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.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like a school room

We're starting homeschool in 4 weeks! The last couple weeks I've been busy setting up our office for our school room and today Logan and I went to the store and bought some school supplies. I've had lots of people ask my why we're homeschooling and how we're going to do it so here's a quick run down:

I really, really, really love the elementary school my kids go to and I LOVE the teachers. I also love substitute teaching so the decision to homeschool was very hard for us. But it all comes down to one thing. I felt prompted to bring the kids home. I felt prompted to be their teacher. Dave and I talked about it and prayed about it and the answer we got was that we needed to homeschool. I'm not totally sure why, but I'm going to trust in the promptings Dave and I had and in the answer we received.

We were going to build a desk for the boys in the office, but we decided to just work with what we have. I have a few file boxes to hold Colin and Logan's folder and notebooks and the file box on the floor contains all of the lesson plans I've been working on. I love the big file box. I have everything in there that I need so it will help me to stay organized and have everything ready to make planning easier.

This book shelf has been sitting in the garage for years so I painted it white last week and moved
the brown shelf from upstairs. I love all of the books in one place and the boys have been reading more since I moved the shelves into the office. We also have a place on the white shelf for library books, so it's easy to keep them all together so they don't get lost. I bought some cute tin cans and used them for school supplies, and there is a basket on the brown book shelf where the boys can turn in work once it's finished.

We'll use the computer a lot for school. There are lots of great websites where the boys can learn anything and everything. One of my favorite homeschool sites is It has lessons for every subject and every grade level already done and planned. I used it a lot for Trevor to supplement his lessons and I plan on using it for Colin and Logan as well.
 I think we're ready! I'm really excited for this year and to see how everything goes. I love the support I've gotten from all of my teacher-friends and how helpful they all have been. I am really going to miss working and being at the school and all of the good friends I've made, but I think this new adventure is going to be really good for us.

Monday, June 29, 2015

House DIY Before and After

When we decided back in February to homeschool the kids, one of the things we wanted to do was close off the office/den a little and add more wall space for a desk and bookshelves. Once the new wall was up we needed to paint it so we decided to just go ahead and finally paint the whole house. Choosing colors was hard because my husband definitely has an opinion on home decorating. I really wanted grey walls, but Dave is more of a beige/brown guy. It seems every time we argue over colors, when I give in and go with what he wants, I end up loving it. After we painted the house (we did it ourselves with the much needed and appreciated help of my dad) we did our taxes and discovered we got money back thanks to our kids (gotta love that child tax credit!). So we decided to just go for it and get new floors as well. Dave and my dad worked on the floors for a couple months. It took that long because we had to chip out the tile, smooth everything out and then put the new floors in. Most of the time Dave did a little here and there after work and on weekends so it took a while but the money saved on doing it ourselves was well worth it. While Dave worked on the floors I painted the kitchen cabinets. I've always wanted white kitchen cabinets and I love how they came out. The kitchen looks so much brighter, clean and fresh. I love all of the changes we've made and that we were able to do it all ourselves. We still need to do baseboards, curtains and work on the office/school room, but those things will come. In the meantime, here are some before and after pictures:
Entry Way Before
Entry Way After
Living Room Before
Living Room After

Family Room Before
Family Room After

Kitchen Before
Kitchen After
Paint colors: Main wall color - Glidden Warm Caramel, Kitchen and family room accent wall - Glidden Soft Traditional Blue

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Homeschool - take 2

A couple weeks ago my husband and his friend built a wall in our house. Ever since we moved in this house we've been wanting to close in the office a little more and add wall space for more desks or shelves. So the wall went up and plans were made and over the next few months we're going to paint and build and organize the office so that it can be our new homeschool room.
Ever since I homeschooled Trevor in 4th grade I have said I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was a good experience and I really enjoyed it. For the past couple years, in the back of my mind, I have thought about bringing all three boys home and being their teacher. Recently, Dave and I have been talking about it, thinking and praying and we really feel like this is what we need to do for our family. We love the schools our kids go to and their teachers. We love the experiences they have had and the opportunities they've been given at school. I feel very torn between keeping my kids in school and taking them out. I am sad that Logan will miss out on having some teachers I love. I have debated back and forth because I know if I homeschool my kids I probably won't be able to work. I love teaching, I love working with kids and being at school. But I think this is the time I need to be a teacher to my kids.
We are going to try something different for Trevor. We enrolled him in this online charter school. We're excited to see how Trevor does and what kinds of things he's able to learn. It will be different and challenging, but he's getting more used to the idea. I will teach Colin and Logan on my own. We want the boys to go to high school - either one of the amazing magnet schools we have here or the Community College high school program. We know it's not going to be easy and there will be crazy days and I am sure I will question my abilities and wonder what I was thinking, but I have high hopes. I know it's what we need to do and that it will be good for our family. And in the meantime, I get to make lesson plans and design our school room.