Planning Ahead

In light of our school year beginning, I thought I’d write a few words on how this year is already different (in a good way!).  The first thing that I changed from last year is PLANNING.  Last year it was my first year teaching, and as I already said I bought a full boxed curriculum, My Father’s World.  I had blindly assumed that I could honestly ‘open and go’ as many boxed curriculum tout.  So I had it sent to our California residence and jumped right in without even looking at it beforehand.

What a mistake!

I always felt behind and that I wasn’t doing enough because I hadn’t planned ahead.  I promised myself I wouldn’t do that this year and I kept my promise.

This year I had my Sonlight curriculum sent to my Minnesota residence, along with a new set of Math U See blocks.  The rest of the things I needed to start out our year I packed in a rolling suitcase and traveled with it (and boy was it heavy!), like our Express Readers workbooks, and other paraphernalia.

Then I mapped out an entire weekend where I sent my husband and the kids to my in laws house.  Yes I forced them out of my house simply so I could plan our school year in peace!  I also invited my sweet mother in law, her sister, and my sister in law to join in the ‘no kids’ fun party.  They each brought their own fun project they were working on (i.e.: quilting and scrapbooking mostly) and we simply enjoyed each others company while having nice warm meals where we were not interrupted by crying children who needed help eating.  Basically it was the closest thing to luxury as this momma can get!

Here is a bit of what I was able to accomplish….

Sonlight binder

See this bad boy teacher’s manual?  Holy smokes its fairly large and intimidating, but once I got my hands really in it, I discovered it is not to be feared.  Its do-able.

Core A readers

Here is a week by week of books I will be reading to Miss Ariel.  We are already a week ahead on our chapter book and poems because she and Mini Man are so into it!

Core A LA readers

Here are the books she will be reading to me.  

Core A science and history

Here is my science/history/bible grouping.  Those boxes are some supplies that Sonlight provides you for your experiments.   So you provide some supplies (usually things you would already have handy around your house), and they provide less likely found items.

This was the system that they recommend and so far I’m loving it.  Mostly I’m loving feeling in control and not behind the 8 ball with school.  Every night I check off the boxes of what we have done and pull out items/books will be using for the next day.

If you get a chance I would highly recommend taking a breather from your family to get yourself situated for the school year. Remember, this is now a job.  Take it seriously!  But also, have fun.  Hey you have no kids for the weekend.  Enjoy your nice warm dinner!!!

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Summer (home)school

Due to several factors, I have decided that we would start Miss Ariel’s 1st grade year in the summer.  Considering that I am having a baby in October, and Music Man’s work will be in chaos during the fall, it only made sense to get ahead start on things.

So last week was our first week back!  Since there wasn’t much fan fare for kindergarten, I wanted to make a greater effort in starting fun start up traditions.  I lovingly displayed new school materials for the fresh student.

1st day of 1st grade school supplies

She was really excited to open up her new things.  I also got everybody donuts to help celebrate our new year.  I mean what’s not to love about art supplies and donuts?!

Last year, at the advice from veteran and newbie homeschooling mommas alike, we did My Father’s World kindergarten curriculum.  Now there is nothing wrong with this sweet curriculum, but after trudging along I realized that neither my kindergartener nor I were thrilled with it.  It was just too basic and the readers left us both going “that’s it?”.  I do think its a good choice for a PRE-K, just not kindergarten level.  I also didn’t do my due dilligence and hardly went to the library to grab the suggested readers to accompany the weeks lesson.  I had every intention, I really did!  I made a list with our local library of all the extra readers I would need so that when the time came I would simply press ‘select’ and it would be ready for pick up in a few days.  Or so I thought.  I don’t know if you understand what its like taking 4 small children anywhere, but let me tell you, you are not missing out.  I wound up hating anytime I would have to take all 4 of them to the library, so of course that meant that I finally stopped doing it.  Yup, not exactly parent of the year, let alone homeschooling parent, but I just couldn’t do it.  Now you might ask, ‘well why didn’t you just go pick it up yourself?’ and my response would be, I did.  However, our local library took forever getting in the books that I needed that I wound up being weeks behind when I would finally receive the books I requested.  Eventually I gave up and my enthusiasm weaned.  I guess I wasn’t cut out to be a library toting homeschooling momma.

I did however learn an important lesson.

Stick with my gut.

I wanted to try Sonlight curriculum in the first place, but listened to too many people who thought of many reasons why I shouldn’t try it.  Even the Sonlight staff has reasons that this is not a great choice for many.  So I listened to them instead of my own gut and perhaps even the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  After we competed the year with My Father’s World (sort of), I decided that it was high time to try what I really wanted.  So this year we are doing Sonlight Core A, along with Math U See PrimerGetty-Dubay Italic Handwriting and adding Express Readers for added fun and phonics.

Sonlight 2015 catelog

After carefully figuring out what kind of student I have and what kind of teacher I am (which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND), I was even more convinced to try Sonlight.  My daughter was rarely enthusiastic to ‘do school’, but she always loved snuggling on the couch and have me read to her.  These were also my favorite times with her and the boys, who would often want to sit along side us for a listen.  I’m also an actor by trade, so reading was highly enjoyable to me, in fact I would often view it as rehearsing my lines!  So this literature based curriculum seemed right up our alley.

Now this is only our first week, and it is much more intense than what we were doing last year, but so far, I’m already appreciating the work, and more importantly so is my daughter!  We are already ahead on our readers and poems simply because she wants to.  What a difference!

So far we are liking what we are doing and that is a relief to me!

More fun in the sun

Before we made the leap from California to Minnesota for the summer, I decided that it was high time the kids had proper swim lessons.  Now, we have a pool in California, so our kids were definitely familiar with water (I mean, hello, my daughter idolizes the mermaid princess for goodness sake!).  And we are all blessed with my Renaissance husband whose talents seem to have no bounds, because in a former life (ie: before me) he was a competitive high school swimmer, life guard and swim coach.  He definitely has the chops to teach our children water skills.  However, as with lots of things, sometimes its simply best to hand over the reigns to a professional.  Well, a current professional who isn’t daddy.  Because lets face it, daughters especially have daddy wrapped around their fingers and sometimes just want to splash around instead of learning how not to drown in the water.

So the kids had swim lessons and loved every second of it!  Welllllllll….. at least 2 out of 3 did.  My SPD kid, who is deathly afraid of the bathtub, wasn’t too keen on getting submerged in a big body of water.  However, even he looked forward to his time with Mrs. Best Swim Coach Ever when it was his turn for pool time after a few rounds of sheer terror (i.e.: simply getting into the water).  I hope every kid gets the experience of a wonderful coach like my kids got this summer, because it made all the difference in the world for their safety, their enjoyment, and momma’s fears of her kids drowning at any moment.

Blake's torpedo arms

This kid is only 4 and check out his near perfect form!  Too say I was impressed would be an understatement.

Brady's pointy elbows swimming

It was difficult to capture, but my 5 year old daughter is already learning ‘chicken arms’ which is the beginning of learning the crawl stroke.  By the end of her 3 weeks of lessons she was already starting to side breathe like a swimming champ.

Now Little Rascal started off his lessons like this…..

Brian touching spa water

….with one hand firmly around his coach and possibly touching the warm spa water.  By the end of his 3 weeks, he was doing such miraculous feats as this….

Brian's torpedo arms

Not only is he displaying fabulous ‘torpedo arms’ as his coach calls them, but he is jumping to her!!!  This is a miracle as far as I am concerned.  My heart swelled with pride for this little dude who overcame so much to do this.

All in all, the kids had a great time and I am wishing that we had a pool here in Minnesota so they could practice their new found skills.

Spring Recap

As I’m going thru my photos, I have realized there was so much that we have done that I haven’t had a time to share with all of you (and by all I mean one.  Hi mother in law!).  So I thought I’d give you a quick recap this week of some fun things that we had done this past spring before I launch into what we are currently doing this summer.

One of my favorite days was the day we took the kids to the beach.  This was Mr. Sunshine’s first time and if he could talk I’m pretty sure he would yell “This is the best day of my life!!!!”  His joy was contagious.

Ben at the beach

Ben's wrinkly foot

I can’t tell you how excited this little boy is to play in the water.  I mean check out that wrinkly foot?!  He loves the water!

Now for my SPD kid, the beach can be a bit of a challenge.  Check out those hands!  He may have a hard time touching the wet sand, but he is still determined to have a good time.  I was so proud.

Brian at the beach

Some of us decided to fully embrace the sandiness on the beach side.

Blake in the sand at the beach

While others couldn’t get enough of the bitterly cold Pacific Ocean.

Bradyn in the ocean

All in all, this has become one of my favorite family memories.

4 kids at the beach

Summer days

Here is just a tiny bit of what we are up to…

Bradyn running

Blake on the tire swing

Brian on the tire swing

Ben in backpack with Jeff

Not much, and yet everything.  Mostly we are just enjoying what we have and what God has made.  Nothing complicated, nothing serious.  Its pretty magical this thing called summer.

Pony Perks

Coming home to Minnesota has had its own perks this summer.  Recently we have been enjoying our neighbors ponies, who have taken up temporary residence on our property.

Ben touching pony

All of the kids, including us big kids parents, have loved being near these majestic creatures.  Here is our littlest one learning the art of being gentle.

Blake petting pony

Mini Man is attempting to pet this gigantic pet over the hardly working electric fence.

Brian and pony

I loved watching each of the kids relating to these unknown animals.  The ponies quickly ate thru our patch of grass where they were penned up.  A couple of days we all wound up spending nearly 2 hours picking grass and each of the kids were helping to feed the ponies.  They were in heaven!  I was amazed how they each picked the pony that they liked best and stuck with only feeding that particular pony.  I kept wondering what it was about their pony that made my kid decide to take sides.  Oh to be in the minds of a child!

bradyn in the barn with horse

Little Miss Ariel had me cracking up the most with her fearless attitude.  We often had to tell her that it isn’t a smart idea to get under the fence and just start hanging out with these 5-times-bigger-than-her animals.  Her dad and I were concerned, but apparently she was not.  Here she is getting to know each and every one of the horse gear that was left behind in the shed from the previous owners.  Ariel just loved shouting “WHAT’S THIS MOMMY?!”.  I was just grateful for these laid back ponies who didn’t seem to mind the loud ruckus she was making.  Perhaps this girl is a cowgirl in the making.

Jeff helping pony

Now just because these guys were laid back, didn’t mean that one of them didn’t get into trouble.  Often.  This vanilla colored beauty decided that electric fence or not, he was going to go onto the other side to greener pastures.  Literally.  Poor little guy was starving.  We had to call the owners to let them know of their houdini escape artist.  To make due with a bad situation, he had to tie up the pony to tree until he could get some hay for this desperate pony.  Unfortunately, during the hay wait, the pony would get itself all tangled up, so Music Man had to come to the rescue.  It was such a sweet and tender moment between human and animal that us city folk rarely get to see.

Too bad the ponies had to go to their permanent home in North Dakota where they can graze all they want and hang out with their fellow pony friends.  I’m still crossing my fingers that the owners will stay true to their word and bring back child friendly ponies or horses for us to get to know this summer.  I don’t know who is more excited about the opportunity to learn more about the animals, me or the kids!