The end… so soon.

Well, I barely started this blog, and am ending it already. Well, sort of…  It’s just moving. I showed hubs a couple things I wanted to do on it, and he said it would be easier if I had my own domain and we hosted it ourselves.

So, this blog is ending and moving to www.WithBrokenCrayons.com.

Join me!

The not-fun art project

Today I was given a good reminder that our school isn’t always going to be “roses and rainbows.” Even if I try to plan things they will love, they won’t always love it. I’m sure a bit of pride is involved. I’m sure some part of me wants the kids to finish their schoolwork, and come running over with big hugs and tell me “that was fun mom, thanks!” Obviously, that doesn’t always (or even, often) happen.

Today, I planned what I thought was a fun art project. Painting with toilet paper rolls.

I thought it looked like fun, but C wanted to stop after one picture (usually she would do 2 or 3). E was crying because she thought we’d be painting with brushes, and she didn’t think this was really painting. Perhaps C was more interested in just playing. That’s probably the case…and tomorrow she will ask to do this again. Either way, when it was done, she told me that it wasn’t fun.

In the end, she was done with one picture and then wanted to go play trains. Ok.

 

A fly on the wall

Do you love peeking into other people’s life and just seeing what things look like at their house? Well, here’s a day in our life…

For the last couple weeks, I haven’t been so good about getting up on time and sticking to our schedule. I felt it and the kids felt it. Our last subject of the day (art/science/geography) wasn’t always getting done. We pretty much have until lunch time, and then we all feel DONE. Then, we have lunch, the kids play a bit, and they both still have nap/quiet time.

For our independent post-breakfast time, I planned lacing cards and marble scooping. They didn’t care at all about the lacing cards, but had a great time playing with the marbles.

After the dishes were done and my coffee was made, we started our calendar time. Our memory verse from last week’s BSF lesson is “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering.” (Genesis 4:4) and our character trait this week is self-control.

Then, we moved on to phonics. C starts by finding the letter of the day (today was ‘N’ in our All About Reading book) on our alphabet chart and board of magnet letters. I like doing the magnet board as well because the letters aren’t in order (or even in line) so she really has to know what she is looking for.

We did our ‘N’ reading from the Ziggy the Zebra book. Instead of doing the provided craft sheet, I wanted C to do some extra tracing/drawing practice. C practices writing her letters each school day and I know she has trouble with her Ms and Ns. She doesn’t like to stop the lines…they just keep going. Anyway, I wanted to give her some fun writing practice besides just doing letters. I printed out a few  of the ‘N’ things from the preschool curriculum I got from Confessions of a Homeschooler.

E got busy with stacking sponges, a toddler activity I got out for her when she need a distraction.

We got out Ziggy to finish our phonics lesson. Today, we started teaching about words that are made up of two other words, like cupcake, airplane, etc. It was interesting though… if I told C the words ‘cup’ and ‘cake’ and asked her to combine them into one word, she really couldn’t do it without a pause between words. But, if I asked her to tell me which two words were in ‘cupcake’, she could do it without a problem. I don’t know what that means in her brain development, but I thought it was interesting. The kids LOVE LOVE LOVE Ziggy. They go bonkers trying to hug and kiss him.

We had a snack and did our math lesson, all about circles today. We did math on the couch, which C thought was pretty good, and then we just stayed put for reading time.

At this point, I was really tired. My eyes were closing. I was so tempted to just be done, but it was time for science. I knew they would love our projects today, and I want to be diligent and do a good job. I’m trying to train myself to think of this as a job (in some ways, not all), and unless I’m really sick, do my best for my kids. So.. it was time for science!

Today we learned about “forces”. Our questions today were “I wonder why boats float?” and “I wonder why I have to wear a seatbelt?”

We sank balls of play dough in water, and then made play dough boats that floated on the water to study how their shape affects them. Then, I made boats out of foil that would last a little better in the water.

For the “objects in motion” lesson, we took a car and drove it down a ramp. Then, we did it again, but put a pencil in its path and saw how the pencil stopped the car from going. Then, to explain seat belts, we put a play dough blob ( our guy) on the car. I explained that that was like riding in the car without a seat belt. We ran the car down the ramp, and when it hit the pencil, our guy went flying off because nothing was holding him to the car. To put his seat belt on, we squished him in more so he was hooked into the windows of the car (the books said to tie him on with a ribbon, but we just squished). He went down the ramp, hit the pencil, and the guy stayed attached to the car.

The fun thing about doing science last is that C continued to play with this for about an hour after, while I worked on toilet-training with E, and then made lunch. She kept putting the play dough man on the car and doing it on the floor… pushing him into walls and furniture, and me.

And that was our school morning! Honestly, when we are done, (if it has gone well) I still feel like giving myself a round of applause. I’m wondering if that will wear off and when.

What did you do today?

She Has A Magnetic Personality

We’ve been working through our science book (Janice VanCleave’s Big Book of Play and Find Out Science Projects), and have been having a fun time!

We especially loved our first day playing with magnets. We talked about how magnets stick to metal, how they are attracted to each other. I colored a couple of dolls onto a paper, with paper clips taped to the bottom, and set her on top of a shoe box. It was fun to drag a magnet underneath the box and see the doll move. C loves picking up paper clips with the magnet.

Our box of magnet supplies have turned into one of her favorite toys; she plays with it almost every day.

I knew our science book looked like fun, but I was a little surprised to discover that it’s probably C’s favorite part of school.  She loves science day!

Why I am homeschooling

I don’t have one sentence that sums up why we’re homeschooling, just a long list of what attracts me to it. I should start by saying that I don’t know how committed we are to homeschooling. I love the idea of homeschooling.

I can see homeschooling all the way through high school, but we’re going to take it year by year. I think that’s wise. So far, my husband and I are in agreement about homeschooling the first few years, and after that… we’ll have to discuss it. Although, I was recently looking at the Tapestry of Grace scope and sequence and started reading through it with my husband. He got so excited! It sounds so fun, and he was really impressed with what they would be learning, and the logic behind the classical education method. His eyes lit up, and I think he could envision doing this for a longer-term solution for our family. But, we’ll take it one step at a time.

Here are some reasons that I like the idea of homeschooling my kids (in no particular order):

Family and sibling bonding – Life get so busy, even with just a few activities going on. Instead of being away, separate, and apart, I like that our school time would be a time of togetherness. I like that instead of taking away from family time, it is a fun thing we do together.

Kids to feel valued -When kids are very young, they figure out “What do I think of me? What do they think of me? What does God think of me?” They learn the answers, take it as truth, and then defend it in later years. I want to make sure that the teachers my kids have for huge parts of the day are loving them and building them up with God’s truth for those answers. I want them to really know how valued they are, that they are a beautiful child of God, and that He made them perfectly according to His plan. You would hope that that would be the case for all teachers, but I’ve already seen that it’s not. Nobody really sees and knows my kids as well as I do, and I want to be able to show them all the wonderful ways God made them. Even if the teacher’s are Christians, I’ve seen how busy teachers just don’t always SEE my kids accurately. Sure, they might know my child is a loved Child of God, but that specific teacher isn’t going to treasure my child and her gifts the way I do.

Christian Education, all the time – In the last year or two, I’ve been amazed at how many conversations about spiritual things I have with C… at any time and all the time. It has really hit home that you can’t plan a set time when she will have questions about God and her faith. Her questions come up at random times, and I want to be able to take advantage of those questions and answer them fully, and correctly! Of course, I’m excited to put together a curriculum plan that is from a Christian Worldview. But more than providing correct Biblical facts, I’m excited to offer my kids a chance to explore their personal faith, and talk about it whenever they want. They can’t get that at a Christian private school.

Ability to slow down or speed up - I love that we can slow down or speed up as needed as needed. From my childhood, I have a lot of memories of being bored. I would finish early, and then either I got in trouble for talking, had to help other kids around me with their assignment, or for one year in particular… I was tasked with taking assignments to the kids in principle’s office (which, for the first time, was the year I made friends with the bad kids!). As I got older, there were huge gaps in my education in history and science. It seemed like all of my classes were either too slow or too fast.

Mastery approach – Similarly, I love the idea of a mastery approach to the lessons… where you just sit with an idea until the child has it, and THEN you move on. It makes so much sense to me. During high school, I had one math teacher for two years that I really liked. He ran his class such that you got points for doing your homework and it all had to be turned in by the test, but it wasn’t actually graded. I loved it. Then, my junior year, I was put in a class with a teacher that actually graded each homework assignment the next day. I could not fathom how that made any sense in a high-level math class. Sometimes it might take more than one night to really get the concept, and it seemed so unfair to me to get a lower grade just because you needed a couple days to understand the concept. (In the end, I fought the system and got switched back to the 1st teacher’s class.) I don’t believe that every student has to excel in all levels of study (not every kid needs to learn physics or even go to college), but if you are going to teach something, why not make sure they learn it?

Unit studies based on interest – In homeschooling, I love the idea that you can plan times do just do a unit study to explore a favorite topic or new interest. I know that some families do unit studies all year-long. Even if we follow another plan for the rest of the year, I like that we could pick a week or month periodically to explore an interest. I think it would be really great to do a big unit study in February when the winter blahs set in.

Classical Education- I’m really interested in the classical education model. When I’ve read about it, I wish that I had had a classical education. There is so much logic in the trivium. I love how all of the humanities area layered together and studied in the order of historical events (I’m trying to find a science curriculum that I can layer in as well). I love how the cycle of history is repeated as the child grows.

Flexible Scheduling -I think it’s great that we could decide what schedule works for our family during the year. I like that when we get burnt out, we can fit in a break. I know some families that keep a schedule similar to the public school kids nearby. I know some that  do school year round, and some that do a six weeks on / 1 week off schedule. As for vacations, I think it’s awesome that we could travel when everyone else is in school.

Incorporate trips – Speaking of travel… I really love the idea of traveling as a family and incorporating our trip into our school plans. We hope to do this a good amount domestically, but also to save up and go to a few international destinations as well.

Kids feel part of one team – In my experience, when kids go to school, they identify so much with kids in their grade or level, at the exclusion of other grades/levels. As this plays out, it affects sibling relationships as well. My friends and I could not (would not) be friends with our siblings and their friends, even though the age difference was not great. Conversely, I’ve seen many homeschool families where the siblings are on the same team, and as a group, they have friends that they all play with. Of course, everyone needs alone time and some separate interests, but I think that overall, I think that homeschooling provides a better sense of togetherness.

No homework - This is one of my biggest perks. I love that evening time is family time – no homework! I spent so much of my highschool days bored… doing nothing, yet spent hours at night doing homework. When are kids supposed to see their dad? I like the idea much more that you get your schoolwork done during the day and then the family decides together how to spend the evening.

Protection  – I think that in our culture today, kids are pushed to grow up so fast. Girls are over-sexualized and exposed to inappropriate things far too young. Of course my kids will be exposed to some things in the world that I wouldn’t choose for them, but then we can help explain things to them. My bigger concern is with the groups of kids, with too much free time, and too little supervision. When I was young, I went to public schools… “good” public schools. Being in a good school district was important to my parents. So, we were with the “good” kids in “nice” areas. Regardless, we live in a sinful world, full of sinners. I dealt with sexual harassment starting in the sixth grade. In the seventh grade, I remember sitting in science class listening to the three girls around me talk… a lot (we didn’t do much in that class at all… really, it was sort of a free period). They were very sexually active, and also left at home alone for the weekend pretty frequently. They sat in science class and went on and on about all the details. We were 12 or 13. From then on, it just got worse. What was once shocking, became normal. In high school, I remember hanging out in the choir room, and as we waited for class to start, the conversation next to me was about all of the places on the school campus the couple had been together (yes, been together… on campus)… and the number of times (yes, the number – they counted).  So much of the focus of school was about who was with who, who wanted to be with who, and who did what with who. I just want different for my girls. Sure, they will see and hear things sometimes that I don’t approve of, but that’s different than being in an over-sexualized environment without parental influence for eight hours a day.

Be a witness out in the world, when they are ready, under the parent’s shelter – One of the reasons why I think going to school DOES make sense is to be a light in a dark world. Christians shouldn’t stay sequestered and safe. I think that’s true. BUT, I want to be really discerning about when my kids are ready to be a light outside of their parent’s shelter, for eight hours a day. Sure, my kids are out of my supervision for periods of time now, but they are short and I know who they are with and what they will be doing and learning. Of course, I can foresee this length of time growing as they get older. I cannot fathom a five year old being out of my influence for 20-40 hours a week. Looking back on my education, I remember lots of things that were said in passing that were wrong, immoral, politically (very!) liberal, etc. and I didn’t understand enough about it to mention it to my parents. Nothing that was said was BIG enough to come home and talk about, but overall, I spent each day being told things as truth that I know now my family didn’t agree with. If a child has been taught by the family what is true, and they are able to understand, analyze, and defend it, then I think they are well-trained and ready to go be light and fight a battle. Until then, I think they need to take baby-steps into the world… never too far from their parent’s shelter.

A pat on the back

We’re over a month into our homeschooling, and it’s fun to look back and see what was a good idea and what wasn’t…  what we need to tweak and what has worked better than expected.

I tend to be very hard on myself and not give myself enough grace. I’m working on that, and as such, I’m trying to recognize the “wins” and pat myself on the back when something works well. So, I’m patting myself on the back today.

My big concern for our morning was the window between breakfast and starting our school time. I really need to clean up my kitchen at the beginning of the day. I didn’t want to let a mess sit until lunch. Sometimes my kids are good about playing independently (and happily) after breakfast, but sometimes they are clingy and need more structure and supervision. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to pick which kind of day I’m going to get.

I read somewhere about a mom who always started her day with a fun crafty type activity for her kids to dive into, and it seemed to make the rest of their school morning go well. I’ve read similar things… one who made her kids start with something physical (they’d all go run or walk before school), or one who always set out paints or drawing things on the breakfast table.

My plan was this: after breakfast, I would have an artsy/crafty activity pre-planned (and ideally, mostly set out) that they could do WITHOUT me, in another room, while I cleaned up the kitchen and made a latte. It’s been such a wonderful part of our schedule, and I’m so proud of myself for knowing what would work for me and my kids. C looks forward to the special activity, and they always play so well… happy and quiet! My goal has completely been met. It completely starts our morning off on the right foot, and she doesn’t mind sitting to do other schoolwork for a while. It worked so well… I think I actually cheered for myself after the first couple mornings when I saw how well it was working.

Here are a few things we’ve been doing…

Dot-to-dot paints:

Play with baking soda and vinegar (the food coloring aspect of this made me a bit nervous, so I keep a pretty close eye on them this day):

Playdough with some laminated picture mats:

Paints in ziplock bags:

Cutting and gluing construction paper to make a fall leaf:

Marble painting:

Painting (at a table near the kitchen):

What things have you done that work especially well for your family? Do you start your morning off with a “special” activity, or do you jump right into school work?

We joined a co-op… and went on our first fieldtrip!

We have a friend who is in a homeschool co-op. I joined a bunch of those moms to a recent women’s conference and I really enjoyed my time with them. They invited me to join the co-op this year. We’d be able to join in on the field trips, and we’d have an early start date, which would help us next year (or any time in the future) to get priority for sign-ups and classes. And, it’s pretty inexpensive to join! It sounded great to me. I’ve wanted to do a lot of field trips this year, but planning them and scheduling them is a bit stressful to me, even though that’s slightly ridiculous. So,we signed up and joined our co-op on our first field trip… to the pumpkin farm.

Overall, we had a great visit to the pumpkin farm. We went on a tour with our group, got to play in a few areas, went on a hayride, picked out a pumpkin for each kid, they got to ride on a little tram thing, and then more play. We ate on the on the way home and had really late naps, but it worked out.

First field trip = success!

It was interesting being with the big group… our first co-op experience. Honestly, it was a little frustrating. I thought that our group was too big for their tour, the farm should have broken us into two groups. While I normally think that the multi-age aspect to homeschool groups is beautiful, it actually made it hard in this instance. There weren’t too many little kids, I’m guessing that it’s because the tour really ran into nap time for most people. I generally found that the bigger kids were pretty rowdy and not considerate of other kids around, taking turns, etc. Pretty much for each station we went to on the tour, it was either way too crowded for C to enjoy, or for a few things, she just didn’t get a turn at all do to the thing she wanted to do. In the couple areas that she didn’t get a turn, either the tour leader wasn’t looking out for littler ones who were waiting for a turn, or she couldn’t get the older kids to even look at her to ask them for a turn.

C and  E left pretty sad that they didn’t get a turn to pet the kitties, and C was really disappointed that she didn’t get to play on the bouncy/inflatable horse toys. For the kitties, it was hard… there were just a lot of kids and not enough time. All the big kids crowded around and my kids were waiting so nicely for their turn. Unfortunately, the tour guide wasn’t good at managing mixed ages of kids, and didn’t look for any little ones before putting the kitties away. For the bouncy horses, it was sad… C kept trying to ask the big kids for a turn, but she couldn’t even make eye contact. She was trying so hard, but couldn’t get a turn. The sad thing to me was that there were plenty of parents there… every family had a parent. But, none of the parents really saw what was going on, or bothered to step in.

My kids are pretty reserved; they are observers. In big groups like this, I end up feeling like I have to teach them to be pushy and demanding if they are going to get to do “the fun thing.” Obviously, I don’t want to teach my kids that. Especially at this young age, I want them to feel valued and loved for who they are.

Still, the field trip provided good lessons. It’s ok to learn that you don’t always get a turn. You aren’t the most important person and it isn’t all about you. Getting what you want when you want it, isn’t the goal of life, and we should think of others first. It’s ok to be last, miss something, or not always get what you wanted. Those are lessons kids need to learn, but they are hard lessons. It was a hard talk on the way home.

It wasn’t a total bust. C had fun doing the things she did get to do, and overall, had a great time. We also had a good time, in general, with the other kids, and I enjoyed talking with the moms. But, we had some hard lessons too.

I’m curious to go on future field trips and see what if the experience is the same. Was the tour just too full? At a bad time of day? Or will they all feel like this? Only time will tell.

What are your experiences with co-op field trips? Does my experience sound typical or unique?

Is Preschool Necessary?

Most of my public-school friends send their kids to preschool without second thought. At least in my area, it’s thought of as a necessary step of education. For sure, all the kids go to four-year-old preschool, and most three-year-olds do as well.  We actually sent C to a church preschool last year for three months and then pulled her out. Yes, we were preschool drop-outs.

Most homeschool families I know, roll their eyes when you talk about preschool. Actually, they are probably nicer than that. Without a doubt, most of the vendors I’ve talked to a homeschool conventions roll their eyes when I ask them about preschool.

Here’s the thing I’ve come to realize… preschool is not necessary. I truly believe that an “outside” (at a church or school) preschool is just fine for your child to do, but it is not really for them, it’s for the mom! I don’t think that’s good or bad, it just is what it is. Kids at three and four mainly learn by playing. Their brain will keep growing, and they will keep discovering things, just by growing older and having lots of time to play and explore. They can do this anywhere… at preschool or at home! I think the benefit of “going” to preschool is that mom either gets a chance to have a break, focus on school with older kids, or spend some bonding time with a younger sibling. It isn’t for your kid, it’s for the mom!

As for homeschooling, the more blogs I read, the more I made an observation. The moms that said “don’t worry about homeschooling preschool… just let them play while they are little!” Well, those moms are already home, maintaining a daily school routine and schedule with their older kids, and it’s easy for the young one to play or do age-appropriate activities side-by-side with the rest of the family.

But, C is my oldest. For the first child, it’s hard (to me anyway) to get into a homeschooling routine. Doing formal “school time” with her has really been much more about me than her! (So again, it’s about the mom, not the kid.) I didn’t have a routine before. The kids had a lot of free play time, and if they drove me a bit too crazy, we’d go out and do errands or shopping or something. C had lots of workbooks and other fun things I got to do during the preschool years, but I often found myself not pulling them out because we’d go shopping instead. I needed to get us into a habit of being home, and doing constructive things. I try to still offer lots of independent, free-play time, but it’s within a structure and routine.

Also, C LOVES “schoolwork”. She loves any sort of worksheets. She adores crafts and special things I’ve planned like that. She really wants to learn her letters and numbers. So, I felt I may as well take advantage of her interest!

While it isn’t necessary, it has been good for ME, C is having fun, E is having fun, and I think it’s been a good decision for us!

The schedule

For this year, we’re doing preschool for C (age 4), with one tag-a-long two-year-old. We do preschool three days a week, and go to Bible Study Fellowship twice a week. Well, one of those days is for a leaders meeting and the kids have a multi-age play group. On our class day, the kids go to an age appropriate class that is excellent.

Here is our (goal!) schedule for the year for our school days:

7:30a         I’m ready for the day and get the kids up. This is the hardest part. My kids are not morning people! But, it’s our latest mornings of the week, so there is no big sense in letting them sleep a long time.

8:30a        Breakfast is done, the kids start their “independent arts and crafts” activity that I’ve planned for them while I clean up the kitchen, do any last-minute preparations, and make myself a latte.

9:00a        Calendar time, which includes the pledge of allegiance, weather charting, calendar discussions, character trait discussion, memory verse, and alphabet review.

9:30a        Phonics

10:00a      Math

10:30a      Break and snack

11:00a      Read-aloud time

11:30a      Rotate between art, science, and geography

12:00p    Independent game time – an activity or game I’ve planned to set out while I prep lunch… or they can go play with whatever they want.

And that’s the current plan! I’ve found that it’s all contingent on getting on time, and starting on time. Otherwise, we start really late and run out of time (and attention for) the art/science/geography portion.

What does your schedule look like? Do you have one? Any suggestions for me?