Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ms. Kitty.... In Training

"Blue Boy" and Me (5 yrs old)
Today, the girls and I worked on helping Ms. Kitty become accustomed to her saddle and tack.  She is chewing the bit a fair amount, but beyond that, the little girl is a trooper!  I have raised goats and other various animals for my entire adult life, and although I have been impressed with animals, this is my first experience as a caretaker of a horse.  The goats only really mind when food is involved.  Daisy is, of course, completely driven by food.  All of those pig cliches are definitely accurate!  Ms. Kitty, however, has a respect for humans that none of our other animals come close to.  When I am carrying 50lb feed bags across the yard, the goats used to clobber me.  Now, Ms. Kitty walks with me (which keeps the goats at bay).  She respectfully stays a few steps behind me, and never tries to mess with the bag of feed in my arms.  She is such a wonderful little horse (35" tall), and we are so pleased with her willingness to put that bit in her mouth and that saddle on her back!  With the help of some horse-expert-friends, Olive and Ivey should be riding in no time! 

Beyond our horse fun, we ran to a doctor's appointment, played some video games, rode some bikes, ate some tater tots, gathered some eggs,stayed close to home, and just enjoyed another sunny summer day!

Ms. Kitty

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Brave New (School) Year

I'd like to say that one day my kids will look back and realize how much thought and effort their crazy momma put into their education... but that is simply not realistic.  The truth is, I think about it every day, all the time.  I orchestrated lessons for them even before I knew we would homeschool.  I just can't help it.  I am a teacher.  It's my thing.  And, as fulfilling and exciting as it is to get a concept through to a class of students, it pales in comparison to being able to focus my love of teaching on my own children.  That does not mean that it's easy.  It does not mean that it is always smooth sailing.  But, the job is so much more flexible, the dress code is totally relaxed, and rewards are so very sweet!

Although the last three years have allowed us to hire awesome instructors to teach classes at the Inman program, and to create a classroom structure with super sweet peers, next year will "bring it back home". The boys are a little sad about the change, but the insane schedule of our last school year has left us ALL wiped out.  None of us want to repeat that calendar full of places to be and things to do.  There was no one program or activity that was at fault.  We loved hockey.  We loved music.  We loved our Tues/Thurs hybrid program.  We loved preschool.  We loved Aikido.  We loved our Mon/Wed math class.  We just also really love to eat at a table instead of a car, to slow down and talk to each other instead of just barking "hurry!  Grab your shoes and move!", and to be still and enjoy the calm.  My kids are homebodies.  This school year had them begging to cut back.  It was simply unsustainable.

Now, we are not losing hockey (at least for Ivey and myself), or music class, but we will be slimming down the time we spend at the 'schoolhouse'.  The only academic subject that will be covered there will be Mr. Dennis' social studies class.  Beyond that, I will be teaching a once per week "Farm Fusion" class for each age group.  This is the girls' social outlet.  The Valentine's Day parties, birthday cupcake celebrations, Easter Egg hunts, the end of the year celebrations.... they will all be comprised of the friends made in the Farm Fusion classes.  I am thrilled that my girls are finally old enough to join in the fun!  So, on Wednesdays, we will have a set day for friends, crafts, and group learning games & activities!

I have been so excited to regain the freedom to team each of my children according to their individual strengths and needs.  As soon as last year ended, I had already made my list of potential curriculum choices for us.  In order to "chill out" more throughout the year, I want to start early.  I know it won't go over well initially, but as soon as those little breaks and field trips start showing their relaxed faces, everyone will be on board.

The girls will begin a year of 1st grade content, which should not be an issue.  They are already both right on track to pick it up.  I will not put myself in a box this year.  Although she is incredibly gifted, Olive is four.  Ivey, who is also a very smart girl, will be 5 until October.  They are not only younger than your typical 1st grader, but they are emotional, spunky, silly, drama-filled perfectionists with patience on par for their age.  We will learn, but we will play.  We will read, add, build, study, and write... but not at the expense of their completely appropriate need to romp and sing and play and be silly.  We will be happy.  How do I know?  Because happiness is a priority.  It trumps formal education, because without happiness and security and love, nothing is retained.

The choices that I have made for the girls' year include:
  • My Days, My Pictures (Journaling.  Used "My Days, My Words" with the boys at age 6/7 and loved it!)
  • A Reason For Handwriting- A (The girls have always been jealous of the boys getting to color "border sheets", so this is going to be a big deal for them!)
  • Singapore Math 1A / 1B (Standards Edition)
  • Life of Fred (Math supplement & Fun)
  • DreamBox Math App/Game
  • First Language Lessons 1
  • Hooked on Phonics 1st grade (1st semester / or maybe just 1st quarter) 
    • Fun, Instant Gratification with Reading, Boosts Reading Self-Esteem, which will ease us into Abeka 1 after a few months.
  • Abeka 1 (Phonics, Spelling, Reading)
  • Wordly Wise 1
  • Science & History.... Through read alouds, chapter books, Magic School Bus, Liberty Kids, Activities, and Field Trips.  The boys will be demonstrating and explaining their science experiments/lessons to the girls with a "science fair" type feel. Then, the girls and I can choose chapter books to read together that explain the concepts from the lesson in an age appropriate way.
  • The boys will be learning world history.  As they do, the girls and I will follow their lead, but with age appropriate books, activities, geography lessons, and field trips.

For the boys, we'll be going back and addressing some weaknesses (handwriting/spelling/writing) while allowing other subjects to run at individual paces.

  • Art of Problem Solving PreAlgebra
  • Wordly Wise 7
  • Handwriting Without Tears (Can-Do-Print & Can-Do-Cursive)
  • Hake Grammar 7
  • Institute of Excellence in Writing (IEW) B (Student Intensive)
  • IEW Spelling Zoo B
  • World History with Mr. Dennis (Yay!)
  • SuperCharged Science (e-science subscription + experiments + research + demonstration/presentation)
    • (Asa especially loves this)
    • Online Typing Program
    • Khan Academy (Addison's favorite)
    • Life of Fred (Supplemental Math -Fun)
    • DreamBox (Supplemental Math)

We'll still have hockey, Aikido, and music... but we are all doing our best not to over-extend ourselves.  First grade takes so much energy and effort and .... energy.  I am blessed that my boys are very independent learners, and compliant homeschoolers.  Let's aim for a school year of more hugs, more bacon for breakfast, and more book reading in the grass with the sun warming our backs.  You only get to be 4, 5, and 11 once.... so let's fill it with memorable love, learning, laughter, and still reflection.  I have great memories of the boys and I writing our spelling words across the driveway in chalk, or making the Nile River in the backyard.  I hope to show the girls the same homeschool introduction. 

Let your hair grown down your backs, or cut it off with a number 3 blade.  Wear the same clothes four days in a row, or wear three different princess costumes, simultaneously.  Go barefoot, or wear hard plastic toy Cinderella shoes with no grip.  Wear a hat.  Eat a snack.  Hum a tune.  Just do these things as you continue to thrive and learn, grow and mature, show respect and responsibility, and paint beautifully strong, healthy, inner-self portraits.

And, I will do the same.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Splash Pad

Oh my goodness.  Today, I took the kids to McBreyer Park in Hampton, which just opened "The Splash Pad".  We spend a couple hours running around and having fun... for free!  I call that a Summer Success!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Math Fun

 I have finished ordering all of the kids' books for next school year, and I must say... I am itching to get started.  I am not dying to get back into a full crazy schedule, with no time to breathe... but I am interested in trying to work out a more relaxed schedule that stretches beyond the typical school year.  I want to feel chilled out for longer than the summer! 

As I went back through some Singapore 1 teaching strategies, I realized the girls have already been saturated in these concepts... just by living with the boys and myself.  I am excited that they already grasp mental math concepts, and are already showing willingness to ditch the "counting" method.  Then, I remembered what I had read about Dreambox.  It's a website that is supposed to be excellent, and comprehensive.  It is supposed to change and flow with your child's needs.  I signed up from the free 14 day trial.

Well, I love it.  Not just for the girls, but for the boys, as well.

Those who were asking me about Dreambox... here is a video of Olive over the last few days. Both girls LOVE it.... and I'm sure Jeff is sick of hearing how thrilled I am to know that my 4 and 5 yr old girls will have no problem with starting Singapore 1A in the fall! WIN!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


May is an insanely busy month for me. My boys have a birthday that lands right at the end of the school year, when I am eyeballs deep in end-of-year parties, testing, finishing up our program's projects and videos and yearbooks, and just trying to wrap everything up with a big ol' bow. I put off their birthday party with friends until things "settled down". They obliged. I told them we'd wait until after scout camp. They did not complain. They asked when we'd have it and when I answered with, "we'll figure it out later", they didn't roll and eye or give out a sigh. They are the BEST. I need them. I love them dearly. They are becoming such bright, responsible, kind young men, and I am so proud of them!

And so...I am up baking a Terraria-themed cake and getting ready for their big surprise party! I can't wait to see their faces when they go out to run some errands with my mom...and end up at Partners with all of their friends there to wish them a happy birthday!

They are going to FREAK OUT!!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Minion Cowgirl

Olive wanted to be a cowgirl. Ivey decided she needed "night vision goggles". Olive then deemed herself a "Minion Cowgirl". Just a typical night.