Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Cutting and Matching and Being Like Big Sister with MGT

There's a long list of things that worry me as a homeschool mom. As a prior teacher I always had a wide range of ability levels in my classroom even though my students were the same age. I knew how to differentiate for them and although I would sometimes feel stress about it, I felt confident that I was meeting their needs. 

Strong B doesn't always want to sit with Tiny B and do lessons and that's fine. I've recently learned that he is learning and listening to us even while doing his own thing in the same room. I gave him Tiny B's end of unit assessment, and the only thing he did not know was the sight words! I was shocked! So essentially, he is learning in a multi-age and ability environment just as students do in a classroom. So that one worry as a homeschool mom can take a hike. Yay!

He loooooves doing "big kid things" like Tiny B, and when he saw her cutting, I asked him if he'd like to cut, and he really wanted to. So I pulled out his "Experience More Literacy" workbook from Mother Goose Time, and put him to work. 

He cut out the pieces of a fireman uniform and matched them up according to letters. He was working on the fine motor skill of cutting and letter recognition. 

He really enjoyed the activity and the feeling of accomplishment that it gave him. 

Then he was off to play! I have no doubt however, that he was continuing to listen to me and Tiny B do her lessons and soaking it up like a sponge.

Dance n' Beats: Winter Woods

Our evening was filled with our new Dancing Beats DVD from Mother Goose Time and the silly antics of Jack the Standard Poodle. The kids had just finished the Community Helpers Dance n' Beats and wanted more, so I opened up our new Mother Goose Time Box with the Winter Woods theme. The grand opening of the monthly box is always met with screams and "oohs" and "ahhhs." 


Dance n' Beats is incredible gross motor practice as well as an excellent following directions activity. 


We haven't done any of the lessons in the accompanying book that comes with each DVD (we simply have so many lessons to choose from in our main box!) but we looked through it and decided we wanted to do this one later this month. 

Doesn't it look adorable? I love a reason to go on a nature walk and they will certainly benefit from learning rhythm. We are constantly listening to our monthly CD and I have really been wanting to introduce them to keeping the beat.


Tiny B danced the night away and we had to pry her away from her "performance" so that she could go to bed. I love it.



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Friday Night Fun with Mother Goose Time

I can't tell you how many times over the last year and a half that I've thanked God for the Mother Goose Time curriculum. It's not only prepared Tiny B for kindergarten amazingly, but it's been our sweet place of refuge on many occasions. 

Lately I've longed for staying at home more. A friend once told me that as a homeschool mom, I would find myself with an unbelievable anount of social activities and that I would have difficulty fitting in schooling. I thought she was crazy. She was right. 

So I've been purposefully saying no to a lot of activities so that I can give more attention to my home. My housekeeping and cooking have fallen by the wayside and I truly miss it. We found ourselves at home on a Friday night and I was in bliss. We took out the "Bus Driver" lesson and had at it. 

The kids used their blocks to build a city. They used their Mother Goose Time busses that they created to drive through the streets. Watching them interact, share ideas, have disagreements, and cooperate did such good for my heart. 

I closely followed the lesson given in the Teacher Guide. 

I showed them the "Make and Play" card and we discussed our plans. 

Strong B and Tiny B used a Sharpie to draw a tiny face and clothes onto his clothespin bus driver. How's that for fine motor practice?

They colored the inside of their bus. Also perfect fine motor practice and Tiny B's OT would love this. 

Their playing lasted about an hour and it was heavenly. 

After they finished playing, we did the matching game, which is essentially "Concentration." They LOVED it and we played several rounds. Memory work is so important. 

Look at those adorable busses. 

My favorite take-away of the day was the very high quality Storybook of the Month. One is included in every MGT monthly box. The story was adorable and written so well. In Tiny B's kindergarten curriculum from her charter homeschool, we are working on different elements of the story, and recently we've been identifying the beginning, middle, and end of a story. We read the story and identified these parts. I love how I'm able to use the MGT curriculum to teach her the kindergarten objectives. 

What a fabulous Friday evening. This is what homeschooling is about. 

Dance n' Beats: Community Helpers

It is the glorious holiday season. We hung our lights today and trimmed the tree yesterday, and our family is in Christmas hog heaven with the Christmas decor. As a child, I remember playing in front of the lighted Christmas tree for hours and hours. They did this all day, and it was the absolute sweetest. 

*They did remove all of the ornaments today to pretend they were food....?? This was after hubby and I "fixed" them last night after they went to bed, so that's three times that we've hung ornaments. This wasn't so cute, but I'll remember it fondly for years to come. Right? Isn't that what they say?

Tonight we decided to do Mother Goose Time's Dance n' Beats Community Helpers. 



With the Christmas lights and the fire, it was the stuff of memory making for sure. 

I love seeing Strong B, my tough guy, do the dance moves. Last year he wouldn't do it. For many months he halfway did it. And tonight...He went all out and strutted his stuff!


They were the police, mailman, construction worker, and lots of other fun jobs. 


Tiny B was so inspired by the hairdresser that she made us pause the DVD so she could run and get her tutu. I love this about her. 


I also love the calisthenics involved in this program. They jump up and they move all the way to the floor. What perfect exercise and gross motor practice. 


The kids were so into their dancing that we pulled out next month's Dance n' Beats and did that. Precious times.

Round 2/ Week 3 of the Denise Austin Program

For me, weight loss is a battle. Every single pound is a battle. Sometimes people ask me how I lost such a large amount of weight...They want to know how I was able to stick with it. I have so many things I want to say when they ask. But mostly I just want grab their arm and sternly say, "It was so freaking hard. It was a battle. I gained nineteen pounds back after losing sixty-five and I had to go into battle again. I had to devote myself to it, but mostly, I had to sit with this horrible longing to eat to make it all feel better, and I couldn't."

The first time I lost 50 pounds was before I had my children. I worked full-time as an elementary school teacher in a very high-performing school. I had to dedicate my life to it. Looking back, it was a little easier time-wise because I would come home and spend an hour or two working out and I didn't have to prepare dinner for kids or entertain kids or homeschool kids. I was able to pour into myself for the year that it took to lose those fifty pounds. The part that made it so hard was that I had never experienced success. I had spent my twenties significantly overweight and every time I tried to lose the weight, I failed. So it almost feels like that first time was the hardest, simply for that reason. 

The second time I lost weight (this time it was sixty-five pounds) felt considerably easier. I was nursing and therefore I was allowed more calories. I nursed for three years (I know that this is a long time, but because my daughter was still on a feeding tube, I felt so lucky to be able to nurse my son for so long). I didn't even remember how long it took me to lose it this time so I looked it up...It took me two full years to lose it. Perhaps that's why it seemed easier. I had very young children and I didn't feel pressure. I was allowed more calories, I took my time and I didn't put abnormal pressure on myself, and I knew I was going to be successful because I had done it before. This time was a battle, but because I took it so slow and because I was knee-deep in my daughter's tube-feeding and constant doctor appointments and my newborn boy--the battle wasn't as hard. 

With my nineteen pound weight gain starting this spring, I knew that I was going to have to really rise up for this battle. I'm now forty. I don't get extra calories. And I feel this pressure because I'm just really sick of it. I've been doing battle with my weight for eight years now. I did have a year or two of almost being at goal weight but I was still three to five pounds over. I want it over with. Maintanance is difficult for sure, but putting myself in constant calorie deficit and praying that the scale moves is just plain difficult. I've waged an all-out war against this excess weight and it is taking a lot of my energy. I'm okay with this--and the fact that I'm so tired of it is what is propelling me forward. 

Have you ever heard people say that all they had to do was stop drinking soda and the weight just melted away? Or that they started taking daily walks and they lost twenty pounds in two months? Yeah...That is not me. How I wish it was. I have to count calories, have a workout program, carry my water bottle everywhere, do daily introspection as to how I'm emotionally handling it, wear my combat fatigues...

One thing that is non-negotiable is that I have to love the workout program and the food. I can't eliminate any foods and I must be allowed splurges from time to time. Although I'm in battle mode, I can't do extreme dieting or hours and hours of exercise. My program has to be enjoyable and with everything in moderation. I greatly admire those who can eliminate sugar or lose three pounds a week. I wish I was able, but I just can't. I've tried and lasted approximately a day each time. 

I'm in Week 3 of Round 2 of Denise Austin's 360 program, and I feel so completely blessed to have found something that I truly love. I've taken on programs before that I hated, and I either don't continue and get disgruntled and stop all activities or I push myself through it, miserably. This is now thirteen weeks of actually loving working out and having a deep desire to push myself through this, even though it's still hard. No one enjoys saying "no" to their favorite foods or even having to "sit with it" at night (soon I will write about how "sitting with it" is truly what gave me success) and know that I can't have a bag of chips in bed. Losing weight is hard business. But I'm so thankful that I have a program that I can latch onto and get excited about. 

Since starting the program thirteen weeks ago, I've lost almost twelve pounds and I've firmed up everywhere. I do not lose weight fast at all, so I'm thrilled with my results. I had a three pound loss recently and I was so excited, but I just knew that my loss would be slow for a few weeks after this. I was correct. It's just how my body loses weight. 

I now feel fit again. I'm purposefully doing things that require walking and movement. My son and I love walking the pier. The salty air and beautiful waves are truly therapeutic for this anxious girl who is dedicating herself to getting healthy. 

On this particular day, we saw a bird with a missing leg. It was beautiful and reminded me of my 3-legged dog that just passed this summer. I was able to look at it and smile and remember fondly.

I have no doubt that my depression is being lifted because of the exercise. Thinking about my beautiful dog and being able to smile is huge and one of the side-effects of raising my endorphin levels. Denise did a blog post on this phenomenom. 

For me, the raised endorphins make going into battle a heck of a lot easier. 

I love the calmness of Denise's workouts. It sits well with my love of moderation in workouts and just simply enjoying the workout and not counting down to the minute that it's over. 

I burned 406 calories during this particular workout, and that's about on average what I burn during the thirty minutes.

After working out, I feel more joy in everyday things, such as getting kisses from my puppy.

I take him on walks after my workouts. I feel accomplished and happy.

I took some pictures for Denise's newsletter, and I wasn't embarrassed. 

In my next post I'm going to tell you how this round is different from the first round and the challenge that I've given myself. 

I also can't wait to tell you about "sitting with it."

I've been compensated for this blog post, but it in no way affects my views of the Denise Austin program. It is my absolute honest opinion.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My New Way of Starting Each Monthly Theme with Mother Goose Time

This is the year of learning just how different my son is from my daughter regarding learning preferences. For that I am grateful...As an elementary school teacher I never imagined that someday I'd be differentiating for my own children as their teacher. I was staunchly against homeschooling during my years of teaching. When I had to leave my teaching career abruptly due to my daughter possibly not surviving, I wondered when my next chance would be to teach little souls who would look up to me, and little did I know that the next little souls would be my own children. 

As a new homeschooling mom, I feel lost and I question myself often. Oftentimes it's as if I have never taught before. Strong B is doing Mother Goose Time with me as his preschool program and I don't feel as confident teaching preschool as I did with the other grades. I'm so thankful that I have this program to guide me, and I'm also thankful that it's a program that can be totally tailored to meet the needs of each student.

I have found that Strong B is motivated by looking through each day's curriculum bag. I decided to take out my Teacher Guide and look through each day's lesson, and talk to him about the lessons that we could do this month. 

We talked about his interests within the realm of "Community Helpers" which is our theme for the month. I also encouraged the day's lessons that had my favorite things which are included every month.

We chose dentist, doctor, shopkeeper, author, hairdresser, and bus driver. Having a child choose what they want to learn is a huge buy in for them. What a way for them to feel in control of their own learning. How empowering that is!

The kids were very motivated by the toothbrushes in the Dentist pack. The Doctor pack included an art project done with syringes...and HELLO what former tube-fed child wouldn't want to do art with a syringe?! Strong B loves money and therefore the Shopkeeper pack was very interesting to him. I encouraged them to pick the Author pack because it has the I Can Read book which is one of my absolute favorite parts of Mother Goose Time. I wrote about it in my last post here. The Hairdresser pack had the puzzle which is also another of my favorites, and the Bus Driver pack had the monthly book, which is an absolute must. I know that six days of lessons doesn't sound like enough, but truly, with all of the extra things we are doing, such as the Experience More Math and Literacy Workbooks, I'm finding that it's just perfect for him. He is also doing some of Tiny B's kindergarten work. I have no doubt that at the end of the month we will be picking a few more to do if we have time, with it being Thanksgiving break.

I then pulled out the other parts of the program that came in this month's box that I will definitely be using. The holiday pack that is included every month is a must-do. We listen to our monthly themed CD multiple times a day, and Dance n' Beats is a big part of our physical education. I squealed when I saw that the manipulatives for the month were the connecting cubes. I use the cubes from last year nearly every day with Tiny B's kindergarten material and I know that Strong B has been wanting his own set.

I decided to keep it simple this month. Rather than covering lots and lots of days, I'm choosing to go deeper into the days that we end up choosing. The holidays are a time of celebration and (should be) relaxation! 

We will see how I switch it up next month. The only way to grow as an educator is to keep trying different things until you find something that you love. And then you'll probably have to change it again!

Just wait until you see the Bus Driver lesson that we did...It was the most fun Friday night that we've had in a long time! I love it when I can teach on a Friday evening and call it FUN!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Strong B Reads His First Book!

I don't know if most people are like this...but I find that ever since becoming a stay-at-home mom/homeschooling mom, I'm constantly evaluating the different facets of our lives, and figuring out if we are truly doing what is best for us. When I'm in more of "survival mode," such as when we have illness or Tiny B is having a migraine episode, during holidays, or just rough times, I don't think of these things as much. But when things are relatively good, I find myself questioning things. 

I've been doing that quite a bit this week about a few things, and one of those things is how to do the day to day learning with Strong B. His needs are different than Tiny B's. While she was willing and wanting to sit for long periods of time doing school work in preschool, he is not. I'm finding that he asks me writing and reading and math questions while he is playing something that is totally unrelated. Usually it's while he's outside being very physical. Interesting, right?

Mother Goose Time is looking different with him this year. Tiny B is mostly doing her curriculum from her charter school. On the days when she is at school, Strong B wants to get out of the house and play. He wants to wait to do Mother Goose Time with her. He just really enjoys her. And when he's alone, he wants OUT. So, that's what we've been doing. I had planned on doing MGT with him while she is at school, but waiting for her is just as well. She loves the activities and I'm finding that many of her kindergarten objectives are practiced within this beautiful curriculum. She does NOT like to hear that we have done MGT without for now, we will wait for our sweet girl and we will run outside and play hard. Until that changes of course, which could be tomorrow, but for now, we play. 

This week we went to the beach and Strong B ran and ran and ran and chased Seagulls and begged for Halloween candy and gum. Both of which I obliged. 

These times will not be forgotten by either of us. Homeschooling a preschooler is a magical time.

One night this week we pulled out the Tractor lesson. We've been waiting for a special time with this one because we call grandpa "Tractor Grandpa" because he drives a tractor.

One of the lessons for the day used an I Can Read book which is one of my most favorite parts of this curriculum, and I'll show you why. 

We started with a bit of discussion about tractors. I did not do the "Explore" part of the lesson because I had hoped at the time to do two of the lessons for the day that evening. It turns out that I only finished this lesson because they loved it so much and we ended up calling Tractor Grandma to have Strong B read his very first book ever to her!!!

It's an adorable paper book with bright colors.

When we called Tractor Grandma, she asked me (without him knowing) if he really was reading. The answer was yes and no. You can see that the only words that they truly need to know how to read are "we", "go", and "to." They can figure out the other words because the page has a picture that goes with the word.

I love this SO MUCH because it builds such confidence! I wish that I could show you a picture of Strong B's face as he read the book. I took pictures but since I don't show full faces here, I can't show you, but I can tell you that it was beautiful! He practiced reading from left to right, turning the pages, identifying a cover page and title, using picture cues for meaning, and comprehension when we discussed the story! And he learned three sight words that he truly did read!

We played a game described in the lesson, where they had to roll the cube and find the sight word that was written. That is an excellent teaching tool.

He practiced tracking the words with his finger. 

This was adorable...Tiny B has been learning how to "butter" her popcorn words (sight words) with a yellow marker, so she taught him how to do it, and he wanted to butter everything. That was fine by me!

What I'm learning is that my two children are different, and that he is going to learn differently than her. I'm trying to break out of my classroom teacher mold and this is the hardest part. Homeschooling just looks different, and that's okay. I want Strong B to love learning like his sister does, and I'm seeing that listening to his educational needs will lead us to the same destination, of the love of learning, even though we might take several different paths.