Sunday, August 03, 2014

Back To School We Go!

We officially started school on July 14th.  It was definitely a soft launch, but since we've basically been done with school since mid-March, it was time to put some routine back in our days!

Our official First Day of School picture!  It was a good day - can you tell?

We went to a homeschooling convention in early June and I'd had all of our curriculum on hand long enough to plow through the teacher's manuals and wrap my brain around the first six weeks of school.  I'd even found a homeschool planner that looked promising (turns out I love it lotsly)!

Our grade breakdown this year is Thomas and Sarah Grace in 5th, Elizabeth in 2nd, Anna in 1st, and Daniel in keep him occupied so he doesn't get into anything mode pre-school.  Once upon a time, school started at 10, lunch was at 11:30, nap was at 12:30, and that was all we had on the official schedule.  As Thomas and Sarah Grace have gotten older, however, our school takes a little longer each year.  Plus, there are two other students... and Daniel. 

Y'all, don't underestimate the mischief level of a three year old.  Just. Don't.

All that to say, when we started out, school took less than two hours a day... and that included LOTS of reading to them all.  Nowadays, school takes closer to six hours... more, depending on attitudes and what day of the week it is.  Our current daily schedule looks something like this.

It's been tweaked a time or two since we started, but I think we might be on the final rendition.  Time will tell, as it always does! 

Our curriculum choices changed a little this year.  Nothing major, but that's a post for another day (given the regularity with which I blog these days, you better message me if you are serious about hearing about those changes!)  In the mean time, here's another picture. 

 Our morning meeting this year, officially named Convocation (that's a blatant rip-off from LL.  Thanks again, friend!!), is more varied and we are LOVING it!  I can't wait to share more about it, but for now, here's another picture of some of the items we are using for August.  (I know, I'm making bloggy promises.)

I pick on our poor Daniel, though I really shouldn't.  He does manage to find mischief, but it's generally the innocent, curious kind.  However, it is still in my daily schedule (see above!) to keep him occupied the vast majority of the time.  When he works with Sarah Grace, they do colors and sorting and puzzles and such.  He was give a fabulous little toy box/bench/desk for his birthday and a lot of his morning revolves around that little bench.  His favorite toys are in it for play time, and for school, we drop the desk part down and he has a roomy surface to work on.  (Thanks Aunt Amy and Uncle Anthony!)

Anna is taking her school very seriously this year - usually in a pink tu-tu and pixie wings.  She's a December baby, but as any homeschooling mama knows, age is not what defines a kindergartner.  Anna declared last fall (at age 4) that she would start school, and she completed all her kindergarten credits and has been passed on to first grade!  She works hard and is LOVING handwriting.  Girlfriend is all about learning to write letters to people, so be watching your mailboxes

In the middle of the morning, all the older kids are sitting at the table doing various assignments and Daniel is hovering around me while begging for food.  Because that is what he does if he's awake.  I pull him up in my lap and read to him while the other kids work.

New homeschoolers ask me all the time if I think a school room is necessary.  Here's the answer, folks:  No.  A school room is NOT necessary - unless you're like me.  I'm the kind of girl who needs the school room scenario.  My kids don't always work at that table (usually, but not all the time), but for my oh!-look-a-squirrel little self, I work best in a space that's dedicated to the education of my kids.  Plus, we had this weird room (it's supposed to be a formal living room, but that's not my life) that needed a purpose.  Perfect storm, right?

It's a full day every single day, but at the end, they sit on the couch for an episode of Wild Kratts while I check their work and hide behind my computer screen. 

I love how they sit in birth order.  It just cracks me up.  I also love how Little Mister Energy sits ready to jump and go the second it looks like the show is over!    

And this?  This is what we had for dinner one day.  Dinner, yes.  Because some days are longer than others and we all need a treat at the end just for not inflicting bodily damage upon one another.  Right?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summertime So Far

Summer is officially here - all the schools are out.  As a homeschooling family, the 'official' last day of school is lost on us.  We sort of start tapering off in mid-March and by the beginning of May, kids tiptoe into the school room to finish up the last few pages of this workbook or that workbook.

That last sentence makes it sound like all sunshine and lollipops around here.  In actuality, they slip into the schoolroom when I start handing out extra chores because somebody said the magic phrase..."Mama, I don't know what to do."

I'm thankful my kids don't moan, "I'm bored."  Their version sounds less whiny, but the truth is, it means the same thing.  And when I hear it, I come up with all manner of things they could do with their energy and time.

Anyway, Summer is here.  We purchased a pool membership this year and I had high hopes of spending lots of time hiding my delicate red-headed complexion in the shade whilst my kiddos were expending lots of energy in the water.  However, it's been kind of rainy lately.  As in it-rains-every-single-day-and-there-is-no-way-i'm-going-to-dress-and-sunscreen-my-people-just-to-swim-for-the-eighty-seven-seconds-between-rain-showers-or-thunder-storms.

So there hasn't been much time at the pool and this is how we are all feeling about it:

These rainy days have given us ample opportunity to try out some of the fun ideas I've found on Pinterest, though. 

This little game didn't work as well as it probably should have, but it kept all five kids entertained for half an hour and the younger two entertained for most of an afternoon.  So, you know, win!

Another benefit of converting to almost solely indoor activities is that Thomas finished up a project he's been working on.  He frequently rides the neighborhood and brings home roadside finds, usually in the form of wood.  His latest find spoke the idea into his head of building a surprise for his youngest sister.  His finished product was unveiled today, much to Anna's pleasure.

It's hard to get a good pic of the lovely little table he built her, but she was enchanted and the girls have already put it to good use for a full blown ladies tea party (which both their brothers crashed when they realized there was pepperoni to be had!) and a tea party for their favorite dolls.  When the sun comes out, I'll get a good photograph (you know, iPhone good) of his miniature farm table masterpiece.

Actually, the sun did come out for a bit today and Thomas bee-lined outside to start the mower.  We negotiated a monthly contract with him for keeping the lawn mowed for the 'mowing season' and he is keen to keep up his end.

This development provides him with a paying job that puts some jingle in his pocket and frees up quite a bit of time for Joshua.  If left on his shoulders, it would take him two evenings worth of work to maintain the yard each week.  With Thomas doing the mowing, he takes only a couple hours one evening as needed to weed-eat, deal with shrub trimming, and other much smaller jobs.

Today, however, Thomas only got most of the backyard mowed before the rains set in again.  But at least our neighbors know we're trying to not bring down all the property values!!

One day?  One day we're hoping to get back to the pool and resume the energy expending. 

Sooo, any suggestions or ideas for more inside activities?  We still have quite a few rainy days forecasted over the next week or so...

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Keeping Calm To Carry On - The One On Cups

 Once upon a fairy tale, there were magical creatures that came in to whisk away cookie crumbs, clear and clean out the refrigerator, and wash to sparkling all the dishes.  And everyone lived happily ever after.

That's a fairy tale I made up, in case you couldn't tell.

In my reality, we sweep several times a day to keep the crumbs at bay, the fridge gets cleaned out when I can't find casserole dishes anywhere else, and dirty dishes accumulate at horrific rates!

Thankfully, my children help with the sweeping and we stumbled across a fabulous system for lessening the number of dirty dishes.

Thre are many methods to keeping homes with lots of kids in supply of drinking containers.  We have gone through more than one rendition of water bottles, starting with sippy cups, graduating to Camelbaks (which we loved and lost), then to Klean Kanteen (which we love but are in the process of losing), and finally, I quit.

I mean I didn't quit watering them, I just quit buying drinking containers.  The kids still drink plenty of fluids.  They just drink it from regular ol' glasses.

Only it got to where we were going through 20 (or more) a day.  No joke.  Those people would use one, set it down, get thirsty later, and grab a clean glass.

Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Y'all... we drink water almost exclusively.  I'd walk into the kitchen and see 11 glasses partially filled with water.

I might have said (loudly) a time or two something to the effect of "WHY do you people need to use 6 glasses a day...EACH?"  or "WHAT ON EARTH???"

Or, you know.... something like that.


And then, one day, I had an epiphany. 

You know those little silicone bracelet things you collect from random places?  I sent the children in search of 7 of them (we call them bands).  They came back with about twenty of them.  I then showed them how to put the band on their glass and informed them that each morning when they got their glass out of the cabinet, they needed to place a band on it.  This was to be their glass for The Whole Entire Day.

The bands are stretchy enough that my (then) 4 year old could handle banding her own glass and they are totally dishwasher safe (we drape them over a tine on the top rack).  It's been a beautiful year of banded glasses at our house!

I won't lie.... sometimes somebody has a bout with forgetfulness and I'll find an extra glass or four running around.  It makes me a bit cranky, but I just do my best to remember that this is still way better than the eighty-eleven we were doing for a while. 

The fridge (and it's contents) is still an issue...