Thursday, August 27, 2015

Homeschooling Plans 2015

My homeschooling plans for the year are set, and I'm looking forward to what we have planned!
This year Benjamin will be in 1st grade and Joanna will be starting kindergarten.  We're continuing to keep things really simple and relaxed, although I'm adding just a bit more structure to what we did last year.

Here's my plan:

We'll be continuing with our "morning time", which consists of doing our calendar, reading stories, working on a bit of memorizing, songs, reading poems, and the like.  As we discovered last year, it works for us to do it right before lunch, after our morning clean-up.

We will also continue to read lots of books.  We read stories before bed, and I read chapter books at lunch time.

Both Benjamin and Joanna will be doing reading this year.  Last year I worked with Benjamin on reading for 5-10 minutes a day during rest time.  Since I'll have two reading this year, I've decided to do it after rest time, so that I can enjoy rest time, too!  Joanna will be learning to read, and we'll be using Alphaphonics again.  Benjamin knows how to read now, so his goal will just be to practice.  We'll be getting easy readers at the library and I'll spend 10 or so minutes a day with him, working on fluency and comprehension.

In addition, I'm adding what I'll be calling "project time" to the afternoons.  After snack time, we'll stay at the table for 20 or so minutes and work on different things each day.  This is really for Benjamin, but my plan is to have everyone there, and the younger kids can either participate in what we're doing, or they can color or do other table activities.  One or two days a week we'll be working on writing, either by writing in a journal, our learning notebooks, or writing letters.  Seth is going to do art with the kids one day each week.  We'll also do math one day and history one day.

I've chosen Life of Fred for our math curriculum this year.  I've heard nothing but good things about these books, so I purchased the first one.  We received it and I've looked through it a bit, and it seems perfect for us!  The whole point of the curriculum is to apply math to everyday life, and to teach it through story form, which fits my unschooling and learn-through-life tendencies perfectly, and I'm really excited about it!

For History, we're using Story of the World.  Again, I hear nothing but good things about this, so we're trying it out.  I purchased the audio version, so we're planning on listening during our history time each week, but we can also use it in the car, or I can play it during snack or lunch time if I need to move our schedule around.  I'm excited to see how I like this, and I'm hoping I'll learn some new things, too!

We'll be doing some Bible learning, too, going through our What's in the Bible dvds again.  This is an excellent series, and our whole family enjoys it.  We'll probably be watching one episode a week.  I plan on having us rewatch this series every year, for, I guess, forever.  =)

Since we have a zoo membership now, we're planning one going there frequently, we also go to our local kids museum often, and we usually go to the library once a week.  I'm hoping to plan a few other field trips this year, as well, such as the fire station, salmon hatchery, etc.

We're also planning on experimenting with "learning notebooks".  Our thought with these is to have the kids choose something they want to learn about each week, find a few books at the library about their chosen subject, and read them.  Then, during our writing time, they can write, draw a picture, or dictate something they learned.  We'll give it a try and see how it goes.

We recently discovered Magic School Bus DVDs at the library, and have been watching through those.  I never really watched these as a kid, but I've been enjoying them, too!  They are fantastic, and are great for learning science in a fun way!

This sounds like a lot when I write it all out, but most of it is just woven into life and becomes just "what we do", so hopefully it will continue to feel like that!  I've consciously chosen to not "do school" in the morning, which is really the kids' main play time, and my work time, so for us the afternoons are more open to other activities.

I'm excited to see how this year goes!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Six Months

Simon is six months now, which of course is a bit unbelievable.  Wasn't he just born, like a month ago?  He is such a happy baby, which I am so thankful for!  He is busy, too; he is constantly moving and grabbing things, and he loves to be down on the floor exploring.  He's not crawling yet, but he has no problem getting around the room, rolling around and scooting a bit.  He loves the Johnny-Jump-Up, too!  He has started eating some real foods now, and he is a huge fan!  =)

Mr. Two-Year-Old

We have a two-year-old in our house again; we celebrated Toby's birthday a couple of weeks ago.  Because he LOVES animals, we decided to take him to the zoo for his birthday, which was great fun. We didn't get to see nearly everything we wanted to, so we're already looking forward to going back! We got passes, and we'll try to go a bunch over the next year, since that totally counts as school in my book!  =)

We kept the rest of his birthday simple with a few little gifts, including training pants, because, yes, potty training time is coming soon!  Toby still doesn't talk much, just a couple of words here and there, but, of course, he still has no trouble communicating his wants, and he most definitely knows his own mind!  =)  Watching movies is pretty much his favorite thing, but he also likes playing outside, and just now at the end of summer has started liking to go in the pool and other water.  He loves books as well, especially ones with something to "find"!  For the most part, he's now dropped his daily nap, much to my chagrin, but so far he's doing great with rest time!   Toby is such a sweet, happy boy, and we are so thankful for him!  =)

Monday, August 3, 2015

How We Simplify Camping with a Large Family

Camping can be a lot of work - there’s not really any way around that, especially with lots of little
kids. But there are ways to simplify and make it easier. We’ve been camping a number of times now with our kids, starting when we had a toddler and baby, and now with five kids (including a baby) - here are my tips for making it all work:

1. My biggest tip is to really limit the amount of stuff you bring. With several years of camping under our belt, we know what we use and what we don’t and we only bring the things that we have found to be really necessary.

- We bring a few books for the kids and let them each bring a friend to sleep with. That’s it for toys - with camping there is so much to do exploring and playing outside that they don’t need toys.

- We bring the bare minimum on clothes. I used to bring quite a bit, just in case. Everything gets dirty camping, but kids tend to rewear stuff anyway, so now we just don’t bring many clothes. We bring a warm outfit for evenings, warm jammies, socks and underwear, a bathing suit if necessary, and one other outfit. With what they’re already wearing, that is plenty, even for several days. This is the amount that we’ll be bringing for our week-long trip this fall, although we do plan to do laundry once in the middle of the trip.

2. I usually like to keep the majority of our food healthy and homemade, but quick and easy is the name of the game when we’re camping. Bacon and eggs smell awesome at the campground, but that is way too much work for me, and even if you have room for a cooler (we don’t, really), it can be a pain to make sure food stays cold.

- We eat instant oatmeal or cereal for breakfast (I bring shelf-stable milk), and canned or boxed food for lunch and dinner (mac & cheese, ramen, and the like). I do bring hot dogs for the first night.

- Lots of snacks are also a must to keep everyone happy!

- I bring some ready-to-eat fruits and veggies, like carrot sticks, snap peas, grapes, apples, etc.

- I don’t put a lot of thought into trying to find different foods to bring. I have found what works for us, and I pretty much bring the same foods every time we go.

- We bring the bare minimum for dishes, too. Disposable dishes are the easiest, but I don’t like to generate alot of waste, even when we’re camping, so I bring a bowl and small cup for everyone. Bowls are more versatile than plates, and I bring small mason jars (which is what we use at home) for cups so they can hold hot or cold drinks. I bring a fork and spoon for everyone, and a knife and a mixing spoon. I bring one pot for cooking food or heating water, and that’s usually it for dishes. I plan on improvising, and it all works out!

3. Pack your car so that the tent can come out first thing. I’ve always packed our tent on the bottom of the trunk - because it’s the biggest thing and then I could pack the smaller things around it and so I wouldn’t have it falling out of the trunk. But that’s always been a problem, because, really, it’s the first thing we need when setting up, and it’s the last thing to go away when tearing down. So we’ve always had to unload the car then pile our stuff somewhere while we wait for the tent to get set up, and then take everything out of the tent and pile it somewhere while we wait for it to get taken down and put in the car. Finally, this summer, I realized that I could put the tent on the floor of the van between seats. We can access it and get it set up and take everything straight from the car to the tent. This has made a big difference in how long it takes us to set up and take down camp! 

4. Have kids help as much as possible. I made a picture packing list, so the older kids all pack their own bags, then I double check them. They help unload the car, taking things into the tent, setting up chairs, etc. I bring a water jug that has a spigot on it, so they can get drinks themselves. 

5. Have reasonable expectations. Camping trips are fun, but with small kids, they’re not always relaxing. There is still all the basic stuff to do; changing diapers, making food, etc., and sometimes it can be even more difficult to keep an eye on kids, with new things to explore. It helps to have that expectation already there, so you’re not disappointed when it turns out different than you thought.

6. Try to keep some routines in place. I always bring the baby’s familiar bed, whether that is the moses basket or the pack’n’play, because that helps them sleep better, which makes for a better trip! And although we’re not strict about this on vacation, having our regular rest time can make for happier moods all around.

7. Use soft tote bags for clothes. To make it easy for the kids to pack and handle their own items, and to make it easier to find things, we have a separate bag for everyone. Structured bags take up precious cargo space, so I like to use squishy bags that can be stuffed into small spaces.

8. I don’t worry about separate dirty laundry bags. They just take up more space and take more mental energy trying to figure out what is dirty and what is clean. Pretty much everything gets dirty anyway, so I just wash everything when I get home.

9. Having a few camping “tools” can be helpful. We’re not really big fans when it comes to having special stuff that only gets used a few times a year, but we’ve made an exception for a few camping things. Most campgrounds have picnic tables, so we could forgo camping chairs, but we find them more comfortable and fun, so we have one for everyone. Smaller ones for the kids take up less space in storage and in the car. We also now have a sleeping bag for everyone. In the past we’ve made do with a few sleeping bags and lots of blankets, but it became too time consuming to have to fold and pack so many different pieces. Sleeping bags take up less space (again, we have smaller ones for the kids), and it is now much quicker to pack up.  Sleeping bags we keep in closets, but the rest of our camping gear goes in a cupboard in the garage.

10. Bring your own potty chair. If you’re even a little hesitant to let your kids use public restrooms, it helps so much to bring your own potty chair. We keep a kids potty in our car at all times, so we bring that along when camping. It keeps us from having to always take someone to the bathroom, which would get old quickly, even without our germaphobe tendencies! Then we use baby wipes to wash hands.

11. Make a master camping list to keep from year to year, adjusting as necessary. It’s too hard to remember what to bring each time you go camping. This keeps us from forgetting things, and saves a lot of mental energy trying to remember what to pack every time we go camping!

Whew...that was long, but these are the things that we do that make camping (even with lots of little kids!) relatively headache free for us.  See, we're all smiling!  =)

July Camping Trip

We went camping last week, our first-ever camping trip with just our family.  We played in the woods, got really dirty, missed having a campfire (there was a burn ban, so sad!), and had lots of fun!