Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Homeschool 2015

Happy fall, everybody! We are one month into our year of preschool-homeschool and I wanted to share what we've been doing so far. I know lots of people ask me, "What exactly do you do with Eva?" so here is our plan for the school year. And I am soooo excited to share because I LOVE what we have done and how I have planned out this year so far! I'm not saying this is what works for everybody, but it has been working GREAT for us!

We do school Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings and I consider our school time from 9AM-2PM. This includes all the regular things that other kids are doing at school - learning time, play time, snack time, potty time, lunch time, and a quiet rest. Also on Thursdays we either to a Mom's program where Eva (and Jensen) have a couple of hours in a class with kids, or I try to plan a play date. I'm not worried about social time because we are around people all throughout the week, plus Eva has the best friend ever - her little brother! This year Eva is learning how to pick out her clothes and get dressed, make her bed, and get her hair and teeth brushed (with some help) before we do school time. I had originally planned to get up early each day to have time by myself before my kids would be up on school days and, no joke, one or both of my kids have been up before that time every single day we've done school. We start each school day off by being dressed and ready for calendar time. I feel like this helps give the day a defined kick-off. We work on days of the week, months of the year, counting, and number recognition as part of our calendar time.
Then we do our Bible time, usually as a family. We have a story each week and will read it from Eva's Bible, act it out, tell it using felt, and color pictures throughout the week. I got a free Betty Lukens Through the Bible in Felt set from a friend and I felt like a kid in a candy store! It may seem old fashioned but Eva and I love using them to tell Bible stories, along with other creative stories {umm, like the one above where the bears followed the rainbow to help the queen...}. I seriously ALWAYS wanted a felt set when I was a kid. The only downside is that you have to find ways to cut out and organize a million felt pieces. No suggestions here, ours are thrown in a big tub, slighly organized in plastic baggies.

After Bible time we have a memory verse/song that we do for the whole week and a missionary family that we pray for throughout the week. Eva loves using the giant map to find where our missionary friends live.
Matching uppercase and lowercase letters.

Last year we mainly used the FREE AbcJesusLovesMe curriculum and I thought it was great. This year I am mixing between the curriculum and ideas my Pinterest Board.The curriculum is good for getting ideas and knowing what she needs to learn and a good order to teach things in. All of our Bible ideas are from the curriculum, along with many other activities. The teacher in me really likes finding ideas that match exactly what I want Eva to be doing and learning. I have some activities already created from last year and my goal is to add one new activity for math and literacy each week that we can choose from. 
Writing letters with chalk on a canvas. 
Writing letters in a sandtray with "rainbow" paper behind it {paper that I colored using different colors}. 

I love teaching using anything sensory. Yes it can get messy. Give a kid sand/rice/playdough and it will inevitably end up making some sort of mess. There are days when the mess gets to me by the end of the school time but I'm trying to let it go.
Writing words using markers. 
 Eva does some tracing books but she prefers to write on blank paper. She is really wanting to learn to write more words, which is so exciting to see as a mama and a teacher.
Building uppercase letters with craft sticks. 

With all the things we do during school time there are a few things I have intentionally decided not to do. I don't do chores. I don't run errands. I don't turn on the TV. I try really hard not to be on my phone. I want my attention to really be focused on my kids during this time. It's hard because my brain just wants to "squeeze in one thing real quick" but then I get distracted. I have to really tell myself that it's like if I was teaching in a classroom, and remember that it's only a couple of mornings a week. 
 Making a letter of the week craft. "F" is for frog.
For math this year Eva is learning to count and recognize numbers up to 29 {the curriculum said 25 but I figured if she can do that she can make it to 29}, graph objects, sort objects, measure with nonstandard objects like legos, build patterns, recognize and build shapes, and compare more/less of objects. Most of it is hands on using things like counting bears, colored craft poms, legos, playdough, etc. but I am also not against flashcards. We mix it all up.
Using wiki-sticks to do a connect the dots page and work on number sequence.
Have you ever heard of wiki-sticks? They are awesome! We got a free sample at Grapefest last weekend and have found so many uses for them. 
Observing what will absorb water.
We rotate through days of doing science, music, and art. Eva's favorite days are science! It takes a bit of prep but it is so awesome to see her interested. 
Matching "mystery" balloons with buckets of rice, beans, salt, water, and syrup to learn about observing using her sense of touch. She also drew a picture so she could teach her dad what she learned!

One thing I am also trying to let go of is the idea of time restraints. I don't want to feel like I have to do an activity for a long time if she isn't interested or feel like I have to stop doing something if she is really engaged. Some days we go through the academic part of school in under an hour. Some days we stretch it out for a couple of hours. If she wants to take a break to play with Barbies, then we do that. She did the above science activity for a whole hour. 
Using her sense of taste to decide if a bag had sugar or salt, and her sense of smell to match baggies of spices with their containers.
Painting lots of pictures! 
Eva has told me before that she likes painting because it helps her to feel calm - paint away, sister! Don't let me stand in the way of potential calmness. I'm excited because we are getting an old easel from my parent's house this weekend. 
Every couple of weeks we go to the library and check out a giant stack of new books. I pick some, she picks some. Did I mention she dresses herself? 
Included in our school time is lots of play time! Kids need to play, play, play all they can. Nothing beats a kiddie pool filled with soil for digging.
We try to spend time outside every day, whether that is going on walks, doing learning activities outside, reading on the swing, or taking trips to the playground. 
And what about little buddy? He pretty much hangs out right beside us! He isn't crawling yet so that helps, although I know that's just around the corner. He also is usually content as long as he has his toys and is right beside us.
 I try to squeeze in the harder, more adult-directed activities while he is sleeping. Other than that we just go with the flow.
Finally I wanted to share how we keep things organized. In a dream house you have a whole room and closet dedicated to homeschool. In our very real, wonderful home I keep everything in plastic bins and one end table. I have it all organized by content and have labeled file folders along with buckets of materials. I got a set of coordinating tubs at Costco before school started to help organize everything. On Monday morning I pull everything out and on Wednesday afternoon I hide it all back in the out of reach places so that my house is more tidy when people are more likely to come over. 
Before the school year started I took several weeks to plan out and gather everything I needed for the first 6 weeks of school. Then since I'm a nut who needs everything spelled out, I created my own planning sheet and filled it in so that I would know what I wanted to do for each area over the first 6 weeks. Planning and organizing ahead of time has made things flow so much smoother. After the first 6 weeks I plan to take a break week to plan and prep all the things for the next 6 weeks. I might even bargain with the husband to have a day at a coffee shop so that I can focus solely on planning :)

* If you're reading all this and thinking, "Woah that seems complicated. That's too much planning," I assure you that you can absolutely do homeschooling in whatever way works for you. I just function best when I'm overly organized, which in turn leads to Eva learning better since I'm not running around looking for materials like a chicken with no brain. 
Lastly, here is our schedule pocket chart. We start with the activities on the left side, and as we finish something we slide it over to the right. This helps my busy, dizzy mama brain keep on track with what we've done and still need to do.

That's about it. I truly love doing homeschool. Yes there are days when it is HARD to teach your own four year old. You have to combine being a mom with being a teacher and juggling an extra baby isn't always easy. But for me, and for our family, it is so worth it. I enjoy being at home with my kids and I cry a little bit when I think about the day when they will go off and not be at home with me. I'm really committed to doing 100 days of preschool with her this year. That works out to about 33 weeks, which is pretty much what she would do if she went away to school. I am beyond pumped to see how she learns and grows this year. Just writing this has made me so giddy! And of course since it's fall, I am now ready to rock all the pumpkin activities!!!!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Eva's 4th Birth-DAY

Two weeks ago this crazy kid officially became a four year old. I just remembered that I never actually blogged about it and was debating if I should...when I went back through my phone to look at photos there was so much I had already forgotten! My mama brain is basically mush. So here is the official coverage of Eva's big FOUR day.

We woke up in the morning at headed out for some donuts. Eva said she really just wanted donut holes so that is what the birthday girl got. And what is a donut party without your four best Barbie friends? Barbie-Malin, Barbie- Bijou, Barbie "Barbie", and Anna all joined us for the chocolaty goodness. {Kristoff got to come along too, but according to Eva he had "poor behavior" so he had to wait in the car. Silly 4 year olds.}
Back at home it was time for her presents from me and Ryan. The day I wrapped these I hid them under our dresser, thinking that would be a perfect hiding spot. I kid you not, she found them within 15 seconds of coming in our room later that day, and she wasn't even on the look out for them. She just happened to lie on the floor, look over and say, "Oh! Are those my birthday presents?" I can't believe she had enough self control to wait until her birthday morning to open them! 
Her first RC car! Last year some friends passed on a life size Barbie jeep that Eva can drive around in so this year Barbie got her own jeep to match.
That day we went to the pool. I think this will probably be our last official pool day. We went again a week later but the water was too cold and only Eva got in. I wish I had a good video of my four year old swimming, she has gotten so good! 
When I went to let her out from her "rest" time it took me a minute to realize she was actually asleep under that big pile of dress up clothes. 'Cause everybody knows that beds are sooooo for three year olds. 
For dinner that evening we took the birthday girl to the Rainforrest Cafe. This was our first time eating there and we had so much fun! I had heard from lots of people not to expect a gourmet feast, so I went in just for the experience and really enjoyed it. We sat in the tiger section and Eva loved seeing all the animals move and talk. It was a perfect little kid birthday spot!
Not the greatest picture but I just love the goofy look on her face. Nobody ever knows what to do when they are singing Happy Birthday. 
After dinner we stopped by and got out free carousel ride! Did you know they offer that at Grapevine Mills? You are supposed to join some club but I just mentioned it was her birthday and the lady told me she got a free ride. Thanks, carousel company! 
The next morning we had the awful four year old checkup where they get four shots. So sad but she was very brave. We also found out that Eva weights 29 lbs....and Jensen weights 22lbs. Ha! 
If you need this sassy girl, you can usually find her dressed up like a princess, playing with her Barbies these days. She is really into playing make believe and I love it! We enjoyed treating her like a princess for her special day!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

7 Months Old and Baby Dedication

Jensen at 7 Months Old

Hey little man! You are a {mostly} happy seven month old baby. We did a weight check for you the other day and you weighed in at a ginormous 22 pounds! I love every single squishy baby part of you.
These are actually your official 6 month photos, but I never got around to posting them! You have become awesome at sitting up this month! No crawling yet, but you do scoot backwards and around in a circle. You can roll over but you don't like to roll as much as Eva did. You are quite happy to sit on the ground with a basket of toys to explore. 
That face. It gets me every time. This month you kept doing what you do best - eating! Lots of fruits and veggies, along with some yogurt, oatmeal, quinoa, and scrambled eggs. With all that food you nurse slightly less but probably at least 5-6 times a day. The one not so fun change in you this month is that you STOPPED sleeping through the night. What happened, little man? At first it seemed like teething {although we've yet to see any teeth}, then a cold, and now.....????? You've been sleeping through the night since you were 8 weeks old so this has been quite the unwelcomed change.
Some of your favorite things to do this past month have included splashing naked in our backyard kiddie pool, taking baths in the big tub, and riding in your new big boy car seat! 
Last Sunday we had your  baby dedication at Bara Church. You were the cutest little ham up on stage, trying to take the microphone from Daddy. 
We prayed over and for you. We love you tons, Jensen Bruce, and pray that you will grow up into a man of faith who loves Jesus and leads others to Him. 
All of your family was there to pray for you too - Mamy, Baba, Nana, Papa, Uncle Greg, Aunt Melody, Kiersi, Kayden, Aunt Amanda, Uncle Brian, Mallory, Great Aunt Janice, Dede, Great Grandpa Hank, and Uncle Peter! And that's just a handful of the people who love you and have already been praying for you in your 7 months of life. I wish we had thought to get a big family photo. We were just too busy being excited for you! I do like this one of you and Dede. Yeah, you are just as chubby as you look in this photo, don't blame the camera for that one.
With Great Grandpa Hank. Here is your great grandpa at 95 years old. He loves the Lord so much and I hope you grow up to be as wonderful as he is. 
Ah! I couldn't choose because both of these photos are precious. You loved giving him hugs. Happy 7 months Jensen! Here is to better nights of sleep, more baby giggles, and lots of love!

love, Mama

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Barbie Birthday Party

This past Sunday we had Eva's 4th birthday party. She decided that she wanted a Barbie party! We enjoyed a special time with family and a few neighborhood pals. I wish I had taken more photos but I did get a few good ones :) 
Party cupcakes! I was going to make a fabulous Barbie cake but this ended up being way easier and just as delicious!
 Our dessert bar! Vanilla cupcakes with raspberry glaze, sugar cookies with lots of sprinkles, and brownies!
The awesome thing about a Barbie party was that I was able to resuse most of the decor I had bought for her first birthday. It had all been neatly stored in a box in the attic, bet my husband is glad now that I kept it all!
The lighting in this area always photographs really  can see her birthday banner in the back and the table decor but it wouldn't focus in on it. Lots of pink, polka dots, Barbie and glitter!
Her four year old portrait, some pretty flowers (actually mine from Ryan!) and. some girly decor.
The birthday girl with her handsome Daddy! She is an absolute Daddy's girl.
 Me with my beautiful party girl.
Ready to open presents!
Ha! Once a kid has used a party horn they never forget what to do! 
Eva got lots of Barbie things......
 .....and lots of dress up clothes! She has her choice of princess dresses now!
This was her first party to get to invite a few friends. We've gotten to know some sweet neighborhood girls so we were excited to celebrate with them, along with all of her cousins.
 Making her birthday wish!
After desserts it was time to play outside! 
We set out all the fun backyard and water toys we own and just let them go for it.
With Nana and Papa
The birthday girl and Jensen with Dede, Uncle Peter, Mamy, Baba, and Grandpa Hank.

Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate! Eva loved her party and has spent tons of time playing with her new gifts!