Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A New Homeschooling Year


We're now a couple of weeks into homeschooling for the year, and I think we're well on our way to finding our groove.  We've made some changes this year, to keep up with our growing family, and I'm a little bittersweet about it.  While I still remain convinced that "unschooling" is the best fit for our family as a whole, I have added in a bit more formal school time for the older kids.  And I switched our school time to the morning, since it became very clear that doing it in the afternoons just wasn't working.  We started out doing our school time right after breakfast and chores, but I found that the kids were restless, since they just wanted to go play.  So now we are doing it right before lunch, after they have played and cleaned up.  This has helped them be able to focus a lot better, since they have already had a chance to play.  We're currently spending about 45 minutes on our school projects, and that has been a good compromise for us.  The one thing I'm still trying to figure out is our Morning Time.  We were doing this right before lunch, but now this is our school time, and anyway, it wasn't working for Simon, and therefore it wasn't working for any of us!  I've been experimenting with doing this during breakfast, and that works about half of the time, and I'm just going to keep going with that for now.  Maybe it would help to do a little more breakfast prep the night before?  I'll have to think about that.

Benjamin and Joanna were having some trouble writing a
letter correctly, so I brought out some pans of flour for them
to practice with their finger.  It worked great for them, but
everyone else had to get in on the action, and I'm not sure
I'll be doing that again in a hurry! =)

Here's what we're doing this year:

Math:
Since Benjamin is in 2nd grade this year, we decided it was probably a good time for him to start doing some more formal math, and learning how to read problems and write answers.  I really went back and forth on this for a while, because I'm not really a fan of workbooks in general, but he started asking me to make him math sheets to fill out, so I decided to take advantage of that interest.  After looking at several options, I went with ABeka Arithmetic 1.  Although he's in 2nd grade, I started with the first grade book because I knew there were probably some concepts he hadn't learned yet.  Most of it has been really easy for him so far, but he has learned a couple of new things, and I think the ease has helped make it a good transition.

I'm continuing to use Life of Fred for both Benjamin and Joanna, and Ezra often listens in, too.  We never finished the first book last year, so I started that over, and we will continue on to the second book once we're finished with that.

We're continuing to use Bedtime Math during our morning time, and I really can't recommend these books enough.  All of the kids love it, they constantly ask for more difficult problems, and their math skills have greatly improved.

Reading:
Benjamin is really a great reader and can read most things.  He does a lot of reading on his own, so I don't make him do a formal reading time, though I should probably have him read to me occasionally to make sure he is sounding out the bigger words.  He prefers reading nonfiction, so I don't use any specific books with him, but instead make sure to regularly get books from the library that he is interested in.

Benjamin is such a great unschooler!  He loves to study on
his own.  I picked up a United States encyclopedia from the
library, and he decided to make his own map of the U.S.

I never finished Joanna's reading lessons last year, so we're continuing that this year, and we had to go back and do a little bit of a refresher.  We're still using Alphaphonics, and I'm still really happy with it.

Since Ezra is in Kindergarten this year, I've started working with him on learning the alphabet, but I haven't pushed it much, since he only just turned five.

Writing:
We're spending a bit more time focusing on writing this year, especially on forming letters correctly, and using more lowercase letters.  We're not using any curriculum, but instead just practicing them in a spiral notebook.  All five of the kids have a spiral notebook to use during school time, and we use it for any sort of writing or drawing that we do.  Not only does it keep everything in one place, it serves as a good record for what we learned during the year.

Morning Time during breakfast

Our Morning Time Basket

Morning Time:
This remains pretty much the same as last year; we read a story or two, do our calendar, do Bedtime Math, read a poem, talk about something of interest, etc.  I have a science book that I've been reading through lately, which is often turns into a short discussion.  This is one of my favorite parts of our school day, so I'm hoping to find a good routine with this again.


And that's about it for our formal schooling!  I'm still trying to keep everything relaxed and simple, so I'm happy with making sure the three Rs are covered and learning everything else through living life. We still love watching Magic School Bus and What's in the Bible?, and we added in a Schoolhouse Rock DVD to our collection, and the kids have been learning a lot through that.  I love to read aloud, and we continue to read chapter books during lunch, and they still often listen to Story of the World while I'm preparing lunch.  We listened to the first book twice last year, so this year we're listening to the second book.  They have been really interested in American history as well, so we often have discussions about topics related to that, or pick up books from the library to read.  The four older kids are involved in AWANA this year, and we also are continuing our homeschool co-op that we started several months ago.  The homeschool group that we joined offers several family sports at different times of the year, so right now we all go play soccer on Monday nights.

That's all I can think of for now!  I've had mixed feelings about doing some of these more "formal" things, but overall I think we have a good mix of formal and relaxed schooling going on, so we're going to keep it up for now!



Friday, August 26, 2016

Things I am Loving Right Now

The end of summer is coming!  We really haven't done much this summer (besides have a baby!), which I was expecting, but it has been a busy, full summer anyway.  We're trying to enjoy the last few weeks of summer, while also planning for fall and a new homeschooling year.  To bring some cohesiveness to all the random thoughts rolling around in my brain, I thought I'd share a few things that I've been loving lately!

1. Celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary.  10 years sounds so long!!!  I really don't feel old enough to have been married for so long, and of course I feel both like it has flown by, and like I've been married forever!  Mostly, though I feel so blessed to spent the last 10 years married to such an awesome guy!


2. A sweet two-month old.  This little guy isn't always the happiest of babies; in fact he often reminds me of Ezra, who was quite fussy.  But I think he's getting better, and he makes up for his not always sleeping much during the day by sleeping awesome at night, which is great.  And, he is starting to smile more, which is always so fun, and the rest of the kids just love him so much, which makes me so happy!!!



3. Our new playset.  If I had known just how awesome this would be, I would have tried to get one a long time ago.  Even though we haven't quite finished up the last couple of things on it (per our norm), the kids have been having so much fun with it, and they have spent way more time outside than they used to, which I love.

4. A bit more space in our home.  We are always trying to clear out excess clutter, and we recently got rid of a couple pieces of furniture, which has given us a bit of "blank space" and a little more room to breathe.

5. Target's new clothing line for kids.  I've found that the older my kids get, the harder they are on clothes.  Benjamin, especially, is really hard on pants, and has been known to wear holes in the knees mere weeks after I purchased them.  Target now guarantees their brand of clothes to last for a year, or you can bring them back, and I am totally taking them up on that!


6. Having a half-dozen kids.  I am so blessed to have all these little people in my life!  I never expected to have a house filled with so many boys, but I love it more than I ever would have imagined! :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

One Month with Linus



Linus is one month old now.  Like always, it has flown by.  After a rough start, he is doing great, and is eating and sleeping well.  Linus is fitting into our family beautifully; everyone just loves him and dotes on him.  Every time, I am surprised again at how relatively easy it is to incorporate a new baby into our family.  So much different from the first couple of times!  We have been really blessed this time with lots of meals being brought to us from family, church, and our new homeschool group.  A month in, we still are getting meals!  It has been so awesome!



There's never a dull moment around here, and despite having a mostly stay-home summer, we've been finding plenty to do!  We've been spending lots of time with Linus, of course, and we've been enjoying warm days in the backyard, thanks to the new playset, the bench I painted this spring, and a new (bigger) kiddie pool.




Last weekend we did get out and do something I've been wanting to do for years - an outdoor movie!  The kids lined up their camping chairs, and it was so cute!  We all had a great time, and we'll definitely be doing that again!


We still haven't gotten a new family car, but we're hoping to get that soon, since we have a few day trips that we're planning for August.  With those, planning for fall and a new homeschool year, and our normal daily stuff, August should have plenty to keep us on our toes!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Introducing...

Our brand new baby BOY!!!



Linus Edward
Saturday, June 25 at 11:12 pm
7 lb, 11 oz
19 inches





We had an unexpected twist when he ended up in the NICU just a couple hours after birth.  He had low temperature and blood sugar, and they were concerned about an infection.  Later in the week we had a scare with breathing issues, a possible seizure and meningitis concerns.  Thankfully, everything serious was ruled out and although we still don't have any clear answers, the belief is that he had a minor infection that was cleared up with antibiotics.  After spending a week in the NICU, we're finally going to be able to take him home tomorrow, and we are so excited!  We made the decision to go with a hospital birth, thinking I might need some help, and while I didn't, thankfully, we were glad we were there when Linus needed to be.  It has been a long, stressful week, and I am so looking forward to finally being home and getting to enjoy time with the whole family.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Getting Ready for Baby

With only a few days to go before my due date, we're officially on baby watch around here.  I'm trying to finish up some little things I want to get done (grocery shopping, etc.), but for the most part I've made it through my long, nesting to-do list.  My garden has been planted, I got the windows and curtains washed, the tub scrubbed, and a couple of rooms painted.  I have food in the freezer, ready to go.  The Moses basket is in place and little newborn clothes are in the drawer.


There has been a theme around here of starting projects and almost finishing them, but not quite, so a big portion of my list was working through those things.  Our bathroom trim, which has been unfinished for over two years because we weren't quite sure what to do with it, is finally done, which makes me so happy!  We had to do a bit of toilet fixing, for the third time, and we're hoping this time's the charm.



I also finally finished painting the trim in the living room.  I was hoping to also finish the trim around the front door we put in a year ago, but we weren't able to get to that one.  I still have hopes of finishing it before winter, but we'll see!  :)

Seth built a new front porch last summer, and it was done except for one final coat of paint that we didn't get to before the weather got rainy, so I finished that up.



The last big project were working on is a play set for the kids.  We've talked about doing this for a long time, but we were never sure if we wanted to do it because we also keep talking about moving.  But since we haven't moved, and since we don't have anything on the horizon, this seemed like a good time to do it.  With a brand new baby, we're planning a quiet, stay-home summer, so having something new and exciting in the backyard will be a good thing for everyone.  We're hoping Seth will be able to finish it up in the next few days.


So, we're ready to meet this new little person, and we can't wait to see who it is!  :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What's Been Happening Lately, Part 3: Daily Routines and Homeschooling

Even though I've known this truth forever, I am constantly amazed at the effect a good routine can have on things actually happening.  I've made a few tweaks to our daily routine recently that have just fit, and as a result, our days have gone smoother while also accomplishing my goals. 


One such example is our outside time.  I know I've mentioned before my struggle to get outside everyday.  Some seasons, like summer, lend themselves more naturally to this, and it's not a problem to get outside everyday.  But in the middle of winter, it feels like hard work to get outside, so it often doesn't happen.  But I just recently borrowed an idea from my preschool teaching days and decided to try going outside right after lunch each day.  And this has fit our routine perfectly.  It's already a transition time, which somehow means that it doesn't take nearly as much effort to actually get outside.  Most days the kids take their scooters out to the road, and we spend 20-30 minutes there, but if I need to, I can also send everyone to the backyard while I finish cleaning the kitchen up.  This little tweak has been a game changer for us right now.


The other routine change I made was with our "school" time.  I finally had to admit that my plan of doing our "school" time in the afternoon just wasn't working.  I had been pretty intentional in choosing that time, but for various reasons, most days it wasn't happening.  Given my unschooling tendencies, it wasn't that big of a deal, really, but I did want to make sure we were working on a few things regularly.  Part of me thought that if I just disciplined myself better, and kept trying, I could make it work, but I knew that it ultimately came down to making the routine work for us.  So, I've moved our school time to the morning, which is definitely my more disciplined, productive time of day.  This does make the morning a bit busier, but it also means that we're actually doing it on a regular basis.

Speaking of homeschooling, I wanted to give a little update on the resources we chose to use this year.  Thankfully, everything has been wonderful!  We love the Story of the World history, and we're currently on our second listen-through.  The kids usually listen to a chapter while I get lunch ready, which works really well.  


We have loved Life of Fred as well.  I really appreciate the relaxed approach to math, and the kids enjoy it.  Another resource we found for math is Bedtime Math.  We borrowed the first book from the library and have been using it during our Morning Time.  The kids LOVE this.  The author's goal is to make math as much fun and as much a part of everyday life as a bedtime story, which fits my philosophy exactly, and it has been just that for us.  The kids say this is their favorite part of morning time, and even Toby asks for a turn with a question.  After we finished the library book, I promptly purchased all three books, which is high praise!  The books include questions for a few different age groups, but because I have so many kids so close together, I have had to make up some of my own questions, too, but having some ideas to go on already has made that pretty easy.  We just started book 2, which is also great, though the questions so far seem easier.  Anyway, we highly recommend these books!



Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What's Been Happening Lately, Part 2


As I've been thinking about the last few months, trying to decide what to put on my blog, I've been realizing that there's been a lot of growing going on in our house recently.  Physically, of course, as everyone is getting bigger.  Benjamin turned 7 in November, lost his first tooth a few months ago, and has become quite a good reader.  Joanna turned 6 last month, is learning to read, was the first child to learn to tie shoes, and has become really detailed in her drawings.  After both of them had their birthdays, Ezra is eagerly waiting for his, in June, when he will turn 5.  He just learned to write his name.  Toby practically potty-trained himself last fall, catching on so quickly that I really felt like I hardly had to do anything.  He's finally started talking as well, and has more words all the time.  Simon, of course is growing constantly.  He just started walking, following our family's schedule of walking at 13 months.  He still loves to get into things, but he's learning to listen to Mommy's "no"!  :) He loves to go outside.

Our food consumption has really gone up in the last several months, so much that I was feeling like I was spending almost all of my time in the kitchen.  In an attempt to simplify a bit, I decided to eliminate our morning snack time.  I wasn't sure it was possible, but it actually has gone surprisingly well!  We eat a little more at breakfast, and I adjusted our schedule to allow for an earlier lunch, and it's working great!  I now am making less food, and spending less time cleaning the kitchen, so I feel like this simple change has made a noticeable difference.

Not only has there been a lot of physical growth in the family, but I feel like there has been a noticeable shift in our family dynamics.  Instead of having five little kids, there are two different groups now: big kids and little kids.  That seems obvious when I say it, but it's really only been in the last few months that I've noticed it being true for us.  Benjamin, all of a sudden, has been declaring himself too big for things, like certain movies and books.  Even though the four (or 5) kids still frequently play all together, more and more I've noticed them playing in groups, older and younger.  Ezra is kind of the wild card, switching between groups, depending on the activity.  Our bedtime story time has changed, and instead of reading picture books with everyone, Seth has been reading a chapter book with the older two, while I read picture books with the three younger boys.  Last fall Seth and I felt like it would be good for the older kids to have some kind of outside activity they were doing, so every week the older three kids go to an AWANA group and Seth and I have just the two little boys.  The older three all have regular chores they do around the house, and they are a really big help now with the work.  I'm finding myself frequently talking about the "little boys".

I feel like it was interesting for me to make this realization.  I'm not sure I totally like this shift; some changes have made me a little sad, and I'm having to get used to it.  I know this is our new normal, and the trajectory will probably just continue!