Back to School {The First Week}

In my Back to School – Planning post I talked a little about what we were doing for the year and how we were fitting it all in. In this post I’d like to just recap our week. I’m not always good about doing this weekly but the first week is always important to me, even if I’m finally finished writing about it 3 weeks later! It is my way of scrapbooking digitally our year and there is just something indescribably special about the first week. The kids are excited for what’s to come. I’m excited for what’s to come. Everything is ripe with possibility even as we stumble through getting the daily rhythm down.

So how was our first week?

Math and Art were our biggest hits for the week.

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For math we’ve switched to Khan Academy this year for our oldest son. His dad started using it to sharpen his own Algebra skills over the summer and Gabe started sitting down beside him and helping him work out problems. He absolutely loves it. Khan is self-paced, independent, and FREE! We had already been using Khan for history, science, art, and math supplementation (they have great videos and now they’ve teamed up with the guys who do Crash Course whom my kids LOVE and we use for history and science) so this was a natural carryover for him. Since Gabe is already a year ahead in math, using Khan will give him the independence to move ahead at his own pace. He may end up doing two years in one this year and be into Algebra by year’s end. We also allowed the other kids to try it since Khan does have math all the way down to an early elementary level, but we found after a few days of trying that they still preferred their Teaching Textbooks for math.

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Although Teaching Textbooks is very pricey, I LOVE their program. It is set up tutorial-style so each kid is completely 100% taught on the computer without me. It is great for auditory and visual learners or for those that need someone to sit with them step by step through each problem. It does automatic grading and my kids love it. That is enough for me to spend the hefty price tag. Plus, we discovered that the book is actually just a repeat of what they are already doing during the lessons and a needless piece so we’ve eliminated that this year and gave each kid their own spiral notebook to use for working out math problems. That saves us $30 for each program. And you can use them with more than one child so we are only buying one year at a time and by next year won’t have to buy any. While the 2nd and 3rd grader are doing their math independently on the computer, it frees me up to work with Ivy and Eli with their Pre-K math and phonics.

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Art was also well received this week. Mainly, because we actually did it! Every year I have these great intentions for art and music and every year life gets in the way and then they get bumped for the more “important” subjects that are required. So this year I decided no more. Creativity is a must for me to flourish and it is extremely important for my ten year old girl as well. This year we bought everyone their own sketch pad and we labeled them all pretty and are keeping them organized in an inexpensive tote from Michael’s. For the two littles, I used a primary composition notebook and  covered it in pretty scrapbook paper and then laminated the covers to keep them sturdy for the whole year. This allowed them to be cheaper (twenty five cents back to school sale!) and keeps them accessible for their age range.

Our first week of art we read the Drawing Rules in Drawing in Color and talked about how their is no wrong way to draw. We read ish and Dot, which the littles especially loved and imitated immediately in their notebooks. Our first assignment was to draw whatever we liked. Each child shared their picture and everyone said one thing they really liked about each picture as well as one thing they would like to improve upon for the year. The kids did not want the afternoon to end and it has inspired Lily to check out several drawing books at the library and she has been practicing every night. This year we will be focused on learning to draw animals in pencil using a combination of youtube tutorials and Drawing Animals in Nature with Lee Hammond . This will mesh very well with our zoology science course.

Zoology, unfortunately, started off a little rocky. I was so excited to start the lesson with a great hands-on, visible way for them to understand the concept of classification through classifying legos. This ended up with mostly fighting over said legos and Norah ended up teething and crying for a huge chunk of our time. It was a bit of a letdown for me because I have such huge expectations for this year’s zoology lineup. Our second week fared way better after a trip to Fontenelle Forest to pick up our Vertebrate/Invertebrate Educator’s Trunk and the kids got to handle and feel all kinds of bones and animal skins. My favorite was the owl skull and bobcat skull. After examining everything, the older two got to dip into their first experiment and the littles played an online classification game, all was right again in our science world.

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We kicked off our first week of history by diving into Columbus and the Age of Exploration. The younger ones listened to me read from A Child’s History of the World, which I just adore, while they happily constructed ships out of our magformers. They colored and notebooked and then finished off their time playing an online game about Christopher Columbus.

The older two are doing history with daddy again this year. He is a huge history buff and has a wonderful conversational Socratic method style of teaching that our kids just love. They are watching the Crash Course World History and US History videos in conjunction with their reading and then join me on another day of the week for fun history where we get to watch the Horrible History videos, watch fun songs and do map work. Favorite song of the week: Fifty Nifty United States. I learned this song in fifth grade and it has stayed with me to this day. I am giddy passing it on to my children. They are song nerds in the same way I am. Okay, maybe I’m a bit more of a song nerd but they really do love this song. This has been our constant car-schooling anthem for the past couple of weeks to go with our geography study for the year.

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I’ve been most impressed with Ivy this week. Being 5 and “officially” starting kindergarten, I wasn’t sure how involved she’d be for the multi-age taught subjects like history, science, and geography. We always have stuff planned for the littles but beyond their basic 3 R’s in the morning, we don’t require them to do school. They are free to play or watch an educational video. But she’s stuck with us through much more then I thought she would. She played the Columbus history game like her older siblings, she’s colored history sheets while listening to the stories and she’s even picked up on the Latin we’ve been studying. And her coloring has taken a dramatic turn for the better since school has started. I perceive that she will show the most overall growth this year.

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Latin was by far the most unexpected successful subject of the week. We discovered Classical Academic Press by accident last year through their sister site HeadAdventureland.com which is full of fun, free latin videos!!! (Check out our fave…The Three Little Pigs!) The older two have totally resonated with the DVD chants in the Latin for Children, Primer A. They love doing the activities and discussing everything with their dad over coffee. And the younger 2-4, depending on if the two littles join us, are throughougly enjoying SongSchool Latin. It is SO kid-friendly and fun that the kids can’t wait to do Latin and have told all their friends they should too. Even I have awoken in the middle of the night with a catchy Latin song stuck in my head. Makes me want to check out their SongSchool Latin Spanish.

I also enjoyed doing Bible with the littles this week. We read out of Vos’s Child’s Story Bible starting again at the beginning. And I was once again captivated by the way she conversationally draws the little ones into the story while simultaneously weaving Christ’s redemption story in from the very beginning pages of Genesis. This is by far the BEST story Bible I’ve ever read. The children sat and listened spellbound and asked for more when I was done. Can’t ask for more than that!

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Some other fun highlights of our first week…

The girls temporarily dying their hair purple and pink.

Enjoying playing golf during recess time.

Building nanoblocks during free time.

Watching caterpillars emerge as butterflies!

Taking care of pet toads.

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I’m so excited to see how the rest of our year unfolds.

How was your first week of school?

Back to School {Weekly Wrap Up}

Back to school already?

Yes, we are doing school already. And, I admit, I wasn’t quite ready to get started this year. Norah Belle just showed up in our lives two months ago. I’m just starting to get my house back in order. But starting early does make sense for us. This will allow us the flexibility to take 2 weeks off in the fall, 3 weeks off at Christmas, and two weeks off in the spring while still getting in a full summer break next year as well as taking everyone’s birthday off and getting a few partial field trip weeks in the mix.

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Our Week

Getting back into routine is always hard. This year will be my biggest year teaching. I’m officially teaching four: sixth grade, fourth grade, second grade, and first grade. That said, technically I’m teaching six. Ivy, preschool, is already asking to read and is the most excited about doing school. She wants to be involved and she wants my undivided attention. This will prove tricky since I’m more apt to multi-task between students needing instruction and those needing help or clarification. And Eli is in full-on potty training mode. Then there’s the normal challenges of life like nursing Norah and dealing with Eli’s toddler energy and other learning challenges like attention spans and reading delays.

I knew the only way I could accomplish my homeschooling goals this year was to make a few changes.

One, get up early.

Two, meet with the Lord daily.

I can’t even begin to tell you how hard this has been. I am a night owl. I LOVE staying up late and talking with the hubby over coffee or getting lost in a new Netflix series together. But it was very clear to me that this year I needed to get up by 6:30 and have some quiet time before my other early birds arose. It has been very hard but very worth it. Just meeting with God first thing on the quiet of my front porch swing has allowed me to face each day’s chaotic challenges in much healthier ways. The bonus is savoring a cup of coffee and some first of the morning conversation with my oldest boy. He is just entering junior high and I am enjoying getting to know him as a friend, not just a son. He’s funny, quirky and we’ve had some good heart to hearts just swinging together or enjoying the flowers in the morning sun.

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Our week officially started with ART. Every year our schedule is so full and when unexpected life happens it always seems like the fun stuff gets pushed aside for the essentials. Well, this year I am determined to change that. I decided to make the fun stuff a priority for us. We are living life at home and while we do need to cover the essentials, I want the love of learning to stay passionately ignited in all of us. I want our home to ebb and flow with productivity and rest, creativity and logic.

We are starting with the basics of pencil drawing technique. This week we focused on seeing basic shapes in the world around us and translating that onto paper. We emphasized 3D shapes and practiced drawing cubes, spheres, cylinders, and cones. This wonderful youtube tutuorial helped us. I was amazed at my 7 year old’s drawings. He was the only one to listen about how to hold the pencil and how to do the short, light sketching strokes. Maybe we have an artist in our midst! We used our geometric blocks as models which Eli thought was great fun to play with while the others worked.

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Reading, reading, and more reading. Reading has been both rewarding and frustrating this year. My oldest two are reading every chance they get including sneaking books to the lunch table. (Brings back memories for me!) And my oldest daughter, nine, has finally discovered Harry Potter.  She has read 3 of the books in the past two weeks and watched the first two movies.

Luc is seven. He is my struggling reader. I pray daily for how to work with Luc. He is completely apathetic about reading and bucks against learning. My gut is to keep pushing but there is a fine line between challenging your child and killing their joy of learning. Luc does love to play. He plays everything he learns. And he would much rather be playing then in “school”. So this year we’ve decided to go with Batman phonics books. He still struggles. He still resists. But after he wades through a page and then practices rereading it a few times, his whole demeanor changes. A smile lights up his face. He can read about one of his favorite super heros and is so proud of himself. I wish I could say that changes his attitude and inspires him to keep practicing. It doesn’t. The next day it is right back to the start of this push and pull reading relationship.

But I’m confident that with enough perseverance we will make some major breakthroughs this year. Just look at that smiling boy reading with his mamma on the porch swing. Beats sitting at a desk, right?

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Math for the older two is simple and easy. Teaching Textbooks have been our best friend. The kids LOVE doing their math on the computer. I love not having to teach it. I love that they love doing it and beg to do extra lessons in their free time. I love that it tutors them and grades them and tracks everything for me. The only drawback? It doesn’t start until third grade. That means Pre-K through second grade is still on me.

This year I will be doing all three. Ivy in Pre-K, Lilah in first grade, Luc in 2nd grade. We will be using a multi-level teaching style. I will focus on introducing a concept through a living book. All three will practice the concept through manipulatives at their own level. Each has a dry erase binder with practice sheets of concepts they need to practice. We will also be doing some fun picture mystery math pages. Emphasis will be on playing math to truly understand concepts and LOTS of living books that bring math to life without a textbook.

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I’m super excited about science this year and so are the kids. We are using the Max Axiom graphic novel science series as our jumping off point. This is no ordinary science book. Don’t let the comic book style fool you. Each book covers a specific science concept…electricity, magnestism, states of matter, etc…in an in-depth way.  We will follow that up with watching a Bill Nye the Science Guy video and supplement with a hands-on experiment and Magic School Bus books and videos. My kids fell in love with Bill Nye last year and most all of them can be found free on you tube. 

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This week we started off learning about the scientific method. We practiced using it with these wonderful printables from Crafty Classroom and used the same experiment they did in the Max Axiom book. In Bill Nye’s Do It Yourself Science we learned that science is repeatable and can be tested again even if you know the outcome. So we retested the experiment in the book of finding out what type of levee keeps more water from flooding a town: rocks, soil, or clay. We recorded our hypothesis and data. This upcoming week the older two will be learning how to share their findings through a science board display.

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This year for history we are covering the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Reformation. Adam, who has a passion for history, will be teaching the older two as well as covering philosophy, logic, and the Bible with them. I will be supplementing through a healthy diet of living books, notebooking/lapbooking, and map work. 

This week we started off the year recapping the Roman period and overviewing how the Roman Empire fell and how Christianity spread through Europe. We focused on Constantine and we rounded it out with the story of St. George and the Dragon. Even I learned something new this week. I had heard stories of St. George but, fantastical as they are, they don’t beat the real story of him being a follower of Christ and refusing to bow down to the Roman Gods. He was tortured and martyred by decapitation under Emperor Diocletian for standing up in his faith.

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And the best highlight of our week? 

This wonderful pencil sharpener that I bought used for $5 at a homeschool curriculum sale this summer. No more blisters. No more wasting time searching for a sharpened pencil when we should be working. No more pushing off art because the task of resharpening all those colored pencils just seems too daunting. I’m in love with this machine. It is not just an electrical pencil sharpener (had one of those…worked not at all) but an industrial pencil sharpener. My son laughed at me when I took a picture of this. But, to me, it is one of the most beautiful pictures of our week.

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Joining up with…

The First Snow

Don’t you just LOVE the first snow? It’s always so exciting especially with little ones in the house! This is Eli’s first year comprehending what snow is and Ivy (3) is extra excited this year about this white sparkly stuff.

“Mom, mom, mom…..come quick! There’s white puffy sparkles coming down from the sky!”

Can’t beat that!

Even better, since we homeschool this sort of thing weaves perfectly into our day. I quickly grabbed a few well-chosen books and my camera as they gazed out the window and had an impromptu science lesson for the littles while the older two worked on math and history.

 

 

We read “Why Does It Snow?”  (a Just Ask series) and talked about snow crystals all having six points but each being unique unto itself. We discussed and narrated how snow forms in the clouds and comes to fall here. Next we read “In the Snow: Who’s Been Here?” by Lindsay Barrett George which is a fun little book that takes kids through an exploratory adventure through the snowy woods. Each page has a clue of an animal visiting and then asks the reader to guess which animal it was. I let each child take turns guessing then turning the page to see if they were right.

After that we suited up and headed outside with some dark felt to catch snow crystals. I’m pretty sure more snow was eaten than captured but the thought was there. The snowflakes were too small this time to really see the distinction of crystal patterns and my kids lost all our good magnifying glasses. Still, they had a fun 15 minutes running all their energy off.

Now, lest you think this day was shrouded in warm fuzziness because of these beautiful pictures, (And aren’t they beautiful? Just look at that magnolia bud frosted in snow!) just know that we still had our share of school battles today. I spent over an hour arguing and standing my ground on making a six year old little boy finish a phonics lesson that he could’ve finished in five minutes. It was as if his memory was suddenly erased on everything he’d learned phonics-wise so far this year. And his poor five year old sister was every-so patiently sitting next to us waiting her turn while helping me clean flash cards and did finish her’s in less than five minutes when we finally got to her. So never let the pretty pics fool you into thinking our day was something other than what it was…just a day. Beautiful moments captured between ordinary, trying times! In other words, life!

Other books we’re planning on reading today ~

  

Free Human Anatomy Videos for Kids

I know, I know…not blogging right? Technically, I’m not. I had this post written over 6 months ago but forgot to post it. I am in the process of putting all my bookmarks on Pinterest and any posts of my own that I need to reference later again for homeschooling. So here I am listing all my human anatomy free online videos here for all of you to partake of and, mainly, for me to find again in an orderly fashion. (Don’t you love that you can pinterest your own things?) Enjoy and spread the love!

Cell Videos

Skeletal System Videos

Brain Videos

Heart ~ Circulatory System Videos

Muscular System Videos

Digestive System Videos

The Respiratory System

Human Body Videos – General

Click for additional Free Human Anatomy Resources and Free Germ Resources and Videos.

Emerging Beauty

Sometimes we overlook the obvious as mothers. That same pile of papers that need to be filed is tuned out of our peripheral vision every time we walk by it. Sometimes this same overlooking can happen with our children. I always love reading and rereading Psalm 139 and marvel about how God had this all planned out before we even entered the womb. As a mother it is by far one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. But do I really take time to slow down and know my children? Do I see what He planted innately in them, tucking it deep in freshly folded DNA?

I’ve been noticing this in Lily lately. Between her constant fashion pairings of Sarah Jessica Parker-ish skirts paired with urban tops, her interest in more adultish dolls (Monster High), her gothic passion mixed with contempary prettyness…sort of a vintage mod look…this is a girl who is longing for a fashion outlet.

MOM, WHY DON’T YOU LIKE TO BE PRETTY?” she asked me tonight.

What??? That’s what I portray? She’s been wanting me to color my hair back to brown because the red has become passe for her. She refuses…REFUSES…to wear jeans unless dragged in her bedroom and forced to put them on (only because of weather, not because I care if she wears jeans). She desperately wants to dye her own hair and wear makeup. And tonight while pinning some new hair styles to try, she begged me to print out some pictures of pretty girls that she could cut out. She looked through this Beautiful Mess blog and stood there absolutely mesmerized. I can’t blame her. I was too. I printed some thumbnails for her and watched her scrapbook tonight.

Instantly I was transported back to my own childhood. Pouring over Allure, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar magazines and cutting out models. I had no idea what made me act on this. I didn’t know I wanted to dress a certain way or wear my hair a certain way or do my makeup a certain way. All I knew was what I was attracted to and the magnetic urge compelling me to scrapbook these beautiful findings. For me it wasn’t just fashion, it was style…my style. I also poured over (even more than the fashion mags) Victoria and dreamed of my “some day” house.

As we’ve been house hunting and that is turning into a reality I am reminded of how much a part of my soul that is. He created me exactly this way. Kids and finances forced a season of putting this on hold and, until I saw my house, I didn’t even realize it was on hold in me.

As Christian moms we often shield our children from culture and trendy fads. We, as adults who’ve learned the hard way, know that fads are fleeting and there are deeper things we want to pass down to our kids. But too often this turns into us playing the mom “no” card or the Christian “no” card and not taking the time to think about what or why we are shielding certain things.

One of the best parenting books I’ve read this year was Grace Based Parenting by Ted Kimmel. It wasn’t a book so much about how to discipline as it was a book on how to let go of things that don’t matter. Who cares if your daughter wants to dye her hair? Does that have anything to do with her character? Does it have anything to do with Jesus? More importantly, does it detract from Him? Yes, people judge…usually wrong. But God judges our hearts. He knows our character. And we, as mothers, are called to train hearts, not to worry about appearances as the Pharisees did.

I explained to my daughter how hard it would be for mommy to wash dishes in heels…the slipping, you know. And how taking an hour daily to curl and braid my hair wasn’t in the cards since I have many other responsibilities on my plate in a day. But the excuses sounded hollow, even to my ears. My daughter is sobering for me. She is a good dose of exactly all that is beautiful and pure and fresh. How lovely!

An Impromptu Art Lesson

My son has been taming a cat. Well, more an adorable fuzzy little ball of black fur kitten. He’s the runt of the country kittens living under our porch. And he’s not doing well. He’s being pushed out by the others and not allowed to feed. He’s learned to trust us, especially Luc, as we’ve tried to supplement him a bit food-wise. But he’s not gaining weight and he’s sick. It’s quickly turning into winter weather and I fear he isn’t going to make it.

Luc has become quite attached. He plays with him daily (don’t worry, we bought him a flea collar). The cat has come to trust him. His name is now Hershey. How could I possible stand by and let him die in front of him? And trust me, if I could I’d run this little bundle of fuzzy joy to the nearest vet, get him his shots and meds and take him inside to become part of the family in an instant. All Luc is asking for is this kitten for Christmas as his pet. He offered to take his portion of Christmas money for presents and give it to little Hershey to pay for vet bills. But there’s this little thing of allergies and a rental agreement standing in our way.

So we did the best thing we could in this situation. We took him to the Humane Society. It was daddy’s idea and I was so thankful that we could take him to a place where he would be cared for and adopted out while giving my kids a chance to see all the other little kitties and animals up for adoption. The kids loved seeing all the little critters. They were making their lists and pleas as to what they wanted when we buy our house.

I’ll admit, Luc held up like a champ. But he lost his friend. He was a sad mess most of the night. He held on to Lily’s little stuffed black cat trying to soothe his heart loss and he cuddled next to mommy a lot and we talked, for the millionth time, about why we couldn’t keep little Hershey and why Santa still can’t bring a real cat for Christmas.

And I’m not sure what inspired the request but suddenly I found myself at the learning table drawing a kitten for Luc. Luc and Lily were amazed at my drawing ability (not stellar, but not bad) and were suddenly inspired to draw something in a realistic way too. Suddenly everyone was drawing and I was reminiscing about drawing when I was little and Lily was oohing and aahhing trying at my old stuff and trying her hand at different techniques. And before we knew it, Drawing in Color (the most amazing kids art book ever) was pulled out and kids were flipping and experimenting.

I was amazed at the results. Here is this 5 year old boy and 8 year old girl just producing these images that blow their usual drawings out of the water. These are the homeschooling moments that I live for! And they never happen when planned! Lily asked if tomorrow she could draw some more. She said she wants to do it for school and even in her free time. I’m looking forward to what their free time will be filled with over the winter. Audio books here we come!

Lily's Cat - 8 years old

Luc's Cat - 5 years old

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Things to be thankful for…deer legs and eggs

My son came home with a deer leg the other day. This momma about had a heart attack. He was so proud as he handed over this body part with exposed joint bone and clotted blood.

“Can we keep it, mom?” eyes big as saucers he wanted to know as the others crowded around in awe. And it was awe-inspiring in the grotesque sort of way. Here we are studying the human body and here before us is a live, first hand speciman. Okay, maybe not human but body part none the less!

And my other son before that had come home with eggs he found at the place where our yard ends and the forest begins. “Can we have a baby chick, mom?” Turkey? Too small, I think. Yet abandoned by mother so no son, no chickies.

“Can we eat it, mom?” Having no idea how fresh, or not, these eggs were I wasn’t going to risk it. But oh how beautiful they were and even this morning, Turkey Day, as I literally see turkeys in our front lawn, I think how lucky we are to be here amidst all this.

What memories will sink deep down from this season of life? I long to capture all on film…deer hooves, mystery eggs, kids chasing turkey amid bikes and toys.

Thank you, God, for your many blessings pouring out to our family this year. You are a God of splendor, majesty, intricacy, and details. You amaze me daily. All I have to do is look around me and I am instantly immersed in Your miracles!

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:15

Happy Turkey Day, everyone!!!