Friday, September 19, 2014

Homeschooling has "officially" started!

We enjoyed a bit of an extended summer, and so we finally started our "official" homeschooling this week!  I had to take the obligatory first-day-of-school pictures!  =)



I originally stated our homeschool plans several weeks ago, but I made a few tweaks and additions before we even started!


I decided to add in a daily "circle time" (or, morning time, as we'll be calling it) to our schedule.  After giving it a lot of thought, and going back and forth on whether or not it was too formal to fit in with my plans, I decided to give it a shot and see how it went.  I love that it gives me a bit of focused time with the kids, and it's a great way for me to introduce them to some things that otherwise would probably go by the wayside.  After all, a huge part of my role in our unschooling is for me to introduce them to new things, and this provides me with one more opportunity to do that.  Our morning time is pretty relaxed, and includes things like reading picture books, flannel board stories, songs and/or fingerplays, poetry reading, calendar, simple group games, Bible reading, and memorization.  I don't do all of those things every day, but instead pick and choose several, so we end up spending 20-30 minutes total.  Right now we are doing this in the morning, right after snack time, but I'm open to switching it to the afternoon if I find that the morning isn't working for some reason.


Another thing I added to our schedule is a Bible program - for us, this year, we're going through the "What's in the Bible" DVD series.  We've seen a few of them, and they're so good that we decided purchase and go through them all!  So far, we've been watching one DVD per week as a family, and then once we've watched one, the kids can watch it on their own as well.  There are 13 DVDs, so my plan is to watch them all a few of times throughout the year.  I'm amazed at how much I've learned about the Bible, and the history of the Bible and the church, and we've had some great discussions with the kids as well.  


With Seth's non-traditional work schedule (he has Wednesdays and Thursdays off), we're doing our school activities on a 3-4 days per week schedule right now.  "School" days are Mondays, Tuesdays, sometimes Thursdays, and Saturdays.  Wednesdays and some Thursdays we'll be taking off because it's Seth's weekend, Fridays will be off because we'll either be doing MOPs or some other activity (like going to the library), and Sundays are off for church.  A bit different from the usual M - F routine, but I think it will work for us!  =)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Celebrating 8 Years!

Seth and I celebrated our 8th anniversary a couple of weeks ago.  8 years!  I sabotaged his plan for a dinner date and surprised him with an overnight getaway instead.  In thinking about it, I realized that unless my memory fails me, we hadn't been on an overnight getaway without children since before we had children.  And the only time we'd ever been away from the kids overnight at all is when we're having another one, which, of course, isn't exactly a vacation.  And we weren't even totally kid-free; we took Toby with us, but having just a baby feels pretty kid-free!  =)  My parents agreed to watch the older three, so we dropped them off and headed south to Astoria, Oregon.  Neither of us had ever been there, so it was fun to be in a new place.  The Columbia River was beautiful and huge!   Our hotel was right downtown near the shops and restaurants, so it was easy to walk around.  After staying the night and browsing a few more shops in the morning, we drove down to Seaside to see the coast and have lunch on the beach.  After a quick stop back in Astoria for ice cream, we started on the long drive home.  A short trip, but definitely sweet; it was so nice to get away for a bit and relax and recharge!








We had to laugh because despite it being a trip to celebrate OUR anniversary, most of the pictures were of the baby!  =)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Camping Trip

We joined my sister and brother-in-law for a camping trip last week!  We hadn't gone camping in a couple of years, so we had been really looking forward to it!  We had so much fun!  The campground wasn't very busy, since we were there in the middle of the week, and we were right by the mountains and a beautiful lake!  We had lovely weather, and it was really almost perfect.  Almost perfect because of the mosquitoes.  Unfortunately, they were awful!  They were out all day long and they were vicious!  Despite making a store run for bug spray and candles, we all came home looking (and feeling!) like we had the chicken pox!  Not good.

Despite that, we had a wonderful time.  The kids did great, and it was so much fun spending time with my sister and her husband!  It's so fun to get away, and camping is a great and frugal way for us to do that!















 We can't wait to go camping again next month!

Tobias is One!

The first birthday is always a little bittersweet.  Bitter because those sweet baby days are behind us, but still sweet because I think one year olds are so much fun!

Our curious happy little man turned one last Friday, and we celebrated him with a few little gifts  and some yummy chocolate pudding cake with whip cream!  He heartily approved!



Something else that happens when you're the fourth child -
if I had remembered I was going to take pictures, I wouldn't
have put a pink bib on him!  =)



As a side note: first birthdays are also a little less bitter when there's another sweet baby to look forward to!  We should be meeting our new addition sometime around the first of February!  =)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Our First Egg!


We now officially have laying hens (or, one, as the case may be)!  We are so excited to be getting eggs!  Madeline (the tan buff orpington) has now laid five eggs in the past week, which is a typical amount for her breed.




Thankfully, Seth had just gotten the nesting boxes made a few days before the big day!



The other two hens have not started laying yet, but that should happen any day now!

This is what happens when you're the fourth child....



Toby loves to play in the kitchen cupboards.  Nobody else did that, and I can't quite remember if it was because they just didn't, or because I didn't let them, but I'm pretty sure it was the latter.  I guess I'm getting soft in my old age!  =)

Friday, July 25, 2014

My (Unschooling) Kindergarten Plans

Benjamin starts kindergarten this year.  I've been nervous about it, partly because I'm not sure I can add "one more thing" to my plate, but also because I'm not ready to give up the freedom I have with just preschoolers.  Then I start thinking years down the road and I really get overwhelmed.  I have to stop and remind myself to just focus on now, this year.  I remind myself that I don't have to do what other people are doing; that's the beauty of homeschooling.  I remember what my philosophy and my goals are.   I remind myself of the main purpose of school, which, I think, is not to teach my kids everything they need to know, but instead to teach them to love learning, and to teach them how to learn.  When I think of myself as a "teacher" I get overwhelmed and feel inadequate.  But helping my kids learn, and learning beside them?  I can do that.

And really, I don't think "kindergarten" is essential.  A lot of other countries don't start formal schooling at age 5, and personally I think that's a good idea.  Kids have so many years of school ahead of them, why not let them just be kids as long as possible?


Mostly, as we enter the "school" years, we'll just keep doing what we're doing.  Everyday Benjamin learns letters, science, math and reading skills, and it's not by sitting down and doing "school".  It's by asking questions, looking at books, talking about things, living life.  And that's the way I like it.  The kids love to ask "what letter does _____ start with?", and we figure out the answer together.  Benjamin knows tons of numbers, and he's constantly learning more.  Just the other day he had a tape measure out, and he was pointing out numbers he knew and asking me about ones he didn't.  He's great at doing simple addition and subtraction, just from me doing word problems with him at dinner (they're usually related to something we're talking about).  He has been really into whales and other sea creatures for a while now, so we check out books from the library and he pours over them.  He can identify numerous whales, sharks, and other creatures and can tell facts about them, such as what they eat, where they live, and how big they are (besides knowing how many "feet" they are, we've also been measuring things in "Daddies" - as in, a blue whale is about 90 feet long, which is 15 "Daddies" (who is 6 feet).  He knows so much more than I do about sea creatures!  And it's not because I sat down and taught him; it's because he wanted to know and he found out.  Books are very important in our house, and we read together every day.  Lately, I've been reading from a chapter book at lunch time, then each of the kids gets to pick a picture book to read at bedtime.  We've recently started doing some memorization as well.  The kids just learned the Lord's Prayer, by saying it together at bedtime.  I'm planning on having them memorize Psalm 1 next.  There is so much learning going on at our house, and I absolutely love that it doesn't involve sitting down and reading a boring book, or doing worksheets, or taking tests.  Not that there is never a place for those things (well, maybe that's true for the boring books!), but I believe learning is so much more meaningful and memorable for kids when it comes from their interests and doing what they want and love to do.

The one formal thing I will be doing with Benjamin is teaching him to read.  I think he's ready to learn, and because reading is such a key foundation, I think it's a good starting place for us.  And, since it's the only thing we're doing formally, I think we'll be able to really focus on reading and do it well.  I plan to spend 15-20 minutes a day working through Alpha-phonics with Benjamin, probably in the afternoons, which feels weird to me, because I feel like I "should" be doing school stuff in the morning.  But I try to get most of my housework done in the morning, and it's hard for me to focus on other things when the house is a mess and I have chores hanging over my head.  Afternoons at our house are much more open and laid back, so for me it is the ideal time to sit down and work on reading.  I'm open to change if necessary, but for now that's the plan.

I feel so much more comfortable and relaxed now that I have my plans figured out.  This feels like a very gentle and doable transition into our schooling years, and I'm confident we'll have a great year!  In fact, I'm getting kind of excited about it, as long as I don't think too hard about the 20 or so years of school we have ahead of us!  =)