Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Preschool Homeschool Curriculum Favorites

One of the most fun and challenging ages to home school is preschool! 

sorting apples

When your preschooler is one of the younger learners in your home, it is SUPER HELPFUL to have some things to keep them busy while you home school the older kids. Here are some quick tips for keeping 3-4 year old "busy" while you home school older kids.... 
  • Take a DEEP BREATH and remember that even though it seems like everyone is distracted and no one is learning anything, at the end of the day, they are ALL learning more than you think or realize that they are! It took a few YEARS of homeschooling for me to believe this LOL
  • Special school-time only toys to pull out for the younger ones can be a real life saver. If you need some ideas, visit Rainbow Resources - they have already done the work of finding quality education toys. 
  • Train the little ones that just because older ones are doing school, doesn't mean they get "screen time". Train them instead that they get "special toy time" or maybe even "sensory bin time" - however, quick caveat - I do plan to incorporate a little bit of screen time for my 4 year old in a desperate situation - I just don't want to set it up as the expectation. 

  • Before school starts create 4-8 sensory bins - I keep these under my bed, and put a table cloth on the ground and let Josiah play in my master bedroom. Since my room is carpeted, and some of the bins are full of rice, this does mean extra vacuuming over a small area, but for 30 min. of uninterrupted time where he is having so much fun...it is worth it! 
  • Most of the time, the 3-4 year old crowd wants to be with the rest of the family, even if they are doing school! I have found that dot markers and dot marker activity sheets are a great way to keep the littler ones busy. 
  • Another popular activity was a small white board and dry erase markers at the table we were learning at. However, "being quiet" was always a struggle for us, one we are still working on....
  • Start them young listening to books! When each of my kids stopped napping consistently, they were allowed to listen to books on Audible during quiet time. This is a super fun and easy way for them to fall in love with reading. Josiah has already learned so much listening to the Magic Tree House books. 
  • This age group is also REALLY interested in having their siblings play with them. So I often will work with one kid, and send another kid over into the play room to play with the preschooler. It is a great break for the older student, and obviously the preschooler appreciates this time! Also, anytime there is a chance to go outside to play, or go on a nature walk, or do a science experiment outside, that is also a highlight of the day for the preschooler. 
  • Often, I found myself spending a bit more one-on-one time with my older girls than with my preschooler, so often I would let him be the one to "help" me with stuff around the house...getting the mail, cooking, watering the garden, etc.  For my preschooler, Josiah, he just wants me to sit in the play room and play trucks or other games with him. So just a few minutes of doing this in the morning before school or during a school break really fills up his love tank. These are just easy ideas to show the preschooler that they are important too.



3-4 Year Olds 

After trying a variety of things, my absolute favorite resource is actually a quick easy to read book called The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live

This book reveals that most preschool classrooms are actually designed to mimic a home! There's the kitchen area, the dress up area, the reading area, and comfy places to sit. The two authors are both experts in young child development and also home school moms so I found their advice informative and practical. They discuss different areas that preschoolers should be growing in (for example: gross motor, fine motor, reading readiness, social/emotional, etc.) and give tips and ideas for how to help them grow and develop in these area. This book by itself is really all you need. But I personally wanted a little more hand holding. So I purchased the curriculum that they made called A Year of Playing Skillfully. This curriculum takes the ideas laid out in the book and creates monthly themes with books to read and multiple fun engaging ideas for each of the areas of growth they discuss in their book. Each month probably has about 30 activities based around a theme, and you can pick and choose at the beginning of the month which activities you want to do. Last year with Josiah, we probably did 1 or 2 preschool activities for him a week. Even though I had wanted to do more, he appreciated it so much every time I had a "fun activity!" for him to do that day. And many times, we could leave the activity out and he could do it more than one day. Most of the time, my older girls were eager to join in on his activities too. 


This podcast with one of the creators really summarizes the "why" behind the curriculum. The Mason Jar #27: Lesli Richards of The Homegrown Preschooler.

I admit that doing the Year of Playing Skillfully requires the parent to do some creative and sometimes "messy" stuff with their kids. Some of our best memories involve the "messier" projects. If you need some convincing, the book teaches that messy activities are actually hugely beneficial for this age group! But I also know that that's not for everyone. If not, another AWESOME resource is The Busy Toddler. I found her on Instagram and just visiting her page there will probably give you enough ideas for a whole year home with your preschooler. But she recently made: Playing Preschool, a complete two year preschool program that you can buy a year at a time. We used this some with Josiah last year too and really enjoyed most of the activities. With both this and Playing Skillfully, I would recommend planning in advance either weekly or monthly so that you have the materials and books you need to do the activities you want to do. I make hold lists at the library in advance of the school year so that requesting the books as we go along is easier. 

sorting apples



4 Years and Up 

When your child is 4 years old, they may be ready for learning their alphabet, numbers, and very beginning reading. My favorite resources so far have been.... 
These activities only take a few minutes a day and they will definitely need you to sit beside them to read instructions but they are a great and easy way to introduce school topics. You can still do the fun stuff listed above at other times in the day. 


Joining Along... 

At any age, younger kids often like to join along with what the older kids are doing. For us, this has meant for Bible stories, Bible verses, Classical Conversations memory work practice, poetry, read-alouds, History, and Science - Josiah has been invited to join us. If he decides to be with us doing these times, he is required to be quiet and listen and participate - or go to another room to play. For History and Science, I normally have a coloring page for all of the kids and that has kept their hands busy during the reading time (which honestly normally only takes 15 min.) Sometimes it is hard for him to pay attention, but other times he blows me away with what he picks up on, he even memorized quite a few of the poems from last year. 












Sunday, July 19, 2020

My Favorite Home School Curriculum - 2nd Grade

Homeschool Science 2nd Grade
Learning about phases of the moon

I'm back today with my picks for 2nd grade! If you are more interested in Kindergarten or 1st Grade, check out the last two posts I wrote. Check out those posts if it's your first year homeschooling because there are links to great resources and don't forget to double check the homeschool laws in your state. In Georgia we have to submit a Declaration of Intent to home school, but it differs from state to state. 

Language Arts 

For second grade, we continued using Abeka for our Language Arts (Link to Teacher Kit). This includes phonics, reading, cursive handwriting, and spelling. I personally recommend starting cursive in 2nd grade. I started in 1st grade with Lucy (my oldest) but I noticed that while she enjoyed cursive and did well with it, her print handwriting was suffering because she wasn't focusing on it and/or we hadn't practiced it enough yet. So I would recommend only moving onto cursive once you feel like their print handwriting is really solidified and neat. For Lucy, we took some time and went back to printing (manuscript) for a few months and that seemed to help. 

As for phonics and reading...no matter what your child has used to learn how to read, I don't think it will ever hurt to move to a more phonics-based instruction (sounding out words using vowels and consonant combinations....) However, I would be careful when choosing which level to start at. Most curriculum have placement tests that you should do first to avoid discouraging your child with something different than what they are used to. I know that the Good and the Beautiful Language Arts program is also great and offers placement tests and so does All About Reading. The Good and the Beautiful offers free downloads of their curriculum, so your only cost is printing. Abeka offers a Scope and Sequence to see where your child fits. 


One thing I love about homeschooling is my child doesn't have to be on the same grade level for each subject! For example, my oldest is young for her grade. Her birthday is in late June. So when she was a little behind in 2nd grade writing, I didn't sweat it. We will just finish up the 2nd grade level in the beginning of 3rd grade and switch to 3rd grade level when we finish (probably a month or two into the school year). So don't be concerned if your child has to be up or down a grade level from what they were before, the main thing is that they are consistently learning and growing in their skills. Also, you can modify as needed. We weren't loving one of the readers assigned to us in 2nd grade, so we just switched it out for another book. We loved all the other readers though so we kept using the program. 


Math

For Math, we continued with Math Mammoth. Again, we weren't 100% on grade level, but I decided that was fine given that Lucy was so young for her grade. In the first semester we did the 2nd half of level 1 and some of level 2 and the next semester we almost completed level 2. I also supplemented with Liberty Math Drills for math facts practice. Math Mammoth is very user friendly, but also teaches math concepts in an easy to understand way and there are free Youtube videos to go with most topics. 

For Bible, we moved onto Grade 2 Abeka Bible, which was just a new batch of Bible Stories using large Flash-A-Card pictures. We really loved it and the younger kids joined us for this. Abeka is currently running a promotion where all of their Bible curriculum is only $25 for a year of streaming video lessons! I bought this for our family for next year. For Bible Verses, we mainly practiced the Bible passage that our Classical Conversations group was learning: Genesis 1

Our 2nd Grade year we also started going through the 24 Family Ways as a family after dinner - not nearly as consistently as we wanted to, but it was great for this age. There are coloring pages in the back to keep everyone busy while listening, and the lessons are very short and sweet with lots of questions. 


Science

For Science, we tried to match up with what we were learning about at our Classical Conversations co-op for Cycle 2 which was Astronomy. So we got Apologia's Astronomy curriculum along with a science kit with ALL the supplies for ALL the science experiments for the year! This was such a time saver to me. My one critique is that a whole year on one science topic was too long for us. We had started the year focusing on nature study using Exploring Nature with Children - which I also highly recommend, but even so I'll probably try unit studies for next year. Apologia in general does an excellent job though keeping kids engaged because the text that you read is super interesting and the science projects are fun. It is nice to dive into a topic, so it may suit others just fine. 


Science was also an area that we supplemented with other programs. My kids went once a week for 6 weeks to the Reed Creek home school program - they did this at the beginning of both semesters. And we also participated in the Phinizy Swamp homeschool program - which was once per month for the whole year. They really enjoyed both of those programs and enjoyed seeing their friends. 


History

For History, we continued with Story of the World. We did Volume 1 for 1st grade, so we moved onto Volume 2 for 2nd grade. This volume covers Medieval to Renaissance History. However, if you haven't done volume 1 yet, start there even if you're in 2nd grade, it is more important to do the volumes in order. I recommend getting the audio book so you can listen to it together. We used a coloring page from the activity book for almost every lesson and occasionally checked out recommended books from the library and did suggested projects. We didn't do the tests. I still used the Usborne History Encyclopedia and displayed it on a book stand while we listened. 


Piano

2nd Grade was also the year we got more serious about piano. We start piano in 1st grade when they can read well, but 2nd grade is after they have been practicing for awhile with help from an adult and can at least practice about half of the time solo. We use the Bastien series and it really holds your hand as the student and the teacher! I think that you could probably learn along with your child at this level even if you aren't a piano player yourself! 

Poetry

For poetry, we memorized the poems from Level 1 of the Good and the Beautiful Language Arts. For Spanish, I finally found an elementary program that it so great! Calico Spanish is less than $100 for a year of streaming Spanish videos, songs, and flashcard printables, along with daily lessons plans!  

Read Alouds

For Read Alouds, we mainly used books in an older Sonlight Core B Set and a few others I picked. Note: almost all of these I didn't actually read but we all listened to the audio version found either on Audible, or from our library, or on Youtube. We listened mainly during lunch and in the car. 


  • Homer Price
  • Little Pear
  • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
  • Owls in the Family
  • Henry Huggins
  • Gooney Bird Greene
  • Adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great
  • Farmer Boy
  • Magician's Nephew
  • Pippi Longstocking
  • Babe: The Gallant Pig
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • The Illustrated Treasury of Classic Children's Stories (great if you have a kid who really wants pictures, but you want a longer story) 
  • Classic Bedtime Stories (great if you have a kid who really wants pictures, but you want a longer story) 
  • Classic Fairy Tales Vol. 1 (great if you have a kid who really wants pictures, but you want a longer story - although some were a little weird!) 
That's about it for now, I'll be back with preschool next! :) 

Friday, July 17, 2020

My Favorite Home School Curriculum - 1st Grade

1st Grade is such a great year! They learn so much and it is a year where you can look back and see the huge growth that occurs in just one year of school. 


In my last post about Kindergarten, I mentioned that if it is your first year homeschooling, you may want to check out these super helpful resources before you get started. 

Reading, Phonics, Handwriting and Math 

(these are the subjects where each student or child moves at their own pace) 

We started with Abeka Language Arts in Kindergarten so we just continued with them in 1st grade. However if you start in 1st Grade, they do enough review of the concepts learned in Kindergarten that you will be fine. I've been asked by friends what I would choose that aligns with common core - especially if they are planning on homeschooling for a short time then sending their kids back in a year or so. Abeka is strong academically and although it may teach concepts at a slightly different pace or a different way than public schools, I'm confident that I could send my kids to public school at any given time and they wouldn't be "behind". Here's an article about Abeka and Common Core
Abeka builds on the concepts of sounding out words using long and short vowels and special sounds (sh, tch, st, etc.) Abeka is a traditional form of home school curriculum so it is designed for a classroom. With this in mind, you can pick and choose what to do from the teacher guide. On the plus side, you are never at a loss with how to teach a concept,  but if you did do everything in the teacher guide it would take too long. My girls picked up reading really quickly with Abeka and continue to love reading. The readers (books designed for kids to learn reading with...) included in their program feature a lot of character qualities and biblical teaching - which for me was a plus. They also have poetry in the readers. I wanted my kids to be reading stories that would simultaneously be teaching our family's values. 

As I mentioned in the Kindergarten post there are a few other home school curriculums for Language Arts that I would consider using based on the feedback I've heard from other homeschool families:
  • NOTE - I haven’t used The Good and the Beautiful - but I’ve heard good things about it and its a FREE downloadable PDF for grades 1 - 6!!!!!  - I think you have to purchase the Kindergarten version but it’s still a lot cheaper than other options - it is a Mormon company so you may want to do some research before purchasing. 
  • I've also heard good things about but haven't personally used…. https://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/all-about-reading for reaching and phonics. I've also heard good things about but haven't personally used… https://www.lwtears.com/hwt for handwriting.

Math 

I will admit I had a LOT of trial and error when it came to Math. My poor oldest child used THREE different Math curriculums before I found one that worked well for our family. We started with Saxon Math 1 in Kindergarten. Saxon is a very strong program, but I would recommend it starting in 4th grade and not sooner. The K-3 programs are very time and teacher intensive. Saxon 1 did excel in a few areas though. It had almost daily math facts drill and there were periodic tests, but I decided to look elsewhere. I tried Singapore Math. Singapore was great at teaching math concepts in a variety of ways so they really understood them well, but it didn't include very much math drill or tests and didn't review old concepts in a way that made sense to me so again I looked elsewhere and stumbled upon a curriculum I love! 


Math Mammoth is an easy to use yet rigorous math program that is also affordable! There is just one book for the  parent/teacher and student. The program created has free Youtube videos that cover most concepts. Math Mammoth - Level 1 

Math Resources you will want to have.... 

Bible (daily)

Note: it is normally recommended that for family subjects (the ones you can all do together - that you choose curriculum based on your oldest child and the younger ones can glean from what they hear - so far this has worked for us) 

When Lucy was in 1st we used the Abeka 1st Grade Bible program. It covers Bible stories with more depth than the Bible storybooks I've used before. It also has beautiful realistic art work that you hold up while you read the story, songs to sing together, and suggests Bible verses to memorize. I love the application that was added to the end of each story and then I would just pray my own prayer with them. We learned so much and I continued with their 2nd grade program the next year. Abeka is currently offering the online streaming version of their Bible curriculum for a fraction of its normal cost - only $25! I just bought it for next year, because I thought taking one thing off my plate for next year would be good. Even though it doesn't require any prep I could play with my 1 year old while the online teacher does her thing and $25 is far cheaper than the cost of buying the materials. Even though Lucy was my only kid in 1st grade, Bridget and Josiah both listened in on this curriculum. 

Science (2 days a week) 

When Lucy was 1st grade I chose a Masterbooks Science program called "God's Design for Life" It is designed for K-2nd and  it covers Plants, the Human Body, and Animals - each for 1/3 of the  year. It was a perfect fit for us because it was easy and open-and-go which is what I was looking for since I was pregnant with Hannah that year. Per usual, we often looked up Youtube videos after our science reading and they loved it. 

The Good and the Beautiful Science Units is another curriculum I have considered and they have a free download of their Marine Biology unit. After flipping through it I think it would be perfect for this age group. 

History (2 days a week)

For History we started the Story of the World series in 1st grade. The Story of the World is a classical curriculum that exposes children of all ages to the world history in a cycle. There are 4 volumes designed to be used 1 per year then repeated. I was really impressed with this curriculum and learned a lot myself. I recommend getting the book, the audiobook, and the activity pages. I didn't use the tests. We would all sit at the table, turn the audiobook on and listen to a chapter while the kids all colored. I also bought the Usborne History Encyclopedia and displayed that on a book stand so we would have some visuals while we listened. Occasionally we would do one of the extra projects or get one of the recommended books from the library to supplement what we were learning. This book is not designed to have a Christian world view, but I would normally just pause and explain different things to my kids as they came up - for example, when we learned about Greek and Roman gods we talked about how they were different than the God we worship.  You can easily find Story of the World used on Ebay or on Homeschool buy and sell groups on Facebook. 

The Extras

The Extras

Art, Poetry, Morning Time, and Spanish remained very similar to what we did in Kindergarten - so you can check out my Kindergarten post for that info. 

For read-alouds I purchased Sonlight Core A (I saved some $ buying it used) to give me a batch of books with a schedule so I would be more diligent reading aloud to my kids. This worked out well, we read a whole lot more, and the kids loved it! I will say that I mainly used Audible because for me it was so much easier to just press play and for all of us to listen while we ate lunch, or drove around town, or even as I cleaned up the lunch mess. There were a few books that weren't on Audible, and those I almost always found for free on Youtube! 

Here's our list of read alouds:
  • My Father's Dragon
  • Hank the Cowdog #1
  • The Happy Hollisters #1
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • The Boxcar Children #1
  • Here's a Penny
  • Charlotte's Web
  • Dolphin Adventure #1
  • The Trumpet of the Swan
  • Mary on Horseback
  • Mr. Popper's Penguins
  • In Grandma's Attic #1
  • James Herriot's Treasury for Children
  • Little House in the Big Woods
  • No Children, No Pets
  • A Grain of Rice
  • Twenty and Ten
  • The Light at Tern Rock
  • The Penderwicks
  • Five True Dog Stories
This was also the year we got more diligent about our memory work for our co-op, Classical Conversations. I'll write another post about that in the near future! 


That's about it for now! I hope to post soon about 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, Preschool, and my favorite Homeschool Mom resources! Please comment if you have any questions about any of this! 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

My Favorite Home School Curriculum - Kindergarten

There is no question that 2020 has been a tough year. A year of unexpected change, a year of differing opinions, a year of trying to sort through tons of information to try to figure out what I believe to be true. However, despite all the NEGATIVE things, one of the shining POSITIVES is the increased interest in homeschooling.


I was drawn to homeschooling for a myriad of reasons before my oldest (now 8 years old) entered Kindergarten. And I shared these reasons already on social media and on this blog post: Why I Home School.

Even if you do choose to homeschooling, the next step of choosing curriculum can be really overwhelming. A few months ago, I made a word document with links to all the curriculum that I have used and really liked. I sent it to my sister and friends who have messaged me for advice about homeschooling. It dawned on me today that it would be easier to just post these links as a blog post! I'm going to break it up and do a post about each grade level.


From all the moms that I've talked to, it seems like they fall into one of two camps... Some moms are huge researchers, they want to read about all the teaching/educational philosophies, read books about homeschooling, spend hours online comparing at all the types of curriculum out there, and then agonize about which is best. I definitely fall into this camp and admit that I've been sucked down the homeschooling research drain many times. The other group of moms doesn't really want to spend all that time researching and would rather just get a good recommendation and go with it. Neither way is better or worse, I just wanted to provide some additional links that my fellow "researchers" may enjoy while at the same time making the point that while researching can be super helpful if you're into it - it isn't necessary to do an excellent job homeschooling! In other words - no pressure!

This is the BEST single resource for learning about the 5 types of educational philosophies that you will often hear mentioned in homeschooling circles and on curriculum websites. It is well worth your 30 minutes if you are considering homeschooling.

How you choose to home school will be as unique as you and your kids are. No two home school families educate in the same way. So be encouraged that if you think another family is doing a "better" job, they probably aren't doing a better job, they are just educating differently that you. And I do think it is well worth the time to think through "how" you want to educate your kids before you actually jump in. The first book I read about homeschooling was You Can Do It Too! 25 Homeschool Families Share Their Story and it really encouraged me that there are many different ways to home school. Also, another super helpful resource is Cathy Duffy's Curriculum Reviews - she has written detailed non-biased reviews about most home school curriculum. I'll write another post soon with more "teacher mom" resources, but for now I'll move onto Kindergarten!

My Kindergarten Curriculum Choices


Language Arts (Phonics, Reading, Handwriting) & Math

In Kindergarten, my main objective was to focus on the basics - reading, writing, and math. I want to give my kids as strong of a foundation as possible during the early years when it isn't embarrassing to work on handwriting! Abeka is a traditional form of curriculum - in other words it was originally designed for the classroom and used in many Christian schools. In fact, I was taught using Abeka when I attended elementary school! Abeka gives a super strong foundation in the basics with lots of repetitive practice. Some people don't enjoy this, but for the basics, I have enjoyed giving my kids lots of practice so that reading, writing, etc. becomes second nature to them. And really the work is just a few workpages a day that can be done with minimal time investment. The teacher guide gives more suggestions than you even need so I always just pick and choose the activities that I think will help my child the most.

Here is the Abeka K5 Child Kit which is basically all the materials the student needs. You need one pack per student. The Abeka K5 Parent Kit is what the teacher needs and it is reusable each time you teach Abeka K5. These kits include Phonics, Reading, Handwriting and Math. Make sure you get the manuscript option. I start cursive in 2nd grade.

NOTE - I haven’t used this curriculum - but I’ve heard good things about it and its a FREE downloadable PDF for grades 1 - 6!!!!!  - I think you have to purchase the Kindergarten version but it’s still a lot cheaper than other options - it is a Mormon company so you may want to do some research before purchasing. https://www.goodandbeautiful.com/pre-k-8-curriculum/language-arts/

I've also heard good things about but haven't personally used…. https://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/all-about-reading for reaching and phonics.

I've also heard good things about but haven't personally used… https://www.lwtears.com/hwt for handwriting.

Family Subjects (the subjects we all do together)


Bible (Daily)

When Lucy (my oldest) was in Kindergarten I just wanted a basic Bible with interesting pictures - we loved this one so much it gone torn up and I had to get it rebound at FedEx!

I also highly recommend Abeka's Bible Program. I didn't feel like my kids were ready for it until 1st grade though:  it even has an activity book to go along with it.

Bible Verses - we just pick our own, we’ve done ABC Bible Verses, verses from church, longer passages, etc.

Science (I do this 2 days a week)

When Lucy was in Kindergarten -  - we methodically went through this Usborne Children's Encyclopedia since it was in our Sonlight batch of books and we LOVED it! There are internet links in it - and I would also just pull up some Youtube Videos that went with the topics afterwards and they loved that.

I didn't know about this when Lucy was in Kindergarten but used it when Bridget was in Kindergarten, it is weekly nature study lessons that encourages kids to observe and enjoy the world around them. I love this curriculum and hope to use it more in the future - Exploring Nature with Children.


History ( I do this 2 days a week)

When Lucy was in Kindergarten - We bought Sonlight Kindergarten used - so it was a different version than this, but they just redesigned it and this looks AWESOME! To save money, you could just buy the two "Heroes and Happenings" books. https://www.sonlight.com/KCKR5.html

The Extras


Art

My two older girls have always LOVED art! After looking at the cost of actual art lessons, I realized it was a better bang for my buck to just buy a DVD with art lessons and buy the supplies. I figured they would maybe enjoy having the art supplies on hand at home - and of course they do!

I started with Home Art Studio: Kindergarten because it was affordable and they sell a prepackaged art supply kit so I never had to worry about running out to Hobby Lobby to grab last minute art supplies! The actual art lessons haven't blown me away but the kids seem to like it.

After purchasing that, I discovered this awesome website where you learn to draw all sorts of things using chalk pastels. Most lessons are taught by a sweet grandmother and they have lots of free lessons and resources on Youtube. Buying a good set of chalk pastels isn't too expensive either. I would recommend starting outside though! https://www.chalkpastel.com/

I've also been really impressed with Artistic Pursuits. They teach art simultaneously with art observation and art history. It is totally age appropriate and they learn so much! I plan to use this in the  future.

Poetry

I get my poetry for kids to memorize from the free Language Arts downloads at https://www.goodandbeautiful.com/pre-k-8-curriculum/language-arts/ - OR from the Abeka curriculum.

Morning time

For morning time during Kindergarten, I mainly focused on calendar time, learning the days of the week, the months of the year, the pledge of allegiance, and our Bible Verses. You can go crazy with morning time (in a good way!) if you want. My favorite resource for morning time/circle time is Jady A on Youtube. She has so many resources on home education for the early years.


Spanish

After searching high and low and even purchasing two programs I didn't even like....I started using Calico Spanish when Lucy was in 2nd and the younger ones enjoy it too! I love this program and plan to use it throughout elementary.

Read Alouds

"Read Alouds" is a fancy term for just reading chapter books aloud to your kids. After reading The Read Aloud Handbook I was convinced this would play a role in our homeschool.

I find ideas of what books to read on a variety of subjects from these curriculums - they are book based and super expensive, but you can get lots of ideas by browsing their curriculum because their curriculum is basically just sets of books hand picked for a topic and age group.


That's about it for now! I hope to post soon about 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, Preschool, and my favorite Homeschool Mom resources! Please comment if you have any questions about any of this! 

Why I Home School

One silver lining to the Covid-19 quarantine for me has been the friends who have asked me for more information about homeschooling. 💗📚 I’ve been privileged to share with them with the resources that have helped me over the last 3 years as a homeschooling mom. So if you are out there and are curious about what it’s like to home school for the long-term please don’t hesitate to ask! Even if you’re just curious and don’t plan to actually home school. 😃

I know that the last few weeks have been FAR from easy or ideal for the many parents thrown into homeschooling. I can’t imagine having to switch daily plans and schedules or homeschooling without any time to prepare.

Life for us has changed a lot too. The home school life of the last five or so weeks has been much more isolated than average. We have missed our weekly activities and seeing friends.

I want to quickly share “why” we home school. This is not really meant to “compare” to traditional school because honestly we don’t really know what that’s like...and this is NOT meant to be a argument that you should home school, I just wanted to share if anyone is curious...


Homeschooling allows our family to:
  1. Teach each subject the way we want to teach it and at the pace we want to teach it. One of my children has a late summer birthday, so this has enabled us to put her in different grade levels for different core subjects (math and reading). For another child it means they are half a grade ahead and don’t even realize it!
  2. We can wait until they master a concept before moving on, or purposely move on and plan to revisit that topic later.
  3. We can teach all subjects with a Biblical worldview while still exposing our kids to a variety of different cultures and religions. We can teach many subjects together so my 2nd grader, and kindergartner and even 3 year old have been learning about the Middle Ages and Astronomy this year. I don’t have to juggle different subjects for each kid (except for Math and Language Arts).
  1. We can teach Bible as a core subject.
  2. My kids have LOTS of time with me and their siblings. Some days this is great, and some days this is challenging, but overall I’m thankful for the loads of time they get to spend together. It forces them to figure out how to have fun together.
  3. We can have as much or as little social interaction as we want. If I want my kids to see other kids their age every day of the week, the opportunities are here in the CSRA. There are tons of co-ops, science clubs, social meet-ups, and even extra-curricular activities during school hours set up for home-schoolers - like art, music, horseback riding, or gymnastics!
  4. We can stay up late and sleep in late! I know this isn’t necessarily what everyone wants to do, but I enjoy setting my own time schedule. For us that means we don’t really start school until 10:00 am most days 😬 but it gives us the benefit of easy, slow mornings and sometimes even a warm breakfast!
5. There are so many curriculum choices that you can find one for each subject that fits your family well. We love our history and science curriculum - they are interesting and have lots of optional hands on activities to choose from.
6. We have a “rest time” each day when the kids who don’t nap can read, listen to books or play quietly doing an activity that interests them.
7. We are ready and energized to do evening activities after school especially on the days when we haven’t seen friends yet.

These are just some of the positives, maybe I’ll share the negatives another day 😂😂 but in all seriousness, please message me if you’re ever interested in picking my brain about the world of homeschooling!

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Hannah 1st Birthday Letter

Dear Hannah -

You will be one tomorrow! I can't even put into words the JOY that you have brought to our family over the last 12 months - it brings joyful tears to my eyes because you have been a huge gift and blessing to our family -  a blessing that we don't deserve but God in his love gave us anyway.

After you were born, we took some time off of homeschool. The first few months of your life we had so many visitors! The Jakstadts, the Smalls, and the Baaremans all took turns coming to stay with us for the first 6-8 weeks of your life. This was really helpful because it gave your big siblings something to do while we spent the majority of our time home with you. I remember taking you when you were only a few weeks old to the North Augusta Colonial Times event and feeding you in this old chapel because it was the only place with shade, privacy, and a chair! I also took you at only a few weeks old to one of Bridget's soccer games at the Y. From the beginning you were a pretty easy baby. We could take you almost anywhere and you were happy and would sleep in your car seat. Eventually your sleep schedule got a little out of whack and you would stay up super late. I can't remember exactly when but I didn't want to make you "cry-it-out" like your siblings. I rocked and nursed you to sleep because I now knew how quickly the baby stage would go. I also decided that I wanted you to be a "paci-baby" so you wouldn't suck your thumb. This resulted in a LOT of work putting your pacifier in over and over in the middle of the night when you were too little to put it back in your mouth on your own. But by around 4 months you had figured out how to put it back in your mouth by yourself and sleep became a little easier. Also, somewhere along the line, I decided you needed to be able to put yourself to sleep - probably around 6 months. So prior to 6 months you really needed me to put you to sleep or you would scream and cry a lot. There was one time that I went to book club and Daddy took you to Grandma and Grandpa's house with a bottle but you would NOT go to sleep without me. You screamed and cried no matter what they did so he had to drive you home - luckily by the time he made it home you had fallen asleep in the car.

Another thing I remember from your early baby days (probably around 1-3 months) is that you SCREAMED in your carseat! This had never happened with any other babies. I tried everything from putting a mirror by your seat, to a light up toy to even buying a bigger carseat. Lucy would have to re-insert your paci at many red lights during that time and driving anywhere was very nerve-wracking! Luckily you grew out of that stage - but it did seem to last a while.

From the beginning your siblings have LOVED you so much. They loved holding you and watching you on your play mat when you were tiny - and now that you are walking and playing, they love playing with you and seeing all the funny and cute things you do.

The summer you were born, we took it pretty easy. We didn't go to the beach since we thought it wouldn't be much fun with a tiny baby. We went to the pool at the Y here and there and I would actually somehow climb down the ladder with you in my arms! 😮 My parents brought their boat here and let us keep it for a few weeks, and I would leave you with Grandma and pump while on the boat. The summer was filled with birthday parties for your 3 siblings and other friends, swim lessons, going to the zoo, visitors, and church activities. We even bought a van that first summer and had a scary metal object ruin our wheel while on the way to dance camp for Lucy at church. Everyone was fine, but the new (to-us) van had to get fixed very soon after we had purchased it! We took a few trips to Atlanta, and in late September we went to Destin with the Baareman family! We took some photos on the beach to celebrate the Baaremans renewing of vows for their 40th anniversary.

Once school started in the fall, we opted for a slower pace. I didn't tutor but we still did Classical Conversations. For the first half of the year you would take naps either in your stroller or in the baby carrier during class, towards the end of the school year you were crawling everywhere - even under the table which was pretty distracting to the kids so I decided to sign you up for the nursery class - even though I was sad not to get undivided time to hold you - which is pretty hard to come by with 3 other kids! You started crawling around 6 months, and started to take some steps by 10 months and were really walking by 11 months. After you learned to walk there was no going back, you never have really crawled since and now at 12 months, you are able to walk all over the yard, up and down hills, up and down our driveway, and recently have started crawling up and down stairs! I even found you one time on top of the kid sized table - you had climbed up the chair, then up to the top of the table! So those chairs are now hidden in my closet.

With your siblings, I had learned how fast the baby stage went, and I knew how distracted I was with homeschool and other home tasks, so I tried my very best to soak in the "baby moments" I had with you. I would rock and feed you to sleep - which did take more time but I enjoyed every minute of quiet time I had with you. I would opt to take you to church with me so I could just hold you and have you play on a mat in front of me. Home school has definitely been more to juggle now with you in the picture, but I've been amazed that we have stayed on track somehow! Basically it has meant stretching out the length of our school days. We do a little bit at breakfast, then I try to do at least math with the girls or read the Bible story while you are awake. Then when you took your morning nap, we would do our subject of the day (either History of Science), then I could listen to the girls read with you in my lap, and during your afternoon nap (while Josiah was also in his room) we would do Phonics, Reading, Spelling, and any tests. Now, at 12 months, you have mostly transitioned to one long nap from about 1:00-4:00.

In March of 2020, this crazy thing called Covid-19 happened and for about 8 weeks, most of the nation had to mainly stay at home to keep from spreading the sickness. All of our activities got cancelled, all homeschool stuff, all church stuff, all sports stuff, etc. It was a little scary especially as we figured out day by day if daddy's patient's would be able to keep coming to see him. We praise God that daddy was able to keep his job and life for us (as already homeschooling) stay pretty much the same except that we couldn't go to the park or really run errands. We spent most of our time at home and enjoyed the extra family time we had. This did affect your first birthday though :( - On  your birthday, we bought lots of decorations (we even got a small helium tank to blow up som birthday balloons for you!), Grandma and Grandpa came over to celebrate with us, and we did a Zoom call with the Atlanta family so they could see you eat your first birthday cake! It was a from-scratch funfetti cake with chocolate frosting and you loved it! I forgot to make you a small smash cake, so you just smashed a giant cake slice. We also had a pinata in the garage (it rained the entire day....) shaped like the number 1. Another funny story is that we couldn't find a place to get food on your birthday! We were going to get Chinese, but every Chinese restaurant we called was closed. We finally decided to just go to Zaxby's but the drive-through line was wrapped around the building! Daddy had to wait almost 30 minutes to get food and we were super starving but we finally all enjoyed your birthday dinner - it was definitely a unique time to have a birthday!

We love you so much Hannah! You are our little adventurous and very sweet girl and we know God has wonderful plans for your life.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Humanity's Frailty, Civilization's Fragility, and a Foundation That Cannot Be Shaken


"All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.  The grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of the Lord stands forever."  -Peter in 1 Peter 1:24-25

Like many of you I've been watching and processing the global expansion of the COVID-19 virus.  It certainly is the most prolific event of our 2020 calendar year thus far.  It came seemingly out of nowhere and has spread to pandemic proportions affecting people, businesses, communities, industries, and nations all over the world.

And as government officials, pundits, and medical professionals continue to comment on so many of the effects and changes this disease has created and will continue to create, I can't help but see a deeper picture.  Are there economic ramifications of the virus?  Yes.  Are there political ramifications virus?  Absolutely.  We will have to watch and see how all of those issues pan out over the next several weeks but there is a much deeper issue on which to reflect.

What has been acutely on my mind is how this unprecedented event is truly rattling humanity.  What I see in all of the panic and worry in society is people who no longer have any kind of secure foundation at all. In an effort to emancipate ourselves from God's design, we have been given over to our own wants and desires, searching for anything in which to have confidence but finding nothing lasting.  And it breaks my heart.  So if you are reading this as Christ follower, take heed and be encouraged.  And if you are reading this as a seeker or skeptic then contemplate your life before an ever uncertain world.

Peter quotes some truly contemplative words in the above passage.  And this is what I've been thinking about so much.  Human beings are the crown of creation but God's word says we are like grass.  And all of the glory of humanity - the creativity, the discovery, the intellect, the compassion, the accomplishments of monumental proportions - is like a flower that just withers away.  We cannot have confidence in ourselves.  We cannot have confidence in the systems we create.  We cannot have confidence in our accomplishments as a human society as evidenced the upheaval this invisible virus has caused.

I think we are seeing that play out writ large in our own country as well as the globe.  There is so much worry and fear.  We have put our confidence in money and markets.  We have put our confidence in science and technology.  We have put our confidence in governments and political parties.  We have put our confidence in our professions.  We have even put our confidence in our own identities.  We have put our confidence in the things of this world.  But I think this infectious agent known as COVID-19 is meant to wake us up to the reality that all of these things will never satisfy, fulfill and ultimately save humanity.  These things don't create peace they lend themselves to panic and anxiety when they all come crashing down.  We are putting our confidence in shifting sand.

"And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life." -Jesus in Matt.6:17

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal." -Jesus in Matt 6:19

Markets crash.  Economies sputter.  Money vanishes.  Medicine runs out.  Governments fail.  Science and technology are gifts of God's grace to save lives but cannot provide an ultimate cure nor prevent every disease because new sicknesses will continue to appear in a fallen world.  This world is a sinful, broken, fallen, painful, hurtful, and infected place with no hope.  We are frail.  Civilization if fragile.  And the coronavirus pandemic is highlighting this very point in our own heart and life and in the hearts and lives of others.

Sounds like a bleak situation.  And it is.  Sadly, this is where millions of Americans find themselves and where billions of people around the world find themselves.

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." -Paul in 1 Cor. 15:57

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world." -Jesus in John 16:33

So listen to the good news of the Gospel!  Despite disease, pestilence, heartache, sickness, brokenness, sin and death there is a real hope that can be found by repenting of our confidence/faith in ourselves and in this world and trusting in the person of Jesus as Savior.  He provides a lasting hope.  His word lasts forever.  It is the only thing that will fulfill and the only thing that can sustain our peace in uncertain times.  Christ alone is where confidence is found.  Christ alone is the only foundation that cannot be shaken.

So to the seeker, the skeptic, the anxious, and the worried who might be reading:  God sees you and God cares for you.  God in his grace is shaking your foundation to show you your need to put your faith and hope in a foundation that will never crumble. Put your faith in a person who will never leave you nor forsake you.  Put your hope in the risen Christ Jesus.  You have already seen and felt seismic shifts of change creating fear, worry, and panic.  You don't have to live with no hope or confidence in this life.  Repent of running from God and pursuing yourself - finding your confidence and identity in the things of this world.  Run to him.  He is a loving Father who will forgive you and welcome your return with open arms if you turn from your ways and trust in Christ for salvation.

"We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." -Paul in 2 Cor. 5:2

And to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ: Take heed, as I am doing, and search your heart to make sure your confidence has not been swept into the things of this world.  Take heed of your attitude and make sure that it is not the same as the world.  How will a fearful world know of any hope if we look and act as the world looks and acts?  As you take heed repent before the Lord, refresh your confidence in the living God, and begin to live in the hope of Christ.  Then, out of that renewal, trust God that he will provide everything you need. Pray. Be prepared to help others spiritually and physically, and carry out God's mission of reconciliation to reap the eternal rewards found in Christ!

"...but the word of the Lord stands forever." -Peter in 1 Peter 1:24-25

Let's make sure that while this virus will be emblazoned in the annals of history, the bigger story will be a sweeping revival of repentance and hope throughout the whole world! May we pray and act to that end.

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