Sunday, July 28, 2013

Prep work is hard work.

I took a little bit of a break from planning last week in favor of reorganizing.  I still managed to fill in a few squares on my planning pages, but I'm just about done with each kiddo for the first quarter.  I wanted to get started on reorganization of our school room.

In the last few years, pretty much since we've been homeschooling, we've had a dedicated school room.  Sometimes, it's been thrown together rather haphazardly.  Sometimes, it was a difficult room to work with so the setup or layout was weird.  In this house, however, it's a pretty awesome school room.  Nothing fancy, just a good size room with a ton of light.  It's also made very bright by the excessive amount of white paint, more specifically contractor grade flat white paint.  Now, in addition to it being a white room, it's also earning different color stripes, lines, marks, scuffs, etc. from anything that touches the wall.  It's time for a re-do.  It needs work done from top to bottom and everything in between.

I've been going through every school supply, manipulative, game, book, everything to determine if we need it and if we'll use it.  If not, it's getting the boot.  Someone else will get more use out of it than I will so it needs to go. I think, for the first time ever, I might take some stuff down to the homeschool bookstore I love and consign it.  As I'm going through everything, I've been working on the layout of the room.  I don't want to fill every nook and cranny with stuff.  Just when I think I might have the space figured out, Adisson decides he wants to move his desk from his bedroom to the school room.  :)  No problem, just have to figure out where to put it.

Also on the agenda is painting and window treatments, as right now, there's none of either.  Blank white walls and bare naked windows.  I think we've decided to look at nice, soothing green colors.  We haven't even started picking one out, but that's where we're headed.  I have already decided on our first day of school (to be revealed in another post!) so the time crunch is on because that date is coming up fast!  I really don't want to be in the middle of two big projects at once--the school room decorating and the first floor repair--but my hands are tied in that matter.  The repair work downstairs hasn't even begun...in fact, it's not even close to beginning.  :(

Painting, making window treatments, organizing, reorganizing, moving furniture...it's all on my list.  Adam insists that the school room is my area so I won't get too much help from him.  He also hates painting more than anything else in the world so he opts out of that every time.  My hope is to start prepping this week so I can purchase paint this weekend and get started.  I might have to move the timeline up a little if I hear there's a chance repair work might get started next week.  I can't be painting upstairs while they are fixing the floor downstairs because that leaves 3 boys trapped in their bedrooms all day long.

Anyway, I did get a little planning done.  Zander will be using Science4Us for his science curriculum this year, so I started clicking around over there.  I wanted to see how easy it is for him to navigate since it's a different format than the online lessons he's used to.  Fortunately, it's very easy to use and I think he'll have no problem getting his assignments started.  Plus, the lessons are fun and interesting.   I think he'll enjoy them even though he hasn't expressed much of an interest in science before.  I went through some of the lessons so I could write them in my daily planner.  Gotta fill those boxes in so I know we have stuff planned!

One thing we absolutely need to work on this year is handwriting.  My boys don't have the best handwriting.  Adisson is quick and sloppy and Zander is still learning.  Also, mommy/teacher confession here, Adisson still doesn't know how to write well in cursive.  I was told by our previous education monitor not to waste my time teaching cursive to the kids because most public schooled kids aren't learning it anymore.  Nevertheless, Adisson will be writing in cursive (occasionally) by the end of the year and his printing will have to improve because it's terrible!  Handwriting worksheets will be a part of our daily routine!

Last, but not least, is the organization of my stuff.  I've been busy accumulating my Teacher's Toolbox from online teacher resources to filling my supply box with white-out and staples.  At the beginning of the year, I'm like YES! I CAN DO THIS! I'M READY FOR THIS!  I get my computer stockpile of information organized, filed, and bookmarked.  I've got my storage box of paper clips, brads, and pushpins sorted out.  I've been busy going through my filing cabinet and my bookshelf.  I've emptied my school binder from last year and got it ready to start filling up for this year.

I'm on the path of a new, clean, organized school room for the start of the school year.  We're not there, yet.  In fact, there are some days I look around and think we're not even close to being *there* but I'm working hard to get it all done.  Adam's right, the school room is My Area.  This is where I work, where I teach, where I learn, where I spend a ton of time with my three most favorite kids.  I'm ready to make it an awesome place for us to spend our days.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

His Love of Learning

Well, I have been hard at work the last several days.  As far as the home repairs go, we're still in limbo waiting on the insurance company to decide what the damage is going to cost us.  It's been nearly a month since the incident.  Hopefully, once the work starts happening, it is much quicker than waiting for the permission to get started!

I'm still hard at work on school planning.  In previous years, I didn't do enough to prepare in advance.  I've since learned the error of my ways.  The more prepared I can be now, the more I can hope they can accomplish day-to-day, week-to-week.  No, it's not just about checking the box and saying, "Yep, it's done now.  Let's forget this and move on."  It's about setting them up to know what they are going to be working on so we're not wasting time figuring out what's next.  That's my hope for the start of our school year.

With Adisson, I'd like to focus more on reading.  He used to LOVE to read.  He'd devour any book he could get his hands on.  Sadly, video games killed the desire to read.  Sure, he still reads some, but it's not the same.  I'm being very purposeful in my selection of books for him to read so hopefully they will pique his interest and he'll *want* to read.  I'd also like to use an online writing curriculum to help direct his writing.  He writes a lot about his "secret" club with his best friend.  Really, I don't mind if he wants to write about that, but if he's going to do that as a part of his school work, it needs to be done well.  As far as science and social studies go, he already loves those subjects so I hope we can continue that love with great projects and experiments.  And right now, I don't want to talk about math.  :)

Zander's focus this year will be on improving his reading skills.  He wasn't ready to read as early as his brother and that's ok with me.  When I pushed him to read, he would get frustrated and sad.  When I backed off and decided it will come to us as he's ready, he started doing much better.  He does really well with math and numbers, so we'll just continue practicing previously covered topics and introducing new ones.  His love of science, however, is still waiting to be discovered.  I hope that we can spend a lot of time this year exploring the universe to find what awesome science topics really excite him.  We've got a good start by investigating what's around us.  Here in our new neighborhood, we've "met" several new friends from big, fat toads to really pretty moths.

Jaxon's school work is really to let Jaxon know I didn't forget about him.  I have mixed emotions about homeschooling a 3 year old.  What I mean by that is, is it really homeschooling or am I just parenting?  He will have file folder games to play (with me or with my help), activities in literacy and math centers, busy bags, and occasionally, some online preschool games.  To me, however, that's just what you do when you have little kids.  No, I'm not saying every parent sets up a Math Center in a designated school room, but learning, playing, interacting, games...to me, those are just part of raising a kid.  I know, I know, that's not how everyone does it.  When I'm on facebook and I see yet another person ask what curriculum to buy for their 2 year old or 3 year old, I just want to yell...play with them, read to them, enjoy them!  It's not about worksheets or textbooks...it's about helping them find their love of learning.  Ok, mini-rant over.  I really do appreciate that people want what's best for their child, I totally get it, I just wish I could say to those brand-new homeschooling mom's "You're doing it right.  Reading to them, building a puzzle, playing with Legos....that's awesome and that's perfect.  It doesn't have to be about a workbook."  But again, my own personal belief.

Anyway, busy, busy, busy week in store.  The boys have physicals (which will mean shots for at least one of them), eye appointments, registration with youth services on post, and more that I'm sure I'm leaving out.  I feel like our time to be relaxed and easygoing are about to come to an end.  School, scouts, field trips, etc. are all running toward us at warp speed.  I wonder if I could work nap times into our school days....

Sunday, July 14, 2013

School planning time!!

Let me tell you, I'm on a homeschooling roll!  I've been working so hard for the last week making lesson plans for the first quarter of school and I'm doing pretty well, if I do say so myself!  :)  Last week, the husband was away for work, our company had all gone, and even though I should have been lining up contractors for repair work, I needed a break...so did my kiddos.  We took the week to get caught up on planning and video games (me the planning, them the video games).  And I've definitely made some serious headway.

I'll get started with Adisson.  Like I said, we're still using Time4Learning this year.  I pick a subject (I started with Science), use the handy activity scheduler to determine how many lessons we need to do each day/week and then skim through each lesson before I schedule it.  Fortunately, Time4Learning has made list of supplies needed for each Science activity so I printed that out to include in my binder.  I make a list of any other supplies needed, schedule the lesson in my planning book, and continue on.  I did all of that for Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts.  I need to start working on Math...ugh.

Zander's lesson planning goes pretty much the same way.  T4L occasionally has a worksheet paired with a lesson.  This is our first time using their first grade so I didn't realize how many corresponding worksheets are available and I love it.  Zander really enjoys worksheets and I like that we'll be doing the lesson on the computer and then reinforcing it with the worksheet.  I've already planned most of his Math and Language Arts lessons, so now I'd like to go through and print off what we'll need and add those to his binder.  I am really excited about his first grade science curriculum, too.  He's not as into Science as Adisson,but I'm hoping Science4Us will help change his mind.

Spelling for the boys is taken care of with SpellingCity.  I LOVE SpellingCity!  You can make your own spelling lists (but a lovely soul has already imported T4L's spelling lists over there so I just had to find them) and choose games and activities to help your child learn the list.  Then, my kiddos can take an online spelling test at the end of the week.  The fun doesn't stop there, though.  They also have a vocabulary side to the site.  Just like SpellingCity, you can import a vocabulary word list, assign activities and administer a vocabulary quiz.

Jaxon hasn't been left out of my planning efforts.  Here are the things I've been working on for him:

Theme Kits from Mailbox Magazine
It's a big file filled with pages of themed activities and games.  Each page has already been laminated so I just need to cut the pieces apart and bag and label them.  I purchased 15 kits and each kit has nearly a dozen activities so it's a time consuming process.  I think I've managed to get 6 of them finished.  It will likely take me the rest of the summer to get the remaining ones completed.

File Folder Games
I used to print out free file folder games, color them, glue them down and laminate them, but no longer.  A few years ago, I fould Carson-Dellosa's File Folder Games books and have loved them!  I had already made Pre-K games, but I'm working on K and 1st.  These aren't only for Jaxon as Zander loves them, too.  All I have to do is tear the full-color pages out, glue them down, and laminate.  On an additional note, I don't make actual "file folder" games.  I glue the pages onto individual pieces of cardstock and comb bind several games together to make a book.

Activity Bags
I had made several for Jax already but he's steady growing and has outgrown them.  I have a pretty long list of the ones I'd like to get done before school starts, but as you can see, my list is pretty busy already!  I will have to be hard at work for the next several weeks.  I find most of my inspiration from Pinterest, of course.

So that's what I've been working on for the last week.  Fortunately, Adam's back home to crack the whip on getting repairs done around the house.  I plan on starting school the last week in August so I'm hoping all the work is done by then.  And by work, I mean repairs on the house and school planning.  :)  We'll see...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Oh Snap! It's Time for School Supplies!

I don't want to talk about the demolition at the house or the fact that my brand new 6 month old hardwood flooring is sitting in a thousand broken pieces at the end of my driveway, so we'll move on.

This past week, my super awesome Mom has been visiting.  We haven't seen her since Christmas so the kids have been LOVING having her here.  It's always nice to have someone "new" around to dote on the kids.  We went to Raleigh to visit the Lego store at the mall.  On the first Tuesday of the month, they have a free building clinic starting at 5:00.  We never get to go because Scouts is on Tuesday.  Since we're on break from Scouts, we finally got our chance to check it out.  It was crazy busy with a very long line, but the boys were so happy!  They made cute little crabs out of Legos.  Then, Nana bought them the Minecraft Lego set.  Whew, it was excitement overload.  

We also got to check out Chuck E. Cheese (we'd not been to the one here, yet), Despicable Me 2, fireworks, a Japanese steakhouse, the Farmer's Market, a weird store, a super awesome store, frozen yogurt, and a train ride in the country.  It was so much fun.  If you are fortunate enough to live near your family, how blessed you must feel.  I'm sad to see her leave, Christmas is a long way off.

In other, non-depressing news, my favorite season is approaching.  Ok, technically autumn is my favorite season, but there's another time of year that also grips my soul and sends my heart aflutter.  School supply shopping.  I've already started.  ;)  But shhhhh, don't tell Adam.  

I've also been making plans for the upcoming school year, though with everything going on, I haven't made much progress.  Science is especially difficult for me because I don't always "get" it.  That's not typically a huge problem when we're talking about first grade science, but Adisson is in fifth grade now.  I've done a little browsing over his science lessons this year and I already know Dad is going to be helping out a little with some of our science lessons.  I'll stick with food chains and magnet lessons, Dad can take over physics and chemistry.  

I keep saying it, but I definitely need to get on it.  I made several busy bags for Jaxon to use while we're schooling along with the big boys, but he's gotten too old for them and we need some new ones.  I've spent a ton of time browsing pinterest and I have my list of activities I want to make, I just need to, you know, actually make them.  I really enjoy working on activities and lessons for Jaxon's early childhood education.  My homeschooling friend will be in need of some busy bags for a younger kiddo so hopefully I can pass on some of our stuff to her.  I promise, as soon as I start working on them, I'll post pics and links.  Some stuff is really easy and cheap, but is such a hit and keeps my littlest guy busy so I can be with the other boys.  

This week I have to start making phone calls to contractors.  We need quotes for replacement flooring and cabinets.  The kitchen is quite a mess already, but it's going to get so much worse before it gets better.  I've never been so grateful for insurance.  Here's hoping it works out well in the next few weeks.  In the meantime, stay tuned to the Great Floor Disaster of 2013.  :)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Just keep swimming.

Sometimes, things just stink.  This weekend was supposed to be a fun, exciting (and bittersweet) time with our friends before they left the country.  We picked them up from airport and came home to a flooded first floor.  I feel like my tears only added to the standing water.  :)

Our year old washer had kept on filling, causing a large amount of water to spill out and into the laundry room and then flow to all corners of my hardwood and soaking half of the carpet pad underneath the carpet in my living room.  On Thursday, the disaster crew showed up with 7 industrial fans and 4 dehumidifiers to dry us out.  Loud is an understatement.

This week, the hardwood floor will all be ripped out.  Expensive, brand-new hardwood flooring will be pried up and trashed.  But, in life, you take the bad with the good.  And this is just one of those not as good times. So we'll roll with it.  And the kids will get their fill of McDonald's as I deal with a barely working kitchen.  We take learning about science to a whole new level around here.  :)

In school news, we got a desk for the boys to use.  Friends of ours are moving to Alaska and had a desk they were parting with...and thought of us.  It's a cute little kid desk with enough space for two little kid chairs.  I was originally hoping for three individual desks for the kids, but I was concerned about it taking up too much of the free space in the school room.  That's where all the lego magic happens here and I want to be sure I leave open plenty of floor space.

July is quickly approaching.  I can feel the sense of back to school sales creeping up on me already, which is not entirely bad.  I love school supply shopping more than I love any other shopping ever.  It gives me the warm tinglies to buy new crayons and glue bottles.  Something else starts happening around July.  I start to get the itch to plan out every detail of our upcoming school year.  Fortunately, I've got it pretty easy.

We have been using Time4Learning as our homeschool curriculum and will continue to do so.  I really love it.  It makes my life so much easier.  In years past, I've tried a box curriculum, unit studies, lapbooks, putting my own together, etc.  When we moved to North Carolina, I needed something different for us and desperately so.  I don't know how or why I hadn't heard of Time4Learning before then, but it was such a lifesaver.  And we've never looked back.  Yes, it's a computer based curriculum, but don't think that I just send the kids to a screen and tell them to find me when they are done (though, if that's your season of life, I GET IT!).  I sit with them, we go over lessons together, we learn new things together and they can review independently (well, not so much independent learning with Zander yet, but some).  We do social studies projects and science experiments.  We use SpellingCity for spelling and English vocabulary.  We really get out what we're putting into it and we're all happy with it.

As far as preparing for our upcoming year goes, I'll take a few weeks to skim through Adisson's lessons and make a list of different projects and experiments he'll be doing to see what we'll be working on and what supplies we'll need.  There's also a suggested reading list so I'll look up the books to see how much they are and decide if we're buying them or borrowing them.  I'll get started on their school binders and print off any necessary worksheets for the first 9 weeks or so.

The next few weeks will be a stressful, chaotic time for us.  Demolition, construction, insurance issues...not how I planned to spend our summer.  But we'll "just keep swimming" :) and in my down time, I'll be busy getting us ready for school.  There truly is never a dull moment for us.