Saturday, February 26, 2011

February & The Future

(Side note: I just looked over and Monkey is STANDING in her playpen!!! On her own. WOW - break to take pictures and marvel at this new milestone.)

Appropriate oohing and ahhing has taken place, complete with Bug running out and knocking the Monkey over. (Cue the story about how I used to do that to my little brother when he was learning to walk... must run in the family!) Bug has been sentenced to her room, Monkey praised some more, and back to your regularly scheduled post. :)


February always flies by. Probably because it's a short month. :) (How profound!) But also, because it's truly the first "post-holiday" month to me. I am usually back in my groove by February, and then it zooms by.

We really didn't do much in the way of formal learning this month. We did some Phonics, a lot of Valentines crafts, dance class (which is not very interesting to the Bug, so when the session ends in a couple weeks, back to gymnastics with us!), and various worksheets and lots of game playing. So lots of learning, but not a lot of "We will have school from 8-10 today" going on.

We really enjoyed our unofficial game of the month, Monopoly Jr. It's a great practical use of addition/counting/reading, and Bug thoroughly loves it.

The new language-type skill we worked on this month is putting words in context, into a sentence. I got a game on clearance at Kohls, called My First Spelling Bee. It's just a wee bit above her skill level, but the "put the word into a sentence" portion was a hit. We've done that with Phonics words that Bug isn't familiar with, as well. We also randomly ask her to put a word into a sentence and she complies with gusto. :)

I have been giving a lot of thought to what I want our homeschooling experience to be for the spring/summer and going forward. We are waiting to hear if Bug got into an (even better than the one mentioned in my previous post) elementary school on open enrollment. We will find out next week. I'm so excited that we have these options, but also a wee bit sad that we will not be homeschooling. (Unless, as I mentioned before, something unforeseen occurs.) However, I want to continue learning together at home, supplementing what Bug may be learning at school, or even doing things that she is not. I envision a lot of science experiments, crafts, exciting field trips, and learning projects... for many years to come.

So. Here's where I am at on this crazy journey:

Before, I had a plan. Kindergarten this spring; 1st grade this fall; I was creating lesson plans and settling into my role as teacher. Now that has shifted a bit, and I'm still formulating how to proceed here. It took me several months to really get in my groove with homeschooling, and now I feel a bit adrift. I had a plan and a vision, darnit! :) I was all set to be THE educator in Bug's life. I'm pretty Type A and a borderline perfectionist. So when I do something, I want to do it RIGHT. I read all the books, I scour the websites, I take the quizzes ("What type of homeschooler are YOU?" etc). I soak it up and live and breathe it. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing. But it is what it is. :) Now, that role of TEACHER (at least the way I was approaching it -- a formally homeschooling teacher) has faded to the background once again, I find myself returning to where we were before this all began. I think I mentioned in one of my posts that I had an epiphany along the way this fall -- that we have been homeschooling for years. Just not in an official capacity. No forms filed, no grade level assigned... but my role as mom also included teaching my daughter about anything and everything that we encountered. It was organic and it was wonderful.

I am feeling more confident, after taking a breath to regroup and reframe my thoughts, in returning to the "Waldorf mixed with Montessori mixed with our own ideas" way of life we had going on. Maybe it's knowing that I don't have to be SO hyper-vigilant in ensuring that Bug learns everything @ home that she would have in a school environment now? I feel like there aren't any externally (I accidentally typed "eternally" the first time - that too!) imposed requirements or regulations on how we are doing things anymore. Nobody looking over my shoulder and saying "Oh you homeschool her? What is she learning at home this week?" like we have to report to everyone we meet about our progress. That pressure is gone now. (And, btw, I know this is an innocent question, and I love when people get interested in how we have done things -- but because I'm so Type A, I felt like I had to be on top of everything, so that I would feel I was doing it the "right" way and that nobody would judge where we were at.)

Anyway, that's where my brain is at the moment.. moving forward... to March -- Flowers and Bugs!! St. Patrick's Day and Spring!! I'm currently gathering things for us to do. I am also toying with the idea of buying Little Acorn Learning for the month. We used this program when Bug was about 18 months old, and since I'm feeling less "must-teach-everything-and-be-formal-about-education-y" and more "let's-do-this-my-way-and-create-our-own-rhythm-y", I think I would like to try this program again. It has a great rhythm to it and an earthiness that we both enjoyed. There are songs, stories, great crafts, and even recipes. Also a bonus - Caregiver Meditations. I LOVE those, and I have been missing something like that in my life lately.

So. Thanks for joining me on this journey as I figure out what the heck I'm doing!! And letting me be my extroverted self in sharing all my thoughts as they come to me. Whenever I do that, I am reminded of those who complain that blogs are just a vehicle for people to talk about themselves incessantly and then put it out there into cyberspace for all to read. Guilty! :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


This isn't really about homeschooling, but it is peripherally related I suppose. It has to do with organizing the kazillion and three stuffed animals that Bug has accumulated.

I was online a couple of months ago, after yet another marathon session of tracking down and putting away all the little creatures my child can't live without (oy), looking for inspiration on how to contain the adorable critters, beyond the usual basket and bin method. Or the hanging net where they would be unreachable and probably just become dust collectors. I found this and immediately fell in love.

But, in the interest of saving money, I decided to be frugal and make our own. So, I took the box that previously housed Monkey's new car seat, turned it inside out, cut a little opening, and let Bug go to down decorating. I added some leftover Valentine's Day wrapping paper at the top to cover up the Safety First Logo, so it's all cute and heart-y. :) Thankfully, it JUST fits all her stuffed animals. Hurrah, problem solved!

I probably should not admit how blissfully happy organizational, creatively frugal projects make me.
So, we spent much of January cooped up inside with colds. Baby Monkey had a cold for a week, and then the Bug caught it and it turned into a sinus infection. So we had a good 2 1/2 weeks where we were at home. We are all social gals, so this was not fun for any of us. However, we did enjoy a lot of learning during this time.

Here is what we did:

Math - We have been working on addition and subtraction. We have really enjoyed playing this game I found at our local teaching store:

Monkey even joined in the fun!

We also have continued playing Frog Pond Fractions and discussing more in-depth about what each fraction means. And, I have introduced money into our lessons. We have talked about pennies, nickles, dimes, and quarters. We play a neat money bingo game I got from the Mailbox magazine.

This month, we brought Monopoly Jr. into our math game rotation, and it's been really neat to see Bug put her addition skills into practice with that game. I highly recommend this game, it's actually quite fun.

Bug can count to 120 and is pretty adept at writing her numbers. We are still working on the number 8, that seems to be a little harder for her.

Science: We are using this awesome box of file folder games I got at Lakeshore Learning. There are games about recycling, parts of the body, climates, food groups, animal habitats... it's really great. And not much work to put together, which is a bonus. Next time we are up at the store, I'm going to get the Gr 2-3 box.

We have yet to put the ant farm together - hubby is waiting until spring and then he and Bug are going to our church, where they have an abundance of ants to collect.

The Chick Life Cycle was SO fun. Every morning, Bug ran over and pulled the egg for the day. She was so excited to see how the little embryo was progressing. We looked online and researched more in-depth what was going on, and found some ultrasound-type images as well. Because of the Great Cold of 2011, we did not get to a chicken or ostrich farm, but we will soon, so she can see the life cycle in person, with real eggs and birds.

Reading/Writing: We have a few more lessons left in the first Kindergarten Level 1 box of Hooked on Phonics. What a great program! It's been neat to see Bug learn how to put words together, and to hear her read the Hooked on Phonics mini-books. Last week at the library, I found some great little books that focus on certain word families. Those are in a workbox for today.

Bug's writing is getting clearer every day. She insists that she is a horse right now, named Buttons. I told her how to spell Buttons, and she now writes it as her name on everything. She also can write her (real human) name without prompting, and some simple words like Mom or Dad. We have been working on lower-case letters this "semester" and so far, she's doing really well. By Kindergarten next year (see news below), I would like her to be able to write her full name, address, and phone number without prompting.

We got some good news - Bug was accepted on open enrollment at a GREAT public school. It's just about 5 minutes from us, and I was so impressed when I went to visit it last year. So, barring any unforeseen surprises, Bug will be officially going to Kindergarten at a school this fall!!!

With that in mind, my focus has shifted slightly to Kindergarten readiness. She is so far ahead in some areas, but I want to make sure that she is up to speed everywhere else. I'm pretty sure she is, but we are going "back to basics" to make sure. With a homeschooling mentality, I haven't been pushing anything, just kind of going where her interests lead us. Part of why I wrote out the list above is so I can have a record of where she is at in relation to the standards. I am going to focus on writing numbers and letters, and keep working on the reading. Otherwise, not much will change through the spring and summer.

I also will keep doing at-home projects with her next year. This Kindergarten is a half-day program (which was one of my requirements when looking @ schools) so we will still have plenty of time to read books together, play our learning games, and doing crafts.

So that's where we are at. I haven't been super organized in defining what February's theme is, but March/April will be BUGS and FLOWERS! :) So many neat things to do with those topics. So far this month, we have done a little bit of Black History and of course, Valentine's Day. The rest of the month will be more Black History and President's Day, and finishing up any winter-type activities we have.

I hope everyone is healthy and having a great winter! :)