Thursday, December 15, 2011

Homeschool Woods

We finished up 5 weeks of preschool on the woods before Thanksgiving. I waited too late to write this so I don’t really remember many thoughts or feelings about those 5 weeks. I do want to write about a conversation I had with a friend today who expressed interest in homeschooling her child but said she just wasn’t sure if she had the right personality for it. I’ll preface the rest of this paragraph by saying I think school choices for families are very personal and I am so thankful each of us in America has the opportunity to choose what we think is best for our own children. My husband and I are not in a position to decide what is right for any other family accept our own. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I don’t believe that you have to have a certain personality in order to teach your child at home. In the short time we’ve been doing this, I’ve been blessed with a wonderful community of other homeschooling families, and it’s been beautiful to see how each mom has their own style in how they teach their children. Some are “fly by the seat of their pants” type who can turn anything into a learning activity anywhere anytime of day. Some prefer lots of structure and order to their day, they study certain subjects on certain days. Some of us are somewhere in between. It’s easy to look at another family and think, “I can’t do that.” And maybe you can’t do what their doing, but God made you your child’s parent and you know them better than anyone else in the world. You can figure out how to teach your child if you have the desire no matter what your personality is like. We don’t all have to be the same!

If you look at a blog like mine and see a small window into what we’re doing and you’re discouraged because you think you couldn’t do it like this, the great news is... you don’t have to! You don’t have to be like any other family that you see. You are free to create your own rhythm of what works for you and your children.

If you hear God whispering to your heart about home education, I would encourage you to continue asking Him about what that would look like for your family. I would also highly recommend the book, “Education the WholeHearted Child,” by Clay and Sally Clarkson. It’s the best book I’ve read on the subject, very comprehensive.

Okay, now back to the woods! Since I don’t remember much, it’s all kind of a blur so I’m just putting in pictures and a description of the pictures.

Homeschool Woods

Some of the library books we enjoyed.

More book about woods we read.

We love the magnetic wall Elijah painted for us. Enoch identified animals and Abby read the word and turned the card over.

Abby created her own scene for her woodland animals to live in. Lots of pretend play went on here at her desk, I love it!

Filling out her animal notebook page

“Making Words” file folder game...I love Pinterest.

This was fun! We turned leaves into animals. We turned some into ornaments to give away for Christmas.

Abby made her own “tree book” out of paper lunch bags. Too cute, again love pinterest! She wrote and drew about the different parts of a tree.

Elijah took Abby and Enoch on their first “Father Child Campout.” He’s hoping to make this an annual event. They had such a great time! They roasted hot dogs and marshmallows for dinner, drank hot chocolate, and had pancakes and bacon for breakfast. They were super cold at night, but they have wonderful memories of their time together. Elijah said was really impressed with all the leaves and trees that Abby could identify. Ezra and I stayed nice and warm at home together.

Enoch and Abby made up their own “Donut Shop” game. In this picture, Enoch was the store keeper. Abby had a dessert plate with a vowel on it, she used coins to buy a donut, then laid the donut over the vowel and read the word. A perfect math and reading game! The abacus is from the “Right Start” math program we are using. She used this to help her count the correct amount of money.

For a reading incentive this time we put up a tree with fall leaves. For each book she read she took a leaf off. There was supposed to be a reward at the end when all the leaves had fallen, but we didn’t finish it before it was time for Christmas decorations to go up. Oh, well!

This was my favorite part of the 5 weeks. We spent a lot of time outside in nature knowing that winter was coming soon and we wouldn’t be able to get out as much. Abby’s been identifiying and pressing leaves in her journal. She writes the date she found it, where she found it, the name of the leaf and sometimes something interesting that she read about the tree in her field guide.

We were collecting some leaves in the parking lot of Publix one day (we needed some for our animal/leaf craft last minute, Publix was handy)! A man in a service van stopped us and asked if we were working on a school project. I said yes we were. He said, “I want to know what school she goes to because my daughter doesn’t learn anything like that in school, nothing practical, their just teaching her to take a test.” I told him we were teaching her at home. We proceeded to have an interesting conversation. He asked a few questions about it and had thought that you had to have a college degree to homeschool.

Beautiful mushroom she found, look at those sweet little hands holding it! We brought it inside, cut off the stem, put it upside down on a piece of paper, covered it with a bowl and waited a few days. Then we lifted it off the paper and saw the pattern that the spores had left.

Throwing rocks in the river on the trail in our neighborhood.

Using a bird call she earned at the Nature Center Trade Station. The Warner Parks Nature Center has a program where you can bring in an item from nature, tell about it and receive points. The more you know about the object, the more points you get. Then you can save your points and trade them in for prizes. She’s gotten several field guides, stamps, and now a bird call, how cool! It really works, they answered her back.

My favorite memory during this time. As the wind blew, we’d all run trying to catch the leaves in the air that fell. We also played a fun game we made up: tree tag. We’d play chase, then I’d call out a word (deciduous, coniferous, broadleaf, evergreen) and that would be base. So they’d have to find the correct kind of tree and get there in order to be safe.

LOVE the nature center. Here’s Abby and Enoch setting out birdseed for the birds and squirrels.

Here we are behind the bird blind quietly watching the birds to eat the food they’d set out (accept for the times Ezra was making a few screams!)

There have been a few times when Elijah has taken all three kids hiking on the weekend so I could have time to work on something or to take a break. Sweet, special memories with their Daddy.

Nature walk activity

Ezra loves to put anything in and out of containers.

Enoch’s still not napping, so at times he falls asleep on the couch. Ezra wasn’t even able to wake him up.

I made a busy box of acitivites to occupy Ezra. Have I mentioned I love pinterest! This is just a bunch of sponge rollers he takes the plastic part off, when he gets older he can thread it back on, a precursor to threading beads on a string.

Enoch doing one of his busy bags: making polygons

We had hibernation day when we learned about bears. We set up a tent inside and read books about bears in the tent. They pretended to hibernate during the winter, then woke up super duper hungry bears in the spring time.

They had an indoor smores snack.

Owl craft

When learning about bees, I hid a cup of nectar (juice) inside of the flower pot. They used straws to suck the nectar out of the flowers and transferred it to their hive upstairs. This proved to be a little messy, but that’s okay, it was fun!

Sucking “nectar” from flowers.

My favorite field trip was visiting Beaverdam Creek Farms, who deliver our CSA basket each week. It was so neat to see where the vegetables we eat come from. We especially enjoyed visiting the farm with two other families from our neighborhood. The children planted lettuce seeds in the greenhouse. Our kids play regularly with these children. Yes our children are social and have regular interaction with others! (that’s always a question asked of homeschoolers).

Picking and smelling herbs.

Trish shows how they weed the rows in the garden.

Hayride down to see the cows and more of their property.

Abby attended a Warner Park Nature Center class, “Budding Botanist.” We are so thankful for the many wonderful and FREE programs the Nature Center offers.

We visited the local fire department to learn about fire prevention. After we toured the station, met the firemen and got an explanation about their equipment, one of the moms led us in some fun games and crafts reinforcing what we learned. My favorite activity was when they crawled low under the smoke (a sheet that moms held), used a phone to call 911, used a “fire extinguisher” (silly string) to put out a fire, then ran to a mailbox to wait for an adult.

A group we are a part of visited a nursing home to encourage the residents. The children recited two poems and sang some songs, then passed out cards and visited with the residents.

My grandmother, “Moni” and Abby looking through old family photos.

We enjoy having friends over to “do school” with us, too. Micah, Owen and Abby played a math game together and read about the concept of a Googol. Micah LOVES numbers!

We had friends over for school one day. They did christmas crafts, math games, reading activities, recited poems and scriptures, decorated Christmas cookies, played and stayed for lunch. So fun!

Math games

Decorating Christmas cookies.

These homeschoolers get plenty of social interaction! They make up all kinds of elaborate stories to act out using costumes and all!

Neighbors here for math games.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

We took a break from learning about animals during the week of thanksgiving and turned our focus on the history of the first Pilgrims. We had some fun hands on activities to add to the great books we checked out from the library. We are SO thankful for the library. Our family is known at the library as the laundry basket family. We almost always check out the maximum amount of books we can. Someone finally clued me in on the fact that my children can have library cards as well, so now we don’t have to be so choosy about which books we get each time. It’s too hard to carry all those books in a bag while carrying Ezra and keeping the others close by, so I found this cool basket at Target that has wheels on it. We attached a rope to the handle, so now it is the much loved library book basket. The kids pull the basket full of books so I can have my hands free to hold Ezra. You can hear us coming, we’re not the quietest people at the library...oops, oh, well. The staff seems to think it’s cute rather than annoying, so that’s good. ; ) They did say we were one of the most frequent visitors. Shouldn’t we get a prize for that or something? Like frequent fliers on airplanes?

We went to Cheekwood to see the scarecrows and their cowboy exhibit. Nana joined us.

Cheekwood Indian

Ever since shortly before last Easter, we’ve had a little “prayer corner” for the children. It sits right next to my “prayer chair” as it is affectionately called. I was inspired by A Holy Experience to create a repentance box, and from that we extended it into a place for them to have quiet time right next to me. 

Abby has her Early Reader Bible which she reads on her own aloud to me. She has her own prayer journal. I sometimes give her a journal starter. She can then write or draw about the writing prompt. Some examples of writing prompts we’ve used are:

  • What are you thankful for?
  • Think of times when you drew near to God today (meaning times when you wanted to do the wrong thing, but you stopped and asked Jesus to come near and help you do the right thing).
  • Tell God about your feelings (pick from the list of 8 basic feelings that are listed in her journal)
  • Think of something in nature that reminds you of a truth about God.
  • “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” How has the Lord been good to you?
  • Draw a time when you were afraid. Now draw a picture of where Jesus was with you during that time.

We also tweaked an idea from Mustardseed Preschool where Enoch currently attends and where Abby attended for the 3, 4, and 5 year old class. They have devotions every day where they recite Bible verses and memorize the children’s catechism through song. Once a week, they have mystery box. So we have a mystery box now where I put an object inside. I’ve used pipe-cleaners, a butterfly, a heart-shaped locket charm; it can be anything. She opens the box and then we each write or draw about how it reminds us of God. It’s so sweet to see the amazing things she comes up with on her own and to see how God is drawing her near to Him in their own special relationship.

We do not currently have a routine about when we use our sacred space. We go through seasons when we use it quite a bit and times when we don’t. We usually have to wait for a time in the day when the boys are napping or when Enoch is at school.

I forgot to explain the repentance box. You can read more about it at Holy Experience, but basically there are business cards and a pen laying out at all times on the tray. Anytime someone in our family would like to repent and have a conversation with God about the wrong they have done, they can write or draw a picture of their sin on the card. Then they talk to Him about it and ask for forgiveness. When they’re finished, they place the card in the box. At Easter, we take all the cards out and see the multitude of our sins, the blackness of our hearts, and our deep need for Jesus. Then we burn them. Showing how Jesus took them all away. We don’t use this as a punishment and never force anyone to do this, it is an optional thing. There are times when I do encourage them to spend some time there and what they do with their time is up to them. This has been such a powerful things for Abby and even Enoch. I usually sit with Enoch and show him what to do. He tells me what he did and what he would like me to draw for him. Guess what. I even have a few cards in their, too. ; ) I don’t write mine down nearly enough!

In case I’ve left the impression that I’m a super peaceful gentle person that handles every sinful situation in our home this way, let me quickly correct that. This is what I do on a good day and what I desire to do on each day. The majority of the time I’m doing all the wrong things (yelling and shaming). I’m 99% positive I am messing them up and that they will need counseling. But, I do believe God made me their parent and that He knew the specific ways that I would screw them up and He will use that to show them their need for a savior. Hallelujah! Is it sounding a little preachy here? Let’s move on...

The story of how I got our repentance box is a neat one, you can ask me about it sometime. I think I’ve written enough already for today.

Elijah made this amazing Mayflower ship out of an old refrigerator box. The kids had a great time reenacting the story of the first pilgrims based on the books we read about them.

A tiny bow and arrow! Another pinterest find.

Books we enjoyed about the first Thanksgiving.

My sister and her family came to stay the night. My grandparents came over and they had a great time playing dominoes.

We traveled to my parents house where we enjoyed a wonderful early Thanksgiving dinner.

Pops, Nana and the grandkids (Minus 1- Joshua, my other California sister’s son)

We made kitty cat pumpkin pancakes using blueberries, strawberries and apples when our cousins were here.

Trey showing Enoch how to build a card house.

A family picture of just our immediate family.

Wonderful dinner! Not only was the food great, but we also had great conversation as we marveled at how the Pilgrims made it through their first winter and each person had a chance to say things they were thankful for.

The cousins, Zack, Trey and Abby being silly!

Sailing their Mayflower boats on the continent twister map that I made last Christmas.

The kids made little Mayflowers out of walnut shells. The idea came from here, love this blog: cultivated lives.

I have a 4 week break planned for Christmas. I’m really ready for a break, but I’m wondering if it will be too long. We may sneak a few days in here and there, but it will be nice to have any pressure off.