Saturday, October 15, 2011

Homeschool Rainforest

Our second round of homeschooling this year has been a bit more of a challenge.  We’ve been dealing with some sleep issues with the boys.  Sweet little 3 year old Enoch has not been napping.  During his napless days, he’s been causing quite a ruckus by coming in and out of his room, even going into the baby’s room and waking him from his nap.  All the while this is going on, I’m trying to do the hardest “school stuff” with Abby.  You can imagine my stress level rising and I was not a happy mama.

Enoch has not only stopped napping, but he also continues to be an early riser and wakes all the other sleepers in the house.  In an attempt to remedy this sleeping situation, we’ve been playing musical beds.  We set up a pack n play in our bathroom, which Ezra slept in at night, but he couldn’t sleep there during the day because Elijah works in our closet.  So, we borrowed another pack n play and put it in the upstairs bathroom for naps.  At one point, Enoch was so exhausted one day I asked if he would like to sleep in Ezra’s crib since no one was using it.  He said yes and as I laid him in the crib he said, “Thank you, Mama.”  I think he was missing the boundaries of a crib.  Since then, Enoch is back in his toddler bed,  and Abby is sleeping in Ezra’s crib, Ezra’s upstairs in the bathroom.  Hey, I’m all for it, as long as people sleep.  We’re learning to be flexible!

So, it’s been a bit of a zoo around here.  The children all took turns not feeling well with a cough, so we had at least one very whiny child for a little over 2 weeks. This was a wonderful opportunity to remember that it's okay to abandon whatever I had planned to learn. The lesson for these days should be about how we can care for whoever is sick. Sadly, too often I give the impression that the little boys are a nuisance when they wake from their naps because we weren't finished with what we were learning. The far more important lesson I'm teaching is through my attitude. I pray that I can begin showing how precious these little ones are. I was very convicted and encouraged by this article:

I am so glad I had a break scheduled for this week because that helped me press on through the last week.  A lot of days the house has looked like this:

I’ve learned to make adjustments about some expectations as I’ve taken on a new role as teacher. One of those is lowering my standard of cleanliness. I can't do everything, and I'm learning to be okay with that, which is really difficult for a perfectionist loving person like myself.  I’m a very "listy" person, I like to check things off of my “to do” list.  Sadly, before homeschooling, my children never made it on the list.  Yes, we did some fun things, I didn’t neglect them, but cleaning, cooking and laundry were always on the list, they never were.  Sometimes it even felt like they were in the way of me accomplishing my list.  Now that we’re homeschooling, they’re number one on the list, and that feels good, even if it means my environment feels a little chaotic to me.  I’m learning to adjust.  I wish I wouldn’t have waited this long to put them at the top of my list.

While learning is our top priority, we can’t just let the house turn into a complete dump, so we’ve been working on being a team, working together to get the jobs done.  We’re taking it slow and doing one task at a time, trying to be successful at it for a period of time before adding a new task.  For the last 8 weeks or so, all three children have been unloading the dishwasher each morning.  Ezra and Abby work together and Enoch puts the silverware away.

Of course, the excitement of a new task wore off a few weeks in.  So, we started talking about our team, Team Manor.  We’ve added some lightheartedness to the task by coming up with our own team cheer and after we complete our jobs, putting our hands in and saying, “1,2,3, Team Manor!”  Even little Ezra gets excited when he sees us put our hands together.  Yes, it sounds a little silly, but everyone seems to catch on to the team spirit and the excitement of belonging and contributing to our family.  I want our home to be the place our children want to be the most.

We started adding our next task, doing one load of laundry each day.  Abby usually helps with this task, here’s Enoch getting a lesson in how to fold laundry.

I’ve used a really helpful book, “What Every Child Should Know Along the Way: Teaching practical life skills in every stage of life” by Gail Martin.  It has a chapter on practical livings skills that lists each age and tasks the child should be able to complete during that year.  I was going over the list of what a 6 year old should be able to do with Abby and she became really excited to know she was old enough to make sandwiches and toast.  So right then, I taught her how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I get so used to doing everything for them and forget that they are becoming capable of doing things on their own.  One day as we were getting ready to send Enoch off to school I listed off a long string of tasks that needed to be done in the next 20 minutes and I didn’t know how I was going to get it all done. Abby volunteered to make Enoch’s lunch, and she did all by herself!  This book also has a chapter on Manners and Personal Safety.  During our tea time we’ve read a few points from each of those chapters.


We just completed 5 weeks of school centered around the Rain forest.  The curriculum we are using has been a great place to start and has good books, but it seems the things we find or make up on our own are the most enjoyable and memorable.

Abby and Enoch have really good imaginations, so after we read about the animals, we like to make up ways to act out what we learned.  After learning about Toucans, we used kitchen tongs as our bills to pluck fruit (super balls) hidden in the artificial tree.

We took a chimpanzee walk to the neighborhood park.  I was the momma chimpanzee carrying, Ezra, my baby chimpanzee on my back.  Of course, we all had to have chimpanzee names, too.  We made a nest on the ground, picked berries, used sticks as a tool to catch “termites” in a hole, used a big rock to crack nuts open and groomed each other by picking the bugs off one another and eating them.  We swung like chimpanzees on the monkey bars.

Abby pretended to be a sloth moving very slowly and hanging upside down. They move so slowly the actually grow green algae on their backs, which helps them blend in with their surroundings and hide from predators.

When learning about butterflies, they curled up in balls as eggs, hatched out as caterpillars, then molted twice and then got inside their chrysalis (a sleeping bag) where they wiggled around until they emerged as butterflies!  We got this idea from (put link here....cultivated lives blog post)

Probably the most loved animal game of all was playing spider monkeys and jaguar.  Daddy would pretend to be the jaguar chasing the spider monkeys, who were able to jump from couch to chair to escape from him.  We don’t usually let them jump on the furniture, but it was all in the name of education!


I usually don’t remember to bring our camera on nature walks, but I was able to get a few pictures of them on a bug hunt.  Enoch especially loves to catch rolly pollys.  We took a few butterfly walks after we learned to tell the difference between butterflies and moths.  Abby pressed some flowers in her nature journal.

Elijah ordered an ant farm for us to enjoy.  It’s been fascinating to watch the ants dig their tunnels.  Let’s hope no ones knocks the thing off the counter, I don’t need any escape ants around here!


I found our art projects to be most enjoyable activity this time.  We made a rain forest mural on a poster board.  The first week we painted the background.  We learned about the different levels of the rain forest: emergent, canopy, understory and floor.  As we learned about different animals Abby would make an animal to add to our mural.  We found inspiration from this website

After learning about symmetry in math, we made symmetrical butterflies.  While looking at pictures of real butterflies, we used oil pastels to draw half of a butterfly on a folded piece of watercolor paper.  Then we folded the paper in half and rubbed really hard.  The oil pastel transferred onto the blank side of the paper and then we had symmetrical butterflies which we then painted with watercolors.  It looked like so much fun that one night after the kids were in bed, Elijah and I decided to try our own.

Another day we decided to make symmetrical faces using the same idea.  Abby used a mirror to make her self portrait.

I’ve gotten a lot of our art ideas on this site: The author is a public school art teacher and has wonderful art lessons organized by grade level.

They made a few other simple animal crafts.


Enoch has been going to Mustard Seed Preschool two half days a week.  We can’t say enough good things about that school.  He is doing so well there and it has really been helpful in maintaining some balance for me.  While he’s doing fun 3 year old stuff and learning the children’s catechism at preschool, Abby and I are able to do a good bit of school basics like reading, writing, and math.  We save the extra fun stuff for when he’s home with us.  On the days he’s at school, Abby and I have started having tea time where we drink chai and have a nice snack while I read to her.  That’s been really special and something to look forward to.

On the three weekdays that Enoch is home, he asks quite a bit, “Mommy, will you do school with me?”  Thankfully, while we were doing the desert unit, I participated in a busy bag swap where I made 25 gallon size ziplock bags of one activity appropriate for preschool age.  I swapped with a group and ended up with 25 different preschool bags.  I put them all in a box and whenever Enoch’s interested in doing “school”, I have an activity ready.  Once I’ve done an activity with him a few times, he is capable of doing the activities on his own.

While Ezra is taking his morning nap, I sit with Abby on the couch to work with her and Enoch has “Pool Time.”  I get out a plastic swimming pool that only comes out during this time.  The idea is for him to stay in the swimming pool to do his activity, which can be something messy like play dough, beans, rice, or water colors because the mess is contained inside the swimming pool and can be dumped outside when he’s through.  To encourage him to stay in the pool, we begin with a bowl of snacks, something small like raisins, cherrios or goldfish crackers. Each time he gets out of the pool or interrupts, he looses one item out of his snack bowl.  When pool time is over, both Abby and Enoch sit in the pool and eat their snack while I read a story to them.  It only lasts about 20 minutes, but I can get a lot done in 20 mins.  I am hoping to be able to increase his time and decrease his number of interruptions.  If Ezra wakes up before we are done, he watches pool time while he sits in the exasaucer.

We hung a new map in the hallway.  It’s a world map showing what parts of the world different animals live in.  A few times when I haven’t heard from Ezra in a little while I’ve found him studying this map.


Abby’s been taking off with her reading.  For fun, we began a green paper chain made to look like a vine since we’re on the rain forest now.  For each book she read, she wrote the title of the book and made a new link to the chain.  She read 35 new books during the last 5 weeks.  We also practice sight words using a sight word box. New words begin in the slowpokes section of the box. If she reads them correctly, they get to move to the hoppers section. She has 5 seconds to read the hoppers correctly. The race car words must be recognized instantly, then she adds a tally mark to the back. Once a card receives 5 tally marks, it graduates! She set a goal of 50 graduates. After she met this goal, her Daddy took her for her first roller skating experience.

We've found several fun ideas for practicing sight words on different Kindergarten and First grade teacher blogs.  This is one where she reads to word on the bottom of the cup and then gets to stack the cups.


We took several field trips during the last 5 weeks:

1. Zoo home school day: Animal babies
2. Warner Parks Nature Center “Declassification Class”

3. Bellemeade Plantation Harvest Day

4. Morning Glory Apple Orchard

Wow, this is an extra long post!  It's been good for me to sum up the last five weeks and to remember that not all the days were difficult.  We really had a lot of fun and learned so much.  I had more I wanted to write about our Bible things we've been doing, but I think I'll save it for next time!

Up next we plan to spend the next 5 weeks learning about animals in the Woods.


  1. Anonymous7:19 PM

    Hi, my husband introduced me to your blog. I think he knows your husband or something. Was your husband employed at Sommet or something? A couple of my hubby's current co-workers came from there, so maybe that's the connection.

    ANYWAY, I'm enjoying your blog. I absolutely loved reading how you make family chores work, I have strongly about kids doing chores alongside the parents, but haven't known how to execute that. I think we'll start with the morning dishwasher unloading on Monday! They've certainly helped unload before, but not on a regular basis.

    Also, I love that bag swap idea. I'm thinking through what would be the best way for me to do the same thing here.


  2. Anonymous7:22 PM

    ugh. okay, in the second paragraph, this is what it should say, "I absolutely loved reading about how you make family chores work. I have felt strongly about..."

  3. Anonymous9:22 AM

    where did the slowpoke, hopper, tally reading idea come from? Loved all the things you did with the rain forest. Makes me want to come visit for school:)

  4. hey, anonymous. I used to work as a speech language pathologist and worked with some older kids who had trouble with reading. they used the sight word box idea there.