Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Month 1 of Homeschooling on the Books!

The start of gymnastics!
This past week, we were overtaken by a summer cold, so the weekly post had to wait until my head cleared out :)  Little bean started her extracurricular activity for the fall and I'll have more pics and video to follow.

I've been thinking a lot this week about how homeschooling is going so far this year.  I'm very new to the idea of homeschooling.  I remember in my early 20's being adamantly against homeschooling....then little by little, our family was led to it.  It started with some fellow preschoolers with major attitudes and led to a 4-year old preschool experiment and now we're getting into the real school years.  At the beginning of the year I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to teach her as well as a classroom could.  My conviction that this is the right decision for our family grows stronger every week. 

We started the school year the first week of August this year.  We'd had plenty of vacations this summer and it was time to get going on reading, writing and arithmetic.  The little bean is in kindergarten this year, so the whole focus of the year is letter recognition, letter writing, number recognition, number writing, learning to read and learning basic math concepts.  The focus leans heavily towards learning to read phonetically so that in first grade, she'll be able to do all her subject work by being able to read the assignments.

My favorite free resource of all the resources I've found is ProgressivePhonics.com.  It's free, you register and print off wonderful story books and activity sheets to encourage phonics-based reading skills.  The stories are hilarious to small children and little bean looks forward to the printing of a new book like it's a dessert.  The characters are great and they're just the best resource for encouraging that genuine wonder and love of learning. 

Progressive Phonics has been the basis of our reading curriculum this year.  It's working out very well and we're already through sounding out half the alphabet in stories, so we'll be looking for new resources to start probably at year-end. 

Little bean has been starting to really get the idea of sounding words out.  Those moments when I watch the wheels turn and then the right word comes out are priceless.  The first time she sounded a word out, I thought, "we really can do this!".  As priceless as it is to watch the more formal schooling end of things progress, the bond we are developing is a treasure.  Sometimes it's a struggle to try and get all the chores and exercising into the day and feel like I've given her the kind of day she wants and needs, but sometimes it all just comes together. 

This morning I woke earlier than usual.  I'd done tons of chores yesterday, so the house was in good shape.  I made some pancakes, then little bean and I sat down to read, do number flashcards and a few activity sheets.  Once we'd finished with lessons, it was only mid-morning, so she put on her swimsuit and we went down to a new local park with free sprinklers and cool playground equipment.  As we were loading up to get in the car, she turned to me and said, "I'm so lucky you're my mom".  I didn't get much cleaning done today......but we couldn't have had a better time together. 

As I reflect on this month of kindergarten, sometimes I have felt like she's missing an experience so many other kids have and worry about how her life will work out, whether she'll be happy and sucessful, etc. 

But then I breathe.  I think about these moments that we are sharing and I know I will never regret this bond.  I will never regret spending time with my child over all the things I could be doing for financial gain while she studied away in school.  Sure, she would be happy in school.  Sure, I feel the need to go out the way to ensure my only child (not always, God willing) has plenty of peer group experiences.  Sure, we would probably still be close even if she were in school all day.  But when I am old and gray and she has started a family of her own, I will never regret giving her all I had to give while she was a child.  I will never regret spending her childhood with her in every moment I was able.........and that's why I do it, because I feel so blessed and honored to be her earthly guardian that I can't imagine not spending this time with her.  I am blessed.  I am blessed.  I am blessed.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Look Back at Summer 2010

We've just finished our third week of homeschooling.  It's hard to believe summer has gone by so fast.  Here are some highlights from our summer, including a cross-country trek:

Filling up the inflatable pool in June:

A summer birthday:

Every year after her birthday, I think to myself, "boy, that was a lot of work! Not sure if I want to do that again!".  But then, every year, it's so fun to get together with family and friends that the fun outweighs the work - most of it long-overdue housework :)

This year we simplified from a cookout to water games and cake and ice cream.  It was a blast!

She was queen for the day in this birthday crown courtesy of the dollar store.  She pulled out her favorite dress and we used barrettes to keep the crown on.

She had a great day - which is really my only goal for any birthday boy or girl :)

One of her favorite, and most used gifts was this bike.  She went through a growth spurt this year and really outgrew the bike she got at 3.

She uses this bike three times a week to go on a 45-minute bike ride while I walk with my neighbor....I guess that could be considered homeschooled gym class :)

My dad, fondly known as Papa to his grandchildren, took the grandchildren and children that were available for the day on an outing.

The girls had a great time riding the train.  Such a common experience for so many, it was the highlight of their week!

On our train joy-ride, things got a little silly waiting for the return train.

It was about a 20 minute wait and the kids entertained themselves accordingly :)

Another part of our day was visiting my grandmother in the nursing home.

We were surprised by a visit from my great aunt.

It was such a nice coincidence!

Also on that day, we stopped by my grandmother's former home (now passed on in the family).

We have generations of pictures taken in the front of this little yellow house and we kept the tradition alive with a shot of the cousins, the fourth generation to be captured on this front lawn :)

 My oldest brother gave her this vest for her birthday.  She didn't take it off for about a week!

Fortunately on this day, it was very handy at the state park :)

She and her cousin went exploring the wildflower fields and even used the binoculars to examine their surroundings.

Some of the little proof available that my husband wasn't trapped at work for all of our adventures - just most!

He got to spend some time at the park with us thanks to holiday weekends :)

Here he's being the favorite uncle/best dad of the day by helping the girls climb onto a tree stump they REALLY wanted to explore.

Following our adventures at home and on day trips, we headed west......very far west.......hours upon hours west to my oldest brother's home.

Before we left, my dad the deacon, offered a blessing for our travels.  We went through many, many, many, many rain storms (at least one every couple of hours on a day-long into the night trip).  At the very end of the storms as we approached our destination, this was the view outside our care (taken by my copilot!).

If you look closely, you might be able to see the arc of the second rainbow of this double beauty.

When we reached our destination, we took several day trips around town and a few hours away.

One of my sisters was so mortified by the hats that she quickly offered to take the picture of the rest of the gang.

This picture was taken for the benefit of one of my sisters-in-law.  Christmas around her isn't just an event, it is THE event!

Here's a picture of my fellow road-trippers plus my niece that lives in the area.

My road warriors accompanied my thousands of miles across the country to visit family and have adventures!

One of my nieces should win an award for being the only one able to contort her face without the use of her hands.....

My other niece is so embarrassed by the rest of the gang that she's actually in the process of jumping out of the picture when I snapped it!

Silly faces reigned in many pictures for the rest of the day......

As did other silly poses.

In this shot, I believe she is queen of the mountain :)

Letting the cold water from a mountain stream run across her feet, she is enjoying her day in nature.

We had such a good time, including a picnic and a scenic hike through stream-laden foothills.

We ended the trip by driving south, very, very, very far south!

In this picture, my daughter is talking things over with her newest cousin, Pickles :)

After this stop, we headed north and east for home, road-weary but happy for our adventures!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Weekend for Family

We're blessed to have family in the area.  Many of our family members live within 20 miles.  It's nice to have the babysitters and the community that family provides.  This weekend was a time for family.  We celebrated two momentous occasions on my husband's side of the family.

On Saturday, we took a short trip to the next town over for a 60th wedding anniversary celebration on my husband's side.  His grandparents are celebrating the actual anniversary later in the year, but this time of year was great for everyone to get together, outside of the holiday rush.  It was a great gathering of family with four generations present.  To the left is a picture of the bride on her wedding day in 1950. 

Below is a picture of some of the grandchildren and a great-grandchild playing together.  They range in age from 18 to 5, but all had a great time together :)

One of my favorite things to do at family reunions is talk....it's one of my favorite things to do in most cases!  I spent so much time talking and catching up with family, I didn't take very many pictures, but it was a great night!

On Sunday, we headed 3 hours out of town for a baptism.  We took many trips of this length to visit my grandparents when I was a kid and it was such a nice day trip.  We got to see tons of family over the weekend that we only usually get to see at the hoI made sure to take plenty of pictures this time around. 
Getting ready for the party

Mother and Daughter
An intense reader!
The happy family following the baptism
Cousins catching up!
Great-Aunt enjoying the moment     

The first time I met my husband's family, I was a little startled by the volume of their festivities.  This weekend was no exception.  My husband's family was lively as ever, playing an intense game of soccer following the luncheon - something we all miss out on when we gather for Thanksgiving or Christmas in the MidWest!

The adults going full force

I only see 1 kid in this picture....
The teams included adults and children and were divided boys against girls.  It came down to the final minute.....take a look!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Getting Started

I know, everyone has one......

In some ways this feels very arrogant, but even if no one else stops by, I'll have a place to organize all my favorite things :)  I've decided to start a blog - for my family and friends mostly.  I'm sure it will get more sophisticated as I learn the features available.