Friday, October 10, 2014

Challenge B: an Answered Prayer...

When we first decided to change from our tutorial we had been at for 4 years, our son was a little worried. A few of his friends were also returning to public school, so he even mentioned that for the first time ever. He's also very much like me in that change makes me nervous (when we were looking for a new church one time my husband called me a church chicken!). I so wanted him to be happy in his Challenge group. I was also worried he would rebel against all the hard work.

So, my husband and I began praying about it. We prayed fervently all summer that he would make new friends and enjoy Challenge B. They had a few get-togethers that seemed to help, but I was still worried that the work load would turn him off.

Then class started. I was a little nervous after the parent meetings and looking at the assignments, but he wasn't at all. He loved it. Sometimes I wish he'd be a little more stressed just so it would light a fire under him to get things done :)

I'm so impressed with everything about the Challenge program. One of best parts is it is such a great blend of schoolwork and a great social outlet. Part of his willingly doing the work is due to peer pressure- but the good kind! I'll take all the help I can get getting him to do his work. He has made such great friends which makes this mommy very grateful.

It's not just the social part though, I can really see the things he's learning beginning to impact him. He has loved both the books, which is saying something for him. Then the ultimate confirmation came last week. We were to leave for the beach Saturday, and Thursday we were joking about jumping in the car and leave early. Jackson said he didn't want to miss school! Really, for the beach???

Then when we were at the beach we were trying to decide what our fun activity would be- renting jet skis or a pontoon boat. Jackson said, "We should make an ANI chart!" He got a piece of paper and wrote down all the Affirmatives and Negatives for renting a pontoon boat. I had to send a picture to his tutor to show her it was soaking in!
My husband and I truly believe that God answered our prayers. Our son is happy and flourishing, and we are reassuringly confident that Challenge B is just what he needed. As everything in CC, it has been a great blessing to our family.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Nature Walk...

Since my hubby was gone all week on a mission trip to Nicaragua, we decided to go stay with my mom. She had found a new park for us to check out. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. We even brought our dog who loved it. Will is always a great poser!
My family is on that bridge but you can't quite see them. Isn't it beautiful?
We loved the bridge because we could see turtles and all the geese with their babies.
After several tries (sorry Mom, I couldn't resist) Gram snapped a picture of me and my girl. I'm actually in a picture!
The boys LOVED the babies!
I had to snap this picture because we found where someone had scratched "I love Will" into the bridge. He thought that was cool.
As we walked we saw tons and tons of turtles. Being a homeschooler, I had to use the opportunity to teach them about reptiles and what it means to be cold-blooded. To top off our great walk we saw this snake hanging out on this branch.
Luke watched over his kids.
 Some little cute stinker talked big bro into carrying him.
 I love this picture so much I may frame it!
 This one melts my heart!
As we were leaving they were making a movie about the city and asked us if we would be in it because a family out walking their dog was perfect. So we walked across the bridge a couple of times while they filmed us. We will keep watching the website looking for our debut! At least it will be a fun story to tell daddy when he gets home!

 We spent the night and, let the record show, got up and did some school in the morning. It was fun doing it somewhere different. I enjoyed having a co-teacher as Gram did Bible with Ashton.
 We just started a new math program and they are doing great on it.
 When a 13 year old sees you taking pictures they have to be goof balls...
 We had a great visit. The kids spent hours and hours playing outside and in the creek. We love being here. I'm thinking we should just move in. It takes a village after all!

Our New Adventure...

For four years we have been part of a great tutorial. It is led by some of the godliest women I know who I have the pleasure of calling some of my dearest friends. I have also been the history teacher there for four years teaching all 4 volumes of Story of the World. I loved teaching. It was great to be back in a classroom setting again teaching the most precious children. It has been a pleasure to relearn history by looking at it as His-story. I loved the families in our tutorial and have been blessed beyond measure by our participation in it!

However, after much prayerful consideration we have decided to do something different this upcoming year- Classical Conversations. With the twins starting kindergarten this year my official student load doubled! I have just felt so overwhelmed trying to teach 2 kids to read, a fifth grader who has been diagnosed with an eye problem (convergence insufficiency) requiring therapy at home and 45 minutes away, and a middle schooler diving into Latin and chemistry!

I have always felt this constant pressure to reinvent the wheel in my homeschooling. I am also always stressed about filling in the gaps. Confession time: my kids have never learned about plants. How did that happen? Along with that comes the mommy guilt all homeschoolers face of "Am I messing them up?", "Can I do this?", "Are they missing out on things by not being in public school?" Of course, I know that God called us to this and it is absolutely the right things for my kids, but the devil certainly knows how to attack me in my thoughts and doubts.

I don't want to have to worry about missing things on the "2nd go round" with the twins so I really wanted something that was laid out K-12. We had visited a friend's Classical Conversations Community the year before, and I was blown away by how much my kids learned in just that one visit. I knew the fast pace would be great for my very active boys, and the auditory aspect is ideal for my daughter.

With all of that said, there is nothing I enjoy more than lesson planning- no seriously! I love reading blogs and pinning ideas on Pinterest. Therefore, I wanted a curriculum that was laid out but not scripted. I am just enough of a rebel that I don't want it to tell me what to say and when (that is terrible, I know). I feel that Classical Conversations gives me an outline of what to cover but allows me the freedom to decide how deep I want to go. This cycle we will be studying the human body. When we get to the five senses I already have some cool hands-on activities and crafts I'm planning to do.

But here is the beauty part: if life gets busy (as it does more often than not) and we don't get to all that hands-on goodness, it's OK. Did you guilt-ridden mommies hear that? It's OK if I'm only able to do the CC memory work with some math and reading because they are still learning a huge amount of information. There is such freedom in that- freedom from guilt of not doing over-the-top crafts every day while still allowing me freedom to do things the way that best fits my kids. The thought of it makes me giddy :)

So now that you know I'm a planning geek, I am hoping to use this blog to document our new adventure and share anything I figure out that might help others as we begin our new classical adventure!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Story of the World Year 4 Week 1...

I always assign some kind of get to know you activity which is due the first day of tutorial. I always try to make the activity relate to what we are studying that year. For example, the first year they made timelines of their lives. The 2nd year they made a coat of arms since we were studying medieval times.  Last year they had a trunk pop-up and they had to illustrate and tell the class what 5 items they would've taken with them on the Mayflower if they were a Pilgrim.

I was really struggling with what to do this year. First of all, I am now teaching history to 4th grade-8th grade verses 2nd through 5th I've done in the past so I wanted something a little more age appropriate than a pop-up. Secondly, I've never really considered how war ridden the last century has been until I began thinking about teaching it!

During one of my insomnia brainstorming nights with the help of Pinterest I hit upon the perfect solution. Since we will be working our way all the way to modern times I wanted the kids to realize that they are part of HIS-story too. So, I decided to give them an assignment to research their family history. Plus, I really wanted them to make the connection that they have people in their families that lived through these events we are studying!!! I truly believe I fell in love with history by hearing my grandmother tell about how her dresses were all made of flower sacks or my grandfather tell about how on his way to Korea another soldier missed his birthday when they sailed over the International Date Line.

I found this great list of questions to use to interview your grandparents. I adapted it a little.

My kids are both in my class so one of they each interviewed a different great-grandmother. We all enjoyed spending time talking with both of them.

The kids all had to talk about their interviews for about three minutes in class. It was truly fascinating to see how many different places and interesting lives the kids' families have had! It sparked so many conversations and got us all excited about learning history! It was my favorite back to school activity ever!

The rest of the class was spent organizing our notebooks, passing out their timelines, and doing the map of Great Britain.

I was so blown away that I now have 45 students between my 4 classes, but the day went great and was really enjoyable. I'm excited about this year.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

First Day of School 2013-2014...

Well, after a ridiculously busy and therefore short summer the first full day of school was upon us.
The last few weeks I have been frantically planning and organizing to make sure it is a good year, although I could use about another month to plan and organize! I have also been trying to anoint all the plans and preparations in prayer because I finally understand that there is NO way I can do what I've been called to do, but I can do ALL things through HIM who gives me strength.
So far, my best idea has been assigning daily meal helpers. I have 4 kids and we are home 4 days a week (Thursdays we go to our tutorial) so I assigned a helper for 4 meals: breakfast, snack, lunch and dinner. They have to either prepare or help me prepare their meal and clean up after. It has been such a great help in the two days we've done it so far!
Sweet Sissy was my breakfast helper on the first day and was excited because pancakes are her favorite things to cook. Plus, her pretty smile makes cooking more fun :)

I usually do cinnamon rolls in the shape of their grade, but we also do that for birthdays so I thought I'd try something new this year- pancake numbers:

Thanks to our new morning schedule before these shining faces sat down they had their quiet time, wrote in their thankful journals (part of their quiet time), made their beds, brushed their teeth and hair (although I think Sissy skipped that step), got dressed and practiced piano or guitar. That's a successful day already in my book!

After breakfast and Bible study we come upstairs to the carpet. Today was a giant, important day- the first official day of kindergarten for my two babies! To me, when I think kindergarten I think calendar time. I got some great calendar printables in their notebooks, and we were ready to rock.

My other sweet kindergarten face. I had to document this moment because somehow in the middle of calendar time his arm got stuck in the chair! That sounds about right around here.

Since it is kindergarten after all there must be dance breaks. This one was to a Seeds of Worship song so it was doubly good.

I have workboxes set up full of learning games for the boys to pull out during the day. Will was all about the pattern blocks on this day and did them several different times.

Wesley loved the bears and figuring out they had to be equal to balance. I love his sweet smile!

Although Wesley pretty much knows all his upper and lowercase letters, I still have learning activities for him to practice them.
One thing I'm infamous for is saying we are going to do art and music at the end of the day and never get to them. I was determined not to let that happen this day at least. I've decided to spend a month, maybe even a semester per composer. So today we kept it simple and just listened to some compositions by Vivaldi. I had them draw what the picture made them think of as they listened. However, they thought it was more fun to use two pencils like a violin and bow and play along! 
Not counting the fact that during recess they rearranged my entire living room to make it into a "jail" for their Nerf gun war which made the biggest mess ever, this was really and truly a picture perfect day. Even Principal Daddy couldn't get over how stress free the teacher was when he came home. Of course, it was four o'clock and she was just finishing reading aloud a book about Patrick Henry, but he learned some new things as he listened so it's all good!
Never underestimate the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit.
The Maker of the Universe cares about me having a successful math lesson-
how amazing is that???

Reading Workshop Day 1...

When I was teaching public school my very favorite part of the day was our Reading and Writing Workshops. This year I want to make this our priority in our homeschool because if I can teach them one thing I want it to be to love reading.

Patricia Polacco is my VERY favorite children's author so I decided to kick the year off with a great book of hers about the importance of reading. I read them Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair. It's about a town that closes their library to put up a TV tower. It was a really sweet book, and I hardly cried! The kids love for me to read her books because they ALWAYS make me tear up. They think it is hilarious :)

Then we went over our notebooks. We probably have too many. I may have an addiction to notebooks :) We have spiral notebooks where we keep their list of books they read throughout the year plus a genre graph to see what types of books they are reading.

They also have a brand new Reading Response notebook.  When I taught school I always gave homework three nights a week to read for twenty minutes and write me a short letter about what they read. Then I would write them back, and we would talk reading. It was a great way to get to know my students. Since there are too many books and not enough time, I decided my kids could have some homework too. So, this year they will have to read for 20 minutes and write me a letter two times a week. I even put it at the bottom of their weekly assignment page so they won't forget.

The most important one is their Reading Notebook. This is where they take notes from our mini-lessons. We are using the same one they had last year so we can just review the lessons we did last year. I will try to post pictures of this soon.

So, we basically just reviewed all these and got to the best part- reading time. They read for at least 20 minutes but ideally 30 minutes a day. For the most part, they get to pick their own books. However, this year I get to pick a book a month that they must read. I tried to pick books they'd enjoy but were classics that I wanted to make sure they read. Sometimes they also will read their Sonlight history books.

We are experimenting with a reading log where they have to write down what book and pages they read each day. I'd love to have this information because I'm interested in increasing their reading speed, but we will see if it worth keeping up with one more paper.

Day one wasn't anything too special besides a great book, but it set us up for lots of great learning together this year!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kindergarten Reading Workshop Day 1...

Since one of my main goals with the kids this year was to spend a lot more time reading and learning about reading I knew I wanted to include my two kindergartners in on that as well. I've decided to do a reading mini-lesson with them as well while the big kids are having their silent reading time.

It has been a long time since I have done or read about mini-lessons for kindergartners. I had some last minute planning panic as I sat down to actually plan mini-lessons for the first week. What should I teach my non-readers?  My master plan also included them having silent reading time on their own as well, so next I panicked if I would in the real world (as opposed to my favorite world- picture perfect planning family) be able to get them to sit and read quietly when they don't know how to read???

When I read up on the Daily 5 and from hanging out with my teacher friends, I knew that they had to build "reading stamina" so I would work them into reading a little longer each day. As I tried to picture what that time would look like a good reading instruction term popped into my head and mini-lesson #1 was born.

So, today I had them sit on the carpet and I very dramatically told them I had a book for them that they had never read before. I had the book turned around and told them when I turned it over they had to use their best reading thinking and make some predictions as to what it was about.

They were part of the opening Reading Workshop Lesson I did with all the kids where I read them Patricia Polacco's Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair. I reminded them how we learned in that book that "Books hold treasures and the key to unlocking the treasure is reading". Then I dramatically explained to them that this was their kindergarten year which meant that they were going to get the key to the treasure- learning to read. However, they don't have it yet so today we were going to learn one way to read which was reading by the pictures.

I turned the book over. It was If You Take a Mouse to School (I'd like to tell you I researched the perfect book for this lesson but really at the last minute I grabbed the first book I could find that I hadn't read to them yet. It was PERFECT!). They have read If You Give A Mouse a Cookie which worked out beautifully because they understood the flow of the story and were better able to make good predictions based on the pictures.

I told them we were going to "picture walk" through the book, and they were to tell me what happens by looking at the pictures. Then I literally made my two fingers walk across the book as we turned each page. They LOVED it!

After all their great predictions we read the book and talked about how well they predicted what would happen. Then I got my timer out and explained that now they GOT to go read quietly on their own. I showed them the timer and we counted out 4 minutes together. I laid out all the other books in that series and told them they could choose one of them or another book from their shelf.

Interestingly, Will grabbed three books but actually spent the entire time rereading the one we had done together. He's my very active child, but if you get him to buy into an activity there is none better. Well, I must have sold this well because he took his books to his table and didn't look up until the timer went off!

Wesley, God bless him, is going to struggle with the silent part of silent reading! He's my chatty kid. Well, one of two I should say (Big sister was in her room reading!). In his defense, he was sitting close to me and was just telling me about the book so it was good!

They read perfectly for 4 minutes today, and we will try 5 tomorrow. At the dinner table when they had to tell Daddy what they learned and what their favorite thing was they both answered "Picture Walking" for both so I'm counting Reading Workshop Day 1 as a complete success!