Sunday, January 31, 2016

We Can't Stop Leave the Safari Yet...

Tonight I was supposed to stop our Mother Goose Time Safari Unit. I opened our new Food and Fitness Unit for the month of February and put it in my file set-ups, just like I do at the start of every month with every new unit. I got the calendar out and put the adorable fruit and veggie manipulatives out for the kids to start playing with. The new Dance 'n Beats is ready to be played and sitting next to the DVD player. The new CD is next to the CD player waiting for Strong B and Tiny B to play every single song about 347 times.

But there's a problem...I cannot bring myself to stop the Safari unit yet! This weekend we finished up the fourteenth day, but we still have six days to go. This is most certainly not unusual for us. Depending on our month and how healthy we are, we will often have lessons left over that we haven't covered. Tiny B and Strong B have both been sick this week with colds and this hampered us a bit. Our typical weeks always include speech and occupational therapy plus a half-day of school for Tiny B, and these are just her school-related activities. Mother Goose Time is the only curriculum that we follow, but she is also doing these other necessary things, and I have to find a balance.

I simply put the unfinished lessons in a box with the teacher's manual and I will keep them for a time when we are ready and have enough time to learn more about Winter, Fall, Transportation, Friends and Feelings, etc. Usually the excitement of the next unit takes over and I have no problem putting away the unused lessons. This time there was something seriously magical about this unit for us. Truly, I think it's because our field trips to the Safari Park really brought it all to life for us. The CD and Dance 'n Beats songs were full of African beats and beautiful animals. It just had such an "exotic feel" to us that it truly transported us to the plains of Africa.

Tonight I went through the remaining six days which include food, grass, birds, water, beetles, and trees, and picked out the activities that I felt would be really beneficial and just plain fun! Then we're going to finish up the unit with a closing field trip to the Safari Park (our fourth time in four weeks!) where we will summarize what we've learned and do some kind of culminating activity while we're there (I'm thinking a "What We Learned" chart/collage with hand-drawn pictures).

I am so very excited to start Food and Fitness, which as you know, holds a special place in our heart due to the fact that Tiny B has weaned from her feeding tube in July. I have secretly been dreading this unit due to the fact that I didn't want to overwhelm her with food, but now I know that she is ready for it! Stay tuned for lots of eye-opening moments for Tiny B this month!

Now, on to tell you about a few things that we did this week...

We made Masaii huts and did role-playing with Masaii Tribe members as well as safari animals. We also used a storyboard to take turns telling stories. Long long loooooooong stories. Ha! Five -year-olds sure enjoy telling stories.

We did a concentration type game with elephants and colors and eye shapes.

We made African shaker sticks and danced around to that beautiful CD that I mentioned earlier and put on a show for daddy.

I have this wall in our family room school area where I hang their art work for the month. I know it's somewhat tacky to keep it in our family room but I absolutely love it. I love the mixture of Mother Goose Time art and the art from Strong B's preschool. The kids are so proud of their work and they take this work down every single day to play with it (Believe me, I know this because I find it scattered around the house and am constantly rehanging it!).

I  don't want to take this month down. Such great memories and such beautiful work. However, the time will come in the next few days when I will take it down and I will make room for new memories and new adventures. It's somewhat symbolic of our lives with our children. Time moves on, things come to an end, but new adventures begin. Time passes. It's beautiful and sad and exciting all at the same time.

*I receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Our Daily Routines (and Non-Routines!) in Homeschooling

We've had an amazing week of Mother Goose Time activities and I can't wait to share them with you! It always makes it extra exciting when I'm excited about the subject matter (Going on Safari) and it truly helps my students (my own children in this case) get excited as well. This week I'm going to write about something that Mother Goose Time has asked me to expand upon, which is routines and transitions. Because of where we are in life, which is Tiny B weaning from her feeding tube, our routines mean everything to us.

When I taught elementary school, the schedule was extremely important, particularly when I taught sixth grade and we would shuffle the students between our rooms depending on their learning level. I couldn't excuse my students late or it would affect the other teachers. I was constantly looking at the clock and that image is burned into my mind. In my mind's eye, when I think about those years, I picture myself trying to race the clock, and always finding ways with my coworkers to get in as much subject matter as possible in the shortest amount of time. I had the objectives that I was tasked to teach that year right alongside my planner, and each box in my planner had the objective that I  wanted to teach and the time that was required to teach it. The schools in which I taught were very high-performing and the expectations from administrators and parents were high as well. By the time that standardized testing was to take place, you better believe that all of us teachers had taught every objective repeatedly. Of course there was fun....Oh, how I loved my students and the subject matter. Of course there was enjoyment. What sweet memories I have of being a huge figure in the lives of my dear students. But to be effective as a teacher who is going to teach every single objective, you needed to be on a schedule and understand those standards like the back of your hand. If you are or were a public school teacher in the state of California (or most likely most states), you know what I am talking about and I am sure that you are nodding your head in agreement. Schedule, routine, everything in the classroom. I write this so that you can see just where it is that I come from, and how I have to drastically change my viewpoint every single day, and that this is very hard for me.

Sweet B weaned from her feeding tube in the end of July, but we are still continually working on those eating skills, introducing her to new foods, and I spend a large portion of my day counting her calories and logging them in a journal (this will not be forever, thank goodness!) Strong B is three years-old and he attends preschool two days a week for three hours a day. We build our Monday through Friday routines around Tiny B's therapies, tumbling class, Strong B's preschool schedule, and my bible study on Thursdays.

Sweet B is in transitional kindergarten this year and I am going through an amazing public charter homeschool in our area which is incredibly popular (seriously most of the moms whom I hang around with send their children to this particular school). You have the option of sending them none, one, or two days a week and homeschooling them the rest of the time. In transitional kinder you only have the option of half a day once a week, so this is what we do.

You can choose your own curriculum with the school's approval or do their curriculum. Mother Goose Time contacted me this summer and asked me to write for them as they were particularly interested in hearing about Tiny B's experiences. It started with a blogger who contacted me about it, and I will forever be grateful. I prayed and prayed and prayed and finally God showed me through a few situations that yes, indeed I was to go with the Mother Goose Time curriculum, and the charter school is behind me 100 percent and thinks it is amazing when I show them the materials. 

It has been a huge answer to a prayer that I didn't even know I had.

It has allowed me to really focus on Tiny B's true needs...Does she need to learn how to fully read today or does she need to learn how to eat and enjoy food? Does she need to know all of her numbers up to one hundred today, or does she need to have joy and remain stress-free so that we can keep her migraines at bay as much as possible? The answers are very clear to me....Mother Goose Time teaches the preschool/transitional kinder/kindergarten objectives beautifully, and believe me, Tiny B is learning them and will go to kindergarten very prepared (she is so very smart!) but Mother Goose Time has allowed me to do three lessons a day or no lessons for three days...It is all in my mama gut, how fast I want to approach things.

I believe that all parents do this; we naturally structure our time based on our children's needs. We listen to our guts.

We school in the morning. We school at night after dinner. We school on the weekends. And sometimes/many times, we forget schooling and go on an adventure mid-week where there is no mention of letters/addition/subtraction or we talk about subject matter the entire time. Tiny B and Strong B are thriving in this environment and a big reason is because I am following their cues.

But you can see why this routine or sometimes lack of routine often causes a war in my former teacher brain. My brain says, "But you need to do the same amount of school every single day and check off each objective as you teach it and give her formal assessments to measure if she is learning the subject matter!" But then my heart tells my brain, "She is five. She is in transitional kindergarten. Most kids don't even go to transitional kindergarten. Mother Goose Time has already done the work for you in scheduling how you are going to teach the objectives and ensure that you get them taught. Relax. Enjoy. It's not going to be like this forever. You've gone through the ringer for five years with prematurity/health/feeding tube/other issues that most parents don't face with children so young."

Every parent at our charter homeschool answers to an educational specialist who helps to guide them. Mine calls this year "The Gift Year." It's the gift of learning to eat and being free from the tube and the gift of time and the gift of spending so much non-stressful time with my children. I don't write much about Tiny B's health concerns on this blog because I'm choosing to respect her story (even though it is amazing and I want to tell everyone just how far she has come!) and I don't know how much she'll want to share eventually (this is the main reason...because something in my heart tells me at this point to not share too much). But please know that she is amazing and if you met her you'd be shocked at her start in life...Strong B is amazing as well and I just want to savor every moment with this sweet boy...

So for this year we are enjoying our non-routines as much as we can. Soon will come a time when I will have those objectives out and I'll be checking them off and I'll be stressing I'm sure, but for now, I'll savor the non-routines.

I'll leave you with pictures from our week doing Mother Goose Time activities. I'd tell you the times that we did them, but honestly, I can't remember, and I'm perfectly okay with that.

We learned about rhinos, made our horns, and charged imaginary beasts in our "safari" (backyard).

We made lion manes and worked on strengthening our fine motor skills and then exercised our loud roaring voices.

They read their recipe card and used the pictures and numbers to direct them in the steps to make a giraffe out of a tortilla.

They became part of a story as I read the text and they flipped over pictures that described a beautiful story about why a small animal is made exactly the way that they are. (It actually made me tear up a bit).

They worked on a rhino puzzle in their jammies. That's actually the best way to work on a puzzle, right?

We made our own giraffes exactly how we wanted to make them with only a small amount of guidance. (These kinds of projects are my favorite!)

We spent time counting spots on a giraffe in a fun little game which also had us extend it to using addition and subtraction. We used some really high-level thinking skills here!

Oh, there's so many more pictures I could share, but I'll close with the last two pictures. They're zebras done by each of my kids. I love being given the opportunity to allow each of my kids to learn and grow in a way that suits their individuality. 

*I receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Continuing on our Safari with Mother Goose Time

Tiny B has had an amazing four weeks of eating. Ever since we had a conversation with her about why she needs to eat more and how that feeding tube will have to be used again if she doesn't, she has really stepped up to the plate like that strong girl that she is. And in turn, I've been able to start working out again and losing the ten pounds that I gained with the feeding tube weaning program. I'm so hesitant to write about how good things have been because I don't want to jinx it, but the reality is that for today, things are really good! She's struggling with starting her migraine episode right now and I know that it's only a matter of time, but until then I will soak up how good she is doing with her eating! My hope is that she has put some weight on so that when she stops eating during her episode, I don't have to worry so much.

I often look forward to a time when the constant monitoring of eating is behind us so that I can focus on homeschooling in a much bigger way. Because Tiny B is in transitional kindergarten this year (spending just 3.5 hours one day a week in a classroom and the rest with me), and the fact that this year is The Year Of Eating, our homeschooling experience probably looks very different than most. Some days we are focusing on just relaxing/just "being" as we make sure that the environment is conducive to learning to eat in a relaxed manner. Other days we will spend hours doing Mother Goose Time because that's what we want to do and it's so fun and it's truly preparing her for kindergarten. Some weeks we will do two days of lessons and the next week we will do five and maybe the next week we won't do any because Tiny B is in an episode. It also depends on if Strong B is in preschool (he attend for three hours/two-three days a week). I will do some activities with only Tiny B and some with both.

It's amazing how God turns things around like you would never imagine! This summer at the homeschooling conference I planned and daydreamed about spending our days homeschooling for hours intermingled with tube-feeds throughout the day, and I was scared. Tiny B was to be in kindergarten (even though if she was not born so prematurely she'd be in transitional kinder) and attending the charter homeschool two days a week and she was to have a nurse with her at the school to administer her feeds. Well, come August, and she's just finished her online tube-weaning program, I've fought for her and succeeded in putting her in transitional kindergarten, and my mind is blown!

I spend most days gauging how my littles are feeling and what they truly need to make the best out of that particular day. At such a young age, this is crucial, and especially with a child who so desperately needs to be successful in learning a necessary life skill such as eating.

Anyway, Mother Goose Time wanted us to do a post about our routines, and instead of a post, I thought I'd break it up into a few posts since I find this topic to be so interesting in the light of what we are experiencing this year. Seriously...I never in a zillion years guessed that I would be experiencing watching my beautiful daughter teach herself to eat.

I'll continue writing about it in my next post, and for the remainder of this post, I'll give you a glimpse of some of the activities that we have done in the past two weeks. I have to say that I am having such a great time doing this month's topic, "Going on Safari!"

We "packed up" for our safari and made a safari hat and a packing list. We did these activities while Strong B was at preschool so he didn't make his hat until that evening. Tiny B cut pictures out of a magazine of the things that she would take. It was perfect fine motor practice. Cutting from a magazine is hard because the paper is so thin and slippery.

We did this concentration type activity. Such fun!

This prompted her to insist to Grandma that she bring over her sleeping bag and that I set up the tent in the family room and Strong B and Tiny B have been having many adventures there ever since.

The next day's topic was Game Reserve. I usually choose 1-2 activities a day to do from each daily topic, but I had to do all four activities for this day. They were incredible activities. I'm not kidding when I tell you that we spent three hours doing it and it extended into the evening when they continued on their own.

We read a beautiful book sent to us by Mother Goose Time called, "Giraffes Can Dance." It was a beautiful message of hope and the pictures really wowed me!

We set up our own safari in the living room where I charged an entry fee and we worked on counting out the Mother Goose money. Then I hid animals around the "safari"and we used positional vocabulary (in, under, around, beside, etc...) to locate the animals. It was such fun!

In this picture, the ostrich is between the pillow and the blanket.

The next day, we discussed safari vehicles and looked at and discussed the monthly theme poster with magnifying glasses.

A few days later we learned about safari safety and made binoculars (these are being taken to our real safari park today) and the kids pretended to be different animals on a wild animal chase. Then of course we brought out the "safari truck" from the garage and the kids played on that for a long time. I love Mother Goose Time for all of the activities that lead to imaginative play. I truly believe that at this age, that is one of the best ways of learning. Almost nothing is better than watching your children use what you have taught them to create their own little word.

*I receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Going on Safari with Mother Goose Time!

I have been so excited for this month's Mother Goose Time curriculum topic for a long time! The topic is "Going on Safari" and is all about the ways you need to prepare for going on a safari and what you would see on a safari. 

One of the reasons that I've been so excited is that we have a safari park in our area. It's the sister park to the San Diego Zoo and it's beautiful. The animals aren't in little cages so it makes it harder to see them, but it's just so beautiful to see them in a more natural place, that you quickly get over that. We received the money for season passes from my dad for Christmas, and we've already gone twice in two weeks! I think it's so important to connect the children's prior knowledge to their subject matter so that they can better understand just what it is that they're studying, and so that they can get excited about it! At ages 3 and 5, my kiddos don't have prior knowledge about a safari. If we weren't able to go to the Safari Park, I would do what I'm going to do anyway, which is read them lots of books on the subject and watch shows on TV. (I'm already thinking of field trips for next month's subject: Food and Fitness).

We did our anticipatory set at the Safari Park, and I took the idea web given on the MGT website so that I could introduce them to all of the topics.

This is a screenshot that I took on my phone of the MGT website. I'm so thankful that they have this on their website because I forgot to bring my hard copy.

We talked about what it means to go on a safari (I had to do some research, as I'm not well versed in this!) We saw animals and built a hut. 

We then came home and made a passport. We Facetimed my mom and had her show us her real passport. 

The next few days after this were filled with absolutely adorable activities, but I'll save that for my next post!

*I receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Math and Reasoning through an Adorable Santa Activity

I know that Christmas has been over for a week now, but I have one adorable activity that I wanted to show you! As a Mother Goose Time Blog Ambassador, they'd like me to describe an activity which taught math and reasoning and number concepts. We did a Santa activity that encouraged both Tiny B and Strong B to build number recognition skills.

This activity came with the Santa's Workshop kit included in the curriculum for December. Every month that I've been a blog ambassador, there has been a special kit included, and that's one of my favorite parts of this curriculum.

In this kit, we were able to built a Santa puppet. So stinkin' adorable.

We also read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" as the kids held up props from the story that were included in our kit.

Our math activity involved matching numbers on cards to the numbers on Santa's beard. I have to admit that this seemed very basic for my 5 year-old at first. I really thought that this would only be beneficial for my 3 year-old. Well, I was wrong, as I am too many times to count!

Don't you sit around the Christmas tree in your tutu??

We begin by laying the cards with numbers 1-16 on them, faced down on the table. There was also a card with a robber on it. As each child drew a card, they would take a cotton ball and place it on that same number on Santa's beard. This is where I realized that my 5 year-old doesn't recognize some numbers after ten consistently, and this was amazing practice for number recognition. (I realize that I should have known this at the beginning of the activity, but this is a perfect illustration as to how medical issues with one's child can affect so many things...).

The kids took turns drawing the cards and placing the cotton balls on Santa's beard. We discussed each number. Tiny B encountered a problem where she accidentally put the card that she had just drawn back in the remaining cards, so we peeked at each one until we found the card. It made for a great extra little learning opportunity. Gotta grab those when they happen! When the kids would pick the robber, they had to take off some cotton balls and start again. They thought it was hilarious!!!!

Tiny B and I played the game one more time. Strong B was onto other things by then, such as throwing his toys into the tree :)

The night was so beautiful and so fun, sitting in front of the tree. Now that the tree is put away and 2016 has begun, I almost long for that night, knowing that it won't happen again for another year. Those sweethearts will be a year older, and hopefully I'll be a year wiser, and we'll have more precious activities to do under the tree, but they'll never be three and five again at Christmas.

*I receive Mother Goose Time curriculum in exchange for my honest sharing of experiences, resulting from our personal use. All opinions/thoughts are my own and are in no way influenced by others.