Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Homeschooling 101

I've had 5 different people ask me over the past 2 weeks about homeschooling. They've all inquired about what we do so I thought I would just write a blog post.
Our boys are in 2nd and 3rd grade. We have LOVED homeschooling. Our kids genuinely enjoy each other's company and spending so much time together has been such a blessing. Our time with them is only a moment so I'm trying to soak it all up and enjoy it!! Homeschooling is also a refining tool in my life. Whew! It's not always easy and my sin is exposed to my children daily. I am so thankful for the opportunity to live a genuine life in front of them and continually repent when I'm sinful and ask for their forgiveness. There is a lot of love and forgiveness poured out in this home daily!!
What we use...
Both boys are using Math U See. I love it! I taught in the public school system for 12 years, the last 3 years were in a Math classroom so I really researched a lot when I was trying to pick out our curriculum. Math U See just works for us. I love that it digs deep into the concepts taught in the year but doesn't overwhelm you with too many concepts. Andrew is a 3rd grader and has learned his multiplication, double digit by double digit and triple digit by triple digit multiplication. He has also learned how to factor and this week will learn about prime and composite numbers. He has learned a LOT about measurement (how many tsp in a tbsp, feet in a yard, etc).
We have been using My First Language Lessons for Parker (level 2) and Andrew (level 3). I love it. It takes a classical education approach. We've made up a ridiculous amount of songs to help us memorize. Seriously songs are the way to go for our family. We work out daily to our prepositions. Piper (who is 4) could probably name every single preposition (she may have to do jumping jacks while she's quoting them;).
Andrew is using Phonetic Zoo for Spelling. I like it. He's a good speller so I think any curriculum would suit him but he seems to enjoy it. We are using All About Spelling with Parker. I really like the way Phonetic Zoo approaches spelling so I usually modify Park's lesson so it mimics Phonetic Zoo. Phonetic Zoo is an auditory lesson mainly. Andrew listens to a CD where the weekly rule is read several times throughout the quiz and then after spelling the 15 words, he listens to the corrections track on the CD and corrects his work.
We are in a co-op so we use the History and Science they have chosen. For History, we use Mystery of History and we are using Apologia Science (Zoology).
We read a LOT. I think reading out loud to the kids is HUGE! They have learned so much vocabulary. Their comprehension is fantastic. I read the entire Narnia series to them when Parker was only 4 and he can still tell you detail after detail. I try to encourage all mommas and daddies to READ to their children. Turn the tv off and read for an hour as a family at night. There are SOOO many good books. Our kids love this time together but not near as much as I do. Sure, there are times when I am exhausted and it's the last thing I want to do but oh goodness it's been rich for our family. I thank God all the time for His prompting in this area.
We have just started doing some unit studies as a family. (If we were not in a co-op all of our History and Science would be learned through unit studies.) Last month we studied about Australia and the past couple weeks we have been studying about roller coasters. The kids have LOVED this and they have learned so much. We just go to the library and check out 8-10 books and read, read, read. We usually do a couple/few activities along the way and make a little file folder with all the important information.
The best advice I could give as an educator is to continually reflect on WHY you are doing what you are doing and if it's not for student achievement (spiritual, character, educational, etc) then should you be doing it?! Don't feel like you have to heap on a lot of STUFF... just make sure what you're doing provides genuine learning opportunities. Try to tie the new learning to previous knowledge. We don't just want our kids to be able to spit out facts and recall info, we want them to truly grasp and understand the concepts we teach them and be able to apply them. I love Bloom's Taxonomy. They've recently updated it. Here's a link. Try to move your kids past the remembering and understanding steps and dig deeper. Give them opportunities to compare/contrast, evaluate, create/design, etc.
I love teaching!! I loved teaching in the public schools and I love teaching my little ones. I am thankful God has given me this opportunity.
I'm sure I've left off some of the things we do but this is the bulk of it;)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Down Under

My kids LOVE the library! They love to get new books. Our public library allows us to go online and select books and then they will set them aside for us and we can pick them up. I LOVE this feature, however I am learning my way around the Junior Nonfiction aisle;). Last year we used My Father's World curriculum and I LOVED it so much. It was just too much to use while being involved in our co-op. This year the thing I have missed the most is just doing the fun things at home. MFW had book basket lists every week which went with our learning. We loved those books. I've decided to start picking subjects and doing Unit studies. Since the kids are having to present material on a place in our co-op we decided to have our first Unit Studies be about Australia. I checked about a dozen books from the library and we dug in. We've had such a great time learning. Very little prep time on my part, really just picking out books and save them to my acct at the library. After we read our books we chose what we thought was the most important information we learned about and put together some folders. 

They LOVED the Aboriginal dot painting:)
To celebrate the conclusion of our unit we dined out at the Outback! ;) 
My mom gave us Silver Dollar City season passes for Christmas. We are heading there in a week for a couple of days so we decided to do a Unit Studies over roller coasters and the science of motion next. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Too much Happy?!

So often we compare ourselves to others. I'm thinking that's pretty much always a bad idea. God really did make us so entirely different. He definitely gave me a little extra pep in my step and wayyy too much energy at times. We have many embarrassing stories about my happy meter going off the charts. One night after we were seated at a restaurant our waiter comes up and says "Hi! My name is Jeff and I will be waiting on you." Without missing a beat I reply, "Oh hello! I'm Jenny! Nice to meet you." REALLY! Who introduces themselves to their waiter. One day I was walking across the parking lot at Kroger and was apparently smiling way too big and a guy said, "WOW! What are you so happy about?" So embarrassed:) My reply "I just love life!!" Even more embarrassed;) The other night we went out to eat at Outback and on our way out we saw an old friend who we have not seen in 10 years or more and I was like "HELLO!! How are you?! Are you living in the area?! Oh by the way if you say something about Ryan Newman placing in the top ten you get a free bloomin' onion. REALLY?! Cam and I died laughing all the way to the car. Who does that? I usually just look at him and he's like "yea, that's a little much!" Then there was a time we were at the airport and I saw Asa Hutchinson get off of the plane. He's just a local politician but I act as if he's Elvis. I said "ASA!!" He assumes surely this weirdo knows me and starts walking our way. I wanted to die. I just waved a little wave and smiled, he smiled and probably called security;)

That's just who I am. I'm happy! I'm not faking, it's just me. (Of course I'm not happy 100% of the time but a lot of the time and usually overly happy;) Annoying, but me. The downer is I find myself disliked by many simply because I'm happy. It's the truth. Misery does NOT like happiness. I had a lady (who I use to work with) who just did not like me. No matter what I did, it was always met with snarkiness and then one of my friends told me "Shake it off, before she even met you she didn't like you. She said she had seen you talking to people before and you were just too happy for her." Yikes. Cam and I have had many discussions about this before because not only am I overly happy, I'm sensitive. I can't stand for there to be people who don't like me. I'm a people person. I care too much about what people think about me. I shouldn't. Whew I get haters if I do something nice for people.  God gave me an extra heaping dose of compassion for the needy. My parents have a large dose as well. Now I WISH I had more self-control. He's working on me there. I need to be more gentle at times. Oh my goodness I can be impatient!! Definitely could use a little more slow to speak/anger. We are all just so different. We all have strengths, we all have weaknesses. Sometimes I feel my strength can be a target though. I don't like attention. I can't stand doing anything different with my hair because I hate to draw attention to myself in such a way. When I taught I seriously would only do different hairdos during the summer;). So for people to be ugly to me because I've helped someone or rally others to join the cause it's so disheartening. I don't want any glory. When Cam and I talk about it he says, "Well maybe you should have... " but then it always comes back to "nope. Just be you!" So and so is going to talk about you anyway.. just follow the Spirit and be you! Moral of the story... it's so unhealthy to compare ourselves to others. It usually just brings about a critical spirit in me b/c I'm like "yea, she's good at blah blah blah but her faults are blah blah blah." God gave us a standard and that is Jesus. When we compare to anyone but him it's unhealthy. Instead of comparing to others I want to really focus on encouraging! That person who you think has it ALL together doesn't! They need your encouragement. There are way too many things tearing us down, let us build each other up in Christ. Let us put off judgement, jealousy, critical spirits and put on encouragement, genuine love, and truth.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sometimes I struggle...

I often struggle with what I share on FB b/c I don't want someone thinking I'm sharing to get attention. I do want to share what I think might encourage others or what the Holy Spirit might use to encourage someone. Today Piper and I were driving home from the Conway area and we see a man sitting on the side of the road with a rolling carry-on type bag. It was just a few miles from our home so I knew I had time to pack a sandwich and snacks for him. He was so thankful. I asked him if I could pray with him and we stopped right there off of Hwy 65, bowed our heads and prayed. Totally the Holy Spirit. I would've thought that was a little coo-coo and been a little too embarrassed to ask "can I pray for you?"
Even though I worried about posting on FB b/c what people might think I knew I should, so I did. I told people where he was and where he was heading and encouraged them to be His hands and feet and to go find this guy and love on him, pray with him and share anything they felt led to share with him. My friends are AWESOME!!! I was so encouraged by how many of my lady friends searched for this guy and shared the love of Christ with him. When Cameron got home he found him and gave him a blanket and a cup of coffee. This guy was SHOCKED so many cared to share His love. One of my friends text me and said, "I'll split the hotel cost with you if your husband can find him and get him to a hotel." Then we started discussing about the possibilities of getting him a bus ticket to Illinois. One thing led to the next and before I knew it Cam had left his hot dinner to find him again, this time offering more than a hot cup of coffee.
He was overwhelmed with gratitude. He told Cameron he had felt God walking with him all along the way. They had some good conversation. He is now sleeping in a nice warm bed and boarding a bus tomorrow for Illinois. We are thankful for the opportunity to meet him. I don't know what kind of man he is. Is he responsible? Why is he in the situation he is in? I don't know. Cam and I prayed about it and really felt it was where the Holy Spirit was leading us.
Even though I was leery of posting about this man on FB, I am glad I did. I have been encouraged by so many who LOVE to see the Spirit working. That's what this story is... it's HIS!! If I fear to post about opportunities to love because I worry people will take it the wrong way then I'm not following the Holy Spirit. Several of my friends are taking money and sliding it under his hotel room door to bless him. How awesome is that?! Everyone has shared with him God loves him. I'm thinking maybe when he laid his head down on that hotel bed, he probably truly believed that tonight. Please be in prayer for this man. He will be looking for a job once in Illinois. Let's pray some loving people rally around him.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Almost 19 years....

I graduated high school almost 19 years ago! CRAZY! Oh goodness how I loved my high school class. We were TIGHT! There were only 18 of us so I guess we had to be. I remember leaving our baccalaureate and heading to Panama City for our senior trip. We had raised money for almost two years. Most of that money was raised after school hours cutting and selling firewood. SO funny to think about. Here are some pics. We lived a simple life in Guy, AR. We truly were a family! 

Those truly are some of my best memories. I had some really good friends and most of us are still really good friends. Anyway, back to heading to Panama City.... many of us were sad and crying b/c we knew it was our last week together. We had all been together since elementary school and couldn't imagine our days without seeing each other daily. We seriously were in almost EVERY class together. We had our 10 year reunion 9 years ago this summer and it brought back so many emotions. Change is tough! Change is tough even when things have changed and gotten better. It's really hard to lose touch with people you love. Can I just say thank God for Facebook?! I'm friends with almost all 17 of those hooligans I grew up with and LOVE watching their families grow and live life. Which really got me thinking about how time will sneak up on us and 19 years from now our children will be adults. Hard to imagine but I know it'll happen so quickly. They have made such amazing friends at our co-op school. Fridays are their favorite days b/c they love their classmates. I hope when they look back on their childhood it is filled with sweet, fun, unforgettable memories like I have. As their momma I so desire for them to follow after God. My continual prayer is that God will open their eyes to His goodness and they will taste and see that the Lord is good! I pray they live radical lives of faith. I pray that God continues to guide me as their mommy. May my duties start and end in love. When they make me proud.. love. When they make mistakes.... love. If they choose to follow Him... love. If they don't... love. Lord, prepare me for whatever lies ahead. May You alone receive all the glory from our stories. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


This week is Spring Break around our area. Our kids have already had a week off while Cam and I were on our trip so we're still working this week. We do not have our co-op homework to do so it's a lighter load than usual. God is so good to me b/c He reminds me to constantly evaluate why I'm doing what I'm doing. I think going through the National Boards for Professional Teachers process definitely urged me to the more of a reflective teacher. WHY am I doing what I am doing? If it is not for student achievement/growth then maybe it's just busy work and has no place. I've started doing some unit studies with the kids. We are having so much fun learning about Australia (I'll post more on this later:). The boys are using Math U See for their math curriculum and I really like it. I also like to do small units with them in Math. This week we are exploring 2d and 3d shapes. They've been introduced to these before but we've never looked at the nets. They loved seeing the different nets and trying to guess which figure it would make. I then took the nets away and they had to draw some for different shapes. I printed a couple of sheets for Piper so she could be involved in our lesson and had Park grade her work. 

Andrew is in 3rd grade and has learned his multiplication facts. He's always been good at math. I want to be sure that we are not stopping on the lower level of Bloom's Taxonomy. (I would actually LOVE to get with some local mommas and talk Blooms!! Share different ideas and encourage one another to do a little extra leg work to make sure what we're preparing for our kids is for their best achievement.) I've been really trying to create new ways to look at a problem. I love Math U See b/c it really digs deep on concepts. This year he has learned multiplication facts, several digit by double digit multiplying and he is working on factoring now. He can easily spout off the factors of 20 but I want him to fully understand the concept. I made him a few dot pages of different numbers to factor. Since we were doing factors I thought I would go ahead and introduce him to prime and composite numbers. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

This may freak a few of you homeschool mommas out;)

I'm just not a type A kinda girl;). Truly this bothers some people but it's just the way I am. I can absolutely relax even if my house is a wreck. I have no problem starting a crochet project even when another one isn't finished. Now don't get me wrong... I do our laundry, our dishes, the kids do their chores and by the end of the day our house is alright. It's NEVER perfectly clean.. NEVER!! I am totally okay without perfection. I'm the same way in homeschooling (I have a 3rd grader, 2nd grader, 4 yr old and 3 yr old). Take today for instance... the boys both got up and did their Math U See work. I went over a few problems out of a Kumon Geometry and Measurement book with Andrew. Actually I sat with him during most of his math, also. He is doing double digit times double digit and I try to help him remember to put his place holder where it goes and mark out what he carried so he doesn't confuse it when he starts the next step. I then started preparing tonight's dinner (around 11:00 this morning-that's out of the norm!!) and Park read a chapter of his Cam Jansen book to me. We did Language (but we don't always... they have about 100 lessons a year in Language and they're both near the 70th lesson so we're on track). We did some exercises with our prepositions (we do this daily b/c my 4 year old reminds us all the time... btw she knows them ALL but just b/c it's fun;). I also worked with Piper on her Easy Peasy Homeschool lesson.
I bought this book a couple weeks ago and thought they'd enjoy learning their Roman Numerals so we read it today. It's a great book teaching you the different symbols and then has several pages where you have to find the objects. The kids LOVED it! 


After dinner last night, I randomly played for them a youtube about how many days are in each month so this morning we continued with that. Now they are exploring the field across the road from our house. That's how we school! Mondays we usually spend time working on our assignments from KCA (our FABULOUS co-op) and then we just do a lot of language arts and math throughout the week. We try to get all of our history read. Last week we really focused on geography and Andrew can label all 50 states on the map! CRAZY?! I definitely wouldn't say I'm lazy in home schooling but I'm also very laid back BUT I also think people who are scheduled to the minute are doing what works best for them. I think my kids are exactly where they should be academically (or a little above). Mostly though we are SOOO enjoying life together. It would be easier for me to have lots of worksheets printed for them and say, "get to it" every morning but I really do enjoy pulling up a chair right beside them to watch their brains in action. It is SO fun! I do feel like I have very little ME time but I will. One of these days they will all be grown up and I'll wish for these moments again. 

****They just got back from their adventure in the field and Andrew runs in and says, "MOM... which state does this rock look like?" Of course I said, "Oh that's South Carolina" He beamed in agreement;) ha!