Saturday, March 30, 2013

Week in Review: Spring Break Edition

I had lofty goals of catching up in some areas this week. That bubble burst on Monday. :)  Monday and Tuesday we had friends from out of town visiting and it led to three fun days with them. E got to visit the Thomas Edison home and we all went to the children's museum. Add in some sleepovers at Grandma's and Lego class and it was a great time!







We did eventually get to some science and history...not nearly what I had intended, but we enjoyed it anyway. We had one of those thrill your soul homeschooling moments when we were reading about Martin Luther and the Reformation. I asked the kids what they thought lasts weeks lesson had to do with this week, and why what happened then would have affected the Reformation. E's face lit up as she exclaimed "oh, I know! Because with Gutenberg's printing press, more people could have a Bible and see what it says for themselves!" I could have lept out of my chair in excitement. I love to see passion and excitement for what we are learning, and I love love love to see them make connections!

In science we continued our study of the planets, focussing on the moon and Mars this week, C continues to amaze me as his narrations develop and his comprehension is incredible. We are looking forward to starting a solar system project next week.

We finally finished The Secret of the Andes and started Fine Print, about Gutenberg.

E finished Little House on the Prairie and is finishing up a few books she has started but never finished.

Museums, play dates, sleepovers, good books...so much fun! Other than the kids being bummed about the weather and not being able to swim, (and not doing nearly what I had planned!) it was a super enjoyable spring break!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Breaking Out of the 36 Week Box

I am on a slow journey to relaxed homeschooling. Anyone who knows me knows I am anything but relaxed when it comes to my children's education! The idea of being a relaxed homeschooler really appeals to me, but I have been working on defining what that means to me, for the purpose of our family. 

One of the main things this means to me is not being tied down to a 36 week curriculum. This.is.hard. for me. I like pretty succinct packages of curriculum. I have never bought a fully boxed/all in one curriculum, I have been comfortable piecing it together from the beginning. However, I still liked the idea of using a full year of grammar, writing, spelling, math, history, etc. The problem comes in when a 36 week curriculum starts boxing you in. If you have to "finish" this curriculum there leaves no room for rabbit trails and investigative learning. In some areas, it really doesn't matter. I don't see my children taking all that many rabbit trails in math, grammar, or spelling. ;) But what about writing and history? Especially with history I have felt like everything we have used has been a mile wide and an inch deep. I know that there is a reason for this and history is meant to be an "overview" at this age....however, I am not convinced my children are getting much at all as we graze over everything. 

I want my children to work at their level and their pace, not be confined to the grade on the cover. I want to start looking at things with the mentality of is this a good fit for my child? Not, what grade is this for?

There are a few areas in our homeschool that have gravitated to "do the next thing." The kids are working at a different grade level, or it is not set up in daily "lessons," so we just go at their pace. I have come to appreciate and love these curriculum choices. I feel such freedom in not having to box check and fly through things to complete them in 36 weeks. Need more time on that? Sure! Want to play some games to cement that topic? Absolutely. And I don't stress because we are not getting it "done." A few of these programs are: All About Reading, All About Spelling, and Math Mammoth. I have gradually "broken out of the 36 week box" in the areas of phonics, spelling, and math. We simply gauge progress by moving forward consistently. 


There are a few areas where I am still in the "box." Some boxes I intend to keep closed for now. Some, I am planning next year to bust them wide open.

One of the boxes that broke open this year was writing. We were using a 36 week workbook (Writing With Ease 2) and for multiple reasons, it turned out to not be a good fit and I abandoned the workbook for the Writing with Ease text where I picked our own passages for narration, dictation, and copywork. I am embarrassed to admit, this was really hard for me! I plan to even further venture off the planned path next year when I will be implementing a Writing with Ease/Brave Writer combination.

History is another area I am breaking out of the box next year. This has been challenging as well. I and the children absolutely have had a wonderful year with Biblioplan, and leaving it has caused major fretting! However, I think two years of US history will fit in great for my kids ages at the time we would be doing year 3 and year 4 of the classical cycle. I am planning US history for next year in units. A list of books and activities and read at our own pace.

Breaking out of the box makes me nervous! It may seem silly to many who are naturally relaxed, but I am freaking out a little bit! ;) Now, I am not completely dropping scheduled curriculum. I have no desire to plan science, so we will stick with our 36 week schedule (though I will say it never gets done as is.) I seem to be more relaxed about science than anything else, so not "getting it done" or skipping things here or there does not affect me like in other areas. Even in history, I am rather confident in choosing a spine, adding in readers and read alouds, and just having fun with it. The content subjects grant me some freedom. I plan to stick with a scheduled grammar (First Language Lessons) as it is only 3 days a week, and it has been pretty flexible for us.

Skill subjects . . . Oh goodness... this is so hard for me! It is easy to follow a plan like All About Spelling or All About Reading where we just do the next lesson (or part of a lesson) and then when you finish the book you move onto the next level. I do wonder sometimes about grade level and if we are "on track" but I simply remind myself we are going at the pace my children need and to not worry about where they "should" or "shouldn't" be. But sometimes, that is hard to do!

I think my biggest angst of breaking out of the curriculum box comes in writing. It is an important skill area that I do worry a little about messing up. However, I have solid resources, and I plan to try it and see how it goes. I really want to integrate writing across the curriculum and make it fun and natural.

Fun and natural. That is how I want learning to be. I am very much not an unschooler, but I want to be relaxed and enjoy my children enjoying the learning process. So. . . I am breaking out of the box!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mid-March Update

Well, I get an epic fail on blog updating lately!

After a chaotic January and February, March is turning into a very productive enjoyable month of homeschooling! (We so needed it!)

I am working hard at getting out of the 36 week curriculum box (post to come on that!) and we are progressing at a steady rate, yet taking time to enjoy the schooling process.

March highlight reel!

Weather has been beautiful, and we have been taking advantage with some park schooling! 
(great solution for mom's with preschoolers!)

Was gifted free tickets to Disney on Ice! So much fun! 

We studied about the Mayas, Incas, and Aztecs, Spain, and Columbus in Biblioplan. They were super interested in the part the where the Aztecs discovered how to make Hot Chocolate!


A field trip to a local nature center/planetarium

We took advantage of a free online class with Supercharged Science. 
The kids loved learning about aerodynamics and airplanes
J decided she was ready for "formal" preschool. 
What's a mom to do when a 3 yo produces tears if she can't do school?!?
J started All About Reading Pre Level and love it! Especially Ziggy the Zebra. 

We have a few more weeks left of our Lego Engineering Class. 
It has been a highlight of the year for E and C.

I love it when timing works out perfectly! We were invited to a field trip to see replicas of the Nina and Pinta  which just happens to be the exact place we are in history right now! Love it! The kids really enjoyed it, and made history come alive. 




 Easter party and egg hunt with our homeschool group

What's new in the school room?

C completed All About Reading 1 and has started level two! He is doing so well!

E finished All About Spelling 3 and has started level 4. 
C completed Handwriting without Tears K and is doing copy work for the rest of the year. 


Current Read Aloud:

And next week...Spring Break! We are not taking an official spring break because of the chaos in the beginning of our semester, but we do plan to take a few days off and only do a little on the other days. We do need a break, and are so ready for some spring play! Park, pool, movies, and games! So ready! Spring is in the air! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Week with Biblioplan

(This is an old post I had yet to post, so this is from several months ago. Hopefully, nonetheless, it will give the feel of a week with BP.)

Biblioplan has been a highlight in our homeschool this year, and I thought I would share what a week with Biblioplan looks like in our home.


Monday: We usually listen to the SOTW 2 chapters for that week (audio) while coloring the coloring page.
This week we listened to SOTW chapter 10 and 17b-- Japan and Samurais. They colored the coloring page of a Shogun and a second page of a kangaroo. Even though we skipped Australia, they love to color. (The Australia chapter was also scheduled for this week, but I thought it too much so we skipped it.) The kids were especially interested in the samurai chapter and I drew katana's on construction paper, a book of haikus, and E practiced writing a Japanese character. E picked 3 facts to narrate from the SOTW audio and I wrote them for her on her coloring page (this is what we call "lazy notebooking!" ;) C cut out his construction paper katana and went to work being a Japanese Samurai.

Wednesday: We usually read from Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, the Companion, do the Cool Histories and geography.

This week we read several sections from the companion: Mysterious Myths: Izanagi and Izanami, Fascinating Facts: Samurai Armies, Fascinating Facts: Samurai, Fascinating Facts: Bushido. Surprisingly my kids really like the Companion. I like it because it gives me the "big picture" while allowing me to give only small pieces to my children. The pictures are great and viewing it on my iPad is wonderful because we can zoom in on all the great pictures and illustrations. The Companion gives great lead in to good discussions.

Next, We reviewed the relevant questions from the Cool Histories, and did some of the geography. We used our wall map to see where we are studying. They found Japan, China, Korea, reviewed the seven continents, and the five oceans. We also skimmed the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, looking at pictures and information that interested them. We finished up our time by reading from Sam Samurai.

Friday: Friday's usually cover anything from the companion we didn't get to, review Cool History questions, and do a project. The Craft book from BP came out later so I have been using many of the SOTW Activity Guide projects. This week we reviewed the Cool History questions, but skipped the activity from the Cool Histories which was make Tanzaku's. The Craft Book selection: hold a Japanese tea ceremony we will try to get to soon. My kids were still really interested in Samurais and swords, so we made wakishazi's out of cardboard. We finished our history time with reading Sam Samurai.

Sword fighting at Grandma's!




Writing: We do narrations from our reading, and occasionally use the BP writing selections. This week's writing suggestion was "explain what is it like to be a Japanese Samurai." We didn't write about this, but we did discuss it. We came across the topics of Haiku's this week, and E wrote three Haikus and illustrated them.
It was a lot of fun.

Readers and Read Alouds:
Biblioplan allows us to have 3 days of "history," but I also have E read from a reader every day. (We alternate between readers that tie into history and other Sonlight readers). We also do a read aloud every night that often ties into our history studies. Not every read aloud ties into history, as we want to cover other great literature selections. So far we have found wonderful engaging read alouds from the time period that really enhance the learning experience.

This week I started having E read Sam Samurai as a reader, but the vocabulary proved frustrating for her so we started reading it as a read aloud. Most of the time we have a history reader and read aloud going, but this week we are finishing up The Tale of Despereaux, and E is reading a non history reader this week. The option lit for this week was Yoshis Feast. I never made it to the library this week but we will try next week!


Looking for more? Check out these other posts about Biblioplan!











Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Justa" Homeschool Mom

I heard a great message this weekend aimed at children’s ministry workers. The speaker encouraged us to never think that we are “justa” Sunday school teacher or “justa” nursery worker…that we are called by God for His purpose.

I know I have been there. Someone you just meet asks you what you do. A laundry list of thoughts run through my mind before I say, “I stay home with my kids” or “I homeschool my three littles.”

I KNOW the truth. That being a stay at home mom is the highest calling I could fathom, and the most difficult. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be with my children every day and guide them in the building of their character and academic education. I DO believe it is an amazingblessing. I believe that not one of those college and seminary classes was wasted. I KNOW that. And most of the time I feel that. But, sometimes? Sometimes I give in to the thought that I am “justa” homeschool mom.


It’s in those times, when I question and wonder, and even doubt, I must remind myself of God’s calling.

Hear, O Israel:The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on yourgates. Deut 6:5-9

I am NOT “JUSTA” homeschool mom. I am called out by God for a specific purpose. That purpose right now is primarily fulfilled by glorifying God in raising my children in godliness and homeschooling them to rise up and impact the kingdom of God. I get the blessing of teaching them as we rise up and as we lie down. I am called just as Moses was called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. I am called just as Joshua was called to lead the Israelites into the promise land. I am called just as Rahab was called to hide the spies. And Jonah was called to warn the Ninevites. I am called for His purpose not mine.

Ten years ago this was not my dream. I had a completely different plan for my life. However, so much of that is just geography.

The heart of my calling is the same. To live passionately for His glory, leading others to the Father. And it starts in my home. I am thankful to look at those called before me—Moses, Rahab, Joshua, Jonah…. Moses was “Justa” whiner with a stutter. Joshua was “justa” youth. Rahab was “justa” prostitute. And Jonah was “justa” coward. I am happy to join the ranks of the “justa’s” that have been called by God to do great things in His strength. Thankfully, just like those “Justa’s” before us, God constantly refines us into the person He wants us to be. No longer a “justa,” but a child of His called according to His purpose.

"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in
You will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" ~Phil. 1:6

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Stop the Ride!

Stop the ride! I want to get off! Those were the words I spoke to my dh last Friday. And those words explain why I have been absent from blogland the last couple of months. After a family tragedy, a missions conference, a week of teaching ESL, a tragedy adventure I have nonaffectionately named the licecapades, out of town family visiting, and numerous other events of both positive and negative nature. . . I am getting off the ride! 




We have been schooling, but in the midst of chaos there have been far too many weeks of just getting the basics of math and LA done. We are having a history heavy week this week and trying to catch up on some read alouds. Next week we will do the same with science.

A few highlights from January and February!

Math:
C finshed RS A in January and began MM1


E began MM 3A

LA: E just finished All About Spelling 3 and started AAS 4 this week. We dropped Writing With Ease 2 in January in favor of using the WWE text to implement writing across the curriculum and mainly using narration/dication/and copywork from our current read aloud. (I am still trying to get my feet under me with this.)

E is loving using the Kindle Fire in homeschooling. I have loaded games and videos, but also just put on Writing With Ease passages, and First Language Lessons so she can follow along on her own and use the PDF annotator when applicable. She loves it!


History and Science: oh goodness we are behind here! I am currently trying to make it so we can finish in May but not rush through anything...all while still trying to enjoy the ride! (yeah, not easy, but I am doing my best!)


We had a trip to the Orlando Science Museum which was a blast! 
C particularly enjoyed the Star Wars exhibit.


We visited downtown Disney while in Orlando and went to the kids Orlando faves: 
 T Rex Restaurant and the Lego Store! 


Always the gymnast! 



C started Upward basketball, and LOVES it!!!


A trip to LegoLand and the County Fair. All three continue to be adrenaline junkies!!!


A few dance parties on the table and counters...I mean, why not?!? 




AND J TURNED 3!!!!!!
Happy Birthday J!!!!



She was excited for her pony/camping birthday party!


Her aunt made her a crazy awesome cake! 


The kids were in a commercial for their Papa's company...


Phewwww.... a whirlwind start to the new year! I was more than ready for some structure and stability this week, and am thoroughly enjoying it! You should hear some more from me as I dust off my blog and join you all back in blogland! I have missed it!
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