Thursday, February 13, 2014

Distractions, Motivation, & Changes

I've heard many homeschooling parents want to quit at some point in November and February.  While I did not have those feelings this fall- I have feelings of failure, discouragement, and apathy in full force the past couple of weeks.  Whether the never ending snow storms and arctic temperatures, rounds of stomach flu and colds, or never ending transitions of childhood development have anything to do with it, I am not sure.  What I do know is that I have allowed distractions and the lack of motivation to deter my desire for the "why" of homeschooling to become less important than the "how's".

We have undergone many curriculum changes over the course of 6 weeks.  I began writing our own reading/writing curriculum based on the Samantha series from American girl which has been much better than any other reading we've done and has replaced the 'bust' of a program in WriteShop.  We began All About Spelling in early January and are doing quite well with it.  Izzy seems to be better at transferring spelling knowledge to her writing and her phonics understanding and ability to 'sound words out' has dramatically improved.  We are wrapping up CLE math 205 light unit and will be working through Horizons for awhile for a change of pace.  We started cursive handwriting.

In all of this curriculum change, our schedule has been uprooted and required changes that I'm still trying to catch up with.  Lucy, 14 months, has transitioned to 1 nap a day and is quite the explorer and destroyer when awake.  Therefore, most of our teacher intensive activities have to happen between 12:30 and 3:00 pm.  This is Izzy's least favorite time to do school.  I currently work for my husband 2 afternoons a week, so this has forced school to happen in the mornings while juggling a four year old and a very busy toddler.  At the point of exhaustion and exasperation I fight to just get the 'basics' done which has led to very little in the fun department (like art, experiments, etc).  And, embarrassingly, this has led to Bible being put not he back burner.  I wanted Bible lessons to be our priority- but the girls love doing crafts to go along with each lesson and I just don't know how to fit it all in.  Liliana has had to turn to the iPad to do learning games with her as I desperately seek time to teach Izzy new concepts.

All of these distractions and changes have caused Izzy's motivation (and my own I think) to slip, stating for the first time since we started this journey that she wants to return to public school.

My confidence is gone.  My enthusiasm dwindling.  And my intention for intentional influence on the lives of my girls seems to have evaporated.  But, I am not giving up.  With God's help we will work through this bump in the road and figure out what is best for our family, for the time being.  Every season of life will change the look of how we do school- I just need to keep the "why" as the filter for each decision.

I am hoping that verbalizing these frustrations and desires will help me set goals anew and finish the year strong.  Couple that with fresh new curriculum and perhaps our motivations will change and distractions minimized.

Some days look like this....
While others play out like this.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Late Fall of "Field Trips"

Once November hit in our house, it was a season of day to day survival.  Many of our 'extra' projects and fun crafts went out the window.  We worked hard on doubling up on lessons some days since many days would not have anything at all.  While December was filled with the typical holiday rush, we also add a birthday 12 days before and 5 days after Christmas.  Really.  Its like one big, never-ending party.  Despite the hustle and bustle and the desire to keep some sense of structure and learning- we made room for some experiences that simply cannot be replicated in a classroom or by reading a book.  One of the reasons we decided to homeschool was to be able to freely say 'yes' to opportunities like this.

In early November, Isabelle had the opportunity to travel to Bangladesh to visit a children's home we have supported for many years which in turn allowed her to interact with 420 children and meet our three children whom we sponsor.  She went with her daddy, grandma, grandpa, a great aunt, a second cousin, an uncle, and a cousin who is about her age.  From the 24hrs+ of travel, new foods, new language, the heat, 11 hour time difference, and the flurry of that many children wanting to touch your pale skin and play with your blonde hair- it was quite the experience!  For our timid observer it was a stretch for her personality, but she did well after acclimating a couple of days.  She served the children meals, helped teach a song in chapel, danced Bangla, went to 'school' and learn some bangla words and writings, delivered gifts to sponsor children, played games of uno and double dutch, was the ultimate playmate, little sister, and even big sister to the children.  She showed God's love with a child like faith to the 'least of these'.  Her dad and I are so proud of how she handled herself and are so thankful she could take advantage of the opportunity.

In true 'homeschooling fashion' I had her journal while she was away.  Then, when she returned, we compiled her 5 favorite memories and wrote them in newspaper article form (It just so happened that our next unit in WriteShop was on newspaper narratives!).  It was a great way for her to process what she had done and seen and give her a chance to contemplate the 'why's' and feelings of it all.  It also gave me an opportunity to hear about what they did.

We squeezed in some good schooling in late November before Thanksgiving, but then early December we were off on a vacation with extended family.  18 travelers in all, including 8 kids under 10 and an 84 year old great grandma.  While I was tempted to do journalling or keep my eyes open for great learning opportunities, I decided that this field trip needed to be about just enjoying each other.  We watched our girls play in the sand, go down the watersides, and swim in the pools.  By being free to encourage and get excited with one another, Izzy finally warmed up to the idea of swimming independently.  We had done swim lessons in the summer which did not go over well (screaming and gnashing of teeth would be an understatement) but she was capable.  In her own time, she finally did it, swam across the pool, and was on her way.  By the end of the trip she was doing cannonballs and triple somersaults underwater in one breath.

What did I learn from all this?  Sometimes homeschooling adventures are about lifelong behaviors and reaching the heart of the children.  Sometimes it should just be about being.  Being 100% present as parents and cheerleaders and let kids just be kids.  Learning is still happening- sometimes more is gained when I stay out of the way.  Perhaps times of intentional 'absence' as a 'teacher' are the most influential.

I'm linked up at the Hip Homeschool Hop this week!  Check out the other great posts!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

From Moses to Jericho in Crafts

The past couple of weeks we have been studying the Israelites slavery in Egypt, the birth of Moses, the Exodus, desert wanderings, and finally conquering Jericho as part of our survey of bible stories through the school year.  It has been a fun couple of weeks with neat crafts and activities I'd thought I'd share.  I referenced any sources for original ideas, otherwise they were ones I came up with on my own.

Birth of Moses- paper basket weaving with nylon babies (this was my inspiration)
For the birth of Moses we learned how to weave construction paper together.  Then we stapled up the sides to form a basket.  Then, I cut of the last few inches of an old knee high, stuffed it with cotton balls, tied one rubber band about an inch below the top to create a head, and then one at the bottom to close, and then drew on a face.  The girls have been playing with their baskets and moses' for a long time now!  I would recommend this craft for ages 7+.

The 10 Plagues- paper plate illustration (Inspiration from an artists palate)
To illustrate the 10 plagues I found inspiration from someone who used an artists' palate.  I figured a paper plate would work just as well, and in fact give them more room to color on.  We took one of the larger white paper plates and I pre-drew the lines to divide the plate into 10 equal pieces.  I also wrote on the back what each one was for my youngest.  Then, after each plague in the story we drew it.  This took us two days.  Some are easier than others to illustrate, but it was more fun for them than putting together the mini-books.  With some extra help this is great for ages 4+

Crossing the Red Sea- blowing paint
I loved learning how to blow thin or water color paint to make neat designs as part of my 'art for teachers' class in college.  So I thought I could apply the same concept to the red sea drawings.  I thinned blue paint ahead of time.  We used heavy white card stock.  The girls pre drew the walking path in the middle.  Then I place a few drops of paint on one side and they blew it around towards the edge.  Then they turned their papers, I placed more paint on the other side of the path and they blew it towards that way.  It was a lot of fun and Lili liked getting in on the action.  They would make great backgrounds if you were using finger puppets to help tell the story.  With help this could be an ages 2+ activity.

The 10 Commandments- Tracing hands
I had the idea of tracing each girl's hands and writing the 10 commandments out on each finger in an abbreviated form.  Like the 10 plagues, I split it into 2 lessons.  Overall, this was a great way to help review each commandment, but they girls didn't have as much fun with it.  They were more interested in wanting to decorate their hands and fingernails on paper.  It would be best for older elementary students.

God's presence in the desert- textile art
This was one of our favorite activities that was super easy and used things we already had on hand.  Our lesson was on God showing his faithfulness in the desert by showing his presence through cloud and fire pillars and by providing the needs of the Israelites through manna and water from a rock.  The girls divided their papers and used cotton balls for the cloud, crumpled tissue paper for the pillar of fire, small brown beads for manna, and then we just drew a rock- but I would have found something different to do that next time.  The girls loved using the different textiles of art and it has been a great reminder for us of God's faithfulness.

Jericho- Edible wall snack
I had a revelation as I was preparing for this lesson.  I remembered making gingerbread houses out of graham crackers and frosting.  I thought- why not make a Jericho wall, knock it down, and then get to eat it!  Each girl got two graham crackers split in two so four squares all together.  We then spread frosting the edges to 'glue' together the corners and make a wall.  We added a peanut butter cup for a gate and chocolate candies as windows.  Our dum-dum Joshua then marched around the wall as directed by the story and we trumpted with our voices.  It was a delicious activity and I like that it didn't require a paper project to hang on display in the school room (we are a little crowded at the moment!)  Any ages will love this activity!

Head over to the Hip Homeschool Mom blogroll hop to see other great ideas (plus you'll see my cuties in the post as we were a highlighted activity from last week about our book character dress up day!)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Book Character Dress Up Day

One of the things Izzy said she would miss about public school was the random dress up days through out the year.  Easily solved!  We brainstormed ideas and then assigned a few days each month to a 'dress up' day.  Things like pink, princess, crazy hair, backwards, and pajama day were top of the list.  This week it was "Dress like a Book Character Day".  I told the girls I wasn't going to make anything special, so they had to get creative on their own, but that I would help them with finishing touches.  Here is what they came up with this morning!

Lili was Emily from her favorite book Emily's Dance Class- basically a ballerina bunny.

Izzy was Whiskers from Whiskers the Lonely Kitten.  She has enjoyed this series of chapter books.

They did it all on their own except for the makeup for the nose and whiskers and I helped Izzy with her tail.  What a fun way to do school today!

What is your favorite book character or who would you dress up like?

Me?  I'd totally rock an Amelia Bedelia outfit if I had more time :)

Head over to the Hip Homeschool Mom's blogroll for more great homeschool and homemaking ideas!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: New Adventures and Back to Basics

 It has been a wonderful week of sunshine, outdoor play, and lessons at home.  I have been blessed by the fact that Izzy has not said anything about missing school, wishing she were there instead, or really even talked about public school.  In fact, in our prayer time, one of her praises was that she got to be home for school.  It has been so wonderful to walk her through simple problem solvings of life.  Helping her process situations and unknowns and providing opportunities for independence has been good for her maturity.  I feel like I know her so much better than I did 3 months ago!
Here is a quick glimpse into our week! 

In Bible, we began the story of Moses.  We weaved baskets out of construction paper (inspired by this site) and then made babies out of a baby sock, cotton balls, and rubber bands.  The girls have been playing with them all week.  Lili has declared hers is a girl, so I guess we still have some remediation lessons ahead!  We moved onto the burning bush and then did the 10 plagues.  I was inspired by this craft (KidsBibleDebJackson used artist palettes to depict each plague) but instead of circles I divided wedges into our paper plate so they had more room to draw.  I also then wrote on the back of each plate what the plague was.  Our verse has been Psalm 24:1 so we are focusing the stories on the idea that God desires to rescue his children because they belong to him- and that includes us!

This week in writing with our awesome WriteShop Primary we did a imaginative narrative on outer space with a focus on using a spelling dictionary.  I used the opportunity to read books and watch a couple shows on outer space and imaginative trips there.  Izzy enjoyed the cross study so I think units will someday be in our future.  She published her writing by placing it into a cardboard tube rocket.  I have also instituted more free write or prompt writing time.  She needs more practice beyond the guided writing of just putting her thoughts on paper.  No more than 5-7 sentences and 15 minutes, but its enough to keep her skills up beyond the skill or topic of the lesson in WriteShop.

In math we started CLE 200 officially and completed light unit 1.  Izzy has enjoyed it so far and did very well on the review lessons.  Today (Friday) we did our first lesson in light unit 2 and she did ok.  We will need more time for math than in past weeks since there is more material to get through.  One way I have found to make it easier (for the spiraled content) is do some of the problems myself and she has to check my work. I sometimes get them wrong :)  Little does she realize she is still doing the problems when she 'grades' my answers.

Our "back to basics" was the focus of reading this week.  We finished our first light unit in CLE reading 200 and overall I'm just not convinced its the direction we need this year.  Izzy needed more focus on reading comprehension- pulling out main idea, supporting details, the 5 W's, etc of what she reads and be able to concisely express them.  So we have been working through pages in this book by Carson-Dellosa and other free resources I've found online.  It is helping, but we still have a long way to go.  Suggestions?

Art was fun- our last color lesson for awhile as I will work back and talk about lines.  We did page 44 in How to Teach Art to Children.  We talked about warm and cool colors.  We found pictures in magazines to make collages.  It was fun to get out of our paint rut.

Lastly, our new adventure of the week was lapbooking!  Izzy is traveling with her dad and some other family to a children's home we support in Bangladesh in November.  So, together we looked at books from the library about Bangladesh to learn some of the culture and features.  The books do paint a rosier picture of Bangladesh than what is actually true, but the idea is there.  The pictures also began to expose her to things she will see while there.  We loved doing this together and I cannot wait to do more.  Not sure if I did it right, but it worked for us.  I used some of the free templates from that focused on countries.  Feel free to share any resources or suggestions you have about lapbooking!

I've joined in the weekly wrap up linky at weird, unsocialized homeschoolers!