Shoes from Burlington Coat Factory. Bow top and pants from h&m. Headband from Hobby Lobby.
My Zia has been into fashion ever since she was an infant. She has always enjoyed being dressed up and accessorized to the max. Her style is fashionable, yet easy-going. Zia and I have decided to start a weekend fashion report to inspire young fashionistas everywhere.
Who needs Pumpkin Spice with an outfit like this? Zia is wearing her favorite Fall outfit mixing bold prints and pairing mustard yellow with black and white stripes. The studded shoes add just the right amount of spice to this sweet and sassy outfit.
Shoes from Burlington Coat Factory. Bow top and pants from h&m. Headband from Hobby Lobby.
On site schooling is the day when we take to the streets in search of real-life experiences of things we are learning. Whether it is something we have studied in science, or something mentioned in a book, we simply go out and find connections. Today, we went on a search for fungus since we have been studying the five Kingdoms, and also on a search for cowboy gear, since we read a book about cowboys last week when Daddy was home.
First stop, the State Park trail. The kids were a bit apprehensive, I need to get them out in the woods more. They were a bit freaked out by all the bugs. We found our fungus, though, in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. We also identified members of the other 3 Kingdoms.
Stop #2 was the tack shop. The lovely owner of the shop, let the play with the gear and even try it on. They got to touch and feel spurs, whips, saddles, chaps, and many of the items mentioned in their cowboy book.
We ended the night with TopSoccer, an amazing organization for children with special needs. We have been participating in TopSoccer for several years now since my niece, who has Autism, began the program. There isn't a price I can put on knowing that my children are meeting other children who are different from themselves and loving them like they deserve to be loved.
Although we have a reusable cup for our Keurig, we usually just buy the K-Cups. This week, however, there was a sale and Hubby realized they had my favorite, blueberry coffee, available only in the bag. So, he bought himself a pack of K-Cups and bought me a bag. Naturally, we turned that into a math/science experiment. J will tally mark on the coffee bag, each time we make a coffee. At the end of the bag, we will see how many cups we were able to make using the bag and compare it to the number of K-cups in a box. We will use division to figure out the cost per cup and determine which one is a better deal. Ah! Purpose-driven learning is my absolute favorite!
Our tadpoles keep growing. The kids have named them. This here is Grits. He is the first one to grow back legs. I gotta admit, I'm turning into a tadpole lover. They're kinda cute and growing on me.
To end their peaceful day on a high, the pair decided to put on a show for the rest of the family. They chose costumes, music, choreography, special effects, and everything else. VIP seats to their shows is definitely on my bucket list.
During snack time, J found an experiment in a science experiment book that he wanted to try. (He was reading during snack time. He's always reading.) So we grabbed ice cubes and set them on the counter and outside on the back porch. I set timers on my phone to ring every 30 minutes for them to record their observations. I love indulging my little learners with impromptu, unscripted activities. I believe satisfying that spontaneous trait is a cornerstone in raising happy learners.
My Princess has been needing a different approach to addition. While she has been able to answer questions correctly, she has struggled with explaining the process. As someone who is more interested in understanding rather than regurgitation, I've been racking my brain trying to figure out an approach that suits her. Her brother is an incredibly gifted visual and auditory learner. he has an engineer brain like his Daddy. I simply discuss a concept with him (such as addition with three digit numbers) and he can take off. She is different, she is a tactile learner. She needs to touch things and participate in things in order to master subjects. It is one of my greatest pleasures to get to know my children so well and to tailor my instruction to meet their needs.
Today, I designed a game for her using a divided tray, 10 yellow rings from our Connect Four Launchers game, and blank index cards. I wrote various equations that equal 10, leaving out one of the addends, then I gave her the 10 rings to use as manipulatives. She had to place the number of rings in the first slot, then count the number of rings in the second slot to figure out the answer. The goal was to help her get a firm grasp on making 10. Not just memorizing the corresponding addends, but to physically participate in seeing how she arrived at the answer. I believe we got a breakthrough.
Soon after lunch, the neighbors came to get the kids to go play (something that happens almost every day, but somehow I hadn't mentioned yet). We ran a few errands that after noon as we got ready for our evening commitments. When we arrived home, this guy was waiting atop our front porch.
He brought with him lots of wonderings and questions, which we discussed while I cooked dinner. It's a good day when I can't pinpoint the end of our school time.
If I've learned anything these past couple of days, it's that these kids NEED the outdoors. I noticed that they focus better when they have been given a chance to release their wild first. Over the past few days, we've been going outside for a bike ride following breakfast and devotional time. Apparently, fresh air makes the brain happy and eager to learn. Baby brother doesn't waste an opportunity to run around as well, trying to catch lizards with a butterfly net. He's awesome..
Once we got back inside the house, J went right to work on his parts of speech. That boy loves his free-range education, but he also enjoys filling out graphic organizers and adding pages to his school binder. Sometimes I look at him and see a little college student int he works. So serious!
His sister worked on the 'ar and 'ay' word families as well as the 'a' vowel. They both also practiced handwriting on dry-erase boards.
For math, they practiced vertical and horizontal addition facts up to 10. I've assigned him to be her teacher for this subject because it benefits both of them. His creativity is soaring and she is really beginning to get a firm grasp on number sense.
I accidentally dropped the calendar numbers, which gave her an opportunity to purposefully practice numerical order.
During science, the kids are studying the 5 kingdoms. Since they are interested in frogs (as we are growing tadpoles in the kitchen) I want to teach them about amphibians, but I want them to have a background in understanding the classification of living things before we get to the detailed classes. We used this visual aid of their own hand to learn the names of the five kingdoms. I used a few YouTube videos and a Bekka curriculum science book I borrowed from our local library.
After lunch, we snuggled up to a few good books as usual. I chose a seasonal book, a book about tadpoles, a sportsmanship books since it was football practice day, and an addition book to go along with what they are learning. They chose the other books based on their own interests.
In the afternoon, it was back to natural science. Baby boy had a blast! Not only did he get to pose as defense for some tickled boys, he also got to watch the ants at work in the parking lot while he waited for big brother to finish practice. #theworldisourclassroom
Sister didn't mind football practice herself. Leave it to her to fill up my trunk with children. Talk about an out of the box playdate. She brought her Barbie house and her bin so all the little sisters (and brother) could play. Good times!
I began the day a few hours before the kiddos, since I needed to wrap up my planning. Here's a breakdown of the method to my planning madness:
For example: Both kids are interested in the tadpoles because we have some that our neighbor gifted us. To teach them about amphibians it makes sense for them to first know the classification of living things, then the Kingdoms, then the vertebrate classes within the Animal Kingdom. To learn these, my son needs a song, a clever poem to memorize, and a colorful graphic organizer. My daughter needs an opportunity to see these things first hand, and a type of art craft to go along with it. My toddler just needs to know that things have differences, so he will play games all week and practice sorting things in a natural way (for example, during clean up).
I know this because I know them. I know their interests, their learning styles, what makes them excited, what sticks and what doesn't. I know because I have the irreplaceable mother's intuition and I watch them. I watch and listen to everything they express. Of course, having an MAE doesn't hurt too. Ha! This method is a bit tedious and drawn out, but once it's done, the week is a breeze because rather than spending my days fighting to get them motivated, I spend that time catering the curriculum to their interests. No tears here!
I found a website with weekly sight word lists for first graders. So far, I'm not convinced that it's challenging enough for my girl, but I want to start her out feeling confident and strong, so I don't mind if we begin the year below her ability. I had her copy down the words on her dry erase board, then build the words with magnetic letters (hands-on all the way with this one!) We also talked about the blends "ch" and "cl" using books and dry-erase boards. Lastly, I had her go through and circle all the "i" vowels and we sounded them out in each word.
I managed to sneak away outside while Big Brother turned the school table into an addition fort to read with Miles. (side note: I've had to die to my disdain for mess with this child. If he's happy, learning, or being creative, there will be proof all over the house. All I asked him was to help his sister add to 10. He decided it would be cool to use chairs, giant coloring books, and old boxes to make an "addition fort." He also thought it would be fun to use the pieces from his Connect Four Launcher game as manipulatives. And as much as I knew in my head it didn't take all that, in my heart I knew that they were having fun, connecting as siblings, and learning. So, I took a deep breath and walked away from the mess with a smile. It will all get cleaned up eventually. In the meantime, I decided to just go outside so I wouldn't have to look at it.)
Outside, I spent some time reading with Miles, who has recently developed an insatiable appetite for books. He follows me around with books in his hands begging me to read to him. He loves anything that has to do with animals. It cracks me up how he always tries to act out like the animal in the books. I'm a completely different parent to this third child. I've made it a point to enjoy him more because I have experienced for myself exactly how fast they grow. I'm also much more of a pushover with him. Live and learn.
After playing in their "addition fort" the kids went outside to play with the neighbors while Miles and I cleaned up and prepared lunch. While cleaning up, Miles helped me sort the magnetic letters. This little learner catches on quickly!
Miles naps for a few hours after lunch, and the older kids and I use this time to snuggle up for reading. Today we read a wide array of books related to our character lesson, reading lesson, social studies themes, science wonderings, and just for fun.
In the evening, after our family dinner, all five of us engaged in an art activity. It was a nice, relaxed ending to an industrious day. We make it a point to eat dinner together every night and try to do activities that strengthen our family bond. I've been amazed at how something as simple as coloring together can have a profound effect on the kids. It's not about what we're doing, but the fact that we're doing it together. These easy moments of smiles and no-stress are nice breaks from the demands of the rest of the day. Making moments like these part of our lives is something that we do intentionally because we believe in the results.
Thanks for reading!
I have a confession to make. Our heads were elsewhere this week and I failed to note the date. We got ready in the morning, met up with my dad at the rest area and started driving to Sea World, when suddenly I noticed an extraordinary amount of police presence in the highway. Then it hit me, it was September 11th. I felt horrible to not have made a note of that. I am usually one to not miss a thing. I would've dressed us all in patriotic gear and given the children a mini-lesson prior to departure. But I hadn't and we were already on the road. So I reclaimed the day as best I could.
We gave the kids a mini-lesson on the events of September 11th and held a not-so-brief q&a session with them.
The rest of the day was learning through fun, character building, and family bonding. Not a bad way to end our first week!
I'd been looking forward to today all week. Having my husband home the entire week on the first week of school has been a dream come true. Today, we got to include him in our adventures. Before we left, I did an impromptu mini photo shoot of the Grandparent's Day cards I designed for my new etsy shop.
First stop: the skate park. My kids LOVE biking at the skate park. We hadn't finished getting out of the car when my son was already eyeing a young, rugged-looking skater couple in a beat up old, red car, "Mommy, I want to go tell them I think their car is cool. Can I?" Oh my poor unsocialized boy who dares think all people are equal and isn't afraid to talk to a couple of weirdos. [that was sarcasm] With the compliment out of the way, my babies took to the ramps. The pit is their favorite. They're been working on riding sideways for a few weeks now. It's not a classroom, but here, they've learned to try new things. They've discovered a reservoir of courage they didn't know they had. They learn, through play - my favorite way! And of course, my little guy got in on the action. That last one is a true wild child. He's fun to watch.
I decided to take a walk around the park and, of course, my mini-me followed. We started out walking past the dog park area and checking out some pretty fast dogs in action. Around the back corner of the path, we came across a slug. I delight when life and learning intersect (which is ALWAYS!!). We stopped and watched the little guy for a while, then decided to help him get across so that he wouldn't get accidentally run over by other riders This sweet girl is as gentle with slugs as she is with puppies. Watching her human side in action makes me melt.
We finished our walk/ride around the park at a small pond where other homeschooled kids were catching tadpoles. We watched and mingled for a while until someone in our crew, who shall remain nameless, stepped in dog poo. Party's over, folks. We may be super cool and curious about nature, but we have a limit. Dog poo is past that limit.
We left the park and stopped by a little library inside a Baptist church nearby. Finding this library was an incredible blessing. They have homeschool curriculum, visual aides, manipulatives, board books, chapter books, and any type of book you can imagine. The books are older and usually have more substance than the books at the pubic library.
After the library we decided to try out a restaurant on that side of town we had never been to before. My sister was kind enough to keep the baby for us so that we could go out to lunch alone with the older kids. We rarely get to give them our full attention these days with the baby usually needing us more than they do, so it was nice to just be the four of us for a meal.
The afternoon was filled with football practice, tap dancing, and more time with friends. It was another low-key day full of deep conversation.
I'm unashamed to confess that I need help. I can't do it all on my own. I can't even do it all with my amazing husband's help. Thankfully, for the past few months we've been investing in help. A dear friend of mine, with a radar for detail that lets nothing slip by her, has agreed to help me maintain order in my home. Admittedly, I was ashamed at first. I felt like a failure. I mean I AM a homemaker, isn't cleaning my home part of the deal? For years, I forced myself to accept this task out of shame, even though I was doing a poor job at it. But a few months ago, my husband forced me to die to that shame and demanded that I accept the help. I did, and it has been one of the best gifts he has ever given me. I'm now free to create a loving and peaceful atmosphere in our home, while raising intelligent human beings. Cleaning a house and making a home are two very different jobs. I need the former to achieve the latter, but I can't do both well. Other women can and good for them, but I had to face my limitations and now I feel so much more empowered. I've had to make sacrifices to afford it, but it is absolutely worth it.
Today was our cleaning day, so the kids and I ate breakfast as fast as we could and headed out to the library. On our library find list were:
The first order of business were the frog books since we have live tadpoles growing at home, we need to know what's going on. I taught Joa how to use the library's digital catalog to find titles and then how to find those titles in the aisle. While searching the juvenile non-fiction aisle for the books we found on the computer, Miles stuffed one of his shoes in a shelf, never to be found again. Ah, those moments that make you laugh later. I've decided I'm going to start laughing at them now. I secretly love the crazy in our lives.
A couple of hours and one lost shoe later we had:
When we were checking out at the library, something amazing happened. A beautiful young lady, who appeared to have Downs Syndrome, made a comment about how many books I was carrying in my stroller. Naturally, I made a funny comment, as I would to anyone, about how I'd traded in my baby for books. She chuckled and began walking toward me. "I'll help you with your books," she offered as she was approaching. I smiled and thanked her. As she was putting books on the counter, the librarian seemed to get uncomfortable and tried to tell her to stop. At that point, I heard my son, who was behind me, say to his sister, "C'mon" and they both walked around to the front of the stroller and began to help her. Baby Miles followed close behind them. He handed her the books and she placed them on the counter. The two older kids worked alongside of her. At one point the librarian had enough and in frustration exclaimed, "I think we have too many helpers!" Instantly, both older kids stepped back and stopped helping. It was as if they knew, asking the young lady to leave us wasn't an option. They were willing to step back so that she could help. You know, as homeschoolers, the main concern people have is that our kids don't get socialized. But I assure you that our kids get the best kind of socialization in the world. They're not part of cliques and drama. They don't spend their days around the same 20 people, in the same facility, These kids get to meet all kinds of people in a variety of scenarios. They're learning how to respond when a person with disabilities enters their personal space. They're experiencing how to respectfully deal with adults who are in the wrong. They're practicing how to interact with people of different ages and backgrounds. Are they missing out on the school experience? Definitely! Missing out on situations that are toxic. Are they missing out on life? Absolutely not! They're being well prepared for real-life in the real-world.
When we got home for the library, the kids couldn't wait to read through their books. Instead of putting them away, they sat looking through them while I cooked lunch. After lunch, we went outside and worked on our garden. Our pepper plant that my Grandmother gave Zia for her birthday has it's first pepper.
Since the kids continued to show an interest in crafts, we ended the day by practicing color mixing and painting garden stakes to send to my husband's grandma, who has a beautiful garden of her own.
Formal academic school, took a back seat today. Today, we had discussions about love, kindness, and people. We talked about the power of embracing differences. We also discussed honor in length. We spoke of honoring our elders/grandparents with gifts on Grandparent's Day as well as honoring God, Daddy, Me, and our cleaning lady by putting things back where they belong. Personally, I firmly believe Character education trumps academics. My kids will never achieve our definition of success on academics alone. The character, integrity, self-discipline, and faith components are even more integral to their success. Therefore, days like these are not wasted in my eyes; they're the best!
These last photos happened after lunch, and have nothing to do with school, just a memory I want to keep of these two who love each other to pieces!
Our second day began at around 1am, when my 2 year old woke up screaming. He is a fantastic sleeper, so this was alarming. Since all three kids share a sleep room, we opted for bringing him into our bed so that he could keep us awake instead of them. He tossed, and turned, and spun. A few times, I had to move some of his body parts away from my face just so I could breathe. Needless to say, by 4am, we were over it. My husband went to put him back in his crib to no avail. The screams could've woken up the entire neighborhood. Back to our bed we go. We have a rule in our house where sleep is the primary goal. It doesn't matter how or where it happens. We will do whatever needs to be done for the highest number of people to get the most amount of sleep. Normally, that means that all three kids sleep in their own bed and my husband snuggles me. But on rare occasions, it might mean one of the kids ends up on the bean bag or in our bed.
I have a hard time going back to sleep after being awakened, so I decided to go be productive with my awake time. I took my laptop and went to the sofa. From 5am to 8am, I was able to catch up on many tasks I've been wanting to complete. Overall, it was a blessing in disguise.
When the first child woke up at 8am, I was not ready. I realized we didn't have everything we needed for breakfast, so I asked him to come with me to the store. In the time it took me to sneak into my closet to get dressed, two more kids woke up. Needless to say, I ended up taking all three kids to Publix to let my husband sleep alone for an extra hour.
One of the practical ways we have been growing in kindness this year is by depositing gems into our "Kindness Jar." We had been struggling in the area of sibling harmony for a while so we implemented this system on Monday and have been speaking of kindness all week. I used a bag of gems left over from a recent party and a small mason jar. The kids get to put a gem inside the mason jar each time I catch them doing something kind, because we treasure kindness and because our love for one another is what makes us rich. When the jar is filled, they will get $5 to spend as they wish. They can split it or they can agree on how to spend it. I figured by the time the jar is full, they will be able to handle showing kindness to each other as they decide what to do with money. Or at least, it will be a good test.
[Our family takes pride in being intrinsically motivated, meaning we don't punish or reward much. We teach our kids God's Word, our blueprint for life, and set high expectations. When the kids fall short we let them experience natural consequences, then we extend grace to them and offer more instruction. At times yes, they need to be disciplined, and often times we do reward, but we don't manipulate nor coerce. It's just not the way God deals with us. Our goal is to model our parenting after the way God parents us. We try our best to emulate the Father in how we deal with our children: Clear instruction, undeserved grace, true forgiveness, showers of blessing, natural consequences as punishment.]
Because the kids have a clear understanding that attitude and intention matter far more than behavior, I'm confident the Kindness Jar will work. We had a serious discussion about doing things just for a gem and not from the heart. I assure you I know my kids well enough to spot hypocrisy from a mile away. Even though, if I ever do, I may let them get away with it and wait for them to come repent. They know God is interested in their hearts. They know actions are worth nothing without love.
Honestly, the jar has helped us increase the kindness. I feel like it has helped to remind them to be kind more often. However, I can't really tell if it has reduced sibling spats yet. We'll see.
After breakfast, I took the kids outside to ride their bikes. I've learned they need to engage in a physical activity before they are ready to focus. The kids rode their bikes for a few minutes while I made up some chalk games on the driveway. Without sleep, my creativity is questionable, so the "games" were really just addition equations for Joa and "ar" words for Zia. Of course, if it has to do with being outdoors and using colorful chalk, it's a WIN in their book. I timed Joa as he worked on his sums, and I shouted words for Zia to hop to. Good times. When I could no longer bear the heat, we went inside the house for some writing practice.
Day 1 was a day for me to establish the tone and set expectations, day 2 was a great day for them to reflect on their academic identity and establish goals. We sat at the table and made lists of character traits we each wanted to exhibit. When each child had at least 10 adjectives or goals, we got the lap top out and visited the wordle website. We typed in their names, the meaning of their names, and the words they came up with. We had some fun choosing color combinations and font styles and came up with these beautiful prints.
The two goals of the wordle prints are to be a source of encouragement for the kids and to keep them focused. Write the vision and make it plain. These frames contain their vision for this year. Having them on their desktop for daily viewing will motivate them to accomplish those goals. Among the lessons we learned during this activity were adjectives, verbs, goal setting, speaking life, faith, typing, color mixing, and text direction.
After finishing our prints, we reviewed some more math. I gave Joa a quick mini-lesson on place value and had him express values using numbers, base ten pictures, and words. Zia simply had to write the number I dictated.
At the end of the first day, the kids told me their favorite part of the day was making the self-portraits, which was huge because previously they haven't expressed much interest in arts and crafts. Last night, I found some more art to add to their day since they enjoyed it. I found this name art idea online and decided to give it a Grandparent's Day spin.
I have to admit that I really dislike decorating with projects. I don't mind a few here and there that are made specifically for decorating, but I can't stand a refrigerator full of macaroni crafts. To make everyone happy, about a year ago I came up with a brilliant plan, if I may say so myself. We make crafts with a purpose. #purposedrivenlearning Sometimes the purpose is just to indulge our creative side for no other reason than we enjoy it. Most times, though, the purpose is to share it with someone else. When we make things for others, I take a photograph for our records and then pass the love along. This weekend it's Grandparent's Day, therefore our crafts and writing prompts this week, will revolve around the 'holiday.' Since our kids are blessed with 2 generations or grandparents on my side and 3 generations on my husband's side, they have a total of 9 grandparents to make gifts for. That's a lot! We will spread the projects throughout the week and hopefully complete them all on time.
After crafting, we took a lunch break and snuggled up for our read aloud time. We're still reading a random array of books we have left over from last season until we can go to the library tomorrow.
After we read, it was off to football practice at one of the local schools for my little man and ballet class for my princess. After ballet, Zia and I stopped by the store for a few school supplies. We also stopped by the new Kirklands that just opened up in our town where I gave her a quick lesson on art, scents, home decor, manners, and budgets (Ha!). Of course, my little nature lover made me stop and stare at the sky for a few minutes (one of the qualities I love most about her! She makes me slow down and appreciate the little things).
Overall, I'd say we managed to miraculously redeem our crazy morning and salvage the day. It was not at all what I had planned, but FLEXIBILITY is a key factor in this unschooling world I've learned to love so much.