Saturday, January 28, 2017

So Many Deep Thoughts on Homeschooling and my Teaching Past

We're moving. We don't know where to and we don't know when but it's coming soon. I've been on a mission to get rid of things that don't "spark joy" for me. (If that phrase sounds familiar to you then you know the method that I am using to discard my belongings and I'm hoping to write about my "festival" soon). It's an emotional move. But really, aren't all moves at least a little emotional?

 Going through boxes of memorabilia from my forty years on this earth has caused me to take some mental journeys through the past. A few days ago I began going through my boxes and boxes of material from my teacher credentialing program. I have about twenty notebooks of all of my papers that I wrote in the program. These papers contained by belief systems regarding children and education. I also had beautiful notebooks that I took on interviews in which I had compiled pictures of myself and my students and their beautiful work. I had pages and pages of my discipline plan for my classroom and I was able to read that and smile at how I had changed so much over my ten years of teaching. I couldn't bring myself to throw these beautiful pages away. I had written all of my papers with such love and emotion behind them. My professors whom I had loved had taken such time to write me me within the papers...Words and phrases that I used that really spoke to them they had underlined and circled and drew exclamation points. I kept my many observations that were done on me in my teaching program as well as during my years of teaching. I read through a lot of them and smiled with memories but cringed with some of the critiques (all mild critiques...all necessary for growth for any teacher).

It brought me back to the passion that I had for my future and the impact that I was going to make in the lives of my students. And then the actual goals that I had written up every year of teaching brought me back to how I truly gave my life to my profession. I didn't have many friendships outside of my work for those ten years and I didn't have many hobbies; my whole life revolved around teaching.

And therefore what jolted me was the realization that I have left so much of that in order to teach my own children. At home. For no pay. And in a system that I was previously vehemently opposed to. I did have a few parents in my time of teaching withdraw their children to homeschool and in all honesty, I did not think they were making the right choice. How could a parent possibly teach their own child?! How could a child thrive without being in a classroom 6.5 hours a day?! How could a homeschooled child learn the necessary socialization skills in order to become a contributing member of society who doesn't sit at home in their pajamas all day or know the art of conversation?!

I now know the answers to those questions and I have seen the beautiful fruit of homeschooling in the lives all around me. I see homeschooled kids going to college and making big changes in the world and I see homeschoolers at the mall at noon who are able to engage in discussions with children many years younger than themselves and adults, equally.

But I still have that love for public education and the belief that they know what they are doing in regards to making sure that children know the objectives. I believe in their curriculum and in their teaching methods. This system that has taught me to be a teacher is heavily ingrained on my soul and while I see problems with it (which is one of my reason for homeschooling) I will always be open to my children going into the public classroom full time again if necessary (Tiny B did attend two years of glorious public preschool) or if God tells me that it's time. I love the charter school system for the reason that it keeps kids learning the objectives that are agreed upon by the public school system and I love our charter because they get to spend two whole days per week in the classroom. We are moving and might not be able to attend this school anymore which will make me sad but I've already been eyeing charters in the area in which we are moving and considering becoming an educational specialist with a charter in the future.

What gave me a bit of a jolt was that Tiny B's educational specialist recommended that I teach outside of the box for this unit and try my own things. So I did. I focused on reading comprehension in fiction and we did an author study and read so many of her books and did story frames for each book. It led to both her and Strong B being exposed to more books than usual and it also lead to Tiny B's developing her comprehension skills which I believe is the most important skill to have, as it runs through all subject areas. If a child develops a love for reading, they will do well in their schooling.

When I gave Tiny B her end of the unit assessment, she missed a few and this rattled me a bit. She normally only misses zero to one. I knew why. It was that I hadn't absolutely positively made sure that she had mastered the material and hung onto it. I taught her the objectives of the unit but then I moved on and spent a lot of time reading to them and diving into the different story elements. In my head I know that: There were zero comprehension questions on this assessment. She will likely master the concepts in the next few weeks as I now know EXACTLY what she does not understand and that will drive my instruction. (This is really the true purpose for assessment). And that in a homeschooling situation, I have a little more room to go by her timing. (If I was truly truly homeschooling and not using a charter, I would have all of the time in the world for her to master the objectives and this assessment would not be an issue at all. (Really, Tiny B has an IEP and therefore it isn't an issue anyway, but it is my belief that she is fully capable and sooooo smart and I want her to challenge her in ways that strengthen her).

Every year it is my desire to pray and question what is right for us at the time. Homeschool using a charter? True homeschooling with no days in the classroom? Homeschooling where I choose my entire curriculum? Regular public school? For now my passion is where we are.

So...I told her that she had missed a few more than usual because I had not made sure with everything within me that she understood these particular objectives. And that in the next two weeks she would understand. She's a hard worker. Inside, I questioned myself, as I believe that most homeschool moms do from time to time, got a bit anxious, and then I took a deep breath and plunged on with our day.

And as I finally figured out a few posts ago, you can find them here and here, I have to "fill Strong B's cup first" before I send him off to play while Tiny B and I do kindergarten.

So I brought out...a book to read aloud. This was nonfiction which was perfect since we had been reading so much fiction and comprehension of nonfiction text is of utter importance because it spans social studies, science, and even math.

The Mother Goose Time read aloud included in each theme is always one of my favorite lessons. The books are beautiful and will long remain in our library. It was about baby animals and what they do. Each page required the kids to participate. I asked them literal questions in which the answers are directly on the page and I asked them "off the page" questions to allow them to connect more to the subject.

This was one of our first lessons from the Baby Animals unit.

Today we were speaking about adoption and we had a lovely conversation about human and animal adoption.

After reading the book and having our discussion, we did the art activity which was a Made to Create activity. 

They made fish. The beauty of these activities is that the creating is all coming from their own ideas. I can guide them if I'd like, and I did a tiny bit this time, but they really get the chance to fully engage their brains and CREATE!

Fine motor practice is still so important for both of them. I pulled Tiny B from her weekly private OT session so that I didn't have to bring her in so much, and therefore, these art activities are crucial. They're also crucial for Strong B who is a mere 4.5 years-old and is just beginning to really write. (We are still working on his grip and I'm not quite sure what to do at this point. I had the same grip when I first began writing and it was a bear to break!)

Use those muscles, Tiny B! Squeeze those hands and plan out where to put the fish scales and how much glue to use. Take your time that you are being gifted, doing these things, because you are at home and we can do this project for an hour if you'd like! And we can extend it and do some writing about fish and then find a video on fish and watch it and then we can read a book on fish if you'd like. This is the beauty of homeschooling and let's take every opportunity to make it beautiful. You don't remember when your doctors said you would never walk. You don't remember my tears as they said you might never even open your eyes. Today you are making a fish and doing it exactly how you want to do it and are being given the gift of time to do it. Soak it up.

The finished product. Beautiful. 

*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.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Dance n' Beats with my "Amazing Dancer"

This week brought about some pretty treacherous weather. And by treacherous I mean weather that Southern California is not used to or prepared for but that is probably quite normal for other places.

Because of this hail and wind and rain, we've had to stay inside a lot. Staying inside a lot leads to cabin fever, especially in four year-old boys who have a lot of energy to burn. 

I took out the Dance n' Beats for this month's theme of baby animals, and the kids whirled and twirled and were able to work out a lot of that energy. They even went through it a second time, right after the first. 

Tiny B was sooooo disappointed that I didn't get our dress up clothes out of the garage and therefore she was unable to wear her tutu just like the girl in the video, but after some deep sighs (she would have rolled her eyes at me if she knew how) she was able to get right back into her dancing. 


Four days later we went to Disneyland where there was an outdoor concert. Strong B told me that his "brain sent me a message and told me that I was an amazing dancer" and I must admit that I attribute Mother Goose Time and Dance n' Beats for his new found confidence! I love these cute little stories about them and wish that it was possible to record every adorable anecdote in a book without me going insane. I don't think that's possible, so I'll have to remember the stories that I can and write down some of them here, in my blog.

I keep hearing that their childhood is over in a blink. So don't blink.

It doesn't feel like that but I have to trust that these people who say these things know something. I'm so thankful for things like Dance n' Beats which allow me the opportunity to create sweet little opportunities, and therefore stories, in their life.

*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 16, 2017

More on Transitions with Multi-Age Children: FILL THEIR CUPS FIRST!

In my last homeschooling post I had an epiphany in which I decided that the answer to keeping my four year-old happy while homeschooling my kindergartner was to make sure that his "cup was filled" prior to homeschooling her. Was my epiphany correct? For now, I think that it was! I am not so naive as to believe that I have found the fix-all forever (I'm learning that homeschooling requires absolute flexibility and the willingness to evaluate every situation and change it if necessary) but for now, I believe that I have a handle on things. Phew.

One would think that after ten years of teaching up to thirty-four children in my classroom with no adult help would prepare me for keeping my two young children appropriately busy/content/productive during school time, but apparently not. Ugh.

On this particular day, I began by setting up our homeschooling materials. I set up Tiny B's kinder stuff (I am given her curriculum by her charter school) and I set up our Mother Goose Time (MGT) materials for the day. Tiny B always wants to do MGT with Strong B and Strong B sometimes wants to do Tiny B's kinder material with her. So I set up all of the materials for both while I had Strong B work on his MGT coloring pages for the book that I simply printed off of their website. This month's theme is baby animals. So stinking cute.

Then we played the MGT game for the day which was awesome because I was able to totally differentiate it for the kids. Strong B was focusing on learning beginning sounds and letters and Tiny B was actually reading the words. There was a lot of interaction and laughing and even a little bit of arguing. (Learning how to argue kindly is a skill!)

At this point I felt that Strong B's cup was almost full, so I was able to introduce him to his next activity that he could do independently while I worked with Tiny B on her kindergarten stuff. It was a Made to Create activity which involved making a log cabin from noodles. I had saved this lesson from last month because I knew that this was right up Strong B's alley as he just loooves to create and build. 

He worked on it for approximately fifteen minutes (I gave him extra pipe cleaners to use) and Jack the Standard Poodle worked on it as well. I was able to give Tiny B my full attention and when Strong B was done building his log house, he went back to coloring his MGT baby animals coloring book.

I truly felt that this was a successful day. My original plan of focusing on MGT with Strong B on the days while Tiny B is at kindergarten (she attends an actual school two full days per week) and focusing only on her while she is home and giving him interesting toys to play with during this time...simply did NOT work for him.

I need to fill his cup first. 

Then he is able to move on to playing on his own. He so desperately wants to learn and be like his big sister. Taking this away from him is doing a disservice. And she LOVES Mother Goose Time and is still so engaged by it and learns so much from it still, that only doing it with him while she is gone is a disservice to her.

I love home education for so many reasons, but one of the biggest is that I can fully focus on teaching them in the ways that truly work for them, and not only "work" for them, but help them to flourish. 

*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.


Denise Austin Program Week 10: Blog Post 7

I have reached the last week of my second round of Denise Austin's program. I had lofty goals for this round, and I would say that I'm very proud of how much I've accomplished.

For this round, it was extremely important to me that I complete every single workout for the ten-week program. During my first round I'd say I did an average of four workouts a week. This time, I was going for the full six per week. I crushed that goal...for the first seven weeks...until week eight when I got a kidney stone and then Christmas happened. Why must I always be derailed by Christmas?! Was it all of the chocolate goodness of the holiday?? Probably. That and the fact that I was so stinking stressed and tired from making sure that I had gifts for everyone and that I made the holidays as perfect for everyone that I could. Ugh. Times were a lot easier when the hubby and I used to travel to Hawaii or the Bahamas for Christmas (pre-kids...back when we both had jobs and money to spend on things such as this!)

For weeks eight and nine I did appromixately three workouts and only counted my calories and ate healthfully for about three days. Yesterday I declared that I must get back to my healthful ways or else before I knew it...I'd be back up the twenty pounds that I've lost since Septemember...or even the sixty-five that I have lost all together. I felt such guilt yesterday as I lamented over how much I had not worked out for the last two weeks and how much chocolate and candy canes I had crammed into my mouth.

And then I came to my senses and realized that this is life and undoubtedly I will again and again have periods of chocolate and candy cane cramming. A life of every single day calorie counting and working out with extreme attention paid to making sure I got enough protein and fruits and veggies just isn't a life that I want to live. I want to eat healthy and work out on most days of the week and make sure I'm healthy physically and mentally, but on holidays and special occasions, or times of extreme stress or even sadness, I want to love myself enough to step back and just take a breather and enjoy a candy bar. From what I can gather, Denise Austin's new program LifeFit will speak to living a healthy life in all areas every day, with enough love for oneself to eat that treat.

So today I did my first workout of the last week of the program. I had my hubby take a few pictures. Oh, how I wish that in Septemember when I started, I had taken these same pictures. Looking back on my camera roll, I have very few due to how much weight I had gained back. I found only one full-body one. The left is at the beginning of my first round in September (about twenty weeks ago) and the right is today, weighing about twenty pounds less. It does look to me like it's more than twenty pounds, but it's really not. I just gained a lot of muscle.

This before and after change is an amazing testament to the effectiveness of Denise's program.

Tonight I did more side-by-side comparisons from when I was sixty-five pounds heavier. And I cannot bring myself to post them at this point. They're pretty darn jaw-dropping. But I feel shame and sadness and I think I'm going to have to have a pretty good talking to with myself before I share those pictures.

It's not like it's a secret. People saw me at that weight. In fact, that's all that some people knew of me. I've changed a lot in the last eight years since losing that weight (twice--once before and once after having two children).

The pictures are untouched, down to the zit on my forehead and the dirty mirror behind me. I don't know how to retouch pictures and I rather like it that way.

This is one of the two places that I do my workouts. When I'm in my room like this, in this tiny space, it's typcially because I want some space from my littles. Sometimes I even lock the door!



I'm so proud that I've finished two rounds of Denise Austin's 360 program. I honestly can't believe how far I've come. I lost the twenty pounds that I had regained, but more importantly, I've regained my health in all areas. I could NOT have done it without Denise's smiling face and sweet encouragement. When I first started in September I could barely do the walking video, and now I'm using five-eight pound weights for all of the videos and planking again. I had to go and buy new clothes. My mom made me when she saw the clothes that I was wearing that no longer fit. 

I don't think I'm at my goal weight yet. I'm thinking another five pounds and a lot more muscle. I'm just going to feel it out and continue on my health journey. Thank you Denise for giving me this gift of health. I'll forever be grateful. Never has one program changed my heart so much--my attitude about health, my desire for health, and the desire to continue. I am making so many changes, and I can't wait to share more with you. 

To read about my journey with Denise, please look at my previous posts on the subject!

I was compensated for the program, but I promise you that each and every post is my absolute honest opinion. 

Mother Goose Time Celebration of Peace Kit and Why It's So Powerful for Children to be Active Listerners

I love the sweet holiday kits that are included with every Mother Goose Time box. The Celebration of Peace kit was one that I was particularly interested in because I am starting to teach Tiny B about racism, equality, kindness, and being part of spreading love and not hate. On Friday evening I took out the kit because I knew that Martin Luther King Jr. day was coming up three days later, and I wanted her to truly understand why we celebrate this man. I want her to be a part of the change that began taking place so many years ago but still is nowhere where we need to be.

I explained that MLK day was on Monday and I pulled out the bag.

Tiny B's charter homeschool kindergarten had given me reading material to read to her but I truly felt that it was above her head. I was thrilled to see that MGT had a participation story and that it was text that they could understand. I still had to stop to explain some concepts and new vocabulary words but I know that reading text to children a little above their level is an excellent way to grow their comprehension skills. Jim Trelease was big on this practice and I have always subscribed to it.

This particular Participation Story had me reading about the life of Martin Luther Kind Jr. and having one child hold up the happy face during the happy parts and having the other child hold up the sad face during the sad parts. I have to say that they did such an amazing job with this. They would help each other when a child who was supposed to raise their card, didn't.

These participation stories are so amazing because my children truly listen to the words that they are hearing because they are invested in it. It reminds me of when I used to give each of my students a quote from a read aloud chapter book and when a child's quote came up and they heard it and raised their hand, they would get a piece of candy. You better believe that I had every student's attention for the month in which I read that particular chapter book. They would take their individual quote and tape it to their name card on their desk and hang onto every word that I read, waiting for me to read their quote. At the end of the story, they had earned a piece of candy as well as practiced their reading comprehension and learned new vocabulary from a book with a higher reading level then theirs. (Homeschooling moms: Try this at home. I can't wait to do it with the kids!) It is the same reason that I have a Dr. Seuss headband and wand for my kids to wear whenever we read a Dr. Seuss book. When they take part in the story, they take part in so much learning.

We did this on a Friday night. I love homeschooling on Friday nights. It makes for a lovely and productive evening and it just feels special for them and for me. 

*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.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Making Transitions While Homeschooling Different Ages

Homeschooling has been hard lately! The reason: my angelic four year-old, and for a completely unexpected reason. The expected reason would be something along the lines of throwing a tantrum or getting into stuff he shouldn't get into (well, he admittedly does do this) while homeschooling. The real reason is that he wants to do everything that Tiny B, my kindergartner, is doing for school. 

He is a very bright child--so inquisitive and having the desire to learn. But he really isn't ready to do what Tiny B is doing for her homeschooling. Previously I let him do the work with us and he'd get bored after a few minutes but that isn't happening now. He gets frustrated. And I'm getting behind on Tiny B's work which really isn't okay since she attends an actual school two days a week and needs to "keep up" with her class. 

I tried bringing out his Mother Goose Time curriculum but he refuses if she is doing kinder work at the time. I decided that I need to be firmer with him and tell him that when she's not at school those two days, that that is her time and that he needs to respect that. I have confidence that he will listen. He is a very sweet child who wants to please. 

On this day pictured, I did not follow what I just described though because I hadn't yet decided what to do. So I'm just going to describe our transitions for that day. 

I completely stopped with Tiny B's kinder work when I realized that Strong B desperately wanted to be involved. I pulled out our Mother Goose Time and set up the puzzle for the day. Tiny B did it first without the backing (as more of a challenge). 



I started up the fireplace. 


And then I took out one of my most favorite parts of MGT: the I Can Read books. I punched out the sight words and I went over them with both B's. They are both working on sight words so it was perfect. This is an activity that I can do with both of them simultaneously. 



I had Tiny B look through it herself while I read through it with Strong B first. He never gets to go first so I figured this would help him. 


He was able to read some of the sight words and memorize the book which enabled him to "read" it almost entirely and boost his confidence greatly. 

I had him color a page in the book while I transitioned to reading with Tiny B. He felt good about this because he had had his time with me and his brain was stimulated. 


Jack the Standard Poodle was reading through the lesson plans in the teacher guide as I worked with both kiddos.


Tiny B and Baby Alive now had their turn. 


While I read with Tiny B I transitioned Strong B to an Invitation to Create activity. 


Then he worked on his activity while she did her learning games on the computer (which can make him jealous but he was fine because he was busy). 


I'm writing this post, I've had a realization. My first inclination is to go back and rewrite the beginning but I'm just going to keep it. 

I realized that possibly working with him first on our homeschooling days might be our ticket. She is more patient and able to work more independently. Maybe giving him attention first will "fill his cup" so that Tiny B and I are able to completely attend to her curriculum. 

I'll report back and let you know if my theory worked!