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.

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!

Curriculum picks: 2012-2013

“What curriculum are you using?” That’s ALWAYS the question, right?

Most of us cringe a little because we know that there is nothing magical about curriculum. Any specific product will work for some and it really WON’T work for some. Some will love it, some will hate it. You can educate your child wonderfully with absolutely no curriculum. You can spend a ton of money, or get the same results while spending very little money.

And yet, we ask. I know I do! There are so many choices out there! Assuming you are a mom who is going to use some purchased curriculum, it can be pretty daunting. It’s intimidating to go out into the ocean-depths of curriculum choices, pick something to try, and hope you love it! So we ask… it’s fun to find someone who is trying the same curriculum you are, and see how they are liking it (or not). It’s fun to find someone who is using a curriculum that you’ve read about and are interested in, but have yet to get personal feedback about it. And, it’s fun to find someone who has a good recommendation about something that might meet a need, and they are using a product you’ve never heard of.

I’ve been to two homeschool conventions here in Washington, and while they were very useful, I’ve realized what a tiny percentage of companies are represented at the vendors hall.  Oh, it looks massive and it’s massively intimidating. Yet, there are SO many other choices out there that can’t be at every convention out there. And so, we ask… “What curriculum are you using?”

That being said, here is what we’re using this year:

2012-2013  Preschool (3 days/week)

Calendar time:

Bible: One of the reasons I am drawn to homeschooling is because you can incorporate a Biblical worldview and character training into everything, fully blended into the entire day. I’ve found that my kids ask faith-related questions all day. I love that I can answer their question whenever it comes up, regardless of what subject we’re studying. That being said, there is still a benefit in setting aside specific time to learn what the Bible actually says. To help do that, we attend a Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class in our area.

Phonics: All About Reading, Pre-Reading

Math: Math-U-See, Primer level

Reading: We read stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible, poetry, and lots and lots of early readers.

Art (1x per week): Radom fun things I come up with to do as a special art project.

Science (1x per week): Projects (1-2 per week) from Janice VanCleave’s Big Book of Play and Find Out Science Projects

Geography (1x per week): Making up my own plan using maps on the wall, the books Where Do I Live, Me On The Map, Children Around the World, and National Geographic Kids Beginner’s World Atlas. We’ll be making our own maps of our rooms, house, town, state, country, etc., and learning about a few other areas of the world.

We’re anticipating using a Classical Education model as the kids get older, although I’m not sure if we should start the trivium in Kindergarten or 1st Grade. I LOVE the look of Tapestry of Grace, although I’ve never seen the materials in person or talked to someone who uses it. But, the current plan is that ToG will be the backbone of our schooling in years to come.

*Full Disclosure* – I have affiliate codes embedded within many of the above links. If you buy something after clicking on one of my links, it does help me out a bit. But, all of my reviews and opinions are 100% mine and truthful and I don’t endorse anything I don’t love.

1st Day of Preschool

Today was the first day of preschool at our house.

C was excited, although she was a bit unsure of what we’d be doing… or what it really meant exactly. We had a preschool group at our house last year that had six kids in total and we did “preschool.” But, she was only 3 last fall, so our preschool was very much a “learn by playing” group… we basically learned the Pledge of Allegiance and did a bunch of alphabet-centric crafts. This year, she’s four and I actually want her to learn some academics. Of course, it’s hopefully still fun and includes a lot of playing, but I’m taking it a bit more seriously.

Anyway, all she knew was that our friends weren’t coming, so she wasn’t sure what else would be different. She wanted to still do our calendar and talk about the weather, and to say the Pledge of Allegiance. She wanted to make sure we’d read books and do “activities” (aka – crafts). Check! We will definitely do all those things… plus some phonics, early math, science projects, and geography.

Of course, E is in and around, so it was her first day of “school” too.

They had a great time! There were a few moments of frustration when I wanted her to finish something diligently and she wanted to just skip around move on to the next thing. She’s not used to having to finish a task. We got that figured out (because two seconds later she was done anyway), and was proud of the thing she had been working on. The rest of it was great.

They got to start with an art activity (dot painters) while I cleaned up the kitchen and got ready to start. (They took off all the lids and lined up the paints like this, not me.)

We had our “calendar time” (we talk about the calendar, alphabet, observe the weather, chart the weather, talk about a character trait of the week, and learn a Bible verse), phonics (I’m using All About Reading, for those who are curious), Math (using the Math-U-See, Primer level), then we had a snack and a break (during which she played with E’s manipulative activity), Reading (during which I read a big stack of books to them), Art time (we colored pictures to send off to be transferred to melamine plates). I had tangrams set out for their independent play time at the end while I make lunch, but they wanted to go ride bikes instead.  On Wednesdays and Fridays we’re going to rotate between Art, Science, and Geography. I’m especially excited for Science… I think the projects we’re going to do look like a lot of fun.

I think C’s favorite part was math and playing with the manipulative blocks that our curriculum uses. I think E’s favorite part was playing with the “Ziggy the zebra” puppet that the phonics curriculum uses. She LOVED that thing. I think I’m going to have to keep Ziggy hidden away or he will be gone for good.

All in all, it was a successful morning…I think we all had a lot of fun!