Category Archives: Kids

Homeschool Uniforms

I remember when I was a child hearing that a homeschool family we knew was using uniforms and I was gobsmacked (to be fair: I was easily gobsmacked back in the day). I couldn’t fathom why someone who chose homeschooling would choose uniforms to promote conformity and rigidity. Homeschooling to me was a choice of flexibility, creativity, and opening up a world of options; whereas uniforms communicated the exact opposite to my young mind. In fact, I pictured a crowd of storm troopers.

Uniforms took away individual choice. Uniforms made the wearers look like mindless drones. Uniforms were ugly.

Fast-forward to my current mindset: homeschooling is all about access to the best materials, methods, and resources and having the flexibility of embracing any and all roads to a quality education.

Homeschooling means that what I use this year may be in next year’s curriculum sale crate. Homeschooling means if today isn’t working, then we re-assess and re-map. Homeschooling means being open-minded and innovative.

Last week, my husband and I were having a HHH (Homeschool Heart to Heart) with the girls. We were addressing the fact that their behavior at school (our hybrid program) was virtually above reproach. I’m very proud of how respectful, focused and hard-working they are in the classroom. Unfortunately, that behavior doesn’t always translate to our “class time” at home. Of course, I don’t expect them to behave exactly as they do in public when we are at home. However, I do want them to give their best effort as much as possible and that hasn’t been the case recently.

During this HHH, I blurted out: “Do we need to have homeschool uniforms to remind you that this is school time?” Suddenly, I realized, this wasn’t an altogether horrible idea. Simply doing something to differentiate our free time from work time could be a way to “shake things up”. I started mulling things over and doing some reading online about the pros and cons of uniforms. I was surprised how many homeschoolers consider this idea.

school uniformLess than I week after I started exploring this idea, I was flipping through the racks at my favorite thrift store and what did I find? Two size 10 girls navy school jumpers. For $1.20 a piece. It was a homeschool bargain miracle. Clearly, the uniform experiment was being set into motion despite any reservations on the part of my children. Fortunately for me, they pretty much roll with the punches when it comes to my brilliant ideas for life improvement. So let our experiment commence!

Be sure to follow Chasing Santee to read the riveting conclusion to this controversial topic. Or to hear how I wasted over two dollars and failed miserably at improving the educational process.

Math Makeover (Part 2)

As I mentioned in Part 1, Math has not been a favorite subject for my two girls. On the other hand, my almost four year old totally thinks he has mastered it (he perceives himself to be a master of many things). The following is an actual conversation I observed between my three children:

S&S: “What’s 1+1?”
C: “Two!”
S&S: “What’s 2+2?”
C: “Four!”
(me: getting excited about his math prowess)
S&S: “What’s 3+3?”
C: “Fire engine!”

He was looking right at them when he said this. There was no fire engine in sight. This is actually a fairly typical conversation with my son. No one really knows what he will say or do next. Anyway, back to math.

This year, I wanted to “heal” us a little from the bad math vibes from last year. I wanted to give my kids confidence in their skills so that they could realize math can be fun.

That’s when we discovered Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late (Bedtime Math Series)

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Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late (Bedtime Math Series)

Just as it says, Bedtime Math makes math fun, relate-able and relevant. It transforms numbers from something kids dread into something they can really look forward to, (like staying up late for a bedtime story). While it isn’t a curriculum, it is a fun stand-alone story book that my kids ask to read. Each short story has three different math problems at the end, geared toward three different knowledge levels. Sometimes my three year old can answer the first question, and my older girls can usually get all three, so these are really geared towards younger children. My youngest likes to flip through just looking at the silly illustrations about food and animals. If you use any similar math “storybooks” please let me know in the comments!

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Life of Fred Elementary Series Complete 10 Book Set (Life of Fred)

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At this time, we are using Life of Fred as our “core” math, but we’ve been supplementing heavily. Personally, I’m hesitant to endorse this yet but the reviews are excellent. There is definitely a lot to like about it: well-rounded stories with lots of educational rabbit trails (skimming into topics like geography, vocabulary, and anatomy). A silly, yet substantial introduction to math subjects that gives kids the basics while also introducing much more advanced concepts. It’s definitely the gentle approach I was looking for this year but it remains to be seen if I’d be comfortable using it all through elementary school.

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2 X 2= Boo!: A Set of Spooky Multiplication Stories

We picked up a book from the library that all three kids enjoyed, so I wanted to mention it as a fun supplement. 2 x 2 = Boo! Although witches and creepy-crawlys have never been a favorite in this family, we thought it was a fun read. We enjoy how the author combined story/poetry elements with multiplication. Just like we expose our children to many different kinds of literature over the years, I’m starting to see the value in exposing them to math from multiple angles and formats if I expect them to enjoy it. This book definitely fits the bill. I hope you enjoyed our Math Makeover! Check out Part 1 here!

Life of Fred Elementary Series Complete 10 Book Set (Life of Fred)

Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late (Bedtime Math Series)

2 X 2= Boo!: A Set of Spooky Multiplication Stories

Return of the Lazy Blogger

So this is what happens when I get distracted….two years and no blog entries at all! I’m rather dismayed but I have been busy with life. This is my second year blogging regularly at EveryWomanBlog; you can check out some of my posts here. I have just joined the ranks of creative ladies at Columbia City Moms Blog. Since I love reading what these women have to say; I can’t wait to start writing on this new platform.

As a brief update, we are still homeschooling my identical twin girls, age 9 and in 3rd Grade. I can’t say raising twins hasn’t been a challenge, but it is a daily joy. My little guy is getting close to his 4th birthday and is just as wild as he is cute. He hasn’t exactly been the “easy third” child that I planned on, but we all adore every crazy minute of life with him. I can’t record every hilarious quote, but I’ll try to share a few here soon. Laughter helps to soothe the exhaustion of keeping him safe from constant catastrophe.

We are still loving our half-homeschool life through our university model hybrid program. For us that means two full days of classes with our friends and dedicated teachers and three days at home that combine heavy homework (facilitated by me), lots of reading, field trips, writing, art and a healthy dose of life-skills. This has been a huge blessing and a great way to “ease” into a homeschool lifestyle with the support of a fantastic teaching staff and community of families.

Thanks for popping in and I promise to update more frequently! I am ready to make writing more of a priority, as it’s always been a great passion of mine.

Math Makeover (Part 1)

This post contains affiliate links. As always, I only recommend products that I use or want to try for my own family.

For multiple reasons, math has been a struggle for the girls so far. This year I am making math a high priority so that it can become more natural and less painful. My main goal was to approach math from different angles and to dissolve some of the number-angst that had become habitual; basically, integrate math into our daily lives in a fun way. IMG_6392

If these goals appeal to you, I’d like to recommend a few tools and products that I have been super pleased with this year. The first one is Times Tales, for multiplication facts memory.

Times Tales DVD

We just got this DVD last week and I am already blown away by the progress we’ve had. At first the girls were apprehensive but after watching part one only twice they have been able to complete all the worksheets quickly. To sum it up, each number has an accompanying picture, each problem has a story and they are all introduced in such a way that they are easy to remember and reference. Not only that, but they move immediately from multiplication to division so the relation between the processes is very clear. Over two days, my kids became confident with the number stories and began working on the worksheets unprompted over the weekend. To be clear, this is not typical math behavior in this family.

times tales
Times Tales DVD

Times Tales DVD

I am thrilled with this program and I have to recommend it very highly. I would buy this one again and again! Please check out Part 2 for more Math Makeover ideas!

Flashback Friday

Once in awhile, it’s productive to remind yourself of your own past. In my case, it’s encouraging to remember that however chaotic today is, I’ve gotten through worse. Here’s a description I wrote of a normal day in our lives about four years ago; back before my son came on the scene….back when diapers were double…..back when I still thought I could win the battle against clutter in our home…..and before I surrendered to the inevitability of takeout on the weekly menu. It still makes me laugh, and cringe a little. It also makes me miss those two little curly heads that have grown into big girls with even more curls.

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There isn’t enough Prozac or Febreze to fix this terrible, awful, horrible, no-good, very bad day.

Why, oh WHY is it times when I have my sights set SO high on getting SO much done that the entire world seems against me? Let’s go chronologically, shall we…

6:00 AM Psychotic beagle wakes me up, running around the room for no apparent reason. Take off her collar so it will stop jingling, then put her on my bed, which is typically off limits. She proceeds to jump up and down and run around the house so that I cannot fall asleep.

6:35 AM I fall back asleep finally, right before the girls wake up, grumpy as usual.

6:50 AM Try to entice the girls with TV, but wind up having to fix breakfast and spinelessly give in to feeding them in the living room. I feel like I have already compromised my values and I haven’t even had my coffee yet.

7:30 AM Since things are already on a downward spiral, it seems like the appropriate time to prepare for the inevitable Walmart trip.

9:30 AM We’re finally ready to go. Leave front door.

9:45 AM Leave drive-way. Yes, it does take that long, I swear. Have you ever tried to carry two toddlers to the car along with their accompanying accessories while simultaneously blocking a headstrong beagle from escaping the front porch? It’s no wonder I have tendonitis. In both wrists.

10:00 AM I have a love/hate relationship with Walmart, I really do. I mean, I even worked there for awhile and I have found some great deals. Besides, where else can you find lawn furniture, pizza crust and diapers all under the same roof in the middle of the night?  However, in the huge, vast Super Walmart there are only two, count them, TWO double carts. Thought I was lucky to find one then realized it was soaking wet. Get cart dried off, then realize straps are broken. Too late to back out now. The girls ride standing in the front of the double cart. Do NOT try this at home.

10:15 AM Tell the girls 27 thousand times to not stand on the seat. Stand on the floor of the little front cart car thingy. DO NOT STAND ON SEAT.

10:45 AM Criss-cross ginormous store finding about half of the items I actually needed, forgetting the other half. Remind twins DO NOT STAND ON SEAT.

11:00 AM Spend 15 minutes locating a manager to politely suggest, ask, then desperately beg, that the store “invest” in at least 2 working double carts. At this point, I’ve clearly abandoned all self-respect, not to mention publicly admitting I’m a frequent Walmart customer. Manager looks at me as if I am a little OCD and then asks how old they are. “UMmmmm. Old enough to need to be buckled into a cart, and not old enough to walk along side it.” Old enough to realize that a store this size NEEDS more double carts!

11:15 AM Unload groceries, get kids into house, take incessantly barking dog outside, try to start chopping veggies to put in crock pot for soup. Turn around and the twins have sprinkled flour on roughly half of the contents of our pantry, and generously dusted themselves as well. Close door on pantry and try to forget that. Wasn’t that door supposed to have a child lock?

12:00 PM Give girls lunch, realize (once it is too late) that all ingredients will not fit into the crock pot. Recipe is probably now ruined as I haphazardly scoop out “half” of the ingredients.

12:10 PM Naively decide it is a good time to clean out fridge, so pull out most of fridge stuff all over the kitchen which is already covered in groceries, half chopped soup ingredients removed from pot and flour. Decide I should either clean out fridge much more often, or never.

12:25 PM Girls have taken applesauce and milk and made a paste that is now coating chairs and table, and their flour-dredged dresses, which, might I add, were new until today. Scarlet cries because I refuse to replace milk she has deliberately poured all over kitchen.

12:30 PM Clean girls off, strip dirty clothes. Sophia wails because I will not let her continue living in filthy dress. Trash can is starting to smell from fridge which is still open and half scrubbed out. Counter is now covered in empty cans, choppings, half of ruined soup and the contents of fridge.

12:40 PM Something SMELLS. BEAGLE HAS POOPED IN LIVING ROOM. The girls are screaming and gagging in horror, still naked. Fridge remains open, food is all over kitchen. Applesauce/Milk paste is covering furniture. It gets worse.

12:45 PM Realize too late that BEAGLE HAS stepped in poop and tracked it on rug and floor. Capture beagle and cage her, while telling her of all the places she could live that would make me quite happy, realizing all the while that I will now have to bathe beagle and clean cage. DD1 starts crying because apparently, she has wet her diaper and that just CANNOT WAIT. Clean poop off of floor, apply carpet cleaner to rug and search in trepidation for more.

1:00 PM Take girls to bedroom, change them, dress them and put them in bed for nap. Sigh in relief, start to leave bedroom. See poop-covered Croc (Croc Mammoth OF COURSE) in corner and realize the poop has now been theoretically spread from living room, down hall, and into girls’ room, covering throw rugs, laminate floor, and carpeting in its journey.

1:15 PM Cook chicken pot pie, fattiest food item I could find in freezer and eat it with a taboo Mt. Dew. Slowly come to accept reality that we must now move to get away from the omnipresent poop.

It’s crystal clear that getting off Prozac was a huge mistake.

Back to (home) School

It’s very hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that school is BACK in session. This summer has been so rainy in our area that I feel very cheated in the laying-by-the-pool and playing-in-the-sprinkler arenas. I’m trying to keep my attitude in check though, and face the year with courage! My sweet girls are excited to be FIRST graders and they are definitely ready to meet the challenge. I was able to spend about a half an hour praying in the quiet of my car this weekend (a very unusual opportunity for me) and I can say that I am now feeling better prepared mentally and spiritually! I’m still a bit overwhelmed, but I know we can do it!

This year will be fun as we return to our homeschool “school” that meets two days a week at our church. It’s a wonderful set-up and we are so thankful for the opportunity. They will study core subjects as well as chapel, electives, and PE. I couldn’t be happier with this “best of both worlds” approach to homeschooling. I know that my family would have loved this scenario as homeschoolers in the 90’s! Things really have changed, in a wonderful way. This gives me some time at home alone with the baby, and gives my kids some much enjoyed time with friends and fantastic teachers; what could be better?

For our study at home, we will be using a brand spankin’ new curriculum that I am very excited to explore. This week we will start Dew Learning*, which is the first Christian homeschool curriculum designed for use on the Ipad! My girls are pretty impressed that they will be able to use the Ipad every day for learning! I’m excited that the curriculum is portable, interactive and that all progress is stored online. We can’t wait to get going with it and I am happy to share our experiences each week. Look for more on our Dew Learning Adventures very soon.

Now, what you have all been waiting for: photos of my children in their backpacks and first day of First Grade outfits! I would like to mention, in frank bargain-boast form, that these outfits were each $1 at our local thrift store, and came in the girls’ favorite colors, with lots of lace and ruffles!  I’m definitely addicted to thrifting!

Sophiab2s Scarletb2s

*Disclaimer: I received free products for evaluation purposes in return for my reviews and feedback. You can trust that I will be 100% honest in my discussion of said product and seek to help other consumers make the right purchases for their own families.

 

 

 

Summer failures…..and successes

The fact that it is now August is really blowing my mind! I have so many things to do to get ready for school….it isn’t even a little funny. Fortunately for me, my girls are really excited to get back to work and are always pretty motivated (easy to say as they are still only 6). Over the summer, I had some grandiose plans of projects, crafts, and educational adventures. In fact, here is a sampling of what I intended to accomplish:

  1.  Finish up all the little homeschooling odds and ends: workbooks, lists, lesson plans, projects.
  2. Completely clean my house and purge a ton of stuff in preparation of the new school year.
  3. Travel and and make great memories.
  4. Start a blog about homeschooling.
  5. Teach my youngest to sleep through the night. Or even halfway through.
  6. Organize all my to-do lists.

Things I have actually done this summer:

  1. Decided that most teachers do NOT finish all of their books, workbooks, lesson plans and projects.
  2. Purged a few things and bought a whole bunch more, mostly unneeded. Barely kept the mess at bay all summer long.
  3. Made it about 30 minutes down the road on a day long road trip and turned around due to multiple factors which need not be discussed. Memories, yes. Fun, not really.
  4. Started a blog about homeschooling. At the same time, realized that starting said blog is certainly the easy part and continuing will most likely be the actual challenge.
  5. Allowed my youngest to slide into the laziest, most ill-advised sleep schedule in the history of toddlers.
  6. Discovered website that might possibly allow a new career in the making of to-do lists but as yet have not actually fully utilized said website. For your consideration: Wunderlist.

In addition to these worthy accomplishments I have: NOT purchased needed school supplies, NOT set up several appointments I’ve been putting off, NOT put the van into the shop for pesky issues just barely still covered by warranty, NOT read any of the book for my Sunday School class, NOT started elimination to diet to get to the root of allergy issues, NOT finally had that yard sale and NOT totally made-over my grocery buying system.

On the other hand I have: played outside with the kids, read to the girls some of my favorite childhood books, spent some time with extended family, made some cash by selling unneeded items, kept the kids fed, clothed, and relatively clean, and lost all the baby weight. So there’s that.

Oh and I taught the baby to feed himself. Actually, he just picked up the fork the one time but as you can see, I was clever enough to capture it on camera so I think I deserve some credit.

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4 Perks of Homeschooling in 2016

I just put this list together off the top of my head, in no particular order. Of course there are lots of pros and cons to homeschooling (and, indeed to most educational options). However, as a second generation homeschooler I am struck by some of the huge leaps in the field since my parents set out on the homeschool journey over 25 years ago. Things are so different and most of the changes are very positive! I have to remind myself of these when I am feeling discouraged or flat out exhausted!

1)      People know what homeschooling is. This made be perplexing for some of you young whipper-snappers but actually there was a day not too long ago when the term homeschooling provoked only blank looks and an occasional weak, “You mean homebound?” I used to dread being asked where I went to school, not because I disliked homeschooling (quite the opposite) but because I hated having to explain to random cashiers something that seemed new and radical (when in fact it is the oldest teaching method there is). Now it is more likely that the stranger is also a homeschooler or is close to someone who is.

2)      Legal standards are more flexible. This may be the understatement of the blog. My mother and her contemporaries had to turn in detailed lesson plans to the school district where they were met with animosity and mistrust. My mom had to walk me at six years old to the school for standardized testing but wasn’t allowed to enter herself. We were required to have PE facilities but weren’t allowed to utilize those of the school. The list goes on. As homeschoolers, we still face prejudice, injustice and misunderstanding but in almost all areas of the US, things have vastly improved.

3)      The internet has revolutionized EVERYTHING. I’m at a strange in-between age where I remember the days before cell phones yet have trouble believing those days really existed. The truth is, when we asked my mother a question about history, science or anything else under the sun she had to know the answer or use some kind of archaic encyclopedia to hunt it down. The mind boggles. And don’t even get me started on the beautifully crafted homeschool blogs that make what you are now reading look like a post-it note my toddler created.

4)      Curriculum is cheaper, better, more specialized and absolutely abundant in availability. From traditional, to classical to technology based, our choices are enough to make a new teacher’s head spin. In fact, one of the challenges I have faced is being absolutely overwhelmed with the options. For heaven’s sake, I can order art supplies, text books, or a full blown telescope from Amazon and have it at my door the day after tomorrow! If that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.

5)      The homeschool community rocks! The truth is the homeschooling community has always been strong, supportive and relatively united. But now with veteran homeschoolers paving the way and talented and knowledgeable newbies bringing fresh ideas and techniques, more and more parents feel empowered to make the switch. More of us are gathering and pooling our collective resources, maximizing our strengths and forming a united front politically. There is strength in numbers and we are over 2 million strong and growing. It gives me confidence that homeschooling will only gain strength, recognition and respect as we face this task together!