Sunday, July 31, 2011

Summer Mornings

We've done a lot of playing this summer! Some new friends hosted a weekly play date and we have had a blast.

Sometimes there was a theme--here the kids are making things with sand clay.

Bubble day with dry ice bubbles

April even went and picked up enough big boxes for the kids to make their own buildings!

Alice in the cave

They had so much fun with this!

Alice and her new friend, Lydia

Some days we just played at whatever until the heat drove everyone home to their air conditioners.

Both kids loved the trampoline

I was impressed at how well Alice could walk in high heeled sandals!

Both kids thought the chickens were a lot of fun!

Many thanks to April and her family for some great summer mornings!

Friday, July 29, 2011


So remember how I got that video camera for Christmas? When we had the killdeer in our driveway last month, I decided I would take a video to show how it would run around and screech and act injured. I came inside to get the camera and couldn't find it. For the last month I have looked anywhere it would make sense to have placed a camera along with many places that would make no sense. I had given up and resigned myself to the idea that it must have fallen out of my bag somewhere and I would never see it again and I was going to order a new one when we got back from vacation. (Kind of embarrassing when your word of the year is stewardship.) Tonight, though, I was cleaning out my car trunk and there it was, full of videos like the one above (taken in March, when she started saying her name).

What does this picture have to do with anything? It was taken with my very first digital camera. The first Christmas we were married, Jay surprised me with an awesome Sony Mavica--this was when digital cameras were a much bigger deal and we were a much poorer couple. The following summer I got to go to the Teacher Institute at Colonial Williamsburg, and after a week of many long, hot days and late, humid nights, I dozed off in a cool, dark theater at Yorktown. When I woke up, my camera fell off my lap and would only view pictures, not take them.

I'm so glad this camera story had a happier ending!

Monday, July 25, 2011

School for Littles

(Jack at age 3 with his Caps for Sale matching game.)

Over the last few years I've been asked about homeschooling little ones many times, and after typing or saying the same things again and again, I'm finally getting smart and putting it all down in one place. Probably now no one will ever ask me again! But for those of you who have, here it is!

What Do You Want To Do?
There are many different schools of thought on early childhood education. Some people want to start kids with formal learning as soon as possible and others prefer to wait until later. (I lean more toward the latter.) Some people want to have everything laid out for them with a schedule and others want to do their own thing when it's best for them. (Do you even have to ask which one I am?) And of course there are parents who are looking for educational things to do with their kids until they reach school age and those who are planning to homeschool. All of that to say that your situation will have a big influence on what you are looking for.

You know what I think is the most helpful tip in homeschooling? Be organized. Yes, readers, this is the point where I realize I have lost all the notes I jotted down earlier. Perhaps the back of a wedding invitation envelope was not the best place to empty my mind. You might check back later to see if I've added anything!

What We Did/Are Doing
With Jack, we read, read, read, which is the best thing you can do for your child, educationally speaking, no matter what future schooling plans you have. We went to the library often, usually a couple of times a week since our library was so great. We went to zoo classes and museums. And we read, read, read.

When Jack was 3, I sort-of started "doing school" with him--I don't think that's necessarily something that we needed to do, but when you have one child and you're home with them, you've got to do something to fill your time and it might as well be educational. After all, you can only watch so much Nick Jr. before you want to scream. We were very relaxed about it and worked on letters and numbers and that sort of thing. We also started doing some of the stories from Before Five in a Row, using the lapbook pieces from Homeschool Share. He loved these and will still get these out to look at and reminisce. When he was 4, I had great plans for school every morning and we got off to a great start...until I got pregnant. It went downhill from there and honestly, he still learned a lot, because that's what kids do. We did pick back up and finish strong with some different Five In A Row and unit studies.

Being the second child, Alice does not get to the library or zoo classes or the museum as much as Jack did, but we still read, read, read, and she seems fairly bright, though she will protest if you tell her she is smart. Now that some of her old activities aren't as entertaining, this year we'll probably start with a set time for her to work on things with me in a very relaxed way. I am hoping the focused attention on her before I start with Jack might make it easier for her to move on while we're doing the second grade stuff. Really, though, she's probably going to want to get right in there and do whatever he's doing. It may be a long year!

Here are a few of my favorite resources, along with some rambling commentary!

Before Five in a Row When I first looked through Before Five in a Row, I wasn't sure what the fuss was. Really, if you're a halfway with-it parent, you're probably doing what's in here, but that's also the charm of it. If you're someone who isn't comfortable with the idea of teaching your child, here is a way to do it successfully and easily with some great books. We rowed most of the BFIAR books using the lapbook pieces from Homeschool Share. I'll probably start Alice with some stories from here later this year.

Read to Me & ABC This is a great preschool plan from Ami. Some of the stories are BFIAR stories, too.

Tot School I am not Carisa. You are not Carisa. You should not look at Carisa's blog and feel inadequate or like you need to do everything she does or you are a failure. What you should do is check out her great ideas and free printables and use them how you want. I know she can be a bit overwhelming to some, but her site is a great resource!

Making Learning Fun There are so many great learning and craft ideas here to go along with just about any theme you can think of!

PreKinders This is more of a classroom site, but I've found a lot of great ideas and printables here for use at home.

Mailbox Magazine You can probably find most of this stuff for free elsewhere, but I like to get something in my mailbox that I can flip through while the kids are in the tub or I'm stirring dinner (because I'm all old-school and have a phone, not a "mobile device") and there is stuff that I can use immediately. They have lots of different levels and you can get some of their old yearbook compilations for pretty cheap, too!

KidsSoup This is a subscription site I used when Jack was younger. They have even more things now, so I might think about subscribing again later for Alice.

Enchanted Learning This is a great site for older kids, too. There are tons of free items or you can subscribe for access to everything.

Teachers Pay Teachers I found this site this year and purchased several units. The link will take you to a teacher I have found lots of good things from, but you can search the whole site and find lots of freebies, too.

ToddlerToddler Way back before I even thought about homeschooling, I used this site for some fun games and activities for Jack, The shape game is sitting on our table right now!

Real Learning If you're planning on homeschooling, you need this book. I'm not Catholic and I don't have a large family, but I love love love Elizabeth Foss.

Heather's Preschool Post Whatever I've left out of this post, Heather probably has it. (By the way, my laundry game that is linked there can be found here. I just now sent a link to the commenters who asked for that. I'm a little slow sometimes.)

And of course, there are plenty of companies (Abeka, Sonlight, etc.) that will be happy to sell you a complete formal curriculum for your little, but I think your time and money will be better spent on books and play and going outside.

Anything I've left out? If you have any questions, please let me know!

Mysteries of the Universe

There are a lot of things I don't understand about the world. Why do bad things happen to good people? How can people stand lima beans? Why do I like to start huge projects that I have no desire to complete?

This was what my back hall looked like for quite a while this summer. I dragged every tub of school stuff I had inside and got it all out. I went through every book, folder, and piece of paper. After about three weeks, I was able to take the newly organized and labeled tubs back to the garage--except for the two I just can't bring myself to finish. I love me some early American history, but if I have to look through one more handout on the Susan Constant to see if I already have something with the same information, I.will.scream. So it sits.

Next week I'm taking the kids out of town so Jack can go to camp. And I've decided that the entire house should be clean by then. I certainly wouldn't want Jay and Boris to be bothered by dust on the top of the entertainment center--What if 21 months is as long as they can stand that? And the first month of school should be planned before we go, too, even if we have two more weeks after we get back to work on that. (And even then, it's not like we have to start on a certain date.) And while I'm at it, I should have all the stuff ready for the consignment sale. Maybe I should have decided these things before this morning...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Heat Wave

I've lost track of how long the forecast has looked like this. My guess is at least a month.

We've been staying in most of the time, but yesterday I took the kids to the splash pad.

Jack loves this one because of all the different spinners.

I love this one because the water and the playground are together and it's much easier to keep an eye on both kids. One loves the play equipment...

...and the other one prefers the water.

Testing the goggles

Jack did so much spinning he rode home with his head down and asked for a throw-up bowl when we got home. Thankfully he didn't have to use it.

While the kids were cooling off, I was trying to discreetly take pictures of this woman's haircut. I am wanting to get my hair cut off, but I'm scared of looking like Dr. Drew, so I'm trying to have some pictures so that doesn't happen. The heat will drive you to do strange things!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Leonardo's Discovery Warehouse

Yesterday we took another road trip, this time heading out west to Leonardo's Discovery Warehouse.

They have a HUGE playground with all sorts of nooks and crannies. There are sand and water areas, too, but it was so hot we didn't stay outside too long.

On one of the many slides inside the playground!

Inside was great, too! Can you spot Jack? He loved climbing in all of the tunnels--they are also on the left side of the brick wall, too.

He doesn't look very excited, does he? (This was inside the castle wall.)

Both of the kids liked the fishing. I had to stifle my laughter when the lady there told her granddaughter, "Grandma's just not a very good hooker!" Don't feel too bad about that, Grandma.

Alice liked the puzzle table.

Dress up time! Alice loves to pretend she is a ballerina, so we were excited to find this costume that was her size.

They had a painting area and a shelf full of supplies to create whatever you wanted--though they didn't have tape, which aggravated Jack. They also have a pottery area, but it was booked for an art camp, so we'll have to try that next time.

Test pilots!

Ever tried to get two kids into adult sized flight suits? It's harder than you'd think, and they don't stay in them nearly long enough to be worth the effort.

They had a whole area with air experiments that were a lot of fun.

Jack liked to stuff all of the scarves in at once and watch them fly out.

There are also several rooms of animals.

There's a little wood shop, too! This place really has just about everything!

Getting to use a real saw!

Putting those Lowe's skills to use!

Alice with her creation

The shopping area kept Alice very busy!

The best part of the day (for me, at least) was that we spent it with my friend, Angela, and her girls. We haven't seen each other in at least 15 years, so it was great!

Here we are in high school. We look just the same, don't we?

It was such a fun day and we have decided this will be the first of many road trips!