Growing Every Day

Posts tagged ‘family’

Game Changer

woman-1172718_1920For me, this time of year is a time of reflection.  Reflecting on what changes need to be made in the areas of curriculum, school organization, schedule, etc.  However, once the reflection bug bites, it seems to lead me into reflecting in many areas of my life.

 

This week I am reminded of the many changes that have taken place in my life.  Changes that were never on my radar.  The beginning and end of this week are my kiddos birthdays.  This year it commemorates my 9th year of staying home with my children.

Wow.

If we set the “way back” machine to reminisce my early 20s to mid 30s, I really had no thoughts or intentions of staying home with, let alone homeschooling my children.  I was thirty-two years of age when I had my first child, and knew immediately that staying home was the only decision for our new little family.  For me, this was stepping into a completely unknown territory.  I was far from confident in my mothering capabilities, let alone entertaining the idea of spending every waking day, hour, and minute with my kids!

(insert panic)

Things settled into a routine and though it was (and still is) the most challenging role I have ever been in, things were ok.  Then almost two years later, my daughter was born.  I felt a tad more confident, but it was also a totally different ballgame.  Again, things settled into a rhythm.

And of course, as we approached Builder’s time to go to school, I knew in my spirit that we would be homeschooling.  And, though I really did want to homeschool with all my heart, fear reared its ugly head…again.  We pushed through and are now entering our 5th year of homeschooling.

My desire in writing this blog post is that wherever you are, whatever crossroads you find yourself at, know that there is everything in you that can do it.  You may struggle, you may have to learn something new, you may have to be vulnerable and find someone to walk the walk with you, but it is not out of your reach.

The hardest part is starting.

Do you want to write?  Start writing.  Do you want to homeschool?  Find someone in the game to talk with.  Do you want to (fill in the blank)?  Then find the first step toward that.     If it is not the right path, the Lord promises us that He will let us know.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  ~ Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)

You don’t always have to have everything in place to start.  Find that one thing that you can do to start walking down that path.  Then, trust that you will hear His voice behind you letting you know if you are off His path for you.

All of this to say, we have a journey that is each unique and individual to ourselves.  I encourage you this summer to reflect on where you have come from, where you are presently, and your desires for the future.  Let’s all move forward as we reflect on the past and navigate our future.

Signing off with many blessings and prosperity to you and yours.

And You? ~ What has been a game changer in your life?

 

Filing Day

No, this is not a day to talk about filing taxes.  However, I may have a bit of filing leftover from the last few weeks of schoolwork.

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Yikes! (These papers go back to January!)

Yeah, I know.

There must come a time when we all recognize our weaknesses, right?!  I love to be organized, but I am not entirely disciplined to file at the end of each week.  I was doing really well at first, filing school papers in each child’s binder at the end of each day.

Yep, didn’t last too long.

Then I started getting piles of papers on my desk, not attractive and very distracting.  Wonders of wonders, I found this cute little green basket at the Dollar Store.  It became our “Turn In” basket.  That really was a good thing by helping Builder and Princess know where to place those finished products.  Unfortunately, the papers looked so neat and nice in that perfect little green basket that they haven’t quite made it into those perfect little school binders.

Sigh.

So, I find myself at the end of the school year shifting, organizing, and filing many many papers.  And you know what…that is completely ok with me.  Is it ideal to file every day or even once a week?  Sure.  Is it ok that I did not file weekly and now will make my way through this sea of papers and have a great binder of work for each one of them?  Yes.

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Again, as with many things homeschool, I find myself realizing…it’s ok.  Either, or.  This way or that.  It works; it gets done.  I don’t have to stress about either way.  I love that at the end of my kids school career, they will have a binder for each year of their learning.  They will have fun looking back at what they have learned, remembering fun projects, and seeing the milestones they reached along the way.

And of course, they will be taking all 12 binders with them!!!

And you? ~  What are some of your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to school organization?

The Last Day of School!

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Yep, we made it!

Today is the last day of school.  Needless to say, I wanted to make it fun and memorable, special.  What did we do?  Took Daddy to work, and spent all morning at an eye appointment to get new glasses since my old ones were broken.

Hmmm.

I was tempted to get upset, to throw my hands up in the air and wonder to the heavens why my plans never work.  (Yes, a.k.a an adult tantrum).  However, we chose to just go with it and spend some time with a nice treat at Panera, and plan to just play the day away.  Maybe a special extra screen time here, a batch of peanut butter cookies there.  This creature called homeschool has a mind of its own sometimes.  Sometimes we need to tame it, and sometimes we need to just let it be.  Today, I am going with let it be.

When you get down to it, what is the “last day of school” for us?

It means next week we do absolutely nothing.  This is probably more for me than Princess and Builder.  No planning, no time management of lessons, nothing.  After that, we start working on finishing up those books and units that need to be wrapped up.  Two pages of handwriting this day, one math lesson that day, 20 minutes of keyboarding the next day, etc.  A slow easy pace, that continues progress, but takes nothing out of any of us.

The Last Day of School…thank you Lord.  This is the day that the Lord has made I will rejoice and BE GLAD IN IT!!!!!

Your Turn to Play ~  Are there any special activities you do for the last day of school?

Music Time

I always knew music would become a component of our learning journey.  My husband and I were in band all through middle school, high school, and college, continuing after.  Music is simply a part of who and what we are as individuals and a family.  The same has shown in Builder and Princess.  They go around singing to themselves, to each other, and to us.  Truly, there are days that I feel I live in a musical…and I LOVE IT!

With that, I wasn’t exactly sure when and where to start.  Well, just recently I stumbled upon an amazing resource that I want to share with you.  It is another web resource that has a portion free, and another portion that is available by purchasing a paid premium account.  However, there is enough of the free material to get us well on our way.  It will also give us that period to see if this is truly the best fit for us.  At the moment, we are in love with it.  Granted we honestly have only completed one lesson, but that is all it has taken for all of us to be excited.

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The resource is Hoffman Academy, online piano lessons.  The website is very nice, neat, and easy to maneuver.  I have been impressed with the resources sent my way upon creating our free account.  The lessons are in video style and Mr. Hoffman (the teacher) seems to be a wonderful instructor.  The introductory material on the website refer to him as the Mr. Rogers of piano lessons.  From what I saw in the first video, I can see that.  After the first lesson video, Builder and Princess, were playing their first song – Hot Cross Buns.  In a 13-minute video, not only did he teach them how to play the song, but he introduced where the song originated from, as well as the beginnings of the do-re-mi scale.  So much rich learning introduced in such a way that my kids got it without a hint of effort, and they never lost focus.

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The Hoffman Academy recommends 2-3 lessons a week with daily practice.  With this schedule in mind, there should be about 24 months of lessons in the nine units available.  As I said, we are not very far into this course, but we are super excited about it.  I didn’t want to wait any longer before sharing this resource with you.  I highly recommend you take a look into it, and give it a try.  If you do, be sure to let me know how it works for you and your family.

Your Turn to Play ~ What role did music play in your life growing up?

A Living Creature

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Image courtesy of namakuki at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the bigger ideas of homeschool that I have been wrestling with over the last 2 years (yes, it takes me a while), is that learning is fluid.

 

My experiences in education have not always lent themselves to being fluid.  In a classroom, we did as much fluidity as we could muster.  We pushed back assignments until understanding was there, or mostly there.  We shifted to a fun unit about a topic we had just discovered in another class.  However, the fluid motion of education was very limited. In a sense, I liked this.  It gave me a false sense of control.  I knew where the lessons were going.  I knew how to grade for mastery.  I knew what would be next and the rough timeframe in which it would happen.  Boy, there were a lot of “I’s” in those statements.  Sadly to say, what was taught in the classroom was a large percentage of what was controlled by me and the school district.  And, dare I say, there was much comfort in that.  It felt so good to check off the items accomplished and move on. 

Fast forward to our little home school.  Oh-my-word.  Learning is so very fluid.  In this one year alone we have changed the “structure” of our learning at least 3 times if not 4.  Curriculum has shifted, time frames have shifted, subjects have shifted.  What I thought this year was going to look like, um, yeah, not so much.  But it is beautiful.  It is beautiful to find the right fit for my kids.  To tailor to each what they need, not only in style of learning, but in content as well.  Princess is half way through her “kindergarten” year and I am growing with her, learning the similarities and differences of how she learns compared to her brother.  Being so young, they are both exploring whatever comes to mind, naturally beginning to find interests in life.

We started out the year with a full on-slaught of subjects, until I realized it was really my need of a structured checklist of learning, not what they were interested in learning.  Some of that has stayed, because they need to learn it.  A lot of it has gone on standby because they just aren’t interested or ready yet.  At the moment, each day Princess and Builder have a Math Work focus, a Word Work focus, and a “something extra” focus.  Princess’s extra is Continents and Oceans.  Builder’s extra is working on a family tree.

This is where we are right now.  We throw in some fun science experiments in the afternoon here-and-there, and we are reading through a book at lunchtime about what it would be like to grow up in Jesus’ day.  So, I suppose we are doing more, even if it is not during our “learning time”.  And of course, we are always learning through life.  As I said…fluid.

Your Turn ~ What challenges/adjustments have you run into while homeschooling?

Water and Fire

Water

We are continuing to save toward our Water of Life project to help provide clean water to individuals/villages/schools.  The kids continue to save spare change here and there and are very excited about how their donation bowl is filling up.  Our final donation will be made at the end of our campaign on November 1, 2016.  We would like to invite you to join in our campaign to help those in need of access to safe water.  By clicking on the donation button below, you are able to donate straight to our campaign…be it $1, $5, $15, or more, the money you donate will go 100% toward clean water to those who need it.

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For those of you who may be discussing this with your children, I created this color sheet to show some more concrete facts about the need for clean water.  Feel free to print and use.

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Click Here to download

Fire

In late October, the four of us will have a chance to journey to Colorado for a family wedding.  One of our planned stops on the way is to eat lunch at a volcano!  Yep, Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico.  It is a fairly young, extinct volcano.  After (or maybe before) lunch, we will walk a couple of the trails and explore lava flows, etc. With this in mind, it has given the perfect opportunity for us to begin a little earth science.

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Capulin Volcano National Monument

There is a wonderful volcano lapbook/unit study at Homeschool Share (click here for volcano lapbook).  We have only just started these activities, but I really like the look and detail of the lapbook.  The templates and lesson plans are free to use.  Truly, I was overwhelmed at first with all of the detail provided, but then I realized we don’t have to be done with our study before we leave.  We can study volcanoes as long as we want!  I still sometimes forget this wonderful fact of homeschooling!  If you are interested in some great lapbook or unit study resources, I encourage you to check out the Homeschool Share website.  I haven’t completely figured out the navigation of the site, but it looks like there are some wonderful resources all around.

Your Turn ~ What is a favorite lapbook/unit study topic you have done?

 

Water of Life

Each morning (or most mornings), we start our learning with Bible Time.  I didn’t want this time to become stagnant by doing the same thing every day.  It would be easy to come together, read a chapter of the Bible, discuss, and move on.  Though we do this some days, I wanted this time to include a variety of activities that lead Builder and Princess into knowing God’s heart.  I don’t want them to only know facts about Jesus; I also want them to know His heart.

Many mornings we do read a chapter, find the places on the map, discuss what it would be like in life now.  Builder loves to look at maps and find all the places mentioned in our reading.  Princess loves to play while she listens, and truly she can tell me about what we discussed.  So, I am good with that.

Recently, my desire is that Builder and Princess know the heart of Father globally…for all people.  We have been discussing the issue of access to clean water.  We talked about going out to the puddles on the driveway to get a drink of water when they are thirsty.  Neither kid thought that was a good idea.  Then we talked about the 663 million people on the earth who don’t get to drink the clean water that we have flowing out of our sinks, water bottles, or refrigerator.

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As stated by water.org

We have discussed how clean water is a vital part of being healthy.  Discussions have taken place regarding the fact that many boys and girls have to spend most of their day traveling to and from water sources such as rivers, lakes, and ponds, to gather water for their families.  Because of this, many children are not able to attend school.  When a family, village, or town is provided with access to clean water, children no longer have to perform this duty and are more likely to be able to attend school.  Or they are at least one step closer.  Now, whether those schools have access to clean water is another part of the story.

With all of these details in mind, we have started a fundraiser.  The kids have a bowl in which they are saving money here and there.  We will be saving for this “Water of Life” project until November 1st.

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We humbly ask and invite you to participate with us in our campaign.  Our goal is $300.  After the fundraiser is complete, the company through which we are donating, charity:water, will let us know what country we have helped.  Perfect geography lesson!  charity:water is an organization supported by sponsors so that 100% of donated money goes to providing water for those in need.  If you want to check out more about this organization, click here.

To meet and/or exceed our goal we need only 30 people to give $10, or 60 people to give $5.  Any amount is appreciated in this quest.  Builder and Princess are well on their way, having saved $7 in their money bowl.  Clicking the button below will take you to our campaign page, where you can donate.  Thanks for helping Builder and Princess see the love of Jesus spread throughout the world, by taking care of those who have need of clean water.

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Organization: Routine

We are full into our second six week session.  Life has been going strong and seemingly non-stop.  I am getting tired, but onward!

The last of this organization series deals with our daily routine.  I must confess, this is the least favorite and weakest link of all of ours here at the house.  However, I have learned enough about each one of us to know that if we have no routine at least set in place, nothing gets accomplished…at all.

In the beginning of our journey, we tried having absolutely no schedule.  Didn’t work for us.  Then we moved on to scheduling using specific times such as 10:00 math, etc.  Didn’t work for us.  Next was having a routine and specific minute/hour allotments, such as 20 min for spelling.  Yeah, you can see the flaw in that.  Then we moved to a routine that has a specific order through the day, but no times confining us one way or the other.

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Bingo!  This was it.  It works for us.  Not perfectly everyday, by any means of the imagination, but it does work.  It keeps us on track and we try to follow the best we can.  Also, since there are no specific times, if we need to fit in errands between Lesson time #1 and Lesson time #2, we can sub errands for Break.  If doctors appointments, or my Ladies group take up the morning, we can simply start with Bible time in the afternoon.  A routine is very flexible in this way.

We usually get started each day between 9:00 – 9:30.  This provides a nice amount of time before lunch which ranges between 12:00 – 12:30.  So, there are some natural times built in without being locked into a specific set of times.

As is the game, things are always changing and evolving.  Knowing that we have a starting place from which to adapt, helps me a lot.

Your turn to play ~ How do you structure your days?

Organization: Rainbow Drawers

Today: Rainbow Drawers.

This is one of the simplest, as well as one of the most marvelous, tools of organization we have for our school area.  They are beneficial because it is something useful for both my kids and myself.  How we use them is pretty simple, yet very effective for us.  (To read about some of my other favorite organization tools, click here.)

For Me

The rainbow drawers serve two purposes for me.  The first helps me keep clutter off my desk (very much needed).  The second is that the drawers give me an easy, organized, presentable way to deliver those papers to my children.

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The top two drawers are for Builder to keep essentials such as notepads, slate board, spirals, etc.  Princess has the next two drawers.  The proceeding drawers are labeled by subject areas, with some drawers sharing similar subjects.  Since I use Sunday afternoon as my prep time for the week, I make sure to print and gather everything needed for each lesson/activity.  If those items were to stay on my desk, it would be a nightmare.  So, after printing and gathering, I place the materials in their designated drawer.

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For Them

Princess’s work is still very theme based, so it is difficult to split her items into subjects.  Because of this, I have been placing all her materials in the second of her pink drawers.  This has been working well, and many times she will dig into whatever sheet is next in her drawer.

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For Builder, his daily list will have an asterik beside any subject that has something printed or gathered for the lesson/activity.  As he is working through his list, he knows when to look in a drawer to complete an assignment.

For a while after we purchased the drawers, they sat empty and unused.  I tried this and that, until we found this system that is working for now.  I know this will shift and change as Princess progresses and our needs change.  As for now, this is our system, and we’re sticking to it!

Your Turn to Play – How do you organize all those pesky papers for upcoming lessons?

Organization: Daily/Weekly Sheets

Well, our one week break is over.  Today is the first day of our second six week session…and both kids are sick!

This is one of those days, I feel extra glad that we homeschool.  No call to the school.  No fear of falling behind on work.  Just wake up, and let them recover without worry or stress.

Onto how I use my Daily and Weekly Sheets:

Where I Start

This is my very generic sheet for the week.  We don’t do all subjects every day and I would lose my brain trying to remember what subject on which day.  So I made a very rough sketch to show what subjects what day.  I use this as my baseline for the weekly schedule.

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Weekly Sheets

It took some trial and error to whether I was a plan by the day, week, moth, year, etc. kinda gal.  I tried it all and came down to weekly planning.  On Sunday afternoon, I take a look at where we left off last week and schedule for the upcoming week.  I only plan a Monday-Thursday schedule, because we inevitably take five days (or more) to do four planned days of work.  Music and Computer are planned for Friday, but that doesn’t always happen at this point in time.  During my Sunday planning time, I make sure to collect all resources needed for the week and to print whatever needs to be printed.  I tuck it all away in our lovely rainbow drawers.  And I am set for the week.

Divider Tabs

I have a weekly plan for Builder and a weekly plan for Princess.  I really like this set up because if the kids get interested in one subject area and want to go on to the next lesson and even the next lesson and more, that is fine.  I have all resources ready to go and I can simply check off the lessons completed.  It doesn’t matter if some of Wednesday is checked off on Monday.  Our goal is simply to complete all lessons by the end of the week.  It works the other way as well, if sick kids, doctors appointments, errands, life, etc. happen throughout the week and we are left completing some tasks on Saturday, we can simply check them off and it still works for that week.  This provides the structure and flexibility that I need.

I keep these sheets on my desk through the week and then they get filed into the front of the kid’s binder when I begin to plan for the next week.  It is also nice, that these weekly sheets filed in their folders creates a record of learning at the end of the year.

Daily Sheets

These are the sheets that Builder and Princess use daily.  They each have their own spiral.  Every night I look at my weekly plan sheet and list out what I would like to be done for the next day.  I also include their household task for the day.

At first we tried using the weekly sheet for Builder and Princess to check off their completed lessons, but it didn’t seem to work well.  The weekly sheet is a bit overwhelming to them, so I started making a daily list and it has worked much better.  It is also teaching a great life skill of list making.  My hope is that as they get older they will begin to take over the job of making their own to-do list.  We don’t keep this spiral in the binder.  Though it could be kept in the binder since it is 3-hole punched.

It is wonderful to finally find a rhythm that is working for us.  This set up paired with our daily routine has helped us accomplish much this year already.

Your Turn To Play – What have you found in your planning that works or doesn’t work so well?

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