Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Rolling Along...School Year Update


First Day of School Ziggy wasn't so sure about this school Business...It just means Mama and sisters are distracted from playing with him!

Last week wrapped up our 6th week of school! I've decided to make every 6th week an "easy" week, we don't do History, we do a fun audio book for language arts, and we take it easy.

We're trucking along with Brain Integration Therapy exercises I'm struggling with these, it's really hard to balance the fact that "if we're going to do this, we need to do it right!" and "we're just going to do the best we can and hopefully any thing we do is benefitting and helping to integrate and resolve midline issues."

The positive is that dd1 is doing her computer-based vision therapy every day.  The writing 8 exercises have improved their handwriting and are resolving reversals and issues they have in that regard.

It's just hard to balance my desire to be delight-driven in our school days, and our need to make progress and give them the best foot forward educationally. It has been really challenging and a bit intimidating.

Where have we landed?

Each year I go in with lots of big ideas and then life happens and things get sifted down to reality.  I end up finding a sweet spot of what is enjoyable and working, and what is not.

Reality...

Roo is completing her vision therapy, BIT exercises, A section of History and Timeline work, Two Miqon Math lab sheets, and alternate days of Science reading and a Journal page (a paragraph and optional illustration) daily. This is not with out some complaints and whining. I've come up with a reward situation where she gets 30 minutes of coveted time playing with a friend (it's an online server and she emails her friend to set up a time, yay for practice writing, spelling, online safety and communication- learning on several levels!) on a Star Stables game if she gets every thing done with a positive (or at least neutral) attitude.
So far that is working well. She also whips through books like nobodies business, she's reading 4-5 chapter books a month at this point, I can't say what a joy it is to see her taking off with reading. I also can't believe how reading has improved her spelling skills! She has jumped from phonetic spelling to rarely misspelling words in the last month. Again, I'm thrilled...It means so much, 3 years into this homeschooling thing to finally be seeing that she's getting it! And older homeschool Mom told me that usually homeschooled kids will often be behind grade level until 3rd or 4th grade and then ZIP they get it and jump well ahead of their peers on almost every  level, I am starting to see the truth in this statement. Not that I care if the kids are academically ahead, I just want them to enjoy learning, but it is rewarding to see I'm not stunting them by keeping them home, ya know? I was wondering there for a while...It's been quite a journey of faith.
Ziggy gets in on Miqon Math Labs too!

Friendly.. Friendly really enjoys school, most days we don't have a bit of trouble with her attitude. The only problem is when it takes longer to get to actually doing school because the baby is having a rough day. She completes her BIT exercises, a page of reading out loud (to me), two Miquon Math lab sheets,  and a journal writing page daily. She also listens to History and completes the timeline work and other assignments along side Roo. She is passionate writer and very interested in literature. She spends much of her days outside with her kindle listening to audio books or playing with Pip. 
 Pip...
I had lofty goals with Pip when we went into the school year, but it's landed where it always does...Enjoying reading things together and busy work. She's really a lot more academically focused than her sisters were at this age, and it's been a lot of fun to see her work at things. I bought her a bunch of these amazing busy books at the start of the school year and she just whips through at least 4 pages a day, she loves cutting and pasting and problem solving. We've been enjoying a daily chapter of Milly Molly Mandy together and a Bible story from this curriculum  (it has a coloring book to work on as well), it's been really quite perfect..Depending on the Bible story I'll throw in some Heart of Dakota finger play as well- she really just didn't like the stories from Heart of Dakota and it's not like she's my only student- there's too much going on to try to push through any thing she's not loving! I love the Finger plays though and the Bible Memory songs so it isn't all a waste. :D

Ziggy...
He's 1, enough said. Oh my goodness! Some days are awful. He's climbing every thing, into every thing, and often melting down because I'm not playing with him. Some days are awesome though, he's happy to play with whatever sibling isn't doing school, he enjoys watching Sesame Street with Pip...He discovered how crayons, markers, and pens work and we've taken to laying down big pieces of paper for him to scribble on...
He really is very much a little scientist and loves to try to figure stuff out, he will sit for quite some time just studying some thing, he spent a good 10 minutes (an eternity for a 1 year old) trying to get this hole punch tool to work on his paper.

 He also loves to take part in the BIT exercises, he finds his spot and does his lunges like his big sisters! :)
 And His Magic Yellow Stroller, it's so funny how different every baby has been!!! This little ones loves his stroller, it is many days the only way I get any sort of nap out of him at all. He prefers to nap in the middle of it all, he doesn't want to miss a thing and he seems to sleep best with a lot of noise in the background, some thing his sisters are happy to supply!
As far as milestones go, he's climbing everything in sight, pretty much walking now, taking as many steps as necessary, but still mostly prefers to crawl- it's faster and he's less likely to get knocked down by older siblings. He is the sweetest snuggliest....I could go on and on about what a sweet little joy he is. I can't say what he's added to our family and we're quite in love.
He fell asleep during read aloud time!
The rest of school has been outside, frankly I'm feeling a bit exhausted from all the Going we've been enjoying! We bought a pass to a local zoo and we've been taking advantage of a gorgeous and warm autumn, spending several days a week at parks and playgrounds. And Hubby Joy's work schedule has been crazy, so some times when he doesn't have a pressing deadline he takes a weekday morning off and joins us a the park.
Lots of sunshine and fun at home and around..
Pip teaching Ziggy how to use a shovel to put mulch in a bucket, he got it right away and has been filing buckets with dirt and mulch ever since! Homeschooling, starts at birth- they learn so much from their siblings!

Some Pip and Mama snuggles, she is growing so much my little snuggle bug is outgrowing my lap. :(

playing in the garden, it turned into a jungle but they don't mind!

An afternoon picnic reading our language arts assignments at the park bring back so many happy memories for me!

Visiting a replica of a Teepee at the the local Native American grounds near our home.

It's been a good school year so far, onwards towards The Holidays!


Finding Flow...Anchors and Flux

I know how important it is to have rituals in life. "To every thing there is a season.." rings with the deepest truth of life, we humans feel centered and happier when we have rituals and seasonal times of reflection.

 This is something I have been trying to build into our family over the last couple of years.

In Spring we get the yard ready. We go to our places and have a celebratory picnic. We take a lot of nature walks, reveling in the new warmth (even if it's still chilly), looking for signs of green at every turn and when it truly arrives, we revel in the green and flowers.


Summer means popcicles, fireworks and lightening bugs on the 4th of July, playing in the sprinkler together, picnics by the creek, the Summer Reading Program, playing outside all morning and resting in the heat of the afternoon. Grilling and pickles and garden veggies. Summer Ends with The Fair...


Autumn means Leaf Walks to collect colorful leaves and crunch all that will be crunched!  Making our Seasonal Window Hanging- we make at least 4 a year out of wax paper and leaves, glitter, or paint.
Autumn Means hours at the park playing under the trees, reading books, early evenings, and the tinge of sadness that another year is winding down.
 And then we swing around to the Holidays and winter...The Holidays means a new window hanging, The Christmas Tree Hunt, decorating the tree, the Advent Elves and their secrets and surprises and letters of encouragement and Advent Projects...
Can you see Clemmie and Calvin nestled down on the window sill?

Decorating the Tree
Winter means Long days at home. Winter is dark and cold and the days feel long and people feel crowded. There is sickness from the lack of sunshine. But there is coziness and time for creativity. Snow fun and lots of time for books and school and sewing projects.
Playing with their friends next door after a blizzard.
sewing with a sleeping Ziggy on my back.
  I see all that we've built into our life, the way we try to honor and embrace the season we are in, to take the time to say "We can't do this any other time of the year, this is special."

School, newborn Ziggy, reading our Language Arts out loud while Ziggy nursed.

So when it comes to the year, yes I feel like we have an ebb and flow and definitely anchors. Some thing I want to write here while my kids are still young so I remember. I think the one thing I have done pretty well is to set my bar pretty low. The things I do with the kids aren't things that are hard for me to do, or take a ton of work. I enjoy them, they add a sense of stability and rightness to my life.

I have been fairly intentional not to build things around things that feel like work. They are important to my kids but I want to continue doing them for me.  Even when my kids are too old or uninterested I want to take time to make a new window hanging for that year in each season, or at least have a specific window hanging we've made back up. I want to take time to revel in leaves that crunch, I want to enjoy the ritual of decorating the tree and sitting in it's light with a warm beverage. I want to take the winter days to read and sew and enjoy quiet days at home. I don't mean any judgement to my Mom, she did what she needed to do, and she did a million things I am so grateful for, but as one of "the babies" I felt a huge sense of loss when she started to drop traditions because she was so busy with the older siblings who were teenagers.

I know down the line my kids are not going to want to join me, but I know that we lose so much when we stop honoring the seasons in small simple ways. And I hope to always offer that haven and safe feeling to my children. I don't cook fantastic meals or make Holidays all about the foods, that stresses me out. But I try to find ways to honor the seasons in simple ways and I hope I always will.

Tree night, store bought cookies and cider by the tree
So that's how we honor the season of the year...Now I want to talk about how we honor the times of the day and the ebb and flow and flux we need in life. That will be the next post...

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Wrapping My head Around the Coming Year...

It's hitting me that July is almost over, that we only have a month or so of summer weather left. I went out to the garden this afternoon and despite my dismal efforts we have vegetables growing all over the place. It's been a very busy season, summer means hours at the park and pool and any moment I'm home is either me crashing in exhaustion or rushing trying to clean up from the kids that have trashed the house while I was resting from the hours of carrying/chasing/watching busy baby in the summer heat.

A Mermaid Castle the kids built in a creek.


It's been a really fun summer though...We've squeezed in a beach trip, fire works watching, many picnics, and tons of pool time. We also spent a lot of time at the library. Everyone took part in our local Summer Reading Program and the ones that could take part logged well over 2,000 minutes reading. I'm especially blown away by Roo, she logged so many books and reading time, all the prizes she won got to be a little obnoxious.

But August is around the corner, Friendly turns seven in 9 days. We're starting to make Birthday plans. And with that my mind starts to turn to our school  year and wondering if I'm covering all the things well enough.

Breakdown

Core Spine: Build Your Library: The Medieval World technically this is "Grade 2" I think it will be a perfect middle ground for Friendly who falls some where between 1st and 2nd grade and Roo who falls some where between 2nd and 3rd. 

What we will be covering (and some of the books we will use):
History
Story of the World Volume 2

Language Arts will be intertwined with history, we'll be reading about Medieval times and The Middle Ages from the Build Your Library Book Store (and supplementing whenever possible with Library Audio options, When researching for the year I was excited to find that our local Library has several of the required books available as Audio Books- less reading aloud for me.)

Science
We'll be using BYOL's Science doing Earth Science and a Study of Space
I'm feeling a little ridiculously excited to get started. Last year when  we did the Ancient Civilizations the Science study was Nature studies (and nature notebooking) I wanted to study it so badly. I did some of the activities myself because I felt like making the observations, some times the kids would join me but generally it was a "oh That's nice, Mom.". Roo wanted to study Physiology and Anatomy, good stuff We used Apologia's program and Jr. Notebooking Journal  which is fantastic. But I don't know, maybe because it wasn't technically in the Teacher's Guide or maybe I just found it hard to squeeze in because there was so much to it, but I had a hard time consistently offering opportunities to work on it- or knowing how much to do. It was fine, the kids enjoyed it we got a few chapters of the book done and will pick it back up as interest dictates.

Okay so Science is covered.

Grammar and Spelling
The BYOL also offers opportunities to do dictation (so technically grammar, spelling, and handwriting if you want it to be). This format (using dictation from language arts that day) hasn't worked well with Roo. I think it feels too vague and unofficial for her. So we were using Spelling You See Jack & Jill I'm unsure whether she is ready to move on to the next level. Her reading comprehension and skills have jumped several grade levels in the last 3 months alone. When we started Jack and Jill last school year it was a bit too much for her. Now the spelling words are beyond easy for her, but it gives lots of practice in grammar as well as some handwriting practice. We've been skipping and doing a 5 or 6 grammar exercises in one day and 1 spelling practice and then moving on. We jumped ahead at least 10 levels in 2 weeks that way...We could quickly finish up and move on I suppose. I'm just unsure if that would be the best use of the curriculum? We can erase and use it again for Friendly, perhaps.
Which leads me to Friendly, I'm not sure if Spelling You See is the best fit for Friendly though. Due to her Auditory Processing challenges she gets really frustrated and turned around when she has to spell words from hearing me say them. She does better with concrete pictures and building the word visually. I thought about maybe going back to Explode the Code with her (we used it briefly with Roo in pre-K age, haven't used it with Roo). But I feel so in over my head in where to place her. I think we will be leaving spelling alone for now and using the Brain Integration Therapy exercises and phonic sounds flash cards to unlock her blocked learning gates and then re-evaluate at mid-year.

Math
We've really been enjoying and learning a lot from Life of Fred  And the kids have picked up a ton of math from it! I think we're going to stick with that until we get through Edgewood and then see where the kids land. I have been really leaning towards wanting to do Teaching Textbooks with Roo, but I think I'd rather save the money and reconsider at mid-year as well. I go back and forth on this. The only thing I don't like about Life of Fred is that it's more reading out loud. It's not that I dislike reading out loud, but when you have little ones reading out loud means interruptions, constant interruptions. And that's part of life and it's part of homeschooling and it's part of reality but it annoys the heck out of me. :D I have been trying to work through scheduling stuff to reduce interruptions, but infants are infants, preschoolers are preschoolers and they are to interruption what bees are to nectar. I did begin recording myself reading chapters aloud on a private youtube channel so I can set kids up with a chapter on the ipad....

So Did I cover every thing?

Oh Bible. 

I will be doing Heart of Dakota Little Hearts for His Glory again (did it with Roo in 2013) with Pip, that has daily Bible stories and Memory verses. I think we will also be using Our 24 Family Ways every morning, or some mornings at least.

Sheesh when I type it all out I feel super overwhelmed! But then I remember, It's not all these things every day (except for Brain Integration Therapy, that's 15minutes daily). We're definitely going to have to think through a morning flow that works better than what we currently have. One that doesn't make homeschooling feel like a chain weighting down the relaxed days we want to have. But some thing that insures we're getting things done and every thing feels like they have enough structure to thrive and accomplish what they want to.

There's the rub.

More on that next time.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Tiptoeing Back in...

I pulled my blogs off the internet a few months ago. I decided I didn't want the internet at large to have access to family life and I just simply do not have time for much of any thing let alone blogging. Child #4 has killed all time for me. Oh yeah, we had another baby! Ziggy Joy arrived September 2015 and life has been a bit crazy every since! Every moment I might have been able to get away is full of shoulds and needs and keeping my head above water. But I'm also losing myself in there.  I enjoy writing. I think I have gotten a little tired of blogs though, they are just a tiny snippet and I feel like they are either too feely, mushy and frankly, silly. Or too perfect. Life is messy.

I want to continue to blog about gentle parenting, school, I think that is grounding and helpful to me. Not because I do it right. Not because I have some picture perfect or even interesting story to share, but because I need it in my life.

So I'm here.

A little update on us...

Roo is eight and a half and heading into third grade. Last school year was full of incredible changes and growth for Roo. She went from (still at age 8) sounding out words like "was" and "and" in January to reading fluently in March! She was still barely (with much anguish on her part, I never pushed it, but she was clearly frustrated) able to get through the Biscuit books to reading 6th grade reading level books by May. She's currently reading Poppy and Rye and I couldn't be more proud at the strides she is making. She loves reading! It happened just like when she learned to crawl or walk: frustration and struggle. And just like the older homeschool Mom's said would happen, CLICK!!
I think what really helped was enjoying books together. As well as the Reading Rainbow Skybrary App, she would curl up for hours reading book after book with the app (it narrates) and she fell in love with the solitary and relaxing activity that reading can be.

It is so validating to have a reader, it was a scary process but I'm glad we're here.

Friendly will be SEVEN in two weeks. I can't believe that she will be heading into second grade. Friendly is still struggling with some sensory processing things, she's always been my MORE kid and nothing has changed. We will be doing Brain Integration Therapy this school year to address some of her auditory processing issues, hopefully reducing her over all life frustrations as the pathways between hemispheres of her brain heals. I am really hopeful.  She is beginning to read, a completely different process from Roo. She is reading early readers and hungry for information and knowledge. She enjoys playing with numbers and seems to be very interested in math concepts, we will be encouraging that this school year.

The older two have told me they want to study The Middle Ages (we just finished up Ancient Civilizations), and are very interested in diving into our studies of space and earth science. :) We will be using Build Your Own Library again, I really really enjoyed our Ancient Civilizations and World Tour Last school year, we will be combining the girls into one grade and adding and subtracting as they need- it's so versatile and inexpensive enough where I don't feel pressure if we skip things that aren't working for us (no guilt at money wasted). It didn't feel like it at the time, we're so scattered and laid back, but when I pulled together all the things from the school year and wrote our subject summary for the school district: WOW! We learned and did so many things together last school year, it was a lot of fun!

Pip is four and a half and she is a pip and a half for sure. Four. Oh my goodness I don't know how I'm going to survive it again, it is grueling. Some thing about "Four"  in our kids- especially for our more easy going personalities- means they took all that they didn't dish out at two and three and saved it to unleash tenfold at four. It is beyond exhausting. I need a vacation. That said, she loves to have jobs, she can unload the dishwasher and fold a load of towels like a little machine and she loves to "babysit" Ziggy (she plays with him and bosses him around :D ). She is bright and inquisitive and full of ideas and wants to learn to read and do school this year. 

Ziggy. Oh my goodness this bub is amazing. I can't believe we didn't know we needed him in our family. He is just amazing. So far I haven't noticed any real difference in having a boy, except I use on average 2-3 more wipes per diaper changes, it's not as straghtforward cleaning all the things down there. :D He's crawling, cruising, pulling up on every thing. He has 6+ teeth and loves to play "so big". He's really really good at throwing, he loves to play "catch" and to throw any thing he can get his hands on, the older kids get a kick out of it. He is the sweetest little squish.

And that's about that. I hope to start blogging weekly about our school year and life again, I need the outlet.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Field Trip to the Fire Station

It was several weeks back now, but I couldn't find the camera cord!

We went on a field trip to the fire station and had so much fun learning about fire safety and exploring the fire trucks.

Since M isn't my kiddo, and I don't think her parents are online much at all , I try to put a sticker over her face. She's a cutie and her expression in this picture was awesome, but I'll let her parents have a copy and enjoy it. Pip and M did amazing during the presentation. They asked questions and listened really well!


Roo was really into heat sensor so they could find people in the dark.
Friendly is into awkward expressions apparently, must be a "5" thing. :0D

They had so much fun climbing through the trucks.


Checking out all the things!

When I remember her at 5, I will remember The Hair. The Hair that *never* stays back and always gets quickly undone when I fasten it back. Five is the Year of The Hair Waterfall. In.her.face.all.the.time. :0D

Pippy has the same issue. ;0) Such beautiful hair hiding such beautiful faces. childhood.
This trip was fantastic, we can't wait to go back next year!