Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What's Happening/Our 2 Week Schedule.

So this week the kids are in Vacation Bible School (VBS) and due to the cold/bronchitis I now have, I have been banned from volunteering at the nursery. This has given me an extra 3 hours in my day to spend with Anthony and my thoughts on scheduling school for the remainder of the year. I haven't been so great in keeping with my routine for a couple of weeks due to slowness on behalf of my pregnant mind and the race to keep up with housework.

But I have stayed on top of our basics (math, phonics, writing) and we are plugging along. This week has actually been a great school week for us. It seems that since the kids are at VBS for a given time, we are crunched to get stuff done for the rest of the day. We get home at 12:30pm, eat lunch, and then Anthony goes down for a nap. During this time I enforce a one hour quiet time, just to give me some time to rest (I tend to be getting sleepier as my pregnancy progresses!). After the quiet hour is over, we jump right into our lessons. So far I have had no complaining or whining. It must be a miracle! We are done by 4:30pm, which then turns into TV time for 30 minutes followed by some dancing or music listening while I prepare dinner. By 5:30 dinner is done and we eat! It's great!!

I'm not sure how our transition back into school work in the mornings will turn out next week, but I have high hopes. I have the next 2 weeks planned out and we'll be busy from morning to late afternoon. This should be fun for everyone since we will be working on our prehistory/dinosaur unit after our quiet time. This means projects, art, and hands-on learning!! After our dinosaur unit is over, I'm not sure in what direction we'll be headed in terms of afternoon activities. I'm taking a lead from Konos and keeping all afternoon lessons to be hands-on learning and fun. It will make our morning seatwork more satisfying to finish since we will all be looking forward to something different in the afternoon.

Click on my link to see what my 2 Week Dinosaur Unit Schedule looks like. As you'll notice, I have left out some subjects such as music, art, and literature. We'll be taking a more relaxed approach to these until our unit is over.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Adding Konos to Our Schedule.

Being the curriculum junkie that I am, I recently purchases Volume 1 of Konos. Not sure if you know, but it is considered to be the "Granddaddy of Unit Studies." I fell in love with this while at convention and hearing Wade Hulcy (one of the creators) speak. It seems like a perfect fit for anyone with young children, since it is a complete hands-on way of learning.

The problem now lies in scheduling it into our own curriculum. For the time being, I am not ready to drop what we are doing and switch entirely to Konos. I am planning on using it as a supplement to what we are doing now. I am currently in the process of reevaluating what we want to do and then looking through the GIANT volume and picking and choosing the activities we want to incorporate. This is quite a daunting task!

I am setting a goal for myself, however. I plan on having this done by the end of next week. Otherwise I am bound to drive myself crazy. Part of the difficult task is finding something online to help me with the planning. Hopefully I will be able to accomplish this and then I'll be able to put it all on my schedule and show it off! Wish me luck!

We Are Staying!

It has been an exciting week so far. This Wednesday, DH matched into his specialty and it seems that we are staying where we are. We are not moving! At least not for 4 more years, after that who knows! I was a little worried and excited; but I knew that whatever the outcome, it is all part of God's plan. And if there is one being that I trust, it is God!

So now we can finally take a deep breath, and dig our feet in the dirt! It will definitely benefit us in that we don't have to worry about selling a house, buying a house, or even packing! Now we can look forward to more home improvement projects, updated appliances, and some fun extras. Not only that, but we will be able to get settled into homeschooling without having to worry about looking for a new group or get used to new laws. It seems that things just worked themselves out!

Well, with all my cheer it is difficult to see that there is a small downfall to staying where we are. I will continue to be far away from family. Something I've hated for the past 8 years. Thinking about all the moments that we are missing together really gets to me. I'm not sure why fate has kept the distance between us so far! But my only consolation is that we remain as close as ever regardless of how far away we are. It is in this that I know God's hands are at work. I have complete faith and although I miss my family dearly, I know that everything has a reason.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Camping Was a Success!!

We returned from our camping trip late in the day this Sunday. It was a great success! The kids had as much fun as we did and were upset when we started packing up our tent for the trip home. It was a wonderful way to celebrate Father's Day!

We were able to get lots of stuff done with the few days we were in the mountains. After getting off to a rainy start (it rained A LOT on Friday night when we arrived), we woke up to a beautiful day on Saturday! In the morning we enjoyed chocolate pancakes, eggs, and sausage. We then packed some snacks and headed to Linville Falls for a hike. It was great to have all the kids walking together while the dads carried the little ones on their backs. I was surprised that I was able to keep up and I felt refreshed after our hike was over. I highly recommend visiting the Falls as it is a beautiful sight!

After hiking, we visited Linville Caverns where we had a small picnic by the stream. The kids loved climbing on the rocks and eating on our blanket. I'm not sure they fully enjoyed the caverns, but we parents thought they were great and our tour guide did a wonderful job of narrating! It was also a nice escape from the hot sun outside, since the temperature dips to about 54 degrees once inside the caverns.

Of course, as we headed back to camp, Isabella and Anthony dozed off in their car seats and we let them sleep while Marco and firend Ethan played. All the while, DH was itching to get some fishing in and once the little ones woke up...we headed back out to do some fishing! It was great to cast out and the kids got all wet chasing minnows in the river. Unfortunately, although the fish were biting, we didn't catch anything. Tummies were rumbling for food so we gave up and headed back to camp.

We were lucky to have a great outdoor kitchen with our cabin, while the tent was set up nearby. Once we got back from fishing, we started the fire and had fun roasting hot dogs for dinner and marshmallows for dessert (Smores!!). It was truly such a great experience for the kids to sit around the fire holding a stick with their dinner/dessert on it! Their faces were beaming!!

Sunday began with another great breakfast of bacon, eggs, pancakes, and toast. We packed up our tent after a while of relaxing and watching the kids run around. We couldn't just leave the beautiful mountainside, so we decided to head back to Linville Falls for another hike and picnic. This time we took the longer route and headed to the top overlook to get a better glimpse. It was worth the extra effort and we all enjoyed the views.

I'm extremely grateful that we decided to choose this as our Father's Day gift! It not only proved to us that we can head to the outdoors with the kids, but that doing this type of family activity strengthens the bond between us and creates lifelong memories!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Getting Ready for Our First Camping Expedition.

Tomorrow we will be off on a new adventure...camping!!! This will be the first time for the kids and DH; I haven't gone since I was a teen. We will be heading out with some friends and their two young kids as well. This is all a part of a Father's Day weekend getaway surprise, so the dads don't really know where we are headed. They are just in charge of packing the cars! The nice thing we have going is that we could easily be heading to the beach or to the mountains. But where exactly...nobody knows (except us moms, of course!).

The kids and I are really excited and I've been working on getting things all squared away with camping gear and food. We are not sure how the toddlers will handle sleeping in a tent, so we did reserve a small cabin where my friend and I will be sleeping with them. I don't expect any problems, but I'm still trying to prepare by packing some small comforts from home.

On top of our secret mountain retreat, we are planning on making a visit to some popular caverns on Saturday along with some fun hiking trails and fishing. I'm not sure how I will handle it, being 7 months pregnant and all, but I'm feeling completely wonderful and the thought of "roughing it" doesn't scare me in the least. Having medical professionals at hand is a plus and always puts me at ease!

For the time being, I'm making sure to pack extra batteries for the camera and some extra film for the kids' Polaroid. There will be plenty of opportunities to catch something exciting on film and I will be sure to post some pictures here!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Year From Now.

I wonder how things will be a year from now. I got to thinking this while I planned our first grade curriculum. Not that Marco is ready for first grade by any means, but I like to have things lined up so that when we do get there I don't have to stress too much about it.

In one year we will no longer be schooling just one child. Marco will be in first grade and Isabella will be doing her own kindergarten thing. Anthony will be well into his "terrible twos," and we will also have moved from being a 5 member family to a 6 member family. How will our lives be different from today? Will we be a well-adjusted, homeschooling family or will we turn into a house full of crazy children (and adults!)? Will we be planning a move out of state or settling into the thought of living here for a few more years?

It's hard to plan our lives so far in advance. At least for me it is. So many things are going to be happening within the next few months that will ultimately affect the direction of our future lives. It seems that we have reached a point in our path that will put many things into place. Thankfully, we know we are never alone as we tread through these waters! Thank you God!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Strawberry Picking.

This was fun! We went strawberry picking not too long ago and the kids had lots of fun. Anthony decided that it was best to just pick a spot, sit down, and munch on some fresh strawberries! This is definitely something all kids should do!

History Project Revisited.

It's been a while since we finished our first history project and now that I finally got around to taking pictures of our poster, here it is! It was fun to introduce this to the kids. I think for a young child, the concept of the past can be a tricky concept to understand, but Marco did really well and he was excited with every project that we did.

Favorites for our personal history unit were the "Family Tree" and the "Places I've Lived." He also enjoyed picking out pictures for our time line and it was fun to try to remember things that happened in the past.

Our next move is to prehistory!! I think it will be twice as fun, as the unit incorporates lots of projects and dinosaurs.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Are You Game?

So on a recent grocery shopping expedition, I decided to go ahead and use some coupons that were about to expire. I NEVER use coupons, mainly because I'm lazy and they seem like such a hassle. I do clip them on Sundays, however. I guess it gives me something different to do, but I always end up just throwing them away. This time I decided to use them and guess what? I saved close to $20!!! That's pretty impressive!

Now I'm determined to save a little extra cash every week. After hearing about the Grocery Game on a local news channel, I became curious but never actually checked it out. Well, today was the day I visited their website and signed up. I'm not expecting to save tons of money right away since I have to start saving some coupons. But after a few weeks, I should be able to put a nice dent in our grocery bill.

Anyways, I'm looking forward to cutting down on our grocery bill; and with all my savings, I can put the money into something else (like a nice day at the spa!). Interested in becoming a gamer yourself? You should check out their website!

Monday, June 4, 2007

How Do I Keep My Littles Entertained During School? Here's a List!

So after struggling daily during our morning lessons, I decided to go ahead and invest some time in the ever recommended school box! I have heard about this idea from several homeschoolers, at convention, from the WTM boards, and from just books on parenting, but I never put it into use. Now that my youngest is entering his two's, I'm finding it more and more difficult to keep him entertained while we are doing our school lessons, but this has helped tremendously. I even have a box for my 3 year old (who is usually content with looking at books and coloring) in case she gets a little antsy.

If you are like me and have more than one preschooler that you need to keep entertained, I would suggested getting each child their own box. I purchased some cardboard file boxes at an office supply store just for this reason. You can have your kids decorate the outside with stickers and paint to make it really special. Make sure that this box is ALWAYS put away completely out of sight! This will make it that much more special to the child. It's a good idea to rotate the things inside the box every week or every other week. This keeps interest in the box fresh.

Following is a list that I use and I keep it with my lesson planner. That way, every Sunday when I write out our weekly schedule, I know that I have to rotate the things in the preschool box and I don't have to think about what I'm going to put in it next. Although many moms are into the scoop and pour items, I stay away from these just to make my clean up easier.

  • Wooden Puzzles (no more than 2 puzzles per box)
  • Lacing Beads
  • New Coloring Books (in order to keep them new, just tear out unused pages and staple them together)
  • New Crayons (I always try to keep the crayons fresh. It's a good idea to sharpen them or to melt old crayons and make new ones in fun shapes)
  • Ikea Train Set (or any other small set that doesn't require difficulty in setting up. Ikea's is small enough to fit all the pieces in a plastic Ziploc bag)
  • Shape Sorter
  • Books (make sure to pick some out that are ONLY used for the box so that they always seem new)
  • Color Wonder Paper and Paint/Markers
  • Magnets and a Small Cookie Sheet
  • Small CD Player, Headphones, & Fun Music
  • Peg Boards
  • Lace & Link (made by Lauri)
  • Fit-a-Space (made by Lauri)
  • Lacing Cards
  • Chalk & Small Chalkboard (you can get them at craft stores for about a dollar)
  • Stickers & Wax Paper (they can reuse the stickers that way)
  • Envelopes, Paper, Stickers, etc.

This list is always a work in progress since I am always getting new ideas. I'll keep updating in the future. In the mean time, I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me. Remember that older children can be extremely helpful to you! Get your kids used to entertaining little ones by having them read books or playing with them. Although my 3 year old doesn't know how to read words yet, she still enjoys making up her own stories to the pictures and then reading them to my 20 month old. It keeps both of them entertained for at least 15 minutes!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Planning. I Think I'm Addicted!

So this past week I've been recovering from "I Want Everything I Saw at Convention" Syndrome. Now that my list has been narrowed down and I have purchased most of what I want, I'm on to a new type of addiction...planning. Normally, I am a plan-a-holic. I love having my spreadsheets, log sheets, lists, and schedules. I actually even use them! I have my pocket PC synchronized with my computer so that my schedule is never off. I have my homemade planner sitting on the table ready to be me looked at at any given minute. My reminders for lessons, trips, and appointments are set to go off 15-30 minutes before the actual event...just in case I forget to check what's on my schedule for the day.

But don't let all that fool you! I am indeed the most flexible homeschooler ever. I know that my kids depend on a routine, but not an hourly schedule. I bend and flex things daily with school lessons, errands, and housework. But having all these things really helps me to focus on what needs to be done. It helps me set goals and accomplish them! Hopefully, as we go from a household of 5 to 6, it will help keep the flow going in our home. I counting on it!

The unfortunate thing lies in the amount of time I have spent looking for all these organizational materials online. I make sure that my online time is done only during bedtimes and quiet time. I don't like cutting into the time the kids have to spend with me or the time that the housework needs to be done. But overall, I have scoured through so many websites trying to find the perfect lesson planner or organizer. With all that I have found, I realize that there is nothing that is perfect out there to suit my needs. So what has happened as a result of hours and hours spent on the computer looking for the perfect planner and failing to find one? I have made my own! Of course, my own planner is ALWAYS a work in progress. I just wouldn't be me if I did something and never went back to modify it.

I've recently gone from using Microsoft Word, to the more recent Excel version. So far, I'm really happy with the outcome of my spreadsheets. I've incorporated a material needed list in order to help me when I'm planning the week out. I usually always forget to buy something (specialty size construction paper, jars, etc.) for the many projects we do, so this little extra has proved to be extra helpful. Included is also a reading and field trip log.

My conclusions?? Well, I have come across some helpful online sites. If you are interested in visiting the ones that proved to be the most helpful to me in my quest, just plug them in and check them out! These sites are not all inclusive to planners. Some of them are extremely useful for organizing your home and other aspects of your life. I often check back on them just in case I missed something. Of course, I will be eventually posting a sample of my own organizational materials. I'm here to help out any other planning junkie!


Cheers to Being Back!

It's been quite some time since I updated this little part of the blogosphere.  New adventures, new trials, and new seasons in life.  I&...