Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Father's World--The Letter B (Butterfly)

I'm always amazed at how our homeschool lessons fit in with our life circumstances.  Just as we were studying the letter B with the key words "God can make me new" we were getting ready for Easter, celebrating the New Life we have in Christ.
I also had the awesome priviledge of photographing one of my friend's births, capturing a new life on camera!
Due to our busy-ness with these things and also 2 of our kids catching another stomach flu which put them out for a couple of days, we ended up spending 2 weeks on butterflies.

Jeremiah tried to catch a butterfly every day but wasn't successful. 
We saw a few but they got away...

Butterfly-shaped grilled cheese for lunch.

The boys had their last week of swimming lessons. 
I am so happy with the progress they made over the last 6 weeks. 
Jer is swimming very, very well and Justus is getting there!

These butterfly cut-outs were part of the hand-me-downs that various homeschooling friends gave me last year.  Since we didn't have tissue paper to glue to them for stained-glass-like window decorations, we just glued them to our binder pages and colored them.

We read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, along with other butterfly books, and the kids made their own books, illustrating the story.  This was Ali's.

Our little friend William is ALWAYS having lemonade stands to make money.  After helping William with his stand one day, Ali declared she wanted to do a stand in our yard.  Her friend Lindsay came over to help.  They made the cookies and the lemonade and sat out on the curb for 3 hours in the hot, hot sun!  It wasn't a great time of day so the customers were fairly sparse but they made around $7.  It was a lot of work for Mom but I was pleased with how much they learned just from the experience.  Cooking, customer service, math skills, business skills, and manners lessons all rolled into one project!

My folks went out of town for a week for spring break and so Jeremiah was ecstatic to take care of Sally the Salamander, my mom's class pet.  He did a wonderful job!  I'm convinced that he'll probably get a job at Reptile Gardens someday.  He loves animals, especially reptiles!

Josiah worked a booth at the Backyard Show in town and showcased the furniture that he and my dad build.  He built this swing himself!  I want one for our yard!  The kids took turns hanging out at the show with him and it turned out to be very educational.  They had booths on planting flowers and bugs and worms and let the kids plant marigolds to take home and take little cups of ladybugs home.  In the parking lot there was a car show so the boys ran around getting their picture taken with the cars that looked like Lightning McQueen, Finn McMissile, Tow Mater, and  the Hudson Hornet.

I spent a full day at the hospital on Good Friday as my friend Whitney labored, waiting for that big moment to photograph her birth.  It was by far the coolest thing I've ever had the honor of photographing!  She was a trooper!  She was a few minutes shy of 13 days overdue, had a 15 hour labor in the hospital, and refused an epidural!  She didn't know the gender of the baby and she cried with tears of joy when Annabelle Sage, her 3rd baby, and 1st girl, was born!  It was amazing and miraculous! 

On Palm Sunday, the kids went to the church for a Benjamin Box thing and they made a box with resurrection eggs in it, and each family was given a story that goes along with the box called "Benjamin's Box."  For Easter dinner we had 3 of our favorite families over, and my brother Grant, for a big meal and the kids did several rounds of Easter egg hunting. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Father's World--The Letter J (Jewels)

J week was all about jewels.
I had a very hard time finding books at the library about jewels.
We ended up doing some more reading about rocks since the books on jewels were so sparse.
Our key words were:  Jesus is more valuable than anything else.
We learned and sang:
"I'd Rather Have Jesus Than Anything"
and "Lord, You are More Precious Than Silver"

The kids did a word-hunt for J words and colored their "J" pages.  They practiced writing J's.
Justus practiced his letter sounds and Jeremiah practiced reading simple words.
Both boys work on their name handwriting worksheets.  I love this site!
We made Benjamin Boxes at church on Sunday afternoon, and the Easter message in the book and the resurrection eggs we made for our box correlated very well with our Jewels theme for the week.  I am always blown away by how well our weekly lesson fits in with what is going on in our lives and how much each MFW lesson ministers to me as a Christian!

During this week, Justus learned to ride a bike without training wheels!  Four or five nights a week after supper Daddy takes the kids on a long bike ride, or to the nearby park to let them ride in the little skate park, or works with them in the alley behind our house.  It's great exercise, fun time with Daddy, and gives Mommy a little break from the kids.

Ali has continued working on her MFW 1st grade and Alpha math in Math-U-See.  She is getting to be a better and better reader and acing her math tests, which I'm thrilled with!  Some days homeschooling is very hard and you grow weary or feel discouraged.  You wonder if you are doing a good job or get tired of fighting your kid on getting their schoolwork done.  But then you get a little glimpse of fruit that gives you the strength to keep going!  My moment was seeing Ali take a stack of library books down to her room and later counting up that she read 90 pages before bed that night.  She's continued to read for fun every night now instead of just listening to Adventures in Odyssey tapes.  For a while, reading was "schoolwork" and not something she did on her own for fun.  So, we have definitely turned a corner and she now considers it recreation!  She also takes her Bible to Pray and Play each week and tries to read some verses to the girls and have "Bible Club."  I am encouraged to see her mimicking what Mommy and her friends do together.

We didn't do a lot of activities or crafts this week beyond making jeweled crowns for our binder pages.  I've given myself grace in homeschooling the boys even though I'm the type that wants to explore every aspect of every topic and get LOTS and LOTS done.  Since the boys are technically pre-schoolers and not required by law to do school, I've given myself the freedom to be okay with the fact that we didn't get to all the projects I'd hoped to.  They are learning and growing and they are still very young.  So, if we don't do as much some weeks when life is busy, that's okay!
The boys had their 5th out of 6 weeks of swimming lessons.  Justus is still timid about putting his head under water.  Jer is becoming an excellent swimmer and can swim underwater for long distances without the teacher's help.
Alathia had her 2nd week (out of 4) of Plaster Casting Art class at our church.  An artist from our church is teaching it for local homeschoolers and, just like the drawing class she took in February, it is very inexpensive, and yet very high-quality!
Because I know how busy Easter can get, I did some Easter photo shoots ahead of time with the kids.  They enjoyed the chance to play at the park, where we took some of the pics, and at Grammy's, where we took the rest of the pics. 
Here are a couple of my favorites, of my little treasures:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Curriculum Conundrum

Too many choices!
This is one of the problems the homeschooling mom today faces.

While it's great to have options and resources, it can be overwhelming for homeschoolers to pick out curriculum.  There are so many different ways to go about it; so many different curriculums to choose from.
I loved this article.  It resonated with me.  I'm all about pursuing simplicity. 
As we finish one school year in the near future and head into the next, I've come to a place of complete and total peace and confidence in the curriculum we are using.  I'm beyond excited about going through Adventures in MFW with Ali; studying US history and the names of Jesus, and am happy we are doing another round of the totally fun unit studies in MFW K with the boys.

But a few weeks ago I wasn't so sure.  I found myself looking at my friends' curriculum and wondering if mine was "good enough."  I check in with my mom (who teaches K-2nd at the local Christian school) and my public schooling friends often to make sure my kids are learning what they need to be learning.  I was starting to feel like we needed to out-do the kids in public and Christian school to prove that my kids are getting a good education.

I began to research all sorts of curriculums, look into what all of my older, wiser, friends are using, and studied what my "heroes of the online world" are doing.  I made lists, and more lists, and read reviews like crazy!  I put together cost estimates, and looked at arguments for and against different curriculums.  I poured over catalogs and curriculum websites and drooled over lots of books.
And in the end, I came back to MFW.
I'm so glad I had those moments of doubting and wondering because it caused me to re-vamp and re-evaluate what my kids need.  In the end, I discovered that the minor things I was questioning about MFW were my own fault!  I had slacked off and forgotten about some of the things they recommended in the beginning part of the teacher's manual.  I hadn't worked enough with Ali on proper letter formation at the beginning of the year, and therefore it is my fault, not my curriculum's, that her handwriting isn't as nice as I'd like it to be. 

Curriculum doesn't teach our kids.  We do! 
Regardless of which curriculum you use, your kids will get an education because of you!  And regardless of how fancy and expensive your curriculum is, your kids will not get an education if you don't give them one!  Some families can throw together a perfectly suitable school regimen using some notebooks and library books.  Finding the "perfect" curriculum is not as important as "being" a consistent teacher.

I hope that if you homeschool, you have found a curriculum that is just right for your lifestyle, family, teaching style, kids' learning style, etc.  I've decided that MFW is perfect for our family because:

*It's easy to teach, especially for the newbie homeschooler.  The lessons are laid out for you in a clear fashion.
*It is easy to use with several different age levels, something that's important when you have 4 kids!
*It's a mix of classical, Charlotte Mason, literature-rich, unit studies, and Bible-based, which are all teaching methods I like!
*It is totally Bible-based and gives kids a very strong knowledge of the Bible.
*There is a strong missions focus.
*It's not overwhelming!  Too many curriculums out there include so many things to do that moms have felt discouraged or like they are always trying to catch up.  If you are disciplined, you can easily teach and help your child complete their MFW work each day.  If you are teaching more than one grade it is even more helpful to have curriculum that is actually do-able!
*It's solid academically and does an excellent job of teaching the basics as well as encouraging you to pursue art, music, crafts, foreign language, etc.
*It's got a lot of hands-on activities to choose from and emphasizes multi-sensory learning.
*There is a very strong nature focus (which my boys especially love!) and a creationist viewpoint.
*The recommended literature is excellent and good books are integral to the curriculum.
*The character lessons are applicable to young and old.
*The lessons are age-appropriate in length and content.
*The curriculum sets are affordable!  Because most homeschooling families are living off of one income and many have large families, a less-expensive curriculum is a blessing!  I also love that MFW donates much of the money from their curriculum sales to world missions.

So, this is where I'm at with the curriculum conundrum!  Not everyone will like MFW curriculum or find that it suits their family's needs.  Please don't take this post to mean that I think every homeschooling family needs to use MFW curriculum.  There are many good curriculums out there.  I hope you all have found the right fit for you and are excited about teaching it!

Have you ever had a curriculum conundrum?

My Father's World--The Letter R (Rocks)

R was a fun week!  One of the biggest reasons it was so fun is that it was one of the few weeks we've had this entire year where none of the kids were sick! 
We learned about rocks and our key words were:
I listen and obey.  I build my life on the Rock.
We sang the songs: 
 "The Wise Man Built his House Upon the Rock"
and "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand"
We watched some science videos online about the various kinds of rocks and how rock is formed.
We consulted our rock and mineral books and talked about which rocks we liked best and why.
Sadly, even though we live in a town where there are tons of rock-climbers and lots of areas to hike, we did not go climbing or hiking!  It just didn't fit in the schedule.  But it's something I hope to incorporate into "R week" next year!

The kids loved every second of finding rocks and sorting them into piles.

Back in September I came across a yard sale where I was able to pick up some neat rocks/petrified shells for mere pocket change because the people who had the yard sale used to have a rock shop that went out of business.  The rocks were labeled, and many are from different countries, and were only 10 cents a piece!  I snatched up a set of them for our 2nd cousins in MN who are also doing MFW and mailed them to them.  A great find!

 My mom's dad, my Grandpa C, was an avid rock hunter.  He passed on his love for rocks to my mom.
So, one afternoon after school, she came and got the kids and took them to her house to look over her rock collection and talk about rocks.

She has petrified fish fossils and petrified wood and shells...

...chunks of fool's gold she found as a child...

....interesting looking rocks (like this finger-shaped one)...

....Wyoming jade.....

....hardened lava from volcanoes...

....tiger's eye rock (made into a heart by my grandpa)....

....and much, much more!  She had TONS of rocks to look over and touch.

I tried to find a local place to buy some polished rocks for the kids, but the few stores I tried didn't carry any.  However, the elderly couple I clean for heard me talking about rocks and gave me a bunch of neat, polished ones for the kids.  Turns out they were avid rock collectors too at one point in their lives!

We traced their favorite rocks on their binder pages and did some worksheets on the letter R. 
Our homeschool table and my dryer collected lots of rocks during rock week!  Jeremiah is just LOVING every minute of this curriculum!  It is definitely the perfect fit for him and I know he will still be enthralled with it even when we go through it again a 2nd time when he is an "official" kindergartner this fall.  He's all about nature and science.  One surprising thing that happened during R week was that Jeremiah started reading!!! 
I hadn't expected to teach him until next year but he started putting sounds together and showing an interest in reading words.  Jer hasn't been very interested in academics and has been a couple of years behind where Ali was at this age regarding the coloring/writing/reading stuff so it took me by surprise!  But I'm finding out that Jeremiah is a very bright little boy, he just learns differently and at his own pace!
He enjoys practicing writing his name, sounding out simple words, and cutting and pasting with simple phonics worksheets.  Someone gave us a Nature Book that contains all kinds of plants, flowers, bugs, critters, etc. on a kids' level and I just knew he would love that book because he loves to look through our animal encyclopedia book that Grammy got us for Christmas.  I hadn't showed it to him yet, but he happened to see it in a pile of books on our homeschool table and his eyes lit up like it was Christmas!  He begged to look at it and carried it off and spent hours browsing through it over the next week!  We'll have to take it on our next hike to the canyon near our town. 
I love my little nature-lovin' guy!

One thing I would like to do in the near future (which corresponds to both our W (water) and R (rocks) lessons) is to take the kids to Yellowstone National Park.  It's not too far away and we haven't been there since Ali was a baby.  There is a free-entrance week coming up later this month so that will be one field trip I hope we get to take!

My Father's World--The Letter Z (Zebra)

During Z week we learned: I can't hide anything from God. 

We learned about zebras and played Hide-And-Seek.

We read Bible verses about the Lord's omniscience.

The kids colored zebras for their binder pages.

(Katri has taken a liking to "doing school" with us and Ali enjoys making her feel included
so Ali drew a zebra for her to color while they were coloring their zebra coloring pages.)

(This beautiful pic, which I have framed on display in my home and also on the Z page of the MFW alphabet book I made, was taken by my friend Amanda when she and her husband went to South Africa last summer.)

It's been a few weeks since we did zebras (behind on my MFW blogging as usual!) so I'm having trouble remembering all that we did with this topic.  So, this is a really short post!
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