Our Holiday Schedule

Grandmama has arrived! The cheetah broke his arm. The twins had their sixth birthday party, and the video games have invaded the minds of the vulnerable. Who can do school at a time like this?

Twins birthday

And what’s to come… Christmas tree decorating, Christmas shopping, and our 20th anniversary cruise. Sure doesn’t look like school will be anyones priority in these upcoming weeks.

We generally take time off during the holiday season, so I am not too concerned about scaling back. What I can’t stand is idle time, when the kids proceed to turn their minds to mush by playing video games and watching movies. We generally limit computer games to about an hour a week, allow the kids to watch one movie on Friday evenings, and hide the video game consoles in the basement, until…well…until Grandmama comes. This year Grandmama has generously supplied the kids with the Marvel Infinity game set. The kids were able to play for one full day, on the twin’s birthday, but now I am determined, at least until we leave for the cruise, to get in some higher level, critical thinking skills.

So this is the plan:

We wake up in the morning and do our usual family devotional, then eat breakfast. After breakfast, the twins practice some quick cursive by writing their names and numbers, while the older kids either practice their lines for the Christmas play, or practice typing. I am not as concerned about the twins getting in scheduled reading time right now, because lately they have been sounding out almost everything they see. This will be enough until regular instruction picks up again after the holidays.

Then we continue our extremely slow journey through the novel, “The Twenty-One Balloons.” We only read about 2 to 3 pages a day, because we are analyzing it do death. The kids copy notes from the white board into their journals and we stop and discuss a lot. Today’s reading led to watching 2 YouTube videos, one on how to sail a boat, and another on hydraulic trucks. Here are a couple of pages from one of their notebooks:

21 Ballons Notebook page 1

21 ballons notebook p. 2

Next we play a family math game. Our favorites right now are Slower Speed with even and odd numbers and Concentration with multiples. All of our games come from the funnest math program in the world, Right Start Math.

Multiples concentration

Slow Speed

Finally, we are reading the best book written about Thanksgiving, “Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember,” by Barbara Rainey. Yes, I realize that Thanksgiving has passed, but we didn’t have time to read it before Thanksgiving, so we are doing it now. This book has made Thanksgiving my absolutely favorite holiday. During Thanksgiving, we can celebrate God’s providence without being choked by materialism.

thanksgiving book

I have the kids draw pictures about the Thanksgiving story as we read this book. Here is a sample:

Thanksgiving journal page

Next year, I am determined to make Thanksgiving even more meaningful for the kids. I want the kids to write “Thank You” cards and keep a “Thankful Journal” for the month of November. Maybe we will still get to that before the year is over.

Well, that’s it! After that torture, the kids run upstairs to play…

disney infinity avengers figures

After the new year, we will tuck the Xbox away, not to rear it’s ugly head again, until spring break.

How does your homeschool schedule change over the holidays?

Merry Christmas to All!

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. Luke 2:10

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Schedule Changes

Well, four weeks into it and I have had to make some serious changes to our packed out looping schedule. Click here to read my post regarding my original  looping schedule, or just continue reading to see the changes that I have made.

This is what my original schedule looked like:

original schedule 2014

And here is the new schedule:

updated schedule 2014

The Kindergarten Loop has stayed the same, but in all actuality, I could have changed the time. The last few weeks, we have been able to begin this loop at 9:30 and easily make it through all of the activities by 11am. Leaving the start time, however, makes me feel really successful when starting early and right on time when we don’t start until 10. 😉

The next thing you may notice is that I anchored Math RS C (Right Start Math Level C) in the 3-4th Grade Loop time slot. I just couldn’t stand not teaching math every day. Yes, the kids still practice the math facts during independent practice time, but the Right Start curriculum is just too good, and, according to the kids, too much fun, to not do every day. Can’t argue with kids who want to do math, so I anchored it. I didn’t give it a specific time frame, but we generally work on a lesson for about 30 minutes before we move on to the looping activities.

Here is a closer look at the original 3-4th Grade Looping section:

3-4 loop before

And this is a close-up of the new schedule:

3-4th grade loop

I am head over heals for this:

grammar notebook

Kids creating their own textbooks! What a phenomenal idea! Our notebooks will be a topic of a future post, so suffice it enough to say that the interactive notebook has trumped Easy Grammar and Sonlight for now.

Another thing I have added to my schedule is a column to keep track of the lesson that we are working on and a column to mark when that lesson is completed. This addition helps me to keep track of where I am in the loop. I generally continue an activity until the lesson is complete, so if we haven’t finished the lesson within the time frame allotted, I know to continue with it the next time we meet for that looping period.

Literature has also become a larger part of our day. Originally, I was planning on a more casual read aloud time while finishing up our lunch, but this book…

21BalloonsCover

required much more attention than a casual read, as I am sure all of the others will as well. What was I thinking?? The kids love literature time. Even the twins want to know how Professor Sherman managed to get from one balloon over the Pacific Ocean to the 20 in the Atlantic. From a balloon house basket to a volcanic island, inquiring minds want to know.

Here is a close-up of our original lunch schedule:

lunch before

And the new:

Lunch after

We usually start our story at about 12:45, but again, I’m not changing the time. I like feeling great about starting early. 🙂

The Family Loop is the section that underwent the most surgery. My original schedule was just too full…

Family loop before

First, I had to drop this…

hero tales pict

Boooo! I really didn’t completely drop it however. I am adding it to our read aloud list, so Hero Tales will get its full time of glory when we finish The Twenty-One Balloons.

Next, I moved Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Jr. to Thursdays. This is a perfect fit for our shopping day and has also become the kids payday. We only have one more lesson in this curriculum, but I am planning to keep this time to practice our money counting and spending habits. So much problem solving happens here and they see the relativity of their math lessons.

So here is a close-up of the new Family Loop schedule:

Family Loop

The kids love the Bible Answers curriculum, as well as science, so allowing longer periods for both makes everyone happier.

Finally, I am so incredibly happy with The Homeschool Piano curriculum from Jazz Edge, that this also begged for more scheduled time. Originally I planned to continue with the Family Loop during this time slot, but the kids actually wanted to watch more Willie, the piano instructor, so I couldn’t argue.

Here is the original:

Music schedule before

And here is the dedicated time slot:

Music after

At about 3pm, I review the kids remaining independent practice work and head out for my jog with my dog and my much needed alone time with my Lord. He is the One who gives me daily strength and patience.

But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. Psalm 86:15

‘Tis the Season…

We started school September 15. We had a few solid weeks. Ok, two solid weeks. And then…BAM! ‘Tis the season…to get sick. I don’t know if it was a cold or flu, but these days I lean more toward some mutated, hybrid. It started off as a cold, with serious nose drainage.

dripping faucet

And then turned into muscle aches, head aches, and stomach aches. For the past year or two, I have been using essential oils and homeopathic medicines to heal us of these dreaded plagues. But this time, I struggled to determine the appropriate combination of therapy, because I simply didn’t know what I was treating. My daughter was hit the worse this time around.

I began by treating all of the kids for a cold, using my go to formula…SnifflesSneezes4Kids_Large

Along with…

esberitox

 

And of course…

eucalyptus

This combination clears up a cold in a day, and it didn’t fail this time either; however, after a day in the clear, my daughter either came down with a second virus attack, or she wasn’t really healed from the first. This time, her head hurt, her legs hurt and her stomach hurt. I was perplexed, but went to my trusty flu care solution…

flu care

 

lavendar IMG_3198

So far this has kicked the flu in a day or two, but this time… alas, five days later and she was just starting to feel better. And then, I got hit with the nasty bug. It also started as a…

dripping faucet

But then quickly turned into body aches and stomach pains. I immediately treated my symptoms with the flu solution and added…

NutriBiotic-Nasal-Spray-with-Grapefruit-Seed-Extract-728177010508 zinc

I cannot get my kids to spray anything in their nose or take zinc lozenges, but with these two products added to my personal treatment, the virus only lasted 3 days. When my oldest son, 18, came down sick, I gave him the same therapy that I took. He was only sick for one day. The twins and my drummer boy only had the…

dripping faucet

and were cured with…

SnifflesSneezes4Kids_Large

by the afternoon. Thankfully, today, we were all well enough to do this…

IMG_3186 IMG_3181

‘Tis the season…until we are completely healed!

Through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Rev. 22:2

I’d love to hear what you do to remedy your kid’s sicknesses.

 

 

The Point System

In keeping with the theme of grace in my disciplining methods, I have implemented a points system inspired by the leader of Titus Ladies, Mrs. Margie Harryman. The idea, as explained in her book, “Letters to Krista,” is that each child 4 years old and up is freely given 25 points a day. “They cannot earn bonus points for good behavior, but they can lose points by bad behavior. The points are lost in 5 point increments, so it takes five episodes to lose all 25 points.” (Letters…pg 55) I have given this system a hands on approach and it is working quite well for us.

IMG_3175

First, each child decorated a yogurt container which would hold 25 popsicle sticks bundled in groups of 5.

IMG_3176

When the child misbehaves, he or she puts a bundle on my desk. This very act of going to his desk and taking out a bundle of sticks gives the child time to process his behavior and is usually all that is needed to correct the behavior. So far, no child has ever lost all of his sticks in one day. Turns out that this is also a great math reinforcer. My 5 year olds are great at counting by fives.

As Margie also suggests, each stick is worth 1 cent, so they can earn 25 cents a day just by having good behavior. In order to keep track of their earnings, I use an excel spreadsheet and at the end of each night, I quickly enter in the amount of points each child has earned that day. The sticks on my desk remind me to log their earnings and if they don’t loose points that day, I don’t log. My spread sheet has 16 columns, so I just back log their earnings once I see sticks on my desk. It’s obvious that if I haven’t logged in a while, that means they haven’t lost points in a while, so I know they have earned their full reward for the days that I have not recorded.

At the end of 16 days, we get together for Pay Day. The kids have calculated that in 16 days, they should have earned 4 dollars. I calculate each child’s earnings using the sums function in the Excel program. I do not have the kids calculate their own total earnings yet. I’m sure the process will evolve, but for now I want them to focus on counting money and figuring out how much money they have lost. This turns out to be a great lesson in counting change, since their earnings are usually amounts such as $3.95, $3.65, etc. Here is 5 day example of my Excel spreadsheet.

Date 9/17/14 9/18/14 9/19/14 9/20/14 9/21/14
11 yo 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25
8 yo 0.25 0.2 0.2 0.25 0.25
5 yo 0.25 0.2 0.2 0.15 0.25
5 yo 0.25 0.2 0.15 0.2 0.25

We have been using this system for over 2 months now and the kids absolutely hate to loose points. Loosing points means loosing free money, and as we are going through the Financial Peace JR curriculum, they each have something special they are saving up for.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Col. 3:23-24

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2:8-9

Taking Turns

The twins have been in a constant battle over things. When it is time to brush their teeth, they race to be able to stand on the favored stool. Then, they proceed in a shoving match to determine who will be the king of the stool. They fight over who will wear the batman cape. They fight over the ball, the Star Wars ship, and the Lego men. I can’t keep track of whose toy is whose and they lie about it most of the time anyway.
My initial reaction to their selfish tendencies has not been any more helpful in resolving the conflict as their fighting has been. I resort to yelling and snatch the item away out of frustration. While brooding over this constant bickering, The Lord was faithful to give me a bit of wisdom. He showed me that I wasn’t teaching them how to resolve the conflict by taking the toy away, or by yelling at them. Sure it fixed the problem at that moment, but the behavior never changed and the fighting just resurrected when they became fixated on another item of desire. Looking at this now, I realize that I was just reacting out of my own flesh, because I was tired. I was being a lazy parent.

Now, instead of yelling or removing the item, I am teaching them how to share, the joy of sharing, and the peace that comes from giving. One twin gets the favored stool in the morning, and the other at night. The Sharpie has become my best friend and I use it to mark the owner’s initial on toys, in order to keep track of what belongs to whom. They can no longer lie about that. The child who owns a desired item has exclusive rights to whether that item is shared. Of course, they usually don’t want to share their toys, but with positive guidance through scripture and God’s gracious love for us, they eventually make the right choice. There are times when they just can not be moved to share, and if it belongs to them, I let it be.
There is an inner joy that comes with sharing. I can see in their countenance that when they give in to their selfishness, they really aren’t very happy. It is my intent to give this feeling a name, maybe guilt? They need to know the difference between these two feelings, so they will learn that God’s way is best, because of the inner peace and joy they will have when following Him. We are relational beings created to fellowship with each other and our Creator. My children are most happy when they play together. This is the environment I intend to foster, by the grace of God.

Hebrews 13:16
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

1 Timothy 6:18
They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,

 

Christian Heritage Conference

This weekend, my husband and I left the kids with Grandma and went on a retreat to the Christian Heritage Conference with key note speaker Ken Ham. It was not technically a retreat. It was actually a homeschool and family discipleship conference; but, since we stayed in a hotel room without the kids, I’ll call it a retreat. Our family supports Answers in Genesis and the outreach this ministry provides through conferences, curriculum, and the Creation Museum, so we were tremendously exciting to have a chance to listen to Mr. Ham speak in person.

I took away several encouragements during this conference, but want to share 3 of the big ones here with you.
1) It is of the utmost importance that we teach our kids how to defend their faith Biblically in this Greekified culture. Mr. Ham explained the difference between an Acts 2 evangelism, which is spreading the gospel to a society that already has the foundation of God as creator and understands sin with death as it’s consequence, and Acts 17 evangelism when one is evangelizing to a culture in which there are many gods and death is believed to be a natural process of life. America has become an Acts 17 culture. Most have become Greekified, and therefore we, the evangelizing Christians, must be sure to define our terms. By started with Genesis, we can define God as The Creator and sin as the cause of death. We must teach our children that the Bible is the authority and that science proves God’s word is true.

2) The second point I got out of this conference was from a workshop hosted by Jennifer Bliesner about the effects of technology on brain development. Research has shown that technology changes the size and texture of the brain by keeping kids at lower level thinking patterns. Computers only teach through patterns and do not require interaction with language; therefore, higher levels of conceptual thought do not develop when a child is learning at a computer. Bliesner encouraged us to promote empathy in our children by labeling emotions with meaningful words and fostering meaningful discussions within our schoolwork, rather than sitting them at a computer where language rich interactions with a subject do not occur.  Computers and TV are a primary reason for language and information processing disorders in today’s culture.

3) This workshop also confirmed and encouraged my conviction to homeschool for the glory of God. Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. explained the fact that our children are made in God’s image; therefore, since we are to render to Ceaser what is Ceaser’s, that is a coin with his image on it, we are also to render to God what is God’s, that is our children made in His image. My goal is to educate my children so that they will understand God’s world: how He created it, and how He saved it. God’s Word will equip them for every good work. His Word will be the main text in our homeschooling and our life learning.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16-17

 

Certificate of Achievement

Pre cert

The twins have completed the All About Reading Pre-Reading course! They are so proud of their achievement. With this certificate, the twins will be able to pick out one toy, less than $15 each, at the toy store. I have been teaching all of the kids that toys, and other items they ask for, like tea at the coffee hut, must be earned. They may also opt to take the cash and save up for an item of their choice. The older kids will earn a dollar value for completed unit studies and other major achievements.

 

aar-full-level1On Wednesday, the anxiously awaited All About Reading Level 1 began. Already, in the first lesson, the twins have started to blend cvc words. It is intriguing to watch their minds work out this process. The pacing of the Pre-Reading program was just perfect. As we were going through it, I was concerned that the pace was too slow and that they should have been blending sooner, but now that they have actually begun to blend, I am finding that they would have struggled even more if we had started any sooner. Studies show that the longer you wait, especially for boys, the easier it will be. This is true for potty training and reading. This reading program is so complete, I am confident that they will be reading efficiently in their own time.

Teaching Them to Get Along

This last week, the twins have been arguing a lot and acting generally fleshly. The main source of conflict has been over toys, but they also need to be encouraged and taught how to play with one another. For this purpose, I have had them complete puzzles together. Of course lots of whining occurs at the start of this activity, but with a little encouragement and persistence, they get the job done. Just this activity alone seems to dissolve their self centered tendencies and promote cooperation and generosity during other play activities throughout the rest of the day.

Puzzle

In another attempt to redirect disobedience, I took out the cuisenart rods and had the twins link them into groups of 10. Some wonderful learning experiences came out of this activity. Not only did they have the opportunity to practice obedience in the tedious act of connecting the pieces, but they also discovered addition facts and learned how to count by tens.

Math rods

Activities such as these have always been my go to disciplinary measure for the kids. If they are not playing well together, I take out an activity for them to complete in my presence. The activities promote obedience, and cooperation which extends into their free play time. Some days several of these activities are necessary for them to complete, while on other days they are able to play together well without any additional encouragement, or disciplinary measure.
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

On Today’s Music

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My drummer boy has been taking drum and guitar lessons for 3 years now. I would have preferred to start him in piano, as this would have appeased my classical tendencies, but since he literally came out of my womb drumming, I figured he had a different path.  His music teacher, however, was a God send. He works very well with my drummer boy’s language disability and has the same humor as my son, which I have since learned is actually a “drummer’s humor.” There is a good mix of silliness and hard work, so we are all happy.

Recently I had a conversation with my drummer boy’s music teacher in which he explained the dumbing down of today’s music and the inferior musicians being popularized in today’s culture.

To paraphrase, he explained that kids are only exposed to music played with 4 basic chords, and these are the songs they want their teacher to teach them how to play. “This is simple,” he says, “and after a few lessons, my work is done.”  He then went on to explain that quality musicians cannot be produced in this fashion. To add to the problem, boys compete by playing louder and faster, which does not surmount to good music; it is just louder and faster. This is his source of frustration, and rightly so. 


I explained to him that my son is mostly exposed to music that glorifies God; however, since we are not fans of hymns, that music is generally composed of those same four chords that cause him grief.

rush

My drummer boy does listen to Rush, and so I wondered if that is what his music teacher considered to be quality. He often has my drummer boy practice pieces by the Beatles, Elton John, and other classical rockers, as well as other forms of music such as jazz, and so he confirmed that at least Rush is one of the better ones. We only exposed our drummer boy to Rush when we were introduced to Neil Pert as a means of exposing our 6 month old drumming prodigy to another drumming sensation. In the last 10 years, my drummer boy has memorized every Rush song and can imitate each band member almost perfectly. He can also imitate our church’s worship band leader, which is much more desirable in my book; however, I am pleased that Rush maintains a higher expression of musicianship than your run of the mill four chord band.

praise with cymbalsThe conclusion of this conversation, resulted in confirmation that his teacher and I are on the same page as far as the direction his lessons should go. It is our desire that my drummer boy composes quality, cutting edge, music that glorifies The Lord. I have hopes that he will greatly influence the world of music with musical patterns and melodies that will send contemporary worship music into a new genre. That he will be the leader of a new musical sound that glorifies The Lord in a way that the world has never heard. In this way, even none believers will be drawn to him and he will point them to the gospel and true worship of The Lord. I pray that through his music many will be saved. 

The Little Bug that Bites

The other day, a little bug told me that a 6 year old was working on a higher math level than both my 7 and 10 year old. I thought it was such a cute little bug that I tucked it away in the corner of my heart, all safe and protected, appreciative of the message, for I was truly impressed with the child. Slowly, this little bug began eating away at the peace in my heart and yesterday it took a big chunk out of my patience.  cute bug

My 7 and 10 year old have been transitioning into level C of Right Start Math for what seems like forever. We are only 2 lessons away from beginning this level, which at our rate will take at least 2 weeks. Today, we spent 30 minutes on just the warm up section. They just don’t seem to be retaining the addition strategies and every time I go to review, I end up teaching it all over again. Today, I became so frustrated with them, that my voice could be heard in the basement. They were laughing and giggling while I was trying to teach something that I had taught 100 times! How dare they try to have fun while learning!

But at the heart of this frustration was this little bug. As this little bug ate at my peace and patience, it became fat with envy. I should have squashed this bug when it was small. 

We love Right Start Math. My kids are transitioning from Math U See because I felt it left a lot of holes in regards to place value, and just wasn’t enough all around practice. The mastery of one step at a time, was keeping my son at one level for entirely too long, and he became frustrated and bored. The curriculum just did not meet the needs of my intellectually disabled son. With Right Start Math, my kids are having fun playing games while learning math concepts. The math foundation they are getting is complete and solid. They really like it. But they really like it when Mom is on their side. They like it when Mom has fun with them, whatever level they are at. They like it when Mom laughs with them and does not get hung up on where they must be and how much they have accomplished. stickyegg

On my jog that day, the Lord showed me how big that little bug had gotten. It was so creepy looking that it took great courage to approach it in order to squash it. With the Lord’s strength, I was finally able to, but it had left a big hole in my heart…. a hole that only the Lord could fill, so I prayed:

Lord thank you for the children you have given me. Thank you for the gift to homeschool them, so that they can flourish at their own pace and become exactly who You have designed them to be. Lord fill this hole in my heart with an abundance of patience to work with my kids at whatever level they are on. Lord give me peace to accept each child for who they are, not comparing them with any other child, but seeing and loving who they are and the gifts you have given them. And Lord, most of all, remind me that those little bugs get big and that they bite hard. Remind me to squash it and not to feed it, so that my heart will stay Holy filled with You. Amen heart

More Bible

If you ever want real accountability for being in the Word of God on a daily basis, then sign up to teach the kid’s ministry at church. I teach kids from ages 9-12 every Thursday evening. We are going through the books of Samuel. I don’t use any curriculum; I simply inductively study the chapter during the week and teach the lesson the Lord gives me.  This keeps me daily in the Word, studying and reviewing the chapter that I am teaching.

At home, the first thing we do each morning is our family devotions. During this time, we read through the Bible together. It took five years to read the entire Bible together the first time, and we are just finishing up Deuteronomy in our second read through. I also read a Bible story to the kids every night before bed from The Egermeier’s Bible Story Book, but I have been longing to do more. I long to teach every subject through the Bible and my Thursday night Bible studies with the kids at church have prompted me to add more Bible study to our day at home.

Egermeiers

My “intellectually disabled” drummer boy, get’s very little out of Thursday night’s Bible studies. His canned answer to every question is “God.” He really wants to understand it though, so I have decided to give him a head start in the lesson. This has lead me to teaching language arts, at home, through the Bible. Monday through Thursday, we inductively study the chapter I will be teaching Thursday evening. Now my drummer boy gets at least half of the answers correct on Thursday evening and he is much more engaged.

Every narrative element can be studied through the Bible. Studying the Bible builds character and gives value to doing school. If glorifying God is the purpose of school, of course His Word should be the main subject.

Here is a link for the steps of how to inductively study the Bible: Inductive Bible Study

All three categories of the trivium can be practice through inductively studying the Bible.  Through observation, language and speech can be practiced. This week my drummer boy and ballerina practiced summarizing and orally retelling the battle between David and Goliath. Thought is practiced through both interpretation and application of the scripture. Last week, my students interpreted the symbol of the Amelikites as the flesh. They researched God’s Word regarding the flesh. They found out what it is and what to do about it. Then they  orally explained what they are going to do about their own flesh, for more practice in the speech skill set.

It is my intent to do more of this as my drummer boy’s therapy programs are completed, but for now I have had to move our read alouds to the evening time after dinner. I am also in the process of freeing our family from curriculum enslavement so we can add more project time and science to our day. I will be posting more about how we are accomplishing this in future posts. Happy studying!