Friday, August 31, 2012

Our days

Our days consist of crazy and chaos.  They consist of kids who wake up way too early in my opinion, tv watching before, during, and after school, lots of "I'm hungry" during the day, play fighting, real fighting, whining, crying, kicking, hitting, laughing, cooperative play, the most amazing imaginative stories, and watching my monkeys learn new things and the light in their eyes that comes with it.

Our days are not neatly ordered.  We don't wake up promptly at 7 and take a family nature walk, we don't eat breakfast promptly at 8 combined with a reading of the bible, and we don't start with with math, move on to spelling, tackle grammar, writing, and reading directly in those orders.  There is nothing wrong with families who run this way, it just doesn't work for us.

Our days are waking up when we can.  Today I got up at about 7.  Yesterday it was closer to 8.  Today I fed the kids at about 9 yesterday it was closer to 8:30.  Some days we start school at 9, some days at 10.  But I have discovered that I have a small method to my madness.  Which is something, considering that I previously didn't feel like I did.

My method is this: I have a list of subjects to cover with Kayd every day.  We do four days of school a week and we pick at random which day each week we aren't doing school.  The first week we took off Thursday, last week we took off Friday, this week we took off Wednesday.  Some days I wake up and just know it's not a good day to do school so we don't.

I have Kayd start on his writing, once he's finished that I give him his grammar, calendar notebook, drawing journal, and if he's not watching a video that day his math assignment.  I give him a set time to complete the work and then I leave him alone (I do answer questions if he has them though).  He's thriving on this routine.  When I have a moment to sit with him and do it we do his spelling and if it's a video day he does his math.  Sometimes I'm available directly after he finishes his independent work, but sometimes its an hour or two or three later.  As he completes each subject I mark it off my list for that day.  Voila, by the time he goes to bed he's done a full day of school wherever it fit into our day.

Now with the younger kids things are a lot looser.  They love doing learning activities but keeping them all on task is challenging, and sometimes they all need help with this or that at the same time.  I will admit that the younger three get formal school as little as 2 days a week sometimes.  But I'm not going to stress about it because they learn through their play.  Kayd learned through his play and he's none the worse for the wear and right on level with all of his 2nd grade work.

Sometimes while Kayd does his independent stuff I work with the younger two or with Colton.  Sometimes I'm cleaning the house because lets be frank - four monkeys make a LOT of mess.

I want to be real.  Here's me being real.  Our days have a very loose routine but they never look the same way two days in a row.  And I've stopped stressing out about that.  We learn what we learn and we're thriving and that's what matters.  Our days are chaos.  And that's ok, because there will be a time in the future when the chaos will subside and routine will be more prevalent (or so I'm told) and so for now we embrace the chaos.  And if that means baking cookies for no reason other than we felt like it then wahoo!

Joining up again this week with the final week of the "Not" back to school blog hop - if mine is too informal for you be sure to go check out all the other day in the life posts.

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tot School Tuesday - pom poms, and stacking cups, and pegs oh my

Welcome to our new school year!  As I began the school year with my boys I knew I couldn't leave Sierra out.  Mostly because she simply refuses to be left out.  It's her thing.  So I took her into account and made a plan.  Tot school would continue.

She does a lot of the same worksheets as Sawyer.  It's just easier to have them work together and she wants to be all up in his business anyway so it's easier to just hand her something that is her own.  This past week we worked on the letter A.  She did an A do a dot (she LOVES her do a dots!). 

She glued apples to a tree on this page. 

And she made an A shaped alligator - I have no pictures of this.  Glue and a two year old doesn't really make for a good picture taking opportunity. lol

She worked on baby care:

And she did her chunky puzzles:

In her tot trays she had tiny pom poms and her rounded stacking cups, and wooden blocks with pegs.  Each block has a number and coordinating number of holes for the pegs to stand in.  She loved this activity. 
 All in all her first week of tot school was a complete success.

For more great tot school ideas go check out the linky here: Tot School

Monday, August 20, 2012

2012-2013 School pictures

Once again continuing with the "Not" back to school blog hop this week and the theme is school pictures.  We had our first day of school last week on Monday.  I snapped a few pictures of the kids.  Last year I did a little favorites questionaire with the boys and I did the same this year.  I think it will be fun to look back over the years and see what they said.  So without further ado, here are my precious students this year:

My monkeys when I told them to sit on the couch for a picture:

Kayden - 2nd Grade

Colton - Kindergarten

Sawyer - preschool

Sierra - tot school

The professional pictures of the kids were done by our friends at LifeLight Image Studios.  If you're local (and sometimes even if you're not) these are some fantastic people to work with.  The kids love them and the pictures were all amazing.

And so that is my rag tag team of students this year.  Go check out the other great "school pictures" through the hop:
Not Back to School Blog Hop

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Marriage is...

Marriage is loving another person more than you love yourself.  It is loving another person more than you love your own ambitions.  It is considering their interests more important than your own.  It is the complete opposite of what our current culture screams at us.  Our culture tells us to:

"Be happy"  "Take care of yourself" and other similar messages.

There is not room in a marriage for that much self interest.  There just isn't.  If a marriage is going to work it cannot be about YOU.  It HAS to be about US.  I saw a little saying on pinterest this week that marriage isn't 50/50 it's 100/100 and that we both have to give 100% of ourselves to have a successful marriage and I could NOT agree more.

There are times when I just want to scream and kick and refuse to do one more thing in this house.  I'm human.  But I pray for God to give me the strength and the perseverance to continue the race of life on the path set out for me.  To do the things that I KNOW I'm supposed to be doing and to do them with the right heart attitude.  In the end blessing my husband always blesses me in return.  That's not why I do it but it is always the end result.

It is the times that I get so wrapped up in myself and my happiness and my interests that I find I am most discontent and unhappy with myself.

Just something to think about.... marriage.  Dying to self.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Oh where, oh where, did my little school go?

Today I'm going to show you around our "school".  Last year I had a school room at the start of the year, it was a combo school and play room.  About two months into the school year I got fed up with our kids' sleep issues and we concluded that we needed to split the kids into two bedrooms.  This meant that KOJ and I had to move to the downstairs bedroom and we would have no more play room.  I was a bit apprehensive at first.  It was a lot of work if it didn't work out well.  But we had to do something so move we did.  And in the move the toys went up to the two kids' bedrooms and the landing became our school room.  But about three months after that I was once again fed up with the kids getting into all my supplies and dumping every single toy on the floor all the time when I couldn't constantly be upstairs with them.  So we moved ALL our school stuff and about 3/4 of the toys downstairs.  A few toys found a house in our living room and the rest went into the laundry room.  We moved the kids' dressers out of the laundry room and up to the landing.  Then we put a lock on the laundry room door.  Which we rarely use. lol Irony.  One wall of storage became my school storage, one wall became our toy check out system which doesn't work the way I originally intended but still works pretty well none the less.  The third wall has our washer and dryer and the shelves in between house our bins of household stuff - nails, screws, tools, etc., KOJ's board game collection, and laundry hampers for doing laundry.

This year when I was preparing in my head for the coming school year I thought a lot about what our "school" should look like.  At one time our house looked like a preschool or daycare and it came to annoy me.  It felt like children had overtaken every inch of our home.  So I took most of that down.  I've decluttered through our school stuff several times and I've found different and more effective ways of organizing and housing things.  After looking around on Pinterest and being inspired by a friend I knew I wanted to create centers throughout my home but I didn't want it looking like a childcare again.  So I began.  First I realized I MUST have a writing/art center and so I created this corner:

Now the shelves on the wall have been there since we moved in and already had our art stuff on them, the white shelf on the floor has been there for a while but I added the caddy of stickers, colored pencils, regular pencils, a sharpener and eraser.  The hooks to the right have our "smocks" and a couple of towel bibs for Sierra and a little tin pail of crayons.  I added the black wall files this last week to hold paper, construction paper etc.  The top shelf will have rotating writing tools, right now it has some dry erase stuff and learn to draw books.  The play dough and scrap paper are there full time.

Then I decided that I wanted a math center.  My "desk" mostly just sits and collects STUFF.  What a waste.  So I had a brainstorm.  I really just needed storage for all the papers and my teacher books etc.  So I moved that all here:

Please ignore the mess.  It's not completely organized yet but it's suitable for starting school anyway.  The filing cabinet holds the Letter of the Week curriculum for Sawyer and also various school stuff organized by themes and seasons etc.

That cleared of my "desk" and it is now our math and science center.

The green tray will hold our science supplies for each week.  The blue shelves have the boys' writing journals and calendar notebooks and the green bins will have different math activities each week that Colton will be able to play with during his math time.

Next to that center is the kids' computer:

And all of our math manipulatives are up on that shelf above.  Kayd is using Math U See this year and he will do it here on the computer at the math center table.  Very convenient.

We'll do our reading on the couches:

Since we moved the toys back downstairs we keep the toys the kids are actively using in the living room.  This will be a play area for Sawyer and Sierra during their free time while I work with the older two boys.

The white shelves have Sierra's toys and underneath them will be three blue trays that will be her tot trays for the week.  I change out the toys on the shelves every month or so.  The drawer units are the boys' toys.  Trains and tracks, paper airplanes, legos, trio blocks, hot wheel cars at the moment.  Those get traded out too.

Sawyer and Sierra have little desks in the living room too:
I put cork board up on the back of the shelves and will pin up name plates for each of them and current artwork.  I also like that it keeps them separated from Kayd and Colton, hopefully this way they'll be less of a distraction to the older two boys.

For the stuff we use regularly, every day or every week I have it stored here:
Kayd's school books are in one drawer, Colton's k-4 hands on stuff is a drawer, science books, geography books, etc.  I love that it's hidden away but right at my fingertips in the center of our schooling area.

And this is the storage in the laundry room with the stuff that will be rotated less frequently:

The kids do still have some toys up in their rooms but a limited number and most of the kids' books are up in their rooms as well so should it become necessary I can shoo the free play kids up that direction to work with fewer distractions with the older boys.

And that is where my little school went.  All over the first floor of the house.  But I think it's going to work MUCH better than the set up we had going on last year which was much less organized and more chaotic.

I'm joining up once again with the "not" back to school blog hop this week so go check out all the other great "schools" out there!

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Working hard, hardly working

So for about an hour here and there I feel like I'm working really hard and the other hours of the day I feel like I'm hardly working.  I'm trudging along over here finishing up the final details for our first week of school next week.  On the list of things to do were things like:

make calendar board and notebooks
clear off and organize math center
find Kayd's spelling book
clean laundry room - I store our toys and school supplies here and when it's impassable not only do we run out of underwear but I have a hard time getting to school things as well.
clean the house spotless and snap pictures for the blog

I've gotten a few of these done the past couple of days.  Writing center is a go, Math center is a go, have a designated area for this week's science supplies.  I accidentally happened upon Kayd's spelling book - thank goodness!! while looking for something else.  Didn't find that though.  Grr.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to get things in perfect order for school.  I keep thinking that the more orderly my house the more orderly our school day and I continue to forget that four children ages 2-6 are not orderly.  Period.  Ever.  So yeah.  I'm still striving but we'll start school on Monday whether everything is perfect or not.  More likely it won't be.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Curriculum for 2012-2013

Ok, I have been waiting for this week for almost a year.  It is time for the "not" Back to School Blog hop!  So exciting right?  This week the topic is curriculum.  Now this is something I've been working out since January.  I LOVE planning new curriculum.  I feel very excited and confident in our choices for the fast approaching school year.

Kayden - 2nd grade (HOW DID THIS HAPPEN???)
Math U See Beta
All About spelling level 2 and maybe move into level 3 - we just do it at his pace which has been fairly fast thus far so we'll see where we get.  No pressure from me.
Scott Foresman free grammar - he will finish up the last three units of grade 1 and work through all of grade 2.  I really like this and it works well for us.  It is available for 1st through 6th grade.

Colton - kindergarten
K4 program from Confessions of a Homeschooler - I love this so much.  It's got sight words, number recognition - both written and numerical, beginning math addition and subtraction problems, reading practice, etc.  I really do feel like it covers everything he needs to learn for phonics and beginning math at a kindergarten level and what's more is there are lots of hands on games not just worksheets to it.  Given that Colton is my kinestethic learner this is great for him.  The way I'm using this curriculum will make it completely re-usable for Sawyer and Sierra in the years to come too.

Colton's K-4 - all the worksheets in page protectors can be done with dry erase markers, erased and filed again for kindy with Sawyer next year.  All the games will be laminated for re-use.

Kayden and Colton together:
Science - Usborne Science activities books - I will be spending 4-6wks on each chapter in all three books that will be a basic intro to different areas of science for the boys.  It is entirely likely that Sawyer will join us during this time but the lessons are primarily for the older two boys.  *the link to the Usborne books goes directly to my own Usborne consultant site and sales will result in a commission for me.

Social Studies -  We are taking a trip around the world.  During our trip we will discuss the culture, religions, geography, and history of each country we study.  Each country unit will end with a fun country themed dinner that the kids will help prepare.  We will also be classifying animals using the Expedition Earth animals from Confessions of a Homeschooler.  We are using Usborne lift the flap atlas, and Then and Now,  along with other resources. *the link to the Usborne books goes directly to my own Usborne consultant site and sales will result in a commission for me.

Other - in addition I plan to do read alouds from classic literature throughout the year.  Books such as Mr. Popper's Penguins, Charlotte's Web, and James and the Giant Peach are on our list.  This will be quiet time that all three boys will participate in.  I am considering investing in these literature studies again from Confessions of a Homeschooler to go along with some of our read alouds - doing one book a month with a study and a 2nd book a month without a study.

Art - I plan to work through these artist and composer studies this year as well, four artists and four composers this school year and the other four of each the following school year.

Sawyer - preschool
Letter of the week program from Confessions of a homeschooler - again I love this, lots of hands on stuff, a few worksheets so they feel like the bigger kids and lots of work with recognizing letters and learning their sounds in fun ways.

Sierra - tot school
No formal program here.  She'll have tot trays each day that I'll put together and swap out every week.  She also enjoys worksheets so I'll include her with Sawyer for those but with fewer expectations.

Sawyer and Sierra together:

I plan to do two book units a month with the two little ones.  We'll use books from Before Five in a Row and Five in A Row as well as some books that we just enjoy that might go with seasonal themes or letters of the week.

And that is my plan.  Some days it seems like a lot and other days it seems like just enough.  I think really it's the idea of putting together school for four children that seems like a lot.  Not the amount of curriculum itself.

Please do go check out all the other great links at the blog hop this week!
Not Back to School Blog Hop