Monday, August 25, 2014

A few weeks in

We are now beginning our fourth week of homeschooling. I wouldn't say its been all fun and games, but I wouldn't say its awful either. It is work. Lots of work. I found teaching cursive to be very difficult with the curriculum I was using. C felt stressed. It was disappointing because I've seen a marked improvement with his handwriting in general. His cursive is much cleaner than his print and even his print has improved with me able to remind him to hold his pencil correctly. I was at my breaking point. I have a curriculum to get through. I suppose I'm a bit of a type A personality. I follow the rules. We have to get it done...wait a minute...wait...I'm homeschooling. I can set the rules.
outside play

I made a trip to the store and picked up a few cursive writing workbooks and I've decided to do one lower case letter at a time and move on once he has mastered it. This instead of both upper and lower case at the same time and moving to a new letter (or two) everyday. C is feeling more relaxed and so am I.

I've also really enjoyed how much C has been reading on his own. Today I introduced a sheet he will fill out with each book, so I can tell how much he is comprehending. He tells me the characters, the setting, the problem and the solution. I hope in a few weeks to start having him fill out the same sheet for creative writing. I'm super excited!

M has been a bit of a challenge. She has significantly less work than C, so it's harder to keep her engaged. I can't really send her off to play otherwise C will have a harder time focusing. She is pretty good most of the day, but I've picked up extra workbooks for her to do. She also has learning toys in the school room she can play with when I work with C.

Last week, we began a week long study of stars. I decided I want part of our homeschool experience to include some child lead studies. For our first week the kids wanted to learn about stars. We read a number of both fiction and non-fiction books, watched a Magic School Bus episode (thank-you Netflix) and a few star art projects. The kids loved the study and were excited to pick the next two studies.

We are planning a trip to the Planetarium before we begin our next study on a few Ocean animals (Whales, Dolphins and Jellyfish). I wish we had an aquarium here in Memphis!

The kids are also meeting with daddy one night a week. He is working on music lessons. C is learning the recorder and M is playing on the keyboard. They also practice for 10 mins each day. C has also began practice for the Christmas church musical. He practices one night a week. They've also had three karate classes (they both love) and C has started soccer.

Keeping busy at the library, while mom looks for books
Next week Cub Scouts start back up for him, and M will be starting Heritage Girls in a few weeks. We are also looking into starting horse riding lessons or tumbling for her, as well.

I'm very excited with how things are going! It's a lot of work, but the rewards have been amazing! I've seen improvement with C. He was a good student last year, but struggled with handwriting and his spelling. I can see improvement with holding his pencil, his handwritting is more clear and he did fantastic on his first spelling test! Have I mentioned I'm using phonics to teach and it is amazing! So many neat rules to help him! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

IT IS DONE! The first week of homeschool is in the books!

What a week! I will be honest in saying I was prepared for the worst and I am excited to admit it went much smoother than expected. As I say this, I will continue to be ready for the inevitable melt down of, "I don't want to do school." Overall a very good week.

As we began, the first thing I noticed was for as organized as I felt I was, I wasn't. I had all (most) of the worksheets pulled and placed in day of the week folders for the kids (I also made copies for M for when she is in second grade). This part of it was fine, but it was all the little prep work I fumbled with. The four different types of flashcards, the little counting objects, and constantly trying to remember what book I was teaching from. By the end of the week (today) it ran a little smoother, I believe Laura has found her groove.

On Monday, we went to a local church who has a Karate ministry for homeschool kids. It was the first Karate class the kids have ever taken and they really enjoyed it. M cracked me up because she is so loud when they yell. When we got home it was snacks, change clothes and right to the school work. I was pleased with how easily the kids transitioned.

M has less work being she is only in Kindergarten. I did try to find things for her to play/learn/work with when she completed her tasks. Her favorite was playing puzzles.

Each day the kids have their tasks of updating the daily calendar, feeding the fish, collecting and charting eggs, and adding a bee to our 100 day sun poster (count down till our 100 day party).

What concerned me most about homeschooling was the moving back and forth between the kids. I have to say there was very little issue.  I just had to help M with her wanting to talk and talk and talk. Sometimes I was even able to take a moment if they were both working...

When C (2nd grade) found himself done with his work and I was still working with M, he would grab a book and start reading. He has always enjoyed books--but it has been with a bit of a push towards them.

On Tuesday, we ventured out to the library where those amazing ladies were holding two large stacks of books on hold for us. I also allowed the kids to use their cards to get some books they wanted. They each grabbed a number of books and broke in their cards. Between having the time and feeling big getting to check out his own books it seemed to encourage his reading time. Oh and we are charting all his books. I told him after every ten he reads I'd buy him a new book---ummm gonna have to make that a higher number or I'll go broke!

 Another discovery this week was learning M can't sit still while learning. The girl is on the go! Every time we did seatwork she was either standing or fidgeting. I made sure to give her plenty of work she could do on the whiteboard where she was able to stand up. This seemed to help keep her focused.
I also just had to get over the idea of her sitting still and working. Let her learn and move about the way that works for her. She enjoyed learning the more she was able to move around. Even when I just sit and read to the kids, she is rolling around or hopping about. I told my husband I couldn't imagine how she would do in a traditional classroom. I'm sure she would end up fine, but it would be counter to her personality.

I found most of our days lasted between 3 to 3.5 hours. It's funny how that really doesn't seem that long, but when you are teaching it seemed much longer! We did have a set start time and break time. If the kids were hungry or thirsty they could of course get something, but at break time I had them go play out in the back yard just to recharge and get some fresh air.

We finished the week off with no clips being moved to red, so they both got to dip into the treasure box. I have to admit I am excited for next week!

Monday, August 4, 2014

First day of homeschool--ever!

Today is the day. Today we begin our adventure into homeschooling. I'd be lying if I said I'm not nervous...I am very nervous. I am also very excited to be able to explore learning with my youngest two children (C and M). We will start the day by heading out to a homeschool karate class, so I am feeling pretty confident about that, hahahaha. When we get home we will have snack and start lessons. Thankfully the curriculum has our first week pretty easy learning week. If I was being honest I am most nervous about teaching two at a time. How does that work? I have my expectations pretty low to begin. I've read enough out there to just try and relax and allow ourselves time to find our groove. Let's be honest the first week kids are in elementary school have a slow start too.

Here are some final pictures of our classroom. There are a few changes, but overall I'm pretty happy with the way it all turned out.

Friday, July 25, 2014

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. One irresistible love story from the New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You

 American audiences have fallen in love with Jojo Moyes. Ever since she debuted stateside, she has captivated readers and reviewers alike, and hit the New York Times bestseller list with the word-of-mouth sensation, Me Before You. Now, with One Plus One, she’s written another contemporary opposites-attract love story that reads like a modern-day Two for the Road.

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

One Plus One is Jojo Moyes at her astounding best. You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, and when you flip the last page, you’ll want to start all over again.

My thoughts...I admit it, this is the first novel by Jojo Moyes I've read. Now I've been buying her books along the way, I believe I have three others--but I often don't get a chance to read books I buy when I'm trying to keep up with my review piles. Well I have been missing out!

I have to start with the main character Jess! I absolutely loved Jess. Here she is working her bum off to take care of her family--no one helping her, but she could really use the help! She is resourceful, helpful and wants to do right by her kids. She is everything a mom should be. She honestly reminded me of my own mom. We also struggled financially and she just did everything she could to put us first. I was sad for Jess, wanted to cry for all the struggles, yet I was clapping for her and cheered her on because she doesn't want anybodies tears.

Then there are Jess' children, Tanzie and Nicky. What great kids and they love their mom. Tanzie is just a sweetheart who loves her Maths. I could completely understand how Jess would do anything she could to help Tanzie get into a good school--I mean I wanted to pull out my own checkbook to help! Oh and Nicky...I just wanted to give that boy a hug!

These characters felt so real. Their story felt real. All the mishaps, sadness, joy--life. Moyes captured the beauty of the ordinarily wonderfulness of life.

One Plus One is a wonderful novel, with imperfect characters with messed up lives who are just trying to get by. Told in multiple voices (mostly Jess). A book you don't want to miss. One Plus One equals a perfect summer read! Highly recommending.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Best Birthday Gift

I am just gonna go on and on about these Magna Tiles I got my daughter for her birthday from Amazon. I had seen my kids play them once at the Children's Museum while back and never thought of them again. Then a month or so ago I saw some kids playing with them in my seven year old's Sunday School class. I asked the teacher about them and tolId me the kids were nuts for them. Well knowing I'm going to be home with my kids 24/7 with homeschooling I am on the look out for lots of activities to keep them occupied and thinking.

     I looked around on different educational websites for them and to be honest was shocked when I saw the hefty price tag. My first thought was to go with one of the other brands. I researched them and didn't really find any negative reviews. I also searched for different prices. In the end I did go with the name brand because it wasn't so much cheaper to go with another brand and for the cost I liked that I wasn't reading negative reviews. I went with the 100 pieces from Amazon (the best price I could find). My husband ordered them the next time he made a book order.

     Once we got them, we started playing with them. I thought gee maybe if they were younger, but I couldn't imagine my kids would love them. Well, the day after my daughters fifth birthday party I found out what they thought of them...they got up to play with them. My son lead the charge (he knew what they were). All over the floor they went. Within minutes he was building rocket ships. My daughter building a city. Hours later...they were still playing. Never have my kids sat and played anything for hours. They barely look at legos or any type of block toy ( I had reservations about the Megna Tiles for this reason, but I did find a few ideas to incorporate them with homeschooling--my pinterest board for them). 

     It's been a few weeks and they are still enjoying them. It's a great toy for using their imaginations and I couldn't be more thrilled with the purchase. I wish I had bought them when they were even younger :)

Here is my affiliate link to them, but I was not asked to review this product. 

Here is also a link to the other set if you are interested, but don't want to spend as much. Like I said I don't recall reading any negative reviews.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Midwife by Jolina Petersheim

The story about a mother who risks everything to save a child not genetically hers . . .

The Past — Graduate student Beth Winslow was sure she was ready to navigate the challenges of becoming a surrogate. But when early tests indicate possible abnormalities with the baby, Beth is unprepared for the parents’ decision to end the pregnancy — and for the fierce love she feels for this unborn child. Desperate, she flees the city and seeks refuge at Hopen Haus, a home for unwed mothers deep in a Tennessee Mennonite community.

The Present — As head midwife of Hopen Haus, Rhoda Mummau delivers babies with a confident though stoic ease. Except in rare moments, not even those who work alongside her would guess that each newborn cry, each starry-eyed glance from mother to child, nearly renders a fault through Rhoda’s heart, reminding her of a past she has carefully concealed. Past and present collide when a young woman named Amelia arrives in the sweeping countryside bearing secrets of her own. As Amelia’s due date draws near, Rhoda must face her regrets and those she left behind in order for the healing power of love and forgiveness to set them all free.

"Jolina's lyrical storytelling absolutely sings--but it's her quick-paced plot, complex characters, and insights into the Plain world that made it impossible for me to put The Midwife down." ~Leslie Gould, #1 bestselling author of The Amish Midwife

My thoughts...The Midwife is an absolute outstanding read. Jolina didn't just write Beth breathed life into Beth. Beth is a young girl trying to do something good to help someone else by becoming a surrogate at a time when it was relatively new. Things get over her head when the doctors believe the baby has abnormalities and the parents want to terminate the pregnancy. A mother's hedge of protection surround this tiny soul within her womb and Beth runs to protect her. As I read Beth, I felt for her I cheered for her. I couldn't believe the people around her and what she was seeing. She wanted to give this little baby a chance.

Over time, Rhoda a Midwife in a Mennonite community becomes cold and a little distant from those around her. Her past she keeps hidden until her past shows up on her doorstep. I honestly wasn't sure how all these stories were going to come together and one piece had me completely thrown off (I won't give more of a clue than that), but as the novel closes I was dumbfounded by the last piece of the puzzle.

The Midwife is one I had a hard time putting down. The story is told with alternating voices of past Beth, current Rhoda and Amelia. I love when I can't put everything together just right and The Midwife offers that. My heart broke for Beth and Rhoda...I wanted them to find peace and happiness. Sometimes there is no greater punishment, than the punishment we inflict upon ourselves and this was evident in The Midwife.

Do not label this book as Christian, or Amish/Mennonite fiction--labels are limiting. A stunning story of healing, of walking through our past, and coming out in-the-end a better person because of it and understanding who we are.

A book I will highly be recommending to all my friends. Jolina Petersheim is fast becoming a favorite author of mine.


Jolina Petersheim

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Eating our own food!

It's so exciting! I've planted blackberries last year and again this year. I have finally seen some of the literal fruits of my labor! I was able to pick two handfuls of blackberries. Some of them were tart, but most of them were so sweet! The kids enjoyed most of them for breakfast.

When I started putting together their plates it was exciting to realize they were eating both eggs and blackberries from our backyard!

I need to start backing my own bread. I tried a bread machine, but that didn't work out to well. Not sure if it was operator error or a faulty machine. I've been pinning recipes to make breads, but haven't made it a priority. I think I'll try to make a loaf this week. I figure I will follow the recipes and use as many organic products as possible.
Then last night I made some of the chicken we raised for meat for dinner. I made a baked chicken (I know it was too hot). I would really love some recipes for making my own breading. I really see the need to be more organized about menu planning. I want to make things using better choices, but it's so easy to use store bought...then I feel badly. I keep telling myself we are making small changes. If I can buy it organic or non gmo I do.

Please feel free to comment below with great sites or recipes!