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!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

10 Unexpected Benefits to Homeschooling!

While we have many reasons (see part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) for choosing to homeschool after two years in the public school system, here are 10 unexpected benefits to homeschooling we have discovered after 1 month into our new way of learning.

1)  No fundraisers!  I am so thankful to not have to say no to my pleading eyes daughter who wants to win one of the 'prizes' for selling or collecting the most books, magazines, pledges, etc.  I am so thankful to not feel pressured into giving more and more money to school.  We were bombarded with 4 fundraisers within the first 3 weeks of school last year.

2)  No buying an extra pair of gym shoes that hardly gets worn and usually gets lost at some point for gym class!

3)  Snack Freedom!  No worries about having nut, peanut butter, milk, egg, sugar free anything for snacks and lunches!

4)  No more book orders!  My kids love books.  I love books.  We have a huge collection of books from my teaching days.  But, I am a garage sale/goodwill kind of book shopper.  I also love the library. The temptation for any of us to buy beautiful new books from those newsprint flyers once a month was hard on the heart!

5)  I'll be honest that I love having my oldest at home because she can be such a huge help.  Shopping has become easier with her there to push the cart or play pat-a-cake with baby while I grab what we need.  She is also able to keep an eye on things at home if I need to make a phone call.  She loves being a helper and so it is neat to see her nurturing skills develop.

6)  Izzy can make her sisters laugh like no one else can.  I missed the giggles coming from her and Lili's room when she at school last year.  Let's face it, I'm not nearly as fun as she is in my 3 year old's eyes.  I love hearing the laughter in my house all day long!

7) NO HOMEWORK!!!!! Oh the tears, trials, frustrations of trying to help your child get through an hour or two of homework every night after they are tired of 7 hours of "learning" and just want to play. Oh how hard it was to help her when the homework was filled with "fuzzy math" concepts and writing personal narratives on topics she had no background on (ie: she had to write a 5 sentence + paragraph on how bullying is bad for school- poor girl loves everyone and is well loved, had no idea what bullying was and why it was always being pushed at school).  I love the freedom of being able have pedagogy that fits her learning style and to take breaks when we need to.

8)  We have oodles of family within a 10 mile radius.  I'd say one of Izzy's favorite parts of being homeschooled is getting to spend more time with her Grandparents and cousins.  She loves family and now she doesn't have to miss out on Tuesday lunches or getting to be babysat by grandma when mommy has a meeting.  It is good for her soul.

9)  School is no longer the rock in the jar (follow link on great illustration on fitting things in our lives) we must work around to fit everything else in our life.  School no longer dictates our schedule, bedtimes, diet, after school activities, vacations, and more.  Our focus is now on learning through life (though we do thrive on structure and schedule here, it is not something that dictates or defines us).  I had no idea how much time and effort it took to do 'school' and how much it influenced my time.

10)  This is more of anticipated hope and prediction but I'm thinking I'm going to really like homeschool so I'm not constantly reminding my daughter to bring home lost lunch boxes, coats, gloves, shoes, folders, etc.  Especially come winter, it will be nice to have all of our winter gear in place when we need it, not left in our cubby or stranded in a lost and found.  Stuff is home, where it belongs :)

I linked up to other great lists for List it Tuesday at and!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I'm not a supermom

I'm not a supermom.  Nor am I any version of a superwoman.  

I have my strengths, but many more weaknesses.  

I do things well some days.  Many days play out like some comedy of errors.

In my introductions to new circles of women and seeing some old faces though upstart of fall activities, I have found that my revelation that we are now a "homeschooling family" (can I be honest I feel weird saying that, like we are some freak of nature...need new description stat!) has brought about two very common reactions:

1)  "Oh, I could never do that!"


2)  "Wow, you are like superwoman!  How do you do it all?"

While not surprising statements, they still stir plenty of emotions.  

First of all, moms- don't sell yourself short.  You are strong.  You love fiercely.  If it NEEDED to be done, you would be able to do it.  It may not look pinterest worthy and it may not be within your skills set, but if I know anything about Moms is that they would do ANYTHING for their kids.  If your child needed to be learning at home, you would find a way to make it happen.  Don't sell yourself short.

Second, I'm not superwoman. I'm just being obedient.  I honestly believe that when we choose to live in obedience to God's calling, He will equip us accordingly.  God is not known for reckless abandonment.  He did not leave Elijah in the wilderness alone.  He did not ignore Moses' plea for help in public speaking.  He did not ignore the heart of Mary Magdalene.  He forgave Peter.  He refined Saul into a Paul.  God does not call the equipped, he equips the called.  When we choose to live in obedience to what He is asking us to do, He will provide a way to make it happen.  I am not a superwoman.  I make mistakes.  I don't always have the right priorities for each day.  I get angry.  I am selfish at times.  But, oh how thankful I am, that God is able and willing and DESIRES to still use me.  He has asked me to do this, for this season.  He will not abandon me and will equip me as long as I remain in obedience.  And he will equip you.  Whether he has called you to work, stay at home, homeschool, volunteer, or a combination of many lifestyles; all you must do is be obedient and he will equip you.  God will lead you to the right decision for your family and give you the strength and skills needed to fulfill his purpose for you.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Philippians 2:13

"...for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose."

1 Thessalonians 5:24

"...The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it."

Hebrews 13:20-21

"Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,  equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Last week was not a great one when it comes to schooling.  Too many things got sandwiched in our schedule and threw our momentum off.  Lucy didn't nap well.  Lili didn't want to do school with us, and didn't seem to like the fact that Izzy needed my attention for some learning time.  The house was quite unkept.  Dinners haphazard.  I scratched my cornea and spent a good day and a half teary eyed, in pain, and half blind.  But, despite 'failures' there were a lot of successes.  We had fun, we spent time together, I modeled baby care taking, I baked with my children (this is hard for me to do! I like to control my kitchen!), we spent time outside, and Izzy finally learned to ride a bike (she has had a very real, yet irrational fear of bikes all her life and lacked coordination- so we thought- to pedal.  All the sudden she just hopped on and now its hard to get her off!)

I'm hoping to have some of the same successes as we live life together as a family this week, but perhaps with a little more intentionality in a few areas.  I'm also making a few curriculum adjustments.  So, I'm writing down a few goals.  I'm told it makes it more real that way!

1)  Read more.  Silent reading time, me reading aloud, whatever it takes.  We need to have more reading time.

2)  Less phonics.  I know there are different camps out there of phonics vs sight reading.  We have tried some in depth phonics work and its not going well and I'm not finding it helpful to the overall experience.  So, we are skipping those portions and most assessments in our CLE reading.

3) More comprehension building activities.  Izzy reads well, above grade level.  However, she often sees the trees and not the forest when it comes to comprehension.  We are going to do frequent small 2-4 paragraph reads with a few quick comprehension questions to build this skill.

4) Intentional time with Lili and Lucy while Izzy works independently.  They need it.  Izzy needs to learn to be more independent in her learning.  It will do wonders for everyone.

5)  Have Izzy plan some 'spirit week' fun days for the coming month to keep it fun and exciting around here (one thing she misses about public school)

6)  Intentional evening time.  I don't want to stop being mom and teacher after dinner just because I'm tired.  I want to be intentional of how we can be spending that time together instead of always shuffling them to play areas by themselves while I crash on the couch.

Here's to a wonderful, blessed, God-honoring, intentional week!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: Getting into a Groove

We have (almost) completed our third week of homeschooling.  This week's theme was finding our groove.  It was about trying to establish a 'new normal' in our routine, fitting in our fall activities, and focusing on intentional influencing of the hearts and minds of our girls.  Here are a few things we experienced this week:

Our first writing lessons with WriteShop Primary!  This was the curriculum I was most excited about, partly because I was not pleased with the writing pedagogy in public school.  We have done the first 3 lessons (out of 8) and Izzy has done very well.  Her attitude towards writing has already improved.  It requires a lot of hands on from me through guided writing, but I see a boost in her confidence so it is worth it!

Math was focused on reviewing time and learning money.  New common core standards do not introduce money until 3rd grade so this was new for her beyond earning quarters for chores.  We worked on adding money together.  A time and money workbook was a great find from goodwill and dollar store play money were awesome tools to keep learning fun.  We have a few more 'catch up' things to learn (fractions and standard measurement) before we start CLE Math 200.  Common core put her behind the  grade for most curriculums.

Reading was a bust. Really struggling to like our CLE reading.  The stories are ok, and I do appreciate the life lessons. However, the phonic studies are over the top in depth and the story review questions lack application.  Having to fill a lot of my own, which is requiring more time on my part (hard with a 3 year old and 9 month old underfoot).  I have a progeny press book I will be pulling out when we finish this light unit (want to give the CLE a fair shot at the start).  Any other good reading curriculums out there that focus heavily on comprehension?

In Bible explored Noah's ark and Abraham this week making button rainbows as our craft.  We are learning what it means to trust God (memory verse Proverbs 3:4).  Loving all the online resources for color pages and activity sheets for various bible story.  Just google the story and there's a plethora for all ages.

In art last week we did primary color paintings, and today we learned about secondary colors using food coloring and water.  I'm enjoying the easy lessons in How to Teach Art to Children.  Simple, quick, age appropriate, and I can pick activities that suit my kids best for now.

Lucy has done her own learning by figuring out the art of emptying a drawer and climbing the stairs.  At 8.5 months, I'll consider her gifted and talented for now :)

With a great week under our belt- we are off on a surprise 'field trip' to enjoy open gym at our local gymnastics company- For the Kidz.  Meeting some homeschool cousins and jumping around for 2 hours sounds like a recipe for fun!

My favorite school item of the week- The Whiteboard!  Picked up this large beauty at ReStore for Habitat for Humanity for $35.  It has been priceless for math review, guided writing, and letter practice for Liliana.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Today is the first day of school for most in Michigan. The past week I have found myself dealing with small waves of mourning and questioning our decision to homeschool.

I saw parents and students flock 'our' elementary school eager for meeting teachers and touring the new improvements to the building.

I saw families out and about over the weekend, making memories and celebrating the end of summer- as if once the clock struck 8 am this morning all of those fond times will soon be a distant memory.

I hear the eagerness (and relief) in many mom's voices over the thought of some well deserved peace and quiet while their kids were away.

I see the neighborhood children gathering at the end of the driveway with their shiny new shoes and sparkling backpacks, with a little sleep in their eyes, board the bus that will take them to their next 'year' of life.

I have been witness to so much transition and cannot help but lament what we are missing, even though I know its trivial in comparison to what we are gaining. I am sad to miss out on those first day butterflies. It is weird to see empty lunch boxes on the top shelf of my cupboard. I have a strange emptiness not being there for those traditional rites of passage. Playground adventures. New Friends. Donuts with Dad. Muffins with Mom. Fundraisers (ok, maybe not that one!).

With the lament comes fear of judgement. Now my neighbors will know something is different. There is one less little girl at the bus stop. The children are outside playing at 10 am. What if they judge us?

I think in the end it is mourning the known. It is a desire to stay in the zone of what is expected. It is a wish for the safety net of 'what everyone else does'.

Change is not easy (especially when it means 'sacrificing' 6 hours of peace and quiet) and it can require time to go through the grieving process. But, thankfully, I have peace knowing that what is on the other side could be even better than what we are missing out on.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Our First Week

I participated in the Hip Homeschool Hop!

We did it!  We successfully completed our first week of homeschooling!  While it was a lighter load academically (we are slowly adding subjects), it was still full of SUCCESS and LEARNING CURVES.

  • We had fun learning together!
  • Everyone had a great attitude for most of the time!
  • We learned something!
  • We got better at it!
  • Izzy was able to communicate without getting emotional or shutting down her need for quiet space in order to complete the math assignment I gave her!
  • Our home is still organized and peaceful!
  • Our new chore system is working wonders! (I'll do a post about that someday soon)
  • Intentionality in everything we say and do has increased!

LEARNING CURVES (aka challenges we need to work through):
  • Utilizing baby's nap for the most hands-on teaching that needs to happen
  • Keeping 3 year old occupied and happy through the times I need to focus on big sister's learning.
  • Strategic breaks
  • Lunch- seriously have lack of desire to make lunches.  Strongly dislike having to 'plan' this extra meal.  How do I make this easier?

Here is a little picture tour of our first week!

Two digit adding and regrouping

Handwriting with Scripture
Letter A
Silent Reading
Reading Comprehension

Days 1-3 of Creation Mobile

Monday, August 19, 2013

First Day of Homeschool- EVER!

I desired to ease into our first year of homeschooling and provide a couple weeks of review/catch up to get Izzy to needed skill level for curriculum so we started school today! (By law, public schools in Michigan don't start until after Labor Day).  We are only adding a couple subjects at a time so no one is overwhelmed.  Our first day included:
Izzy is 7 years old starting 2nd grade!
Liliana is 3 and doing PreK work!

Baby was napping :) But here was a pic from her first day of 'school'...because she's part of the family and adorable after all!
Lucy is 8 months and SO BIG!
We prayed, read aloud, went over new chore chart, and did Calendar time.
Then we filled out first day of school fun sheets (From the Life in Bloom chic and savvy homeschool planner- free download!!!).

Lili's loves the color green and mac & cheese.
Izzy loves pizza and playing uno.

While Izzy worked on some basic addition facts to get the cobwebs out, Lili worked on coloring the letter A, learned about the color red, and identified/drew circles.

Izzy and I then reviewed place value for math using legos as manipulatives.  Then she independently did the first two days worth of handwriting lessons in A Reason For Handwriting.

Our subjects for our first week are calendar, handwriting, and math.  We were done in less than an hour.  I'm pleased with our first day and the excitement the girls had.  Liliana was sad her first day was 'done'.  Perhaps if the next couple of days go well I will bravely add more subjects at a faster pace.

My heart is happy and full!