Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Flying into Fall!

School is in full swing and we've definitely developed a good routine. We have lots of activities we're participating in and the kids love it, luckily homeschooling works very well with it all. Ella is able to enjoy all kinds of extracurriculars without depriving her "school" work.

Ella's Drawing:
Sun & Moon from her Monart Class
Keeping in mind that Ella is still too young to enter formal Kindergarten, I am amazed with her progress. Her reading improves every day and she is already reading at a first grade level. Her handwriting is coming right along and we enjoy using the Handwriting without Tears curriculum which contains lots of fun activities to encourage proper letter formation. We've mastered counting by 2's, 5's, 10's, basic addition, and working on telling time (beyond the hour) and subtraction. She is so quick to pick up on new material.

We started our lesson about the discovery of the America's this past week, as we work our way to the First Thanksgiving in preparation for the upcoming holiday.  We had a great time building Columbus's ships

The Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria
and painting our map of the New World.
The map of the "New World"
Ella impressed her MOPS (Mother's of Preschoolers) teacher, as she told her all about Columbus and the discovery of the America's.

We're continuing our study of Phonemes (combination letter sounds) as we cover the /aw/, /ph/, /ch/, and /oo/ this month.  She is already reading these sounds when found in words, but we are reviewing the sounds individually.  This will help with spelling in the future. 

We're finishing up our chapter on our senses, then will be moving onto Water, Weather and the Seasons.  The snowy weather here, makes it a good place to learn about water properties, and weather/seasons.  We'll make snowflakes of course to decorate our "school room."  

Ella really seems to be thriving. I often question how we're dong, if homeschooling will continue to be right for us. I've been researching schools in the area (private, public, and charter) to no avail. We would really like to find a faith based school, but none have the quality education that is found in the charter schools here. Most of the charter schools have a lottery system or wait list, making it near impossible for the kids to get in within the relatively near future. Although, we are on the wait list for a few places.

We have decided to continue homeschooling through this year and through Ella's "Kindergarten" year, if she does not get into any of the Charter schools.. Next year we'll have a lot more opportunities for learning in a group environment, as we join homeschool co-ops, homeschool PE group, and classes (put on by charter schools to support homeschool families). We've already looked into Girl Scouts and 4H next year as well, giving her a good balance of social interaction with other's of various age groups. I've even started a meetup group for homeschool children in our area, organizing play dates/activities/field trips/etc.  Not to mention our MOPS (Mother's of Preschoolers) group that we attend twice a month.

Digging for Dinosaur Bones @
 The Museum of Nature and Science
Next year, we'll also be adding Eric to our homeschool classroom. We'll be starting a very basic preschool curriculum and joining a preschool co-op with him. Ella is looking forward to helping teach her little brother the basics. He already enjoys spending time with us in the "school" room playing with puzzles, play-doh, reading, chalking, and drawing.

He really loves to "do school" with us and often plays along with whatever we're doing. Here's Eric helping with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Better Vision!

We attended the Christian Homeschool Conference in Denver and had a wonderful time, learning all we could not only about homeschooling but how to be effective parents as well.  Everything from curriculum, reading styles, and the differences between learning styles of boys and girls were covered.  Over 4,000 people attended the conference and for us, it was eye opening & inspiring to see so many people attend.  Ken often asked, "do this many people really homeschool?"  We were both surprised by the numbers, but also encouraged.

I found some great ideas to incorporate more character lessons into our day, as well as some fun ideas for Eric as he starts to become more involved with our homeschool. A few changes will be taking place in our daily routine and school will be taking a front seat starting immediately.

The best advice I heard all weekend, was to keep homeschool fun and that we don't have to run school like "school."  What was I thinking?  No, 8-3pm hours??  No to an abundance of workbooks and worksheeets?  We don't have to completed a workbook from cover to cover?  I'm learning that homeschool is more than just the books, that's why we homeschool.  

If we're working in the garden, 


it's applied science!

If we head out to the Wildlife Experience learning about penguins, 

more science and geography too!

Don't get me wrong, we do our fair share of book work.

Ella working on her calender binder,

Eric learning shapes, as Ella helps

even the bunnies can join in on the learning fun!

We're getting back to fun art projects, 

Ella's for Father's Day

Eric's for Father's Day

or this shell (finally, figured out what to do with some of our shells from South Carolina). wind chime we made for our "SH" letter sound week.

School is meant to be fun, so the kids will love learning!  Not just in the classroom, but learning every day about the world around them.  

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Waverings and Africa

The official traditional school year is ending and I have been wavering about entering Ella into a traditional preschool program next year.  We visited a handful of recommended (from family and friends) schools and finally found a school we could possibly live with.  It's a Montessori schools, but with a lot of traditional influence as well ranigng in ages from 2-5yrs through Kindergarten. 

Ella went for a visit and seemed to like it enough, but when asked what she would prefer she always chooses homeschooling.  She did say she enjoyed being with the other kids, as she learned a few karate moves on the playground on her visit.

Well, although I do see the need for her to interact with more kids I still believe we can provide many such interactions on our own.  She will be starting Girl Scouts and 4H next year (they have to be 5) and we've made a few friends at her other classes as well.  The weather is nice and it's perfect weather for playdates outdoors.

We'll also be cutting back on Ella's extra-curriculars this summer, taking a break from all the constant comings and goings.  We'll concentrate on more home time and grow time.

So, homeschooling will continue on for another year and we are all very excited.  We'll be attending a Christian homescholing conference this summer to look for some new and innovative ideas for us, as well as joining a few homeschooling groups to get us more involved with the community and other children Ella's age.

Ella is doing amazingly well in reading/writing.  Even the teachers at the preschool where she visited were impressed with her knowledge and easy going attitude.  She immedietely made friends on the playground and they commented at how well her handwriting skills were.  Ella recognizes over 40 sight words already and can read many beginner books all on her own, such as Go Dog Go! by Dr. Seuss. 

I was trying to slow down her instruction, not wanting to jump her too far ahead of her peers.  However, she has had other plans as she has just picked up reading so easily.  Trying to keep her interested and challenged has been tough, but it's nice that she can work at her own pace (not something she would be able to do easily in a traditional classroom setting).

We'll be working more on math, science, and geography this summer.  Also, we'll be working more on advanced blending sounds and phonetic rules.  This fall we'll be incorporating more tot school (see below) as well, since Eric wants to be part of our school day too!

Eric gets into the fun of homeschool, as we have plenty of tot busy boxes for him.

Learning letters and their sounds,

tearing it up and learning colors too!

We are incorporating Eric into our lessons when we can.  This past week we did a unit on Africa.  A fun time was had as we made African Dogan masks and the kids danced and chased each other around the room.

Ella the Rabbit and Eric the Hunter!

The rabbit running from the hunter!

The hunter chasing the rabbit!

It's never easy trying to find a balance between homeschool, activities, and the tasks of just being a Mom and Wife.  However, we try every day to make it fun and enjoyable for everyone!  They are only young once and this time with them is so precious. Even on our toughest days, I am thankful for every moment with them and know I am truly blessed to have them in my life. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Turtles, Umbrellas, and Art

We're off to a great start and loving our new school room.  We've implemented our workboxes and working our way through the alphabet.  The workboxes really keep us on task and help us to get through our work quickly.  We usually spend about two hours on our workboxes and another hour on circle time and computer work. 

Our letter S week we played with shaving cream and even Eric was able to join in on the fun.  They both had fun and did a great job playing together.  Ella also made sand art, a collage snail, and is really coming along on her reading as she completed her Headsprout lesson for the week and is now reading 1st readers by herself. She is doing well with her phonetics and can read many books by herself or with little assistance from me.

Our little T for Turtles week was lots of fun.  We find most of our activities and projects online from other homeschooling families.  Ella had fun with our turtle graphing....

and Ella's favorite is always the craft for the day.  Ella was very careful and detailed in putting together or turtle with a bit of paint, glue, and tissue paper. 

Our letter U for Umbrella week Ella was able to go crazy splashing paint (rain falling).  She had so much fun and yes paint was splattered everywhere.  Thank goodness for washable paint.  It was so much fun to see her get so excited about creating her letter Uu page.

Ella loves art, so when the local rec center decided to offer an Abrakadoodle art class we signed her up.  She is really enjoying the class and loves circle time, where the kids get to show off their art to the group.  Here is her Valentine Art project where they studied the artist Jim Dine,

 and her Chinese New Years Art Project studying ovals, fans, and Sumi-e art.

We also found a wonderful art school nearby where she can learn some drawing and sculpting skills. She loves the class and especially is enjoying creating with clay. She looks forward to every Monday and we are happy she has all these outlets to really develop her artist within.  She says she wants to be an artist when she grows up and we definitely see her as one.  She loves to create!!

The Praying Mantis by Ella

Polar Bear at Dinner by Ella

In addition to art, we just enrolled Ella in a wondeful piano program at the Children's Music Academy.  My nephew has really enjoyed the class for the last year and after Ella visited a class, she decided she wanted to join to.  We love how child friendly and fun the classes are, making her piano classes so much more enjoyable than the one-one lessons she used to have.  We also like that Mommy gets to learn right next to Ella, so we get some nice one-one time together.  Ella had her first class this week and loved it.  There are four other kids in her class, so it gives her an opportunity to be with other children her age as well.

I hope to get into more of a routine of posting daily our activities and projects.  We cover so much in a day!  We're actually wrapping up our letter U week tomorrow, then we're on to V for Volcano's! 

Monday, February 8, 2010

School's in Session ......

A week longer than expected, but we managed to get our school room together.  My husband (Ken) threw down some nice Pergo flooring in record time and turned our Sunroom into an official school in just one weekend.  This was actually the first room in the house to feel complete. The kids love it and Ella was excited for school to start.  I tried my best to organize such a tight space.

Here's Ella's workboxes and workspace.  We are totally in love with the IKEA Trofast system and have maximized are space well with these. I still hope to get Ella a more traditional desk, but for now this little table works well for what we need.

Eric (15mth's old) is enjoying the play area I created for him.  He has a nice play rug, also from IKEA and lots of trains and trucks to keep him busy.  He is always in the middle of everything, so we'll have to look at adding a small table & chair for him as well.  He's really interested in crayons, so I don't imagine it will be long before he will be more hands on in our lessons for the day.

This is our daily whiteboard and circle time area.  We cover the Calender, Bible Verse, Song, and Math Activities  here.  We also have Ella's Headsprout (online phonics) goal chart here.

Every school room, aslo has a teacher's work area.   Well, this is "Teacher Mommy's" desk.  We'll be adding a flag to the room, but for now we pull up the american flag on the computer and say our daily pledge of allegience.  Ella also does all her online learning here, using programs such as Headsprout, Starfall, and we even enjoy some youtube and National Geographic when appropriate.

Organization is key with all our materials.

We were lucky to find a couple more IKEA Trofast shelving units on Craigslist and picked up two more units.  The room is finally packed, but at least it's organized. 

Our typical day might run something like this:

Circle Time (Calender, Song, Math Activity, Review Theme, Book)
Online Activity (Starfall, Headsprout)
Workboxes (we have 12)

A typical day has been taking about 2 hours with the workboxes.  Occassionally, we run over doing our art projects.  It's all fun though and Ella is really enjoying our learning time together. 

The best part is Ella can still enjoy other activities outside of the home too.  She is attending a Monart art class and Soccer on Fridays, Choir on Wednesday's and will be starting Piano soon.  I think she has much more well rounded education and she is a much happy kid, since we started homeschooling.

I hope to be able to write a weekly blog with what we've accomplished each week.