago when my first child entered this fallen world.

So, what did we do?

I found an amazing, interactive Holy Week calendar on Pinterest a few months ago that a Christian homeschooling Mama called The Domestic Notebook had posted. I pinned it, and luckily had come across it again a few weeks ago. I got everything together, which took about an hour on my part, and had everything ready to go starting the Sunday before Easter, otherwise known as Palm Sunday.

The kids LOVED it! Most of the symbols I made ahead of time, and then they glued them onto our calendar after we studied the scripture and talked about the story. Some of the crafts they made themselves, like the palm leaves, their “watchful eyes” faces, and their praying hands. You will have to forgive my artwork, lol! This was an amazing way to make the events that happened almost 2,000 years ago come alive and real for my children. Jackson asked to do it again next year, so I am going to work on a more permanent version that we can use again and again.

I am also going to change some things up on our permanent calendar, and add newer songs and maybe symbolic snacks to go along with our stories. Thank goodness I have a whole year to work on it!  For the complete list of symbols, scripture, and the original post of this great idea, check out the Domestic Notebook. She no longer blogs anymore, but she has some terrific things in her archives!

Our Days.

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I really can’t believe that its March. I run on an all-year school schedule, so it will be awhile before we are finished with 2nd grade (He is on Week 22 of 36), but still. I’m starting to prepare for London to start a preschool program (at home, of course) and gathering everything I will need to order for Jackson’s 3rd grade year. I’m in full planning mode at the moment, and I’d say that its fair to say that I’ve spent at least 2 hours every night researching and planning stuff for next fall. Next week I’m going to South Carolina for a homeschool convention that I’m so excited for!  I’m determined to have everything printed and laminated and organized before our next year starts in September. Add a possible move this summer into the mix, and I’m a wee bit stressed out.

I thought I’d do a little post on what our days are looking like, currently. After everyone wakes up and has breakfast, we start school around 9 am. London and Brooklyn are usually just playing or coloring, which isn’t working out to well, hence my need to plan better for next year. I’m going to move to a workbox system where each child has 6-10 boxes that they work through over the course of the day. I’m VERY excited about that!  We do Language Arts in the morning (Reading, Grammar, Writing) and History. Then we break for lunch and naps.

After Jackson’s rest time (from 12:30-2), we do Math, Logic/Critical Thinking, and Science. I purposely wait until the afternoon because the house is quiet. The girls are napping and Jackson can focus, plus I can give him one-on-one attention without distractions if he needs help. This usually takes us about 1-1.5 hours, and then he is done for the day.

After the girls wake up, its free time. They read, watch cartoons and have a snack, play in the playroom, or play outside. I LOVE this picture of Brooklyn. She set her doll up, wrapped her in a blanket, and then sat down to read her stories. How precious is that?

We just got these chairs for the schoolroom. London decided that they needed to be their “have a snack and watch cartoons” chairs. Clever gal. We finish up the day with dinner, baths, and lots and lots and lots and lots of books. I’m usually hoarse by the time they go to bed. I gather a stack of books, some that each child will like, and read and read and read and read. After the girls go to bed, I  read the more difficult chapter books that I know the girls wouldn’t sit through to him. Then we read his “fun” book, which is currently a Choose Your Own Adventure book about Ancient Greece. He can play a few games on the iPad, then he is off to bed by 7:30-7:45. Phew! I’m tired just typing it out. 🙂

And here is a cute picture because I just couldn’t resist…

Such a tender little lamb, that one. 🙂