Monday, May 26, 2014

Ethan's Quilt ~ A Memorial Day Special

As per tradition at Christmas, we draw names for giving gifts.  This past Christmas, I drew Ethan's name, my sister's boyfriend.  I was at a bit of a loss, for quite some time.  It wasn't until I got the idea of a quilt, that my panic started to subside.  I had already made t-shirt quilts for my sister, brother, husband and myself.  Why not see if Ethan wants one too? 

I got the best surprise when asking if he wanted one.  He did and had been saving his old military uniforms for just that reason.  YES!  I told them to send me the uniforms and I would see what I could come up with.  It turned out better than I hoped for!

 Here it is; the finished quilt.  It is a queen size quilt.  The backing is black flannel.  It is a really warm, heavy quilt!  (My boys didn't want to give this one up either.  They have a harder time parting with quilts than I do.)

 Ethan kept a lot of his patches and I just started playing with them, piecing them together in different designs.  I knew I wanted to use them, and this one stuck.  I love the way it turned out.

Ethan seeing it for the first time! 

And just to give you an idea of how big it really is; Ethan is holding it up and my dad is sitting in the chair next to it!

This has been my favorite quilt to make so far.  Thank you Ethan, for serving our country and keeping us safe!

And thank you to all the service members and their families for sacrificing so much to ensure our freedoms! 

God Bless America!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Schooling through the Summer

I have never wanted to school through the summer.  This year though, I have had a change of heart.  Well, I have to do it since we are a little behind from our 2 month winter break.  I took time off during and after our move to get settled and re-evaluate our curriculum.  The kids and I are enjoying our new, living books.  It is nice having my busy boys excited to learn!

As the summer gets closer and closer, I am beginning to get more excited about schooling through the summer season.  First of all, it will be a good indoor distraction from the heat.  Everyone keeps telling us that once the temperatures get over 100, it's all the same.  Yikes!  Secondly, it has never been easy for my kids to get back into the school year after the long summer break.  I'm thinking the shorter breaks during the summer will keep them motivated and having fun.  Lastly, my kids learn daily, with or without school, so adding to their play will not only enrich them, but keep their minds sharp and yearning for more.  Learning should be fun and I am praying that my kids will continue to view it that way!

The type of learning we encounter at our house is through play, life experiences and living books.  I was struggling with thoughts of failure for a few days.  I didn't think my first grader was reading enough, working on spelling words enough, or getting grammar concepts down.  It was a waste of my time to entertain these thoughts.  Each child is unique and learns in different ways and at different speeds.  I am not failing.  When I see him get excited during his lessons, it makes my heart feel much better.

To help ease my mind, I did start a new writing journal for him.  I write him a short letter, a few days a week, and leave space for him to write his response to my questions.  I don't help him spell the words.  I ask him to sound them out.  He did not like this the first couple of times, but now he just jumps right into it.  He is having fun while working on his reading, penmanship, spelling and creative writing.  It is a win-win!

I had to put Dash from "The Incredibles" on the cover.  I created the cover in Microsoft Word.  It took me all of 5 minutes to pick the font, color, picture and print it.  He had the biggest grin when he first saw it.  Something a little extra to make it special for him!

Here is a sample of one of the letters I have written to him.  (I made the picture huge so you can read it all!) I go over his spelling with him when he is finished.  I don't make it a big deal if he spells a word wrong.  I praise him for sounding them out so well and then show him the letters he missed.

The few of the topics I have written about so far are summer trips, summer activities, birthday gifts for siblings, and movie characters.  It is fun to read his answers too!

Enjoy your summer, whether you are schooling, unschooling or just playing!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Marvel In The Beauty

I go through life, day to day, running from one thing to another.  I am planning the next day, crossing off my to-do list and racing against the daylight hours to get it all done.  But does it matter if I have a clean house?  Does it matter if I plan the perfect day of school?  Does it matter if my to-do list gets shorter?  Does it all really matter that much?

 I try to do it all.  It's exhausting.  I can't do it.  Not alone.

This new year has been a turning point.  I am searching out God and His word more than ever before.  I am learning the characteristics of God in an entirely new light.  Each day brings me to a new realization about who He is and how true His love is for me.  There is a new spark in my heart.  My soul clings to His promises and looks to Him for answers.  I read more of His word.  I trust in Him more and more.  I take out piece after piece of the worldly me and throw it away.  I'm making room in my heart.  I want to know my God more deeply now than I ever have before.

I am finding Him in the littlest and biggest of things.  A pink rose growing through a fence has a meaning.  It is God's way of telling me He sees me and loves me.  "Here is a rose just for you, your eyes, destined to be at this place, at this very moment."   

Never think He has abandoned you or forgotten about you.  He loves you more than you could ever fathom.  Look around and see how His creation speaks to you about His unending love.  It is written in the stars.  It is sung from the birds.  It is whispered in the wind.  You are His beloved.  He sacrificed his one and only Son so that you could live eternally with Him.  He is waiting with open arms for you to run to Him.  
Start running!

Friday, January 31, 2014

My Reluctant Learner

My first grader is what you may call a reluctant learner.  Sitting still and doing book work is not in his vocabulary.  He is a mover and a kinesthetic learner.  He is the exact opposite type of learner than me.  I am constantly coming up with new ideas to make learning happen that doesn't make school seem like it's only listening to stories and copying words, or doing massive amounts of math problems, etc., what he calls 'boring.'

Spelling words are a battle field.  I used to make him look at the word and spell it on a white board.  Then the next day, show him the word, hide it, use it in  a sentence and have him write it.  It was like this for the 4 days we do spelling.  Let me just say, he cringed when I would pull out the white board.  Obviously, this wasn't working for us.  I did the most logical thing I could think of; I went on Pinterest.  

I found some really cool ideas, but only one I could use that he would find cool as well.  Can you guess what it used?  Legos.  I changed a few things about the spelling game so it would fit my plan better.

My spelling words for this week
Here is what I did:

I used an egg carton and put it in the center of a blank sheet of white paper.  I had my list of 10 spelling words and they just happened to have 12 different letters.  (I am currently using the first grade spelling lists from Heart of Dakota's Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory.)  I assigned one letter to each spot.  When my list has more than 12 letters, I'll be adding the lid or another egg container to the game.  I then counted the frequency of each letter and put that many Legos in the corresponding spot.  You can kind of see the Lego man body in the letter "P" spot and the heads in the letter "H" spot.  I separated them so he could build a man as he correctly spelled the words.  I would say the word, show the card to him, use it in a sentence, and hide it.  He would then try to spell the word aloud, picking one Lego piece from each letter spot as he said the letter.  I helped him sound it out and show the card again when needed.  Then, I let him use all the Lego pieces to create his own whatever when we were done.  The first time, we only spelled the words aloud.  I am going to work into having him write each word as well.  I just want it to be fun learning right now.  

Let me tell you that he loved it! *insert "Hallelujah" song*  He wants to play it every day.  Now, I'm frantically coming up with new ways to use the game with other subjects as well!  I love it when school is tons of fun for the one who would rather play all day.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Explorers in the Making - Free Science Printable

Science is a favorite subject around our house.  Inventions, animals, plants, weather, we love it all.  Our new attempt at child-led learning is going well, and I am on the lookout for free resources.

Our studies started off this week with snowmobiles, since we watched the X Games.  We have looked at the first snowmobiles, the inventors, where snowmobiles are used, what people used before snowmobiles, and the weather and animals in those areas.  We pulled out our Birds, Nests and Eggs book.

My kids love this book.  We looked at the different birds and tried to pick out the ones that could live in the colder areas.  Then we went to the internet and googled bird range maps of Alaska, the arctic, northern United States, and other cold areas.  The boys wanted to see what birds are in Texas, so we looked at that map as well.

I found the San Antonio Audubon Society webpage.  It was a great reference and had a "Just For Kids" link.  In it, I found lots of free printables and a link to a kids magazine called "Wild Times" which is published in New Hampshire.  You are able to print off the different issues for your own use.  My boys loved it!  They are very age appropriate for lower elementary.  My first grader was able to read the majority of it and could complete all of the activities.  My preschooler loved the pictures, maze and matching in the first issue.  I am definitely adding this to my list of science add-ons.  Have fun exploring science!


Friday, January 24, 2014

Learning with Legos

As I am beginning to change our schooling to unschooling, I am trying to find new ways to incorporate learning through play.  Of course, I went on Pinterest to locate some treasures, and I found some ideas using Legos, which all of my children enjoy playing with.

I found some printables for creating your own Mini-Figures at Homegrown Learners and we had some creative drawing of historical figures and then make believe figures.  We then wrote little stories about the figures.  My 1st grader wrote a few words, but I didn't push too much since he was reluctant to pick up his pencil.  But he really enjoyed dictating a story to me and reading it out loud later to daddy.

 I also found a Lego board game that I printed off.  I made up the rules.  Lego men were used as the game pieces.  We played where each person started with 6 lego pieces and we rolled a die to collect pieces along the game board.  At the end, we built anything we wanted out of the pieces we won.  For my first grader, I had him build something before we start and then we roll 2 dice (for addition or subtraction practice) and add or take away pieces depending on what spot we land on.

This was my creation.  I had to have the Lego Man leaping into the hovercraft.  It's what he really would be doing.  I mean come on, it's a hovercraft!

BG, my preschooler, working on his creation after the game.  He won many more pieces than I did.

I am definitely going to use this game again.  Not only did I get to incorporate math, writing, history and art into the day, I also had 3 happy children who asked to play the game again the next day.  That makes me happy!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Unschooling with the Wild Kratts

The latest craze at our house is Wild Kratts.  And I love it too!  It's a great show on PBS that teaches my kids about animals, and that is simply putting it.  I am always amazed at what they learn after one episode.  They learn about geography, weather, conservation, migration, botany, animal habits, food chains, camouflage...I could keep going, but you are seeing the point.

While deciding to move towards unschooling, I did a couple weeks of "school" based off of Wild Kratt episodes.  I let them start the day by watching an episode and then playing in their Wild Kratt outfits.  They have Creature Power Suits (that were a birthday party favor) that are awesome!

They also play with these Creature Pod Communicators I made for them.  You can get the print out for Aviva here if you want to make your own.  I attached elastic on the back so they could wear them around their wrists.  It's fun to hear them yelling "Aviva! Koki! Jimmy!"  They also affectionately call each other "Bro" and "Bro."  

After they have some creative play, I reel them in to make their own Creature Power Discs.  We started by picking a type of animal they wanted to learn about.  On this particular day, BG chose snakes and Jman chose sharks.  So we started looking through our big Wildlife Explorer Book of animals, among others.

This is Jman's creature power disc of the King Cobra.  We had to find out the following information about each animal: color, size, where it is found and what it eats.  Then I let them tell me the special creature powers they would gain while using the disc.  They had a lot of fun!

BG's Black Mamba creature power disc.  We added speed to the important information since it is the fastest snake.  

Lul's creature power disc: purple with a princess sticker.  That about sums her up!  

For the sharks, I printed off a hammerhead shark coloring page at Handipoints and asked the boys to design a Hammerhead Shark Submarine and then tell me what special functions it would have.  You can easily add in copy work of dictated sentences about his submarine or facts about the animal, creative writing, and math games.

They are requesting scorpion power next, so I have found myself a scorpion power disc, along with many others at It's All Fun and Games that I can print off to add to their collection of power discs.  I have VERY excited boys! 

I am going to be coming back to the Wild Kratts theme many times in the future.  It is a winner for us!

Go "live free and in the wild" with these fun ideas!  I hope you find them useful!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Winds of Change Blowing from Schooling to more Unschooling

After taking a long winter break, we started homeschooling again this January.  I had not planned on taking a long break. We moved in October, took 2 weeks off to get unpacked and settled in, and began school again.  After 3 weeks of struggling through our days, my hubby and I made the executive decision to stop, regroup and try something different.  

We have been using Heart Of Dakota for most of our schooling.  I enjoy it and so does my 4 year old, working on Pre-K and K.  My 6 year old in 1st grade is not enjoying it as much.  He is a high-energy kid, who likes to move.  Any type of learning that doesn't have him moving or playing is boring and not fun.  I have made up lots of games for him along the way.

This began my look into child-led learning and unschooling.  Such terms were foreign to me.  So let me explain them as I understand them: child-led learning is more like unit studies, but you let the child decide what they want to learn about.  Let's say they show an interest in sharks.  As the educator, I start them on a quest for books about sharks, find educational shows to watch, and visit an aquarium, the ocean or an online live feed of a shark tank.  Then, you incorporate creative writing, which can cover grammar and spelling, geography (map of the oceans), science (life cycle, how gills work, what is cartilage), history (were sharks hunted by people groups, shark attacks), art, math, etc.  If the child shows an interest in the oceans, or say a group of people that hunted the sharks, you start moving in that direction.  I see it as possibly becoming labor intensive since you can't really plan ahead and you would have to make up the curriculum as you go.  But the positive side is that your child would really enjoy learning, since he is interested in every topic you are studying.  

Unschooling is very similar to child-led learning, but I think of it as I have a plan of topics to cover and teach through learning by play, projects, cooking, games, etc.  There are many different ways of looking at the two terms, so please do not take my thoughts as the final say in how to do either of them!  

I have started to move towards unschooling.  Pictured below is my schedule from the beginning of the year, before our move (Monday's column) and after moving (Tuesday's column).  The scheduled times had flown out the window. I just used the order of subjects to keep me on track.  

I was using read-aloud History books for history, science and geography, with the science and geography relating to the history topic.  I changed copy work from poetry lines, which we used in the fall, to sentences from our Bible story.  Jman's (1st grade) reading was a book that I was picking out for him, as well as BG's (pre-k/k) phonics lessons.  Math for both were out of workbooks.  First grade language arts was spelling flashcards and one grammar lesson per week, while pre-k/k was workbooks.  Lots of sitting.

Flash forward to my new schedule, which I started this week.  I threw out the times and strictly went by subjects for the week.  We are doing a lot more together while we figure things out.  I am sticking with the read aloud history, but tweaking the lessons a little to incorporate play while they listen.  For example, today we learned how the pilgrims built board houses.  Why not let them build their own houses with legos while I read?  Or make "logs" out of playdoh? It keeps their hands busy and out of most trouble.  Granted, their little imaginations get going and we have ninja towers, playdoh ice cream cones, but they listened!  

I decided to pick my own science topics and make my own plans, as well as incorporate a few of the fun activities already in my teacher manual.  This week, to go along with building board houses, we are studying beavers.  I tried to keep the two related.  I found books about beavers with pictures and stories and a Wild Kratts episode to watch.  I am keeping the oiled windows activity and build your own wall project.  I'm adding my own art projects to match our science topics.  My goal is to keep things moving and fun.

I'm adjusting math to workbooks and math games every other day for both boys.  I decided to let Jman pick his own books to read to me.  Of course, they are off of a "Special Shelf" that I filled with appropriate leveled books.  Giving him that little bit of executive power makes it exciting for him.  I am sticking with the spelling flashcards and one day of grammar, because I want to have him do a little bit of sitting each day.  It is good to have him be sit and be still for a few minutes.  I kept Jman's copy work to the Bible story.  God has given him a heart for His word and reading and copying it is enjoyable!  

As for BG, I am adding more play activities in his handwriting, like writing letters in bubbles and playdoh.  He is my mellow, sit down and focus child.  So I am keeping it light to keep school fun.

My stack of books and materials hasn't changed much, but the attitudes and levels of excitement have definitely changed for the better! 

I'll let you follow along as we continue to tweak our homeschool unschooling.  Look for more updates to come!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

July ~ Hitting the Open Road

Ode to being late!  But alas, I have gotten around to SOME of my summer pictures!

July, you were hard on my back!  I drove over 3700 miles, saw 11 different states and 4 different capital cities.  All I can say is wow.  America is a beautiful country.  God's creation is really stunning!

The month started with my sister flying down, only to turn around and drive back north with the kids and I.


Pit stop in Kansas City = Dinner at Cracker Barrel

We made it to Fargo!  Everyone was relieved to get out of the car after 2 long days, especially Auntie Ash.  In all fairness, it's hard to jump into a car with 3 kids for 2 full days when you are not used to it.  CRAZY road trip!


July 3rd was BG's big 4th birthday!  

Uncle Troy is in charge of candles!

Uncle Nick always has cozy blankets readily available.

 Fourth of July drinks poolside.  (The blow up pool was in the yard.  It counts.)

A trip to Fargo always includes a trip to the farm.  The boys had a photo shoot with every single tractor they could find...(that equals lots of pictures.)


 Grandpa Roger and the kids going for a spin.                         A moth I found hanging out on a door.

BG got a tent for his birthday, so we put it up!

We visited the Fargo Air Museum in Fargo with Auntie Ash, Ethan and Grandpa and Grandma.  It is really nice inside and has lots to explore.

Camp out with Uncle Nick on the deck in the backyard.  Lots of memories were made!  Nick was the only one willing to sleep out there.  He deserves a medal!

We had so much fun visiting eveyone.  I haven't organized the photos from Montana yet, but when I do, expect a kaleidoscope of pictures! 

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