Thursday, September 29, 2011

Shhhh! Just a peek....

Quiet now....they don't see you.
This peaceful second of home learning brought to you by......

{Stay tuned for more on this amazing system of lesson organization that has 
revolutionized our day!!}

P.S.  Please, please don't be discouraged if your school time looks more chaotic than this!
I posted this simply because it's so rare to find this in my own house,
and I had to document it so I could remember it.
You should have seen it just moments later when the boy on the far right started teasing the 
little girl in the center on the left!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Back-to-school: What to do with preschoolers while homeschooling older siblings?

This is a universal dilemma for homeschooling parents.
When I first began this journey of homeschooling 9 years ago, it wasn't much of an issue.
My then 2 year old would sit along with us sweetly as we read our books, or she would occupy herself quietly while I was doing something with her 5 year old sister.

Times have changed for us and our classroom has gradually filled up.
We've added 4 more children to the house....4 more to the classroom {We'll have a new kindergartner this year, plus one preschooler.}
In the last several years, we've always had 2-3 preschoolers floating around wanting to get their fingers into everything we were doing, and it can be very stressful at times.

I've read some great articles on this challenge that has helped shaped my thinking about this.
One of my favorite is found at Journeying With Joy.
There are lots of great ideas in that post!!

I've also had things for little ones to engage in while I was doing table work or crafts with older ones that needed my attention.
This year, as I prepared lessons for the older children, I also been prepared some new things for the youngest ones that they haven't seen before, as well as breathing new life into some of our old stand-bys.

Playing with our ABC's
Learning how to put the alphabet in sequential order.
Learning how to put letter sounds together to spell words.

This is a simple little activity that my 11 year old can put together for her siblings!

Use as fun little toppers for your cupcakes at your "Back to School" party!! 

Click on the title above for the link to where you can purchase your own set!!

These are so much fun for all ages and teaches early geometry and shapes!

It comes with lots of cards with pre-made designs or..... can sort by shape....or.... color.

Wooden puzzles
Let's not forget the simple pleasures of puzzles.
Lots of different kinds available, but I think the trick to making them fun,
is to not make them available all the time.
Keep them special for "school time" for your little ones, so they don't get bored with them.

Check out these puzzles at Melissa and Doug.

I LOVE these products.
Super bright, super cute!!
Check out their website by clicking on the title above!!

 And let's not forget the great stand-by's we usually always have on hand for our children.

Again, I think the trick to making this useful is to not do it everyday.  Keep it in the rotation for school-time activities.

Finally, I've found it helpful to have a loose schedule for the little ones that coincide with what the older ones are doing.  Think of it like a bone-fide day care schedule.
Break it up into 15-30 minute increments and include things like book time, craft time, snack time, outside time, lunch time, nap time, snack time, dinner time, play-doh time, bath time, bedtime.

When you run out of things to do.....start the schedule over again.
This year, my plan is to put an older sibling on the youngest two during their break time to help supervise them {the younger ones} during activities that tend to be messy!

I have to admit that last year was so difficult for me that I defaulted all too often to the TV for my younger children.
Granted we only have Netflix, and they usually stay in the circle of PBS type preschool shows....but they had an enormous diet of this!!
I'm RESOLVED to not let this happen again this year!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Back-to-school: Short on wall space?

As I was preparing for a new season of learning, I was trying to think of new ways to freshen up our tired, little school space.
Doesn't every teacher want to decorate her classroom for a new school year??

We don't have the luxury of an entire room that we could dedicate just to our schooling.
We use a room that has multiple functions in our home.
It is also our main dining area with a large table and 8 chairs.
The piano is in this room, as well as our computer.
When you walk through our front door, this is the room you enter.
I just don't want to take down the entire collection of family pictures on the wall to make space for posters and other fun things to see, so I remembered this idea I saw at a friend's house.

I put both the leaves in my table and laid out several posters I already had, plus a few I picked up at the dollar store.
Then I purchased a sheet of clear, plastic vinyl from Wal-Mart.
It was in the craft section folded in a 54" by 9 ft. sheet.
I just laid that sheet of vinyl flat over all the posters and stapled it to the bottom of my table.
I know that not many people are ready to use heavy duty staples on the underneath of their dining table, but I can't have it sliding off.
This way, it's super easy to glue mess after our lapbooking projects.
And if we're having a special dinner, I can just cover it up with a fancy table cloth!!

I'm not exactly sure why I didn't think of this years ago!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Back-to-school: First day back photos

I don't know why I've never done this before either.
Apparently, the first day of school picture is a popular tradition.
I just never seemed to make time for it, 
or never thought of it since I never grew up doing this.

But when I saw these super easy printables......I couldn't resist!!
Maybe you'd want to print off a set for yourself!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Back-to-school: Kick-off breakfast!!

This last Monday we had a Back-to-School kick off day {yes, I know it was Labor Day}.
I decided to start the day off with something a little special before we enjoyed the first "Monday Funday" of the school year, and then sat down together and went through some orientation.

I have to be honest here and admit that I copied most of these ideas from one of my favorite blogs.......
The Homespun Heart!
Monica's ideas were so simple and easy to pull together, and I had most of all she used laying around my house too!!
The most time consuming thing to prepare were the little Bible verse cards.

My very thoughtful and giving, "new-to-homeschooling" friend made the pencil vase for me!!

The menu was simple and no fuss:
Whole wheat chocolate chip muffins {I tossed in some bananas, nuts and flaxseed too!}
Easy fruit kabobs
Milk or Water

Of course I have lots and lots of crayons......

It was worth what little time I had to put into it to see this:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A slight delay and a new diagnosis: Adenomyosis

Last week I had very ambitious and lofty goals laid out.
I was going to have lesson plans prepared.....some new things put out for our school room...and a new system in place for my children to work through their school day.
I was also going to have school books picked out {at the least expensive cost} and all the free printables ready to go for the first week or so as we ease our way back in to a schooling routine!!
Last of all, I was going to make out new routine and chore charts, and have fresh activities ready for the younger ones to do while older siblings and Mom are busy.
All so we could start school this last Monday {August 29}.
So much to do...but a little every small bites....was doable.

"The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps."
Proverbs 16:9

Sunday morning I needed to stay home with our oldest who was on the tail-end of some sort of virus,
and our 7-year old who had developed some sort of rash on her arms, abdomen, legs, and the lower half of her face.
It wasn't bothering her too much, though she was self-conscious about how blotchy she looked.
It had some up a little on Friday, then more pronounced and itchy by Saturday.
I gave her several doses of Benedryl Saturday, Saturday evening, and on into Sunday.
But by Monday morning, she woke up and came to me looking like this.....

I panicked internally and tried to calmly tell her that we were making a trip to our pediatrician that morning.
First little detour.
Quick trip over to the doctor confirmed my suspicions....poison ivy.
Needed some in a trip to the pharmacy.

The next morning {Tuesday} I had already scheduled an appointment for myself with my OB/GYN to address some issues that have started getting out-of-hand.
After a couple different tests, he concluded that I have developed adenomyosis.
His treatment options:  Birth control pills, then possibly, if they didn't help, a hysterectomy.

What is that?!?!
Never heard of it....and a little shell-shocked at such a dramatic, final treatment.
I went home and talked this over with my husband, and he agreed that I should research other options FIRST.
For the next 3 days, I spent hours trying to learn what this condition is, how to treat it more naturally, and where on earth to find the right course of treatment.
Second detour.

What I learned in those 72 exhausting hours is worthy of a blog post all it's own.
I intend to talk more in depth about this as I was mystified at how difficult it was to get information!!
I finally received a little bit of resolution when I found another OB/GYN just 5 minutes from our house who can help me work with what God already gave me in an effort to achieve healing in a number of different areas.
But all that research completely wiped out my plans for the week.

Things settled down nicely until Saturday afternoon.
We were just 2 hours from Daddy getting home from work for the evening, when the 2 youngest began the chase.
You know the one.....around the family dining table at top speed.
I was sitting at said table, and before I could say, "Stop running," the 5-year old boy tripped over something and smashed head-on into the corner of the piano bench.

I knew immediately that something was different about that crash, as everything hushed in the house and we all seemed to move in slow motion.
He stood up holding his forehead with both hands, open-mouth crying.
I said to myself, "If there's blood, this is not going to be good."
And there was......lots of it.
When I saw where it was coming from.....I knew......yet another trip to a doctor.

Third detour.
We sat in the waiting room of our local ER for...get this....4 HOURS before we got in to a room.
After nearly an hour in the actual treatment room, he was glued and taped stitches afterall.
But I was entirely okay with that because he was NOT happy about the prospect of a shot and stitches.
I held him close in my arms as we walked to the doors of the ER, and we prayed that maybe the Lord would let it be that he wouldn't have to have a shot....and maybe even not need stitches.
So when we walked out after his bedtime with him all patched up, I didn't feel chapped at ALL.
He had been such a patient, delightful, little angel the whole time we waited and he delighted everyone else in the waiting room.
I got to read to him, and we practiced writing and spelling, and we shared some snacks, and snuggled a little bit, and it was lovely to spend all that time with just him.

Sometimes the Lord takes us down a path we never dreamed we travel.
I still don't know where my new diagnosis is going to lead me.
I was frustrated at first that my plans screeched to a halt......
Because of all the detours, we are starting school next week.
But so what?

The Lord is up to something.
When He changes my direction, I know I need to just follow Him.