Monday, August 31, 2009

Dollar Store Centers #1...

I have been inspired by Carissa's Tools for Tots and other blogs that link to it by the really inexpensive toddler activities they make. However, I wanted to do something like that for school age children. I have long been shopping at the dollar store for things for the twins like pitchers and sorting trays. However, now I started to look at things at the dollar store I could make learning centers out of for my 1st and 3rd grader. Since we use the workbox system these are all great things I can throw in the kids' workboxes to make learning more fun.
Then I thought how fun it would be to share anything I could come up with with my blog readers. So, this is the new feature on my blog: Dollar Store Centers. I am having the best time with this. I am a center making addict!
The first one is an easy one that didn't take me but a few minutes to make. One of the first skills I wanted us to cover was ABC order. I made one for Ashton which were easy words all starting with different letters to make it easier. I made Jackson two. One all started with the same letter so he had to practice 2nd and 3rd letter order and the other was mixed.

They really loved this simple activity.

I found these colorful diecuts at the dollar store. I made all 3 centers out of the same $1 pack. Then I just put it in envelopes I already had and decorated them a little. The most expensive part was probably the Velcro dot I used to hold the envelope shut :)

Obviously, this is not rocket science, but it was fun to make and to share. ABC order was something I otherwise would've done with pen and paper, and trust me the kiddos loved this much more!

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First Official Day...

We have actually been doing school for over 3 weeks. However, I was reading a blog the other day about making the first day of school special for homeschoolers just like you would if they were in public school. This really struck me as I would normally have bought new outfits, new backpacks, lunch boxes, supplies and taken tons of pictures. I realized that I should do no less just because they are schooled at home and not away.

So, I decided Tuesday would be our "official" first day. I made them actually get up and get dressed in their new outfits (I know shocking!). Then I had a full day of surprises!

This is them holding their ears because I also told them that I was going to sing everything in honor of the special day. They were less than thrilled as you can see:
I made them cinnamon rolls in the shape of their grade like I normally do for their age on their birthday. This year were a little round and hard to shape.
3 for third:

and a really round 1 for first:

When they looked in their first workbox they found notes that said, "Go to the front porch and smile so Mommy can take you picture." They were very cooperative since this was much better than real schoolwork!
Here's my big first grader in her stylish new hat:

Here's my handsome 3rd grader who looks so big to me:
Of course, this is a much truer representation of these two:

I adore this picture and could cry that it is blurry!

I love this picture because he is actually smiling while being kissed!
Next up, I trusted them with my camera (shocking!) and had made up a little photo scavenger hunt. They had to find some things that had to do with school like their favorite nonfiction book or their favorite lapbook they made last year:
Other things were just random like find the number 11:

They had a great time on the scavenger hunt and want to do one every day! I think there may be one coming up in the future ;)

Another workbox was a writing activity where they had to write their goals for the school year. I was pretty impressed by them.

Ashton's were:

1. Learn the books of the Bible. 2. Learn about butterflies. 3. Learn to swing.

I think you can read Jackson's:
Then for the grand finale they had a scavenger hunt with clues hidden around the house. I wrote the clues in rhyming couplets (we'd been talking about those) with the last rhyming word missing. For example, the first one was "to find your prize you have to figure out a clue, one is hidden on a bed that is ____" (Jackson's bed is blue), etc.
They peeked and saw the prize in their fort so while they were following other clues I rehid it. Here they are reading a clue that said, "You found the clue and think you are as smart as a fox, but I rehid it and now it's inside your _ _ _ _ ____________." Their prize was a container full of new school supplies including really nice goggles for their upcoming swim class. They were pretty excited.

We all had a fun day. I need to work in more fun days like this. They are still talking about it. I definitely think I made it special, and I have the pictures to prove it!

I'm Building an Ark Here...

No, we don't have out our building blocks or measuring tape like we did last year! This ark is just a metaphor. You see, I was at a Sunday School training at church last night when one of our ministers gave a great message. This is a Godly woman whom I very much admire delivering a very transparent lesson that I needed to hear.
She was speaking about how we doubt God. We feel like He calls us to do something but half way through or during the tough times we start to doubt that call and even to doubt God Himself!

Allow me to speak candidly here for a moment. Right before the message started last night, I had been talking with another homeschooler about how our years were going so far. I told her that last week was great, but the week before I was seriously ready to put them on the school bus! I was overwhelmed and frustrated. The kids were negative and did nothing but complain. My poor husband got "The Call" (Apparently there is secret man language I learned from my husband and neighbor. "The Call" is when the wife calls crying or complaining, there are crying and/or screaming kids in the background, and they are commanded to come home ASAP!). Jon actually got "The Call" almost every day that week and was really worried about me. Though last week was a great week I also made the horrifying discovery that my 3rd grader had forgotten how to borrow and carry in math and my 1st grader didn't know even and odd numbers. I had a total panic moment when I realized the enormous responsibility of homeschool where I'm responsible to teach them everything!
All this to let you know that we all struggle and to frankly tell you that I began to doubt God and this calling to homeschool that He gave me. You see, I got Biblical confirmation that homeschooling was what He wanted for our family at this time. Yet, I'd begun to question if I was doing the right thing, was I harming my kids, and could I survive. The responsibility of it all was weighing heavily on me.
Last night Alicia mentioned Noah as one of the faithful whom God called to do a huge thing. The question was, despite knowing God called him to this do you think even Noah had moments of doubt. Anytime I think of Noah out there with his saw and hammer I always imagine what his neighbors were doing. They had to think he was crazy and probably enjoyed watching it and wondering how long before he completely lost it (I feel a lot like Noah sometimes that some of my friends think I'm crazy to homeschool and are just waiting for me to completely lose it-
and there have been moments...).
Yet last night for the first time, God caused me to think of another angle (Don't you just love it when God gives you a fresh perspective on a well known story???). Last night I realized that Noah wasn't just building a boat for himself and some animals he was going to put his entire family on it! Let that sink in for a moment. I think it's easier for us to say we would risk ourselves for something we believe in, but how much more faith does it require to risk your entire family?
So like me, Noah had to feel the overwhelming weight of responsibility for not only his own future but that of his children. Despite being a man known for thousands of years due to his great faithfulness, I don't believe he was any more capable of carrying that huge burden than I am, but God was and is!
Praise God that He is there to help me when I feel I can't survive the stacks of laundry, dirty diapers and lesson plans just as much as He was for Noah. There may be a day that God will let us know that homeschooling is not the path He wants our family on at that time. Until then, I will do my best not to doubt Him again. I will admit that I can't handle it all and be thankful I have a God who can :)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Twin Tot School #7...

Will and Wesley are 24 months old.

If I had to stereotype my children I would say that Wesley is my rough and tumble child. Therefore, I am always so surprised when Tot School begins because he is the one who will sit down and really focus on an activity. I really think I am underestimating them because everything I'm not sure they can do they blow out of the water. Wesley did great on matching these shapes and completed it in no time. He kept wanting to do it over and over.
These sound puzzles are so fun. I wish they had them for my age although I'm not sure what type of sounds I would want, hmmm...
I knew Will would love the transportation one. He is obsessed with airplanes which he calls "bees", so cute!
We did a little fine motor work by putting some spaghetti in an empty juice bottle (nice and cheap!). They totally rocked this as well. I am desperately trying to use up all our Parmesan cheese so we can use the empty container for a harder version of this activity! I'd also like to use a salt shaker but the dollar store only has had glass ones lately, and I'm not willing to risk that!
When Big Bro and Sis finished their Spanish activity, they had to take part in the fun their brothers were having. Mean ole' teacher (mean but very smart :) made them count them in Spanish as they put them in to "teach their brothers Spanish", but really they needed to practice! I love sneaking in learning :)

Will is also good at shape puzzles. This is his concentrating tongue. I love it!
It's nice to have a brother to cheer for you when you are working! How sweet is that?
That is the fun we had this week. Please stop by Carissa's blog for more Tot School fun!

Twin Tot School #6...

Will and Wesley are 24 Months Old

This week in Tot School we really started enjoying our birthday loot. Wesley (who apparently takes after his daddy and is going to be a little fisherman) decided his favorite thing is the magnetic puzzle. It has pictures of bugs, and he learned the word and meaning of bug this week and now points them out everywhere.

I love the look of concentration on his face here:

I was so impressed by how long and diligently he worked on "catching" the bugs and then replacing the piece. I guess that's what Tot School is all about.

Will is also really concentrating here. I love their new toys because they have so many levels of play. Right now they are just working on the fine motor skills of putting the blocks on the posts, but eventually we can do it by color or shape. For now, this is getting Will thinking judging by the look on his face, so cute!

Everyone's a critic and apparently 2 year olds are no exception. I snapped this picture because little Will decided I should have included some Little People play in Tot School. He went and got the dollhouse from their "Little People corner" and brought it over to our Tot School table. I guess he'll be making lesson plans soon!

That was part of our Tot School this week. Check out Carissa's blog for lots of other fun Tot Schools!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fun in the Box #2: Yellow Collage...

I was looking on a blog (and I can't find it now!) and saw a yellow collage and thought that would be a fun thing to throw in the workbox. I am always looking for good ways to incorporate art. So, first we talked about what the word collage means and looked at some examples in an art book. Then they were given free rein to create.

Jackson decided to create a car (surprise, surprise):

Ashton created a heart (even less of a surprise):

I decided that they were having too much fun so I decided I had to join in.

What do you think of my awesome sun???

Posted by PicasaArt is always a big hit and was even more fun when Mommy participates!

A Frequently Asked Question...

Whenever I tell people that I am homeschooling the most frequently asked question is "What do you do with the twins?" Now I am going to be brave and answer that question:

I put them in a box!

OK, before you turn me in I obviously don't really put them in a box. Last year I just did what I could. I was usually running between two worlds- in the kitchen was homeschool world where I was needed to teach math and answer questions while in the living room was baby world where I was needed to change diapers and comfort boo-boos. I'll not sugar coat it:it was hard and I didn't do my best at either. I had a lot of guilt that the twins got the shaft because they didn't get as much of me as they would've if the big kids had been in school. However, I realize they also got a lot of attention from their big siblings that they wouldn't have had either.

This year I am determined to do better. I am trying to be very purposeful in my planning and implementing "Tot School". My favorite go-to blog for ideas (and where I borrowed the title Tot School from) is Carissa's wonderful blog. She has lots of great Tot Tools and Tot Books I look forward to making for the boys.

As I get this more worked out I hope to share how I organize it and implement it simultaneously with the big kids' school. For now, I have decided to use the workbox system with the twins as well. I am using the shoeboxes and shoe rack that was Jackson's last year. It is portable so I can bring it into the living room with them or bring them into the kitchen with their siblings. Currently, we are only doing 6 boxes at a time. Ideally, I'd like to alternate 6 activities every other day for a week with different crafts worked in every few days.
I'm also planning to have themes like farm week where we do crafts and read books to teach them the different animals. All this depends on me. I'm a little overwhelmed right now between planning for a 1st and 3rd grader and then 2 tots. Not to mention the house keeps having the nerve to get dirty over and over!
Oh well, at least I have a plan that doesn't involve putting anyone in a box!

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Twin Tot School #5...

Will and Wesley are now 2!!!

We all started back to school this week. The first thing we all did was Tot School. Big Bro and Sis love to help with Tot School! Having 2 2 year olds I need all the help I can get!

It seems like such a simple toy, but it continues to be Will's favorite- the pegs with the shapes that you stack on it. He absolutely loves doing this as you can see here. Right now we are just doing the fine motor skills of him stacking them, but soon we will begin sorting by colors and then shapes. It's going to be a big year around here in Tot School!

Of course, when you have t 2 kids the same age one is bound to want what the other one is playing with. Wesley tried to get in on Will's fun by climbing on the table. This did not make Will happy at all so I quickly had to distract Wesley with another toy!

Finally, we swapped toys. Wesley also loves this toy. Can you tell?
This is the first Tot School tool I ever "made", not that there was much involved. They love this simple action of putting the pompoms in the wipes case. I adore this picture because I think close ups of baby hands are precious. This one is twice as nice. It's one of those moments when it hits me again that I have twins!

As long as I can remember I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. If I was around little kids I was always trying to organize them and teach them. My sweet baby girl has definitely inherited this! She proudly tells everyone that she is the Tot School teacher. In fact, she got a little upset that I wanted to help teach too! She really has a gift for this too as on this day I heard her telling them the colors of the pompoms as they inserted them and then singing the alphabet song to them. I thought that was really impressive! Of course, whatever they do or learn I will get no credit for it. She will take it all. This picture to me looks like she is so proud of her students and how quietly they are working!
That was our back to school Tot School, one day of it any way. I have big plans for these 2 this year and glad I have such great help!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tot School Score...

The twins just had a great birthday. Some of the family let me do their shopping so of course I picked up some great learning toys for Tot School. I am so excited to use all these with the boys!

Of course, when you buy all the toys you have no one to blame when the big kids bang incessantly and loudly on these toys until they have cracked the wooden hammers! They kept saying, "This is much more fun than all our toys!" Did I mention how loud they are?

I'm sure you'll be seeing these again soon in my Tot School posts!

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We're Baaaaack...

So, summer break is over and we are back at the ole' schoolhouse. It has changed a little with the addition of this cool table (more about that later). We are easing into things. We started on this day with 6 workboxes, and we will add one each day until we are running at the full 12. As we ease into it we are doing mostly review things though we have started our new science unit: SPACE! I always have to say it nice and loud like "Lost in Space!". The kids are already tired of it :)
So, here we go embarking on our first full year of homeschooling! I hope God will bless this year as much as last!
This year's goals (for me) are 1. Be more social. 2. Keep better records :) 3. Increase scripture memorization. 4. Use more learning games.

That's just to name a few. It's going to be a great year!
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