My 4 Ring Circus

Welcome to our final week of participation in the Not Back to School Blog Hop!  So far, we have talked about our curriculum, our homeschool set up, and our first day.  This week, we get to share a ‘typical’ day.

We currently have four children, a 7 year old 2nd grader, a 5 1/2 year old K student, a 3 1/2 year old preschooler, and an on the move 18 month old who wants to do everything the older ones do.  Homeschooling our four precious children can sometimes feel like a circus – Yes, you might even call it a 4 ring circus!

Kids 2009

It is difficult to admit this, but I am hoping that it will encourage someone else…  I have experienced a very trying and tiring first month as I tried very hard to fit everything in that I wanted to do with the kids.  It created too long of days and too little down time for both our kids and for mom!  I was a few weeks into the start of the year and I was already feeling burned out – Definitely, NOT a good way to start.  I felt that I was daily performing in a circus act in which I was dropping all of the spinning plates!

I am still adjusting things and trying to make our weekdays more manageable.  Here are some things I have done, so far…
- cut down on the number of days we planned to do certain subjects (specifically grammar, structured writing, and science)
-moved the much wanted weekly nature walks to an ‘as the opportunity arises’ basis
-simplified spelling (I actually did away with the separate workbook and am now using words from what she is already learning in her ETC phonics book plus a couple sight words each week.)
-said ‘no’ to additional things outside the home that sounded beneficial and good, but would have added stress to our week
-worked on developing a good ‘flow’ to our day (We are finally starting to get into a good routine!  We are not on a timed schedule, but we have our flow from one activity to the next.)

Our Day Wall Schedule

As a note, ‘workboxes’ take a large portion of our mornings as it involves the older girls doing independent language arts and math as I rotate meeting with them (for reading, spelling, etc.) and their younger brother for preschool.  Once they finish their workboxes, they are free to play as they wait for the others.  We do MFW Bible, History, and Science all together.  Art and music, is generally, just with our 2nd and K children with the younger two coloring and/or listening in.

To someone walking in, our days may still seem to be somewhat disorderly, but it IS organized, thought out, AND the kids are learning.

So, without further ado, here are the stars of our show…

In Ring 1, we have our 2nd grader!
Here she is working on some independent language arts or math from her daily workbox…
2nd workbox
reading and writing in her Bible notebook…
2nd Bible
and reading aloud to mommy (and our toddler, if she can sit still long enough).
2nd reading to mom

Ring 2:  Our kindergartner!
Our K child doing some independent work as well…
K workbox
She loves to read and share books with her younger siblings!K reading to T

Ring 3:  Our preschooler!
He can be found doing hands on educational activities or playing as his big sisters work with mom…
P nature collageP doing eraser tracers

Ring 4:  Our toddler!
She can often be found in her dress up shoes and pushing different items around in her big brother’s dump truck…
T and dump truck
or learning to color (scribble) and enjoying every minute of it!T coloring

I am also discovering that I need a large dose of grace for each day – both for myself and to pour out onto my kids.   There will always be diaper changes, discipline issues, a little extra loving from mom needing to be bestowed on our toddler, and occasionally asking an older sibling to play or read to the littlest one – things that sometimes just don’t seem to fit when we are in the ‘school’ mode.  I need to remind myself frequently that we are, first of all, a family that happens to school at home.  I can’t let the curriculum and academics take precedence over love of family and relationship building within the home.  It truly does ALL go together and, no, it is not really a circus here.  Hopefully, on most days, it could be called a well coordinated balancing act.

A Fun First Day

Welcome to part 3 of our participation in the Not Back to School Blog Hop! So, far, we have talked about the curriculum we plan to use this school year and where we ‘do’ school.  Today, we take you on a look at our first day of school!

Since, as homeschoolers, we don’t have the typical first day back to school requirements of needing to learn where things are, learning the names of all the kids in our class and playing getting to know you games, going through procedures for the cafeteria, rules for walking in the hallway, etc., we decided to have a fun filled first day to build excitement for the year!

Our ‘fun start Friday’ took place on July 3. What made this day extra special was that Daddy was home to enjoy it with us!

We began our day with a special number 1 (for Day 1) breakfast.  The kids had scrambled eggs spread out to form a numeral one, a strip of bacon, pancakes shaped as a numeral one, and tiger tail donuts that are long and skinny like a numeral one.  I know, I know.  It wasn’t very healthy, but it was something different and fun!  Each child had a sign on the back of their chair to indicate their ‘new’ grade level (2nd, Kindergarten, and 3′s Preschool) . Our oldest even decided that our toddler needed one for her chair, so she handwrote a sign saying ‘First day of toddler school’ and taped it to the back of the highchair!  They even had a new patriotic pencil waiting for them.  (It’s often the little things that can spark their excitement!)

breakfast

Next, we took our first day of school photos.  It took awhile to get all four of our ‘students’ to look in the same direction.

Take1 Kid Photo

My husband and I then assisted the kids in filling out their ‘favorite things’ sheet.  We have not done this in the past and we thought it would be interesting to see how their favorite things and what interests them change from year to year.

Next, the girls excitedly received their binders for our MFW History curriculum and used  stickers, ribbons, and crayons to decorate the covers.  These binders will hold all of their drawings, writings, words to patriotic songs, state information sheets, etc. as we learn about the United States this year.

The three oldest kids made a festive fourth of July craft.

Next, the older girls enjoyed their free choice reading time as the younger two got some read aloud time with Daddy.

Then, while at the swimming pool with Daddy, the oldest three practiced some things they had learned from their recent swim lessons.

We ate some homemade fourth of July fruit pops and then all of us took a field trip to go cherry picking for the first time!

Cherry Tree2

That was our first day and the kids had a blast!   Next week, as part of the Not Back to School Hop, you will get a glimpse of what a more structured, typical, school day looks like for us.

Hop on over to see other homeschool families on their first day!

Home + School = Homeschool

This is week two of the NOT Back to School Blog Hop.  Last week, we had a ‘curriculum’ hop.  This week is a ‘school room‘ hop! I’m also submitting this post for The Homeschool Lounge 2009 Open House.

So, where do we actually do our ‘school’?  As you can see from the photos below (mostly taken from last year) – just about anywhere and everywhere in our home!

Our kitchen island is a perfect spot for doing messy crafts, baking, science experiments, and any other tasks which need to be completed without precious toddler hands reaching for our work.

k island

The kitchen table is good for coloring, writing, workbook work, hearing Bible stories during breakfast, etc.

k table

In the living room, you might find us reading, watching a video, or playing a game to reinforce learning when the little one is napping.

Our office provides a comfy place to read next to lots of book choices!  Our oldest might also be working on typing up a story or putting her spelling words in ABC order.
office

In our basement, we have a large room divided by a partial half wall. The larger side is dedicated to a ‘playroom’ while the smaller side is a living room with space for schoolish type things.  On the ‘school side’ of the playroom, the kids can be working at the table on independent work, having one one one teaching with mom, reading on the couch, listening to a book on tape, doing calendar, participating in hands on literacy and math games (tucked inside the closet), or using the magnets and wipe board for word work.

b table work

b couch

b listening b calendar and closet

b wipeboard

We’ve even done school up in the bedrooms – finishing up on history read alouds during the younger kids’ rest times.

I feel that we truly utilize the space in our home that God has blessed us with.

Next week, join us for a peek at our first day of school!

Our 2009 – 2010 Curriculum

As part of the NOT Back to School Blog Hop, here are our curriculum choices for this school year.  This year, as we looked at curriculum, we had to consider the needs of our 2nd grader, Kindergartner, 3 year old Preschooler, and our adorable, but fast moving toddler!


Bible and Devotions (with the oldest 3 kids)

  1. Bible Notebook  – The older two girls read a section and then draw and write about it.  I read aloud to the younger two children and talk briefly about what was read.
  2. Hymns for a Kids Heart: Volume 1 – We hope to learn and sing one new hymn a month.
  3. Leading Little Ones to God

History / Geography

Adventures in My Father’s World from My Father’s World Curriculum is our choice for this school year.  It includes a Bible study of the names of Jesus, science (which we are modifying slightly since we did most of the experiments last year), history of the exploration and founding of the United States, a state by state study,  hands on projects, integrated narration and copywork, read alouds, and music which includes learning to sing patriotic songs as well as to appreciate the music of Tchaikovsky.

Science

  1. Sonlight Discover and Do Level 1 Science (experiments with light, water, and magnets)
  2. Nature Study – I finally have a copy of the Handbook of Nature Study by Ann Comstock and am going to TRY to incorporate a weekly nature walk.

Art

  1. Art Appreciation – We are continuing to use the Come Look With Me series.  This year we plan to use Come Look With Me: Art in Early America and Come Look With Me: Exploring Landscape Art with Children.
  2. How to Teach Art to Children (from Evan Moor)
  3. Draw Write Now – I’ve coordinated some of the lessons in books 2, 3, and 5 with the MFW learnings.  Our K student will only be doing the drawing portions, but her older 2nd grade sister will be expected to do the writing portion as well.

Reading / Language Arts /Math

our 2nd grader…

  1. Readers:  Abeka 2nd grade readers, Sonlight 2nd grade intermediate readers and then the 2A readers when she is ready, free choice reading on her own
  2. Explode the Code books 5 and 6 for phonics
  3. Building Spelling Skills -  I plan to just choose 10 of the words they have listed each week.  She also needs more practice with spelling sight words.
    (Update: We decided to just choose sight words, words from her Explode the Code lessons, and a couple words from her handwriting verse to make 12 spelling words each week instead of using the spelling book.)
  4. A Reason for Handwriting Book T – We plan to use half of this book for 2nd grade and the second half for 3rd.  This series has the child practice writing a few letters and words each day that pertain to a certain Bible verse.  Then, on the last day, the child copies the full verse neatly.
    (Update: In addition, I dictate the Bible verse to her three days a week.  I say the verse once and she has to write the verse correctly without help (spelling, punctuation, etc.).  When finished, she then checks her work against the original and makes any necessary corrections.)
  5. Grammar: Daily Language Review and Grammar and Punctuation (both from Evan Moor)
  6. Write On Target for Grades 1&2
    (Update:  We have used this sporadically and not each week.)
  7. Horizons Math (completing Level 1 and heading into 2)
  8. Flashcards
  9. Hands on Math games from Right Start

our Kindergartner…

  1. Readers: Abeka 1st grade readers, Sonlight readers (She is reading the first grade already and even the 2R and 2I levels on her own, so I will probably just let her pick each day what she wants to read to me.), free choice reading on own
  2. Explode the Code books 1-3 for phonics
  3. Hands on sight word spelling
  4. A Reason for Handwriting Book A
    (Update: In addition, just as I do for our 2nd grader, I dictate the Bible verse to her three days a week.  I say the verse once and she has to write the verse correctly without help (spelling, punctuation, etc.).  When finished, she then checks her work against the original and makes any necessary corrections.)
  5. Can You Find Me? (k-1)
  6. Horizons Math Level K (continuing from last year)
  7. Hands on Math games from Right Start

our preschooler…

  1. Bible and Rhyme for 3′s (not the full curriculum)
  2. Playdough mats, learning puzzles, hands on games and manipulatives
  3. Can You Find Me? (preschool)
  4. potty training  =)

our toddler…

  1. play, play, play =)
  2. books with mommy and siblings

Lifeskills and Extracurricular Activities

  1. The Quiet Art Series Lessons in Responsibility for Girls Level 1 for ages 6-8 (from Pearables)
    (Update:  We found this book to be just ‘okay’ during our use of it first semester.  Second semester, we plan to have a greater emphasis on sewing skills.  The plan is to work on beginner’s crosstitch, use out potholder looms, and then move into using the following two books…My First Sewing Book (Level 1) and My First Embroidery Book (Level 2) both by Winky Cherry.)
  2. Playing the Recorder – Our 2nd grader is using My First Hymnal and is doing it at home with Daddy.
  3. Gymnastics (oldest two girls)
    (Update: Second semester, we are switching to ballet!)
  4. AWANA – We have two Sparks and a Cubbie now!
  5. Some homeschool outings/ field trips with other families in our church.

Okay, that sure looks like a LOT all written out!  We began mid July and trying to fit everything in each week has been a challenge.   I think I’ve concluded that the curriculum we have chosen is appropriate, but the implementation of it needs to be adjusted (For example, how many days a week we try to do grammar or how the readers are scheduled may be changed a bit to make it more manageable.)  So, we may be tweaking here and there as our school year gets into full swing =)

Hop on over to see what other homeschoolers are planning for their children or share what you have decided!  I hope to participate in the other weeks of the Not Back to School Blog Hop.  Next week, it’s a school room hop!  Take a peek at where we ‘school’.



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