Thursday, January 5, 2012

Life Before Now

Does it ever get boring to watch your children learn something new? Before I had children what excited me was going shopping at the mall for a new pair of Express jeans or going to lunch at the Mexican restaurant down the road when we were supposed to be at school and were never allowed to leave campus until school was over. Trying not to get caught was thrilling (but very very bad if you are in high school and reading this!), but didn't compare to joy I have now as a new Christian and mother.

Two years after I graduated I was married to my boyfriend I had had since I was fifteen years old. At fifteen we promised each other we would get married. At eighteen, after my first day of college orientation he gave me my beautiful heart shaped diamond ring. Nothing spectacular, we were broke, but in love. Not quite sure where I was working at that time. Either McDonald's or the vets office I worked at for a while as a kennel tech. The size of my ring was criticized by some, however that material possession wasn't really what mattered to me. The love it represented is what mattered, and I thought it was perfect.

At twenty I was married, and then at 22 I was a brand new mommy. There was nothing I wanted more than to nurture this brand new life God had just handed to me. At the time I wasn't a christian, however it is very hard to go through the miracle of birth and not wonder how this miraculous even happened without God. Was all of this just by accident? After becoming a mother I could never believe this again. Spilling your coffee is just an accident. Two cells growing into the sweetest little person that you love so much that you think your heart will burst is not an accident. NOT an accident!

Right around the time I was pregnant with my daughter the song, "Jesus, Take the Wheel" by Carrie Underwood came out. I would listen to that song and just cry and cry and cry. Right after getting married I had gotten into a really bad wreck (that I walked away from), so I could understand the fear and loss of control you feel when you go through something like that. Not just while you are spinning around in your car thinking that in that moment your life is going to end, but afterwards when you can't replace your car because you didn't have insurance on it, and you lose the house you and your husband just bought because you can't drive yourself to a job to produce a paycheck (and you were young, dumb, and were trying to live beyond your means), and it suddenly feels like the first year of your marriage is going to be your last. Fear can grip you when you realize there are so many things you can not control. Maybe some of our circumstances could have been controlled with knowledge that we didn't have at the time. But either way I was starting to realize that I am ultimately not in control. Jesus is, and his plan is better than anything I can ever come up with. I am very glad of this because most of my plans either stink, or never happen.

On my daughter's first Easter I accepted my friend's invitation to visit her church, and boy did I feel God tugging on my heart that day. It was a beautiful service. The church members there had worked so hard to get ready for a play we watched that day about Jesus's death and resurrection. There was a little girl dancing in front of the pews during the worship music. My friend leaned over and asked me if I wouldn't love for my daughter to be doing the same thing at her age. Now that my daughter is her age, and we have started going to a church where the children stay with the parents during the worship service, she does.

We visited her church for a little while until we decided we couldn't live on my husbands current paycheck and moved three hours away so that he could work as a mechanic in the oil field. Fixing up vintage cars and building dragsters for his old boss wasn't cutting it. He dreamed of doing things like that his entire life, and I would have loved for him to keep doing it, but all of a sudden we had a child to raise. We needed insurance. And enough money to pay for food.

When we got settled in we started visiting a church right by us that my sister was going to. The first time I went there it was on Father's Day, and they showed a video of a man running in the rain holding his small child who was just screaming. The man represented God, and the baby represented us. When we go through storms we have a tendency to worry and sometimes we get so full of fear that all we can see is our fear just like the child. We can not see that God is taking care of us and has something wonderful planned that we are beyond blessed to be a part of. Even through those storms we are blessed and we are called to "be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). I hope that I am not the only one that can say that fear can make doing these things difficult. I of course cried through this entire video as well, and kept coming back to this church each Sunday even though I was still doubting.

I remember that this one Sunday the pastor was talking about a man who was praying before bedtime and needed to go to sleep, but asked God to wake him early so that he could pray some more. Well around four that morning all of a sudden a bright light shown into his room and woke him. No one else was awake, and no one had turned on any lights. It lit up his room for a few moments and then it was gone. Right then during that sermon I asked God, "God, if you are real, why will you not do that for me?" Guess what? He did! At that moment that I asked that question I was blinded by a bright light where I had to look away. There was a beam of light shining off of a man's watch right into my eyes. It hadn't been there before, and after just a few moments it was gone and didn't come back after. I was shocked and couldn't deny God any longer.

Both my husband and I were baptised at that church not too long afterwards, and my life has been changed. Passages in the Bible that were reason for me not to be christian before became understandable to me. I confessed and repented certain sins that I was struggling with before and they quit having a hold on me (not to say I don't struggle with sin now because I still do) and I am more able to handle my fears. One of my biggest fears before coming a christian was dying. Now I am not scared of dying in the least. I am actually excited that one day when I die I will find myself in Heaven with Jesus! What a joyful day that will be!!  

*This is NOT what I got on here to blog about! It just somehow came out. So maybe someday soon I will pick up where I left off.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Back To School

Life has been busy, and today hasn't been my best day. We started back to school today and we didn't get everything done. I had high hopes for today, so I was a bit upset that we didn't finish. Still working on not caring if we get everything done or not.

We started the morning with a devotional and then Bible reading. On Sunday the pastor at our new church told us what book of the Bible he will be going over next Sunday. The kids and I are reading through it this week, and I plan to make a book with different words from the passage that the pastor might say so that my daughter can listen and mark off the words when she hears them. I hope that it will help her to pay a bit more attention to the sermon than she has been.

My son just turned four last week! Can't believe how big he is getting. My baby is no longer a baby. *sniff* So today he began his math lessons. He feels like a big boy now. He did awesome in his lesson today. He learned to recognize three of something without counting. The curriculum we use is big on visualizing numbers rather than counting. My husband has always done that with numbers and he is wonderful at math. I am actually getting better at math and my daughter is only doing 1st grade math. She worked on a worksheet today where she was adding two four-digit numbers together. I love that she is learning why we carry numbers when adding instead of learning how to carry numbers. She seems to have a real understanding of numbers that I never really had.

Since we woke up later today that I would have liked, right after math we had lunch and then bath. I realized at that time I needed to take my daughter to the doctor instead of starting on science as planned. So off to the doctor we went. We started on science when we got home at five today. All we were doing was putting together a book for our lapbook we are doing on rocks.

Time for dinner! We had no time to do our art/writing project we are doing this week. We are going to be making a story book and illustrating it by painting tissue paper and using it in collage just like Eric Carle does. I found a video on his website showing how he does this, and hopefully the kids will be able to watch it tomorrow and start on our book (or books?). This might end up being a weekend project if we are not able to get it done during the week.

*Happy homeschool mom moment* My kids are really starting to recognize states by their shapes! If you have read my blog before you probably know that we have a geography station that the kids can play in, but I do not require them to do so. My daughter took a bite out of her cracker and asked me, "Mommy, does this look like Idaho?" I had no idea so I looked at the map and yep! It did! I was surprised that she would know that. Then my son ran off to get the puzzle piece of Idaho for me. Later that day she tore a piece of paper and recognized that it looked like Tennessee. My kids already know more about states than I do!

Tomorrow my daughter goes to her new Creative Arts school for an hour and a half in the morning. She is sooo excited, but I am a bit stressed because I have to make sure and get up with enough time to get us there on time. I am not a morning person. If we are lucky we will get morning school done before we leave. Just Bible and math. Piece of cake, huh?

I couldn't wait to show off my new labels for the drawers in our homeschool room! No one I know much cares, so hopefully you (my make-believe blog reader!) will be sooo excited over them. :) I have tried in the past to take photos of my kids toys and make labels with them and have failed. Well on another blog I read (can't remember which) the mom took pictures from the internet and printed them out. Why didn't I think of that? I went to yahoo images and found the perfect pictures for the labels, printed them out, and glue them on top of some construction paper. I plan to take them to Mardel for laminating soon and then add velcro. My kids love knowing where there toys are! They have never had so much fun with their toys as they are now. It makes a big difference to have things organized and sorted for them.

So that was my day today. Written mostly for my memories, but if someone other than me is reading let me know! Did you go back to school today? If so how did it go?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lesson Planning Made Simple

As I get more and more organized I realize how easy it actually is to homeschool my 1st grader and preschooler. When I first started homeschooling I stressed myself out worrying about getting it "right". I wish I could go back and tell myself to quit worrying because it really will start to fall in place. It is now finally starting to fall in place and I couldn't be more excited! However, I still worry about the challenges that we will go through as my children get older, but I am trying to take homeschooling day by day (or week by week). Thinking about high school is what makes me sweat now. :)  

One of my goals is to make my part in homeschooling simple. That is one of the reasons for the learning centers I am putting together around the house. All I do is put the center together, and then my children are able to spend countless hours using them and learning all on their own. As with math I have chosen a wonderful curriculum that comes with books that tell me exactly what to say and do and a set of manipulates so that I have everything I need in my math basket. All I had to do was take my book to my local postal center to make copies of all the worksheets and tests. Then each morning while the kiddos are playing all I do is open the math book for a few minutes to read over what we are learning and then call them down to teach it.

This is a picture of a week of lesson plans for both of my children. Simple! I have filled a magazine holder with five file folders labled each with one day of the week. I also have added a "basic unlabeled weekly" lesson planner sheet that I have filled out with our plans for the week. I printed the planner sheet from here.
We spontaneously decided to take off from school last week and this week, so this is actually filled up with next week's lessons. We normally just go on to the next devotional for Bible time and our next lesson during math which pretty much takes away all of the planning for those subjects. For reading we read what we feel like reading so again no planning. I have put the "Magic School Bus" chapter book we are reading in the container so that we can just grab it during group reading time.

The other subject we do each day right now is science and that is what takes a little bit of time to plan for me. I am currently doing unit studies with the children on subjects that interest them. Tonight I went through our unit study on rocks that we are currently doing and printed out every page we need for the lapbook we will be putting together. There are eight different components to the lapbook so I have decided to do one component Monday through Thursday for two weeks. On Friday we will do a hands on activity. I put the pages we need for next week in the corresponding folders, tucked the lapbook pages for the next week behind the folders, and then printed out information on how to make a volcano and put it in the Friday folder. It really didn't take much time time at all, but as the children get older I expect science to take more time to plan.

So how do you simplify lesson planning?

This post is linked up to Works For Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Homeschool Room

Our homeschool room used to be upstairs, and we were always downstairs. We NEVER did school up there, but all of our supplies were up there. The kids didn't get to play board games often because they were out of their reach upstairs. They also didn't paint or do crafts very often. I felt like a failure as a homeschooling mom!

Recently it hit me. There isn't a good reason why I shouldn't bring the homeschool room downstairs where we spend most of our time. Of course I didn't want everything out in the open for people to see. I wanted to be able to decorate downstairs where everyone who comes over sees and have all of the kids things upstairs where they don't see. But of course this was not a good reason to keep things as they were which was not enjoyable for any of us.

I have been working really hard on bringing everything down and I am almost done! It has been wonderful. Each time the kids want to play a board game and I am doing dishes I only have to walk to the dining room to get the game down and then am able to quickly get back to what I was doing. Most of the crafting supplies are now within their reach and they are able to sit at the dining room table and create while I am folding the towels. Their lives are richer and my life is easier. :) The room isn't finished yet, but this is how it looks right now. Well... after I had the kids pick up the toys they were playing with and just left in the middle of the floor.

I like it. I really love that my little boy can't tear it up without me seeing. That was a big problem. Nothing was able to stay in it's place. I am also very excited about the days of the week drawers that my neighbor gave me. I am going to try filling them up each Sunday with books, games, worksheets etc that I would like them to work with that day. They are very excited about the plan, but we will see how it works in the real world.

If you have posted pictures of your homeschool room on your blog please leave me a comment! I LOVE looking at other people's school rooms to get ideas for ours.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Our Geography Center

I have already mentioned in previous posts how much I love the book, "Educating the WholeHearted Child," by Clay and Sally Clarkson. I bought it this last summer from a homeschool convention and I have used it so much that it is already falling apart! One of my favorite chapters in the book is chapter 7, "The WholeHearted Learning Home: Creating a Home You Can Learn Within". This chapter has helped me to relax tremendously. One of my biggest worries when it comes to homeschooling has always been how do I spend enough time with them so that they are learning what they need to learn while also getting everything else done that has to be done outside of "school"? This chapter addresses that problem. Turn your home into a place where your children have to try hard NOT to learn!

"Creating a learning environment is the key. Make your entire home an exciting, vibrant place where learning is happening all the time - a place where loving to learn is as natural a part of your children's everyday existence as loving to play. Make it a child-friendly environment that is rich in interesting, inspiring, mentally stimulating options at every turn. Use every part of your home to engage your children's senses in the learning process and to strengthen their emotional ties to the home - the smell of fresh bread baking, the sounds of Baroque chamber music, the sights of beautiful Scripture calligraphy and interesting artwork. Your entire home should reflect your homeschooling values from the way you arrange your furniture to the books you leave out on tables to the pictures and verses you hang on the wall to the way you use your kitchen. There should be no discernible dividing lines between home and education. The natural atmosphere of your home should be alive with learning and life."

I couldn't have come up with a better description for a home "alive with learning and life" then this paragraph from the Clarkson's book. This is how I want my home to be! A major light bulb moment for lack of a better term. I am having so much fun filling our home library with beautiful literature, hanging posters that have information that I am challenging the children to learn, scattering Bible verses throughout the house, and creating "discovery corners".

"Discovery corners" have been a major blessing to our education at home. I have only created a few so far (art, writing, and geography), but my children have learned so much on their own through use of them. Their favorite corner is the geography corner which is housed in an old desk I have in the dinning room. I have filled it with a few puzzles of the USA (a small magnetic one, a medium sized puzzle on a board, and a large floor puzzle), our favorite geography book, "The Scrambled States of America", and the board game with the same name as the book. There is a vintage globe that I love sitting right next to the desk.

I was amazed today when my daughter knew the location of quite a few states (some I didn't even know!) without me ever teaching her any of it. My kiddos love to work the puzzles over and over again each day. They will pull the floor puzzle out and use the book to determine where the states go. They also have gotten very good at playing the game together. They may not be following the directions exactly right, however they are reading and learning facts about the states and that is all that matters to me.

I have far to go with turning my home into a place where the children have to try not to learn, however I am making progress which has been proven to me today to be paying off. I am on the right track and am very excited about that. I will never be able to repay Sally Clarkson for the positive changes she has helped me to make in my home. It is worth far more than the $20 I paid for her book and the price of admission into the homeschool conference where I had the chance to hear her speak.

So my question to you is if you work to make your home a learning environment what is it that has been most beneficial to your family?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Middle of the Week Check In

This week has been one of those weeks that just makes you realize why you are doing what you are doing and I am very blessed! I am very grateful that God choose me to be the mother of my two children and I am thankful that we have gotten into a good routine with our homeschooling.

Last weekend we went to Dewberry Farms and had tons of fun. It normally costs quite a bit to get in, but all of December it is free so I have been going and letting my kids run wild. We live in the suburbs (not my idea, but it was the best place for us when we moved here) and our yard is so tiny that we might have only enough room for two blades of grass. So of course anytime I can find a nice place to take the kids and let them experience a little bit of nature I am all for that. I took pictures and made the cutest photo collage in the shape of a heart that you can see above. I just didn't realize it would have such a large web address stamped across it. Too cute not to show so there it is anyways.

On Monday we did most of our school on the livingroom floor. It flowed pretty natural. We had our devotional and Bible reading. Then we had our math lesson which looked like this:

My son loves to get into the manipulatives while we do our lesson. As long as it keeps him happy I am happy. He used to crawl all over me anytime I tried to do lessons. Then I started writing on a small dry erase board that has lines on it that we were using for math. My daughter was interested and read what I was writing, and then wanted me to write down the story she told me. Once we finished that I told her to write her own story on the board and she did and she was happy about doing it. I was very excited about this because she never wants to write. Because of a tip from a wonderful homeschooling mom ( I pointed out two things she did right and just one thing she needed to fix. She felt very proud of her work because of the good things I said, and then fixed the mistakes with a smile on her face. What progress!

After lunch we cuddled on the couch while watching Narnia because we had just finished the book and the kids loved it. They sat and watched the entire movie which is unusual for them to do with any movie that doesn't have cartoon characters. I thought they would think it was scary, but they didn't but instead really enjoyed it. Then again I thought they would be really upset about my husband killing his first deer a few weeks ago, but they were fine with that. I am still having a hard time with it, but I think that is because of watching Bambie as a child. I think Bambie will be banned from our house!

The rest of the day they played board games and did art projects together nicely. One of the best things I ever did for our homeschool was fill a small chest of drawers with art supplies. There are markers, crayons, googly eyes, tissue paper squares, magazines, paint, paper, pipe cleaners, pom poms, scissors and more all within reach. They are pretty creative and come up with some wonderful art projects. What they come up with is always better than any of the mommy directed crafts I come up with. Not only are they able to use their God given creativity, but they practice there fine motor skills such as cutting, coloring and writing.

Tuesday went just as well. We started reading "Meet Kit" one of the books from the American Girl series. My daughter can't wait to watch that movie! Then today we did no school work at all. We did our devotional and Bible reading, went to Ballet, played and then went to church after dinner.

So how has your week gone? Leave me a comment even if just to stay hi. I would love to know how your week has gone, and to read your blog if you have one. I am addicted to blog reading and I need some new ones to read. :) And I would love to know that I am not the only one that reads my blog posts.