30 August 2012

How to Read to Your Almost-Two-Year-Old

Reading with a toddler is an interesting experience. It usually goes something like this: 

Said toddler grabs a book from the bookshelf (or the floor . . . not that ours are scattered on the floor instead of neatly on shelves). 

He brings it over and plops down in your lap, settling in comfortably. 

Open the book and read two sentences. 

Toddler tosses book aside and leaves your lap.

Agent A in the book-eating days
Toddler finds another book, comes back to you and gets comfy. 

Open the book and read two sentences. 

Toddler tosses book aside and leaves your lap.

Toddler finds another book, comes back to you and gets comfy. 

Open the book and read two sentences. 

(Repeat approximately 27 times.)

Toddler's eyes widen as he admires the collection of books he has amassed.

Pause reading in favor of using said books to build towers.

26 August 2012

Just an Average Day

Not Back to School Blog Hop This is the last week of the Not Back To School Blog Hop hosted by iHomeschool Network. Our final topic: A Day in the Life. (My other posts for this link up can be found here: Our CurriculumOur School RoomOur Student Photos)

Today I'm sharing a bit about what our days look like right now. It reflects our "Momma only" routine, as Hubby is currently attending school out of state in preparation for returning to sea duty.

Rather than give you a beginning to end synopsis, which quite frankly would probably only serve to convince you we are the most boring people on the planet, instead I thought I'd share a list of random things (in no particular order) that happen around here most days.
  • I used to be a morning person (as were my children). Now, just the opposite: We all go to bed late (well, the baby goes down at 8:00-ish) and get up much later than we used to. This schedule would not fly if we had to be out the door in the morning for public school that starts at 8:00 a.m. But it works perfectly for learning at home.
  • I always start the day with coffee. The Agents prefer to start their morning with fruit. We snack a lot throughout the day. Most afternoons, I have tea. (Yes, hot tea. Yes, even in the summer.)
Who needs toys when you have . . . a kitchen
  • I try to attack mundane activities with a regular schedule. For example, every night after dinner, I start the dishwasher and clean up the kitchen. The kids typically run off to play as soon as dinner is over, so without them underfoot it only takes 10-15 minutes tops. It's much less overwhelming when I do it at the same time each day. And I like to wake up to clean dishes.
  • We joined the local YMCA recently, and we aim to go every day (except Sunday; they're closed). My logic is if I plan to go six days a week I will actually make it there at least four or five, which is what I really want anyway.
  • While the majority of our day could be considered a learning experience (isn't everything "learning" when you're a child?) on any given day we probably do about 30-60 minutes of actual "school work" in the traditional sense. My oldest is six, and I'm not doing anything formal for the younger two (four and almost two).
  • The Senior Agents are awake for at least 14 hours each day; the Little Agent for at least 12. No one naps, but barring any illnesses everyone sleeps pretty well at night. Still, it makes for some looooong days around here, even though they all entertain themselves and each other pretty well most of the time. I consider myself more of a hands-off tour guide than an in-your-face event planner.
  • On a related note, I try not to structure their days too much. I aim to give them as much freedom to enjoy their time as I can, while still encouraging them to participate in the everyday activities that need to happen to keep the household running smoothly and helping everyone learn to coexist peacefully. (I guess that's a fancy way of saying we don't have a lot of rules or chores or must do's around our house, but instead try to model what is expected so everyone can get along and things that need to happen, happen.)
Sometimes we play in the bathtub in the middle of the day
  • I bathe all three Agents at 7:00-ish each night. We don't do the typical bath/pajamas/brush teeth/read stories/go to bed routine I seem to hear about everywhere. While Agent A usually goes to sleep not long after bath time, the girls and I stay up for several hours. We read, we talk, we watch television, we snack. Our evenings are very relaxed. 

19 August 2012

My Lovely Students: A Photo Post

Not Back to School Blog HopWelcome back to another week of the iHomeschool Network Not Back To School Blog Hop. Today is School Photo Day. Be sure to click over and check out some of the many wonderful posts linked there. A great resource for homeschooling families!

Today I'm sharing some of my favorite photos of my favorite pupils. In the time we've been homeschooling I have collected so many pictures of them "doing" school . . . which can pretty much be anything in our world of child-led learningFirst, while not school-related, I'm sharing a few professional shots from our last round of family photos to introduce you to our crew. Then I've included a few of them "in action" coloring at the kitchen table. (Have I mentioned how much we enjoy coloring as a teaching tool?) Lastly, a cute picture of Agent E reading to Agents J and A, something she loves to do.

Agent E showing off her flower child side

Agent J expressing her inner hippie as well

Sweet Agent A holding on to Daddy

E found a fossil during our photo shoot

J enjoyed being messy as usual

A being silly hiding behind Momma

Agent E working hard

J couldn't even tear herself away to take a quick photo

Agent A likes to participate, too

Big Sister sharing a story with her siblings

18 August 2012

This Is Why We Don't Go Anywhere

A few posts back I posed a question to my readers who are stay-at-home parents: What does getting out mean to you? Most folks agreed with me that while staying home all day every day would make them nuts, and occasional adult conversation is nice, actually making the effort to take the kids farther than the back yard every day would be a bit much. 

Here, we don't "get out" every day, but even introverted hermits like to make friends every once in a while. Which is why I was so excited to see there is a chapter of Attachment Parenting International in our new hometown. I made contact. I spoke with the leader of the group. I gathered some info on potential play group and homeschooling group action. I was ready to interact with other humans.

The API group had a meeting today. Normally we don't venture too far on Saturdays, but I made an exception. The distance was almost a deal-breaker for me (as in outside of my 10-mile radius "zone") but we have a full tank of gas and Google maps and GPS. I dress the Agents in adorable matchy outfits, pack snacks, and we head out. After 40 minutes we pull into the parking lot. 

At which point Agent J pukes all over her dress.

Maybe she just ate too much soap
Now, J is a cougher, she coughs a lot and very hard every time she gets the wee-est sniffle. She may or may not have asthma; technically she's been "diagnosed" with it and even took meds for it in the past. Regardless, once in a great while she will cough so hard she makes herself throw up a little. I'm 99% sure that is what just happened, but how do I take her in now?

I get out of the car, clean her up best I can with the baby wipes in my purse, and sit back down in the driver's seat. 

Agent E: Are we going in? Why aren't we getting out of the car? Are there friends here? Is this the playground? This doesn't look like the playground. Is J sick? A, stop pulling my hair!

Me: No, sorry, we can't. J probably is fine, but she may be getting sick, and we don't want to spread her germs.

Agent E: We should have just stayed home.

Meanwhile I'm thinking we drove all this way, and I really, really want to go in. And I know in all likelihood what just happened is a fluke and J is fine. But . . . 

So, we go home. And on the way decide to stop at McDonalds for lunch. Because what else would any self-respecting parent who just cleaned up puke from her child do? On the way, more exciting conversation ensues.

Agent E: Remember that time at Ba and Grandpap's [my parents] house when I ate soup and then it came back out of my mouth later? 

Me: Yep. You were sick. We all were. Even Baby J. [This happened a while ago. Agent E never forgets anything.]

Agent E: Was I coughing?

Me: No. You had a stomach virus. It's like having germs in your tummy and they have to come out. Sometimes you throw up food you already ate to help the germs get out.

(Pause here to order chicken nuggets and fries.)

Agent E: What if they don't want to come out that way? Do you just poop them out?

Me: Yes, Sweetie. Something like that.

Drive back to the house. Eat lunch. Agent J is totally okay. And we escaped being social once again.

12 August 2012

Our School Room

Not Back to School Blog Hop
Linking up again with the folks at iHomeschool Network for the Not Back To School Blog Hop. Today we are sharing a bit about our school rooms.

Just over a year has passed since I first contemplated homeschooling.

This seems like a good place to study
The idea first entered my head while on vacation. We had taken our first cruise, traveling around the Mediterranean and whooping it up (as much as one can whoop with three young and demanding Agents in tow), and I kept teasing my husband that he needed to score a job as Cruise Ship Captain, so the kids and I could travel around with him at deeply discounted family rates and see the world. I thought it odd that, although I had never considered it before, it flashed through my mind: I would totally homeschool them for that kind of opportunity.

Anyway, fast-forward a few months and it's time for Agent E to start Kindergarten. We willingly and happily registered her, but something is nagging at me and and I can't quite figure out what. One day it just kind of hits me: What If We Just Don't Send Her? And instead let her continue learning at her own pace and traveling and see what happens? Could this work for her siblings as well?

We soon learned that one of the many advantages of homeschooling is that your "classroom" can be absolutely anywhere. We have a small box we keep our current school supplies in, and we use a binder to organize paperwork and notes, but we don't just "do" school in any one place. 

Oh, yeah . . . where was I going with this? School room. Right. We've embraced the idea of practicing child-led education, and that means we can find learning opportunities anywhere. How about a photo? (Or six?)

With Agent J at the top of the Eiffel Tower
Exploring the back yard
Posing with one of our favorite tools, the giant maps
Agent E in Greece, on the starting line
of the original Olympic stadium
Sometimes we even work in the kitchen
Visiting a carpet-making factory in Turkey

05 August 2012

Home First Grade: An Update

Not Back to School Blog Hop
Linking up with some wonderful bloggers at iHomeschool Network for the Not Back To School Blog Hop. Today we're talking curriculum.

I shared a few weeks ago that we started first grade earlier than I anticipated per Agent E's request. The three main areas we decided to focus on for the next few months were the 50 states, weather, and Spanish. (This is in addition to basic math, reading, and writing, which are just such a part of our lives I find it hard to even categorize them as "school" . . . plus outside exploration time, computer time, and general life skills time.) 

For the states, we're using some very simple materials, including the giant state map already hanging in our playroom, two workbooks from the dollar section at Target, and some online resources. We're learning basic geography, state capitals, and a few fun facts, as well as peaking E's interest in traveling (again). 

My student
In keeping with our philosophy of E having significant input into our choice of subjects, weather is out and ocean life is in. We're exploring different sea creatures right now and working on a short list of unit studies. I don't know why she lost interest in wind, rain, and clouds and became fascinated instead with whales, anemones, and sea cucumbers, but this is how we roll, so we're going with it. (I don't think the Octonauts had anything to do with it, though . . . cough, cough.)

Having fun with the Spanish; mostly we're trying to learn some basic vocabulary (numbers, colors, animals, months) right now, as well as work on pronunciation. We have post-its up around the house with the Spanish words for common household items, and we're starting on conversational phrases (my name is . . . how are you . . . excuse me . . . I like . . .). 

As much as I love child-led learning, and will continue to follow E's lead in what we study, I think we both need more structure to our days and our curriculum as far as the how. I'm fairly certain this is driven by the fact that Hubby is gone for the next couple of months and when he's not around we all need more of a routine to stay sane. So, we're trying some things like daily assignment checklists and a set time each day to review our work. And I'm working on being more proactive with planning and keeping my own notes.