Sunday, September 29, 2013

September Family Update 2013

The summer has passed by and fall is here.  We have much to be thankful for as we'll be spending the winter in a new, permanent home!  For all of you who have been penciling in our many temporary addresses, now you can write this one in ink :-)  This week is moving week.  We formally close on the house Monday morning and then we'll spend the week packing, moving, de-cluttering (again;-), cleaning and getting ready for the big move on Saturday, October 5th. 

The Summer passed by quickly and the we're already 3 weeks in to our new School year.  The kids have been working hard on their school work and I've been keeping busy with homeschooling, caring for the kids, keeping things running smoothly at home and packing.  I can't tell you how excited I am to be moving to a "permanent" home again where we'll be staying for longer than a few months!  Below are some pictures from the last days of summer and beginning of Fall as well as a quick update about our family!

Phil's been really enjoying his work with the diocese in the Office of the New Evangelization working with young adults and spending time at the many different parishes who have asked him to come give a presentation from his "Menu" of options.  He's organized some great events already and is really enjoying the many and varied aspects of his job that allows him to work to his strengths.

We went to a fun "Family Reunion Day" sponsored by the Diocese and the kids all got a turn in the boat with Dad.

Even Thomas had a turn in the boat :-)
Miriam models her new swimsuit Aunt Jenny and I made for her at a trip to White Sands beach on Lake MI :-)

We are excited that William has already begun preparations to receive his 2nd & 3rd Sacraments.  He is enrolled in the CREDO (religious education) program at our new parish and is working hard to get ready to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (December 7th) and make his 1st Communion (May 4th).  He is a diligent and steady worker in school but his favorite activity is still spending time outside and riding his bike.  We are very excited to have a safe place for him to ride and a yard for him to play in again.  He's also joined a local "Blue Knights group" and is excited to attend his second meeting this week.  Below is a picture of him picking apples at a local orchard.

Miriam has really begun to be quite independent and has been helping out a lot more around the house.  I'm really grateful for her help and she loves taking care of her baby brother Thomas.  She is really enjoying having more formal schoolwork as a kindergartener and has been racing ahead in her workbooks.  She's definitely an eager learner and has already picked up a lot by watching what her brother has been learning!  She's also in Little Flowers this year and had her first meeting with 16 other young ladies.  What a blessing!

Miriam carries her art project, blue sash and badges for Little Flowers
Luke soaks up everything his older two siblings are learning and amazes us with his 3 year-old perspective.  He loves writing his letters and doing his schoolwork :-)  While we were doing the walk-through on Friday he slipped at our new home and landed on his arm.  Four hours later he was really complaining of pain in his elbow and was in tears so Thomas and Luke and I went to the local emergency room and Luke now has a splint on his arm.  Luckily nothing is broken, and while he still says it hurts occasionally, he seems to be able to use his arm just fine. I kept the two kid entertained by letting them take pictures and movies in the hospital room. 

Thomas, is keeping us all on our toes as he is quick to follow the others around and quick to get into mischief.  He loves to be outside and it will be so nice not to be so close to the street and to have some grass for him to walk around on!

Thomas is following in his siblings' footsteps and loves to read :-)

Two families and 11 kids = a ton of fun for Max's 3rd birthday! (2 not pictured - Thomas Lawson & the newest Bacon in the womb:-)

We were blessed to celebrate our godson's 3rd birthday at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary
We are grateful for the many blessings God has showered upon us and continue to marvel at His plan and seek to cooperate with it (and hopefully not get in His way:-).

Calendar Activities

Each morning we always begin our school day together with a Prayer, Pledge, Saint of the Day reading and then Calendar Activities. For our first two years, I had the Calendar Activities posted on the wall and the second year I read about and added a Calendar notebook to our routine.

This year, due to our temporary circumstances, we are just using our Calendar binders. Each child has a Binder with a Calendar page where they mark the day's date.  I also call it a "quiet work" binder because I intend to put activities they can work on quietly and independently in the binder while I'm working with another child.

William also has a page to write the date so he can get practice with writing the full date and "code date."

William and Miriam then "Make the Date" with money. I printed and laminated the coins from here (scroll down the page).

They then write (or put a sticker on) the number of days in school,

mark the day with tally marks and check and graph the weather.

I also added a Liturgical calendar page to encourage them to look at the color at Mass. I love that the Calendar Binder is an easy way to practice necessary skills on a daily basis and the kids enjoy this predictable and somewhat independent activity.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Some Helpful Organization in our Classroom

We have been a family in transition for the last year and a half and so our classroom has had several temporary homes.We will be moving one last time to our new home on October 5th (Praise the Lord!).

Thus our classroom organization has all been temporary in the three rental homes we've occupied.

Yet, despite our transitory circumstances, there are a few ways I've found it really helpful to keep our supplies organized and accessible.

We have our "workbox drawers" where I have often kept all the necessary teachers manual's and supplies for each subject organized, ready and accessible.  Right now, since I have a toddler who likes to empty drawers, my manuals are all conveniently accessible in their crate.

 For my son who is an advancing beginning reader, we have a word wall to help him practice his vocabulary and spelling words.  For my three year old, we have his letters up on the wall as well.  For both, we just used sticky tack to stick them up.

Because of our temporary circumstances, we only have one bookshelf in our classroom, but I keep it well stocked with library books for our current subjects.

I've put all of our puzzles in ziplock bags for easy storage and access for the children to work on during "quiet times" and have a few baskets out for my 12 month old to explore and play in while we do our homeschool lessons.  I've also posted a list with pictures of things my children can choose for quiet work.

We have a small math station, a religion "Mass/Prayer Corner" and a small table that is easily moved and used for projects. 

Plastic shoe boxes keep our various supplies organized and accessible but not easily dumped by my toddler.
To organize their supplies, each child has a crate by their desk to hold all of their school books, binders and supplies (our desks open on top so we don't use them for daily activities, just for storage of special projects).

To keep all of their papers in order,they have a binder where everything we save for the year will be kept.  I'll talk more about the binders as I explain what we are doing this year for each subject.

Much of our organization will change or be adapted to our new homeschooling space once we move but the beauty of our current set-up is that everything is easily transferred to a new location.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Schedule and How Our Day is Organized

On a typical day of school, after attending 8:30am Mass at our parish, we begin our day with prayer (Morning Offering and Ave Maria), songs (Good Morning Jesus and You're a Grand Ol' Flag), the Pledge of Allegiance and then the Saint of the day.

The children then work in their calendar binders followed by phonics, handwriting and reading.

 I generally work with Luke first and use the HWT blocks and chalk board to teach him a letter (then send him off to play) while William and Miriam work on their writing and phonics, coming to me for help as necessary.  I then listen to each child read a short story to me from our reading books and we have a short recess.

Our morning is extremely flexible and prone to interruptions from our toddler who on a good day just wanders around the classroom emptying crates and baskets and knocking down pencil cases.  On a bad day, well, at times there are multiple children in tears for various reasons.
  After everyone is refreshed from our recess and snack, we tackle math
and then proceed to Exercise (P.E.) Spanish/Latin, Religion, History/Science, Music, Story time, Nap time for Luke and Phonograms/Spelling for William and Miriam. Lunch and another recess are also inserted at some point before naptime but it varies depending on when we started school and how efficiently we have worked through the various subjects.

 Normally we wrap up our day before 2pm and have our afternoon free for a trip to the library or family project, errands or free playtime, walks or bike rides and chores.Once a week we may also spend the morning with friends on a field trip for some hands on learning in which case, I'll apply this to whichever subject area it fulfills and we'll have school before and after.

To help the kids know what to expect for the day and to help the older children work as independently as possible, I love the idea of Workboxes or at least the many adaptations I've read about on the blogosphere. Since my kids are all so young and we have a destructive toddler who likes to pull out things from bins, I had to come up with my own adaptation.

We used these nice little pictures on our schedule in past years but I was ready to give each of my children their own schedule and thought that it would be too much work to print out the little tabs times three, cut them out and laminate them so I made a schedule book for each of my kids.

 I found the mini photo albums at JoAnne's Fabric store (I also got some at the Dollar store around Mother's Day for our Holy Cards) - they are hard to find! I then just typed the name of each subject (4 subjects to a page in Word) and added a picture to help the kids know what to do during our school day. I then slipped the papers into the photo sleeve and it is easy for me to adjust their schedules as necessary for the next day without too much effort.

For subjects that alternate like Science and History, I just keep them in the same photo sleeve and extra activities that are weekly, like Library and Religious Education(CREDO), are kept in the back of the photo book until their appropriate day. The kids really like their schedule books and enjoy knowing what to do "next."

To keep things clear in my own mind, I have a block schedule and lesson plan sheet where I plan and keep track of what we've completed.  At the beginning of the year I made a year plan and planned out our four quarters and divided the subject material up that we need to complete this year so I can stay on track and to help me with my weekly plans.  I try to lesson plan ahead during the week as we complete work in class and make sure to finish my plans on Saturday or Sunday so our week goes smoothly.   I only plan 1 week in advance so that my plans are accurate since you never know what may come up :-)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Thomas turned 1 Today!

Happy Birthday to my little Thomas!  This little guy is eager to keep up with his siblings and like William and Miriam was walking  by 10 1/2 months old! (He's sporting a band-aid he earned today as a result of this hard-earned skill.)  He really enjoyed the balloons Grandma sent him and loved celebrating his special day with all his siblings and Aunt Jenny!

To celebrate Thomas' birthday we went to the Oneida Nation's big Apple Festival where he enjoyed the festivities.  We even got to see Rhia the Trick Horse perform.  It was fun to watch all of her tricks including praying, giving hugs, fetching a ball and water from a cooler, teaching the kids to dance and painting a picture!  The kids loved it.

We made two special cakes for Thomas' birthday both Gluten-free :-)  A smash cake for Thomas with no sugar added (not even in the frosting). 
And a flour-less chocolate cake for everyone else.  Which the kids helped decorate :-)  It had plenty of sugar.

Thomas really enjoyed his special day!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Our Basic Educational Philosophy/ Approach (The Why)

After deciding to home school, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the many, many options there are out there.  I found that Cathy Duffy's book 101 Top picks for Homeschooling Curriculum helpful because it describes the many styles of homeschooling, helps you identify what would best fit your family and then offers curriculum options.  The book was available at my library and I've checked it out each year as I plan curriculum best suits my children's needs.

In looking at all of the homeschooling options, I've found it helpful to be clear on the goals we have for the education of our children.  My desire for them, in a nutshell, is that they grow up to be well-formed, Catholic adults who love God, desire above all to embrace God's will for their lives(Vocation), are able to think for themselves, are able to discern and choose the Truth, love learning and ultimately desire to become saints. 

Because of my background and my desire for them, I prefer to use a classical education model since this has withstood the test of time and seems to me best suited to giving them a solid education.
The guides I have chosen for this education are "The Well Trained Mind" by Susan Wise Bauer and Laura Berquists' "Design your own Classical Curriculum."  I also insert Montessori and Charlotte Mason aspects often and use our own version of Sue Patrick's Workboxes to organize our day.

We love homeschooling because in the heart of our Domestic Church our children are free to encounter Christ, to be themselves, to have good friendships free of negative peer pressure and learn about the many good, true and beautiful aspects of God's creation and so find joy in learning. 
They have the freedom to blossom surrounded by love and encouragement. 
We have always been blessed with many friends who also desire this for their children and it is a beautiful gift for our children to have friends who also love and live their faith

Our family has felt called to embrace this beautiful lifestyle and we know the blessings and joys outweigh the struggles and daily trials of homeschooling.  I always try to keep our end goal and the many tangible fruits in mind when encountering the daily struggles of balancing the roles of wife, mother and teacher and the difficulties of little ones in a classroom or a child who struggles to master a skill or grasp a concept. It is a great gift to be able to witness my children's growth and those moments when the joy of learning shines through and I wouldn't change this for the world!