Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Kindergarten, Week 21

     In my last post I mentioned that we were already in the middle of Week 21.  I'm not even sure how we got through that week with all the things I had to cross off of my to-do list, but we did!

     Our week began with a last minute painting party.  We were invited to join other CC families to view the Christmas lights at nearby neighborhood.  Every house in this cul-de-sac goes all out with Christmas lights and d├ęcor.  It's closed off to vehicles so only foot traffic is allowed.  We wanted to do a quick, but cute craft with a couple of friends before heading out and luckily I had all the supplies so we went for it!

      We had canvas, paints, foam brushes and paper plates.  We had one foam brush for each kid, which was all we needed to get paint on the their hands.  Can you tell what was going to happen?

     My son couldn't wait to get the paint off of his hands, which is why his hands are almost clean.  My daughter, on the other hand, couldn't get enough paint on hers!  Below is their finished pieces.

     I baked Chocolate Peppermint Muffins to share with the other families we were meeting at the block display and asked The Principal to pick up some hot chocolate to share as well.  As soon as he got home we headed out.

     We got to our destination and shared our goodies.  This year the weather was perfect.  In previous years every time we've gone to see this Christmas display it's been cold and wet.  No umbrellas required this year!  We even had enough muffins and hot chocolate to share with strangers after our CC friends had their fill.  That was my favorite part.  People were amazed that we were just giving it away when they tried to pay us.  I think it's something we may do again next year!

     A lot of our stories this homeschool week were about sharing the Good News.  I'd like to think that the small gesture of giving away hot chocolate and freshly baked muffins to strangers reminded them about the Christ in Christmas.

     Merry Christmas to each and every one of you!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Kindergarten, Week 20

     Better late than never, right?  Week 20 was a complete blur.  It was also our last week of Classical Conversations before the Winter Break.  The hustle and bustle of the season descended upon us and I have to admit, as busy as it is, I am enjoying myself.  We've attended more holiday gatherings this past week than we have in the past 4 years!

     Our week started with a cookie making party hosted by one of our lovely friends.  It was a delightful time spent with friends old and new, but most of all the kids had a great time making and then devouring cookies.  Plus, they had plenty of time to play and work off all that sugar.  (No, the cookies weren't Paleo, but I'm a little more flexible with treats for them this time of the year.)  The adults spent plenty of time chatting and just enjoying each other's company.

     We attended two more holiday parties a few days later.  One was a gathering of our Classical Conversations community and the other was hosted by a CC family.  Both parties were a blast!  I got to bake too!  I whipped up some Black Currant and Walnut Rugelach, as well as some Pecan Pie Brownies.  This is the time of the year where I get to bake a lot and give it away.  Sometimes I'll have a taste, but most of the time I bake it to share it.

     Oh, and yes, we did school work!  We began a short study on World War II and the human body.  Our study on WWII included the book Twenty and Ten, a short book that gave some insight into what some of the children had to endure during those tragic times.  Our study on the human body was more like review since the kids and I read (and watched) plenty of The Magic School Bus books about the human body and senses over the summer.  It was nice to see how much my daughter remembered!

     That's it for now.  We're doing one more week of homeschooling (we're in the middle of Week 21 right now) before we take our "break".  It's a break from the usual work, but we'll be doing a short and fun study on the Nativity from Intoxicated Life.  I'll also be using math sheets from Blessed Beyond a Doubt since my daughter loves practicing her addition and subtraction.  My son gets to join us as well since this is his last week of school.  We'll also do some arts and crafts and likely some more baking!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Kindergarten, Week 19

     As you may have noticed, I'm playing with the title of my homeschooling posts.  This blog is all about homeschooling and our experiences; I figured it was redundant to keep putting it in the weekly title.  I started putting kindergarten in the title and I'll stick with that for now, since it's just my Little Toughie that I'm homeschooling.  If that changes (or if I come up with something better) then, I'll make another change.

     We took a week off for Thanksgiving and got back on track the Monday after.  We began reading A Grain of Rice, which has become a new favorite.  It was a short and clever story that intrigued my daughter and made her smile at the end.

     Speaking of smiling...I couldn't help but giggle when I saw what my daughter came up with for her history copywork.  With Classical Conversations, the children learn a history fact every week.  I have my daughter write out that sentence and draw a picture for it.  Below is what she came up with for this week:

     What you don't see is the rest of the sentence on the back which says, "aristocrats heads were removed by the guillotine."  When she showed me her picture she said, "See, mommy.  There's blood there because their heads were chopped off."  Giggling ensued.

     We spent a couple of afternoons running errands, so during those busy days we took a very short break and just powered through the work.  My Little Toughie was a trooper and went along with it.  I think she liked the change of pace and the fact that by lunch time school was pretty much done.  (There was at least one assignment she had to complete.)  Our weekend ended with a wonderful cookie making party hosted by one of our dear friends.  We all had a joyful time.

     All in all, it was another good week.  Thanks be to GOD!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pretend Play With a Real Rock Star

     This isn't about homeschooling specifically, but I credit God and the daily Bible studying that we get to do in our homeschool for what just happened in our home.

     My daughter LOVES pretend play.  She has such a wonderful imagination and it was something we could see early on, which is why we happily obliged when she asked to take acting classes.  Every day, there is some sort of performance or pretend playing.  Every single day.

     A few minutes before I began writing this we were in the middle of playing.  Pretend play, that is.  She asked me to pretend that I was a homeless person and that she was a rock star.  I wasn't sure where this was going, but of course, went along.

     She told me that she was going to walk past me and that I was to ask for spare change and then she would lead the rest of the play.  Below is a write-up of how it went:
Me:  Excuse me, ma'am, could you spare some change?
Rock Star:  Well, you can come live with me.
Me:  Live with you?
Rock Star:  I'm a Rock Star and I have a homeless shelter so you can come live with me.  (By the way, she was holding a guitar.  I guess it was to serve as proof that she was indeed a Rock Star.)
Me:  Well, that's mighty nice of you, but I don't have any money and can't pay you.  Why are you doing this?
Rock Star:  Well, we love the homeless.  We care about the homeless and we feed the homeless.  So, you can come live with me and I'll give you food.
     We continued our playing and she provided  me a blanket and fed me.  She gave me hugs and patted me on my back to comfort me.  She'd tell me that there was nothing I had to do when I offered to clean her house or cook as payment for allowing me to live with her.  She gently told me, "No, you don't have to do anything."

     I can't tell you how much my heart swelled hearing all these things come from her.  Her heart is full of pure love and I pray that by the power of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that it will forever be that way.

     She doesn't know it yet, but in God's eyes, she's already a real Rock Star!    

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kindergarten, Week 18

     Week 18 has come and gone and according to our curriculum, we are half-way through our first year of homeschooling and half-way through Kindergarten.  My, how time flies!

     Our week was jammed-packed.  With Classical Conversations, then a Christmas party planning meeting for me, a play-date for my daughter, then my birthday, plus having to help out with a science project; needless to say it was all a blur.

      Let's start with Classical Conversations.  Every week the kids are to prepare a presentation for their group.  This week my daughter shared her experience at Pitfire Pizza (where one of my step-daughters is the GM).  As I mentioned in my last post, there is a pizza making event every week.  On one of those occasions, I snapped pictures of my Little Toughie during the pizza making process.  I loaded them onto my tablet and she shared the pictures, telling the group what she was doing in each one.  The group thought it was pretty cool.  I enjoy that fact that the children get to practice their speaking and presentation skills at a young age and as they continue to do this they will hone those skills.  By the time they reach high school, they'll be able to present anything with eloquence.  I can only imagine how that will permeate their higher education and later, their careers.

     We had a play-date where my aptly named Little Toughie showed she could hang with the boys.  She was playing with twin boys and while running she was tagged just a bit too hard.  She fell, using her nose as a brake. (Gah!)  Her nose was scraped (Pretty good!) but there were only a few tears before she was ready to go again.  I even observed her standing up for one of the twins when another boy at the playground starting calling him a "little girl".  Ever the diplomat, I saw my daughter take her friend by the hand and approach the offender.  I couldn't tell what was being said, but since my daughter is always very animated when she speaks, I could tell that boy was getting a good talking to!  Later, I asked her what she was saying and she said, "I was telling him that it's not nice to say things like that, but he wouldn't listen."  I pray she will always stand up and speak up for herself and for those who can't.

     The rest of the week was filled with a meeting and my birthday plus a science project for my son.  As I type this, I'm waiting for him to get back so that we can finish working on it.  My kids were so excited it was my birthday (I think it was the fact we were all going to have cake, including myself!) and were telling everyone who would listen.  I was getting birthday wishes from people passing out samples at Whole Foods!

     That was our week.  As we head into Thanksgiving, I pray that you are surrounded by loved ones and take a moment (or a few) to count your blessings and share what you are thankful for.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Homeschooling, Weeks 16 and 17

     I missed a week!  I can't believe I did, yet I can understand why.  The days are passing quickly and the weeks are flying by.  My birthday is coming up and then Thanksgiving is exactly a week after.  Between both kids, as most parents know, there's more to do (on top of what is already scheduled) around the holidays.  As a runner turned CrossFitter, I know how to pace myself in all things, but it can still be a lot.  At the beginning of October, all our weekends in November and December were already booked!

      Despite the busyness of this time of the year, we take our time when it comes to homeschooling.  With the Sonlight Curriculum I'm using, there's a lot of reading (which my daughter and I LOVE) and I want to make sure she understands everything she's listening to.  At the same time I don't stress out if she doesn't get a particular concept immediately.  It takes time for things to really sink in and for everything to make sense.  Sometimes, we parents can freak out, especially when we fall into the trap of comparing our kids to other kids.  That can rub off on our kids as well.

     Recently, my daughter caught something at the end of the news (she walked in when it was on) about a 5-year old boy who knew all the countries in the world.  Yes, ALL.  Every single country.  Did I mention that he knew all the capitals as well?  My daughter was amazed and at the same time disappointed with herself for not knowing all the countries.  I had to remind her, and you as well, that we are all blessed with different talents and skills.  I took the opportunity to tell my daughter that God created each and every one of us for a different purpose, with a different set of abilities, and different personalities and that if we were all the same it would get particularly boring.  She was happy to know that God made her special.

     During those times I don't think it's sinking in or that it may be too much, God gives me a glimpse of the work He's doing in her.  This week we finished our Bible study on the Kings (Saul, David and Solomon).  That was a lot of reading and there were different details to the each King's story.  I secretly underestimated her comprehension when she decided to create her own bible and draw pictures to go with each King's story.  She was able to retell the stories, which she so carefully did while on her daddy's lap.

     On the flip side, we squeezed in some fun the past couple of weeks making pizza at my step-daughter's restaurant, Pitfire Pizza (she's the head honcho there).  Every Tuesday she holds a pizza making event and we brought a couple of friends with us.

     This was a perfect outing for us because we got to see my step-daughter (and all her gracious and patient staff) and she got to make pizza plus share a meal with her friends.

     Ah, the simple things!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 15

     We're back!  Since our Classical Conversations class had a break we decided to take the week off as well.  We still did some reading and copy work (and math at the request of my Little Toughie) but we took a break and instead enjoyed diving into non-homeschooling books.  I even had a chance to catch up on a little bit of my own reading.

     Week 15 led us to the story of David and Goliath in our Bible Study.  This is one of my daughter's favorite stories, but she has never learned what happened after that.  While that is one of the more well known stories of David, my daughter was surprised to hear that he had become a king and that he wrote a lot of the Psalms.

     As we start Week 16, she'll learn more about David's love for God and his obedience (and disobedience) to Him.  She'll learn how forgiving and just our Father is.  She always asks intriguing questions as I'm reading these Bible stories to her and I pray she keeps them in mind as she gets older and encounters her own "Goliath".

     That's all I have for this week.  I know it's not much.  We're just getting back into the groove of things after taking a week off.  My daughter is starting to read more, taking in words every where we go and telling me what they are.  She's even writing me little love notes, trying her very best to spell the words without my help.  It's great to see the progress she's making each day.

     Have a great week!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 14

     I know I'm rather late in getting this posted.  My goal is to always have the post up Sunday at the latest, but sadly we had a death in the family.  After years of sickness and struggle, my father-in-law "went to be with Jesus" (as my kids have said.)  Two weeks ago when we heard that his condition was getting worse I sat down with the kids to explain what was going on.  They cried, but took solace in the fact that he was going to be with our Lord and Savior.  As his time here was coming to an end my kids prayed that "he would have a safe trip to Jesus".   They still prayed for healing, but they also knew that he would also be better in Heaven.  Much better.

     Our week went quickly.  We did a lot of reading on missionaries doing God's work and spreading the Good News, which was a good thing considering the circumstances we were in the middle of.  My Little Toughie loves hearing these stories and understands the importance of sharing the Gospel.

     We are also reading House on Pooh Corner, which I find a bit boring.  I was never a big Winnie the Pooh fan, which probably doesn't help, but my daughter seems to like it.  She thinks Pooh is "a little annoying" but she still likes the stories.

     That's all there is.  Have a blessed week.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 13

     This was a hectic week for me.  I was preparing to leave for a Women's Retreat hosted by our church and had to make sure everything was in place for my substitute teacher husband, so that he could homeschool our daughter on Friday.  Also, since I can sometimes be a type A, control-freak I wrote up a "manual" for my hubby.  It was organized by day and went from morning to night.  (Yes, I can be that organized.)  It was really for my benefit; so that I could relax while away. My job is to take care of our kids and run the household; my husband has a job outside of the home, so it's hard to get on-the-job training of the everyday things, which is A LOT!

     Anyway, I didn't have to leave until 11, but had the substitute teacher my husband teach my daughter since I wanted to get a workout in before I left and I had a few last minute things to do.  My husband did a great job and I even got to see them build a teepee together. 

     Our Classical Conversations group is chugging along and doing well.  My daughter is making all sorts of connections to everything that she's learning, even our Bible Studies.  The Classical Conversations Timeline includes significant events from the Bible and we're studying the Old Testament right now, which is right in line with what she is memorizing in the Timeline!  It seems like a lot, but she is such a sponge right now, soaking it all up.

     By the way, my husband did a superb job with the kids and I'd like to thank him for supporting me and taking the day off to run things in my absence.  He has a lot on his plate right now with work and ailing parents, plus a sometimes type-A wife!  I was thankful to be able to attend the retreat.  I learned a lot of things during the retreat, one of which was life-transforming for me; a mom who questioned her purpose here on earth and for God.  I can't say much, but I can say that I got my answer when I received prophetic ministry.

     Week 14 is already under way.  I'll post that in a few days.  Until then, God bless you!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 12

     I can't recall much of our week.  I know there was homeschooling, and we worked on our Classical Conversations facts and ran a bunch of errands.  I workout 3-4 times a week and try to schedule errands on my non-work out days.  I had planned on doing certain errands on certain days, but it ended up getting all switched around anyway.

    Every other week my daughter and I pick a place to have breakfast and do a little homeschooling there.  It's our School Breakfast Date.  I made sure to put everything in her backpack that she would need for that day, even though we were just there for breakfast.  Afterwards, we were supposed to head to Costco, but the coupons we were planning on using didn't go into effect until the next day, which was my CrossFit day.  Instead,  I brought my car for it's scheduled service (I was supposed to bring it in later in the week).  Since I had her homeschool work with us and the waiting area had comfy chairs along with tables to work at, we went ahead and did school at the dealer (it looked like a Starbucks in there!)

     The next day I was able to get my workout done in the morning, homeschool after that and then headed to Costco after lunch.  Since we have a strict budget, I had my daughter add up everything I put into the cart.  I showed her how to use the calculator (and explained that right now it is only used for the purpose of sticking to our budget, not for learning math).  As we were shopping I would point to the price and she would input the numbers.  She did a fantastic job and was happy to help me.  I told her what our budget was and what number to look for.  I asked her to let me know when we where close to or over that number.  As we were getting close (roughly $100.00 away) she would show it to me and say, "Mommy, it's almost there!"

     We ended up over budget because our annual fee was due and I did not calculate for that.  It was supposed to be due in August, but never came up (even during our monthly shopping trip in September) so I forgot about it.  Technically, we weren't supposed to be able to shop in September without first renewing but something went wrong.  Still, we would have been right at our target number had it not been for the fee.  Kudos to my daughter for helping me and I'll give myself a pat on the back for sticking to the list and not purchasing anything that wasn't on it.

     That was our week.  I got to teach my daughter about schedules, even if they do change; about car maintenance and about shopping within a budget.  There's always something to learn and always something to teach.  Thanks for stopping by!


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 11

     I can't believe it's almost October!  Autumn is in the air and the leaves are starting their slow descent to blanket our grass.  This is my favorite time of the year.  Pumpkin flavored or filled delicacies are displayed in every store, even bath shops (they smell practically edible)!  My daughter and I even made Paleo pumpkin custards.  I made Paleo Pumpkin Butter to make Paleo Pumpkin Lattes (there's no coffee, but it's a wonderful Autumn drink to relax to).  Oh, I could digress and wax poetic about pumpkin (and persimmons), but I won't.

     Week 11 was fantastic!  I suppose not being sick was a huge help.  We learned about the Crusades and mammals.  We even learned about parts of the food chain.  My favorite part though was when my daughter once again took it upon herself to do some work without being asked.  I usually have a form ready for her to work on for the Science part of Classical Conversations.  She decided to take a blank piece of paper and make the form and then fill it out.

     Pretty, isn't it?  She didn't label her pictures accordingly, which is what the form would have asked her to do.  Instead she just asked me how to spell the words so that she could put it on her sheet.  When she was done she did point to each word and its matching picture.

     My son is doing well also.  I may not be homeschooling him, but oddly, I'm able to blend a little bit of our homeschool curriculum with the work my son is doing in middle school.  In History, for example, both kids are studying Ancient Civilizations.  Also, my son is currently taking Spanish and is taking the time to teach his little sister.  My daughter listens in when I'm quizzing my son on his weekly vocabulary words and helps her big brother remember their meanings.  I love how they support each other.

     That was our week.  We've definitely found our rhythm and I'm learning what we each can handle.  Much like the runner in me, (runner turned CrossFitter, that is) I'm pacing myself.  I'm learning what I can and cannot do and that I cannot do it all.  I'm finding a way to balance it all and sometimes it means saying no or delegating more.  In the end, I want to make sure that my kids not just learn, but enjoy learning and sharing what they learn.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 10

     Week 10 moved at a snail's pace.  (Ironically, in my last post I said every week passes quickly!)  This week was slow because both my daughter and I had a cold.  My daughter was feeling a bit under the weather Monday afternoon and when we got home from the park, she passed on lunch and slept.  The next day I awoke with a sore throat and immediately knew I was coming down with something.  I was able to go through school work on Tuesday, but come Wednesday I had no voice and my head was throbbing.  We took that day "off".  I gave her history and science copywork and called it a day.  We took Saturday morning to go over the day that we missed and now we're back on track.

     As I mentioned in my last post our Classical Conversations community began meeting.  When we had the opportunity to enroll our daughter midway early Spring, I was immediately hooked on how the kids were learning, what they were learning and the fact it had plenty of parent participation.  It is what opened the idea of me homeschooling my daughter.  I can't imagine it any other way.

     This was our second week of CC.  In Classical Conversations the kids learn what is referred to as a Timeline; points and people in history from Creation to Modern Times.  By the end of the CC year the kids will have memorized 161 events and people in chronological order.  There are fact cards that go along with each event or person listed on the Timeline.  The cards go into more detail about that occurrence or person.  Last CC year I purchased the fact cards but didn't really use them since we started so late.  This year I didn't buy any new cards because I thought we already had all of them.  Unfortunately,  much to my daughter's disappointment, I learned that I did not have the current cards and had yet to purchase them.  She wanted to practice putting the cards in order, as we do when our community meets.

     Since my daughter was so eager to work with them she decided to make her own.  They're like those fact cards of the U.S. Presidents that you see; with the picture and name on the front and the details on the back.  She wrote the name of the event and drew pictures to go along with it.  She made 14 cards because that is how many events we have covered to date.

     That very first card you see at the bottom is one for "Age of Ancient Empires" and she drew a Sphinx, which she remembered is on that particular fact card.  The next one is "Creation and The Fall".  She chose to draw Adam and Eve at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

     I was delighted to see her take initiative and make her own cards.  To me it's a sign that she is enjoying what she's learning and is seeking more.  Plus, I get to see what she comes up with for each card.  I mean, what would you draw for "Babylonians"?

     I've ordered the cards and they're on their way.  While I know she wouldn't mind creating all the cards herself (and she still might do so) and this is a great way to reinforce what she's learning, we'll need the cards for when she gets older and the details on the back become more significant.

     That is our week.  We're starting Week 11, cold-free (mostly) and ready for Autumn!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 9 and CC Week 1

     Week 9 went by with a blur (they all do these days).  This happened to also be our first week of Classical Conversations, which my daughter thoroughly enjoys.  There are seven subjects covered in a short amount of time, not including the Bible scripture they're memorizing.  It goes by quickly.  Ask my child what the 1st conjugation endings, present tense, are in Latin and she'll tell you.  I kid you not.  The children learn A LOT in the short three hours we're there (once a week) and the rest of the week us parents are reinforcing those subjects every way we can.  Through song, play, reading, coloring and drawing...anything we can think of!  It is a wonderful process.

     One of the things we took away from the History part of CC was about Charlemagne (or Charles the Great, a.k.a Charles Magnus).  As suggested by Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood  I recently purchased The Story of The World:  History for the Classical Child to go along with the history we're learning in our CC curriculum (I actually purchased all 4 volumes.)  My daughter LOVED hearing the story of Charlemagne and was excited to hear the part that tied in with the history fact she learned in Classical Conversations.  I love when I can see the dots connecting!

     Even if you're not a homeschooler I highly suggest The Story of the World books.  They teach History in a way the kids can relate to and the stories are long enough to hold their interest and keep them wanting more without be drawn out and boring.  When we finished up the chapters on Charlemagne my daughter was disappointed there wasn't more.

     Our week ended with a project for my daughter that had her name written all over it.  She's such a performer and I knew she would enjoy this one.  We were to watch the news together and I was to point out all the different ways the reporter conducted herself; from the way she clearly spoke to her composure to her eye contact.  Then my daughter had to come up with something in her life that she wanted to report on and deliver it the same way she saw the news reporter do it.
     When we finally got the news turned on we happened upon a piece on eating healthy, where a chef was being interviewed.  She too wanted to do a report on eating healthy which ended up turning into an instructional presentation on how to make a smoothie.  Afterwards though, I asked her to think of an event that she wanted to report on and what she wanted to say so that it would be presented just like the anchors on the news.  She chose to report on my husband competing in the Scottish Highland Games in Long Beach back in February.  She took some time to think of what she was going to say, grabbed a mike and began.

     I didn't record it.  I wanted to, but she was ready to go and I didn't want to interrupt the creative flow by saying, "Wait, wait!  Let me get the camera."  Next time, I'll have it ready and going.

     Anyway, her "news report" was flawless.  She knew exactly what she wanted to say.  She kept herself still (no fidgeting!) and she kept great eye contact.  She spoke clearly and at the appropriate volume.  There were no pauses, no "ums" or "uhs".  It flowed beautifully.

     Like I said, it had her name written all over it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 8

     This week was uneventful yet busy.  Well, I say uneventful but we had one big event:  my son started Middle School (gasp).  I have a Middle Schooler.  Goodness!  I'm very proud of the work he's done.  While there is still more to go, he's making progress; slowly but surely.  We're praying that this school and school year is a good and safe one for him.

     This was my daughter's first week of homeschooling without her brother.  I have to say she handled it very well.  Since The Principal took the day off, he was my assistant during class.  He oversaw recess and even participated in art class.  Here she is using acrylics.

     Soon we're going to play with pastels.  During the webinars I received an e-book on using pastels with kids.  I've never used them, so I'm excited at the prospect.

     Other than that, we're moving along with our curriculum.  She's enjoying all of it, though she likes it most when I read to her during our Bible studies or story time.  She asks intriguing questions and I love how her imagination comes out in those questions.  We were talking about Machu Picchu and how high it was.  She asked if it was as high as a giant!  I explained that giants aren't real, so there's no way for me to know.  I pointed out that if she were to compare the tallest building she's ever seen to Machu Picchu, the mountains would be taller than that.  She seemed satisfied with that answer.  I hope she always, much like me, asks questions.  Not that I question everything.  I just like to learn.

     Next week we start our Classical Conversations class (I'm so excited!).  I get to share that experience with you as well.  Until then, have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 7

     We are back on track after taking last week off in order for me to attend the webinars.  Our week started with a doctor's appointment for my Little Toughie which happened to also land on the last meeting of our book club discussion of The Core.  Unfortunately, I missed out on all the wonderful insights I know the other parents had to share.  Bummer.

     One of the last chapters covered was Fine Arts, which was probably my favorite subject all throughout my education.  One of the questions I posed to our book club participants was how do they incorporate drama into their curriculum?  It's fairly easy to do drawing and painting and even music classes, but to me drama can be a bit harder or something we ignore.

     My daughter takes acting classes.  From the moment she could speak she would put on shows for us.  Whether it is singing or dancing or a fashion show...she has always loved performing.  When the opportunity came up for her to take classes (thanks Groupon!) we chose to give it a chance.  She loved it.  Moreover, her instructor said she was a natural and after only 16 classes her teacher said that my daughter was ready for a show.

     Why am I telling you all this?  Because my daughter is the one who came up with how to incorporate drama into our curriculum.  We had just finished reading My Father's Dragon (a lovely story) and I could hear my kids discussing the book.  My daughter told her brother that she wanted to pretend to be the dragon and that he should be the father.  A light bulb went off and I suggested that they pick their favorite chapters out of the book and act them out for me.

     Not only would they have to recall the what was said in the story, but they would have to remember the circumstances and figure out (with our limited supplies) costumes and settings.
     My daughter took charge and began rummaging through her dress-up box for whatever they could use for costumes and props.  She recalled much of the story and gave her brother his lines.  Then it was time for the show.  I wish I had recorded their performance, but I wanted them to feel relaxed and have fun.  It was a delight to watch and to see just how much they remembered from the earlier chapters of the book.

     So, that's just one way to incorporate drama into your curriculum.  I've read other homeschooling blogs from parents with older kids that would act out moments in history, bedecked in period costumes and with painted backgrounds, all in front of an audience.

     I can't wait to do that!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Plink! Plink!

     Plink!  Plink!

     That's the sound of the small purple glass pebbles hitting the bottom of the a jar I've named the Fruit of the Spirit Jar.  This is something I started doing recently.

     In Galatians 5:22-23 it says, "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."  Whenever I "catch" the kids putting forth good fruit, I put a pebble in the jar.  I don't say anything, but I make sure they can hear the plink.  They usually get excited when they hear it and come running to ask me what made me drop the pebble in there.  I'll explain it to them, emphasizing which fruit of the Spirit they were exhibiting.  Then they look at the jar and try and figure out how many more they'll need to get to the "Let's Go" line.

     The "Let's Go" line is the mark the pebbles have to reach before we go somewhere special.  Nothing extravagant, like a trip to Hawaii (!!), but something outside of our usual weekend routine that we can all enjoy.  I let them decide where to go.  They've chosen a nice dinner at our favorite prime rib restaurant.  (I'm not surprised.  They always get the royal treatment when we go there.)

     During homeschooling, if they're ready for class and work quietly like they're supposed to, I'll drop one or two pebbles in the jar when school is done.  They have to work together to get those pebbles.  They have to cooperate and work hard not to distract each other (which can easily happen when someone starts to giggle.)

     So far, it's working nicely.  There's less whining and tattle-telling and more teamwork!

     Let's go!

Check out some other great ideas for your Pre-K or K kid at:

Friday, August 23, 2013

We Interrupt Our Regulary Scheduled Programming...

Expo 2013 Special Event

     This was supposed to be Week 7 but I had the opportunity to attend The Old Schoolhouse Homeschooling Expo.  There were several topics covered in the scheduled webinars and I wanted to sit in on many of them.  I had just enough time each day to focus on one subject with the kids, squeeze a workout in between sessions, feed the kids, spend some time playing with them and reading to them and then get dinner on the table.  The rest of the time I was attached to my tablet listening to the webinars and learning.

     I learned a lot during the week such as the answer to the question below which I posted on our Facebook page:  "Do you know what C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Sir Isaac Newton and Galileo have in common?  (Aside from being all men, as pointed out by The Principal.)

     They were all classically educated!  Now, that doesn't mean that they were taught focusing solely on classical music (I learned that a lot of people have that misconception about Classical Education.)  To read a brief synopsis about Classical Education click here.  You can also pick up a copy of A Well Trained Mind or The Core (a faster read and one that I've read) for more in-depth information.

     So, what else did I learn this week?  Well, I learned:

  • That while every child learns differently (visually, auditory, or kinesthetically) I should use different approaches to teach my children and not just play to their strengths.
  • I need to quickly decide how I want to teach my daughter reading and spelling (and there's nothing wrong with refining my son's skills as well).  I want them to learn the rules of English and I can't rely on the look-sound-and-say method (which I've done a bit of) or memorizing sight words (which I'm not a fan of at all).  Both those techniques can hamper their language skills as they get older.  I've narrowed it down to two specific language curricula and just need to choose.  Now is the time to start and I need to make sure the program I choose is one that she will continue on since each level is built on the previous.  
  • That I have rights as a homeschooler and that I should know what those are for my state.  (I know them!)
  • It's not too early to teach my daughter to find the conflict, climax and conclusion in every book we read.  After that particular webinar, I asked both kids to pull books that we've previously read and then I read them again.  They thought it was cool finding those parts of the story.
  • The basics for how to write my own book.  Not that I will, but you never know.
  • How to homeschool a child with special needs.  I really enjoyed this one.  While my son will be starting Middle School in a couple of weeks, things may change and I may homeschool him instead.
  • I can homeschool year-round without burning out.  Some families work 6 weeks on and then take 1 week off, along with holidays, so that the kids never experience that summer brain fog.  This sounds appealing to me and I may try it next year.
  • Just because it's in a textbook does not mean it's correct or accurate.
  • The old model of education is to fill a child's head with as many facts as possible; get through the textbooks to simply pass a test and move on.
  • A newer and better model of education is...to teach our kids HOW to learn so that as they get older they can apply those skills to anything, whether it's in high school, college or in their careers.
     I have pages and pages of notes and am thankful that I had the opportunity to listen in on the experiences, professional advice and encouragement.  I was especially thankful to be reminded that my goal, above all, is to train my children to become ministers of the Gospels and disciples of Jesus.

Can I get an amen?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 6

 C-Line Products Reusable Dry Erase Pockets

     This week was all over the place.  Some days I was slow to get around (I was getting over a sore throat).  Other days the kids would get around at a snail's pace (they were being lazy).  In the end, we slowly made our way through our lessons and ended up getting excited about the things we were learning.

     Remember last week when I showed you my son's copywork?  This week I wanted to share with you my daughter's copywork.  Now, I don't always set up her copywork this way but I wanted to try it this week after finding these cool dry erase pockets at The Container Store.
     I liken being in The Container Store to how a child must feel at Toys R Us, "Oooh, I want that and that and that.  Oh, and can I have that?"  We have a very strict budget that keeps us me from buying everything I think we I need.  (Side note:  we use Dave Ramsey's approach to our budget.  Works great!)

     Anyway, the pockets were at our local store and came 5 to a pack for $12.99 (I think.  It may have been a couple of dollars less, but no more than $12.99)  Other parents also use page protector sheets or have blank lined sheets laminated for repeated use.  Basically there are a few options out there.  I've used both of those options.  I even carry laminated blank sheets in my homeschool binder just in case we're out and about and I forget to restock the paper supply!

      Below is the C-line pocket ready for my Little Toughie to use:

     Here she is using a low odor, non-toxic, wet erase markers:

     Here is her finished copywork:

     And, viola!  I wipe it down and it's ready for her to use again:

     At the end of the week I pulled the sheet out and let her write directly on it.  The downside of any dry erase work is the tendency for my kids to get it all over their hands and then every where else.  This may be something that I use more for Geography instead.  They're thicker than page protector sheets but not as convenient since they don't fit into my binder well.  A smaller, stitched edge one with 3-ring holes would be perfect but it seems I'll have to wait until they get that into production.

     On that note, I bid you adieu!  Have a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Get Outside!

     We have recess everyday.  Everyday.  Now, I say it's recess but really it's the P.E. part of our curriculum.  I think recess sounds more fun!  The kids get outside and I either play with them or workout (or try to check something off of my never-ending mommy/teacher to do list).

     I recently happened upon Mama's Like Me and her post about Fun Water Games.  I loved her ideas and found the Sponge Bullseye was one that I could immediately set up (we were just about to head outside).

     My daughter got a kick out of it.

     Please excuse the other chalk mark scribbles.  Our driveway, along with the sidewalk in front of our house, is filled with chalk art.  I recently drew a giant ant that said, "Feed Me!"  The kids on our block think it's funny.

     Anyway, as you can see I used 1, 2 and 3 as points so that my Little Toughie could add up her score for three tosses.  As I was practicing cleans I watched her play and listened to her as she added up her points.  The most she got was an 8.

     What I was most pleased about was the fact that unbeknownst to her, she was doing math work!

     Never stop playing and never stop learning.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Field Trip to the Getty Villa

     This was our first field trip of the school year.  We recently finished our studies on Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece so there was no better place to view artifacts from those cultures than at the Getty Villa.  They even had a special exhibit titled Sicily:  Art and Invention between Greece and Rome.

     We arrived there shortly after they opened and spent three hours there.  It wasn't enough time.  Though we got to see most of it, we didn't get to see all of the special exhibit.  Still, we enjoyed every bit of it.

     I made sure to pack journals and pencils for the kids so that they could sketch any pieces that they really liked.  That's part of the reason why we ran out of time.  Below is a picture of them doing their first sketch.

Sketching Herakles

     I didn't take many pictures but below are a few of them.  Happy viewing!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 5

     This week started a little rough but ended quite nicely.  On Monday my Little Toughie had an appointment with her Urologist (whom she sees every 6 months) and there were many tests given.  Nothing unusual.  The appointment was much longer than I had expected (Three hours!) and then the doctor told us that she was severely constipated and needed to be completely cleaned out.  Without going into too many details, she had to go through a regimen quite similar to what an adult has to endure prior to a colonoscopy.  It was painful for her.  She's okay, now.  That was the rough bit.

     The rest of the week went smoothly.  Sort of.  Both kids had to report to the Principal this week for goofing off in the classroom.  He set them straight.  There were a few interruptions as well, like my daughter coming up to me during my prep time and wanting to make a banjo because apparently everyone needs a banjo!  It was a nice break and I didn't mind getting creative.

     We're 5 weeks in and I'm slowly building more into our curriculum.  Not a whole lot.  I'm just trying to reinforce some of the things we're studying.  For example, the Presidents.  If you ask either one of my kids to list all the Presidents by last name, they can and will (They'll either sing it or say it, depending on their mood.)  To reinforce this for my son, his copy work includes writing the Presidents' full names as well as the continents, since we're studying them in Geography.

What I wrote for my son to copy
His completed copy work

     If you've read The Core, you already know the importance of copy work.  For my son it's especially helpful.  He struggles with keeping his letters neat, straight and the same height.  It's because of his syndrome that he struggles with this.

     When he was first diagnosed we watched a video on Williams Syndrome and I remember they showed a girl, roughly as old as my son is now, and she was asked to name the parts of a bicycle, from the wheels to the seat to the handle bars, etc.  They girl could do it perfectly, no problem.  However, when asked to draw that bicycle, most of the parts were in the wrong place.  It was fascinating (and heartbreaking) to see how her mind just couldn't put it together.

     Now, my son is a big fan of cursive writing and we thank God that he can do it.  I wanted him to go back to printing first, to perfect that before completing his work for me in cursive.  As you can see in the work above, he's coming along very well.  There are days when he's in too much of a rush and I ask him to write it again.  He's not a fan of that, but he does it and understands that I expect him to do his best and that I know when he's not putting that forth.  My husband recently remarked on how much our son's printing has improved, so I know it's working.

     Our week ended with a trip to the Getty Villa.  Our first field trip of the year!  I'll have a follow up post on our excursion later on in the week.

     Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

When Life Hands You An Empty Tissue Box...

     Make a banjo!

     At least that's what I did after my Kindergartner brought her drum and drumstick to me this morning and requested some tape and rubber bands.  I asked her what she was trying to do and she said, "I just need to make a banjo."  I told her that I think we can do better than that and we did!

     Materials Needed:
  • Empty Tissue Box
  • Scissors
  • 2 crayons or small dowels
  • One of those paint stirring sticks (we had a small PVC pipe and used that)
  • 2-3 rubber bands that can fit snugly around the box
  • Double stick tape
  1. Remove the plastic from the tissue box opening
  2. Cut a small slit at the top (short end) of the tissue box to accommodate the paint stick.  You'll eventually push the paint stick (or PVC pipe) through this slit (if using a PVC pipe make x slits that the pipe can push through, like in the lid of a to-go cup).
  3. Place crayons or dowels at the top and bottom of the tissue box (open side).  Use double stick tape to secure it.
  4. Wrap rubber bands around box and over the crayons.
  5. Insert stick.
  6. Rock on!

     My daughter is now playing it making up her own songs.  I just heard her sing one about clouds!

     For  more fun and to take a peek at other Pre-K and K activities head on over to:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Poetry Anthology (The Runaway Egg)

     When Summer began I wanted the kids to get a break from school work but still do something educational and creative.  I decided to help them create a Poetry Anthology.

     We did this by borrowing a couple of books from the library; It's Raining Pigs and Noodles and Where the Sidewalk Ends.  We started with me reading the title of a couple of poems.  They chose the one they wanted to  hear.  I did not show them the illustrations in the book.  Instead, I asked them to close their eyes and imagine what the author was trying to convey.  Then, I asked them to draw what they had imagined.

     Eventually, this led to my Kindergartner choosing to write her own poems (She dictated them to me.  I just typed them up.)  Below is one of her original works, including the illustrations, which I scanned to share with you:

     Eggs and bacon.  You can't go wrong with that!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Homeschooling, Week 4

     Yawn.  That is how our homeschool week started.  My daughter was extra sleepy after a very active Monday.  She woke up late and said, "I'm tired." then laid her head back down.  On Monday we headed out to meet with our Classical Conversations family to discuss The Core while the kids played on the field.  If you are interested in homeschooling or even just supplementing your child's education, I highly recommend reading The Core, now.  While your little ones are still little.  It will make a huge difference as they get along further in school.

     During our book club discussion we covered Math and Geography.  Admittedly, math was not my favorite subject in school.  I was a fan of English and Art.  My husband is a math whiz and I find myself being lazy and turning to him to calculate something instead of taking it upon myself to solve.  That bad habit ends now.  Or, at least I'll try.

     Anyway, the wonderful moms shared some great ways to incorporate math into daily routines:
  • Cooking, especially teaching kids how to halve or double a recipe.
  • Flash Cards (for speed and accuracy)  You can make your own and personalize to your child's level.
  • A deck of cards (or two) which you can use to have your child either add, subtract or multiply as you lay the card(s) down.  I actually want to play this myself.
  • Use a ruler to measure things different things and then either add or subtract the difference (again, depending on your child's level).

     While shopping I give the kids our budget and then as we put items into our grocery cart we add things up and see how close we are to either meeting our budget or going over it.  This isn't easy for my Kindergartner since she can't add yet, but this also serves as a lesson in smart purchasing choices and how to stick to a budget. My son adds things up (with the help of my husband, the walking calculator) and lets us know when we're over our budget.

     Our group also discussed Geography and I shared with the lovely ladies a great website that provided printable maps.  I'm currently working with the kids to help them learn the Continents and their location on a World Atlas.  Worldatlas.com is another source for larger, colorful maps.  We have a map of South America printed out and in my school binder from this site.  Last year in CC, thanks to a delightful song taught by my daughter's teacher, both of my kids have the countries of South America memorized.  There was even a question on Jeopardy last week about South America and my son was able to answer it because of the song (my daughter was napping and missed out).

     That was just part of our Monday.  The rest of the day was filled with activities, before and after the book club meeting.  We were so busy that when Tuesday morning came around, both kids were still feeling the need for rest.  Our school day started slowly (and later than usual).  I could tell that they weren't ready for class, so we took it easy; only doing our Bible study and some reading.  Afterwards, I let them relax.  My Little Toughie opted to draw and this is what she came up with:

     We just finished our study on weather last week and while she didn't have the energy to go over new material that day, I was happy to see that she wanted to share what she had learned with a picture.  She explained to me that the girl got caught in a thunderstorm.

     This is the prettiest thunderstorm I've ever seen!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Homeschooling, Week Three

     This week flew by quickly.  So much so, that I jumped ahead of myself and did an extra reading from Day 4 of our week when we were clearly on Day 3.  Oops!  The kids didn't seem to mind.  They enjoyed wrapping up our lessons about Ancient Egypt and finishing learning about the weather.

     We moved on to Ancient Greece this week and when I mentioned Athens the kids excitedly yelped, "Hey, that's where Paul is from!"  Paul is my favorite disciple and he happened to be the focus of Vacation Bible School for my kids this year.  It was awesome to see them make the connection.

     Our study on the weather ended with making a windsock and a weather vane.  Below are my little students hard at work.

     I love homeschooling.  I was unsure of how it was going to be, but I'm enjoying seeing the kids pick up on the details of what we're learning.  I'm enjoying discussing whatever it is we're learning, whether it's our Bible study, Geography or Math.  If I had to pick a favorite, I would say that I get a kick out of creative writing.  (I guess that's no surprise given this blog.)  This week my daughter had to make up a story based on a picture.  (The picture showed a boy sitting with a simple robot.)  Below is what she dictated to me while looking at the picture:

     Isn't that a great story?  My son was completing reading comprehension work at this time and I was happy to see that he got all the answers right without my help.

     I know this is just the beginning, but I have the feeling that as we move along, even if we hit a few bumps, this experience will strengthen our faith, our family and our minds!