Sunday, August 10, 2014

So far, so good

Week one of school done and about to embark on week two! My kids were so excited the night before our first day that it was like trying to go to bed on Christmas Eve.

I had heard "Charlotte Mason" in passing but never really took the time to research her or her methods. I don't like to put myself in a box. I like flexibility and eccentricity. I felt that to get into a single method or "genre" would be limiting. But one fateful night when I was reading blogs I came across the words "Ambleside Online" and was hooked immediately. The way Charlotte Mason encourages strong minds and great character is exactly everything I'd have hoped for as a growing child and how I'd like my kids to learn. It leaves so much room for flexibility. It's not an online school (no assignments or grades to turn in) but a community and a free curriculum that other parents have devoted countless hours in creating and piecing together. 

Our first day of school started out with Bible reading and poetry. Then we did our other readings, copywork and art. We were done before 9:30. I sat there, dumbfounded, because last year we were doing school work well after lunch because of dragging feet and having too much work. Honestly I feel like we have a bigger workload this year with more difficult subjects/reading but the way it's all laid out makes it fun and makes it a breeze (thus far; I'm sure we'll have "those days").

We did miss our math curriculum this week, though. I ordered it late so I'm sure that'll tack on maybe 30 minutes? I'm not sure yet but maybe even less than that. One major thing that Charlotte Mason stressed was: QUALITY, not QUANTITY. We are taking an entire year to read a single book, to chew on it and weigh it and learn it. Of course the kids can whip through other "free read" books as fast as they want, I'm only speaking of the scheduled readings. And wonder of wonders kids begin to live the books they read by acting them out and using their imaginations and showing that they are retaining the information.

So far we're all loving it! They get their work done, we have tons of time to play outside, bake, build blocks and get imaginative. I have time to cook meals, get some of my business work done without stressing about finding time (like I did last year! And I get cranky if I don't find my work time!), clean and *play with my kids*. Isn't that part of why homeschool is magical? The special time we get with the kids?

Silas and Mommy hanging out on the porch:

 He's such a goofball! He just started making this face at me!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

This Year..............

The beginning of the school year is full of so much motivation, determination and spirit! By the time winter break rolls around you're definitely in need of the break. We are starry-eyed with the thought of all we will do this school year...

 We will bake and cook!

We will enjoy our new classroom setup!


We will make-believe...

We will play and learn sportsmanship!

 We will get outdoors...

And explore!

And pretend!

Make new discoveries (he's watching ants carry a peanut).

Enjoy God's beautiful creation...

Express ourselves!

Get messy and creative.

READ!

 And we will dance and care for our bodies!

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Our goals are to slow down, explore, learn many new things, dive deep into literature, take new chances that might be scary at first and just have fun.

Personal goals for Elaina (age 9) would be to practice better penmanship and writing, memorizing poetry and Scripture.

Personal goals for Abigail (age 7) would be to strengthen her reading skills and helping her to build her self-confidence. She needs to do an "outside-the-home" activity. She has shown interest in clay sculpture and piano (she got a weighted keyboard for her birthday and already taught herself a song just by listening to the notes!).

Personal goals for Zoe (almost 5) would be to allow for more freedom in expressing herself artistically, allow her more opportunity to help in the kitchen since she shows passion for cooking and to be more independent in age-appropriate ways (pouring her own milk, putting her laundry away).

***As a homeschooled child himself, my husband made it very clear to our kids that they had to choose an outside-the-home activity. He didn't get to do that and wishes he had. Elaina and Zoe both already attend a professional ballet school and ministry. Abigail needs to make a choice. The boys are too young but will get to choose something when they're older.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Just a Walkin'

This week has been a week of many firsts. Silas, 13-months-old, is officially a walker. He stands right up and toddles all over the house. Mostly following me around like a lost puppy, whining and crying for attention. His love language is definitely physical touch and he wants to be held constantly... or he's perfectly content to climb all over you the moment you sit on the floor near him.

He also says "buh buh" for bye-bye, signs "more" and "all done", will immediately stop what he is doing and get to the front door as fast as he can when someone says, "Is Daddy home?" He has got some serious dance moves and rhythm! He loves to shake his head no but has yet to say the actual word. He sleeps through the night *most* nights. He nurses maybe once a day and loves putting his hand down my shirt. Like he will get ticked off and keep putting it back if I remove his hand from my shirt. He now does it to other people, like his 9-year-old cousin and his aunt, when they watch him.


Oh my binky boy. He's so funny with these things. I tell ya - babies either really love them or really hate them. Elaina was a binky baby. My other three gagged on them, no matter the brand or size. Silas will speed crawl to his binky, pick it up and pop it in his mouth. At least he can keep it in his mouth on his own! Elaina could NOT. I was the mom driving with her arm stretched behind her to hold the binky in for Elaina or it would be nothing but screaming from the backseat.

If I pluck that binky from him he'll grab it right back, grin and put it back. Oy I don't look forward to weaning him from it but when the time comes... the time comes.


These photos are not edited. He's my little GINGERbread man! He may end up being my only blue-eyed baby. Zoe's blues have turned green. I hope his hair stays like this but I do notice it's getting blonder lately.


He's going to need a haircut very, very soon. I'm constantly brushing his bangs to the side.

Other newness this week: Judah wore underwear for a full day! He turns 3 in September so we're right around that potty-training time. He's had a lot of accidents. He's still trying to figure out all the sensations and trying to figure out how to hold it and then let go once he reaches the potty. I should time him sometime. I think he's sat on the toilet for about 40 minutes once. He just sits there looking at books, singing, talking to me, we'll watch Vines on my phone, etc. I've noticed that he pees when he cries.

The first time he sat on his Thomas the Tank Engine potty seat (it clicks to the regular toilet) he was sitting there for FOREVER. Momma was busy and starting to lose patience. Honest I try to be calm and sweet. But he started unrolling the TP when I turned around for a few seconds so I snapped, "Judah do NOT do that!" He started crying..... and peeing at the same time! It shocked him so bad he stopped crying and then we all did the potty dance.

Today one of his sisters made him cry so he started coming downstairs to get me and peed on the way down. So... yeah I'm noticing a trend here. Crying = peeing.

His obsession is Thomas the Train. So his potty seat is Thomas. He has a Thomas potty book that came with a Thomas potty-success chart and Thomas stickers, his underwear is Thomas... He got a big Thomas stuffed pillow/toy thing for choosing to be a big boy and going potty (carries it everywhere) and has a handmade Thomas pillowcase, handmade Thomas blanket, etc. I'm NOT a person who gets into the characters. But somehow 'the little engine that could' has weaseled it's way into our home BIG time.

I tell him that Thomas doesn't like to be peed on so he has to try to hold it and not pee on his Thomas underwear. He still makes mistakes and Thomas and Friends have needed a good cleaning but we press forward. I can see the anxiety in his eyes when he has an accident so I giggle and smile. He immediately melts into a grin and his eyes relax. I try to let him know it's OKAY and we can clean it up. Then I talk to him about how it felt when he needed to go and encourage him to try to do that in the potty next time instead. He always tells me a cheery, "Okay!" Not sure how much he's understanding but it's probably more than I realize.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Transformed Dining Room

Summer slump has hit so now is the time to do a lot of house projects that won't easily get done once school starts or the holidays hit. I bought paint for my dining room back in April or May and I finally got around to painting the dining room! I meant to do it Mother's Day weekend but I threw my back out. Then I had oral surgery, twice. Then I got a pretty bad respiratory infection. Gah! So fun, right?!

One night I just moved all the furniture out and got to work. In ONE night I primed and painted my entire dining room. I wanted my family to wake up and be surprised!

So here is the before (it's from Christmas - it was the only one I could find quick! I think organizing my photos is next on my Organizing Frenzy). I HATE how the red blends with the woodwork. It's just all so blah!



 So it's dark and I'm using my iphone here to take pics. I started cutting in with Primer. The room is so big that by the time I come back to my starting point it is dry enough for me to do the next phase...



Primed and ready for some paint! It already looks massively bigger... and brighter!


Had to take a selfie, of course. Wasn't even tired... until I got to the last couple walls with the second coat of paint. You can see the first coat going on behind me. I don't use painter's tape. That's how freaking awesome I am. Or lazy. Whatever.


Tada! It's a light, pretty green. I think it's called Willow and it's a Glidden paint I think. I just painted it and already my mind has moved on and I don't remember. This was right before I turned out the lights and went to BED!


In the daytime, such a pretty and bright room now. No longer a cavernous pit of sadness.


Isn't it fabulous?! I'm so proud. I took a very long time, weeks upon weeks, to finally choose a paint color. I'm so glad the first one I chose worked out. Those little paint swatches don't always look the same once you blow it up to life-size on a wall!


I have some lovely valances being made by an Etsy artist with this fabric:


Next up? Not sure! But it's exciting planning it all out!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ambleside Schedule 2014-15

(Note: In case you're coming in on this post with no clue what I'm talking about... Ambleside is a free online curriculum utilizing Charlotte Mason's ideas for teaching children. It is created by homeschooling families for homeschooling families. The only part that isn't free, unless you get all your books from someone for free or at the library, are the literature books and regular school supplies. The curriculum and schedules they put together are *free*. This isn't an online school that is taught via video or whatever. It's a homeschool resource for parents.)

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When I first looked at Ambleside I was really confused. Beyond confused! (They're redoing the site so it'll be cool to see how it turns out!) But the more I read, the more I started to piece it all together in my mind. Making schedules is one of the hardest things for me. I feel like I need structure and a timetable but at the same time it makes me feel really restricted if I have to do things at specific times.

So with that in mind I did not write down what TIME we'd be doing anything in the schedule. By leaving the time off the schedule I am open to move things around and start our school day when it is best for us to start and mold it around whatever may come up and interrupt. With a lot of smaller children who are not yet doing schoolwork and with running my business I have to keep a schedule that is more flexible.

I have 36-weeks already mapped out with weekly work and it was just a matter of figuring out how to disperse the load for the week. Best way to do that is to write down the daily work that you do, well, everyday. Then divide the weekly stuff between MWF and TTh.

We are doing Year 1 and Year 3. And of course 0 but my 4-year-old is pretty savvy and a quick learner. I have a feeling she'll be in Year 1 soon. She'll definitely be listening in on the work we're doing and taking part of a lot of it.

Monday/Wednesday/Friday
Wake/Dressed
BREAKFAST
Bible
Poetry
History (M: US, W: Geography, F: World)
Natural History Literature
Copywork
Math
LUNCH
Art/Handicrafts
Recitation (F)

Tuesday/Thursday
Wake/Dressed
BREAKFAST
Bible
Poetry
Nature Study/Journal
Storytelling/Fables
Copywork
Math
LUNCH
Music (T: Composers, Th: Folk/Hymns)

The rest of the day is freed up to explore, create, play, do chores, make meals, independently read, etc. Hopefully it goes well enough that we're actually done well before lunch but we will see. I left the creative parts for last so if they extended well into the time that I need to devote to work the girls are free to continue on their own.

My mom-in-law will be doing school on Wednesdays again which is another reason I had a hard time coming up with my schedule but I decided to pencil Wednesday in as though the kids were at home with me (especially as sometimes there are sick days/snow days where they'll be stuck with me anyway, ha!). The parts they can't miss or she won't have them do at her house (chapter reading) will just be something they do before they leave for Nonna's house or makeup later... She does a lot of handiwork with them (crochet, knitting, baking, sewing, etc.) so that's a huge part that she is doing that I'm not good at. She won't do what I am doing because it is fun for the kids to learn in different ways AND she still covers the subjects that are important (she DID homeschool her four kids so I trust her!). She enjoys coming up with stuff for them to do and they love going over there. I pray they never tire of going to Nonna's house to learn and bake and sew.

Any other homeschool families out there? What are you considering or decided on? What years are your kids doing school? Have you done Ambleside's curriculum or are you considering it? Would love to hear what everyone is doing. Feel free to post links to your own posts about getting organized and prepared for school!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Homeschool 2014-15

Who knew planning school could be so time consuming? I feel like I've been at it, on and off, for weeks now! In fact I've been trying to organize many areas of my life these past weeks as well... because I have felt so chaotic. So it's actually been more than just school planning.

Time to straighten up and get my act together! I heard of Erin Condren via a friend. If you have heard the name then you know what I am about to say: planners. Not your planners of old, no way. These are almost like scrapbooks. People are going nuts with washi tape, colorful pens, stickers galore! It was RIGHT up my alley. But I guess EC is having some major customer service issues, not to mention the price was a little steep for me. So I found an alternative on Etsy called Plum Paper that is $20 cheaper. I saved up and finally got my planner purchased. I'm on pins-and-needles waiting for it to get here. I'm queen of the To Do lists. It's the *only* way I keep it all together when I'm pulled into so many different directions.

I also found these presentation folders on Amazon, in different colors, to actually make the girls some workbooks with printables that I found online. But I grabbed one for myself in order to file all the recipes that I'll need for my new, handy-dandy menu plan that I'm still putting the final touches on (ugh, seriously need to just get 'er done). I used my Dymo 4XL label maker to create a label for the folder and now I can't stop. I'm making folders for everything.

 Ta da! My "Master Book List" file with about 70 pages of lists of books, separated by subject in alphabetical order and labeled by age/grade. You can find it HERE to print. Lots of subjects and book ideas. Some books aren't ones I would ever choose, though. Just because it is on there doesn't mean you have to read it!

Then I have my recipe book. I used tabbed dividers to separate recipes into their respective places. Recipes are ones I've found online, printed and used my three-hole puncher to place in here. I created this to go along with our monthly meal schedule. Right now I'm making one menu that we will use every month. Once we are comfortable with how that goes  I'll add other menus to rotate out. You can read more about what inspired me to do that at Raising Olives. My menu does include dinner. And our shopping list will include everything we need to make wholesome foods as much as possible.

And then the blue one is our classroom schedule/curriculum that I printed off. I will be getting tabbed dividers for this as well so I can separate Elaina's stuff from Abigail's stuff as they'll be doing different schedules. You can see the inside of one page below!


The above is from Ambleside, a free online curriculum (and support network) put together BY parents FOR parents, specifically ones interested in Charlotte Mason's method of schooling. So what exactly will we be doing this next year? I think to answer that you'd have to know about Charlotte Mason's method. If interested you can go HERE. The hard part for me, the schedule, is already done and just printed off. Abigail will start with Year 1 as she is not strong in her reading yet. Elaina will start with Year 3. The years aren't based on what grade a child is in. A student finishing high school at Year 9 of Ambleside is still above the average of what other senior graduates were taught in public school, for example.

I'm still unsure of a lot of things but the foundation is laid. Now I need to nail down our math and we should be golden. I'm thinking of using Math U See because math isn't my strength either. Gee maybe that's why calendars and grids and planning are hard for me, ha!

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On a side note: I'm selling some used curriculum off at Homeschool Classifieds (search user: JoyRenee to find my list and then email me if you see something you want to purchase! Or try HERE as it may lead directly to my list). Perhaps I have something you need for your own unique school!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Judah-isms

Sometimes I go out on the front porch to photograph jewelry (natural light and all that jazz - I'm usually in pajamas, too, so I'm sure the neighbors think I'm super weird taking macro shots of jewelry on a slab of stone with frizzy hair, pjs and cute kids banging on the door at me). 


 My littlest man is jabbering differently now that he's hit that first birthday! Lots of buh buh buh buh and he tries to say "uh oh". He signs "more" and "all done" (that or he's just flailing his arms excitedly... who knows!). He loves his table food. Down to nursing him in the morning and before bed, though sometimes there's a little impromptu nursing session in there during the day. He mostly eats what we eat now if it is soft enough. He's also learned how to throw fits. He does the whole back-arching, stiff-as-a-board thing when he doesn't want to be put down, screeches and he'll throw things when he's mad. PERSONALITY is coming OUT! Watch out now! 


I think he's going to need a hair cut soon!

Judah is approaching birthday number 3 in September. The potty training battle is quite drawn out and crazy right now. He's peed in the toilet ONCE. And that was like last week. He's very stubborn and just refuses. I don't want to push. *breathe* He WILL learn... After the stinkers I've had to change this past month, though, I hope it is sooner rather than later.

Judah says the funniest things. I always call him "my boy". I'll say, "Where's my boy?" and "I love you, my boy" all the livelong day. I also call him CUTE and HANDSOME (of course!). Well apparently he thinks that I am ALSO handsome and oh so cute. And apparently I'm HIS boy. "Mom, you my boy! You so handsome!" He cracks me up!

He's also learned the blame game.

"Judah, did you do this?"
"No, Zoe did!"
"Juuuu-daaaaaah...?"
"No, Zoe did!"

He actually speaks really clearly and has a huge vocabulary. He never stops talking until he's asleep. I love watching him play. He is really into imaginative play now. I love watching him pretend he's a monster (or shark or dinosaur or train) while wearing high heels, pink sunglasses and a headband (it happens when you have three older sisters... deal!). He goes and goes and goes. He's the Energizer Bunny. I'll have to try to remember some more funnies that he, and his sisters, say! I used to write them out on Facebook and even here on the blog all the time but I don't FB anymore. I need to put them somewhere... I've already done the "Now which of you kids was it that did/said this?" that moms do when they have so many kids that they start mixing up details.