Monday, November 28, 2011

Our very first lapbook! A Christmas lapbook!

So I'm pretty excited.  I've been reading about lapbooks for several months now.  I've been wanting to do one but haven't found quite the inspiration I needed.  With Christmastime here, that was the inspiration I needed.  So, after a few hours (over the course of a couple of days) I managed to put together enough things for a Christmas lapbook!  I'm very excited.  Of course, I'll share pictures & links as well. 
Tell me what you think after you see it. 
The "Symbols of Christmas math," "Away In A Manger fill in the blanks" & "Christmas word match" are my own creations. 
"Why Jesus Is Better Than Santa" came from here. (I did modify it a bit & change the format for my lapbook.)
The Reindeer puzzle can be found here.
The "Winter Time Is Here" mini-book can be found here.
The Help the Elf shape sorting can be found here.
Not shown here are two stories I plan to read before introducing the lapbook. 
The story of St. Nicholas and the Nativity story.

The cover.

The inside.

A close up of "Why Jesus Is Better Than Santa."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fall Update

Goodness!  I definitely have been slacking on my blogging!  I apologize. 

First off, the kids are doing great! 

James is reading a bit more confidently now.  He's definitely getting the hang of it.  Math is his shorter subject so he enjoys that because he knows it won't take long to finish a lesson.  He's able to tell time (top of the hour time on analog clocks & digital; he's getting better at reading the different minutes for the digital too).  He's counting money - just the pennies, nickels & dimes for now.  He's adding in the 1's family plus he's learning to use a number line to count as well.  It is absolutely amazing to me how much he's learned during the 43 school days we've had!  So crazy to think that he has learned so much, so quickly.  I love seeing him grow & learn.

Alexandra loves to learn as well.  I've not been doing much with her (other than giving her crayons & a coloring book) but during bath time she LOVES showing me the different letters we have for the tub & I tell her the letter name & the sound it makes.  So she knows the letters A & O by name & sound.  She knows the sounds that the letters M, S, T, B, E & P make as well.  It's wonderful that she has retained so much of that information!  I'm sure the Leap Frog Letter Factory dvd has helped too.  I know it helped James learn them awfully quickly when we bought that for him when he was 4.  I never thought to work with James on letter sounds when he was 2.  I was just working on the letters & the alphabet song.  With Alexandra she's showing me that I am underestimating her & I need to step it up.  So I'm going to begin using the book we have "Alphabet on Parade" to teach her more of the alphabet in lessons in a fun way. 

I NEED to get better at including art & health.  I have a health curriculum for him.  Although I discovered early on that I only have enough lessons for 1 lesson per week half the year and 2 lessons per week for the other half.  Although the past few weeks I've done 0.  And art would be completely from ideas I get online or off the top of my head - which getting time to do that is what I need to do.  Usually the little down time I get I like to relax & read or watch my dvr-ed shows. 

I took some pictures of Alexandra doing her A & apple art yesterday so I need to upload that to the computer, edit this post & add those pictures to this blog post.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Two at a time.

Today when I announced to James that it was time to begin his schooling, Alexandra immediately hopped into the chair at the school table. She was eagerly awaiting her daily chalkboard & chalk activity. From there she gets a coloring book with crayons when she's bored with the chalkboard. Except that today she wanted nothing to do with crayons & instead wanted the dry erase markers in James' school box. So, I got her the leisure markers (markers we do NOT use for James' school projects, those are separate) & let her color in her "workbook" (coloring book). She loved it. Whenever I write on the dry erase board on our wall, she wants to make sounds of the letters. So I wrote each letter of the alphabet for her & told her the letter name as well as the sound the letter makes. About a quarter of them she does well. She's so cute doing it too! So I think I need to start planning out some learning activities for her. She may only be 22 months (nearly 23) but she LOVES to feel included like a big kid during school & seems to love learning (on her own terms, of course). I had my CDA at one point (Child Development Associate) for ages 3-5 but I helped to create & implement the curriculum for the two year old room I worked in for nearly three years. So I think I could come up with some age appropriate activities. It's just a matter of making the time to go online finding ideas, organizing ideas, creating a loose curriculum, on top of typical parenting obligations & housekeeping obligations. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

James' First Day of Kindergarten!

James' first day of kindergarten was Tuesday, September 6, 2011!

He did his first lesson of Phonics & Reading, Math, Health & Bible.  He did a great job & knew everything we covered in math & phonics.  So nothing new to him just yet. 
In Health we covered what the word "unique" means & how God made us all in His image so we have a lot in common with every other person on the planet & similarities but we also talked about all of the differences as well.  I also showed him pictures of various people (africans, saudi arabians, mexicans, french, indians, native americans & oriental) around the globe. 

Pictures of James' first day. 

James chart of the seven days of Creation from the Bible.
(1. Light, 2. Sky, 3. Mountains, trees, flowers, oceans. 4. Sun, moon & stars. 5. Birds, butterflies & creatures of the water.  6. All animals & people.  7. God rested.)

 James' self portrait picture for health class.  He also learned that all fingerprints are different & no two person's fingerprints are the same.  We are ALL unique, even twins. 
James' first Phonics & Reading lesson.  This is Horizons curriculum from Alpha Omega Publications.

James reading.
Happy to be finished!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Homeschool Name?

I was wanting to name our homeschool.  In some states, this is a requirement so that the state feels they can recognize you as an official "private school" entity.  This is not the case in TX.  However, I have read that when buying school supplies online or at certain places, having a name for your homeschool can have price discount advantages because they then recognize you as a private school.  Not only that, I've read how some kids feel that this gives them a sense of belonging to something.  So I will work on a "mascot" later on.  As far as school colors - blue & silver (my wedding colors too, I'm a sucker for the combo).

So I read a few articles online about naming your homeschool.  I'll share one of them here.

So I wanted something that would show that we stand for Christ.  I couldn't think of anything really.  I thought about it for a day and a half off and on.  Lying in bed last night I thought about all the suggestions listed in that article I shared.  One being to name it after your street.  We live on Shine Ave.  It actually didn't sound half bad.  Shine Academy.  Well, I thought I'd try to make an acronym out of 'shine' to give it more meaning because I know we won't be living in this house (we rent) for the rest of our school career & I don't want to change it - I want to pick a name & stick with it.  I got "Serving Him IN Education" but I couldn't think of real words for the I & N.  *sigh*  I actually got a headache lying in bed, unable to sleep trying to think of something clever & cohesive.  Then I figured heck with it! 
After a couple of minutes I realized there's the song "Shine" by the Newsboys (Christian band) & the word shine repeats in "This Little Light of Mine" christian song we all know.  So it can stand for that as well as shining as the light of Christ in this world.  So it works well even when we move.  I think anyway.  I wanted something a bit more creative & clever, but this works well also.  Then I still wanted it to be clear that we're a Christian homeschool.  So I threw in Bible.  Shine Bible Academy.  Jim thought it sounded like we ONLY studied the Bible with that title so he suggested Shine Christian Academy.  I think we're going to stick with that.  I've not decided definitively but since I can't think of much else (and I strongly wanted it to be my/our own creation) I'm pretty sure this is it. 

Welcome to "Shine Christian Academy!" 

Pictures of our "school room."

So we've pretty much got the room set up.  I'm sure as we go along I'll make small changes here & there to go along with what he's learning. 
So without further adieu, here are the pictures.  (Yes, the "school room" is in our dining/foyer area.)

The poster on the far left is an ABC poster that came with James' phonics curriculum.  Then we have the dry erase board.  Next is a shelf that was in James' nursery/room back in OH (now used to hold the eraser & marker organizer (magnetic, yes but takes up precious board space) & will be a cute place to display things related to the lessons or even display any cute projects or anything.  After that, on the adjacent wall is the bulletin board that's been there for a while now since I was home preschooling James.

Top left crate: James' phonics & reading curriculum (4 teacher's guides, 4 student books & 4 readers).
Top right crate: James' math curriculum & the blue binder is mine.
Left drawers: Teacher's stuff
Right drawers: James' supplies, health curriculum, pre-k/k seasonal science book & "just right homework" book.

School room is almost ready!

So our "schoolroom" is almost ready.  I'll have pictures up in a day or two, I hope.  Last night I bought a 22"x35" magnetic dry erase board from Target.  Jim will be installing it today after work.  I can't wait to see how it looks! 
Then in two days from now James will be starting his official days as a homeschool kindergartener! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

We have a homeschool start date! *UPDATED*

Since I'll be receiving the last of James' curriculum materials for his kindergarten year sometime next week  I have received James' phonics curriculum!  The final one we were waiting on!   I can now say when we plan to start James' first day of homeschool kindergarten!

James will start his first day of kindergarten on Monday, September 12, 2011 Tuesday, September 6, 2011!

We are both excited about this. 

We decided that since Jim has Mondays & Tuesdays off, one of those days would be strictly family days.  So we'll be doing James' schooling Tuesday through Saturday.  Now, if he finishes 5 lessons of math, 5 lessons of phonics, 2 lessons of health & whatever else we add in BEFORE the 5 days are up, he gets those extra days off if he wishes.  If not, I'll just have to get to work on getting the next 5 lessons prepped & he can march on through & just finish early!  I'm going to be sure he doesn't fall behind but other than that it's his own pace. I just love the flexibility of homeschooling!

We have a health curriculum now!

So the other day we received James' health curriculum
I was unsure whether or not I wanted to do this curriculum because when I first glanced at it a couple of months ago it didn't seem impressive.  I have also read online that the first year (kindergarten anyway) you shouldn't overload a child.  So I was doing the full blown phonics & math curriculum from AOP with some supplemental science thrown in.  Then after reading more in depth about the health curriculum I figured it would be a good idea.  After receiving the books & reading the scope & sequence from K-7/8 of their curriculum (in the other books), I think it will be a great curriculum.  I hope it will be anyway.  So stay tuned to hear more of that. 

So far I think we'll school for 32 weeks (4 weeks of built in breaks there).  At which point he should be through all his curriculum.  I will then give him the option to continue on all year or take a 3 month (all of June-August) break before beginning the next level. 

So that breaks down to 5 lessons per week of math.  1 lesson a week of health for 16 weeks & 2 lessons of health per week for 16 weeks.  I have no clue what it would break down to for phonics because we haven't received it yet.  I ordered it when I ordered the health, but it was on back order & shipped almost a week later.  So I should have it as early as Saturday or as late as Wednesday.  I'm excited! 

Monday, June 20, 2011

In Need of Record Keeping Ideas

I was just showing my husband our son's new math curriculum we have.  Then I showed him the phonics/reading curriculum & the math manipulatives set (online as we've not ordered them yet) that we're going to be using as well.  I was explaining to him a bit of what I read in the math teacher's guide introduction about not giving a letter grade to each and every lesson.  It made me realize that while I have most things figured out (minus the organization - working on that & it will likely involve more purchases), I haven't learned about record keeping yet. 

I absolutely will be record keeping starting with kindergarten.  I'd like to do two "mid-term" reports during the year and then a final report card at the end.  So - exactly how do I do this?  There is a plan I have so far & I would appreciate some feedback from anyone who has been homeschooling a couple of years already & has done record keeping.  I'm also interested in hearing from anyone who is also starting out who has a solid plan for how they will be record keeping grades.  My plan is to buy one of those cardboard sliders that I've seen in teacher's stores for calculating grades.  Then I'm sure I can find some report cards online to order to keep track of it all.  I'm thinking that should be good for each assignment I choose to grade, right?  So then how to I average those altogether for the mid-term & the final report cards?  Thank you in advance for your suggestions & ideas.  Any pictures and links to materials would be great as well. 

The math curriculum is here!

I'm pretty excited!  We got James' math curriculum the day before yesterday, in the mail.  From reading the introduction & such in the beginning I feel happy with what we've chosen & I feel that James should do well with it.  I'm a bit surprised to think that by this time next year my son should be able to add, subtract, tell time (digital & analog), know how to count money, as well as be introduced to other aspects of math/life.  Wow - they learn so much in this first year! 
I'm hoping that in two and a half weeks we can purchase his phonics/reading curriculum.  Afterward, I only need to buy a math manipulatives set.  So most likely September is when we'll start teaching him.  For now, we're reading library books & he's working on the loom to make a few potholders.  :-)

Friday, June 10, 2011

The math curriculum is bought!

I'm excited to say that we purchased James' kindergarten math curriculum tonight.  We should receive it in no more than two weeks.  I can't wait to get it & check it out.  Next month we'll be buying his phonics/reading curriculum. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Starting Soon

Hi friends!  I just wanted to say that I'm hoping to be able to purchase the kindergarten math & phonics/reading curriculum for James' homeschooling soon.  This month, possibly next.  So not long after that I may be posting pictures & information on how things are going with us.  It all depends on if James wants to wait until after summer or if he wants to start doing it now.  I think if we start now, I'll start slowly, working him up to it.  Otherwise we'll start in mid/late August and also start slowly....but not too slowly. 

I wanted to also apologize (to Kathy H & Camille) for not having replied to your wonderful comments sooner.  My first Blogger blog on this account I have the settings where I'm notified on my dashboard about any pending comments (comment approval prior to publishing) & I hadn't seen any of that on any of my blogs on my dashboard.  Then I decided to check the "comments" link of all my blogs and low and behold, there are two!  I felt awful seeing that they were from almost two weeks ago!  These compartmentalized blogs of mine do NOT have comment approval, therefore absolutely no comment notification that I'm aware of.  That stinks.  So I'll be checking here a few times a week to reply to comments.  I absolutely love & welcome your comments friends.  As well as any friendly tips.  Please follow my blog if you feel it could be interesting, entertaining or informative to you.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chicago School Bans Homemade Lunches!

Here is a link to a story about a Chicago school that has put a complete ban on lunches from home.  So far, this seems to be the first school in the USA to do this.  The article states that there are various schools throughout the country to have limitations & restrictions on lunches brought to school from home, however this seems to be the first with a complete ban on lunches from home altogether.  This school's lunch is $2.25/day.  That is about $45 a month (if the month only has 20 school days) that it will cost the family.  I feel for this reason & others, a school has NO RIGHT to make demands upon a family this way. 
My son is in OT (therapy) for food aversions.  He only eats minced fish type of fish sticks, certain types of chicken nuggets & peanut butter and jelly w/o crust.  Other than that he eats cereal, pancakes, waffles, snack foods & some dessert foods (though even with sweets there are things he won't try and things he's very hesitant to try).  He gets very stressed out & upset at the thought of trying something new.  He is NOT simply a picky eater.  Food aversions may sound like picky eating on the surface but it isn't that simple and it is much harder to deal with - hence the therapy.  So I feel schools should not be allowed to have the power to outright ban homemade lunches, nor should they ever ban peanut products in schools.  They have every right to take precautions to protect children with allergies, but not to ban the products entirely. 
All I can say is, thank God that we homeschool and thank God that Texas is such a great state for homeschooling.
For those interested, here is the blog of one public school mom/teacher talking about school lunches.  She also pictured and described nearly all of the school lunches in 2010 fed to the students.  Her goal in this was to show that school lunches lacked the nutrition it should consist of.  Granted, it seems school lunches may be finally heading in the right direction but banning homemade lunches should not be in their power.
What is your opinion on the matter?  Should a school have the right to completely ban homemade lunches?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Christian Homeschoolers - Beware this "Bible" based curriculum!

I have the Facebook (FB) page "Heart of Wisdom" liked and they recently shared this link:

I could NOT believe the few quotes they shared from this so-called curriculum.  The quotes I read did not sound like an instructional curriculum at all and especially not Christian.  I haven't heard of the curriculum before but for anyone out there who is a Christian homeschooling parent, I wanted to warn you that things like this are out there.  I suppose they think they're clever, undermining God & the Bible from "within."  I definitely agree with the wolf in sheep's clothing picture on this link. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

First Homeschool Meetup

James, Alexandra & I had our first meetup with a homeschool group this past Tuesday.  I joined the group less than two weeks ago in an effort to meet & make friends for James (and hopefully myself & even Alexandra along the way).  There were four other local homeschooling moms & their kiddos there.  Two of them were meeting up with the group for the first time like I was, so that was nice to not feel like the "new kid."  We all talked for a couple of hours & they seemed really nice.  The kids all had a great time with all of the bounce houses, even Alexandra enjoyed them!  (James would've been too scared at that age, especially by himself - she went in a big bounce house while I watched but wasn't in there with her and she did great!)

The group seems to have meetups at least once a week, sometimes more.  So I'm hoping that we will get to know everyone and make some friends.  It's great to know we're off to a great start as far as James getting quality socialization while homeschooling. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

The curriculum we chose for kindergarten.

So I looked at several different websites & the curricula they offered.  I chose to go with the Alpha Omega publishers.  They offer several great Christian based curricula.  Including the "Switched on Schoolhouse" curriculum brand that the Duggars use - which, if you're interested go to their site as there is a 12% discount offered that way.  We have plans to use that curriculum brand - I love that so much can be done online with instant grading & it even keeps record of all finished work & grades.  However, since that curriculum brand begins with third grade we will be using other curriculum in the meantime. 

What did we decide on for Kindergarten?  Horizons kindergarten phonics & reading set and Horizons kindergarten math set.  I have a Seasonal Science book I've been using with James for pre-k that will have plenty of activities we haven't done yet by kindergarten & some we can re-do if it fits.  As well as a book of other activities we can do if he needs or wants it.  One of my favorite books to use for pre-k here at home has been Alphabet on Parade.  The Seasonal Science, Alphabet on Parade & Just-Right Homework books all came from the Teach Mart store (physical store, not online). 

I've been reading that it isn't good to overload with too many subjects the first couple years of school & apparently the AOP (Alpha Omega Publications company would agree as both of the curricula brands they offer for kindergarten have basically just language arts/reading and math.  Horizons does offer health & phys ed sets as electives but I figure those would mostly be a waste. 

For physical education I'm hoping to be continually enrolling James in some sort of sport or physical activity class.  I've heard of companies that do phys ed groups for homeschooled children so I'll be looking into that as well. 

So I think that covers the curriculum.  If I left anything out feel free to comment or ask questions and I can always answer in comments or revise this post. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why I chose to homeschool.

I figure the best way to start this blog off is with an explanation of why I chose to homeschool.  There are many reasons why most people choose to homeschool.

One of my top reasons to homeschool is the fact that I can incorporate field trips into the schedule to aid in the love of learning.  Zoo trips, museum trips, nature hikes, hands on activities at home and otherwise.  It's exciting to me to think that we don't have to spend every day confined at home while learning.  There are many places (the zoo being one of them) that have days especially for homeschooled children to come for a learning session.  I am hoping to be able to go outside the home on a learning adventure at least every other week if not weekly.  Then add in sports, organizations I'd like them to be a part of & playdates/meetups.  So my son will be out in the real world around real children regularly.

Another reason is because homeschooling is a more efficient way to educate.  A teacher (bless them - they really are underpaid for all they do) is restricted in what they can do.  They have to take long pauses for the entire class to do things such as: passing out papers/materials, collecting papers/materials, potty breaks, lining up to go outside, lining up to go to the library/art/gym/etc.  These things happen multiple times a day.  So you can see all these pauses adding up throughout the day.  So in just a few hours at home a child can learn all they would in an entire day at school.

Which leads me to another reason I chose to homeschool - more family time.  This helps families to bond & get to know their child better.  It also helps to further instill & reinforce family values.

Homeschooling is also a lesson in self discipline for all involved.  For the homeschooling parent who needs to be sure their children are mastering the lessons they're learning, being sure they're using their time wisely, being sure that they're creating many opportunities for their children to get out in the world while learning as well as time to socialize, etc.  As children get older, there are curricula that is more independent learning where the child has to learn to be a self starter and therefore learning self discipline.  Of course this happens slowly over time, little by little with guidance from the parent(s).

Another great reason - sick days.  If a child is sick they usually have to have their assignments sent home to keep caught up.  A homeschooled child doesn't have to miss a day.  If they do (because they're just too sick to focus) then it's fine if they make up for it on a Saturday or something.

Less distractions at home than at school.  There are exceptions to every rule, I'm aware.  However, in general since it is just the parent(s) and possibly sibling(s) at home there are many less distractions than with all kinds of other children around to pass notes, disrupt the class, etc.  Again, back to less interruptions in learning for passing papers/materials around, etc.

My kids can get one-on-one attention which can really help them. 
I can help teach them according to how they learn best - auditory, visual, tactile.  I already know James is more of a visual/tactile learner.  So I plan to do as many hands on projects as possible with him.  I'd like to look into joining a learning co-op later on for science to help him get that lab experience and I'd definitely like to have things like a microscope at home.

Kids can focus more when they aren't hungry or tired.  If my kids didn't sleep well the night before, then they can sleep in & catch up on their sleep before doing their lessons (not that this would happen often as part of being responsible for their learning is making sure they're going to sleep at a decent time).   I also remember my brother & I were ALWAYS hungry after school all through our public school educational career.  Sometimes I couldn't wait that last 45 min of school because I was hungry.  Was I really paying much attention that last class as a result?  Most likely not.  So my kids can grab an apple while reading their lesson or something like that.  Definitely a good thing to be able to do.

Never a snow day!  Which means they also don't have to worry about any possibility of their "school year" going longer than expected.  Although on the flip side, we don't have to do a long summer vacation if we don't want to.  We can take more time off here and there throughout the year instead.  Or there is just skipping half of the summer vacation in favor of "getting ahead" in comparison with their public school counterparts.

With better time management at home there is more time to go out and volunteer in the community - again going out into the "real world" and getting positive experiences.  This also goes hand in hand with teaching my children to have a giving spirit & a servant's attitude in accordance with our Christian beliefs.

Which leads into the fact that we can choose a curriculum that does not undermine our family's Christian beliefs.  In fact, we will choose curriculum that supports our Christian beliefs.  I still believe that they need to be aware of secular beliefs in science (particularly "the big bang theory") but from a Christian viewpoint.

I only chose to share the latter reason last because so many people tend to think that is the only reason Christians like myself choose to homeschool.  It isn't.  It is a strong reason why but it most certainly is NOT the only reason why.  And there is nothing wrong with this perspective.  Think of it this way - an atheist/agnostic/wiccan/etc is not going to put their child into a religious private school, correct?  Should I bash them for that choice?  Then why should anyone from those groups bash a Christian for choosing to send their child to a religious private school or homeschooling their children in a religious environment?

Also, I've seen many facts and figures that state that (properly) homeschooled children are just as prepared and many times better prepared for college level education than their public school counterparts.

Lastly, I'd like to say that my children will most likely get MORE SOCIALIZATION through homeschooling than through public school.  They can go out to volunteer, play sports, join an organization like Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, co-op classes, play dates, etc.

Here are some great articles to support me:

The only other thing I want to add is the fact that I completely respect teachers.  I *really* wanted to be a lawyer at one point.  When I realized that wasn't for me I wanted to be a social worker so I could help children.  After thinking it over more (I figured that would be too stressful & depressing a job) I decided I'd love to be a teacher.  I worked at a daycare for a couple years and even got my CDA (Child Development Associate certificate).  I also appreciate what school systems would LIKE to accomplish.  I just feel that in my heart I am being led to homeschool my kids.  At this point in time I feel it is the best choice for my children.  This isn't a choice I'm making because I feel teachers are bad or inadequate.  I think many of them are underpaid and some may have their hands tied behind their backs in what they want to accomplish because of school policies, etc.  Plus with proposed educational budget cuts - I figure not adding to possibly increasing class sizes is good for everyone all around.

Hello & Welcome!

Hello & welcome to my homeschooling blog.  This is where I want to share information & my experiences in homeschooling with friends, family & others.  If you have any experiences with homeschooling you would like to share with me please feel free.  I would love to learn from other homeschooling families.