July 29, 2014

Beginning Our Journey (Part 2)

(continued from Beginning Our Journey)

Three years later, Mollie is still growing and learning by simply being a kid. She still loves to draw, and has started illustrating and writing a series of comic books that she hopes to sell someday. She's incredibly crafty and often takes trash or other things she finds and turns them into some kind of toy. She has a passion for nature and geography, and loves anything done by National Geographic. She can do some basic addition/subtraction, and has learned how to read simple cvc (consonant-vowel-consanant) words by playing reading games on my Iphone. We haven't done anything structured at all yet, and I don't regret it a bit.

Now that she is 5, we will be officially starting our home school journey. Moving from Alaska to Michigan was a big change, but we moved from one very "homeschool-friendly" state to another. Unlike Alaska, there are no public funds for homeschooling, but on the upside, there is no required reporting, testing, or regulations from the state. The only requirement is to "provide your children instruction in the subject areas of Reading, Spelling, Mathematics, Science, History, Civics, Literature, Writing and English Grammar”. What to use, and how to do that is totally up to us.

In researching about homeschooling, I've read a lot about the different homeschooling methods (classical, Charlotte Mason, Thomas Jefferson education, Montessori, Waldorf, traditional, unschooling, etc.) I don't know that I will be following any particular method, but one trait found in several methods that I do find myself agreeing with is that kindergarten aged children should still be spending most of their time learning through play and everyday life. Luckily kindergarten isn't actually required in Michigan, so we have a lot of leeway in how much structured learning we do. I want this year to be hands-on, laid-back, and most of all - fun!!

The two subjects that we'll be focusing on are Reading and Math. Yep, just like the "three R's" (reading, writing, and 'rithmetic :) I think kindergarten could easily be done without using official curriculum, but between having Stu gone half the time and three kids, I don't have much free time, and wanted something that would take the majority of the planning out of the equation. When it came to choosing curriculum, I was clueless. I started at square one and spent months learning about the different options, reading sample lessons, and looking for feedback and reviews from other parents.

For reading, I'm still deciding between two curriculums. The first is All About Reading. I've read through the sample lessons of many reading curriculums and books, and this one was a clear winner for me. It's multisensory, using magnetic letter tiles, games, and crafts/activities in the lessons. I love the fact in each lesson, you use the magnetic letters to physically "build" words.

I hadn't been looking into reading curriculum for months, but I noticed a deal on Educents, a daily deal website for educational materials, for the complete Pre-K through 2nd grade Hooked on Phonics homeschool curriculum. At just a few dollars more than the All About Reading Level 1 program, I had to check it out. If you're like me, Hooked on Phonics brings to mind a gimmicky "as seen on tv" deal. It used to be a supplemental program for struggling readers, but it's gone through some redesigns over the years and now it's Learn to Read program is designed to work as a full curriculum for both homeschoolers, or in a mainstream classroom. Each of the 4 levels it comes with includes 6-12 readers, 2 storybooks, 2 workbooks, 2 DVDs that introduce the sounds taught in the lessons through songs, and stickers to use with a progress chart. You also get to become a member of a special part of the company's website where there are games and printables that correspond to the lessons. Mollie has used the Hooked on Phonics iPhone app and enjoyed it, so it's giving me something to think about. The price for what you get is definitely amazing, but I'm trying not to let money be my deciding factor. If we do go with Hooked on Phonics, I would definitely use our CVC Triblocks or make my own magnetic letters tiles to add that hands-on element to the lessons.
For math, I decided on Saxon Math K. It was a toss up between Saxon and Math-U-See. Both focus on using manipulatives. Saxon uses a huge variety of manipulatives in the early years, and that sealed the deal for me. I used this curriculum in public elementary school and remember using some of these same things!

So, as far as "real curriculum" for this year, that's it! But that doesn't mean that's all she'll be learning. For the other subjects, science, geography, history, writing, and social studies, we'll be taking a different approach, but I'll leave that for next time..

July 20, 2014

Beginning Our Journey

With Fall approaching, we are getting closer and closer to the beginning of a journey that has been in "planning mode" for a very long time. Within a year or so of Mollie being born, I knew that I wanted to home school our children.

If you told 16 year old me that 26 year old me said that, I probably wouldn't believe you. I went to public school and enjoyed it. I'm just one of those people that love everything about school, and I have fond memories of the whole experience. I'd always been around people who were home schooled, but it wasn't something I'd ever thought much about. It wasn't until I became a parent that I really started thinking about the reasons why families choose to home school. I quickly learned that people don't just home school so that they can shelter their children. There are so many reasons to home school that I won't even get into them, but I'll just say that the pros list grew, while the cons list dwindled. Suddenly homeschooling seemed like the only option for us.

I was pumped and ready to start. I mean the earlier the better right?! Mollie was probably 2 at this point and I figured I'd do a little research about the options for home-preschool, and start by the time she turned 3. I remember asking a home school veteran I knew about what she did with her kids for preschool. Admittedly, I was a little disappointed when she said that she waits until the year before they start Kindergarten to do some lightly structured learning. In fact, that's what a lot of the blogs I read were saying too. But that's such a long ways away, I thought, I want to start now! But sometime after, it clicked..

Mollie already knew her colors. She knew her shapes. She could count. She even knew her letters, and all of the sounds they made. She loved to draw, and paint, and because she knew what her letters looked like, she started to write too. And she learned all of that without any structure of any kind.

She didn't need to be taught these things, because they come naturally when kids are allowed to just be kids.  
And so we put home school on hold for a while.

(to be continued)

July 19, 2014

Sewing For My Boy: Oliver & S Bucket Hat

I've learned that you have to get a little more creative when it comes to sewing for boys. It's not as easy as turning a rectangle of fabric into a twirly skirt, and there aren't nearly as many patterns out there, but that doesn't mean that it's any less fun! I would almost argue that it's more fun, but maybe that's because I've been sewing for girls for going on 5 years ;)

Anyway, accessories for boys are the way to go, in my opinion: shoes, hats, bibs, ties, bowties, suspenders, etc. This free bucket hat pattern by Oliver & S is something I knew I would sew for Lincoln. I've used the pattern once before and it was an even quicker sew this time. The part that takes the longest is cutting out all of the pieces! I remember the sizing seemed a little small, so I made the next size up this time. It actually fits Dede perfectly right now, so Lincoln will get at least another summer or two out of it! Which is good, because he won't leave it on for more than one minute. The only thing I would have done differently was to add interfacing. I used two home decor weight canvas-y fabrics, so I thought it would be sturdy enough, but the brim is a little too floppy for my liking. Oh well, he still makes it look good :)

July 18, 2014

South Haven Beach Trip: North Beach

Before we headed home, we checked out the North beach. I thought it would be less crowded and a good spot to get some pictures of them together without people in the background. My grandparents had given us some money to get them some special outfits, and I meticulously scoured the internet for the perfect outfits for some beach photos. Everyone was tired by this point and it was showing. Honestly, trying to get these pictures was a disaster and I was sure that I hadn't gotten any decent pictures. We were probably only there for 10-15 minutes before I gave up and decided we'd just come back later this summer. Looking back I can see that my expectations were too high. I may not have gotten the perfect picture of all three of them together, looking at the camera, and smiling (a near impossible task with three kids :), but it wasn't such a disaster after all.


July 8, 2014

South Haven Beach Trip: South Beach

After breakfast at our hotel, we headed to South Beach in South Haven, the same beach we visited the night before, and spent a few hours enjoying the sun, sand, and water. The kids loved it of course, and had no fear wading out waist deep in the cold (to me!) water.