Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday Luke!


You have been such a blessing to our family in your short life so far. The past year has brought a few sleepless nights, a few sticky messes, and a few stressful nap times, but most of all it has brought many days filled with your sweet smile.20140819-IMG_3286.jpg 
Though you don't officially "toddle" yet, you are definitely moving into toddlerhood. You cruise along furniture with ease. You've even come close to taking a step.  You have really good hand-eye coordination, and have become really good a throwing things. You definitely keep us on our toes!20140820-IMG_3378.jpgYou love to play! You have really started getting to "play" with Ella and Troy. Though they have always liked to play with you, within this past month, there has definitely been a change in how you can play with them, and I think they really enjoy you being able to "do" more things with them. You are also content to play by yourself. You'll crawl around and play with your toys for more than an hour. You really enjoy putting things in things right now (toys in cups, or balls in a basket). You also you continue to enjoy looking at books.
20140829-IMG_3441.jpgYou like for everyone in the room to watch you. You'll be playing or crawling around on the floor, and you'll look up at us to see if we are watching, then you'll give us a big cheesy nose-scrunch grin. You continue to be very vocal, yelling to let us know what you want. You also point when you want something. You have also really gotten into shaking your head "no." It can be really funny at times. Ella says that you move your body up and down for "yes," but I'm not sure. She is convinced though!20140905-IMG_3506.jpg 
You normally share a room with Troy, but one night Ella was in there instead because we had company visiting. After we put y'all to bed, we kept hearing you yelling/talking. I finally went back there to check on y'all, and you were throwing your Mickey Mouse out of the crib and Ella kept getting it for you. You thought it was a great game! Ella was almost distraught, and she told me something like "He keeps wanting me to get it for him!"20140905-IMG_3532.jpgYour personality comes through in everything that you do. You know what you want, and you don't like when you don't get it. You can turn on the tears at the drop of a hat. You are a "stingy" baby. You can smile, wave, and high five, but if someone asks you to do those things, you often give them a serious look and refuse. I think it is pretty funny.
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Signs you do: more (though you are "lazy" most of the time and do a modified clap instead of the official sign), finished

Words you say: Mama, Dada, Eh-wa! (Ella)

Favorite foods: Yogurt

Favorite activities/toys: Books, balls, little figurines (like Mickey Mouse), cars. You love to "put things in things" as well as throwing.

Luke @ 11 months
Troy @ 1 year
I didn’t start writing these monthly posts for Ella until she was 17 months old

Monday, September 1, 2014

Homeschooling Ella

We’ve been thinking about our children’s education since before any of our children ever existed; and, once Ella was born, the countdown was on to make the important decision: public school, homeschool, private school, or something else? Education is a hotly debated topic within our country, and even among members of the church. People have frequently questioned us about what our plans are for our children’s education; I think sometimes out of genuine interest, and sometimes to try to sway us one way or another.

This decision isn’t one we took lightly and it has not been an easy decision to make. Part of the reason that the decision about Ella’s education was not an easy one to make is because there are lots of pros and cons to all types of schooling. I think it would be foolish to advocate that there is only one path or way that is right for all students and families. And though we have chosen to homeschool Ella, I know that she could receive a quality education in a different schooling environment. We have been and continue to be open to exploring the many options that exist when it comes to our children’s education.

So, why did we ultimately choose to homeschool Ella for kindergarten? Here are a few of the reasons:

Desire. I want to homeschool her. I like teaching, and I’m excited about the opportunity and challenge to formally teach my own child. I know that this may not be at the top of many homeschoolers’ lists, but it is one of the top reasons that we decided to homeschool Ella.

Time. Time that Ella would be spending away from the family. Time that I would miss as she learned something that was really interesting to her, scraped her knee, or picked her favorite crayon out of the box. Time that someone else got to spend with our precious girl. And, although I don’t think that time apart from the family is a bad thing, I wasn’t ready to give it up with her yet. 

Flexibility. My husband’s job isn’t the typical Monday through Friday, 8 to 5 job. His schedule varies a lot, particularly at different times of the year, and we adjust our lives accordingly. Putting Ella into a public or private school would greatly limit the flexibility in our schedule, and right now we’d like to keep that flexibility.

Curriculum/content. There are many specific things I could mention under this topic, but ultimately it gets down to this idea: we can choose what we teach Ella (here’s what is required in the state of Texas) and how we teach her. Whether it be the Bible, Spanish, cooking, or writing a note of encouragement to someone, I can incorporate those things into her education.

Although Ella continues to show me every day how much she's grown up in her five short years, it is hard to believe that kindergarten is actually here. I’m excited about the prospect of being her kindergarten teacher, alongside her dad at times, and even her little brothers as they teach her things about life.
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Happy 11 Months Luke!

It is hard to believe that a year ago I was busy making final preparations for your arrival. These past eleven months have gone by quickly, and it doesn't seem like you should be approaching a year old already. This past month in particular has been a very busy one for our family, and unfortunately I didn't take as many photos as usual.

You are into everything! You crawl quickly everywhere, and you have become an expert at pulling up. You can pop up and down so quickly! You can "walk" along things as you hold on. You have also become quite a challenge when you ride in the grocery cart, because you have mastered wiggling around the seatbelt, standing up, and trying to climb in the back. The first photo below shows how I barricaded you in one day at Target to keep your from climbing out. And you are SO fast at wiggling out! You have also started climbing a little bit this month. You have climbed up the bean bags I've been using to barricade you in.
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This month brought your first two instances of cuts/bumps/bruises. First, you cut your tongue when you were crawling with you cup. Later in the month, Troy was pushing you around in the stroller in the front yard when he accidentally pushed the stroller off the curb. The stroller lost its balance, and fell over and you hit the side of your head on the curb. You handled it like a champ though! Troy told Daddy, "Daddy, I forgot to turn." Troy's response was so sad and innocent all at the same time.

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You went swimming for the first time this month, and I think you really enjoyed the water (minus getting a little cold). Overall, I think you really enjoyed hanging out at the lake.

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You still like to eat, but you've slowed down a little bit. I'm certain your favorite food is yogurt. You get so excited when you see it, and if we bring it out with other foods at the same time, you want it and nothing else.

20140731-IMG_2898.jpg You learned to sign "finished" this month, and I also think you signed "milk." You continue to babble up a storm, and you know how to yell at us to get our attention. This month you started showing us how "offended" you are when we take something away from you or tell  you "no." You've also started looking up at us before you touch something you know you aren't supposed to touch. It is pretty funny!

You enjoy putting objects into other things like baskets or buckets. You entertain yourself for a long time putting things in and out. You like to play with balls, and one of your favorite activities is playing "soccer" with daddy, Ella, and Troy. You also continue to enjoy looking at books.

20140801-IMG_2990.jpg You stayed for an extended period without us for the first time at the end of this past month. You did great, and had lots of fun being spoiled by your aunt!
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Luke @ 10 months
Troy @ 11 months
I didn’t start writing these monthly posts for Ella until she was 17 months old, but I do have this photo of Ella with her 10 month sign :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Happy 10 Months Luke!

Happy 10 Months Luke!

These past couple of months have flown by! You have become so "grown up" for a baby . . . the days of sleepless nights and constant feedings seem like so long ago. 20140610-IMG_1014.jpg
You had your first Caskey peach this month, and you loved it! You gnawed on the peach all the way down to the pit. You ended up eating 5 peaches in all at your first Farmer's Market. Have I ever mentioned that you love to eat? ;) You continue to be a big eater - eating just about everything. You have gotten a little more picky in that you don't love your cheerios quite as much now that you've had lots of other foods. I think that yogurt is your favorite food - you get SO excited when you see it!20140617-IMG_1152.jpg
You are extremely mobile now, crawling everywhere! And you can crawl fast when you want to get somewhere, particularly if you want to chase after Reeses. I need to do some serious re-babyproofing around the house so you can explore more (I've gotten a little lax with things since Ella and Troy have gotten older). You've also started pulling up in the past week or so. I finally had to lower your crib down.
20140626-IMG_1783.jpgYou love to play with toys, and you continue to love to chew on tags, especially of your swaddling blankets. You also really like to look at books. You'll point and "talk" as you look through the pages. You also continue to be very vocal, "yelling" to get our attention or when you are excited about something.
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You continue to like to play with Ella and Troy, and I think they like playing with you more and more as you are getting older. They (especially Ella!), are so excited when they see you do something "new." Ella will excitedly tell us what she saw you do and then tell us you've never done it before. :)
20140708-IMG_1880.jpg Luke @ 9 months
Troy @ 10 months
I didn’t start writing these monthly posts for Ella until she was 17 months old, but I do have this photo of Ella with her 10 month sign :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nose Scrunch

Despite some subtle differences, there is no doubt that my kids are related. They look so much alike, and even make similar facial expressions. Here is one of my favorites: the nose scrunch.

Ella: 
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Troy: 
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Luke:
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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Teaching Ella to Read

I should have written this post several months ago, but life got busy (doesn't it always?), and I never wrote it. So, here it is now . . .only a few months late.

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When Ella was around 4 1/2 years old, I ventured into the task of teaching her to read. Though I'd never taught anyone to read, I really thought she was showing lots of signs of readiness, so I decided that we would begin the journey. I entered into the task with caution: if, for some reason, she wasn't ready I wasn't going to push it. She was still young when I began the process, and I didn't want to deter her from reading or learning in any way by pushing her if she wasn't ready.

I chose to use the book Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons as our curriculum (I've included a brief review at the end of this post). I made Ella a sticker chart to show her progress and help motivate her along the way. The first few lessons went well with Ella. Then, slowly, things started to get really frustrating. We were struggling through the lessons, and I was getting more and more frustrated. I really thought she could do the lessons (which only frustrated me more!), but just wasn't putting forth the right kind of effort to complete the lessons. So, around lesson 20 or so, we stopped. I decided to take a step back and reevaluate in a few months.

I'm SO glad we took a step back, and started again a few months later. Our lessons were like night and day compared to a few months earlier. She breezed through most lessons, and continued to be eager to learn more. That's not to say that there weren't times when we had tough lessons, but overall, our lesson time was much, much better. 

What was the difference in the few months time? Was Ella not really ready? When I reflect back to the first time that we tried to work on the lessons, I think the struggles with the lessons had a lot more to do with me than with Ella. It was my first time attempting anything like this, and I'm not sure that I had the right approach and attitude with Ella. I think she easily picked up on my frustration and that manifested in how she completed the lessons. When we started the second time, I started with a fresh attitude and more determined patience. I think my demeanor with her made a huge difference in the lessons.
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And now, Ella can read! She finished the 100th lesson not long after she turned five years old. I was very pleased with how well she was reading when she completed all 100 lessons, and her reading has continued to progress even though the official lessons have stopped. I think the curriculum did a good job giving her the tools she needs to continue to grow in her reading ability.  
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Here are my general thoughts about the curriculum Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons. I should note that I haven't looked at any other curriculums or programs for teaching reading, so I do not have anything to compare the program to. 

Pros:
  • The book is inexpensive, and does not require any additional materials except some paper to do the sound writing portion.
  • The book was very easy for me to use to teach her. Everything was laid out - even down to the words I should say during each lesson.
  • The lessons were short. The book states that each lesson should only take about 15-20 minutes. There were many times Ella finished a lesson in about 10 minutes, but there were also some lessons that took her longer than 20 minutes. On average, most lessons did take about 15 minutes.
    • The lessons are also short enough that you can do more than one lesson a day, depending on your child. With Ella there were times she was especially eager to keep on, and it was nice to be able to move on to the next lesson.
    • It was also nice to know that if Ella was struggling with something, the lesson was short, and we didn't have to labor on for a long period of time.
  • The book incorporated pictures, questions for checking for comprehension, as well as writing as part of learning to read.
    • We frequently skipped the writing portion of the lessons. I think the writing portion is beneficial, but for Ella is wasn't always necessary.
  • I wasn't sure how to classify this, but I really liked the way the book teaches the student to sound the words out.
Cons:
  • The lessons, particularly the first 25 or so, can be tedious until your child "gets" the method.
  • The names of the letters of the alphabet are not introduced until the very end of the book (letters are simply referred to using the sound they make). There is reasoning behind not using the letter names (and I understand that), but Ella already knew her letters prior to starting the curriculum, so we skipped parts of lessons at the end.
Overall, I really liked this curriculum, and plan to use it for Troy. I do think it will be interesting to see how Troy takes to the approach compared to Ella, because I think Ella's personality fit the curriculum well and Troy and Ella are quite different. : )