Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Back to School

It's that time again.  The time when everyone is posting their kids' "back to school" pictures on Facebook, with their children holding the cute signs that show what grade they are entering.  I always love looking at all the fun pictures that friends and family post.  And, it is fun to see the comparisons at the end of the year between the first and last days of school to see how much the kids have grown.  I've always had a bit of a dilemma though with the "first day of school" photos in our home.  We homeschool year-round so, there is no "first day" of school for us.  Also, I know this sounds strange for those unfamiliar with homeschooling, but our kids don't really have "grades."  Grades are something that are very useful for a group school setting, but don't really apply to our situation.  I teach the kids at a pace they are comfortable learning at, when they are ready to learn the specific skills.  Thus, they could be at a 2nd grade equivalent level for reading, first grade in math, etc.  This is just one of the reasons I enjoy homeschooling so much.  The kids get one-on-one attention, and we can move through lessons pretty quickly since I am not teaching a large group.   I love that there are so many options for "school" these days: public, private, university-model, homeschool, "unschool", etc.  I am thankful that the Lord led us to homeschool, as it works perfectly for us.  It is awesome that we live in a country where we have these choices and can decide what works best for our family.  Thank you Lord for this freedom! 

This year I am really taking a student-led approach, letting the kids spend the most time studying the subjects about which they are most passionate.  Because I feel reading and math are really important, we make sure to cover those subjects every day.

Here is a sample from our explode the code curriculum that Luke completed recently.  He loves this curriculum, with its fun pictures and silly sentences.  Here, he had to look at the photo and write what word he believes is associated with the photo.
Luke enjoys both reading and math, although his biggest passion is building and creating things.  Thus, I make sure he has tons of time every day to do that.  He comes up with the most interesting and creative things out of ordinary objects.  He has made robots out of boxes, rockets out of junk mail, a guitar out of an Ikea organizer and rubber bands, and much more.  As a family, we were recently discussing jobs.  Specifically, we were talking about what daddy does as his occupation.  Just for fun, we asked Abbey and Luke if there were any jobs that interested them.  Luke very quickly told us that he wanted to be a builder.  We asked him, "a builder of what?"  He quickly replied, "robots."  It is so much fun to discover early what the kids' interests and passions are and give them the environment that allows them plenty of time to spend on things they're passionate about.    Of course, I realize his dream job may change many times during his childhood, but I will continue to allow him to explore what he loves to do.

Abbey loves to read.  Lately, her favorite books are the "Pinkalicious" series.  We have checked out every Pinkalicious book the library has available and check the shelves every time we visit the library for new ones.  We've read "Pinkalicious", "Goldalicious", "Emeraldalicious," "Aqualicious," and "Purplelicious."  Each day I ask Abbey which one she wants to read--which gets a very rapid reply of "all of them!" So, we sit on the couch and read all five "Pinkalicious" books.  Luke enjoys them as well.  Abbey really wants to read.  Although I have spent no time teaching her, I guess she has decided to learn on her own--ha!  Recently during dinner, Abbey ran into our learning room and grabbed a stack of word cards and brought them to the table.  She asked to read them.  So, we showed her some, and she sounded them out.   I grabbed my phone and recorded a little video of her just so I could remember this sweet time:

I don't want to push her to read too early, but since she is so interested, I guess I will begin spending some special time teaching her.  Luke is finishing up his level 2 reading/writing/phonics curriculum  (which I believe is equivalent to 1st grade and his next level will be equivalent to early 2nd grade level), yet he is not as interested in picking up a book and reading it alone yet.  So, these two have completely different passions and interests, and that is totally fine.   I feel my job is to know them so well that I know how to guide them in their learning.  Another goal is for them to love learning so much that they yearn to learn everyday and do so in a self-directed and independent way.   Right now, one of the ways I am trying to instill the love of reading and learning, is through the use of the "Five in a Row" Curriculum.  Using this, we are able to make whatever book we are reading come to life.  For example, we recently "took a trip to Japan" when we read "A Pair of Red Clogs" by Masako Matsuno.  I was so excited to get to use some beautiful tea cups that I purchased used off of craigslist for our Japanese tea.  We made some Kimonos out of robes and scarves, placed pillows on the ground around a small table we created out of books and enjoyed some tea together.  It is so much fun to learn about other cultures.

Abbey picked the "golden" cup.

I was a tad surprised at how much Luke enjoyed our tea party.  I believe he may have even enjoyed it more than Abbey did.  Luke and I stayed at our "tea party" for quite a while chatting and sipping.
Although we didn't really have a "first day of school" photo this year for our "homeschool", Luke did start a homeschool enrichment academy today.  So, we made sure to have a brief "first day of school" photo session before we drove to school this morning.  This "school" offers him teaching in the subjects of Music, Communication Skills with Drama, Art, Spanish, Character Building, and P.E./Health in a Christian Campus Environment, yet it is only one day per week.  These are subjects that are so much fun to learn in a group setting.  This will also give him the opportunity to participate in an end-of-school-year musical program, as well as a field day.  Not only that, but he also has several of his friends in his class.   He absolutely loved the first day at the homeschool enrichment academy today!

For other homeschooling families interested, here is what we are using for our "curriculum" this year:

Reading/Writing/Phonics:  Explode the Code
Math:  Horizons and Life of Fred (although after we finish up the current Horizons book we are in, we will likely move solely to the Life of Fred curriculum)
Social Studies, Art, Literature, geography, and language arts:  Five in a Row
Science:  Backyard Scientist, Five in a Row, Mystery Science, and other science books I have (we love science)
Bible:  AWANA--sparks

Reading/Writing/Phonics:  Hooked on Phonics, various wipe-away words, letter and number tracing books, and Explode the Code (books a,b, and c)
Math:  Just playing fun math games together
She also participates in the Five in a Row activities, so gets all of those other fun subjects as well.
Bible:  AWANA-cubbies and Bible Study Fellowship. 

Also, Luke is playing soccer again this fall (he starts on Saturday) and Abbey begins dance (ballet and tap) in a couple of weeks.  So, our homeschooled kids are definitely not lacking in "socialization" (the whole homeschooler/lack of socialization thing is such a myth!)  As a matter of fact, a local Christian homeschooling group we are members of has over 100 moms.  On Friday, we attended a back to school bowling party and there was plenty of positive socialization!

ball selection is important

I love this photo--Luke and his friend Benjamin are discussing the scores and how they are both pretty close to winning (they are a bit competitive) and their friend, Austin, is in the lane next to us celebrating his recent performance.  :-)

Abbey was excited about her recent roll. (is that the correct bowling term--I have no idea?)

We are so excited about all of the fun stuff we will be doing this year!  I am going to try to document a lot of it here, because it is so much fun to refer back to see what all we learned and how much the kids have grown.  I hope y'all don't mind my posts.  :-)  

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