Wednesday, April 27, 2016

End of Year Review

According to my homeschool calendar, we have 12 days left of school. Yes, we will get our required 180 days in, but all of those days were not spend in our "classroom". Some of those days were spent at the library, museums, and out of town where we visited some historic sites. We even spent part of Spring Break at the San Diego Zoo to go along with our Zoology unit. One of the things that surprised me the most about this year was that we had ZERO sick days. When Logan was in kindergarten and 1st grade he missed 15 or more days of school. This year, he missed zero. Now that we're almost done, I am having a hard time finishing out the year with a bang. I'm kind of done and I think the kids are done. We did SO MUCH this year. Logan did more this year than I expected and faster than I planned. Colin has moved along just the way he needed to and Trevor is finishing up his online classes this week, with exams next week and then a 2 and a 1/2 week "Leadership Block" for school which will consist of some projects and reading. We've been busy and we worked hard and the kids learned a ton. And so did I. The most important thing I learned was to relax and not worry so much. I had a plan to stay super organized and structured, but with homeschool you just can't always do that. Things got in the way and there were some days I had to cut lessons short to go to the dentist or to run into work. There were moments when I could tell a lesson wasn't working so we'd stop and go play. There were plenty of pajama days, days where we decided to sleep in and start late and days when we counted reading some books and playing "math games" on the computer as school for the day. And all of that is okay because no matter what we did for the day the kids were learning. They read more books, wrote more, spent more time on math and science and learning history than they did when they were in school. And it's not because they didn't have good teachers when they were in school. My kids had amazing teachers. It's just because we have more time at home. We have more freedom to learn what we wanted the way we wanted. I realized that I didn't always have to teach writing and spelling and grammar the way I did when I was a classroom teacher. I figured out that sometimes they got more out of a field trip or by watching a video or doing a project than they would have doing a worksheet and taking a test. It's been an amazing year and even though I'm a little burnt out and these next few weeks are going to be very relaxed, I'm already looking forward to next year. I already have ideas of things I want to teach and new things to try. I'm excited for this adventure to keep going and to see where it continues to take us.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


Today we did a Disaster Simulation for Trevor's STEM class mid-term project. We had to pretend there had been a major earthquake. Trevor broke his ankle, Logan had a concussion, Dave was trapped at work with no way to let us know how he was. We had no running water, and we had to "help our neighbors" turn off their gas because of a leak. The part of the simulation I was most worried about was when I announced to the boys that we had no power, no internet, and all electronics (even battery operated ones) were down. They grumbled a little, one boy threw a pretty major fit, but we went ahead and turned everything off. We unplugged for 3 glorious hours. The first thing I noticed when we turned everything off was the peace and quiet. There was no fighting, no bickering, no noise whatsoever. The house was quiet and it felt calm. Colin and Trevor spend the time reading books and magazines. Not once did they complain. Logan and I played games and we talked. Then, when he wanted to read, I had time. TIME. I couldn't look at my phone or turn on my computer to work. I couldn't check out Facebook or Pinterest. I couldn't sit mindlessly in front of the computer and waste my time. I used that time to read and to think and to plan. I sat and enjoyed the quiet and the peace. And I loved it. I loved the time where everything was off and I wanted it to last. It didn't last. I had to work and the simulation ended, but I was left with the impression that we NEED to unplug. Maybe once a day or even just once a week, but I think we need it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Write Stuff

When I was a junior in high school, I decided then and there that I wanted to be an English teacher when I grew up. I was taking American Lit at the time and I had an amazing teacher. That year I learned that not only did I have a love for reading and writing, but I had a talent. When I was in college, taking all of my education classes and my "how to teach writing in public schools" classes, I never imagined that the best teaching I would do would be at home with my kids. Back then I never thought that my education in English and teaching would be best served with my own kids and not in a classroom. When I think about the different paths I took back then in high school and in college, I can see now that everything was planned out for a reason. These talents of mine, this love I have for reading and writing weren't just an accident. I got them for a reason, for my kids. When Trevor was in 4th grade and struggling in school it was in reading and writing. When I brought him home to work with him, I used what I had learned in college and being an English teacher and I taught him how to write. He is a wonderful writer. He is funny and thoughtful, his words come out organized and interesting. When we started homeschooling this year, I knew Colin would be my biggest challenge. The first time he wrote something for me this year, I cried after I read it. I cried after I read the second and third things he wrote for me. I felt unprepared for how far behind he was and I felt like I wasn't qualified to teach him what he needed to know. But my husband reminded me that I went to school for teaching and specifically for teaching writing. So I started to think back to what I knew, to what I had learned. I did research on dyslexia and how to teach kids with learning disabilities how to write. I'm not a special ed expert and I only took one of those classes in college, but I knew I could figure it out. And this week, after starting a new writing program with Colin, one I pieced together from things I have done before and new things I have just learned, I feel like we are on the right track. When he wrote his 8 sentence paragraph his week, after I read it I cried. This time, instead of all of the mistakes, I saw all of the progress he's made and the new confidence he has in his abilities. And that was when I finally realized that my education and my joy for reading and writing didn't come because I was meant to be an English teacher, but because I was meant to be a homeschool mom.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

First Quarter Down

Next Friday is the end of our first quarter of homeschool! We started a couple weeks before the school district here and so far it's been a great experience for us. Lots of people keep asking me how school is going and what we do and how do I get things done. Here are some of my favorite things from home school so far:

 I love seeing the boys hard at work! Lots of time when they are doing an art project or working on a writing assignment I will turn on classical or instrumental music. The kids love it! The music is relaxing and I think it helps them think and be more creative. It's been fun giving hem an assignment and then watching them get to work and seeing what they can do with it. I've been learning a lot about their strengths and their interests and how to plan lessons more around what they need and what will interest and engage them.
 I love Pinterest for Homeschool ideas. I got the idea for their Assignment Books on this blog. I am loving their assignment books! It keeps me organized, makes daily planning easier and keeps the boys busy and on task when I am working one on one with their brother. These checklists also teach the boys how to be responsible and how to manage their time. If they goof off and don't get things done they end up having a longer school day. They don't get their computer or TV privileges until their check list is complete. I think I might start adding chores to the list!
I've been trying to find lessons and activities that really engage and interest the boys. Logan loves crafts and building things so this paper replica of Jamestown for our American History Unit was perfect for him. They boys colored the pieces while I read to them about the Pilgrims. On Friday this week we'll start making the town and then learn all about the people who settled there. I know when we do this activity, Logan will become an expert on Jamestown and the early settlers.
 Colin loves to draw so I try and incorporate a lot of art into our lessons. I try and have an art project ever Monday that they can work on throughout the week. When we learned about Columbus I had the kids go out back and pretend they were explorers on a new land and they had to draw pictures of their new surroundings to show their families back home. For this art piece, we read a Cherokee story called "The Legend of the Cedar Tree" and I had the boys create a picture that went along with the store. I love how Colin took the story and took the parts that to him were the most important and created this picture.

Every Friday we try and do a science project or experiment. This is one of the things I love about homeschool. It's been a lot of fun finding projects for the boys to do. We've made it rain in a jar, made a cloud, did some experiments with apples and chicken bones. The boys love doing science experiments and it's usually what they remember most about the week.

We can't leave out Trevor! I LOVE Trevor's online charter school. He is doing so well. This is the first time he's had straight A's in his classes and he is working really hard. I love all of the hand on projects and activities his teachers have him do. In Humanities he made a salt dough model of Brazil, for STEM he has a Pen Pal who has a brain tumor. He's been researching his Pen Pal's disease and learning more about what his Pen Pal is going through. For one assignment, when they were learning about meditation, exercise and other things that help our health, Trevor had to plan an outdoor family activity. We spent the afternoon at Mt. Charleston hiking and enjoying the cooler weather. Last week Trevor made a "floating garden" modeled after what the Aztecs did. We're still waiting to see if the seeds he planted will start to grow.
So there's a little look at how our first quarter has gone. I love having the kids home and teaching them and working with them, It's been a great experience for our family. It's not always easy and they don't always do what I ask, but I wouldn't change anything. I love the time the boys have to play more, we're not rushed in the mornings, or evenings and I have been enjoying the extra family time.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Colin's Digital Art Gallery

For Webelos Colin needed to do some different art projects and then share them with his family and Den. Here is his digital art gallery of the projects he completed!

Colin had to create a self portrait using any materials he wanted. He drew this in pencil and colored with colored pencils

Colin had to create another self-portrait using a different style and different art materials. We did a silhouette on black construction paper and then Colin used watercolors to paint the background. 

Colin made a pig out of salt dough that he let dry over several days

Colin had to do an outdoor art piece. He did a pencil sketch of the pool and some plants in the backyard

Friday, August 21, 2015

First week of school is done

Our first week of homeschool is done! We had a mixture of emotions this week and some things went well, other things need to be worked on, but all in all it was a success. I love how many people have been wishing us luck, the love and support I've been getting from family and friends as we start this new adventure. There have been lots of questions so here's a quick look at how our week went.

Trevor started at Leadership Academy this year. It's an online charter school where he logs in to live classes each day and interacts with his teachers and other students. He said one of his teachers is in Scotland, he has classmates in California, Utah, Alaska. He has classes Monday-Thursday for about 75 minutes a day. The rest of the time he is working on assignments for his classes. Math and writing are self-paced classes where he works at his own speed and gets help from his teacher and/or tutors. I am loving this school! I can log on and see all of his assignments in every class for the semester, see what he's finished and what is coming up, check his grades and communicate with his teachers. I'm so glad we found this school. I think it's going to be a great experience this year.

Colin is my sweet, quiet, introvert who has always had a hard time at school because of the distractions and big groups of people. He has done pretty well in school and has never complained, but when I watched him last year in class on a day I substitute taught I knew he needed to come home. He has done so great this week. He is loving homeschool the most and I can see what a great fit it is for him right now. He is focused, motivated, excited and a very hard worker. He tells me every day how much he's loving homeschool. For Colin it's all about strengthening his reading and writing skills. It's breaks my heart to see him struggle at things he wants so much to be good at, but I am looking forward to working with him and watching him progress.

Logan is definitely going to be a challenge this year. He is a smart boy, but he is also very stubborn and likes doing what he wants when he wants. We've had a few bumps this week, but we've also had lots of good moments. The first day was amazing for Logan. He enjoyed the newness of everything and being home and working with his brothers. I learned quickly that he's very bright in math and that the lessons I had planned for the first 2 weeks were too easy. He loves to write and started a story in his journal about two boys named Sam and Wilson. He loves being read to, rather than reading himself, and he enjoys art projects and things he can cut, glue and color. I think he will challenge me to be more creative in my lesson planning and this experience will definitely strengthen our relationship

We have a pretty structured schedule. We start every morning at 8 with the pledge and a prayer. Trevor heads up to his room for his classes and homework and Colin and Logan read and write in their journals. After that are math lessons, writing, grammar or spelling. We take a break at 10 (Colin will have piano lessons every Tuesday at 10) and then it's individual reading lessons and then lunch. Lunch has been so fun! I found these great cafeteria style trays and decided we would do "cafeteria lunch" 3 days a week. The boys have loved it! After lunch we do a social studies or science lesson and then go to the library, or work on an art project or another fun lesson. I've made a few minor adjustments to our schedule and my planning and I'm looking forward to seeing how the next few weeks turn out.

Good luck to all our family and friends who start school on Monday!

Friday, July 31, 2015

To the mom at the store with the screaming toddler

We got to the store at about the same time. I saw you in the produce section with your toddler son in the seat of the basket. He was talking non-stop and pointing at everything. I smiled when I saw that because I have one who was the exact same when he was that age. A little while later I passed you in the bread aisle. Your toddler was no longer happily sitting in the cart, but fussing and trying to stand up and grab something. I could tell you were getting frustrated, but you stayed calm and tried to get your shopping done. Then I heard the screaming, the crying and I knew it was your son. I saw you a few more times and you were trying to be calm and ignore the tantrum and just get your shopping done, but I heard your son all through the store. I smiled again because I have been there. With all three of my kids I have been there more times than I can remember. As I saw you checking out and getting ready to leave the store I could tell you were exhausted. I wanted to come up to you and say, "Don't worry. These are the easy years." I know if may not seem like it, but those baby and toddler and pre-school years are the easy years. Pretty soon you'll have to hold back tears while your son waves good-bye and walks into school for the first time. You'll be at home all day, trying to keep busy and wondering what he's doing and if he's okay and if he'll like his teacher. You'll hate that you can't be with him all day anymore, that you have to miss out on watching him do so many new things. Then, when he's a little older, you'll go to school a little early when it's your day to help in the classroom because you want to watch him at recess. You'll go out to the playground, but then your heart will break a little when you see that your son is the only kid playing alone. After school you'll ask him about it and you'll have to go hide and in your room to cry because he told you it's like that everyday, no one ever wants to play with him. As he gets older you'll miss the times when he was little, when your kisses and hugs made all his hurts better. One day he'll be almost as tall as you, and then taller than you. It will be hard when he tells you he doesn't need you to tuck him in anymore at bedtime and it will hurt when he'd rather be with his dad or his friends or his brothers than with you. He'll roll his eyes at you and talk back, or he won't talk at all. But you know what mom at the store with the screaming toddler? It's not always like that. You'll get to have good conversations and watch  him grow in his confidence. You'll be his biggest cheerleader in all he does and even when he's bigger than you he'll still need you and still ask for a hug every now and then. And there will be days when you're sitting there watching him and you'll think back to when he was little and you'll be amazed at the man he's becoming and you'll think, "I did that. I helped with that." So be patient with your toddler. Love him and hug him, teach him right from wrong and how to open doors for girls and to be respectful and kind. Teach him how to work hard and that life isn't fair and that it's okay to cry. And the next time you're watching your toddler throw a tantrum in the middle of the store just remember that the best years are coming and you have so much to look forward to.