Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Year-Round v 9-month schooling

Some of you may have questions about 9-month school years vs. year-round schooling. I know I did when I first thought about homeschooling. Several years ago, in fact, my aunt was teaching a public school that was year-round. I thought they were absolutely CRAZY!!!! There was no “summer vacation” for the kids, parents or teachers. However, as the year progressed and we talked about how she liked it, things began to make more sense. She noticed that with only 3-4 weeks off at a time, the kids retained SO MUCH MORE information and really started to excel in their school work. It was impressive to say the least (she worked at a low-income school w/ very difficult family situations). That has stuck with me and really played a HUGE part in my decision over this year to convert to year-round schooling. So, here’s some of the reasons and how we’re going to do year-round at our house.

First and foremost, one of my biggest reasons for converting us to year-round is the structure and consistency it provides in our family and daily routines. Tyler (as well as my other two) is a VERY routine child. He wants to know what’s coming and when, how long it will take, etc. We still have rough days, especially on Monday’s after a lax weekend, but he’s doing better. He knows that Monday – Friday are school days and he has papers and reading to do. Sometimes they get done in the morning and other times we do them when the babies are taking afternoon naps. Either way, he knows what’s expected of him. Some days our chores come first & other days school does. It kinda depends on the babies in our house too. For instance, today my babies were extremely fussy & M did not take her morning nap. So, we are doing school this afternoon. I’ve learned to be more flexible in this area, because frankly I was going CRAZY trying to make everyone fit where they couldn’t. It works for us! Some families are more structured and rigid in their daily routines and I applaud you!! I think as our family grows that will be become more and more necessary. So, we’ll see how this evolves over time.

Another reason we’ve decided to do year-round schooling is the fact that we can pretty much take off from Thanksgiving until January with no adverse effects!! This past Christmas season I began a seasonal candy making business. I was WAY busier than I thought I would be and I already have people asking if I’m going to make it again this year!! I may have to “up my game” and figure out some more recipes to add to our list!! I thoroughly enjoyed making the candy, but with all the mess in our kitchen & the constant flow of orders it was pretty much impossible for this “nearly single” momma to fit school in too! Plus, we were way ahead of anything required for Kindergarten, so I didn’t figure there was any harm in it.

I also like that we can take a “vacation” whenever we want!! We are NOT restricted to just the summer months, which are extremely difficult for my husband to take off at work. He works for a large company right now, but even with the number of people that work his same shift & can fill in there are limitations. Another reason I like taking “whenever vacations” is that the summer months are SO VERY HOT around here that we would rather go during the Spring or Fall when the weather is “less extreme” and more mild temperatures.

And, the last reason is that we are expecting baby #4 in August. Specifically, August 11th is my tentative c-section date. If we followed the local school calendar, we would be in school for about a week and then off for probably close to three!! That would not be good for our family or for the 5yo. This way, we’ll officially finish Kindergarten in May and have a week or two break before we officially begin First Grade. (Okay, writing that out makes me kinda sad! I will have a First Grader!!!)

Okay, before you think I’m a CRUEL parent by making my kid do school all summer long, let me tell you it’s not gonna be that bad!!! I promise!! For the past several years I’ve volunteered at a Music Camp that the church we attend puts on. They’ve done it for quite a few years and it has grown tremendously. We used to do one HUGE camp and now we’ve had to split it into two camps! Last year was our first year to do that and we had a GREAT turnout & wonderful feedback. (If you really want to know more about it, just ask me!) Anyway…the kids and I will be at both weeks of Music Camp this year (one in June & one in July), so that will break things up a bit. We will NOT do school during those 2 weeks. This momma will be completely worn out by the time we get home & eat lunch each day. (Remember, I will be 7 & 8 months pregnant at this point!!)

We are also enrolling him in a couple College for Kids classes at our local Community College. A couple are math related and a couple are science related. I’m super excited about him getting this opportunity to expand his “knowledge” of those subjects and possibly getting a different outlook on them. I’m also hoping it will “spark” some interest in him with Math. He is so quick to “get” math that he gets bored very easily. One of the classes is called “Hands-on Math” and I hope he really enjoys it!! So, he will have a break from the “normal” routine for at least 2 weeks each month, even if it’s only a couple hours a day. We will most likely do the other subjects not covered at his class so we don't fall too far behind, but it will be “light” work (a few worksheets, nothing major).

Another way I “lighten” the load is by doing school work 5 days a week. I know with most year-round homeschoolers they only do 4 days a week, but like I mentioned earlier routine is KEY in this house! Plus, he does not like a lot of paperwork, so rather than piling it all into 4 days, I spread out our lessons and thus, our paperwork. It seems to work well for us.

So, there ya have it!!! Year-round schooling in the Breedlove household!! Hope it gives you some ideas and ways to make homeschooling work for you and your family!

Happy Schooling!!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Becoming a "real" homemaker!!

I hope you don't take my title the wrong way. I am just realizing for myself that simply doing the laundry & getting food out to eat was not enough for me. I want to be more. I want to be the Mom that cooks from scratch & teaches her daughter how. I want to be the Mom that can manage a house full of kids, laundry, dishes, cooking and manage to stay "sane" at the end of the day. (That last one may take a while, just so you know!) So, here's the start of my journey...

I have recently begun seriously baking & making things from scratch. You can ask anyone who knows me well and they will say they are honestly shocked at some of the things I’m making! You see, I have a few things that absolutely make me squeamish. I mean, they make me shutter to the point that I couldn’t handle touching them or handling them to even cook. It really put a damper and HUGE restriction on what I could make. One of those things is RAW meat!!!! I CANNOT STAND IT!!!! In fact, my aversion is so bad that at a Pamepered Chef/Homemade Gourmet party I hosted a while back I could barely touch the meat in the baggie that I was preparing for the freezer! I mean, I didn’t even have to touch the meat itself, but I could feel the squishy-ness of it and that just completely turned my stomach! UGH!!! So, now fast-forward about 1 ½ years and here we are. I have touched raw chicken (today in fact – not for the first time, but again), I still have not touched hamburger meat or ground turkey, but…we’re working up to it! (maybe) I have made several roasts where I’ve had to marinate them myself and so, I would say I’m quite proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished!! It may not seem like much to you, but trust me – IT IS!!!

In a previous post I mentioned how I use various charts in my house to help make things run smoother (in theory, of course). One of them is the Meal Plan chart for our week. I have since revised it to a monthly Meal Plan sheet/calendar, because my 5yo would constantly complain that he did NOT like whatever I was making & he’s never had it before. This monthly chart gives me the ability to look back & say, “Well, 2 weeks ago we had this exact same thing and you LOVED it!!!” Then, he would argue that he didn’t remember eating it and maybe that was a night his Mimi took him out! REALLY?! Where do they get these things? So, now when he eats something, we write on that date that he either liked it or loved it!! It’s working GREAT to detour his negativity at dinner time. Things are going so much smoother now!! (NOTE: This is the same calendar that I put our monthly activities on & post on the fridge for everyone to see - not that they look, cause they still ask, but at least it's there!)

So, now on with what else I’ve made/baked. I’ve found many crock-pot recipes that I enjoy and I will share those soon. When we didn’t have a working oven, I started searching for things we liked to eat, but in a crock-pot recipe. I found a TON of things you can make in a slow cooker that are easy, quick & so much less hassle than getting the entire kitchen dirty! I love them!!! But, I must say, I have thoroughly enjoyed having an oven again. I’ve baked BBQ chicken (yes, I touched it & basted it myself), homemade pizza pockets (find the recipe I use here at Heavenly Homemakers), homemade bread and MORE!!!

I am enjoying becoming the homemaker God wants me to be. I hope to continue sharing with you all about my journey on this path. I will work on posting some of the slow cooker recipes I’ve found that are our favorites. Keep watching!!!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Curriculum choices for Little T

Okay, as promised I am giving you the limited curriculum choices for our 2yo. Curriculum for the 2yo, you may ask. YES!!! Start them as early as possible!! The more they soak up now, they better off they will be later! That’s my philosophy anyway. They are sponges in these first precious years of life. So, give them all you can!! Go for it!!

Now, let me clarify a few things. We will most likely have a set aside time for his “schooling,” but with him still taking naps it may fluctuate from day to day. Just wanted you to know that we don’t have a perfect household and we’ll go with the flow around here (as much as this momma can stand anyway)! ;) So, here is what we’ve chosen:

Book work - As I mentioned in my previous post, Tyler went to a fantastic preschool starting at the age of 1. He did great when he actually started curriculum at 2yrs old. So, we’re going with what they use this year to see how it works. We are going to use the A Beka Two Year Old curriculum. They work on numbers and coloring for this age, which could prove challenging enough with little T. He wants to “color” when bubba’s doing his work, but it is VERY short lived – so we shall see how this goes! Anyway…specifically we are going to use Numbers and Skills with Button Bear and Learning Numbers with Button Bear.

Flash Cards - Now, A Beka does have flash cards that you can also get to use, but we already have some, so we’re going to stick with those. I recommend having several different kinds of flash cards to use. First, I recommend number flash cards. These will only reinforce what you’re teaching in their book work time. Second, I recommend have just letter or alphabet cards. I use these. Personally, I don’t like the ones with pictures on them as I think that can be confusing for kids. I would choose ones that are just Letters. Now, where the words and/or pictures come in are the Sight Words cards. I use these. I love the ones we have (we found them at a garage sale - SCORE!!). They have a word with the picture on the front and then just the word on the back. We have already started using them with little T. We are currently working on just naming the pictures. Then, eventually they will begin to recognize the word along with it and finally they will be able to recognize the word by itself. I LOVE that!!!

Big Skills for Little Hands series – These are GREAT!!! I’m hoping to get at least the I Can Color! for Toddlers book this year. We’ll see how that one goes before we progress to the others. There are 4 total in Toddler series: I Can Color!, I Can Cut!, I Can Paste! and I Can Trace! I am thinking that for this year we’ll work in the I Can Color! book for extra practice and mix it with our A Beka Curriculum. I will probably do I Can Paste! next, but will wait until he’s closer to 3 to attempt that fiasco in the making!!

Videos & TV shows – First, let me say that TV time in our house is very limited. And, second, we are extremely picky about what the kids can watch. Now, that being said, we will use a variety of videos/tv shows in our curriculum that will actually suit both of our boys. We watch a LOT of PBS in our house and so some of those shows are played throughout the day as well. Some of our favorites are Signing Time (my new favorite!!), Word World, Sesame Street (little T especially likes Elmo), Super Why, Sid the Science Kid, Between the Lions and The Cat in the Hat knows a lot about that. There are a few others that I allow Tyler to watch, but as I’ve already mentioned it is limited. We do own some videos that they watch, but again they are PBS shows on video! We have several Elmo videos, which little T especially likes. They teach many different things and then we talk about some of those teachings with Tyler (since he’s older & able to comprehend the “moral of the story” things). We also have a Sid the Science Kid video and a couple Bob the Builder ones. I am not a huge fan of Bob the Builder (mainly because I can’t stand the theme song), but I must say Tyler and I have had some great conversations about sharing, selfishness and stubbornness from them – so I guess they’re not all that bad. We also have a variety of Biblical videos, but I will discuss those in another post. (Just didn’t want you to think we we’re not teaching our little about the Bible – WE ARE!!!)

We will also do music time for both boys, but again that will be in another post. I have so many things to say about that subject, so I will stop here! ;)

So, there ya have it!! Our choices for the 2 yr old are complete. I am optimistic about this year (we’ll begin in June officially – again, I’ll discuss why in another posting). If you’re thinking about starting up some teaching at home, I hope this helps you with your choices. Feel free to comment or make other suggestions! I’m not the expert by any means. These are just what we’ve chosen to do that will work best for us! There are so many options out there!!! Just start exploring and go!

Many Blessings!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

First Grade curriculum choices

I don't know how many of you will actually care what we chose, but I wanted to put it out there for you just in case. Even if it helps just one or two on their decisions, its totally worth it!! It's been a very LONG and difficult process to make these decisions. Mostly because Tyler is advanced in several subjects (math & reading) and in others we'll just be starting for the first time as he enters 1st grade (okay, now that I type that out I'm a little sad and amazed that my oldest is entering 1st grade! WOW!!!). So, as much as I'd like to go with a single curriculum (for ease on me & planning purposes), it’s much more cost effective for me to use several different ones. There are so many options out there, which only contribute to my confusion & stress level when trying to choose the “BEST” curriculum for us. But, nevertheless, I made it through and I’m pleased with our choices.

Now, I have included links to each of them. Most of them I am getting from Timberdoodle for several reasons. 1) they have flat rate shipping of $4.75, no matter the size of order! 2) they are offering FREE shipping on orders over $120 (which could likely be me this time!) 3) you earn “Doodle Dollar” points, which help you with future purchases!! WIN-WIN!!!

I must also say that I decided on several of these based on recommendations from a friend of mine, Crystal. You can follow her blog (she’s much better at posting than I am) here. She is on several different curriculum review groups & does quite a few reading reviews. She has been a GREAT resource to me this year and I’m grateful she has more time than to do some of the research I could not. However…I didn’t choose the same things she did just because we’re friends. I thought they were GREAT choices & would be a great and natural fit for us this year. (I will write some of my observations about our first year of schooling in another post.) So, without further ado, here are our choices!

Handwriting – This year has been a real struggle for us in the area of handwriting. Since he attended a GREAT preschool program, he came into K already knowing how to write his first & last name, the entire alphabet along with their sounds, some blends, counting 1-100 and MORE!!! When I began researching school curriculum last year, frankly I didn’t know where to start. So, I just went with a book & quickly realized that one was not for us. Then, I just moved on to printing things from the internet to get him writing. We soon realized he HATED writing!! He complains about it daily. So, this year I set out to find something that would give him purpose. He needs to have a reason to write what he’s writing. Which is why I am absolutely in LOVE with the A Reason for Writing series!!! We don’t need to do the K book, so we’re starting with book A/1st grade. Not only are they reasonably priced, the Teacher’s guide is too & works for all 6 grades!!! WOO HOO!!!! (I know this is getting long, but trust me it’s worth it!) The reason I love this series is because it incorporates Scripture with their weekly handwriting lessons! Then, they give them something practical to do with it. It’s wonderful!!! You can find a sample lesson here. Check it out!!!

Geography Tyler has always enjoyed going places. He always wants to know the names of streets, cities, highways, etc. A couple years ago, while riding in my parent’s car, he noticed the polar directions were on their display. He began asking what they stood for. My dad told him about North, South, East & West and then they began naming what direction they were going each time they turned. This continued when he got in our car, which did not have a display. Amazingly he was still correct! So, I knew this year we needed something to help him read maps, know his directions, etc. I began looking at a series by Evan-Moor. The Beginning Geography is what I saw and I immediately loved it! But, as this year progressed I realized that might be a little too simple for him & he would get bored too quickly. So, we’ve decided to move up to Daily Geography. We’re also going to get the Beginner’s World Atlas, so he can begin seeing where things are in the world. I like this series because the maps are reproducible!!! That’s a homeschoolers dream! I’m so excited to get started on this series with him. You can also check out sample lessons for Beginning Geography here & Daily Geography here.

Science – this is Tyler’s absolute FAVORITE subject!!! Mine – not so much! ;) But, we do what interests our kids, right?! All I know is that when it comes to dissecting things – he’s on his own! (Or I’ll find him a tutor! LOL) We did a few things this year in science, however, we both need more guidance and I think this series is going to give us just that. He has been very interested in space, stars, astronomy-type things this year and wants to know more than I can give him. So, we’re going with Apologia’s The Young Explorer Series, Exploring Creation with Astronomy. We’ll also use the accompanying Junior notebooking journal (coming this summer). My friend Crystal is also going to use this for her oldest and I thought maybe I should really look into it. I have seen them at our local Christian bookstore and browsed through them, but didn’t really think much of it until I saw she also liked it. That gave me more motivation & confidence in my original thought/choice. I showed him this series and I thought he was going to come unglued he was so excited!! My parents & grandparents both have telescopes – so he is pumped and ready (and so am I)!!!!

Math – Okay, so this was my MOST difficult decision. Tyler has always liked numbers. Before we even started homeschooling last August, he was adding things in his head & sorting things into groups to add them (& essentially multiply them too). I was amazed and knew that if we could teach him how to do it on paper he’d just take off. And, well…I was right!! He picked up addition in no time & then we moved onto subtraction, which took a little longer. However, he’s got it now. So, I didn’t know what else to do but move on to First grade work. So, we’ve done money, double-digit addition & now he’s working on fractions! ARE YOU SERIOUS?! I had no idea what to do with him in this subject. I absolutely LOVE that he’s picking it up so fast, don’t get me wrong, but AAAAHHHH!!!! So, I had gotten the last half of a book from someone to use. He’s just flying through it, but he absolutely loves the lessons (we actually do 2 a day). So, we’re going to continue on with that series. I think by the time we start “First Grade” we will be in book 2, but nonetheless we are going with it. So, the name of our choice is Horizons Math.

History – Okay…I take it back. THIS was my MOST difficult decision. But, not for the same reasons as math. Simply put…I don’t like history – or at least it was my least favorite subject in school. I have been absolutely dreading the day when I had to pick a history curriculum. I looked into several different ones and was not impressed. Frankly, some of them covered waaaaay too much material in my opinion for a first grader. As I researched, I realized that my schooling just covered the “highlights” from history, which I vaguely remember. I want my child to know and understand things that went on in history. I also want to teach it from a Christian perspective. I think the Mystery of History does both!! I’m so excited about this series!!! (Again, a recommendation from Crystal!) Check out sample lessons here on their website. Right now, they are having a sale on the curriculum and its actually cheaper than Timberdoodle. So, when I’m ready to purchase our curriculum, you better believe I’m gonna buy it where its cheapest! ;)

Reading – Well, as I’ve mentioned before, Tyler has become an avid reader (for a Kindergartner anyway). Once we learned our blends & how they fit together with vowel sounds, etc. he took off and has been reading ever since. I will admit, I cried the first time he read an entire sentence by himself! ;) I was so proud! Last summer I had purchased several A Beka readers at a garage sale and I really liked how they built upon each lesson. It worked so well for him. He’s now reading his 8th first grade reader!! He loves them (despite what he tells me most days). He thinks he’s ready for a chapter book, but he wants his first one to be The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe!! WOW!!! Quite ambitious for a first grader, don’t ya think?! After he read 2 pages, I talked him out of it for now. His attention span isn’t quite there, so we’re going to continue on with the A Beka first grade readers that we have and then move into the second grade readers. I think by the middle of First Grade he might be ready for his chapter book again, but for now we’re going to stick with short, simple stories!

Bible – I will be honest. I have avoided buying Bible curriculum because I thought we could just do it ourselves. I mean, my husband and I both graduated from a Bible college – so we should be able to do it, right?! WRONG!!! I mean, we could do so much, but I have just felt like he needed more. We’ve started morning devotionals for him, where he reads from his Bible (on his own) and then reads the accompanying story and we talk about it. Find what we use here. But, I just feel we need to have something a little more structured/school-like for him to really get it. So, we’ve chosen Apologia’s (yes, I love them) What we believe series, book 1 Who is God and can I really know Him? for this year. I’m so excited that it also has an accompanying journal & coloring book, should we choose to use it (which we probably won’t because he’s not big into coloring). The journal & coloring book are not available just yet, but they are coming soon. I love that they are teaching kids from a Biblical Worldview!! This is exactly what we’ve wanted for him and I can’t wait to get started!

Foreign Language – Okay, so now you probably think I’m crazy!!! Well, I just might be! HAHA!! I saw this series when I was browsing on Timberdoodle and I left it up as a joke for my husband. I thought he would think I was absolutely NUTS for wanting to teach a 5-6yr old Greek. However, just the opposite happened!! He loves it!!! In fact, he and I are going to join in the fun and take it too!!! This is a 3 yr series and he thinks it will be so beneficial for us (adults) in our Bible study time and for our son (and others as they get older) as they grow in God’s Word. I can honestly say I’m a little nervous, yet excited that we’re going on this journey together. I like that this series allows you to buy extra workbooks so we can each have our own!!!

Grammar helps - I have also thought about using a couple of musical helps for us in this area. Learning parts of speech & such can be tricky and difficult to remember, so I've been thinking about using one of two items. The first is called Intelli-tunes by Sing & Learn. The other is Grammar Songs also by Sing & Learn. From what I can read, Intelli-tunes is basic grammar words & like an intro into it and Grammar Songs is when they are actually learning more about their functions and even ready to diagram. I'm still researching these two products, so I will let you know what I decide.

Okay, so that’s it!!! Whew!!! Those are our choices for First Grade. If you’re homschooling now or even thinking about it, I hope this helps you get started on your journey. If not, you’re probably not still reading this! LOL Don’t worry…I’m not offended!! I do have curriculum picked out for Tucker too, but since this post is already so long, I will put it in another one (hopefully later today).

Thanks for sticking with me through this post and Happy Schooling!!!