Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pungo Strawberry Festival

This has been a harder than average separation for us for some reason. Could be that it's the first since the deployment. Could be because Phil is getting to go somewhere fun without us. Regardless, it's been a struggle.
We're getting through it one day at a time. Today I forced the boys out of the house (they are content to stay inside and play with toys and what not all day right now) and we headed to the Pungo Strawberry Festival.
They had rides and 4-H animals and all sorts of different fair foods to choose from. We had a strawberry taco and ended up spending most of our time in the military display section.
(look for the little face in the window missing a front tooth)
One might think this is because of being a military family, but my guess is it was more because the boys were allowed to get into a crawl all around these vehicles and ask questions until they were blue in the face.
They had such a great time doing this that they forgot that they would much rather be at home! It was hot and we were all sweaty but they would still wait a half hour just to get to stand on the top of one of the tall armored vehicles.
It was a pretty cool thing to be able to do so close to Memorial Day. We've started talking about the meaning of it already. The boys are a little older now and can understand some of these things better
We eventually headed out and came back home. It was nice to get out for a bit, even if it would have been nicer if Phil had been able to come with us.
The boys did get to see quite a few guys who were wearing the same uniforms as Daddy... so that's something. They also saw an ambulance (or "ambu-lance" according to Jeremiah) and a fire truck!

Joshua also ended up with his face painted (Jeremiah is not a fan of paint on his face) which is pretty funny since we have a picture of Phil in his younger years with his face painted as well. If I had the slightest clue where it was right now I'd put it up here for you, but you'll have to settle for your imagination for now.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Grilling and Leaving

It doesn't get much better than this right here:
Today Phil left for the first time since he returned from deployment. Not so fun.
He'll be back in a couple weeks but it's still sad to have to go back to getting by without him.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Showing Off Artwork

I found this idea that I loved about a year ago. I'm pretty certain I found it on the website but haven't been able to locate it since. I thought I'd share our version of it here. I only spent 2 dollars out of pocket to make it happen and every time we use it I love it even more. This is how we display the boys favorite pieces of artwork.
We change them out every week or so. You'll find coloring pages or art projects or school work that we are particularly proud of in these frames.
All I did was repurpose some old frames that never made it to the wall in this house. I took out all the glass and backing, bought a $1 can of black spray paint to make them match and hung them on nails on the wall. Inside of these frames I hung another nail to hook on an alligator clip that I bought at the office supply store for another dollar. Voila! Perfect place to hang the things the boys are most proud of.

Friday, May 6, 2011

How to Begin Homeschooling

I have had a lot of friends ask about how I went about figuring out how to start homeschooling so I figured I'd share here so I can just send a link instead of rewriting it over and over again. Deciding how to start was definitely one of the more stressful things I've ever done.
The #1 thing everyone is most concerned about is curriculum. What books are you going to use? There are so many out there it is hard to know where to start. We have a pretty unique set of circumstances with Joshua's math abilities so box sets were never an option for us. I'm also too cheap for that. They can be thousands of dollars a year! I knew I could work ebay and do better than that. They're just books, after all.
First, to give myself some sort of feeling of preparedness, I looked up the Virginia State Standards of Learning (SOL's). I looked up anything that didn't sound familiar so I had a general idea of what Josh would have been learning if he remained in public school.
Then I went to my library catalog and looked up "homeschool." I was pleasantly surprised that there were several books there so I put all that looked interesting on hold. Some were definitely better than others once I got them home. I didn't have enough hours in the day to read them all. The one that was my favorite turns out to be one of most homeschoolers favorite resources. Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks. It definitely helps you get a feel for what style of homeschooling might fit you and your family. You learn about learning styles as well and she gives recommendations based on those things as well as many others, like how much time you will have to prep and give attention for lessons. I picked books for each subject based on that, recommendations of other homeschooling Moms that I knew and a little guesswork on where we would be academically. I searched ebay and for all I could find used and bought the rest as cheap as I could find them for new. We walked away with an entire "curriculum" for a year under $100. Not too shabby for a first year, if I do say so myself. The best part is a couple of our subjects will cover more than one year and most can be used with Jeremiah as well. I'm all about bang for your buck.
Here is what we've been working with this year:
We started using the Math U See curriculum (the 2nd grade equivalent book for Joshua and the Primer for Jeremiah). Joshua loved his book and learned a few things. My problem was he finished his book in less than half a school year and it's not a book you can copy so he wrote directly in the book. We can't re-use it. We re-evaluated when he finished it and bought him a more challenging Saxon book. He is not as crazy about this book but it's definitely more on-par with where his brain is at academically. We've tweaked my expectations of him with this book and he is enjoying it more that I don't make him do ALL the review problems.
Truth be told, though, his favorite math activities we've done so far this year have very little to do with his textbooks. He is naturally very curious about math methods so the things I've shown him to answer his questions are much more interesting to him than any old text book.
We did find one book that Josh loves and wants to spend his free time in. It was an impulse buy at Barnes and Noble and I'm so glad I bought it! Math for the Gifted Student. Joshua geeks out for math stuff and each page has something new for him to learn and be challenged by. That's exciting stuff in his book so I go along and pretend it's kinda normal.
We bought the A Beka 1st grade science book and were really disappointed with it. It was more for Jeremiah's preschool level than Joshua's. So we breezed through it and moved on. We have been doing unit studies in science paired with random experiments to add some fun. We have used books that I found on clearance at Barnes and Noble and Scholastic Book Fairs and put them together to make units. One week we read all about fish and ended with a trip to the aquarium. Another week we read a few books about dinosaurs. Recently we found a couple books at the library about honeybees. Their favorite are the experiments, though. They like getting in the kitchen and making things happen. We use this book to get ideas. We will never run out of things to do with this book.
History is one of my favorite subject and the boys seem to not mind it too much because of that. We went with The Story of the World curriculum. The best part of this is the activity book. I learned this the hard way. The book is fine by itself, but what really made it stick was the coloring pages and activity suggestions. The boys have loved some of these activities and they lead to more discussion about what we learned. I'm really happy with this one and we'll continue it next year.
We have used "First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind." This is more of a classical education book but the boys like it. You learn parts of language (verbs, nouns, etc) and memorize poems through repetition. This helped Jeremiah with his days of the week and months as well. This book is good for 3 years so we'll continue it next year.
Spelling has been a tricky one for Joshua. Jeremiah is not old enough since he just started reading during this school year. I knew Joshua was an advanced reader (being partnered with his teacher for reading exercises in Kindergarten) but I hadn't realized how advanced he was in spelling. Wow! I bought him a 1st grade book that was reviewed as being challenging. Not so much for Joshua, apparently. We breezed through the grade 1 book and will be over halfway through the grade 2 book when we bring this year to a close. We still skip weeks every now and then when he already knows how to spell all the words on the list, but I think we're pretty close to being at his level.
We do a LOT of etcetera type learning around here. We take field trips whenever we can find them. We read book about whatever the boys are interested in at the time. Right now we're reading a book on video game designers. We read Magic Treehouse books and work in the garden in our backyard and bake in the kitchen. There are things to learn all around us even when we're not directly trying to learn.
What I'm Into Now
I've been reading up a lot about Thomas Jefferson Education. There's a strong emphasis on raising your children to be leaders instead of just to hold jobs and get by. You read classic books and let your children power their own education for the most part. Been reading a lot and am still intimidated by this, but we're getting there. I'm really inspired by the idea of it.

So there you go. That's all I have to say on the subject... for right now, at least. We're still learning as we go and are figuring things out one day at a time. Some days are better than others but we're stronger and and more understanding now as a family than we were before we started this journey. The boys get along better and overall our stress levels are lower. We've seen a lot of benefits from homeschooling already and we haven't even finished our first year yet!