Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ella's Kinder Curriculum

As I started thinking about writing a reflection post about how homeschooling has gone so far, I realized I probably should start with a post about what curriculum/materials I decided to use with Ella for kindergarten. I meant to write this post back in September, but since I didn't I can actually comment on what I like/don't like so far.

I'm not using an "official" pre-made curriculum for everything, and honestly, particularly for kindergarten I'm not sure that official curriculum is necessary. But there really is some great material out there, and so far I'm glad that I've chosen to use at least some pre-made curriculum with Ella.
  1. Reading. I taught Ella to read using Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons prior to starting kindergarten with her. So, right now our main focus has been to have her read at least one book at day and then for her to draw a picture about one of the books she read. I plan to start using Book Adventure with her as well. She also did some work with the Reading Eggs App (which teaches sight words), but she had already completed most of that prior to us starting kindergarten stuff.
  2. Spelling. I will freely admit I was not at all excited about teaching Ella spelling. In fact, after we had a kinda rough (yet perfect in its own way!) start to the first week of school, I put off starting spelling with her while things got settled. I chose to use All About Spelling, and this curriculum has changed my mind about spelling. I initially chose to use this curriculum because I had been advised that this method flowed really well out of Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, but I didn't know a whole lot about it otherwise (turns out it really does flow well as a next step after that book). I really, really love this curriculum. I like how it teaches the rules about something rather than focusing on memorizing how things are spelled. We can go over a new rule about spelling and Ella can then usually spell all the words in the spelling list for that section without ever having spelled them before. I also enjoy how the review is built into the method. And, although she was reading prior to starting this, she could not spell (these are separate, yet related skills). There is also a curriculum for reading called All About Reading. I have not used it, but am curious about it because I like All About Spelling so much.
  3. Math. I struggled a lot when it came to choosing a curriculum for math (more than for anything else). I really wanted to do Singapore math when I first started investigating, but ultimately decided against it as my main material (I think in the long run I might incorporate some of it as supplemental material). I ended up choosing Math-U-See, and I've liked it so far. I started Ella with the Primer because I wanted to make sure that she had all the basic things down before moving to Alpha. However, I found that ultimately Ella probably didn't need the Primer. She is partway through Alpha now and she's covering several of the same topics again that were covered in the Primer (which ends up being boring to her). I like how there are several worksheets for each lesson to give extra practice if needed. So far, I also like how the concepts are taught, and Ella enjoys watching the short lessons on the DVD.
  4. Handwriting. For handwriting we've been using Handwriting Without Tears (which was recommended to me by just about everyone except those who didn't actually use a curriculum for handwriting). I also really like this curriculum. It was really cheap too, which is a plus! Ella really likes that she gets to color pictures with each lesson as well. This is one curriculum that I felt that I didn't really need to use the teacher's manual for (I have it, but haven't used it since the beginning). We also used the Wet-Dry-Try app that goes with Handwriting Without Tears. I made Ella complete all the letters on the app prior to starting actually using the workbook. I think some may choose to use the app for a particular prior to the lesson on that letter though. I really like this app as well. Prior to using this app, I'd downloaded several handwriting apps and this one blows them out of the water!
  5. Science. I have not been using anything official with science. We've been reading through the AP Advanced Readers, which Ella has really enjoyed. We've also explored different animals (through some books from the library), as well as tracking leaf colors as we moved into fall and winter.
  6. Bible. We have a devotional (including Troy and sometimes Luke) just about every day. During that time we sing, pray, maybe read a Bible story, and/or ask some Bible questions. We also use the Charlotte Mason Scripture System, which has been great! Ella and Troy have both learned several verses, and really enjoy doing it. I've also been teaching Ella how to look up scriptures in her Bible, as well as having her read aloud some from her Bible.
  7. Spanish. One of the reasons that factored into choosing to homeschool was that I wanted to include teaching Ella Spanish as part of her homeschool. Ella has been using Rosetta Stone, which I would say is ultimately probably a bit above her level. She's able to do it so far (though she isn't that far into it), but she needs my guidance quite a bit of the time. I was hoping that she'd be able to be more independent with it, but that will come with time. She's definitely been picking up on some things though, which is good. 
This isn't a comprehensive post about everything we've done so far, but describes the main curriculum/subjects we use for kindergarten.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Three Ways to Encourage My Children's Relationship With Their Father

It goes without saying that as a wife and a mother I have a lot of responsibilities and influence within my family. When it comes to raising my children, the responsibilities sometimes feel countless and never-ending, and though those responsibilities are often exhausting, those responsibilities really are a great blessing. One of those great blessings includes the opportunity for me as their mother to uplift their father.  Am I building up their relationship with their father, or tearing it down?

  1. Show my husband respect. The world, particularly through media such as TV and movies, often show fathers to be incapable, ignorant, irrelevant, and irrational, and then act as though men can't help being those things. I need to remind my children that their father is none of those things! Do I encourage them to respect their father by my own actions? Do I nag at him and drag him down? Do I make it easy for him to lead our family? My relationship with my husband as a wife shows my children what I really think about him, as well as my attitude towards following God's Word since I'm called to a standard when it comes to my relationship with my husband (Ephesians 5:22-33). 
  2. Discipline my children. As mama I must be involved in discipling our children. If I leave all the discipling up to my husband, what kind of view of daddy will that give our children? Additionally, if I don't discipline them, that can also bring on other problems besides skewing their view of their father, particularly in regards to how they behave when only I'm around. This also goes back to the idea that I wrote about before that mama and daddy are a team
  3. Allow him to manage, play, and interact with our children as he sees fit.  I suppose this could have been classified under the idea of showing my husband respect, but I'm separating it out. Have you ever noticed how boys and girls naturally play differently? (I have that on perfect display in my house right now!) I shouldn't expect my husband to interact with the kids the same way that I do. When I try to put how our children play and interact with their daddy into a box of "dos and don'ts" based on how I would act, I may be hindering their relationship. One of my children's absolute favorite things to do is to play "wrestle" with daddy. Is that how I would play with them? No, but does that mean it is a "wrong" thing to do? Not at all! In fact, it is special time of bonding for them. Similarly, do I complain about how he dresses or feeds the kids? He's plenty capable and responsible to take care of our children. Just because things aren't done exactly the way I might do it, doesn't mean it is wrong or inadequate. 

I'm more thankful every day for my husband and how he lives his life as a husband and father. Our family is blessed daily through his leadership and love.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy 16 Months Luke!

Watching you grow each month is a true blessing. It is amazing how much you grow and change in just a month's time. From the way you walk, you'd hardly believe that you only started walking last month. You get around with ease, and quickly follow after Ella and Troy or chase after Reeses. You've also had an explosion of words this month. In just a few days time, you had several new words. You get better at communicating each day. You like to yell "my" at us - we think that means something along the lines of "mine."
You are very funny when you don't like something. One of the funniest times was when we were opening our Christmas presents. You didn't know what was going on, and you did not want Dad to help you with unwrapping your present. You had a complete meltdown until you figured out what was going on.
You continue to love books. You love to look at them on your own, or for someone to read them to you. One day you asked me at least twenty times to keep reading the same book over and over to you.
You are so proud of yourself when you do new things. I wish I could capture that essence in a photo. For instance, you had been carrying that little green seat around, and then finally sat it down and climbed into it. When you got into it, you were so proud!20141222-IMG_8947.jpg 
We have said for a while now that you are a "busy" baby. You are always up to something or playing with something. One of your favorite things to do over the holidays was to buckle your seat over and over again. You couldn't unbuckle though, and would "yell" at someone until they would unbuckle it for you to do it again. You also loved playing with the hammer and nails set. You actually did really well using the hammer (I was surprised at how well you could coordinate to use it).20141224-IMG_9043.jpg 20141229-IMG_9380.jpg
You really did well over the holidays. It is never an easy time for you or your siblings with all the travel, crazy sleeping arrangements and schedules, extra excitement about Christmas, plus grandparents and cousins around. You had lots of fun opening presents, and playing with new toys as well.20141226-IMG_9233.jpg

Signs you do: more (though you are "lazy" most of the time and do a modified clap instead of the official sign), finished, thank you (one time!)

Words you say: Mama, Dada, Eh-wa! (Ella), "anks" (thanks), "eeses" (Reeses), "eye" (hi), "inished" (finished), "ba" (banana), Rhu-Rhu (your grandma), Pop-pa (your grandpa), "pees" (please), "mah!" (more), uh-oh, yay, my (you yell this a lot, and we think you are trying to say "mine")

Favorite foods: Yogurt, chicken (especially chicken nuggets/strips), grilled cheese, baby pouch foods

Favorite activities/toys: Books, balls, little figurines (like Mickey Mouse), cars. You love to "put things in things" as well as throwing. You also love to play chase with the other kids, and you've added a new level of "fun" since you started walking. You like to chase after Reeses as well, but she's not to sure about that. : ) You love to push things around too (boxes, your push toy - especially if Ella is riding on it, etc.).

Luke @ 15 months
Troy @ 16 months
I didn’t start writing these monthly posts for Ella until she was 17 months old

Friday, January 2, 2015

Top 14 of 2014

Here are my top 14 (eh, 15, but that's only because I didn't get one picture of all three kids in their costumes at Halloween!) photos of the kids from 2014 (in no particular order because it is too hard to put them in order!).

20140306-IMG_5805.jpg 20140301-IMG_5591.jpg20140325-IMG_6190.jpg20140424-IMG_8699.jpg 20140515-IMG_9769-2.jpg 20140520-IMG_0191.jpg 20140622-IMG_1749.jpg 20140913-IMG_3785.jpg20141010-IMG_4616.jpg20141010-IMG_4900.jpg 20141010-IMG_4659.jpg 20141031-IMG_5505.jpg 20141031-IMG_5566.jpg 20141110-IMG_5780.jpg 20141209-IMG_8473.jpg

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Goals

For the past few years, I’ve made a point to write out specific goals at the start of the year. Although I often fall short of these goals, I find that it is very helpful to me personally to write these goals out. In particular, it helps me to be aware of ares in my life that I know I need improvement. Many goals are the same as in the past years; some because I didn’t complete them and others because they ought to continually be on the list.

Spiritual Goals:
  • Daily Bible Reading
  • Focused/Planned Bible Study
  • Focused Bible lessons for the kids. We've been doing a lot of review over their Bible class material during our devotional time, but I want to incorporate more specific Bible lessons. (It would actually be good for me to write out some specific goals of what I'd like the kids to learn over the year. . .)
  • Continue using the Scripture Memory System with the kids (and me!). We've been diligently working with this system since I started homeschooling Ella in September, and it has been a great blessing for us.
  • Develop a deeper and more specific prayer life.
  • Make an effort to be aware of others’ needs, as well as how to help those in need.
  • Make an effort to encourage brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • Always be ready and eager to share the gospel.
  • Maintain and exhibit an attitude of joy that should be evident in my life because I am hidden with Christ (Col. 3:1-4).
House Goals:
  • Get the house organized, and purged of excess junk at the beginning of the year. This feels like a never-ending goal, but it is good to get a big purge done at the beginning of the year, especially after filling the house back up with Christmas presents. : )
  • Clean out, organize, and get the kids' rooms set up. We are in the process of moving Ella and Troy into one room (Luke and Troy had been sharing a room, but with sleeping schedules (especially that of a toddler), we've decided it will be better for Ella and Troy to share a room now)).
  • Teach (and enforce) good habits to the kids for keeping their areas picked up. This was a goal that I had last year, and the kids definitely follow my lead on this (which means I need to LEAD). If I do a good job reminding them (as well as enforcing), they do a pretty good job at keeping things picked up, but it is easy to let things go.
  • Keep up with Flylady’s daily assignments to help keep the house in a manageable state. 
  • Handle papers (mail, or otherwise) when they come into the home, rather than just piling them up to handle later.
  • Get one “house” project done each month (paint the front door, repair the floor, etc.)
  • This isn’t technically a “house” goal, but it fits here best: Keep our cars clear of junk and trash.
Health Goals:
  • Get back into a regular cardio routine even if it just means pushing the stroller around the block.
  • Gain strength and endurance.
  • Continue healthy eating. It took almost all of 2014 for me to get into a healthy eating habit, but I did pretty good for the last two months of 2014 (I actually weigh less now than I did at the beginning of November, which is a big deal to me when you consider all the eating that normally takes place in November and December!).
Family goals:
  • Eat at home more often.
  • Cook dinner with the kids 1-2 times a month. I really want to involve them more in cooking, but I get stuck in this bad habit of not involving them because it is quicker/easier for me to do things myself (and dinner time always seems to be hectic around our house).
  • Try out a new meal at least once a month.
  • Cook a hot breakfast for the family at least once a week.
  • Stick to our budget, and look for ways to save more.
  • Emphasize the concept of respect with Ella and Troy.
  • Encourage Ella and Troy to have the heart of a servant.
  • Encourage Ella and Troy to be thankful.
  • Foster a good relationship between the kids (teaching them about sharing, patience, kindness, etc.)
  • Give Ella and Troy more responsibilities around the house (chores, etc.) 
  • Get outside more with the kids.
  • Get down on the floor and play with the kids more.
Photography goals:
  • Learn more about off-camera flash.
  • Learn more about Adobe Photoshop.
  • Learn more about graphic design.
Other goals:
  • Become fluent in Spanish.
  • Exhibit more patience towards everyone, but especially my husband and children.
  • Work on time management, including getting up at a more consistent time in the morning, and going to bed earlier in the evening.
  • Finish reading Bringing Up Girls and Bringing Up Boys.
  • Re-read Your Mama Don’t Dance.
  • Continue reading A Well-Trained Mind.
  • Read Home Education.
  • Continue working on Ella's homeschool (figuring out what to do next, considering what things have worked/not worked, etc.)