Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Graham was excited to decorate his gingerbread house for Advent this year.


Since big brother was feeling under the weather, it was pretty much a one man show. Which is EXACTLY how he wanted it.

I threw out the kit frosting and broke out a can of the good, spreadable kind. MUCH easier for letting little ones stick candy in here, there and everywhere at their leisure. And, it hardens pretty much the same way the kit frosting does, but it takes a bit longer.

The finished product...

I have a perfect spot for it in Graham's room. And, since his tree has a candy theme, it fits in perfectly! Too bad he wants to lick it every night before bed though...

Monday, December 13, 2010

more advent

Tonight we did my favorite advent activity so far, bubble baths! I told both Isaac and Graham that I had something special for them. I locked the door to the bathroom and filled a bathtub with bubbles for them, lit some candles and turned on some Christmas music. When I brought Graham in (he was first), his eyes got the size of quarters and he looked around in amazement. He couldn't believe it was just for him! It was the sweetest thing I have seen in a long time! Isaac loved the extra special attention too. It got me to thinking about servanthood, which you can read about here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Double click to enlarge

I feel like this is the first time, maybe ever, that I have actually ENJOYED the Christmas season! From financial stress and strain, trying to get everything done, and managing major life transitions like having a baby or moving, The Reason for Christmas usually gets overshadowed with life's "stuff."
Our advent tree has really helped me (forced me) to stop and enjoy the little things throughout the days leading up to December 25th. I am the sort of person that needs a structure to follow, otherwise I tend to be undisciplined. Having the "structure" of an advent tree gives me a blueprint of sorts for taking time with my family. Here is a list of our advent activities: (I missed the first two days of December)
December 3: Make Christmas crafts with the REACH group
December 4: Go see Santa!
December 5: Family game night
December 6: Make paper snowflakes (I had no idea there were so many different ways to make them until I googled it!)
December 7: Make pipe cleaner candy canes
December 8: Make Sugar cookies (see photos above!)
December 9: Dress fancy for supper (Isaac will love this one!)
December 10: Watch Polar Express and stay in jammies all day
December 11: Go to a movie as a family
December 12: Make a snowman or go sledding
December 13: Candle lit bubble bath with Christmas music
December 14: Make a gingerbread house
December 15: Awana Christmas party
December 16: Go caroling with REACH group
December 17: Graham's Christmas concert
December 18: Celebrate Christmas at Aunty Mel and Uncle Doug's!!!!
December 19: Read a Christmas book
December 20: Make Jesus a birthday cake
December 21: Make a paper chain garland
December 23: Christmas with mom and dad!!!!
December 24: Christmas Eve...head to the Farm!
December 25: Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I have always wanted to do something to celebrate Advent with my kids. Each year, the month of December slips by in a flash, and before I know it, Christmas is over and I feel like we didn't really "savor" the season and its meaning. My kids are usually just left with a huge pile of toys and some accompanying post-Christmas greed. This year, I want to at least try to enjoy the Christmas season for more than just the presents it brings. I recently put up an advent tree in our homeschool room. This is compliments of Confessions of a Homeschooler.

Each day in December, Isaac picks an ornament off the tree and we will do the corresponding activity on the back. Some activities are ideas that I got off of the Confessions blog, and others are my own. Here are a few of the activities: watch polar express and stay in your jammies all day, go Christmas caroling, dress fancy for supper, take a candle-lit bubble bath with Christmas music, make a snowman, make a paper chain, make a gingerbread house, help wrap presents, go to a movie, family game night, make a birthday cake for Jesus, etc.
I am really looking forward to it! Photos to follow...
Tonight I took inventory on our progress so far. According to my count, I need to pick up the pace if I want Isaac to be finished with his curriculum in mid-may! Starting in January, we will be doubling up on his writing lessons every day, as well as fitting in at least a couple of extra phonics lessons per day. I am not sure how we got "behind," but I do not like the idea! Also, I want some flexibility for illness or outings this spring.
Happy Advent everyone!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Progress: the first two months of the 2010-11 school year.

When you are homeschooling, sometimes the progress is almost invisible. It's sort of like when your kids grow. When you see someone you haven't seen in awhile, and they remark, "Wow, they have really gotten taller!" you are a little surprised because you didn't notice. It happened so slowly, that it was almost invisible. So it is with teaching your children and watching them learn. Sometimes, I want to pound my head against a wall because it seems to be so pointless. Other days, I swear they would be better off in school. But then, I get those glimpses of moments when I am absolutely amazed by the progress. I stop and consider where we were last week, last month, last year, and I am proud. Proud of my sons for learning and working so hard and proud of myself for having the diligence (through Christ) to keep going when the days are so long and seemingly fruitless. Isaac is really excelling in math this year, which is a complete surprise to me. He is almost done with a full level of Math, and is almost ready for the next. Reading has been a little slower, but I have been making myself remember where we were even at the start of school, and he has progressed substantially. He is reading brand new material with very little help, and his expression is improving. His reading comprehension has always been incredible. Even when he was poking around at every other word, he was understanding what he was reading (even when I had long since tuned out!). We are still working on accuracy. Isaac does better with sounding out words in the context of the sentence. Again, this could be the reading-comprehension thing. Right now, I am really trying to drill home long and short vowels. He has weeks where he is better with long vowels, and weeks where he is better with short. I suspect that eventually it will all come together for him. He has also expressed interest in reading alone, which is the first time he has done this. He asked me to purchase star wars early-readers for him (which I did) and he said he wanted them in his room where he could read them alone. Writing progress has been a bit slow. The A Beka curriculum starts out with cursive in first grade. Isaac was doing fine with cursive, but I noticed his printing was really lacking, so I decided to go back to printing until after Christmas, and then we will pick up cursive once again. We have done several unit studies. We have studied Ancient Egypt, Dinosaurs, Knights and Castles and we are currently doing a study of the human body. Some of Isaac's lapbooks (click to enlarge): I am also enjoying working with Graham on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. We do our work when Isaac needs a break. I have also been doing mini-unit studies and lapbooks with him. We did "Mrs. Wishy Washy" for a week, where we learned about clean and dirty, how to wash our hands, and what things belong in the city versus the country. We did a lapbook on "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" also for a week, where we did story sequencing, comparing sizes, and we did lots of other fun stuff (there are lots of learning possibilities with this book!). We also checked out tons of other Eric Carle books which we have been reading at night. Graham is currently doing the human body study with Isaac and I, and his lapbook components are obviously geared to a pre-school level. Some of Graham's lapbooks: Today, I traced each of their bodies on paper (I knew that old seamless paper from my photo sessions would come in handy someday!) and they got to decorate them any way they liked. Thank goodness Graham did not use primarily red, otherwise his would have looked like a crime scene. Isaac has been doing really well with scripture memorization for AWANA this year. He recently completed the 23rd Psalm:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

More on lapbooks

Lapbooking is my new obsession...I am still trying to figure out a way to make it less for my enjoyment and more about Isaac learning something. But, I have to say that I think it is really fun. Lapbooks are basically a scrapbook (using a file folder re-configured about a thousand different ways) of any topic of interest. It is a nice way to preserve facts that you learn about a topic, and is fun to look back on. The first lapbook we did was on Ancient Egypt, which was an online unit study that we used, along with other things that I had.

In this two week unit study, Isaac learned about the pyramids, made a mummy, learned a little bit about the religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, studied the life of Moses in the book of Exodus (in detail), studied the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis (both stories obviously having much to do with ancient Egypt), made a copper bracelet and book and learned about heiroglyphs. To cap off our unit study, we watched "Prince of Egypt" and "Little Joe" (veggie tales), which are about the lives of Moses and Joseph respectively.
In our American History class, we are learning about the symbols of the United States. I had Isaac pick one of the symbols (the Eagle) that he wanted to learn more about, and we did a brief two day unit study and lapbook about Eagles.
Here is my favorite place to find downloadable lapbooks.
Our next two week unit study, chosen by Isaac, will be on dinosaurs and fossils...should be tons of fun!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

lapbooks and lesson plans and unit studies...oh my!

So, being a "newbie" to this whole homeschooling scene, I didn't realize there would be a whole education language that I would need to identify myself with. Not ever having had a child in the school system, or having any education in teaching per se, there have been lots of things that I have had to familiarize myself with. Honestly, I didn't even know what "unit studies," "lapbooks," or "workboxes" were until fairly recently! What I have realized is how much all of these things can add to our homeschooling experience!
Recently, I decided to incorporate unit studies into our workbox system (whoa...I am getting REALLY complex here). I made a list of a ton of topics that I knew Isaac would enjoy studying (i.e. ancient Egypt, the continents, the rainforest, and on and on). Because these things are not part of our core curriculum, I decided to make them part of our workbox system. That way, we can feel free to spend as much or as little time as desired on each topic. I had Isaac pick what topic he wanted to study first, and he chose Ancient Egypt! What WONDERFUL resources are out there on the internet for this topic. It is almost overwhelming!
I happened to have a book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Ancient Egypt activities for children, so I have mostly used that this week for our unit study. Isaac got to make a mummy using a doll (should have been a Barbie, but we don't have any of those around here! So, Bob the Builder had to take one for the team), toilet paper, tape, oil and salt.

He also got to practice writing his name in hieroglyphs, and did some drawing Egyptian-style.
Next week, we are planning to delve further into the Ancient Egyptian world, and we will be making a lapbook (our first) on Anciet Egypt.
My mom told me once that homeschooling would eventually become fun for me, that it would be akin to my scrapbooking hobby. I didn't really believe her, and until now, felt like it was pretty much just another thing on my long to-do list. This year, the light has come on for me, and I am truly enjoying this process!

Some musings on our school year so far...

This year for homeschooling, I set out to make it an easier and more productive (and relationship building!) year for us. Last year was my first year "formally" homeschooling, and it was pretty much awful! I was stretched too thin with my photography business, I didn't know what I was doing when it came to teaching my son, I didn't really love my curriculum, and I felt like we just survived most days. This year, I made several intentional changes. First, I have really, really tried not to over-extend myself in my business. I have found myself making a few exceptions here and there, but for the most part, I am trying to adhere to my boundaries of how much I know I can handle. Secondly, I have determined to make it my priority to focus on my relationship with my boys, and their relationship with their Heavenly Father first, and academics second. That REALLY helps the frustration level when I feel like Isaac isn't trying hard enough, or isn't understanding something.
Thirdly, I found a couple of choices for curriculum that are much better suited to the way my brain works (thus, allowing me to more effectively teach the material). I cannot say this is the end-all of curriculum choices, as I may enter different seasons of life that call for adaptation. But, for now, this is working for me.
Fourth, I have decided to try to stop comparing myself to other people. There are things I am good at, and things I struggle with (like everyone else!). Effective home-schooling is not based on my abilites (thank God!) but what Christ can do through me if I am willing.
Fifth, I am taking a K.I.S.S. approach to nearly everything this year (Keep It Simple Stupid!). For example, I deliberated about the lesson planning software and spreadsheets that are available for purchase. At one point, I was really close to investing in some pricey software to help me plan my academic year. Then I realized that it would be COMPLETELY unhelpful for me based on how my brain organizes itself. I came up with this handy dandy little system for myself:

I printed pages for each day of our school week with places to write what I wanted to do for each subject, followed by workbox number 1-6 listed on the bottom so I can quickly grab whatever I need for each workbox at the start of the school day. I laminated each sheet so that I can use a dry erase marker to fill it in on Sunday night at the start of each school week. At the end of the week, I just erase it and start over! Easy!
Another thing I decided to do (at least for now) is to go to a four day school week. This allows me to keep Fridays for a day Isaac can help me clean house or run errands, or for a "catch up" day if we lagged behind during the regular week. I can also schedule newborn sessions on Friday as I need to.
Last year, one of the most difficult things that I had to manage came in the form of a two year old! This year, I made the decision to send him to preschool two mornings per week for two hours. This does not seem like much at all, but believe me, it is just enough time to give Isaac and I some really quiet, concentrated time together, and it's also enough time for Graham to have a blast making some new friends and learning new things. I have finally gotten past the point of viewing this decision as "giving in" or one that makes me a lesser homeschooling mom. HOW RIDICULOUS and how self-absorbed! I need to do what is best for my family and myself!
I am also doing school with Graham on the days he does not go to preschool and will be detailing more about that in future posts.
Overall, I attribute my clarity to my Heavenly Father. I know that he blew away the fog that covered my brain last year and helped me to get my act together for this year.
I commit this year entirely and completely to Him!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Our homeschooling room 2010-11

Double click the first image to see large. The carpet is coming out and being replaced with heavy-duty laminate sometime soon...can't wait!

my manipulatives storage...they make me happy to see them all organized on the shelf!

My homeschooling/scrapbooking closet (scrapbooking stuff is currently at my sister in law's house). This thing took me a week to organize. Take a look at my toy bin organizer thing that I scored at a garage sale for $5. It is empty now, but I have big plans for it.

Our workbox system:
To the left of Isaac is boxes 1-6. After our together teaching time, he must complete each box in order. Most boxes contains work he must do independently, but there may be a box or two he needs help with.

When he is done with each workbox, he takes the numbers off the box and puts them on these strips. It helps him feel like he has really accomplished something (like checking something off of a list).

Working hard on cursive this year:

Being crazy:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I have been completely immersed in my homeschool room this week. I have been organizing, going through things and trying to figure out how to make my homeschool room as user-friendly (and Graham-proof) as possible. I am feeling so much better about the upcoming school year than I did last year. I am sure every year that passes, I will feel a little more knowledgeable and confident than the year before (at least I hope so!).
I have been trying to solidify a schedule for our school days. Here is roughly what I have come up with:

School time with mom:
1. Pledge of Allegiance
2. Bible time (using A beka Bible curriculum and AWANA material)
3. A beka Reading and phonics work
4. Developmental Math
5. Rotate: History, Fine arts/Music, Geography, Science

Workbox Time:
Complete workbox items 1-6 on own unless otherwise specified.

I have been working on what I will be using for Isaac's workbox this year. Here are some of the things I am thinking about: Art projects, Leap pad, Games, Computer, Listening to an audio story or story read by mom, worksheets, Manipulatives, excersise, legos, watching "Planet Earth" series.

I have made the decision to send Graham to preschool for 2 hours two days per week. This will help me to have some concentrated time with Isaac and I think it will also be good for Graham to have some friends his age. I feel a little bit uneasy about sending him, so it is on a trial basis only. I have a few behavioral issues with Graham, as he is my strong-willed child! I am also hoping that preschool will help him to widen his view of authority figures and to recognize that he must submit to authority in all areas of life to be successful.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Whew! It's been a long time since I have posted anything here. We have been in summer mode around here...lots of fun and unstructured time. Although I dread the start of winter anytime soon, I am ready to get back to regular routine. There is comfort in that, and my kids both do better behaviorally with structure.
Next week I am planning to use most of the week for planning and getting our homeschool room in order.
Here are some of my goals for the upcoming year:
(1) keep focused on why I am homeschooling (relationship with my children and relationship with Christ) and not get so side-tracked on stress and achievement.
(2) Isaac reading strongly by the end of the year
(3) Graham having a strong grasp on preschool concepts--numbers, colors, shapes, etc.
(4) Isaac doing addition and subtraction comfortably
(6) Isaac on a daily chore system
(7) Isaac participating in TKD, AWANA, gymnastics, possibly something pertaining to

Monday, May 17, 2010

An Unexpected Education

Yesterday, Isaac had an accident--his eye met the handle of a bike:

We spent the afternoon in the ER. On the way home, I was pondering what an educational experience our emergency turned out to be. Without intending to, Isaac learned all sorts of useful things throughout the afternoon. Some of the things we talked about included:
*The flow of hospital duties: admitting, triage, X-ray, visiting with the doctor and discharge.
*X-rays and why they need them
*We looked at the pediatric trauma chart together while we were waiting for the doctor (nothing else to do!) Isaac was very interested in why the portions of the child's body on the picture on the chart were numbered. We talked about that. We talked about the pediatric pain scale and why doctors need to use this in their assessments.
*We talked about the differnce between stitches and glue applied to a laceration.
*We talked about how important all the different jobs people have are, from admitting, to nursing, to ambulance drivers, to doctors. We talked about how God can use all these different jobs to help us during our emergencies.
*On the way to the car, we got to see the Lifeflight helicopter land. We talked about what Lifeflight does, and why it is important.

ALL of this happened COMPLETELY by accident. Believe me, I wasn't going into this day with the goal of turning it into a field trip. Most of it happened just because Isaac was asking questions and was interested in it, and I wanted to find a way to keep his mind off of his owie!
It amazes me how "school" can happen just about anywhere, and under any circumstances!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Great Find!

I was at Sam's Club last night and found this super cool book for Isaac called "The boys Doodle Book." They have other versions as well--one for girls and one that is generic for everyone.
The book is filled with the beginnings of drawings which are to be completed by the child however they choose.

He was super excited about it and started drawing in it right away. The only down side is that it is hard to keep open while drawing in it because it is such a thick book. So, I think we will take it to Office Depot and have it spiral bound for him.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Our Oak Tree

Our Oak Tree finally has a little bit of spring foliage! So fun to see the photos from a few weeks ago and the transformation it has begun!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

We are beginning to do read-aloud chapter books. The one we are currently doing is called "Snow Treasure" which is a true story based on children who saved $9 million worth of their country's gold from the Nazis in WWII by smuggling it out on their sleds.
This summer, we plan to read "My Side of the Mountain"

as well as "Charlotte's Web,"

and "Indian in the Cupboard"

Monday, May 3, 2010

Well, we are finishing up our school year. I have found that the art of homeschooling has much to do with letting go and praying you did a "good enough" job. I know we are only talking kindergarten here, but there are so many foundational things that we did this year. I hope what we learned will serve as a good foundation for the things to come.
I would like to do some fun things with Isaac this summer, including reading a book that would be enjoyable for him. One thought I had was to do the book "My Side of the Mountain," which is a story about a boy surviving in the wilderness. I think that would be of interest to him, and I know there are tons of resources out there that compliment that book.
I will also be getting our workbox system ready to go this summer, as well as reorganizing our homeschooling space to be a little bit more user friendly.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We have been winding down our school year around here. We have completed our curriculuum for the year, so I am trying to find ways to use up the rest of the school year. Unfortunately, school has taken a major backburner this week to a ton of other things I have going on...busy, busy, busy.
Isaac mostly needs practice reading, so I have been having him read out loud to me while I am working on things.
I recently changed my blog title to better reflect my philosophy on home priority is relationship with my children, and finding joy in that relationship, while homeschooling. What a joy and blessing it is to have my babies with me all day every day!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spring study

I have recently stumbled upon a great resource for nature study resources here
We used some of the free downloadable worksheets to do a nature study today.
Isaac had to identify four signs of spring and record them on his worksheet. He noticed the grass turning green, the plants starting to grow, the buds coming on the trees and the sound of birds chirping.

Then we talked about the three primary types of clouds, and he identified that the clouds in the sky today were cumulus. We recorded today's weather information.

Lastly, we began our seasonal tree study of the Oak tree in our backyard. We saw that the buds are just starting to form, and are a bit behind the buds on the tree in our front yard. We will take another photo of this tree in a few weeks and compare them.