Thursday, December 6, 2012

On the Road

Grace-girl- she always wanted those eye thingies.  And no, she didn't actually sleep.
Our adventurous little family recently embarked on a 3000 mile road trip from Oregon to New Mexico and back again.  I could start a new blog for this topic, but I'll restrain myself. As you can imagine, we spent a lot of time in the car.  Here are a few things I learned, in a nutshell!

1.  Make a plan, but don't be afraid to change it.  I spent hours planning, organizing, and preparing for this trip.  Games, toys, educational activities, homeschool curriculum, daily snacks, music, and even some videos all took up space in our front seat area.  I planned for everything.  Every good place to stop and run around, every meal, every little detail.  Then I set it down and let it go.  Whew.  It's nice to be prepared (just in case) but not something I have to be controlling about.  It's always good to expect the unexpected; like a delicious burger joint in Central California (Eddie's Famous Cafe- Eddie even gave us free cinnamon rolls), or a truly interesting rest stop in New Mexico.  You just never know what you might find!
The first of 3 KOA cabins, all exactly the same!  Talk about easy...
2. Try to maintain your normal routine, at least to a certain extent, for the happiness of the whole crew.  We happen to use a curriculum that is heavy on memorization and auditory learning.  So you can now imagine us rocking out to such hits as, "The Timeline Song," "The US Presidents" and don't forget that amazing ditty, "The Preposition Song." Every morning we started our morning with breakfast at the campsite (we stayed at KOA campgrounds the whole way down for consistency and ease of travel- the cabins are the way to go when stopping for a quick overnight- we stayed with family and varied places on the way home), then mom or dad packed the car while the other ran the kids around at the playground (almost all KOAs have playgrounds).  After hopping in the car we did our Bible reading and prayer time then jumped into memory work.  By the time we finished all that the first hour was well behind us.  Grace-Girl also filled out a daily journal page each morning.  We spent time each evening to sit down and have dinner together, do our normal bed-time routine (as much as possible) and re-pack for the next day (snacks, car reorganization, etc.).  It was worth it.
The girls at Arches National Park
3. Enjoy the Road!  We were definitely on a schedule that didn't allow long stops, as we wanted lots of time with family at our destination, but we made a few exceptions: one morning at Arches National Park and one morning at The New Mexico Natural History Museum in Albuquerque.  We powered through the first two days (though we did make short stops to run around) and slowed down on the last two days.  Daddy and I also found time in the evenings to have fun- we played games, watched movies (all KOAs have free wi-fi) and took some time for "us" all while the girls were sleeping peacefully in the cabin.  

Many happy travels to you and yours this holiday season!  Don't forget to visit Pinterest for every idea of a car game you could possibly imagine. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fun With Worms- And Other Invertebrates!

In our Classical Conversations Curriculum, week 5, we memorized the major groups of invertebrates.

I saw this fun project, somewhere on Pinterest and had to try it.

Grace-girl- proud of her tapeworm.  Hmm... never thought I'd say that sentence.
Ew.  A little too realistic for me.
The girls had SO much fun and it was one of those rare moments when the project appealed to both ages (kind of hard usually with the 4 year age spread).
Worms were the easiest. 

Baby Rain is SO proud of her sea star (she got to use a cookie-cutter)!
This project also appealed to mommy because it takes ZERO prep work.  I literally pulled the plates out of the cupboard and drew pictures on them as the girls were getting the playdoh stuff out.

Just a little glimpse into a fun day of home education.  By the way, notice how you can't see the sink full of dishes or the piles of laundry in the corner.  Priorities, people. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

First Grade Common Core

One of the challenges of homeschooling is figuring out exactly what your kids "need" to know.  Here in Oregon we only have to face standardized testing a few times (3rd, 5th 8th and 10th grades) and otherwise it's really up to us how we choose to home educate.  There are several philosophies about this, some folks choose to make it up as they go along, or trust that the curriculum they are using is enough.  Some prefer to ignore the "requirements" and allow their children to learn at their own pace.  The rest of us just have to KNOW!  :)  Whatever your philosophy, here's a great resource that's worth a peek.  

This First Grade Common Core workbook is the largest collection of resources for teaching the Common Core State Standards. This workbook includes reams of worksheets, activities, and posters that cover Language Arts and Math.   They have the Common Core Standards Workbooks for Kindergarten through Grade 5 (though the Grades 3-5 aren't available just yet).

I took a peek at a sample (you can download it, here) and the worksheets seem easy to follow and read.  The directions are straightforward.  Even more exciting are the colorful activities and posters that could be used for homeschool-style folder games or even lapbooks.  Lots of fun ideas, here.  

It's always up to us as parent educators to decide what and how our kids should learn.  But sometimes it's nice to get a look at what our kids really need to know.  If my kids need to go back to public or private school, I want them to be ready to meet the standard.  

I was offered a free copy of the First Grade Common Core Workbook in exchange for this blog post.  Thanks to for the cute pics of the babies reading, too.  :)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Grade!

Homeschooling is now official in our home.  We sent in the forms (relatively easy in Oregon) and we had our first day, yesterday.  I've done my homework, read the blogs, and decided on a philosophy.  Picking curriculum can be expensive, but this year we've joined the Classical Conversations community, an amazing co-operative style program and curriculum that happens to be available in our little town.  

Once a week we meet together and parents participate along with the kids while tutors lead the class in learning new information and reviewing the old.  Classical Conversations (CC) presents a classical, Christian education with emphasis on memorization and presentation using lots of silly songs (they work!) and other tools.  With CC I don't have to worry so much about Art, Music (though we started violin this year, too), even Science (for this early age), Geography and History.  As the kids get older, we'll add more of that stuff, too, but for now I'm happy.  This means I do lots of Language Arts at home (reading, writing, grammar and spelling), Math and review of all the CC stuff.  We read lots of extra library books about history and have as much fun as possible doing it all!
Our rhythm in schooling has aligned with a sort of seasonal cycle, not surprising since we are a season-loving crew.  In the summer we have lots of emphasis on science, the outdoors, gardening and interest-led learning.  During the "school" year we focus more on Language Arts, Math and History.  Winter sports are key, of course, as are other seasonal focuses.  Of course, a family vacation can lead us down any path of learning we wish!  I've been missing blogging and I hope as our summer winds down I'll find more time to greet the world, here, as we enter into our fall academic cycle.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer School and Flowers, too!

Summer School on the deck
Don't freak out.  We don't force school all summer long. Grace-girl really wanted to learn about plants and flowers and how they work.  I knew she was ready for an in-depth study that was more than pretty pictures and fun books from the library.  We've planted seeds, watched them grow, learned basic plant stuff and now we were ready to tackle flowers and pollination.  SO I put together a lapbook, of course!

We had several books from the library about plants and flowers and especially about bees and pollination.  But the best resource I used was Anna Comstock's The Handbook of Nature Study.  This one book has been my go-to resource for so many science questions (you can see it on my patio table in the picture above).  We could have spent days reading about flowers and pollination and different types of asexual reproduction, but we moved on to completing the lapbook.
Lapbook with closed elements
I didn't find a free lapbook I loved for this topic, so I took things from many places.
Lapbook with open elements
This place has tons of great mini-book and foldy fun stuff for lapbooks.  Great for making up your own stuff, which is what I wound up doing for some of this lapbook.
Sunflower Growth Mini-book.  1 inch per day.  Wow.

Simple wheel book describing a plant life-cycle
Grace-girl loves sequencing, so I just had to turn this mini-book into a sequencing activity.
The Itsy-Bitsy Seedling accordion fold
 And I wanted to find a way to use some pressed flowers from our own garden.
A math/measuring mini-book
 It is really amazing how much a five year old can memorize and retain.  She loved this project and actually learned and remembered the inner-workings of a flower and the purpose for each part.
The back of the lapbook.  She assembled this by herself.
 My favorite little element from this lapbook was a special poem that Grace-girl wrote a couple months ago.  (She narrated, I wrote).  I kept it and did this little petal-fold piece to surprise her.  She loved it.

"The Seed"

When the walls grow and sprout
The little people come about
And when the walls get all tattered and torn
and fall off
Then the people find another home.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Breaking for Summer

Our spring has been swallowed up by projects.  Our self-proclaimed love of gardening, homeschooling, community activism and so on has somehow caused months to disappear.  SO, today I find myself holding a cup of coffee at a nameless corporation with my five year old, having a heart-to-heart. 

"Let's talk about something, mom."
"Ok, what?"
"I don't know.  My birthday party."

Her birthday isn't until August.

We outline a theme for her party and sketch out some ideas.  But mostly we talk about the REST of the summer and all the fun we have planned with summer library programs, Vacation Bible School, special family visits, camping trips, beach trips, playdates and, my favorite, weekly local hikes.  We got excited about having no regular agenda beyond the weekly calendar.  By September I'm sure we'll both be ready for homeschool co-op, violin lessons, choir and gymnastics. 

Our summer reading so far has included these themes: ladybugs, baby animals, big sisters, knights, castles, owls, dragons, colors, famous artists and more.  I'm sure it's just the beginning.

Coming up this fall:  The Three Week Roadtrip:  That thing that all homeschool families talk about wanting to do and that's why they homeschool. I will be blogging about it, here.

What are your summer plans?  What are you looking forward to in the coming year?  Share...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Homeschool Day in the Life...

I've been reading quite a few "Day in the Life" blogs by fellow homeschooling moms (and a few dads).  While I'm tempted to share a "perfect" day in my life as a homeschooling mom, I suddenly realize there is no such thing.  My best intentions are often dashed by the wayside of the freight train called Real Life.  And no two days really look the same.  So here goes- a random day in my homeschool life with two girls, 5 and 18 months, though a fairly typical Thursday.


4:30 am- Baby-Rain wakes up and snuggles up in bed with me and Daddy
5:30 am- Daddy gets up with baby - I roll over with a pillow over my head
6:30 am- I get up so my husband can get ready for work.
7:00 am- Dad leaves for work.  I pour my second cup of coffee.  Read books with baby, try to get caught up on chores.
7:30-8:00 am- Grace-Girl rolls out of bed.  Not literally, as it is a six foot drop to the floor.  Blurry-eyed, wanting to snuggle on the couch.  All.  Day.  Long.
8:15 am- We girls manage to sit down for breakfast.  No one in this family does well without food.
8:30 am- Bible Reading and Calendar- we rotate a few different kids' devotional books.  We also work on our memory verse, which is posted by our calendar, here in the kitchen.  We review the season, month, year, days of the week, day of the month... etc.  Then we talk about our daily schedule.  I do all this while my older daughter eats because she is incredibly SLOW and I get tired of waiting for her to finish.
9:15 am- Chores- This includes getting dressed, tidying up room, brushing hair and teeth, etc.  But we also include things like, "be a cheerful helper."  Many tears are shed at our house over hair brushing.  Note to self: it grows back.  Cut it off.
10:00 am- Toddler Storytime at our local library is the one activity we do that centers around my younger daughter.  As a homeschool family we easily haul 25 books a week from the library (the kids are still pretty young- I'm sure this number will rise). I go online to order most of what I want to bring home, then we pick out a few at the library.
11:00 am- As I'm checking out the pile of books we're hauling home and re-connecting with a friend I haven't seen in awhile, Baby Rain is methodically pulling books off the reserve shelf and removing the name labels from each book.
11:20 am- Thankful for the rice cakes I keep in the van for moments like this 7 minute ride from the library to the house.  It seems more like an hour with all that screeching.
11:45 am- Lunch. Usually left-overs.  Baby fell asleep in the car, so she's down for her nap.
12:10 pm- Read a bunch of new library books with Grace-girl.  This is one of my favorite things about Thursdays!
1:00 pm- Quiet Time.  We monitor TV time carefully at our house (we don't actually have a television, just our computer)- but today Grace-girl gets about an hour of Backyardigans while I catch up on napping and an episode of Downton Abbey on my Kindle Fire.  That's right.  I'm being completely honest, here.
2:00 pm- Impromptu reading lesson with Grace-girl.  Reviewing digraphs and blends (sh, th, ch, wh)
2:15 pm- Baby-rain wakes up- snack-time.
2:30 pm- Piano lesson with me.  Finding middle "c," learning about octaves and playing a tune by ear (Mary Had a Little Lamb).
2:40 pm- music lessons evolve into dancing around the living room with some latin dance cd (thanks, Dora)
3:00 pm- Get Outside.  We pull weeds and jump on the trampoline until daddy gets home, and to heck with the mess in the house.  The girls like to get as dirty as possible, so I let them.
4:30 pm- Daddy gets home- girls head to the bathtub- we all prepare for our evening.
5:30 pm- Dinner
7:00 pm- Baby Rain in bed
8:00 pm- Grace-girl in bed
*whew*  Each day is a little different, but somehow we find a rhythm through it all.  And it's usually not the one I thought it would be when I planned our schedule in August.  Enjoy the things that make your family special!  And guard your quiet time.  :)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Google Friend Connect is Disconnecting...

So please sign up below (left) to have my blog sent to your inbox.  You know I'm an occasional writer, so I promise not to clog your life.  :)  You can also follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter... and of course you can check in at my other blog:  Grace and Rain (for those who like the deep end).  Thanks for checking in on my blog!  blessings-

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Is my Kindle a book?

I haven't been posting because I've been too busy with my 2 Kindles.  Yup.  One old fashioned 3rd Gen. that I like to use for reading and the other is my new toy, the Kindle Fire.  My real dilemma goes beyond whether it is morally reprehensible for a true lover of books to own a Kindle (of course it is) or how much to let my kids play with my new Fire (I don't even let my husband play with it). 

Here's my actual problem: 

The nearly 18 month old baby calls my Kindle a book.  She actually calls the Fire "bubbles" because of that silly bubble app she gets to play with sometimes (it's really dumb but super fun, the best kind of app).  But when we have snuggle time (i.e. breastfeeding a toddler) I immediately reach for my "book" (Kindle 3).  The trouble started when she looked at me, questioningly, and said, "bubbles?"   I said, "no honey, that's mommy'  No bubbles.  The bubbles are on my other Kindle." 

I understand that there are about 15 things inherently wrong with this whole conversation, knowing, as you do (in my narcissistic reality), that I'm a Charlotte-Mason-inspired,-Classical-Education-fan-with-a-slight-bend-toward-unschooling kind of momma.  If you have no idea what any of that meant, just know that I obsess too much about what matters to me and how I will ever teach it to my kids.

So here is my actual, actual problem:

1) Why am I reading when I should be making eye contact with my child or singing or teaching her the a-b-c's or something useful?  Frankly- because it's about the only chance I have to read these days.

2) Why do I need 2 Kindles?  The answer is actually another question:  Why do I feel a need to explain the difference between the two to my toddler?  The real answer of course is that I don't like major reading on a backlit screen and the old Kindle just doesn't do what the Fire does.

3)  Is it really a book?  I'll leave the answer to this one to the experts.  The debate rages on.

In the meantime, you can follow my reading trends on Goodreads.  There's an android app for that