Monday, September 20, 2010

How We Get The Party Started

Routines, routines, routines... If there's one thing I learned from teaching in a school, it's the importance of having routines and procedures in place. So much of the way my day goes is dictated by the way our morning begins. I've found that the easiest way to ensure success in our homeschool day is just having a game plan. I'm not talking about a minute-by-minute accounting of our day (though I'm sure that's very helpful for many). For our family, school starts off with "Morning Circle" (which is a complete misnomer as we do not sit in a circle and we occasionally do it in the afternoon). I'm gonna work on a new title, but here's what works for us...

Each of our kids has a binder of their own.
The binders have different tabs. Everybody has "Worship", "Scripture", "Presidents", and "States". The almost five year old also has a tab for "Sight Words" and the older two have "Spelling" and "Homework".
Every school day begins with worship. We try to learn two new songs a week and they follow along with the lyrics in their binders and on the overhead.
This year I have written a "Fruit of the Spirit" curriculum for our scripture study together. It's hardly a new idea, but every month of the school year we take a different "fruit" and memorize scripture that ties to it. The kids also have a "Fruit of the Spirit" Journal that they write in nightly.
The month of September is "Kindness". I tried to tie each fruit to the season, wherever possible, and I tell you it took a certain amount of self-control on my part not to make "Self-Control" the very first one we studied! :) I didn't really think I should start the year off harping on them. The journal questions for this month are: "What did I do to show someone else kindness today?" and "How was someone else kind to me?".
Of course the notebooks look better when they're more colorful and hey, if it keeps the little one in his chair, I'm ecstatic!
Each week I am introducing one or two of the Presidents to the kids. I made the master worksheet, but used portraits I found on I also got the facts from Homeschool Share. The kids have to cut and glue the portrait, color the frame, and fill in the information. I write the four year-old's info in gray and he traces it (sometimes). Here's an example of one of his pages.
Here's another example, this time from my fourth grader.
Since I am as yet unable to sell everything and hit the road in an RV, we are traveling the U.S.A. state by state. First we color the state in on our U.S. map...
Then we do map work on the state. This is what my second grader did. She is required to trace the rivers, label the capital, and major cities. Fourth grader has to label rivers and landforms, also. I love these maps. I got them from YWAM.
I made this corresponding worksheet because I thought the one in the YWAM book was too advanced for my second grader. The kids fill this in while viewing a PowerPoint presentation of the state... definitely a cheap vacation! :)
At the beginning I mentioned the older two have a "Homework" tab. It could just as easily be called "Skills Reinforcement". My daughter usually completes a phonics activity and my son does a reading comprehension passage. They both do a math follow-up page. Whatever we need extra practice with is considered fair game for homework!
Can't believe we've already been in school for over a month now! There is so much work going on and my beautiful school room is atrocious... mostly because a day without art for my kids is like a day without food! Cracks me up since "artsy" is the last word I'd use to describe myself! Love and blessings to all of you!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Very Jonas Field Trip

I have been SUCH a bad blogger lately! I have soooo many things to blog about, too. I finally borrowed my grandma's camera charger (since mine has yet to reappear) and snapped some awesome shots. I will definitely be updating my blog this weekend, but I just wanted to share a funny photo we took when we were out and about last week.

A group of our kids were all looking in the candy shop window on Main Street at Disneyland, when one of the moms whispered, "Isn't that one of the Jonas Brothers next to the kids?" I tried to take a stealthy pic of my little girl and get him in the background, but he just looked like a white dot. My awesome friend made like the stalkerazzi and with sneaky moves of her own, shot this cute pic from far away...

They are a super cute couple and we really didn't want to ruin their date, so we tried to play it off like we see celebrities everyday! :) After we got our picture, I asked my baby, "Did you see that Jonas Brother?" (since he REALLY wouldn't know that it was Kevin and not Joe or Nick). His eyes got really big and he said, "You mean they're real?!?!" Gotta love it!

Blessings, Lins

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Change in the Weather

Oh, don't you just love plans? Somehow they never quite work out the way I arrange them in my head, but that doesn't stop me from making more. Take today, for example. One of the best parts of homeschooling for me is the celebration found in something as simple as a rainy day. I had this vision in my head of what the first rainy day would look like at my home. Here's the gist of it...

All summer long I dreamed of the first rainy day... piling my pajama-clad kiddos into the minivan and grabbing something warm from the Starbucks drive-thru, spending the better portion of our day reading books in the coziness of our living room, and not once venturing outside (you know, after the Starbucks, of course).

Well, that's just about the exact opposite of how my day went! My delighted kids dressed as quickly as possible so they could grab their umbrellas (only recently found in the "Great Labor Day Weekend Clean-Out") and head outside to play in the puddles. "Not so fast kids! Back inside!" Wednesday morning means tennis lessons twenty minutes away. Since the rain only really amounted to a drizzle, I called over to the club to confirm their cancellation. "None of the coaches have cancelled yet," the receptionist informed me. UGH!!! Everybody gets changed, we drive all the way out, get the WORST spot in the parking lot, slosh all the way to the courts, only to find them completely flooded and deserted. Surly 9 year-old son: "Wow, mom! That was a waste of our time." Darling daughter: "And gas..." Wise Mother: "But if we didn't show without cancelling in advance, we would have had to pay for the lesson." (Look who just covered Economics!!!)

So, we change plans and go visit my cousin and her brand-new DARLING baby boy. He is an absolute slice of heaven. Transition quickly out of baby heaven mode after receiving an urgent message from the banner company...there was a problem with the email submission of the order form for my baby's soccer team banner. Go home. Nearly pull my hair out trying to resubmit it. Finally end up getting back in the car to drive it down to their office. No time to get back home for lunch before the first park play day of the year for our homeschool group.

Fast food lunch, chase a four year-old around the park, hurry home to "do math", off to gymnastics, off to soccer practice (where I attempt to wrangle 10 four and five year-olds into some semblance of a scrimmage that doesn't involve running off the field crying when the other team scores or dog piling an unfortunate friend who fell while dribbling), back to gymnastics, drop off some paperwork, fill up with gas, dish out the crock-pot dinner, kiss the world's handsomest dishwasher, finish language arts and social studies around the dinner table, showers, pajamas, and finally... bedtime.

What happened to my plan?

Can I get a do-over on today please?

What was supposed to be one of my most favorite homeschooling days, turned out to be one of my least favorite... the day where nothing goes according to plan and I feel as though I've done a great number of tasks, but very few of them significant or meaningful. Not to say that wrangling tiny soccer players is insignificant... :) I'm quite confident that tomorrow will be back to 105 degrees since the only thing on the agenda is school, but I was so very thankful for a change in the weather. Sometimes, a little change can make a big difference. Even though the day didn't go according to my plan, I felt so optimistic about the coming fall and a real change in the weather. Which leads me to the last item on my agenda for today... plan for tomorrow. Oh yeah, and hide the vuvuzelas my husband brought home from work until AFTER school tomorrow! Pray for me, friends. :)

What do you have planned for tomorrow?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

For Whom The Car Honks

It happens every morning. Monday through Friday, it's more regular than my mail delivery. See, those of you who live in the peaceful, bucolic serenity of the country will have no way of identifying with me. Well... maybe you will. Maybe there's some cow who moos too loudly or some chipper little bird who won't stop tapping on your window pane. Over here in suburbia, we have car horns...and impatient soccer moms...and schedules...schedules that have to be kept with military precision, lest one of those balls we've been precariously juggling should fall to the ground and disrupt the flow of the entire day. Impatience at 8:12...every...single...morning. I haven't even had my coffee yet (or my first Diet Pepsi) and here she swerves around the corner, in her raised up 4X4, blaring on the car horn for all it's worth.

"Hey there sister! I've felt your pain. I know exactly where you're coming from. You were late before you even woke up and your tween is in the back seat anxious to get the carpool picked up and make it to school on time. Is there any chance, though, that your child might take the opportunity to stretch his legs and employ the door bell once in awhile?"

When I used to keep that same schedule, I was never home to hear that horn. I was busy being She-Ra, Princess of Power. No hair uncombed. No shoe untied. No homework left behind. Watch out! Here I come... Supermom!! It was only when we started homeschooling that I realized what I would have considered efficiency in the past, was now a huge annoyance. Every morning, without fail, the Jeep would honk. And honk. And occasionally, honk again. I would forget it was coming, and be startled when it did. I would remember it was coming, and would wonder if the kid in the car had an allergy to doorbells. Then one day, as the horn blared a third time and I watched my lanky neighbor trudge to the car, I borrowed a line from John Donne and thought, "Ask not for whom the car honks, John Kelley. It honks for thee."

Do you ever have "AHA!" moments? I do, on occasion. I'll hear something, or see something, and suddenly it's as if a light bulb has illuminated the dark. Suddenly, I see what I saw before, but somehow, it's all different. Well, that day at my kitchen sink, I had a revelation. What if, instead of being irritated by the reminder of someone else's hectic schedule, I took that moment to remind myself to be thankful? Not thankful that it's her and not me. Just plainly, thankful.

Some days it's still blissfully quiet at my home. My three sweet babes are still tucked under those covers and the car honks. On those days, I'm free to spend uninterrupted quiet time, thanking the Lord for His divine blessings in my life. Some days we're up and at 'em, finishing our breakfast, getting ready for school, and the car honks. On those days, I remember to be thankful for these moments of togetherness. They're fleeting and so precious. Some days I'm slogging through an inch of water on the bathroom floor because my son decided to "make an ocean" during his shower and, oh by the way. "MOMMY, THERE'S SOMEONE AT THE DOOR!" (and WHY IS THAT CAR HONKING?!?!). On those days, I'm thankful for the drive-thru Starbuck's, the gift card my mom gave me for "emergencies", and the fact that I have three children when I wondered for years if I would have any at all.

Is there something in your life that's been annoying you? I guess I could have just asked, "Are you a human?" :) What if, right in this moment, you purposed to turn that irritation into a moment for celebration? It may seem cliche, but the things that drive you crazy, may be the things that others desire so much for their own lives. Maybe John Kelley's mom doesn't want to push him out the door when the car honks. Maybe she wishes she didn't have to carpool and could spend uninterrupted quality time, driving him to school, and talking about the things that make him anxious, or proud, or sincerely happy. Then again, maybe she just wants a shower and a child who can get out the door on time! Ha! I've been there, too! :)

This is real life... busy, full, overflowing life. Whether it bubbles effervescently or floods tragically, the choice is really in the way you see it. I pray that my "AHA!" moment leads you to one of your own. Tomorrow, when the car honks, I'll be thankful for the people who may read this and the powerful ways their days may be changed by something as simple as positive thinking.

Blessings, Lins