Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Homeschooling Again

After my one disastrous year of homeschooling Snapper, I was pretty sure I wouldn't ever do it again. But this year, I knew that putting Bubbles back in public school would be like feeding her to the wolves. She just isn't a strong enough reader to tackle the high pressure of 3rd grade in public school. So I am homeschooling my little Bubbles, and it is a much smoother road than it was with Snapper.

Bubbles has a much different personality that Snapper. Snapper is intense, high energy, absent minded, and unable to hold her focus for long. Bubbles is also intense, but her intensity comes in her desire to get her work finished. She's focused, engaged, and wants to learn. She isn't perfect by any means. She struggles with working neatly and with giving her best effort in reading. But she doesn't balk at everything I ask her to do, and she follows directions nicely.

I spent the better part of the first week of school thoroughly assessing Bubbles so I would know exactly how to tailor her education to meet her needs. She's on target in some areas, and dreadfully behind in others. Here's what we're doing.

  • 3rd grade math, which she gets with almost no effort
  • 3rd grade history, her favorite subject
  • 3rd grade science
  • 3rd grade grammar
  • 3rd grade writing
  • 3rd grade literature
  • Kindergarten phonics/spelling (The Spalding Method)
  • 1st grade reading
  • High focus on art
In addition, we're also doing a lot of drill and practice with high frequency words (Dolch list) in both reading and spelling. We're also drilling math facts like crazy, which she loves. I'm incorporating a ton of reading aloud to her. She is excellent reading comprehension, and hearing higher level texts is improving her understanding of language, as well as enriching her vocabulary. She loves to listen when I read, and I know it is good for her.

We start our school day at 8:30 and she's usually finished around 1:00. That's with a 30-minute break for lunch. Today she's still working and it's 1:00. But she's working on her art/history project. She's painting a world map on which she's going to plot out Columbus' voyages. She's building three tiny ships out of egg cartons to put on the map to place in the middle of the "Ocean Sea." Tomorrow she's putting together a timeline of Christopher Columbus' life, and she's drawing a portrait of him on Thursday. On Friday we're baking hard tack so we can try what the food was like on Columbus' ships. As she gets creative, her brain seems to absorb information more readily. I picked up several books on Columbus at the library, which I'm reading to her as she works. It's her favorite part of every school day, and she works hard at all her other studies so we can get to the history. 

We're loving it!!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Update: It Has Been a While

Wow...has it really been almost three weeks since I posted? I guess life has been so crazy recently that the time has gotten away from me.

The kiddos have had a great first 7 days of school. Snapper is going to a college prep school this year, and she's loving middle school. She likes all of her teachers, has made some nice friends, and is doing a great job with her schoolwork. It has been a significant financial stretch to make this happen for her, but we're confident this school is exactly where she needs to be. The joy in her after this first couple of weeks has made all the penny pinching worth it. She gets added bonus of swimming on the varsity team, a pretty big accomplishment for a 6th grader!

Pepper loves his teacher. All his favorite friends are in his class. It's a match made in Heaven! His teacher is feeding his smarts by encouraging lots of reading for him. He is assigned an hour of reading every night, and he is faithfully doing it.

Piper has a very sweet teacher who is a nice mix of nurture and structure. I'm still disappointed that Bubbles' teacher moved to 1st grade this year. I was hoping Piper would get her. Piper is struggling with her ADHD. We're working with her doctor to find the right medication balance for her, which will make all the difference in the world. And yes, all you holistic folks, we are very careful about what we feed her, too. No artificial colors. No high fructose corn syrup. Lots of good, nutritious, natural stuff.

Sunny is adjusting to kindergarten very nicely. Her teacher is an adoptive mom and has extensive experience working with kids who have developmental delays. Another perfect fit! Sunny loves school, has made good friends, and is doing quite well with the new high structure that the school year brings to our home.

Bubbles and I are enjoying finding our homeschooling rhythm. I love that I'm able to let her just fly ahead in math, while taking her back to the basics in reading and phonics. I'm using the Spalding program, which I think is the best thing out there for teaching kids the fundamentals of written language. Bubbles is enjoying it because it follows clear rules and makes perfect sense to her. She's done with schoolwork by 12:30 or 1:00. She's loving the extra time to relax, play, and be creative. She works extremely diligently to get her work done in a timely manner. I'm quite proud of her, and think that this decision to homeschool just this one child is the best decision I could have made for her!

Matt is crazy busy with work. He has more projects on his plate than he can handle. He's also the AWANA commander at our church this year, which keeps him extra busy, too. I'm doing all the admin stuff for him because I'm a ton better at that part and I enjoy it. He hates the admin stuff but is fabulous in front of kids, and fabulous in his interactions with parents.

And what about me? This is one busy momma! I'm taking care of all the physical needs of each child. I do most of the taxi work, taking kids to sports, doctor appointments, therapy, AWANA, and school. I'm homeschooling Bubbles. I'm coaching the high school swim team at Snapper's school. I'm assisting Matt with AWANA. Yikes! How do I do it all? There are a few key tricks.
1. I have developed a very intimate relationship with my crock pot. As part of her schoolwork, Bubbles and I prepare 8 crockpot meals to put in the freezer once every two weeks. It only takes about an hour and a half from start to clean kitchen, and it saves me having to cook 8/14 nights. Yes please! Bubbles LOVES helping with the meal prep. I LOVE not having to cook on the busy nights of our week. The whole family LOVES coming home to a fragrant house after school, and eating the delicious dinners.
2. I deep cleaned, purged, and organized the entire house before school started. The two little girls have no toys in their room except for stuffed animals. All their toys are in labeled, clear plastic tubs on a shelf in the living room where I can see and help manage them. The three big kids have a clean, organized, clutter-free room. All of the kids clean their rooms every evening before bed. It makes for an organized, peaceful morning.
3. We're getting up earlier this year, which gives us more time to get through the morning routine and make sure the house is clean before the kids go to school. It helps that Snapper has to be at school at 7:20 every morning. I am thankful for a wonderful husband who handles all the breakfast prep every morning so I am free to make lunches, do girl hair, and pack backpacks. We're a good team.
4. Pre-bag the kids' laundry. When I do laundry on Wednesdays and Saturday, I match outfits and put them in ziploc bags for the kids. It makes putting laundry away very easy for the kids, since all they have to do is put the bags in the drawer. In the mornings, they open their drawer and pull out the bagged outfit of their choice. No fussing about clothes! They get to choose the outfit, but I have the ultimate say since I bagged the outfits. I only keep season-appropriate outfits in their drawers, so there's no fighting about long pants on hot days. It takes a few minutes longer when I'm doing laundry, but it is totally worth it.
5. Do household maintenance chores every single day. I don't go to bed with a dirty kitchen or untidy living room. Every morning I check bathrooms, sweep the kitchen, and empty trash. I leave the big cleaning chores for the kids on the weekends. That's the big perk of having five kids...lots of chore helpers!
6. Every Saturday morning, I give each child a kitchen chore, a room to vacuum, a bathroom chore, thorough bedroom cleaning, and putting away their laundry. In doing so, they do the big cleaning tasks. Every so often, I give them an extra chore, like baseboards, windows, or dusting. They do a great job, and all five of them are able to most of the house cleaning tasks! The best part: the whole house is done in about an hour!
7. Every night I review my plans for the next day. I go over the schedule with Matt, decide who is driving which kids where, and talk about dinner. I go over my lesson plans for the next morning and make sure everything in the living room is in order.

It works for me! I sure do sleep well at night!

That's pretty much it. Not a whole lot of new or exciting to report. I will have a rather exciting piece of news to share in a few weeks, but I'm still waiting for a few things to fall into place before it can be public knowledge. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

One Week Left

School starts one week from tomorrow. This summer flew by on swift wings. I can't believe it is drawing to a close!

This year I will have:

  • One 6th grader in private school (Hello middle school!)
  • One 3rd grader in home school
  • Two 2nd graders in public school
  • One kindergartner in public school
This year I will have:
  • My 6th grader swimming on her school's Varsity swim team. She goes to a smallish private school that allows middle schoolers on the swim team if they have qualifying times. She was very surprised to find out that her times qualify her for varsity!!!
  • My 6th grader swimming USA club swimming on the days she doesn't have practice with the school swim team, which will be T, Th, Sat until the end of October
  • My 6th grader swimming a regular club swim schedule--M,T, Th, F, Sat--once high school swimming ends, and my 3rd grader swimming club swim on M, T, Th starting August 12
  • The 3rd grader and a 2nd grader taking karate on Wednesdays
  • All five kids in AWANA on Wednesday nights
  • Occupational therapy for the four younger kids every weekday except Wednesday
  • I'm the assistant coach for the varsity swim team
This last week before school, there's so much on my plate! It's going to be a fun week, though, so I don't mind.
  • Tomorrow: Snapper's sports physical and submitting sports paperwork to her school; my friend Allie coming over to help me/hang out with me; friends over for dinner; Snapper's first school swim team workout
  • Tuesday: IEP pre-planning meeting for Piper and Sunny at their school; getting my fingerprints done for the school coaching job; submitting the last of my homeschool paperwork to the district; neighborhood block party
  • Wednesday: Bubbles' doctor's appointment; finish school supplies shopping; Snapper's school swim team workout; AWANA directors' meeting
  • Thursday: Snapper's middle school orientation, Sunny's kindergarten orientation
  • Friday: Meet the Teacher for the three younger kiddos; water park with the kids; Snapper's school swim team workout