Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thankful for Family

Last week was an odd week for us--at home and in our homeschool.  Adam was away for some training for the week so everything was kind of "off."  The kids would ask about him frequently and want an exact time of his return home.  I knew the week would be a little scattered.  This week will also be different than a typical week because we're working on a Thanksgiving study on Monday and Tuesday before taking off for the rest of the week.

Recap Time

Zander has been doing very well with his lessons lately.  He does much better with his online reading lessons than he does with anything else I've tried.  We still read books aloud together, but he gets frustrated a little quicker when he's reading beside me.  When he's reading his lessons online, he's wearing headphones (to drown out the noise of his brothers) and I think it gives him the feeling that no one else is there but him.  We'll continue to work on his confidence together.  His math skills, however, are amazing.  He picks up things I'd have never thought he'd be able to grasp so quickly.

Jaxon is busy each day, playing with Legos and listening to stories.  We play games, color pictures, and put puzzles together.  I can't get him to sit still for long.  And that's ok.  :)  His time of sitting and listening will come.  For now, though, it's time to be three years old and play the day away.

Over the last week, Adisson finished up a big social studies unit and took his unit test.  He was a little apprehensive (because he hates the word test) but he completed it and did pretty well.  We're still slowly chugging along through an electricity unit in Science but he really needs his Dad's help on a few things so hopefully we can work on that in the coming days.  His language arts lessons have been about adjectives and adverbs.  He's done ok, but when he's not interested, it is hard for him to be excited about learning.

When You Need Homeschool Help

We've had to take a break from Time4Learning's math lessons for Adisson.  They are great lessons and I love the curriculum, but Adisson struggles in math quite a bit and was finding the lessons too advanced.  We have the option to adjust his math grade level based on abilities, but even that wasn't helping.  We started using Life of Fred a few months ago and I think we may have found something that will work for him.  It's a gentle approach to math and the lessons read like a story.  He's a great reader, so I thought that would be a good fit.  It is.

As a homeschool mom, I need to know when something isn't working and when we need to fill a void.  It took me several years of trying various curricula for our homeschool before I felt like we had finally found "it" in Time4Learning.  We don't supplement it much, aside from Adisson's math and adding in our own reading and handwriting for each boy.  If we needed additional help in a specific subject or review of a difficult topic, there is so much available to homeschooling families today.  From SAT essay writing help to those with high school students to science videos for visual learners to multiplication games for struggling students, there is so much available with a few keystrokes.  If you need help, find it!


This week is finally Thanksgiving and I haven't necessarily been looking forward to it.  It's my favorite holiday, but we haven't been able to "go home" for the last few years. With no one coming over, we will be dining alone this week.  All month, I've been sad about that and had decided I wasn't cooking a big dinner for just us.  (Side note: we'll be having a VERY large dinner with our military family on Wednesday.)  When my oldest found out that there wouldn't be turkey at home, he was pretty upset.  Then, I realized it's not about me, it's about us.  While I'm sad we won't be spending my most favorite day with all of our loved ones in Ohio, we're so very fortunate to spend it together...all five of us here in North Carolina. And I'm very thankful for that.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cub Scouts in our Homeschool

In case you didn't know, we're very involved in our Cub Scout Pack.  Adam is the Cubmaster and Arrow of Light Den Leader.  I'm the Tiger Cub Den Leader and Advancement Coordinator.  Aside from those roles, Adam and I are very involved in other Cub Scout committees and nearly every event.  With a house full of boys, two of which are currently Cub Scouts, it is an activity that we can all participate in together.

However, it's not just for fun.  As a homeschool mom, I use Cub Scouts to our benefit in school.  Each rank (Tiger, Wolf, Bear, Webelos) has a handbook full of achievements.  A lot of those activities are done during den meetings, but many are not, leaving them as additional work to be done at home.  For example, Zander has 40 electives that can be done this year and nearly all of them can be repeated several times.  Every time he completes 10 electives, he earns a bead to wear on his uniform.  As far as Webelos go, that's a whole 'nother ball game.  :)

There is also the big world of Belt Loops and Pins.  There are 25 academic belt loops and 28 sports belt loops.  Each belt loop as a coordinating pin.  Ok, so perhaps I've lost you.

What are Belt Loops and Pins?

Belt loops are metal slides that slip onto the Cub Scout belt.  Each one represents a different activity and will have a picture and the name of the activity on the belt loop.  A pin is a small triangular pin that is to be worn on the Cub Scout "C" and then on the brag vest.  But, our boys wear their pins on their hats.  The Cub Scout earns a belt loop when he's completed three specific requirements for each academic or sport activity.  The pin is earned after receiving the belt loop and completing five additional activities from a list of approximately ten extra requirements.  It sounds a little confusing, but it's not so bad after you get started!  Check out this link to read more information.

Pin on the left, belt loop on the right.

How Do You Use That in Your Homeschool? 

This month, I wanted the boys to each complete a belt loop at home.  After reading through some of the belt loops, I chose the Citizenship belt loop for Zander to complete.  Here are the requirements:

1.  Develop a list of jobs you can do around the home.  Chart your progress for one week.
2.  Make a poster showing things you can do to be a good citizen.
3.  Participate in a family, den, or school service project.

Earlier this year, Zander had received credit for the first requirement.  As a Tiger, he was to work on his responsibilities at home by doing chores.  In addition to just doing the chore, we made a very simple chart to check off each day that he completed his chore.  As a Pack, we participated in a pack and district wide service project of collecting school supplies to be sent to an underprivileged country via the US Army (gotta love good connections!).  The only remaining requirement on the list was to create a poster showing how to be a good citizen.  

We actually used that poster as part of his Leave No Trace award, but we also made a smaller poster of other ways you can be a good citizen (I just don't have a photo).  One afternoon, we worked  together to make collages about America.  While working, we talked about why good citizenship is important; a topic that is not just a discussion point but a way of life as a military family.  So, in an afternoon, we made a collage (art is fun!), discussed citizenship (social studies lesson), and completed a Cub Scout achievement.  Having earned his belt loop, Zander is very close to receiving his Citizenship pin and after this lesson, Adisson had earned his pin.  

My almost-Boy-Scout has been very busy, as well.  He's trying to complete all of the academic belt loops AND pins before he crosses over to Boy Scouts in a few months.  He only has 5 belt loops remaining and 7 pins.  This afternoon, as part of our school day, he's hoping to finish up a few pins.  He's completed several of the sports belt loops but sometimes those are more difficult based on what is available locally.  For example, snowboarding is a little more difficult to earn due to the fact that we live in Eastern North Carolina.  Not impossible, but difficult.  

With so many different topics available, it's easy to fit a belt loop or pin requirement into our day.  We tend to work on Cub Scout achievements on Tuesday.  We meet on Tuesday night and I spend most of the day making sure everyone has their stuff together for the meeting.  Between two dens, two boys, and four uniforms, it's a busy day.  

Cub Scouts fits into our homeschool lifestyle pretty seamlessly.  If you are considering joining Scouts, I think you should definitely check out a local Pack/Troop.  For us, it's a very worthwhile investment of our time and energy.  And as a plug to our own pack, here's a link!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Let's Just Play with Legos Everyday

Last week, we had to get back in the swing of things after an awesome vacation.  That was difficult for everyone.  The boys just wanted to play with Legos and I just wanted to sleep.

Time for Learning

Fortunately, though, some school work was completed.  Adisson is finishing up his Social Studies lessons on early American politics.  He enjoys reading about it and learning about the presidents, but I think he's ready to move on.  We have a goal to learn the president's names in order this year so we've been working on that while going through his lessons.  In Science, we're still learning about electrical energy.  I say that "we" are learning because I absolutely mean that.  Adisson is not the only member of this family who is learning how electricity works when we're working on science.  It's me, too!

Language arts is always a fussy subject with my oldest.  He doesn't particularly enjoy learning about adjectives.  However, he has recently started his own blog so I'm hoping that some of the things we've been talking about all year are put into practice while he's writing.  I think that could be classified as wishful thinking, however.  Aside from english, his spelling work seems to be going rather well.  He does a great job on his spelling lessons and always aces his spelling test online.  I heard something a few weeks ago that has stuck with me.  It was said that a great reader is not always a good speller but a good speller is always a great reader.  Hearing that motivated me to make spelling a bigger priority in our homeschool.

Zander is still chugging along in the first grade.  He loves his math assignments and I'm assuming it's because he's pretty good at math.  He has been enjoying his language arts lessons and I've seen a big improvement in his reading fluency and comprehension.  He always says, "But, Mom, I can't read," and then reads the book we are working on together.  :)  He's not a very strong reader, but he's improving every day.  I see new connections being made when we pick up a book we've read before and I see his processing skills get better all the time.  I'm very pleased with his reading progress, but I know he'd like to read better.


Speaking of Zander, my middle son turned SEVEN today!  His entry into this world was a very dramatic one.  Zander loves to hear the story. I just fell head over heels in love with him the second I saw his face.  He was baby that had given me the most difficult pregnancy, the baby I was so worried I wouldn't love as much as I loved my first baby (turns do love them just as much!), the only baby I hoped was a boy....that baby was finally here.  :)  And that baby is now 7.

One of his Lego gifts.  Will add picture when he finishes the build!

As a homeschool mama, the days can seem like they run together.  You don't get "the break" your friends do when they send their kids to public school.  You are "on" from the second you wake up until the second you go to sleep.  The kids, the house, your spouse, school, outside activities, yourself, etc. all need a piece of your time everyday.  Sometimes, it seems like maybe it would be easier if they went away to school.  Maybe then you could have a moment to sit, to breath.  But those thoughts are fast and fleeting.  I don't want to miss a second of it all.  When they learn to read, when the math finally clicks, when they wanna sleep in (and I can say yes), when they get to spend their time learning about something that truly interests them, when they get to play with Legos for a few hours each day, when they turn to their brother and say "Let's play together."  Those are the moments you get to have.  What a blessing.  :)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Vacation Recap

Whew!  What a spectacular week!

A few months ago we took a vacation to the beach and I loved it.  I love being near the water.  I don't even have to be in it, necessarily, but just being close to the ocean is like a salve for my soul.  I needed it.  And then we took the kids vacation, which was the exact opposite.  I don't think I've ever walked so much in my life.  We hit up a two day convention, three theme parks (we even went to one on two different days!), and Downtown Disney.  By the ride home, the kids were in hibernation mode.  We spent nearly 10 hours in the van and Jaxon only started yelling ten minutes from the house.  This weekend was very mellow so we could recuperate.

School Work on Vacation?

We didn't do any school work last week.  I didn't have them log into their online lessons or practice math drills.  No handwriting worksheets or science experiments.  However, they learned so much that I'm fairly certain their heads have expanded from the newfound knowledge! We learned something everyday.

Looking at sharks.

If I had to pick the most educational field trip we took, I think it would be SeaWorld.  We learned a little about dolphins and their playtime habits; but we couldn't convince them to come near us so we could pet them (they were about to be fed at the opposite side of the pool).  We learned about the differences between seals and sea lions.  We learned about the hazardous life of a sea turtle in a 3D movie dome.  We visited the penguin habitat and realized quickly that it was very cold!  I think we learned a little about heat energy during that part of a trip as the boys started rubbing their arms very forcefully to warm up!  We couldn't stay there too long, despite a cute penguin audience.


We had the best time on our trip and I'm so glad we went.  I've posted about the places we visited and what we did if you are interested in reading those posts.  Our vacation gave us time to connect as a family without all of the distractions we face at home.  It showed Adam and I that we need to be more involved in all the Minecrafting that is done around here.  It gave me a new idea of some lapbooking that we can do together for school; though, that just added a huge project to my neverending pile of to-do's.  It was a great adventure that I hope they remember for a long time.  I know I will!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Whoa, LegoLand!

Wowza!  I had no idea LegoLand would be so awesome.  Sure, it's Legos and the boys LOVE Legos, but oh my goodness!  It was incredible!  Thanks to a HUGE discount on a scheduled Homeschool Day and Adam getting in free because he's military (thank you LegoLand for honoring the military!), we were able to see LegoLand at an amazing price!

There were Legos everywhere!  The kids went nuts for all the cool Lego sculptures!  There was a cute little lady made out of Duplo blocks near the entrance presumably waiting on the bus.  There was a HUGE Lego dragon that actually sprayed water!  We saw a handsome chef outside the cafe.  There was a tourist and his daughter picking up some cool Lego sets in front of the gift shop.  That was all in the first few minutes of walking in the gate!

There was several rides for the kids to enjoy and they absolutely did!  There was a great playground staffed by LegoLand employees, which I loved!  There were hidden Lego creatures near trees, on top of buildings, sitting on signs.  There was a movie theater where we caught a quick show in 4D.  So not only did we get to wear neat-o 3D glasses, we were also splashed on, snowed on, sneezed on, and had wind blowing around us.

Adisson rode at Zander's request.  What a nice big brother!

Jaxon's favorite ride!

There were shows to see, namely one about Brickbeard the Pirate.  It featured some very talented water skiers and fast speedboats.  The kids loved the show!  There was some entertainment by a very funny deckhand and Lego parrot beforehand, so it was nice that we got there early to grab a good seat and get a few laughs.

Don't fall!

Our favorite part, however, was trading minifigures.  We brought six Lego guys from home and had them with us during our trip.  Near the end of the day, we realized we had so much fun on rides that we had forgotten to trade them!  Each LegoLand employee has a nametag and nearly all of them wear Lego minifigures on their nametag.  You simply ask if you can trade and they swap minifigures with you!  Sometimes, they are really neat combinations of different minifigures so you end up with something you wouldn't have been able to purchase!  We traded all of our minifigures but also purchased *ahem* several others to trade as well.

We also decided to take home a souvenir from LegoLand.....a big Lego haunted house.  It was still on sale from Halloween and Adam really wanted it!  It was the biggest piece we've ever purchased so the boys were VERY anxious to get home and get it put together.  Adisson suggested making a time lapse video of the build and Adam gave it a shot.  I think it turned out AWESOME!  Check it out below!

We truly enjoyed our trip to LegoLand.  I so wish there was one closer as we'd undoubtedly be passholders and go all the time!  How fortunate you Floridians are with your proximity to what might be the coolest place on earth!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Our Trip to MineCon

I thought I was a pretty cool mom already.  We eat McDonald's, which is apparently the same as admitting we eat directly from a dumpster.  The kids can have candy, soda, and chips; all in moderation of course.  They can watch stupid cartoons, like the ridiculous Uncle Grandpa and the Regular Show.  And they get to participate in their favorite activity....playing video games, particularly Minecraft.

And then my Cool Mom status was elevated to its all-time high with one simple promise.  The question was "Mom, if MineCon ever comes to the East Coast, can we go?"  The answer was an ignorant yes.  I never thought that this year's convention would be held in Orlando, just 8 hours away.  When the location was announced and he came running into my room to ask, I knew there was no way I could go back on what I said.  Tickets were ridiculously expensive and turned out to be extremely difficult to get for most people that tried.  (My experience with purchasing was very simple but I know we were an anomaly.)  But the days passed, the convention got closer and closer and then we were on our way to Orlando.

Having the ability to take time off from school made the decision to head to Orlando for a week a no-brainer.  I got a super deal on a weeklong resort rental.  Snagged free tickets to SeaWorld thanks to their amazing military appreciation program and through the help of my awesome aunt, we got tickets to LegoLand for the best price ever!  Our headliner on this vacation, however, was MineCon.


I wasn't sure how I felt about sitting in a convention center over a two day period listening to people talk about a video game that I didn't like or understand.  Truthfully, I wasn't looking forward to it at all.  As a mom, though, you make sacrifices.  We got up early, donned our Minecraft tees, and headed to the convention.  I won't give you an hourly rundown of the weekend, but I'll go over the highlights.

To my oldest son, the "YouTubers" that were at the convention were his version of meeting real celebrities.  I didn't get it at first.  Then, I realized that these videos are the ones he watches every day, these people are the ones who show him how redstone works, and these people (who are several years my junior) are the people he admires for their awesomeness in his favorite game.  So I get it now.  And we spent several hours waiting in line to get get autographs.

We learned about a lot of things over the weekend.  We sat in on a panel about making videos, one about learning how redstone works (I still have no idea), and heard about the difference Minecraft is making around the world.  I saw my oldest son come alive when we asked questions about the game, the community, the life.  It was more than a convention, it was a validation.

I also realized that I wasn't doing my job as a homeschool teacher by not using this opportunity to my advantage.  Here's a game that many people are using to educate children, a game I have seen firsthand teach my children things I had no idea they were learning and I was doing nothing to capitalize on that!  What a mistake.  But I've changed my mind on that and now I'm ready to learn as much as I can about how the game works and how to use it in our homeschool.  Adam is ready to play.  :)

MineCon was busy and chaotic.  There were so many  people there (and SO MANY that wanted to be there) and it was a little difficult at times to navigate to the next part of your schedule.  The meet and greet sessions were very overwhelmed by fans.  The exhibit hall was packed to the gills with people.  It was unlike anything I've ever done (those homeschool conventions aren't nearly has exciting!).  We'd do every minute of it all over again!  :)  We had a great time as a family and I'm so glad we went.

I'm also writing about different parts of our vacation, look for those posts if you're interested!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Our Ultimate Field Trip

Well, that didn't exactly go as planned.  With all the excitement of Halloween costumes and crafts and preparing for our vacation, school didn't quite go the way I was hoping it would this week.  Ugh.  I feel like I'm either excited from a great week or mopey from a not so great week.  Tell me that's how it goes in your house, too....please.  :)

School was rather light this week.  We did not get to the plant lesson that I talked about a few days ago because we decided the timing wasn't so great.  We're heading out of town and we'd miss most of the excitement of seeing something grow.  We did, however, take a sensory neighborhood walk talking about the sights, sounds, and smells of autumn.  We discussed the animals that make their homes in our woods and played some nature games we found online.

Because Zander is still having a hard time with a few sight words, I wanted him to have some time to work on them this week.  We've tried several different ways to practice the words including doing some jumping jacks while reviewing them (which he likes!), writing them, spelling them with play-doh, and playing an online game to unscramble them.  I think the tricky ones are finally starting to stick.

We are finally heading to Orlando for what the kids are calling the vacation of a lifetime.  Several months ago, my oldest informed me of this year's location for Minecon--Orlando, Florida.  I had apparently promised him that if Minecon was ever held on the east coast that we would go.  Oops.  Open mouth, insert foot.  However, it is a pretty awesome feeling getting to be the best parent in the world for awhile.  That doesn't happen too often around here.

Whatever will we do in Orlando?

Surprisingly enough, we are NOT going to DisneyWorld.  I would like the kids to be a little older before we go.  Since Minecon will be taking up two full days, we have planned a few other day trips for the week while we are there.  Having such enthusiastic Lego lovers in the house demands a trip to LegoLand. Because the tickets were an AMAZING price (of FREE!), we're also hitting up SeaWorld.  That leaves about two days to chill at the resort and hopefully take a drive to the ocean.

What about school?

Yeah, we're not doing any.  :)  No math books, no logging in to Time4Learning, no chapter books (unless packed by the kids themselves).  Does that mean we won't be learning?  Goodness, no!  Minecon is full of seminars that we hope to attend.  LegoLand is definitely an educational field trip (especially since we're going on a Homeschool Day) and we'll get to see animals we've only ever read about at SeaWorld.  Everyday will be full of learning and the cool hands-on learning we haven't had enough of lately.

Psssst.....what exactly is Minecon?

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell ya.  Have you heard of Minecraft?  If you have a son between the ages of 8-17, I'll be surprised if you haven't heard about the game.  :)  I'm sending you to Minecraft's Wiki page for a very detailed explanation.  Each year, there is a Minecraft Convention.  Two days of panels, vendors, and Minecraft fans.  This year, there were 7500 tickets available for the convention.  They were difficult to get your hands on as they sold out mere minutes after each release time (the release times were staggered to allow ample opportunity to purchase) and we managed to get four tickets! (Jaxon is free.)

I'll be updating my blog with events from the week, hopefully from each location we visit.  If you subscribe, you'll get an email each time I update...which makes you a very lucky person! :)

Have an awesome week because we definitely will!