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Friday, August 22, 2014

One Very Real life Homeschool Day (for us anayway)

I wanted to invite you in to our homeschool day and what our routines looks like for multiple ages at the elementary level. Now, as the day was progressing it was quite apparent that this was probably not our best day and the crankiness was soaring as we came back from a long weekend break. But, hey, it's real and that's our real life-- good days and cranky days and everything in between. Also, in order to protect my children's privacy no meltdowns were photographed-- also because I was dealing with the meltdowns and that took precedence over documenting our day for this post. I hope that makes sense but I do want to convey to people who think people can only homeschool because they have perfect children and are a perfect mom. Trust me, we are a fallen family in need of Jesus' saving grace and mercy and some big doses of love and forgiveness are a must as well!
Now, on to our actual day of school. We begin each day reading from Ergemeir's Bible and our current family read aloud (currently we are visiting Mary Lennox and Dickon in Their Secret Garden). Then we clean up breakfast and move onto our first block of the day. I have our school work divided into two days and we rotate between the two days schedules. Then I broke down each day into what we call blocks. This way we stay on track and all stay together throughout the day. I set the timer for each block (except block 2 as these require more reading and work) and if someone doesn't finish in the allotted time frame they must complete it in their own time; furthermore, if they do finish their work, I generally encourage them to keep going or they can take a small break to use the bathroom, play, or sit with our 1 year old and play with him. Instead of doing her assigned handwriting on this day, my daughter had a special writing assignment on being kind to her brothers.
The boys began their first block's work-- my oldest was doing his Lessons in Responsibility and my youngest began his math. The purpose of the blocks is so that I can divide my time and theirs with independent and dependent learning. When someone is doing math I try and have the other two working on something they can complete on their own so I can devote my (almost) full attention to them.
After block 1 we move on to Block 2 which is our big group learning each day-- either science or history. I used to do them all on the same day but I feel like splitting them up has been a huge blessing with a busy 4 (almost 5) year old and a climbing one year old. We are able to slow down and spend more time on the subject of the day and do more with it rather then splitting our time each day. It has so far been working very well this year for us. We love Mystery of History and should be wrapping up book 2 probably around our 90th day of school since we have about 30 lessons left and a few projects to complete. After that we have some music history and state history that we will visit before beginning book 3.
Throughout the school time I try and give my one year old some special things to play with and often times the older three will join him. I do think he enjoys some solitude play as normally he ends up getting elbowed out a bit.
We switched up our spelling for my oldest and I am not sure yet how I feel about it-- I think I like it but want to make sure before I pass it along to you all. My daughter is taking a break from spelling and working on a few different phonics books as I felt her spelling would benefit more from this as well as her reading skills. That's one of the reasons I love homeschooling-- tailoring it to each individual child.
Both of my older two kids use Draw Write Now for art and I love this curriculum so much! They can both do it independently and it frees me up to help someone else at the table. My youngest was gifted an entire ABeka kindergarten curriculum so even though it has been something I have shied away from, he is enjoying it and free is always good. I also have my daughter doing their first grade math to boost her confidence with some math skills and give her a "I can do this" feeling before completing 2nd grade math which we began at the end of this year. She is doing about 2-3 lessons a day and gaining confidence which is an answer to prayer.
At different times through out the morning our middle two (ages 4 and 7) have what we call busy boxes to work on. My 4 year old boys is mostly sensory items and play while my daughter who is 7 has one filled with sewing items, one with hair items for her to style her dolls hair, and one with some fairies and gems for dramatic play. They like them a lot and they've been a nice addition to our day. Some days they might opt out and ask me to do a particular activity that I set out for someone else's school or their 1 year old brother and I'm happy to allow some variety.
This particular day as I said before we had the duplo legos out of storage and the kids were loving them.
Also, he loves to climb the steps and on this particular day he actually managed to get his pants hooked on an imaginex toy and had to climb back down. We quickly rescued him-- but I couldn't resist a quick pic of him meeting his match! Silly goose!
The kids also get a quick snack most mornings and will work on puzzles or phonics games in their free times.
My oldest is on book 4B of Singapore math and he is doing really well with it. While he has math, my four year old worked on a cutting project right next to me.
Our older two are working on some Map books that I got from CBD to expand their geography skills and sincemy daughter had learned about grid maps, I suggested they play battleship.
Sadly, the game lasted about ten minutes most of which was not harmonious and no one won. A lesson that will need revisiting on many levels. What I thought was going to be a lesson on grids ended up being a lesson in patience and concentration.
So here is what the table normally will look like (minus mom) with everyone doing their work.
And more then we'd like to admit, this guy is on the table at any given moment whenever the opportunity arises. So, that's a general quick overview of what happens and here are our block schedules for each day:

Thursday, August 7, 2014

From Lawn to (Yes We did it!!) Vegetable Garden

I feel like we can celebrate God's goodness and faithfulness in providing through our backyard garden. What used to be a backyard of holes and weeds is now a productive food source and its pretty darn cool!
We have been enjoying being out back so much! We grill homemade pizza and eat out on the patio several times a week.
The garden has blessed us with pickling cucumbers in abundance which is awesome! These were something we needed to make our own pickles and relishes as the majority on store shelves come with yellow dye and sugars and some other odd and ends. Our homemade ones fill the fridge, pantry, and freezer (and yes, you can freeze pickles if its to hot to can when you have them in abundance).
My husband's favorites are the bread and butter while I'm a dill pickle girl myself.
Another cool thing we have been blessed to experience is seed saving. So far we have snow peas and cucumbers saved. This photo was taken last week of a lettuce plant I let bolt and just today I collected the puffy white heads that contained the seeds and have stored them as well.
Okay, this is a freaking garden miracle for the northern east coast-- we grew an artichoke from seed!!!!!!!! I was doubtful it would even grow since these are pretty much only grown in California but my husband wanted to just see. And wow, just wow! I think the cooler summer helped it develop and grow.
Now to split it 6 ways! Ha!
Our carrots were another crop I was apprehensive about and we have pulled some crazy freakish looking carrots up but also a good amount that look straight and narrow. So that gives me hope too that our soil is beginning to loosen up and enable them to grow better.
Our pickling cucumbers did take a hit while we were away and they snapped the trellis twine and we had to restring them up but this week we were back to regular production and pickling.
The tomatoes are very lovely-- so neat to grow heirlooms as you get some mammoth looking freakishly shaped fruit! Its very cool! I do wish we had gone with a different canning variety as ours is a bit on the small side. Also, very strange but our tomatoes have really stopped flowering and what I mean is we don't have fruit growing throughout the plant-- just really on the lower levels. Normally I get them all over so again, not sure if this is the cooler summer or heirloom characteristics, but anyway we are still picking these daily and have made sauce for spaghetti twice and pizza once and our hope is we can freeze some too. The fall plants have been planted and here is some cabbage coming along. I have it surrounded by egg shells to deter the slugs and little caterpillars that seem to like these and so far they've been left alone.
Our beans are just gloriously going all over the place.
The purple pole beans are amazing in flavor! Our regular cucumbers are doing well. You can see behind them we have dumped all the old pea plants so they can directly break down back into the soil. We will be layering some newspaper, manure, and woodchips there soon to prepare this area to grow next spring.
The zucchini have been eh. We are getting 1-2 a week but considering we have five large plants I was expecting more. Again, not sure if its because we planted these later or because theyre in the boxes, but next year I may order a different variety or from a different supplier.
We estimate the corn to be between 10-12 feet at this point. It's ginormous! We have about ten ears growing so hopefully we will actually get some corn which would be amazing!
Here is a little bean tee-pee that was getting attacked by rabbits so it's a little late to the game but producing flowers so we should have more beans soon.
We let a radish go to seed and it has produced tons of pods! The pods are actually edible and the kids have enjoyed a few but they are too spicey for me.
The swiss chard is still going strong and if I could tell people to plant one thing, this is it! It keeps producing, is edible cooked and in salads, freezes like spinach, and it's pretty easy to grow as well!
And heres the family again finishing up their dinner while I took the pictures. See all the pretty sunflowers? They're drawing bees in for us!
And they make pretty pickings too!
So, that's a month long overdue update but it's so nice to be out there growing, picking, and yes, still planting! We are learning what worked well, what we'd like to try next year (velour beans are on my list for sure), and how to keep turning the last bits of lawn into more garden!