Growing Every Day

Posts tagged ‘Lord’

Finish Strong

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Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.com

Finish strong.

I hear and see these words a lot during this time of year.  We are almost there.  We have almost made it.  Summer break (if you take one) is in our sights.  I have to be honest though.  My thought is not as much finish strong as finish consistent.  Keep on going, keep on doing, keep on being what we have been throughout the year.

I need to be strong to finish consistent.

This is the time of year reflection begins.  There were goals at the beginning and mid school year…where are we compared to those goals?  Are they realistic to strive for with 5 weeks left to go?  This is the time I make one last readjustment and set our sights on what seems realistic for the next 5 weeks.

To add to all of this reflection, my brain also begins thinking to the future, to future curriculum.  Where will we start next year, what will we focus on?  It doesn’t help that the wonderful world wide web starts sending me messages of 20% off this curriculum and freebies on that curriculum.  Ugh.  These are wonderful, but my head can really start swimming in this sea of possibilities.

So in the midst of this time of pushing through, I remind myself of the task-at-hand.  This is the time to keep focus on that which needs to be done in the present.  With the finish line ever before us, we need to let ourselves focus on the task-at-hand.  My desire and prayer is that I do not miss this present moment for worry or concern of the future moment.  I know it is good to plan.  It is good to set goals.  However, I can so easily get caught up in the future and what I want/need it to be.  If I am always future minded, my present will become a checklist and procedure.  If I trust in the vision given to me by Jesus for the future, and I trust it to be there, then I can have peace in the to-dos of today.  I can be present here, because I know my Jesus is there.  He is there holding in His hand that vision, and He is present here leading me there!  He is the path, and I will walk with Him.  This equals peace, joy, and strength.

Give Him your there, so you can be present here.

Be strong, finish consistent.

Your Turn to Play ~ What is something that helps you push through this time of the year?

Spring has Sprung

Lord have mercy.  It is beautiful outside.  The sun is shining, or sometimes a nice refreshing rain is falling and all we want to do is be outside.  This seems to be the most difficult time of the year, the “almost done” period that coincides with the call of nature.

Time to get serious…

…and head outside!  Now, not everything we do can be done outside.  However, if it is possible, we will do it.  Builder was having real trouble (insert much complaining and whining) with settling to work on his math and word work the other day.  Almost losing it, I declared, “Let’s use sidewalk chalk!”  A chorus of cheers followed.  The magic of sidewalk chalk never ceases to amaze me.

I took the same old math worksheet and wrote the problems on the sidewalk/driveway.  Builder hopped on his tricycle with chalk in hand and drove to each problem solving it quickly.

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His word work was identifying complete and incomplete sentences.  I simply wrote the words “incomplete” and “complete” on the driveway, read aloud the sentences, and Builder wrote the sentence number under the correct title.  Once again the tricycle was involved in driving to and from each category.

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Princess also did her math via sidewalk chalk.  Her word work was not really conducive to working on the pavement, but a clipboard and sitting on the porch worked just as well.

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Another example of springtime adapting…Builder is working on putting together our family tree for social studies.  He has been gluing pictures of each person, copying down birth/death dates, etc.  We have now switched it up a bit.  He is learning to handle old documents such as old obituaries, or birth/death certificates and has become a “History Hunter”!  He finds the required information and anything he deems interesting about the person and records it.  To change it up a bit, today we decided to hop in the van and go find his great grandparents burial site.  Having the grave-site in town helps.  Now we are planning field trips to other states to find other family members grave-sites.  This was just another way to break the monotony, getting outside in the name of learning, growing, and exploring.

This is the time when creative juices must flow to keep on keeping on!  Even the smallest changes keep things fresh.

Your Turn ~ How do you deal with spring fever in regards to homeschooling?

Emotions vs Truth

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Photo Credit:  Kevin McCroskey

There are so many emotions associated with homeschooling.  From delight, love, companionship, success, reward, laughter, joy, and celebration to dread, fear, frustration, anger, defeat, incompetence, disappointment, and so on.  This journey is one heck of an emotional roller coaster.

So, in all honesty, why do we do it?  This question is a doozy.  I have never actually been asked this question of anyone but myself.  What have I done?  Why am I doing this?  I know we have so many wonderful days, and yet the really difficult, hard days are what seem to take over my emotions.   Fear is a major player in this battle of emotions.  Am I doing it right?  Am I doing enough?  Are they doing enough?  Am I cheating them of something better?  This is a nasty war zone.

Point blank, I do this because God has called us to do this.  I am well aware this is not everyone’s path, nor does it have to be.  He made it very clear (once I would listen), that this was His path for us.  It was not a path of my devising.  Honestly, it was nowhere on my radar, for that matter, being a stay-at-home mom was nowhere on my radar.  Yet, I would not change it for the world.

Why do I bring this up?  Partially, I bring it up because I am in a place of need to remind myself why we are doing what we are doing.  Once shared with others, it seems easier to stand my ground.  It is our testimony, one of our weapons of warfare.  The enemy will inevitably try to deter our way.  Through faith in why we are here, by the word of our testimony, and the Truth of God, we can stand strong.

When it comes down to it, Truth trumps emotion.  I can stand on Truth, emotions will cause me to sink.  Emotions are wonderful, and God given, but they were never meant to be our standard of truth.  They were never meant to lead the way.  Truth is our Solid Rock on which we stand.

Your Turn to Play ~ How do you handle the emotional roller coaster of homeschooling?

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?

Rainy Day

Why do I continue to look for the perfect curriculum?  To me it is like the brass ring on a merry-go-round.  I can’t seem to stop reaching for it!  I know that each curriculum has its pros and cons.  Even in my philosophy of education, I believe that no one curriculum is right for everyone.

So why am I still looking!?!?

Recently, we have found the free home curriculum Easy Peasy over at http://www.allinonehomeschool.com.  And you know, I really like it.  We have been using it for three weeks now and it seems to fit really well into what we are doing.

But…

Now, as we go, Builder needs to move on in math.  Princess needs to skip a whole week!  Yeesh.  And I find myself doing the eclectic thing by bringing in the science, spelling, and handwriting that I want and feel is right for Builder.

Yes…

I need to remind myself that truly, I know what is right for my kids.  Deep down, I know if they are challenged, bored, or struggling.  I know if they need to move on, slow down, or speed up.  Or even, just take a break.  It is ok, to pull in this, push out that, and start over again if need be.  It’s ok to jump full force into a sunny day and play outside or go to the park instead of getting all tasks done.  And vice versa, it’s ok on a sunny day to get done what we need to.

In point, this schooling at home thing is far more fluid than what I am used to and comfortable with.  The lessons I learn each and everyday, match or far exceed what my kiddos are learning.  Or maybe, just maybe, they are learning with me and from my mistakes and successes.

Lord, lead me, lead them, lead us.


On a lighter note, springtime is on us in full force.  So, to go along with that oh so sweet sound of rain, we are giving our hands a try at making our own raindrop display.  I’m thinking this may spin off into a full blown water cycle unit.  We shall see.

Here is the project I found over at www.pre-kpages.com:

raindrop suncatchers fine motor for preschool

For full instructions and pictures to boot, click here or on the link above.  What follows are my abbreviated instructions:

  1.  Find a handful of blue crayons.  They can be all the same blue, or different shades of blue.
  2. Peel the papers (great fine-motor skill).
  3. Sharpen crayons over a medium to large piece of wax paper.  Until the wax paper has a good sprinkling of wax shavings.
  4. Place an equal size piece of wax paper on top and iron on the lowest setting.  It only takes a quick moment to melt wax.  Let cool.
  5. Draw raindrop shapes on the wax paper and cut.
  6. Use a hole punch and string to tie onto your raindrops and display.

I will update with pictures once our raindrops are proudly displayed.  I can’t wait to see how they turn out!

Truckin’ Along

We have completed two weeks of school after our six week break.  It has been good having many activities to pass the day.  However, it has been a challenge to get our rhythm back.

I have faith; it will come.

Adding an increased amount of activities for Sunshine has “leveled up” my preparations a bit, but it is well worth it.  There have been many times recently that she has asked to have her “school stuff”.

At first having two to prep for was a little daunting.  I was thinking that there was a need for two separate streams of preparations…Builder doing such-and-such, Sunshine doing such-and-such.  Then the realization hit…all that’s needed is to take what Builder is doing and find an age appropriate version for Sunshine.

This approach has worked well.

For example, Builder was working on spelling using the short a sound. (We have been using the All About Spelling materials and he is growing by leaps and bounds.  Spelling/Writing is not his favorite so this is a wonderful thing.)

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(Yes, that is him under that puppy blanket!)

So, for Sunshine I found a cute, fun activity over at Growing in Pre K that focused on alphabet familiarity and recognition of upper and lowercase letters.  The initial activity was to place letters in a bottle filled with rice.  There is a sheet with all the letters of the alphabet.  Once the letter is found you color the letter on the sheet with the corresponding color.

Builder thought this looked fun so he decided to have a go.  Sunshine was not as intrigued, so I left her supplies out on the table and let her come back to it in her own timing.

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The next day, she came back to it and asked to pour the letters out of the bottle to find them.  We ended up pouring the rice and letters into a bowl so that she could sift through with her fingers.  This kept her busy for a long while.  She was very much involved with the activity this way and decided she wanted to color the letter and then stick the foam letter on top.  Love it!  What a great hands-on version of this activity.  Honestly, one I never would have thought of myself.

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It took coming back to the activity two or three times before she finished, but she always came back to it.  Thank you Lord for the creativity you give to each of your children.  And, thank you Lord for giving me the eyes to see it.

My Goals 2015-2016

Yes!

We journeyed our way through the first year of homeschooling…with one.  Toward the end of the school year, the rhythm, technique, and schedule were beginning to fall in place.  M1’s learning style and a structure he responds to well were taking shape.  An ideal time and routine for me to plan lessons, units, etc. was coming together…

and then we stopped for our “summer” break.

We take 6 weeks off from the end of May to beginning of July, and now I sit and think on how to start back to school.  So many plans have formulated and then dissipated in the last two to three weeks.  Where to start has eluded me around each corner.  I am still, somewhat, battling a public education mentality.  It really is such a different paradigm going from a middle school setting of 120 in one hour periods, to two little ones under 6 at our home all day!

Remembering that I don’t have to have a full year of school planned is key for me.  We work in 6 week sessions, so just having a direction for the first six weeks is great.  The question then becomes…

What now?

The answer revealed itself today.  If I can list out the goals for this school year in general and for each child (M2 will be working on some pre-k material, with much less structure than M1) then the direction and beginning momentum will be there.  So without further ado, the goals:

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Goals – School in General

1)  One fieldtrip a month – will utilize as many in town resources as possible and some fun options in nearby towns

2) Stick to the schedule – this I say loosely.  I do want to do a better job sticking to the 6 weeks on, 2 weeks off schedule, but I also want the Lord to be our ultimate Schedule Maker.

3) Create a family tree on the wall – going back as far as we can!

4)  Documentation –  keeping better track/organization of pictures, projects, and progress to pull together for an end of school year binder/book.

 

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Goals – M1 (First Grade)

1) Writing – A focus on writing and spelling – would like him to be comfortable writing sentences and possibly paragraphs by the end of the year (he does not like writing so this will be a place to learn discipline for both of us!)

2) Math – finish up our first grade units and progress onto a second grade path, focusing on as many skip counting charts as possible

3) Science – definitely want to cover weather, plants, animals, energy (more may come into play as we go).  Also we will focus on asking three extra questions to explore on each topic we cover.

4) Handwriting – remediate some incorrect/less efficient ways of making letters, practice for more proficiency

5) Art/Music – incorporate it more consistently this year

6) PE – be more consistent in a 3 times a week approach

7) Bible Study- be more consistent in timing, less gaps during a specific focus

 

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Goals – M2 (pre-k)

1)  Keep it fun and experiential, majority of learning coming through play.

2) Work on beginning handwriting – be familiar and confident in capital letter formation, begin work on correct/efficient number formation.

3) Work on recognizing beginning letter sounds – ‘b’aseball, ‘d’og, etc.  If we progress past that, work on ending sounds

4) Math – recognize and work with groups of 20 objects, rote counting to 30, work on “one more than” and “one less than”, extended 2D shape recognition, begin 3D shape recognition, extend patterning.

5) Fun science experiments, use M1’s topics at pre-k level

 

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Goals – Me

1)  Read 3 fiction books for fun – hopefully I can far exceed this, but I am starting small and realistic for myself.

2) Start writing again – publish two blog posts around the 1st and 15th of each month.

3) Read The Pleasure of His Company by Dutch Sheets.

4) Complete the Make Over Your Mornings course by Crystal Paine.

5) Have a “Me” day once a month.

 

*all clipart courtesy of mycutegraphics.com

 

P-Week, Passover

One thing I remember and adore about the ten years teaching in the public school system is all the times I remember seeing the Lord Himself leading my lessons.  He came as words of explanation I never would have thought of, lesson plans that tied together when I didn’t plan ahead that way, or words spoken to a student that you could tell went straight to their heart and soul.

These were beautiful moments.

Up until now, I haven’t really had that type of experience.  This “jumping in” year has been a lot of wading through days to find our identity as students and teacher.  Don’t get me wrong, the Lord has helped me tremendously in sorting through paradigm shifts in my thinking and expectations.  He has definitely been present in that way.

This week has been different.

Come Monday of this week I was already two steps behind.  I only had Monday and Tuesday mostly planned, with hopes that I would have time to finish planning the rest of the week (insert hysterical laughter here).  As expected, I didn’t have time to finish planning so it has been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of week.  Our printer stopped working and our math units are primarily printed out.  This almost sent me to a place of annoyance and frustration until the Lord reminded me that people have been learning long before printers were around!  We have also started doing a Letter-a-Week focus for Madison (3 yrs).  Lately, she has been trying to find things to do and so I have been having letter activities waiting in the wings.

Not a hard thing, just one more thing.

This Letter-a-Week focus is where the Lord showed His presence just like I had experienced in the past.  I picked a random letter order from something I found online.  This week’s letter is P.  So I set up our sensory bin with P objects, had some ‘pig’ and ‘pumpkin’ crafts ready and waiting.  All well and good.  It took me a couple of days to realize we were also making daily crafts to celebrate Passover.  Hello, the ultimate ‘P’ focus.  Since the printer is not working and the plans were not made, there have been days this week where all we do is focus on the Passover crafts.  The entire time we have been making these crafts, I have seen how the Lord had this week set in all of time and history…

our own personal P-week focus…Passover

I was contemplating how to teach my kiddos about the death and resurrection of Jesus.  I tossed around thoughts of focusing on each day leading up to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  I just wasn’t sure, so I decided to ask the Lord!  He told me to focus on Passover, including letting the kids know that Jesus died and raised during Passover.  He told me that if I focus on teaching Passover, when the time comes to focus on explaining Jesus’ journey to the cross and tomb, it will be that much richer, make so much more sense, and be effortlessly internalized.

Passover is the framework on which the crucifixion and resurrection are built.

So, I found this great Passover craft at Creative Jewish Mom website that showed different placards for each of the plagues leading up to and including the Passover.  We didn’t have dow rods or pipe cleaners so we went with tongue depressors and construction paper.  We did two plagues a day and read the account each day from their Beginner’s Bible.

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1st plague – water to blood; 2nd plague – frogs

 

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3rd plague – gnats; 4th plague – flies

We changed the fourth placard from the website.  There is debate over the Hebrew word used for this plague.  Some interpret it to mean “mixed or swarm of wild beasts” while others interpret it as “swarms of flies”.  Since the Bibles we have read flies, that is what I went with, informing the kids why we changed.

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5th plague – Egyptian animals died; 6th plague – Egyptian skin broke out in sores

I also changed up the 5th plague just a tad.  She had pictured an elephant upside down, however when reading the account it doesn’t mention elephants.  So, we went with a horse/donkey.

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7th plague – hailstorm

*We are working on completing the 8th-10th plagues.  I will add the photos when we finish.

They had a lot of fun acting out the plagues with their placards each time we read the account.  It has been a lot of fun, and I have learned along the way as well.  Always.

Social Studies – Session 2

In anticipation for our home schooling adventure, I was the most concerned about social studies and science.  These were my least favorite subjects when I was in school and so I feel my background is pretty weak in these areas.  In preparation for this year, I did a lot of praying…A LOT!  And, this is why I had to chuckle when the Lord told me to focus my attention on science/social studies and that math/language arts would take care of themselves.

Well, wouldn’t you know it.  The Lord was right!

Though I still feel a little uncomfortable and stretchy in the science department, social studies has come along really well.  In our first six week session, we did a unit on US Symbols.  We covered the US flag, bald eagle, Liberty Bell, Mount Rushmore, and the Statue of Liberty.  It was a lot of fun, Mason and 3-year old Madison picked up more than I realized and they are ready to find and visit US landmarks.

Love it!

Our most recent social studies unit covered community helpers.  I knew I could use the mass of wealth on the web to pull together many activities for several different community jobs/helpers.  However, I was running out of steam!  A lot was going on in life, and I just needed to find something already made for me.  So the search began.  I’m telling you, there is so much out there!  Thankfully, after not much searching I found a great unit put together by Travis Hutchins for sale on his teacherspayteachers.com store.

community helper pic

Click Here to preview or purchase

I am extremely picky about what units/curriculum I pay for, and I highly recommend this Community Helpers unit.  It is very thorough, with just the right amount of information about 10 different community helpers.  Each community helper comes with good information, a great song, and wonderful cross-curricula activities.

For an example of the cross-curricula activities, when studying the veterinarian we sorted animals into three classifications – pet, zoo, farm.  This is a great science classifying activity and the kids loved it.

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Classifying Animals

While learning about the librarian, the activity to go along with it is to make a reading tree.  A leaf is added to the tree each time Mason reads a book to me, his little sister, his dad, grandparents, etc.  You notice that our tree’s leaves have started turning colors for fall, Mason’s idea.

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Our Reading Tree

There are mazes and learning sheets to fill out for each helper.  A large teacher book can be printed, as well as a smaller student book that can be colored and used to follow along.  A page poster of each helper with a teacher page that can be printed on the back is also included.  Again, this unit is very thorough and completely worth it.

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Teacher Posters

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, I found a great freebie over at Mama’s Learning Corner on building your own town!  So, I went out and purchased a cheap white shower curtain from the dollar store and Masonville was born.  Every time we studied a community helper, identified the building where that person would work, then he would color it and place it in his town.  This was a great motivator.  There were mornings that he spent an hour or more working on his town.

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Masonville

All in all, we had a great time with this unit.  We studied two to three helpers a week, and took approximately four weeks total to complete.  Field trips to police stations, fire stations, libraries, etc can easily be worked into this unit as well.  We did not do that this year, but I’m sure we will in years to come.

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