Friday, June 23, 2017

Courthouse and State Capital Field Trip

This summer I kind of tricked the kids into having a "school day." Of course, they had a great day and didn't moan about any of it until we were in the car on the way home and I informed them that what we did constituted as "school" for the day.  Then the playful whines and declarations of "I hate school!  You tricked us!" started.  Bwahaha!  Learning (and school) can be fun, kids!

We started the morning with a trip to the city to visit the courthouse.  An older couple we're good friends with own the cafeteria inside the courthouse.  The kids beg me to take them to visit all the time.  They love to run around the outside of the building, climb up and down the stairs, look out the 6th floor windows at the tops of nearby buildings in various shapes, peek in courtrooms to see if they can find a judge, drink from the gold-colored drinking fountains, and of course eat in Chuck's cafeteria and say "hi" to him, his wife, and his seeing-eye dog.

So random.  But they are fascinated!

After that we drove a couple blocks over and visited the State Capital.  Primus is going into 6th grade and Secundus is going into 4th grade.  I always meant to make a trip to the capital when Primus was studying California history, but it just never happened.  This was a great trip.  We all had a lot of fun.  And while the tour was long and a little boring for children, I think the girls learned a lot and the boys survived without being too distracting to the other people in the group.  I came home with lots of brochures full of info to supplement Secundus' CA history study this fall.

Summer is a great time for sneaky field trips!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Cupcake Liner Flowers

This was a quick Mother's Day craft I had my 5 year old Primary class throw together.  

I helped them hot glue a salt-water taffy (any colorful candy would work) to the center of a cupcake liner.  Then a popsicle stick was hot glued to the back for a stem.  

I encouraged them to draw on the cupcake liners to decorate the "flower petals."  I also suggested that they cut the cupcake liner so it looked more like petals, but most opted to leave it round as is.  I also thought they looked nicer with multiple layers of cupcake liners.  But again, most kids just left it as a single layer.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Color Scavenger Hunt

We went for a short walk on a bike path near the river.  Before we went I took an empty egg crate and painted each spot a different color.  (One of them was left unpainted and was a good place to hold it.)

He found a leaf with pink on it, a red flower petal, an orange flower, a yellowish rock, a green grass blade, a bluish rock, a white rock, a grey rock, a black rock, a brown stick, and a purple flower.

It was pretty fun.  I think next time we do this, I need to make one for each of the kids.  I envisioned it as a preschool activity but the big kids kept trying to put things in the egg crate for him!  They would probably love to do it again and have their own.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Thank you, Storybots!

Overheard at the Children's Museum:

Tertius playing in the sand: "We made Mount Everest!"
Other Kid: "What?"
Tertius: "Mount Everest!  It's the highest mountain in the world!  I learned that from Storybots.  You should watch it.  They teach you why you should brush your teeth."
Thank you, Storybots, for helping my 6 year old remember a random, impressive fact.
Also, I think it's hilarious that the teeth brushing episode is the one he cites to try and convince the other kid how awesome this show is.

Friday, June 9, 2017

God Created My Circulatory System

On a recent Sunday in Sunbeams (Sunday School class for 3 year olds), apparently they talked about their bodies and how they're created by Heavenly Father.  So they were told to draw their bodies.

Quartus drew this. It's his "blood stream" (circulatory system.)  The red and blue lines are the veins and arteries. And that bow-tie looking thing is the heart.

It makes me so happy when the kids look like little nerds! He learned about this stuff from a Leap TV game called, "The Human Body Game." Best $3 (on sale and with a coupon) that I've ever spent!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Using Hamilton, An American Musical, In Our Homeschool

We are currently obsessed with "Hamilton, An American Musical."  I'd heard my bestie talk about it a long time ago, but I didn't listen to any of the music or care at all.  But then I stumbled upon this video of our favorite sketch comedy group lip-syncing to one of the songs.  I was instantly hooked and then started searching out more songs.

I made a Youtube playlist for all the songs that I like that are also clean enough for me to be comfortable with my kids listening to them.

(I included a censored version of The Reynolds Pamphlet.  It does not have the word "affair" or the description of the situation removed.  Long before I added this song to the playlist, the kids and I had discussed that Hamilton at one time had been a really crappy husband.  But I didn't feel it was important to go into details.  Then when we started listening to this song, as a quick explanation of what his "affair" was, I basically told them that when you're married you shouldn't have a girlfriend on the side, right?  Well, that's what Hamilton did.  I'm comfortable with my kids listening to this song, but I can see where other families would not approve.)

Since then, we have listened to that playlist about a million times and we have most of the songs memorized!  As we've become familiar with the words of the songs, we've been prompted to search out the true history behind the man and events immortalized in this musical.

In order to get kids to love history, it has to be presented in a way that's entertaining, interesting, and accessible.  Thank you, Lin-Manuel Miranda for your work!

(As a side note, when we watched Moana in the theater and they heard the voice of Lin-Manuel Miranda on the soundtrack, the girls started geeking out!  I didn't know he was responsible for the music on Moana and so I doubted them but they were so sure that it sounded like "the Hamilton guy.")

Friday, June 2, 2017

Need Ink! I've got lesson planning to do!

One of my favorite things to do during summer vacation is plan and prep curriculum. Seriously. I was burned out and ready for school to end by the beginning of May (and we officially ended mid May) but at the same time I was anxious to get started on preparing for the next school year!

I bought a new notebook for myself and have been working on stuff for about a week now. But my printer ran out of ink and my order for more won't arrive for another couple days. It's killing me! I have so many things to print and photocopy and I want to do it now!

I'm also anxiously awaiting my curriculum order for the next year to arrive. I'll have to wait another 3 weeks for that. I'm not a very patient person. :)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How did you know we were homeschoolers?

A couple weeks ago I took the kids to the dollar store because they wanted to spend a little pocket money.  When we got up to the check out, the cashier asked almost immediately, "Are you guys homeschoolers?"

I quickly glanced at the kids to see if anyone was wearing the hats I made for them with our charter school's name on them.  No one was.  Then I asked myself what time it was; was it early enough in the afternoon that most kids would still be at school?  Nope, it was well past 3.

So I chuckled and asked how she knew?

She revealed that she comes from a family of 9 kids and that she was homeschooled all the way through high school.  She explained that she can usually just tell.  I guess fellow homeschoolers give off a vibe to each other. She said some clues were that:
1) I had multiple children,
2) no one was swearing,
and most importantly
3) that the kids were so well behaved in the store.

Now, this is probably largely observational bias and a lucky guess.  I don't think anyone's actually done a study on if homeschoolers tend to be more polite and obedient than public schoolers. (And certainly I have plenty of friends that send their kids to public school and I wouldn't say they're all unruly hellions!)

But it was still a fascinating observation and a nice pat-on-the-back.  Later, when we were in the car, I explained to the kids what she had said and told them how proud I was of them for being such good examples.

At the risk of sounding arrogant or proud, I will admit that we have been told similar before.  Usually people of the older generation will say after finding out that we homeschool, "Oh!  I could tell.  Your kids are so well behaved.  They carry themselves confidently.  They're polite.  Good for you for homeschooling.  I think that helps!"

I'm really not trying to "toot my own horn."  I learned soon after my second baby was born that my children's personalities and actions have a whole lot to do with how God made them, and don't ride solely on my parenting skills.  "Nature" is just as important as "Nurture."

However, nurture still does play an important role.  I'm glad that nurturing them on the path of homeschooling has seemed to yield positive results.  There are still many detractors in the world who would say that I'm harming or stunting my children by not sending them to public school.  But if it's by their fruits that ye shall know them, then I think it's becoming quite clear that those detractors are wrong.  We could use more polite, respectful, kind people in the world!

Friday, May 26, 2017

This Is Why I Need to Have Another Baby

I am not pregnant.  I wish it were "in the cards" for us to have another child right now, but for several very important reasons, it definitely is not.  I don't know when it will be or if it ever will be in God's plan for us to be blessed with another baby.

Our youngest is now 4 and he is definitely not a baby anymore.  He's not even a toddler.  We are solidly out of the baby phase in our home.  No more diapers, pull-ups, rattles, cribs, breastfeeding, sippy cups, bibs, onesies, strollers, high chairs, and so on, and so forth.

Ok, I'm depressing myself.  Babies are awesome.  I love having little ones around!
And I discovered a couple important (silly) reasons why I need another.

1. They're great conversation buffers.

Awkward small talk is excruciating.  Trying to think of something to say is hard.  But if you've got a small child in your arms, there's always something to talk about.  If the other person doesn't jump at the opportunity to start a topic other than the weather by asking, "He's so cute!  How old is he?"  then the conversation is definitely doomed.

2. They're a good excuse to avoid undesirable situations.

That awkward lady who stands too close and hugs too tight wants to rope you into a conversation which you won't be able to escape for at least 20 minutes?  Cut her off with, "I'm sorry, do you smell that?  I think this guy needs a clean diaper! We'll have to catch up later.  He gets such a bad rash if I don't take care of it right away!"

3. They're like a security blanket.

You know how when you sit down on a couch at someone else's house, you immediately hug a throw pillow to your lap?  Just me?  It's purpose may be to cover my chub or in some other way make me feel protected.  Well, a baby or shy toddler is like a throw pillow or security blanket, only bigger and better (see #1 and 2.)
My kids, as old as 3, all went through a phase where they would fall asleep in the car on the way to every extended family gathering.  That meant that instead of arriving at the party and immediately going around the room and saying "hi" to everyone (which I enjoy normally, but sometimes I just don't feel like it, ya know?), I got to relax in the comfiest corner of the couch and cuddle my sweet little one for a time.  I could exchange greetings from a distance and when the child was awake and warmed up to the situation, then we could both jump in and have a great time socializing when we were ready.  
Babies also represent at least one person who will always love and value me no matter what if I'm having an awkward or low self-confidence day.

What are some other (perhaps silly) reasons to have another baby?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

4-Year-Old Preschool

(This post was originally written in January of this year.)

I'm really bad at sticking to a consistent preschool routine at home.  I always have these grand plans for my preschooler, but then I spend all my time working with the big kids, taking care of the baby, or doing chores. And the non-essentials like preschool are not a high priority and so don't get done regularly.  I'll go through phases of being really consistent, and then not.

Preschool in our house basically looks like this:
*Listen in on history and science lessons with the big kids as long as it holds his attention.
*Do literature studies with his Kindergarten or 1st grade sibling. (This means listening to a story and then doing various crafts.  I love Evan Moor Literature Pockets!)
*Do some worksheets occasionally whenever Mom starts to feel guilty or he wants to feel important like the big kids.
*Listen to bedtime stories every night.
*Starting about age 4, do Distar lessons as often as Mom remembers.  (It's easier to stay focused on this during the summer when the big kids are less demanding.)
*Lots and lots of independent play.  Mom tries to steer him towards "educational" activities like pattern blocks every once in a while.  But playing with action figures totally counts as preschool, too.

Quartus is now four years old.  I don't have another baby in the house to draw my attention away.  The big kids are getting more and more independent. There's no reason that I shouldn't prioritize his education at this point.  (Ok, I can think of plenty of reasons, but are they really that important?)

Plus, he's a really smart boy.  He has learned so much on his own without any real heavy coaching from me (identifying letter names, colors, shapes, numbers, some letter sounds.)  Because he's proven that he absorbs knowledge quickly and easily, it seems like a shame to not seize the opportunity to teach him all kinds of things!  If he has learned this much without a concentrated effort on my part, how amazing could he be if I dedicated even a little bit of time to him on regular basis?  

I still feel strongly that preschoolers should spend most of their time learning through playing, but it's also good to start doing a little typical school work as their abilities and interests make it possible.

And so, I have decided that preschool (in addition to everything listed above) is going to happen!  Everyday.  I came up with the following daily plan that was simple and basic enough for Quartus that it wouldn't take too long each day to do.  I printed this off, put it in a sheet protector, and then made a really big deal about it the Monday after his fourth birthday.  He is totally on board with his new "4-year-old-preschool."

1. Trace your name
That big orange splotch is hiding his name written with dotted lines.  He uses a dry-erase marker to trace the letters.

2. Workbook page
This can be anything from one of the various preschool books we have, something printed from the web, or just a dot-to-dot page.

3. Journal
He draws anything he wants on one page of a notebook.  Then he tells me about it and I write down what says, along with the date.  I did this with the other kids at this age and through kindergarten, too.  It's fascinating to go back and look at the evolution of their journal pages over that time.

4. Read
He picks a picture book for me or his brother to read to him.  I intend to start Distar with him very soon and those lessons will occupy this space of his preschool plan.

What does preschool look like in your homeschool?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Gold Rush Cookie Mining

Fourth grade is the grade kids are "supposed" to learn about their home state.  For California, that means that we learn a lot about the Gold Rush and the 49'ers.  When I was in fourth grade, my favorite activity was when we did cookie/gold mining.  Among other things, it was a great way to understand the concept of "mining the miners."  Meaning, generally the way to strike it rich was not to mine gold, but to sell tools and provisions to the miners.

I just had to recreate this activity with my own kids!  We did this last year and included a 5 year old friend, too.  I was worried that my profit ratios would be off but everything worked out perfectly.  The 3 boys had fun, learned a little, and then lost interest.  But the girls kept going for at least an hour.  Now that I've found the price list that I made, we'll have to do it again!

As you can see, each kid started with $14.  (I had a ton of pennies and other coins so we used those instead of dollar bills.  So I guess the price list should have everything in "cents" instead of "dollars.")

Then they had to decide which tool (toothpick or paper clip) and which piece of land/claim (cookie) they would buy to start with.

The "small cookies" are Famous Amos Bite Size Chocolate Chip Cookies

The "big hard cookies" are Original Chips Ahoys.

The "big soft cookies" are Chewy Chips Ahoys.

 The goal is to use your tool to dig gold (chocolate chips) out of your claim.  You can only use your tool (or 2, if you buy a second) to extract the gold, not your fingers.  (I did give the boys more leeway with this than the girls.)

Once they had a nice pile of chocolate chip gold nuggets, then they would sell it to me.  If their gold had too much cookie stuck to it, then I would not buy it from them.  They had to go back and use their tools to clean it off some more.

As you can see from the price list above, based on how much chocolate chip gold nuggets I measured, I would give them the corresponding amount of money.  And then they could use their money to buy another claim or tool.

Once they were done playing, they used the profit that they had earned to buy some cookies to just eat.  The kids learned pretty quickly that just like most of the real gold miners, they were doing a whole lot of work with not a lot of reward at the end.  But they still had fun.

Monday, May 15, 2017

I can't be the only one who doesn't like living in filth, right? Right?!

One thing I love about homeschooling is the ability to arrange our vacation days the way we want. Since we are enrolled in a charter school, they give us a calendar that we're officially supposed to follow, but we often do school on days that we're "supposed" to have off and thereby "bank" that holiday for future use when we need it. I figure that as long as the number of school days equals correctly at the end of the school year, when we work is less important.

And so, because we did school during Spring Break, today and tommorow were going to be our last 2 days of school and we would start our summer break early. We all looked forward to spending today gathering together all our work for the year, proudly flipping through and admiring what we had accomplished, packing it away in the garage, cleaning out our individual school work baskets, and then going on a "P.E. field trip" to an indoor trampoline place. Tomorrow's plan was to finish reading some books for our history curriculum, attend our normal park group, then swim lessons and karate class for more P.E.

However, those plans changed when I woke up to find that the house (especially the kitchen) was a complete disgusting disaster!

Friday night and Saturday we had a nephew over so everyone ate junk food and played video games the whole time. That mess never got cleaned up. Then yesterday being Mothers Day, I refuse to do chores on that day. And while Hubby is awesome and facilitated a wonderful day for me, cleaning the kitchen was not in his plans.

When I woke up this morning to see the state of the house and the fact that the children had been up for an hour or so before me, I lost it!

I can't possibly be the only person in the house who is bothered by the feel of crumbs and sticky spills under my feet? Or the only one who likes to have a few inches of cleared space on the kitchen table to set my milk glass?! Or the only one who knows how to put dirty dishes on the counter or wash them?! Or the only one who notices that literally half the table is covered in just straight-up garbage?! I can't possibly be the only person who has a problem with living in filth?!

Well, apparently I am and it amazes and terrifies me.

So that is why on this bright Monday morning that we had looked forward to, my children are instead doing chores while I catch up on some Netflix shows. Today is day 2 of Mothers Day.  Our last day of school will have to be Wednesday instead of tomorrow.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Co-op vs Enrichment Classes

I hear and read a lot about homeschoolers in other places attending Co-ops.  These appear to be great ways for parents to outsource things to other parents who may be more knowledgeable in certain areas.  They're also good for getting homeschooled kids together so they can form friendships and combat the mythical "socialization" issue.

It sounds like these homeschool families are able to form a strong community and plan really great things like proms or science fairs.  I don't see that happening to the same level where I live.  I think that's because of our Charter School system which gives families money to pay for enrichment classes.

Since we have this money for enrichment classes, we're filling up our schedules with all kinds of really great things.  But that doesn't leave us much time for casual get-togethers with other homeschool families.  And since we have so many different enrichment class options, every family is going in different directions instead of coming together in a tight-knit community.

Over the 6 years that I've been homeschooling, I've joined a couple different Homeschool Meet-up groups at different times.  They were filled with great people who worked hard to put on great events.  But group leadership changes happen, group attendance waxes and wanes, my schedule gets full, etc.

At the moment we're not members of any active Meet-up groups or Co-ops that do regular classes or activities.  Though, I have hosted a park playdate every week for a few years now.  I advertise it in a couple local homeschool facebook groups and I carry around cards with the information on it so when my kids make a new friend in an enrichment class, they can invite them.

I'd love to hear some perspective from other homeschoolers in all different situations on this idea of independant homeschoolers and their co-ops vs. charter school homeschoolers and their enrichment classes.  What's your local homeschool community like?  What factors have you seen that effect the way that homeschool families interact, form bonds, and prioritize time together?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Hand of God

I think this is my new favorite painting of the Savior.  It's called The Hand of God by Yongsung Kim.

The Hand of God by Yongsung Kim

It appears to reference the time when Peter tried to walk on the water with the Savior but let his fear overtake his faith and so Jesus had to reach out a hand to help him.

It reminds me of the times in my life when I felt like I was absolutely drowning and unable to breathe because of the weight of my trials.  But my Savior is always there with arms wide open, just waiting for me to look up and allow Him to help me.  He can heal me, strengthen me, and give me hope.

Also, like Peter, I have learned that fear and faith cannot co-exist.  I need to choose faith. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Public School Is Not the Easy Way Out

Sometimes other homeschool bloggers say that on the hard days they look wistfully out the window at the passing school bus and feel tempted to send their kids back to public school.  I have never felt that way.

November and December were absolutely crazy months for me. I was very busy with my home business so that meant many very late nights. And lack of adequate sleep makes for a very cranky mommy. Plus my brain and calendar were full to capacity juggling several things and I was so stressed out that I couldn't even think straight. I felt like I was drowning and doing homeschool on top of all that sometimes felt like another brick holding me down.

And yet I still didn't even entertain the thought of enrolling them in public school, even for an instant. For one thing, I knew that homeschool was the right choice for our family and that this crazy, busy season was only temporary.

But more importantly, I knew that public school would not really be much easier.

If my kids went to public school:

*We would have to be awake, prepared for school, and out the door earlier than we typically start school now.

*I would have to deal with the insanity and frustration that is school pickup.
 I can't even explain succinctly here all the reasons why I hate pick up and drop off times.  I remember them from when I was a child, when I was high school/college age and helping my mom with my siblings, and doing it for a friend of mine.  I always knew I would hate being a slave to typical school pickup/drop off schedules as a mother.

*I would have to spend after school time helping with or monitoring homework time.
With the typical amounts of homework that are assigned, we would be spending almost the same amount of time on homework that we do now during the day when the kids' brains are fresh and rested.

*I would want to take the kids to extracurricular activities after school time.
There are only so many hours in the day.  For the day to be full with school, homework, and family dinner, I don't see how we would have enough time for extracurriculars and the relaxed family time that we prioritize.

*I wouldn't necessarily gain that much more free time during the day because I would be volunteering in classrooms as much as I could.
That's just who I am.  I love working with children.  I love teaching.  I love helping teachers.  I believe that a child's academic success has more to do with parental involvement than anything else.

*I would have to pack lunch every day.
As it is, we pack lunches to eat out of the house once or twice a week.  And I hate it!  It takes more time than just preparing lunch right before we eat it.  Also, I like having the option to feed the kids leftovers (warmed up in our microwave...cold spaghetti sitting in a lunch box all morning isn't nearly as appetizing.) (I realize that buying the school's hot lunch could be a possibility, so this scenario might not be significant.)

Homeschooling is right for my family.  On the easy and hard days.  And on the really hard days, I enjoy the freedom to either use a vacation day or have the kids spend the day reading independently and watching educational videos.