Monday, September 22, 2014

A Bad Morning, But Not Wasted

Friday morning was rough.  Thursday night I stayed up late, as usual, for no good reason.  And then my limited sleep time was interrupted by a teething toddler who likes to soothe himself by rubbing and pinching my skin instead of a stuffy or blanket. 

I woke up Friday in a really bad mood and not much motivation to do school.  And this is why I'm glad we're doing weekly assignment sheets this year!

The girls' all day class Thursday was cancelled and they were motivated to use their extra time wisely.  They were proud of themselves and excited to complete most of their list so they would have an easier, lighter load Friday.  It worked out perfectly!

All Secundus had to do Friday was read for 25 minutes, one math page, one small writing assignment, and math facts practice.  All Primus had to do was piano practice, math facts practice, one spelling page, spelling test, and one small writing assignment.

So we got started late (about 8:30) and they were done by 10am.  They would have been done sooner if I had the energy to be more hands-on and push them along from task to task a little faster.

Literature was simply skipped and for History I taught the girls how to play Defeat the Romans and then they did that independently.  They also watched more Liberty's Kids during lunch.  The rest of the afternoon I thought I would nap while the kids entertained themselves, but instead I hid in my room reading a magazine and watching TV.

The day could have gone a lot worse.  I could have yelled more.  We could have accomplished less than we "needed" to and felt guilty or stressed about it.  But everything worked out well!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Story of the World: Defeat the Romans Game

Chapter 2 The Early Days of Britain

The girls love this game and have been playing it non stop for at least 45 minutes.  As you can see, the little red and blue papers that were suggested in the book were abandoned early on in favor of these little colored gems we had.  One sneeze on the board, and the game had to be started all over!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Missionary Songs

 As ward organist, it's my responsibility to pick the songs each week.  Gotta admit, not my favorite part of the calling.

I thought this last Sunday the speakers were going to be a couple that recently returned home from their mission.  So I selected two great missionary hymns.  But then it turned out that the speakers were the couple that lead the Family Support Group that I used to facilitate.  Darn it!

But it worked out perfectly because Brother and Sister Lunkley are officially serving a part-time service mission by leading this group.  They've got the missionary badges/name tags and everything.  So they talked about that a bit in addition to talking about the program and the 12 Steps. (It was such a privilege, honor, and joy to be able to serve with them in that group for about two years. I really enjoyed their talks!)

Plus, what is the purpose of missionary work?  To invite others to come unto Christ.  And what is the purpose of the Family Support Group?  To help those that are dealing with the addiction of a loved one to come unto Christ for hope and healing.

Below are the two songs we sang, along with some of the lyrics that struck me as most applicable, and my own brief commentary.

Go Forth With Faith

Go forth with hope and courage strong
To spread the word abroad
That people of all nations
Are children of our God.  (Because we are His children, He loves us infinitely.)

Go forth with love to tell the world
The joy of families--
That we may be with those we love
Thru all eternity.  (The doctrine of eternal families can give us so much hope.  But if your family member is not keeping their covenants, it can also be a point of anxiety.  "Will my family member really be with me in the Celestial Kingdom?"  Even so, we can't drag them to Heaven with us.  They get to make their own choices.  We just have to have faith that all will work out the way it should.)

That all may gain eternal life
Thru Jesus Christ, the Lord.  (Your addicted loved one can gain eternal life through Christ's Atonement.  You can gain eternal life through Christ's Atonement.)

Go forth to preach his glorious truths
Of peace, of joy, and love, (No matter what our trials are in life, we can have peace and joy.)

Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd

Dear to the heart of the Shepherd,
Dear are the sheep of his fold; 
Dear to the heart of the Shepherd,
Dear are his "other" lost sheep; (We are all dear to him, no matter our shortcomings or life circumstances.)

Out in the desert they wander,
Hungry and helpless and cold;
Off to the rescue he hastens,
Bringing them back to the fold. (There was a time in my life when I felt like I was wandering all alone in a barren desert.  Life seemed very bleak.  But once I started studying and applying the 12 Steps and turned my life over to my Shepherd and Savior, He rescued me.)

See, the Good Shepherd is seeking,
Seeking the lambs that are lost,
Bringing them in with rejoicing, (The "lambs that are lost" could be referencing our loved ones that wander in the desolation of addiction.  We can't bring them back to the fold, no matter how much we cry/nag/yell/plead.  Only the Shepherd can do that.)

Dear are the "ninety and nine"; (The "ninety and nine" could be referencing us.  We generally consider ourselves firmly in the fold.  But we still need the Shepherd.)
Dear are the sheep that have wandered
Out in the desert to pine.
Hark! he is earnestly calling,  (He earnestly calls to us all because he loves us all and wants us all to have joy.  But until we step towards Him and seek His help, calling and reaching out his hand is all He can do.  He cannot and will not force us or our loved ones to make different choices.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Handshake Hilarity

I asked the following sincere question on my Facebook: 

"Handshakes. I've heard people say that they prefer when someone offers them a firm, strong handshake. I've never heard anyone say, 'I love it when I get a handshake that is mostly all fingers and very limp.'
"Question to people who give handshakes like the second scenario: I'm curious, what is your thought process?"

Here are the hilarious responses my friends had.  Enjoy!

"Here, hold these"

 I go for a solid handshake, but am careful in case it is a softie... I don't want to have my kryptonian strength crush their bones...

"Do you like noodles? I like noodles....."

Maybe they never really had a solid handshake role model.

"Do you like noodles? I like noodles....."

"Wanna feel a dead fish? I just washed my hands."

"Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to feel awkward for the duration of this handshake!"

"I keep my hand in a glove full of lotion just for moments like this..... Just the one hand."

"I'm going to make you question whether I'm weak or if you really are that strong."     

"Now kiss the ring you peasant!" 

For some reason, the last one is my favorite.   I have such witty friends.  Thanks, guys!

Homeschool Student ID Card

I stumbled on these cool free homeschool ID card. Get them here.

I printed mine out on photo paper and then decided that I still wanted them to be thicker.  So I glued them to some cardboard and quickly laminated them with packing tape.  This also made it possible for me to punch a hole through the cardboard so the kids could hang their IDs on lanyards.

I can't really think of a good reason why they will NEED their ID cards, but they sure look cool and they are really excited to have them!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Halloween Party Snacks

 My girls had a Halloween party at theater class last year.  Everyone was told to bring a potluck lunch item.  All my girls could think to bring was cakes and candies.  That certainly wasn't going to happen!  So I had to come up with something that was "real" food but also still fun so they would be excited to take it.  This is what I came up with:

Severed Fingers and Giant Frog Eggs

 I cut hotdogs in half, trim a little off the tip for the fingernail, and cut a few little slits for the knuckles.  Boil until hot and then dip the cut end in ketchup.  The "eggs" are canned black olives just because I needed something in the middle of the plate to make it look good.

Only a few hotdogs were eaten when I picked them up.  Partly that is because there was so much food brought.  And it's also partly because apparently kids were freaked out.

Monster Barf (I didn't get a picture.)

I just mixed up a yummy, easy fruit salad with canned fruit cocktail, cool whip, and a package of Jello (just the dry powder.)  But then I put it in an empty gallon ice cream bucket and wrote "Barf Bucket" on the side.  

It didn't get eaten at all!  I guess kids were a little too nervous about that one. I thought it was delicious. 

Pumpkin Jack-o-Lantern Cookies

These are just these cookies but instead of mixing the chocolate chips in, we stuck them in after scooping to make it look like a pumpkin face.

The stem is a piece of pretzel stick.  I may have to figure out a better way to do these, though, because the pretzel ended up soft and kind of weird texture.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tri-fold Foam Board Puppet Theater

 Secundus loves to put on puppet shows.  I found some really cool PVC pipe puppet theaters on Pinterest.  She would love if I made one for her.  But then I found a cheaper, easier, flatter option.  It took her and I maybe half an hour to throw together this one using a tri-fold foam display board.

 It's impossible to see the pencil marks in this picture, but I used a 12X18 piece of paper as a template to cut the hole.

 (Pardon the mess in these photos.  We live here.)

Secundus chose pink for her curtain color.  We just used construction paper, but I will have to replace it with fabric soon for more durability.  I really like how the accordion-folded paper along the top looks, though.

We added a fabric curtain in the back to give her puppet shows a nice backdrop.

 Why, yes, I did use staples to make a casing for the string.  I just punched a hole on each side of the board to tie the string to. So if she doesn't want a background, the curtain can be pushed to one side.


Folds nice and (almost completely) flat.

I predict we'll be getting a lot of use out of this this year, especially as we learn and retell nursery rhymes and fairytales for our literature unit.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Story of the World: Roman Signum

For our history studies, we use Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World.  I love it.  This year we are starting Volume 2 and my goal is to document here the fun projects we do as we go.

Roman Signum
Chapter 1 The Glory That Was Rome

Today Our Classroom Was Outside

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Little Motivation

I'm such a mean mommy. 

I made the kids do school on Labor Day.  Then I threatened Secundus with missing her first day of ballet class tonight if she continued with her ugly attitude and kept refusing to do her work.

Good news is that we will be able to take a holiday when we need to later and Secundus really didn't want to miss ballet so she straightened up and ended the day on a really good note!

Hymns That Have Special Meaning to Me

Music is powerful.  It can touch hearts and spirits and enlighten minds.  D&C 25:12 says, "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads."

There are a few LDS Hymns and Primary songs that hold special meaning for me.

1. Be Still My Soul
When Hubby and I started dating, he was my first boyfriend. More than that, he had become my best friend. One afternoon, after dating for about 4 months, he unexpectedly broke up with me. He said he had been praying and felt that we needed to break up.

I went to my room and cried and prayed. I was crushed and confused. I could not imagine what it was going to be like without him being an important part of my life. After having a good cry, I picked myself up and drove to the church so I could practice the organ. I wanted to be completely alone so I could think (and cry and pray some more) and also I wanted to do something that could maybe take my mind off of the situation.

After practicing the various things that I wanted to master, I went over to the piano. I opened up the Hymn book and began playing random hymns. One that I found myself singing along to was, "Be Still, My Soul."

As I sang through the verses, I felt the Holy Ghost wash over me. I felt so strongly like I was being enveloped in the arms of my loving Heavenly Father. In that moment, I felt the reassurance that everything would be ok. This hymn was speaking directly to me. The words were written specifically for me.  Life is tough. And I know that my Father in Heaven is aware of my struggles. He loves me, and is with me.

2. High on the Mountain Top
When I was in labor with Primus, I didn't have an epidural or anything.  Especially near the end when I was in transition and exhausted from being on my feet literally all night, I needed something to think about to focus on instead of being overwhelmed by the pain.  So I started singing church songs in my head.  For most of the time the song I kept getting stuck on or coming back to was High on the Mountain Top.

3. Where Can I Turn For Peace?
When I was in Young Women (maybe 16 years old), our leaders wanted to put together a small group to sing this for Sacrament Meeting.  I think we ended up performing it on two separate occasions.  I was selected to be one of the sopranos.  The highest note was hard for us to hit but I was able to get it.  I don't think I'm the best singer, but my leaders praised me and told me how good I was several times. I really appreciated the confidence and self esteem boost!

4. Master the Tempest is Raging
I think this was one of my piano teacher's favorite songs.  When she started teaching me to play the hymns, this was definitely high on her list of ones that she wanted me to learn.  She passed on to me her passion for the way the music builds to a frenzy and then ends serenely.

This song details one of the coolest stories from the New Testament.   Christ literally has power to make the winds and waves obey him!  At times in my life I have felt like I might perish from the storms of trials beating upon me.  But when I am in the depths of that panic that the Savior's disciples were feeling, all I have to do is cry out to my God in faith.  He can deliver me, calm my storms, and give me peace.

5. I Love to See the Temple
This is my kids' favorite Primary song right now and has been for a while.  A recording of them singing it serves as my ringtone.  And no matter how many times we sing it, we still can't seem to be able to keep the two verses straight! :) 

It's a nice tune with a great message.  I truly do love to see the temple!  When I hear this song, I am reminded of when Hubby and I were married (or "sealed") for time and all eternity in the temple (meaning for this life and the next).  I am so grateful for the Priesthood power in the temple that makes it possible for our marriage and relationship with our children to be permanent.  It's not "till death do us part." 

6. Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel
In our first ward after being married, the chorister was a wonderful man who liked to direct the congregation as if it were a choir instead of a group of mostly untalented average people who preferred to keep their eyes on their hymnal.  We quickly learned, though, that we had to keep our eyes on Bob. 

I was called to be a regular substitute accompanist. Typically, congregational hymns are accompanied by an organ.  I had learned to play organ but was not very confident.  That was just fine in Bob's opinion!  He preferred the piano anyway because it was easier to get more expression out of it.  He wanted us to crescendo, decrescendo, rest, hold, speed up, and retard in various places so we could really feel the spirit and meaning of the song.

One song in particular that I cannot hear now without missing Bob is Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel.  At the chorus he would slow us way down and then slowly build the speed and volume as we went, to give us the feeling of pushing a handcart to get it going from a dead stop.

7. Scripture Power
I remember learning this song in Primary when I was a child.  One time, a couple years after we had learned it, we must have had a new pianist that didn't have a copy of the sheet music (since it's not in the regular songbook.)  Several of us kids asked if we could sing that song when we were told to choose our favorite to sing.  We were very disappointed when we were told that this one wasn't an option.

Many years later Hubby and I were called as Primary teachers in our first ward.  Scripture Power was one of the new songs that was taught that year.  When I heard it after forgetting about it's existence for so long, it was like meeting an old friend again.

Above all, it's such a fun song with a simple message, "Scripture Power keeps me safe from the power to win...everyday I need the power that I get each time I read."

What's your favorite religious hymn?

Friday, August 29, 2014

I Could Never Homeschool Because... Six Excuses

I'm going to start right off the bat and say that I don't care if you homeschool your kid or not.  It's a personal choice between your family and God.  Homeschooling has been a wonderful experience for my family.  Maybe it can be a wonderful experience for yours.  Or maybe public school, charter school, or private school is best.

My goal here is not to tell you that you should pull your kids out today and convert your playroom into a school room.  My goal is to give some points to ponder to all those who are thinking, "I think my children could really benefit from homeschooling.  Unfortunately, I could never do it because..."

1. They won't listen to me.
I'm going to start really blunt with this one.  You're the parent.  Your kids should listen to you.  Period.  Chores need to be done so you make them fun and/or non-negotiable to make sure your kids get them done.  Same with school work.  You've gotta do what you gotta do to make school work happen.

2. Homework time is the worst!  I can't imagine doing that all day.
Homework =/= Homeschooling.  Homework and homeschool are two completely different animals.  Homework is done after the kids have had a long, tiring 6 hours at school.  They would rather just chill in front of the TV or play.  If you work in an office, do you come home and want to do 2 more hours of paperwork?  No!

When I homeschool, I get my kids at the best part of the day when their attention spans are longer and their minds fresh, rested, and open.  And we are usually done soon after lunch time.  I firmly believe that 3 o'clock is a kind of witching hour.  Everyone (including me) just wants a snack and a mental break.

3. When I'm pregnant, I just can't function and schoolwork wouldn't happen.
I totally sympathize with this one.  When I'm pregnant, I usually get hyperemesis gravidarum which basically means that I puke all day.  Thankfully I did not get it with my last pregnancy.  Also, my first trimester (where I felt "normal" morning sickness and exhaustian) happened to fall during summer time. So I have not had to do school with those challenges.

But I have thought, "what if?"  And my answer is that it would suck pretty bad to have to get up early every morning and get the kids fed, dressed, lunches packed, school papers packed and drive them to school.  Sure, I could come home again and take a nap.  But then I would have to be conscious and functioning again at 2:30 to do pick-up.  Even not pregnant, I hated being a slave to daily drop-off and pick-up times! (Primus and Secundus each spent some time at a 5 day-per-week preschool and I also did a lot of driving for my friend's boy at one time.)  Then, after school I would still have to monitor homework time.  See #2 above. 

Hypothetically, if I were pregnant during the school year and all I wanted to do was sleep and puke, I can imagine our school days would look something like the following.  Not the ideal situation, but it would work and it would only be for a season.

Stumble out of bed at 9.  Get the oldest kid to get cereal for the littles.  I would then encourage the oldest kids to independently work on their assigned core subjects (teaching independence is a big key to making homeschooling successful in general) while I would attempt to read to the littles or pretend to listen to them practice reading to me. After an hour I would probably give up, tell everyone to  pull out pattern blocks and geo boards, and remind myself that "children learn through play."  At lunch time I would stumble into the kitchen and throw PB/J sandwiches and Go-Go-Squeezes at everyone. The rest of the afternoon would be filled with Bill Nye the Science Guy, Magic School Bus, School House Rock, and Liberty's Kids while I napped. 

4. I have to work.  
Honestly, I have not worked outside the home since my oldest was born, so I can't speak from personal experience.  And I cannot wrap my head around the idea, either.  It seems like there just aren't enough hours in the day!  But I have met working moms (online and in real life) who somehow make it work.  So it's possible.  Somehow.

5. Isn't it expensive?  I can't afford it.
Homeschool is only as expensive as you make it.  There's this great myth that our society and educational system believe that says, "More money equals a better education."  False.

I currently spend $4000 per year on curriculum, art supplies, and enrichment classes.  I'm fortunate to live in a state where I can be associated with a charter school that gets public funds to pay for all those things for me.  It's pretty awesome.  And the money is one reason that we homeschool, because I would not be able to afford to send my girls to gymnastics, ballet, or music lessons on my own.

But!  You don't have to spend $2000 per student per year to have a successful homeschool with happy, healthy children who learn a lot and grow to be functioning members of society.  I follow a cool blog where this mom said back in 2012 that with 7 children (including a baby) her homeschool budget for the year was only $500.

To homeschool cheaply you just have to be creative.  The web is full of free and cheap resources.  The library will become your best friend.  Alibris is an online bookstore where my friend with 5 kids gets tons of used books on the cheap.   I've been lucky to find some awesome stuff at thrift stores.

Also, sending your kid to public school can get pretty expensive, too! Every year you have to buy new back-to-school outfits, new backpacks, school supplies, supplies for the kids that can't afford them, and things like Kleenex for the class.  Then there's the field trip fees and fundraisers.  Plus, you may feel obligated to spend a bunch of money and time making a Pinterest-worthy teacher gift for the first day of class, Christmas, and the last day of class.

6. I really need my alone time.
Introverts homeschool too.  Here's one. Some families have a strict quiet time after lunch each day.  The littles nap, the biggers read, and mom does whatever she wants.

Like I mentioned above, one key to a successful homeschool is to teach your kids to be independent.  While they work independently, you could declare a "teacher prep hour" and go to a room where you won't be disturbed.  Of course, especially in the elementary years many subjects and assignments will still need hands-on support.  But a lot of things can be done on their own.  And it will take time for your kid to get to the point where they will pull out an assignment, do it, and then pull out another one without being harped on.  We're still working on it with Primus in third grade but she's almost there!

One last idea, if you can afford it, is to put your children in enrichment classes a couple times per week.  Drop them off at dance, violin, art, writing class, science lab, karate, etc (or two back-to-back classes!) And then if you still have littles with you, take them to a park where they can run while you watch from a quiet, shady bench.  Or if you're lucky enough to not have young ones tagging along, take the time to get your nails done, read a book while lounging at a Starbucks, or go grocery shopping without grubby hands trying to sneak candy into the cart.  Just because it's called "homeschool" doesn't mean that every subject every day has to be taught by YOU at HOME.

All of the above excuses for not homeschooling are very valid ones.  With any decision made, there will be pros and cons.  The cons have to be weighed and perhaps overcome.  Life, especially as a parent, is never smooth or easy so we have to prioritize and plan accordingly.  If you feel that homeschooling is what your family is supposed to do, Heavenly Father will guide and help you to make it possible. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

13 Tips for Nursery

At church, my current calling (unpaid assignment) is Nursery Leader.  Basically I'm the teacher (with a couple awesome assistants) for the 2 hour Sunday School class for 18 month to 3 year olds.

I don't claim to be the best Nursery leader.  I also don't claim to have come up with all these things myself.  However, I do love my calling and I think our nursery is pretty great.  Maybe some of these ideas will be helpful to others.

1. Think about your schedule and mix it around until you find a routine that works for your kids. 
Take into consideration the time of day, if the kids ate snack during Sacrament Meeting, and attention spans.

Last year we started the class with the lesson.  As soon as the kids came in from Sacrament Meeting, we had chairs set up for them to immediately come in and sit down on.  Surprisingly, they had great attention spans when we did it this way!  I thought the last thing they would want to do right after sitting with their parents in one meeting would be to sit still for another meeting.  But it totally worked.

This year we have been unable to continue that because I'm also the organist.  So I'm always a little late getting to the room.  Here's what we're trying currently:

Before church I set up the room with a few activities and toys.  Not very much.  Sometimes playdough on the table (that's a real winner!)
Once the kids get tired of those things, we put them away and sit them down for snack.
After snack we sometimes go for a walk outside.
Next is free play time.
The last 20 minutes is clean up and then music and lesson.

2. One popular item to have out as the kids gather is the book basket
 Recently we had two new additions to our nursery who have had a hard time transitioning.  (If kids cry for their moms, I don't take them there unless they are out of control to the point of disturbing other children or if mom instructs me otherwise.)  A real winner with each of these new children is reading!  If they're crying and pointing to the door, sometimes nothing else will calm them down as fast as a good book.  It's really surprising how well it has worked in these cases!

3. Another good strategy is to keep the sad child busy. 
 One boy got to the point where he wasn't screaming and crying the whole time, but if he sat down to play and got to thinking about mom, then the waterworks would start again.  So for a week or two I just made him my special helper.  I had him follow me around, giving him jobs the whole time.  He got toys out of the closet with me, cleaned up a spill, put the music activity on the table, stacked the chairs, etc.  He was so engaged in helping that he didn't have time to be sad!

4. Use sippy cups instead of little disposable cups. 
 It's sometimes a pain to remember to wash them each week, but it's cheaper than continually buying paper cups.  And we never have to worry about spills on the table!

Also, the kids are learning responsibility by helping to dump out their cups in the sink and put them in the wash bucket.  They love to help by doing this job!

5. We do keep little dixie cups in the closet, though. 
They're good for if I forget the sippies or if kids have extra snack they want to take home instead of throw away.

6. The kids love to go on walks for a change of scenery. 
It also gives one leader a chance to stay behind and clean up/set up the room without little ones underfoot and grabbing things from the closet.

We don't use the classic rope-with-handles that a lot of nurseries and preschools use to go on walks. It seems so boring to me and not worth the hassle of teaching them to stay holding onto the rope.

Instead, we're working on teaching them to walk reverently down the hall. Once we're outside, they're free to run to the nearest lamppost.  Then they have to wait at the poll until everyone arrives and they're given the OK to go to the next pole.  So we make our way around the building like this, going from pole to pole with lots of praise for listening and waiting. 

7. Our nursery owns several doll strollers, almost one for each child.  
The kids love to take these on our walks (with or without a doll inside.)

8. As an alternative to a walk outside, we used to take the kids into an extra section of the cultural hall.  
This let them work on gross motor skills (throw balls, hula hoop, run) and get lots of energy out in a short time.  It also takes less adult supervision if you're short handed for the day.  And finally, it's a safer option if you have kids who are "runners."  Don't want to risk one of them bolting ahead and going into the parking lot!

9. I play a little game to get everyone's attention and to get them calmed down and ready to reverently walk down the hall.  
I stand at the door and say, "If you're ready to go, put your finger on your..." and then I'll name a body part.  After doing this 3 or 4 times I've usually got everyone playing along.  The last one before I open the door is, "If you're ready to go, zip your lips." Some of the kids have learned what to expect so when they hear us say it's time to walk, they'll stand near the door, look up at me, and put their finger on their nose in anticipation.

10.  The same type of technique is useful in getting everyone reverent for prayer, too. 
 I usually lead them in a verse of Roll Your Hands or My Hands before we pray at snack and at the start of the lesson.  Both of these songs end with the children folding their arms.

11. I'm liking the prayer wheel I made a few weeks ago
 Some of the older kids have gotten eager to say prayer which is great!  But the fights over whose turn it is were taking away from the Spirit.  So now it is totally fair.

12. Have a fun way to select songs for music time. 
We have a fish board.  It's a big blue poster board that has laminated fish shapes attached to it with velcro.  Each fish has a song title written on the back.

Usually I'll start music time with letting each kid choose a fish from the board.  Then one at a time I choose a child who's sitting reverently to bring me their fish so we can sing it.

13. Make pick-up time smoother and less chaotic with a name chart.
Our nursery room consists of two sections, each with it's own door out to the hallway. At the end of church, while we're doing music time, we pull the room divider part way to encourage the children to stay in only one section. 

Hanging on the outside of the door where we are, there is a big poster that has every child's name attached to it. When a parent is ready to pick up their child they take off the name and slide it under the door.  Then we know to gather that kid, their shoes/hair bows/ties, left over snack, and coloring page.  Then one leader escorts the child to the empty section of the room and out the door to their parent, out of sight of the other jealous children.

What's your best tip for a successful Nursery?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Our First Week

We've completed our first week of the 2014-15 school year! 

This week I wanted to ease the kids back into the routine so we didn't just jump in with a full load.  During our Table Time the girls didn't do any of their core subjects.  Instead, I told them to pick a topic and research it during the week and prepare to present their findings to the family on Friday.  I didn't give them any parameters.  I wanted to see what they would come up with.  Also, one of my goals with this was to get them to dig through our nonfiction book shelves.  They hardly ever touch that shelf and I wanted them to see what wonderful things are found there.

Primus chose to study about bears.  Secundus chose to study about tigers.  It was interesting to me to see the different ways they went about it.  Primus, who doesn't like to write, drew several pictures with pencil as she went and labeled them with facts she learned.  Secundus, on the other hand, drew only one tiger picture and colored it with crayons.  For the rest of her report she copied down word-for-word a few sentences about her animal that she read.

Other than the research project, we did literature, watched some history videos (Liberty's Kids and Horrible Histories), watched some Bill Nye the Science Guy, and did some investigations with eggs. 

Our science exploring with eggs was prompted by this video.  Did you know you can stand on a carton of eggs and not crack them?  I also realized that the kids have never seen what happens when you let an egg sit in vinegar for a while.  That was really fun to see the shell was dissolved the next day.  After playing with it and bouncing it for a while, I let Secundus try to cut it with a knife so they could see if the inside changed too.  It was really funny when the membrane popped like a water balloon on her!

One week down, 36 to go!  Tomorrow the real work begins as we pile on the full load.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Schultuten and First Day Pictures

We started our first day of school with our new tradition: School Cones (or Schultuten in German)!  It's a pretty cool old tradition in Germany.  Basically, kids receive a cardboard cone full of goodies like candy and school supplies on the first day of the new school year.  Google it.  It's neat.

Anyway, this is our second year.  It was such a hit last year and the kids were so excited to receive them again.  The fillings and how I would decorate them were a surprise so everyday that Primus saw the blank empty paper cones sitting next to my chair she would remind me, "Don't forget to finish them before Monday!"  These simple cones made the kids look forward to the first day of school!

You would have thought it was Christmas morning and they were opening their stockings!  This year they got breakfast plus a small toy.  Homemade pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, a juice box, an applesauce squeeze pouch, a fruit roll-up, and a Minion toy (I think they're from a happy meal.  Hubby found a whole bag of them at a Stuff Swap.)

Our other First Day tradition is pictures before school.  We don't do fancy or cute or Pinterest worthy.  Homeschooling for us means no adorable pictures next to the front door wearing new clothes and an over-sized backpack and holding a hand-crafted sign.  Homeschooling for us means taking pictures in the messy living room wearing pajamas and holding a schultute after searching the house high and low for the camera for a half hour. :)

Primus.  Third Grade.  My super responsible special helper and Amazon woman. 

Secundus.  First Grade.  My "smarty-pants" (by her own description.)

Tertius.  Preschool.  My rough-and-tumble, Energizer Bunny, stereotypical boy. 

What special first-day-of-school traditions do you have?