Saturday, November 29, 2014

Welcome to the Family Jack..

Yesterday we took a quick trip to the BX (which is basically a department store on a military base) to look for Christmas ornaments to go on the tree. While we were there, we were surprised to see "The Elf on the Shelf" as the last two holiday seasons they did not have any. We quickly snuck one into our carts before the kids could see what it was and brought our new Elf home.

I should start by saying that honestly, these things are a big creepy.. LOL  Don't get me wrong, they are cute but in a creepy sort of way but over the past couple of years I have seen some really creative things my friends and people on pinterest have done with their elves and wanted to have a little fun as well. The two ankle nippers are still young enough to believe in the magic of Santa so hopefully they will have fun trying to find this lil guy ever day.

This morning I hid our Elf, whom we named Jack, in our new Christmas tree. There was so much stuff going on in our living room this morning between the tree being set up, the reindeer and sleigh in the hallway, the clean carpets that the kids took a big of time to notice Jack. Garrett was the first to finally see him but Ash was definitely the one more interested..  I told them who the Elf was and that Jack would be staying with us for a month and then we read the "Elf on the Shelf" book that came in the kit together.

The kids of course had lots of questions.. Can Jack move? (I told them while Jack can move, since we have three cats and Jack is very small, he chooses not to in order to avoid getting attacked by the much larger feline housemates.) Does Jack fly?  Will Jack tell Santa that Garrett pushed Ashleigh?  It was pretty entertaining.

They understand that Jack will be hidden throughout the house up until Christmas Eve and that they will have to find where he has hidden himself every morning. Now I guess Dad and I will have to figure out all the fun things to do with him.

On another topic, I hate Christmas shopping.. Honestly, I do.. I never know what to get the kids and I never know how much is too much or not enough. I do most of my shopping online if I can help it. I feel sorry for the UPS guy who ends up visiting our house several times a week. (I think between today and Wednesday I have close to 10 packages coming!!) We don't have a whole lot of extra money each month to worry about actually spoiling the kids and they are always very happy for what they do get but I always feel guilty that it's not enough.  We planned for about 200 dollars per kid so I'm trying to stay in that budget.. lol

This year, the kids are getting quite a bit.. Garrett has asked for one thing in particular .. He wants Little Big Planet 3 on the Playstation 4.. I preordered it a long time ago and we got it on launch day so I have to smile every time he mentions it as its currently sitting in the top of my closet. What he doesn't know is its the special launch edition so it comes with a plush Sackboy along with the game.. Ashleigh wanted Legos of her own, so we ordered a special Hello Kitty set for her.. Alyssa needed a new computer and so she's getting a 2-1 Dell Tablet.. After the most requested wants were taken care of, then I started just getting random things I thought they would like..
What I'm trying to Avoid.. LOL

Well, here's why I'm not the best mom... As Charles and I sat down last night and started tallying what each kid got, we realized it was extremely lop sided. I had ordered two stuffed animals, some barbie dolls (5 total), the Hello Kitty Legos, a Talking Ginger doll and a copy of Enchanted on DVD for Ashleigh.. I had ordered a Nabi Dreamtab for the two to share.. But I had only ordered the Little Big Planet game and an Uncle Milton indoor fireworks display for Garrett.. Way to be fair, mom!!

Amazon to the rescue..two more nice presents on the way for Garrett.. He's been wanting a practice chanter to start learning how to play the bagpipes (Garrett is fascinated with the bagpipes) so I picked up a starter chanter for him as well as a Gears! building set (Garrett is also very fascinated with gears.. to the point he has destroyed watches, DVD players and various other electronics to get the gears out of them). Luckily I have more time to get a few more lego sets for him between now and Christmas..

Have I mentioned I really dislike all the Holiday hubbub? Don't get me wrong, I don't mind Santa Claus and the reindeer and he's not banned from our household.. But I would rather teach the kids the true meaning of Christmas - the baby in the manger and who that baby grew to be - then to deal with the entire retail and commercialized version of Christmas.. But that's just me..

Friday, November 28, 2014

RIP Christmas Tree

By now, your fridge is probably packed full of leftovers, the dishes from last night probably still in the sink (unless you were smart and got paper plates and plastic forks) and maybe you're out running the roads for Black Friday shopping. Either way, hopefully you had a wonderful holiday with your family and are getting a somewhat relaxing breather before the madness of the Christmas shopping starts.

We had a nice quiet Thanksgiving of just myself, my husband and the two smallest kiddos.. My oldest daughter ended up having to hop a flight to Houston to go visit her father as we alternate each year as to who gets Christmas and who gets Thanksgiving. Since Alyssa wasn't here, we decided to just do a very simple meal for the four of us. My husband baked a small ham and made mac and cheese while I baked some
Simple Family Dinner
sweet potatoes and made some Parmesan bakes greenbeans.  Every weekend we get a huge box of organic produce straight from the farms which meant some awesome sweet potatoes and fresh green beans for us.. LOL  (Although, now that I'm thinking about it, I totally forgot about the acorn squash and will most likely be using it as well as the pumpkins we got for bread this week..).

Usually we make the full Thanksgiving spread. My husband makes an AMAZING turkey each year as well as homemade cranberry sauce while I take on the sage sausage and green apple stuffing and whatever else we have. I enjoy the holiday cooking as both of us are in the kitchen together. Usually Charles will put on a nice jazz station on Pandora and we will relax and interact while cooking up our great feast. In years past, we've usually had at least 1 friend over, usually more. Being a military family living on a base, some of our friends are unmarried and might not be able to go home to their families for the holidays and so the more the merrier.  This year, however, one of our normal visitors is currently deployed to Korea and our other friends who usually come to eat have moved off to start other ventures outside the military, so it was just us.

But even with just the four of us, it was nice. We sat together and watched the Macy's Parade and then decided to watch the Wizard of Oz afterwards. The kids ate their ham and their baked potatoes (green beans are evil as far as they are concerned) and enjoyed the family broadcasting. We all enjoyed some pumpkin pie and blueberry cobbler for dessert and just had a really nice family day together.

This morning, we got up to do something we have never done before.. We braved the Black Friday craze.. We typically avoid Black Friday and any shopping establishments as much as possible during the holiday season. However, this year, we knew we needed to replace our Christmas tree. Charles and I bought a pre-lit tree probably 8 years ago and I was never really happy with it to begin with. It was tall (7 foot) but very skinny.. I tend to like full trees. But we made due with it and every year, we decorated the tree as a family. Each year our family grew from 3 of us (Alyssa was from my previous marriage of 13 years) to 4 and then to 5. Each year following Thanksgiving, the tree would come out and I would have to figure out all the wires to get the lights to work right.. the decorations would come out and get sorted through as either breakable or not and the little ones would get to put the non breakable stuff on the tree while the rest of us would tackle the more fragile pieces.  Every year, we would always be happy with how the tree turned out, even if I liked a fuller tree.

Our tree last year

Last year, we pulled the tree out and plugged it in and it wouldn't work anymore. We troubleshooted things like fuses and such, but nothing worked.. We made due, buying a couple of cheap strands of lights to go around the tree and once again, we were happy with the outcome but we knew that this year, we would have to replace the tree.. I had my eye on one in particular at Walmart and we planned to head over there this weekend and pick it up. Then I saw that one of the Black Friday deals was 30 percent off the tree, so we debated if we would be willing to deal with Black Friday madness in order to save a few dollars (okay, more than a few - we're talking 45 dollars.. lol) .  Last night, I just happened to look on Home Depots website and saw they were having a Black Friday deal for a particular Christmas tree for $79, which was $120 off the normal $200 dollar price. I showed Charles and we both agreed, it was a better tree.. It had LED lights rather than the regular ones (hey, we like to save energy) and it was a "Quick setup", all we had to do was put the pieces together and they plug themselves in, no wires to figure out.. It had a remote control so we wouldn't have to worry about climbing behind the tree and presents to either plug it in or unplug it.. It had both white and multicolored LED lights that could be switched between with the use of the remote.. and best of all, it was a pretty full tree, no more tall, skinny trees.. LOL  (Oh and did I mention it was only 80 dollars???)

The kids got tucked into bed at their normal time and I told them that I would be waking them up before the sun came up because we were going to go get a new Christmas tree.. They were excited to say the least.. We knew Home Depot was going to open at 5am and we knew that if we wanted any chance of getting the tree, we would have to be there at that time.. 4am rolled around, we woke the kids up, loaded up in the car and headed that direction. We got to Home Depot about 5 minutes after 5 and saw people coming out, each with two of these Christmas trees.. So my heart sunk when we saw the pallet which held the Christmas trees - completely bare.. That's okay, we told each other, there were other trees that were also on sale and while they weren't 80 bucks, we found one we liked for 150 (the last one they had).. It wasn't LED but it was still pretty.. But while Charles was going to grab a cart, one of the employees told me that they had a few more 80 dollar trees that were in the back of the warehouse and they were loading them on a pallet to be brought back up. He told me where to wait and a few moments later he came back and told me they were handing them out a little ways behind me. We got over there just in time to put our hands on one of the trees we wanted (by the time I got there, there were only 3 left)..
The new 80 dollar tree of memories

The kids were wonderful and were happy about the tree.. Home Depot had brought out coffee, hot chocolate and donuts for the shoppers, so each kid got to pick 1 donut for our trip home.. And since we didn't spend $150 on a tree, my husband was a sweetheart and bought me something I'd been wanting for a while now - a 5 foot lighted deer and sleigh to go out in the yard..  (And we got both, along with two Poinsettias for less than the other tree would have cost)

I hear horror stories of Black Friday and I know it is crazy. I see the videos of the pushing, the fighting and the chaos that erupts over people trying to save a few dollars on a TV or a computer... I'm so glad we didn't run into that type of behavior at Home Depot (especially since I had my kids in tow).. Instead, everyone was nice to each other, willing to tell others where they found a particular item and even telling others "Good Morning". (Another shopper is the one who told me they had donuts for the shoppers as she smiled at my kids). That's the type of behavior I want my kids to see..

If anyone is a teacher to my kids, however, it would be myself and Charles.. and while we took the day off from school, I do believe they learned some valuable lessons yesterday. One being that Thanksgiving isn't about the turkey and the spread, but about being together, enjoying each others company. They also learned about disappointment - they knew I wanted that particular tree and they knew that when we got there, that tree wasn't available anymore.  They heard the conversation between my husband and myself when we decided "That's okay, lets find another tree we like" and so they learned that life is about compromise. We can't always get what we want but we can be just as happy with what we can have.. And finally, they learned that sometimes, even when you are disappointed, something happens and can change that for you. The tree we wanted suddenly became available, we were able to get it after all.

We strapped that tree to the top of our car and made the trek home (we live about 30-40 miles from Home Depot). We laughed at the sound of the bungie cords vibrating at highway speeds (and even figured out at what speed the bungies started vibrating and making noise (15 miles per hour).. And as we drove home, we watched the sunrise together, something we never do because we are usually asleep. (I should also mention that driving up there, we saw 2 very bright shooting stars as well).. Together as a family, we worked to unload our loot, the kids opening the door for dad while mom heated up a hot bad for dad because he kinda hurt his back putting the tree on top of the car.  Once everything was inside, we all kinda looked at what we got and we all said how happy we were that we were able to get it.

We will hopefully enjoy that 80 dollar tree for many years to come.. Tonight we will break out the hot chocolate, put some "Go Fish" Christmas music on the play (the kids love their version of "The Little Drummer boy") and we will decorate the tree to some extent, as well go buy more ornaments this weekend for Alyssa to help decorate when she comes home Sunday.. And hopefully each year we will pull it out, fluff it up and once again bring out the decorations and decorate it together. The kids might not remember our crazy Black Friday rush to get it as other memories crowd it out but I will always remember when we pull that tree out.

We braved Black Friday.. We survived.. and we all learned from it.

RIP Old Christmas Tree.. You weren't very full.... but... you were full of LOVE....

Ash and Garrett - Christmas 2012

Alyssa - Christmas 2011

Alyssa and Garrett - Christmas 2007

Charles and Bren - Christmas 2008

Garrett - Christmas 2008

Ashleigh - Christmas 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turkey Day is Coming..

Hard to believe this is from 1973.
We've been having alot of fun this week getting ready for Thanksgiving. I had originally planned for the kids to have this week off but since we didn't do much as far as schoolwork last week, this week we are playing a bit of catchup.

Yesterday we started the day with something fun. We sat and watched "A Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving". The kids have never watched any Charlie Brown before so this was a new experience for them. Garrett is not much for watching anything on tv but he really enjoyed watching this. Within minutes they were both laughing at the antics of Snoopy and Woodstock. It's something completely magical to share something from your childhood with your kids and actually have them enjoy it and the surely no longer make cartoons the way they once did. 

After watching Charlie Brown, we followed up with "The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't".. Another oldie from 1972. The kids didn't seem to like this one as much as they enjoyed Charlie Brown but they still watched it.  We were able to discuss how the Pilgrims almost died however the Native Americans came to their rescue and showed them how hunt, gather and grow food. As the kids do enjoy Native Americans and anything that has to do with them, this caught their attention enough to keep them somewhat interested in the video.

Craft time.. Last week, while we were sick, we looked over a few various crafts involving Thanksgiving and the kids picked out a few various things. The first one we decided to try was the coffee filter turkeys. The kids had a blast coloring the coffee filter (we didn't have water colors in order to paint it so crayons would have to do) and gluing the various parts on the turkeys.

Still wearing Halloween stuff..

Yesterday and today we decided to work on a new way of doing our addition and subtraction so we threw in a few "Turkey Trots" into our usual mix. We haven't really worked with number lines before but the kids picked it up very quickly. We will be doing "Turkey Trots" for the rest of the week.

Since the kids have been enjoying "Color by Numbers" so much lately, we threw in a new one today. This one was a bit more complicated compared to what they are use to, as so far we have only worked on single digit addition and subtraction. This particular worksheet had a mix of single and double digit subtraction equations. Kids actually did really well with it once we brought out our trusty manipulatives. We spent a good hour working out the multiple problems on the sheet but the kids didn't seem to mind much.

I'm hoping the rest of the week we can throw in a discussion about the Mayflower and the Pilgrims coming to Plymouth and a bit more in regards to the first Thanksgiving. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

A worthless week.. but ...

This week was terrible for us. As I said in the past post, we were all sick. Out of a family of 5, 4 of us got the flu and we're just now starting to feel like normal.. Most of the week was spent sleeping in or just vegging out trying not to be too active. When we did feel well enough to do something semi-productive, Ashleigh spent it drawing, Garrett spent it playing Little Big Planet and Mom spent it scouring pinterest (which mind you, I'm addicted to) for curriculum ideas for the upcoming holidays as well as reading. Prior to getting sick, I was 2 books behind on my reading goal for the year on Goodreads, I am now 4 books ahead. Yup, thats right, I have read 6 books in the past week.. LOL

Yup.. that was basically us.. Only we didn't look this good!!!

However, this week really gave me some true insight to the closeness our family really has.

Anyone who has had a kid wonders if they are raising them right. We worry that we are either too authoritative or too lax when it comes to our parenting style... Will our kids view us as a friend but still understand that we are the parent?  I think all parents have these types of fears, especially if we grew up with broken homes ourselves. We always want better for our kids than what we had when we were growing up..  I personally came from a very abusive childhood and swore I would break the cycle...but I still worry if my actions are the right actions.. Do I raise my voice too much or in a frightening manner? Should I spank or not?? Do my kids know that I love them or are they growing up being scared of me? I know other moms who have similar worries, so I know it's not just me.

This week, with all of us sick, it was amazing to see how the kids actually fit into the family structure without any questions asked.. They say kids lead by the example set before them and I guess that means we must set a pretty good example. When Ashleigh was feeling her worst, Garrett would say "My poor Ashleigh. she's so sick".. When Garrett was feeling his worst, Ashleigh was there to hug him and cuddle him (when momma wasn't). When mom was sick, they helped clean after dinner, picking up plates and cups and taking them to the sink even though they felt rotten as well, then told me they did it because they loved me.  When Dad was sick in bed, they made sure they were very quiet to not disturb him but occasionally cracked the bedroom door to check on him.  No matter how rotten we all felt, we were all together as a family taking care of each other.  We hugged, we cuddled, we kissed the top of each others heads.. We retrieved the thermometer for one another and  brought medications to one another. (Ashleigh even read to me at one point)..

It makes me feel good to know that our family can function as one cohesive unit, even when everyone's feeling like poop..  Some families don't function all that well, even at their best.. but even at our worst, the love was strong between all of us..

Maybe we didn't get to do our math and our vocabulary this week (although I did make them read.. lol) but lessons learned were just as valuable, I think..  even if we're gonna be playing catch up next week.. LOL

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

This week is shot..

Not a whole lot of learning going on this week... Well, I take that back, we're still learning, just not anything that's in our text books.

The entire household is sick this week. Even Dad, who is usually the last person to get sick, its currently in bed sleeping as he's been sent home from work and had to go to the doctor and has been put on quarters. Both little kids are sick as well and they are currently sleeping after a dosage of medicine to try to help them feel better.  The only one in our house not sick is Alyssa and I have a feeling its only a matter of time, being that 4 out of 5 people are pretty dang sick.  

But the kids have been in good spirits about it at least.  Garrett has been building worlds on his video game and Ashleigh stays curled up with mom as much as possible.

So we've been using this week to work on reading and spelling. The kids have been picking and choosing words and are spelling them out as a fun game between the two of them and have been doing really well with it. We got some new readers from Scholastic a few days ago so they are having fun reading independently during quiet times.  

At least we don't feel completely useless in the school front.

Here's hoping everyone starts feeling better soon..

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Review of "Wanna Be - When I Grow Up I Want to be a Firefighter"

Attention grabbing front cover

This week we had the pleasure of trying out and reviewing the “WannaBe™-When I Grow Up I Want to be a Firefighter” unit put out by The Old Schoolhouse MagazineI received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it for Schoolhouse Review Crew, however the opinions expressed are my personal, honest opinions. The Old Schoolhouse's "Wanna Be - When I Grow up I want to be a Firefighter" can be purchased for $8.95 at this link.

This is the first product I have used by The Old Schoolhouse and was very happy with it. In the past I have read articles out of the magazine but I was not aware of the fact they actually had unit studies for purchase and can be purchased at The Old Schoolhouse Store.

We received the unit to review and use on a Tuesday and I took the rest of the week to actually sit and study the materials. The first thing I noticed is there's a plethora of information put together nice and neatly in the 82 page ebook with a table of contents that highlights topics for study. The addition of the table of contents was very nice as most unit studies that we have used in the past do not have one and I tend to have to search for the page/topic we left off on. The table of contents neatly corresponds with the page number of the start of each section which makes it perfect for a not so organized mom like myself to go straight the page I need and pick up where we left off.

Another thing to note right away, before digging into the actual content was the bright colorful picture on the front of the unit with six smiling firefighters. I know they say “Don't judge a book by it's cover” but when you're dealing with two first graders, sometimes the cover art is very important. In this case, the picture was enough to grab my kid's attention and provide a great conversation starter to bring us into the lessons. I especially like the fact that there were firefighters of both sexes shown so both Garrett and Ashleigh could have someone to relate to. We were also able to incorporate the cover photo into part of our discussion, as I will explain in a few.

As said, before sitting down and starting this unit with my kids (both being 1st grade) I took a few days to review the materials includes. There is a lot included for the price ($8.95) and you definitely get the bang for your buck. There are many activities included to tie into the lessons such as a word find, a crossword puzzle, mathematics problems, copy work and fill in the blank vocabulary pages. Many of these pages I could tell would be too advanced for my kids but the introduction page does state this unit is mostly geared for students ages 4-10 so I do think that some of the activities would be better for students in higher grades (maybe grades 4 or 5). Some of the main themes of discussion are the history of firefighting, firefighting equipment, the requirements to become a firefighter and how much they make, as well as information in regards to building safety codes and technological advancements in fire fighting such as the use of robots. Some of the more advanced topics (such as about robots) also include ideas for science experiments or projects to incorporate with the discussion.

I decided to present the material of this unit to my kids over the course of three days and I found this to be a reasonable time frame to cover almost all of what is included in the material on the level appropriate for my kids. Much of the information presented also gives a great platform for more independent exploration (and a bit of fun). For example: during the topic of the history of the fire departments, we talked about the “Bucket
Bucket Brigade of the Colonial Era
Brigade”. We were able to find a great youtube video in regards to “Firefighting in the Colonial Era” which showed the bucket brigade and we were able to easily extend the discussion beyond what was covered and discussed how the men were on once side of the line, the women and children on the other and why that would have been (the full water buckets being heavier and easier for men to handle). This also made for a great “fun” activity as we compared an empty bucket to a bucket full of water and the kids then pretended they were tossing the buckets of water onto a fire. When talking about fire equipment, the kids got to pretend they were firefighters in the front yard and battled a “fire” with our garden hose. When discussing how the firefighters live in the firehouse for 24 hours at a time and cook, clean and sleep there, we also returned to our previous discussion on nutrition and the food groups and talked about how the firefighters had to eat healthy foods such as lots of fruits, vegetables and proteins in order to stay strong to meet the physical needs of their job. Mom also threw in some good ole pushups into the mix when talking about the physical fitness standards and the daily training they needed. And remember that cover photo? Well, after watching a video that talked about the firefighter's gear, the kids learned to recognize the Fire Chief and the Fire Captains by their helmet color so they of course wanted to go back and see what color helmets the firefighters on the cover were wearing and pointed out the Chief (the one holding the white helmet).

Heavy Bucket of Water
While some of the topics we did skim over as I felt it was a bit advanced for my kids, such as the information about general salaries throughout the country, these types of topics were very few and far between and I felt the kids were able to grasp most of the material (at least on a basic level) and they were able to
Putting out the Fire
answer most of the questions presented in the quiz section of the unit. Overall, I feel this unit indeed provided enough material to be considered enriching even at their younger age. I also feel it is a great resource to visit later down the road as they get older and could understand the more advanced ideas such as wages and about the history of fire insurance and will try to return to it again when they are probably around grade 5.

I do highly suggest that outside material be used when using this unit with younger students. It is a great platform on its own but using other resources such as youtube videos or photos off the internet will really help to get the ideas across, especially for younger students or those who learn more visually then by being read to. Together we watched videos of “A Day in the Life of a Firefighter”, videos of firefighters actually battling fires, listened to fire truck sirens and looked at photographs of the old horse drawn fire trucks which made what we were talking about really click. There's also a great video of Wilshire the fire dog (who's history is a point of discussion in the unit) online as well.
Horse Drawn Fire Truck

Overall, I was very happy with the unit and would definitely look into purchasing the other units of this series in the future. (Other available units include A Doctor, A Chef, A Missionary, and A Pilot among others). The material was clear, concise and accurate and presented nicely in a format that is easy to follow. With a bit of imagination, this unit could easily be extended to cover a week or two by also incorporating activities from other subjects, like we did with the discussion about the food groups or physical fitness. I think when I revisit it, I might plan a small obstacle course for the kids to run and pick up a firehouse cookbook and let them prepare and eat like a firefighter.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Oooops... I kinda forgot about that part..

Today being Friday, we decided to have an easy day and watch a movie.. I gave alot of thought as to what movie would grab the attention of both kids and give me some discussion material afterwards and kept drawing a blank, so I went over to the Teach with Movies website, put in the kids ages and looked through the list of what was suggested. Milo and Otis quickly caught my attention and I looked through the discussion questions provided and figured it was perfect.. I remember my oldest daughter watching that movie over and over again when she was little and how much she enjoyed it so I thought it would be great..

I guess you kinda block certain things out of your memory because I really did not remember the particular scene where the cat and the dog both give birth.

I don't have a problem with this.. its a fact of life and eventually I would have to explain where babies come from to the kids..Actually, I'm pretty sure its coming up quickly in our Science book so the topic would have been breached eventually.. As all of our animals are fixed, the kids haven't had the fun adventure of actually watching an animal give birth..

Imagine my surprise when I hear my youngest say "Mommy, the cat just pooped".. I'm thinking What?? I look up and there's a cat giving birth.. Then it shows that its a kitten, to which the kids are like "Awwww, its a baby kitty".. Okay, cool..

Then it quickly cuts to the scene of the dog giving birth.. To which the kids thought the dog just laid an egg.. LOL 

Not really sure why the movie had to focus in on the genitalia of animals giving birth. LOL

Guess we had to have that discussion a tad bit sooner that I was expecting.. The discussion questions went out the window as I had to then answer questions about why baby animals come out of their momma's butts..

Yup, we had a fun day today.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sometimes It Just Clicks

Trying to teach two kids with very different learning styles can be a pain.. I try to figure out ways to engage both of the on the subject we're working on but sometimes once will dig their heels in and fight against everything I'm doing, no matter what. Today was one of those situations.

Last year, Garrett was the one who baulked at everything I tried to teach him, to the point I just threw my hands up and said the heck with it, I would hold him back a year and start him over as a first grader this year. I've known a few homeschool parents who pass their kids no matter what and say "they will get it eventually" and I think this does a huge disservice to our kids. I know of 5th graders who can barely read a simple sentence and their parents are okay with this.. I don't want to that to be my kids..

That was why I decided to hold Garrett back from 2nd grade and start over. He just wasn't ready for 2nd grade. He couldn't read and he couldn't write.. To say he was a 2nd grader on any level was a lie and I wasn't going to do that.  Now Garrett is performing where he should be at at this point in 1st grade but its Ashleigh who's being difficult..

Today I printed out a dot to dot for the kids to work on as part of the morning drill. It wasn't anything too complicated, just a simple page with a Skip by 2, Skip by 5 and Skip by 10 drawing all on the same page. We've been working on skip counting alot with our morning drills, although we hadn't really covered it in our math book just yet, so maybe I was expecting too much from them or maybe my math curriculum isn't up to par with what I think it should be (It doesn't begin to touch skip counting til Unit 5 and we're currently on Unit 3). Garrett got through the dot to dots rather quickly as he's been picking up the concept but Ashleigh wasn't having it.. AT ALL!! Typically, she just copies what Garrett says during drills... Sometimes I make her answer and she will get it correct but usually with coaching.. Today I wanted to see if she could actually do it on her own..

There were a lot of tears and frustration and a serious meltdown, more than I have had so far this year. For the first time this school year, I had to send Ashleigh out of the room until she calmed down. Upon her return she informed me that she did not like the dot to dot, she did not like skip counting: it was too hard. I tried to show her the repetitive patterns, she wouldn't listen. She didn't care, she had made up her mind that she did not like it and did not want to do it..

I thought maybe I could print out another set of worksheets, something that showed a number line to help her see how the skipping worked..  I ran to my printer, printed out two sheets with nice eyepopping graphics to
"I Love Skip Counting".. YEAH RIGHT!  Epic FAIL
try to get her attention.... Surely the pretty hearts that she loves so much would entice her to fill out the worksheet properly. She scribbled all over it then flailed her arms and legs when I tried to get her to write actual numbers rather than blobs of whatever..She shut down completely and would have nothing to do with anything I was saying.

Today it was mom who learned the lesson...

We've all been there I'm sure.. That point where you wonder what the hell was I thinking to take on this task of educating my children when I have no background in childhood education myself. One would think with a college degree (granted, it's in medical sciences) that the basic fundamentals of elementary education should be easy.  It is easy FOR US!!  But sometimes we forget that we've been knowing this stuff for a long time (in my case, I was in 1st grade 35 years ago!!) Of course it's easy for me and then I sit and wonder why my kids can't understand something so basic and I get frustrated and they get frustrated and before you know it, we're both getting absolutely no where fast.

I have this green stick I use while I'm teaching that I use as a pointer (No! I don't hit the kids with it like the ole 17th century school marm, I swear.. lol). It's nothing special, just an unused stake that i had lying around for my tomato plants that's probably 2 1/2 foot long.. I use it alot to point to where we are on the paper, to bring their attention to a particular word or the problem we are working on, as they like to work on the floor of the living room instead of the table and I'm NOT getting on the floor with them..

  In my frustration of repeating the patterns of skip counting, I put the stick across my head, hands on both sides and started swinging my head back and forth with each number.. Suddenly, the tears stopped and I heard a giggle.. The next number, I swung my head the opposite direction.. more giggles.. Next number.. next swing.. more giggles..  I'm starting to sense a pattern here...

On the next number, I made them figure it out.. A few guesses and the correct answer popped out of their mouth.. and I swung my head the opposite direction..and laughter ensued.. A few more guesses, a correct answer, the head swings.. more giggles.. Then the answers were no longer guesses and my head was swinging back and forth at a regular pace and the giggles were almost non stop.. Suddenly, they were skipping by 2's like pros.. Could this continue??

We skipped by 5s.. like before, a few mistakes to start with and then my head was swinging back and forth with the stick like crazy. For nearly 45 minutes I had tried to teach this while amidst  the meltdowns and tears and here a bit of goofiness out of my own frustration had accomplished it in less than 5...

We moved on to Skipping 10's... they were ready.. I didn't have to teach it at all, to be honest.. They figured it out on their own and started shouting answers out in order while their sides were hurting from all the laughing.. They skipped all the way to 220, well past the 100 that the handout required.

The kids learned skip counting but mom learned an even bigger lesson today.

That sometimes, the best lessons aren't in any books but instead come from the least expected source. Not only that, but sometimes we get so caught up in the simplicity of a particular assignment that we get frustrated when they do not get it as quick as we believe they should. I'm sure my frustration with Ash's refusal to cooperate contributed to the problem.  But when I had had enough, was at my breaking point, a simple act of silliness brought it all into focus for all three of us and what I believed to have been a ruined day turned into something magic..

Behold the power of a simple stick

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Yeah.. My sanity is still Intact ;)

We had a WONDERFUL day today, especially after the nightmare of a day we had yesterday.. All parents know that feeling, where you want to pull your hair out and could probably scream til your red in the face and it doesn't make a difference? Of course, none of those techniques are going to provide the results you want so whats the point, right?? That's how yesterday was for me.. a very trying and stressful situation for everyone.

Today we had a blast.. Today we felt we accomplished alot..

We started today with doing a bit of fun stuff over on Brainpop Jr.. Since yesterday we started working with the food groups, I found a few videos on Brainpop discussing the 5 food groups, eating healthy and about why sugary foods weren't good nutritionally. Brainpop Jr is awesome. This was our first time logging into it (our school district is nice enough to share their login information with homeschool families in the local community) and enjoyed it alot. The videos are very well done and perfect for young elementary children. They are informative with nice characters, have some humor in them to keep kids entertained and they are short enough for even Garrett, who gets quickly bored with videos, to stay interested. It also helped that the video ties in the MyPlate diagram for healthy eating, which was what we were studying yesterday. The kids quickly pointed out each section of the plate and identified each food group by name. (The kids determined that since my morning coffee is made from beans, its obviously a protein.. LOL)
Annie and Moby teach about Healthy Food on Brainpop Jr
Since the kids absolutely loved the first three videos we watched, we decided to check out some of the other stuff available. I definitely think we will be making use of the availability of this resource. We watched a video regarding dental health and about losing teeth (where was this when my son lost his first few teeth and freaked out and hid them because he was scared he would be in trouble?). The videos are really cute and we looked at a few of the activities they also have available, which I do believe we will be incorporating into upcoming lessons. We even took a quick look at the mathematics section and the kids sat and watched a few videos in regards to basic subtraction, which is what we're currently working on.  Whomever designed the Brainpop Jr website did a wonderful job, it is truly one of the best educational websites for children I have come across.

After playing around with Brainpop Jr, we decided it was time for lunch and the kids demanded food from the different food groups.  Here's hoping learning how each food group serves to help keep them healthy might actually encourage them to eat more veggies (a mom can hope, right?). Ashleigh informed me that her favorite food group was junk food.. Okay, so wishful thinking..  While the kids were enjoying lunch, we worked on spelling drills. I would give them a word from our last few spelling lessons and they would spell them out.  This worked out great as a review and the kids did wonderful.. My favorite was the word hook to which Ashleigh spelled it "H - double o - k".

Finally it was back to actually tackle our paperwork.. The kids actually decided to do their math work first, probably because they watched the video about subtraction. They decided to make a contest to see who could finish their assignment first and Ashleigh completed it without any mistakes. (Garrett missed 4 in his rush to finish before her but he went back and corrected them)..

We ended our lessons today with our typical spelling work, todays works being "Cold, Wet, Will, Car, Can, and Rug".. Each lesson has a sentence building exercise where the kids must use at least one of their list words in order to write a sentence from the prompt included. Today's prompt had a map of the US that showed snow, thunderstorms and sun in various areas of the US. The kids were absolutely tickled to see a
Its legible and has proper punctuation. It works!
map of the US (they love geography) and decided their sentence was going to be "It is cold and wet".  Ash still writes much better than Garrett but I'm not going to complain as this was the kid that last year wouldn't pick up the pencil to save his life.

We received our Spectrum Language Arts 1 book today (Amazon is amazing when you life in the middle of no where). I'm debating if I'll start it tomorrow with them or wait til Monday. Most likely, I will wait as while its a great workbook from what I can tell, it doesn't include any lesson plans so I will be having to make my own.
Dumpy Tree Frog

On a fun note, this weekend my husband went out and bought yet another frog (note to self, do not send husband into the pet store without supervision).  We already had one White's Dumpy Tree Frog that we have since March that we were pretty sure was a female. Hubby saw that they had another one
on sale and couldn't pass it up, especially when he was pretty sure it was a male. Earlier this morning while I was sitting listening to the news, I heard the new frog croaking and told him about it.  He then uploaded a video on his phone of frogs croaking and put it close to the tank and sure enough, the frog started croaking in response. The kids thought was so funny as that was the first time they had heard the frogs croak (the female doesn't croak very often, if at all).. I have a feeling they will be asking alot for us to get the frog to croak in the future.. LOL 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Back to the Daily Grind

Last week we decided to take the week off. The kids were just too excited about Halloween coming and they just wouldn't concentrate. We were all starting to get a big cranky and weren't getting much accomplished so we said the heck with it and took a weeks vacay to wind down.. Part of me thinks this was a good idea, the other part of me, not so much.  Instead of lessons, the kids helped me decorate for
The kids dressed up for Halloween.
Halloween and get things ready for trick or treaters (mom passed out candy while Alyssa brought the kids out door to door this year).

Today we got back to work. The week off seemed to help Garrett as far as being able to reign back in and concentrate and he had a great day. Ashleigh, however, was just as obstinate as she was before we took the days off.  The child seems to have an adversity to mathematics and I have now learned that we can not begin with mathematics or the rest of the day's lessons will be completely shot.

We started something new today which the kids seemed really excited about.  Friday I was outside decorating for Halloween when a FedEx truck pulled up in front of my house. I wasn't expecting anything and was surprised when the delivery man walked up with two heavy boxes and then informed me there were 2 more boxes in the truck. This of course peaked my interest quickly and so I had to rip into them to find out what it was. A while back I had requested material from the USDA in regards to the MyPlate campaign. They were offering curriculum to help teach children about proper nutrition and since it was also
Playing around with the MyPlate lessons
available to homeschoolers, I went ahead and ordered the curriculum they had available for Kindergarten, 1st-2nd and 3rd grade (in case these programs weren't still available next year). They sent alot of stuff and much of it I will be donating to the library on base in hopes they can use all the extras as everything was set up for a classroom of 25 students and I only have 2..

I decided we would start with the Kindergarten curriculum as it has some emergent readers that would be fun for the kids. So today we started with Lesson 1 which is basically becoming familiar with the 5 food groups. In the kid was a stack of food cards so we looked at each card, identified the food shown and stacked it in accordance the the corresponding food group.  We also decided we needed a 6th group for Junk Food.. LOL  The kids enjoyed this alot, especially when the learned that popcorn was part of the grains food group and so we decided to have popcorn and a glass of milk for a snack while we finished up.

We followed this by doing our math.. groan!!!  I don't know why just the idea of math is such a issue with Ashleigh.. Today we started doing basic subtraction, which is something we're actually worked on alot already but haven't formally introduced in our math book. Today's assignment was actual drawings showing
This should not have taken 30 minutes
how many to begin with, how many were taken away and how many were left. Should have been simple, especially since these kids are already following basic algebraic rules such as switching the sign from plus or minus when crossing the equal sign (yes, they are actually doing that type of stuff on a regular basis with no problems).. Maybe she's bored with the simple stuff.. or maybe just the sight of numbers shuts her off completely, but getting her to do 5 simple problems (one which was the example and all she had to do was trace the answers) took close to 30 minutes (Garrett was done in less than a minute).  I'm starting to wonder if our math lessons will have to be done separately as Garrett gets restless while waiting on her and he also gets stressed when I have to raise my voice to get her attention back on the paper. 

We finally got through the math lesson and moved on to our spelling assignment. This did not go well either, as Ash had already zoned out from doing math and was completely useless after. Somehow we managed to get through it but it was a struggle.. From now on, I will stick to doing other subjects before I do our math lesson in the hopes that Ash will continue to participate in those lessons before zoning out.

We're getting to the point now where we are ready to start introducing grammar to our lessons, so today I ordered Spectrum's 1st Grade Grammar. It should be here by the end of the week and I will probably start incorporating it next week.  I think Grammar is the only thing we really haven't focused on at all this school year so once we start doing it, we should be up to par. We will also probably be starting up a unit study of one state a week from here on out for our history/geography. The kids already know locations of all the states on our map so now we will start actually working on some trivial facts about each one.

Here's hoping today wasn't a sign of what the rest of the week will entail.


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