Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Happy 4th Birthday ReC!

Hard to believe another year has flown by with this sweet girl. She is our sweet, sensitive, smart, sanctifying child, with a wild imagination and fun, mighty spirit that makes every day an adventure!

Birthday breakfast - colored scrambled eggs and muffins.

With her tiger from when she was born.

We see this look a lot. It's usually followed by "Well...." and a long monologue with much hand gesturing. 

One of my favorites. 

"Wha...?! James, you are crazy, wrapping this up and giving it to me."

"And really funny!" 

She finally got her 'boy doll with hair' His name is - *drumroll* - Soft Hair. 

Birthday supper, which she chose in large part because she can make quesadillas herself, but also because STRAWBERRIES! 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What Grade Are You In? {4 Great Reasons to Assign Grade Levels Based on Age}

I love the flexibility of homeschooling. I adore not having to work within a certain grade level just because that's how old my kids are - and I know a lot homeschoolers take advantage of that same exact thing. But for us it has worked out great to assign our kids' "official" grade level based strictly on their age. Here's why it works for us.

1. It gives an easy answer. This is nice for the kids, since they tend to get asked that question a lot. And saying, "Well, I just finished 5th grade science, and I'm playing catch up in spelling, so that was level 1, which is sort of half 1st grade, half 2nd grade, and in reading I'm doing middle school literature studies, and 2nd grade grammar, and my math curriculum is 3rd grade. Oh, and for social studies we mostly do unit studies, which don't really have a specific grade level" is just a *little* cumbersome. It's also nice for me when I'm filling out forms, since most forms are really asking about their age anyway!

2. It keeps expectations realistic. This is good for me because it helps me know what really needs to be focused on, what I can allow to slide for a while if we're having a bad week, and what I should be expecting from them as far as independence, behavior, and maturity.

3. It helps keep sibling comparisons in check. Having kids of different ages and abilities in the same 'class' can make it hard on the younger kids. since they are always 'short' of the older kid. This way I can say 'Ok, second grade is going to do this, and Kindergarten is going to do this', or remind my younger kiddo, 'You're in Kindergarten, this is what you are supposed to do, NOT the same things as the second graders. She had to work two whole years before she got to second grade!'

4. It keeps 'that's not fair' out of the house - some. This goes both ways, but the biggest way it helps us is by allowing me to say, "Hey, second graders have to do more work than Kindergarteners. They go to school a full day, not a half, and they have to do a lot more work. It's not that I'm being hard on you, it's just that your in an older grade!"

Our needs might change as the kids get older, but for now, we are really enjoying the freedom to call them a simple grade, but still use whatever level curriculum we want!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My Beautiful Baby is 8!

Just look at that grin!

I love her hands and fingers :) 

This is my favorite, and these were the last pictures before she lost her first baby tooth!

Tony's brief stint with a beard... Now he's back to clean shaven, with glasses!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Check Out Your Local Library

Get it? "Check out" your local library? Just making sure.

Puns aside, if you have a library near you, you should definitely be popping in to see what resources they have for you. Even before we started homeschooling we spent a lot of time at the library, and now - well, they have really pulled through for us! Here are some of our favorite things.

1. Kits... Lots of libraries have pulled together kits for checking out. They could be for younger kids or older students. These are based around a theme, like dinosaurs, potty training, space, light and color, new baby, and pretty much anything you can think of. Ours come with books, a cd or dvd, toys or manipulatives, and usually some other things, like a puzzle. Each one also comes with a guide full of ideas for using the materials. We have used several of these over the years, both for fun and for school, and the kids love them. Here are the kids using some of the magnets from the magnet kit.

2. Playing in the children's area... Most libraries these days are kid friendly. All the ones I've been in recently have a dedicated children's area, with books, toys, and puzzles. This is a great chance to play with things you might not have at home, and to hang out with other kids on a dreary day. Also, you can occupy younger children in an informally contained area while you read or work with an older kid.

3. Storytimes... Our library has several different forms of storytime, from lapsit time for babies to sensory story time, to school age stories and activities. Some are busy, some have music, some have just a few kids, some have bubbles.

4. Space to get together... maybe you want to meet with some friends, or have a class, or meeting. The library is a great place to meet, you could snag a table, or some comfy chairs, or reserve a meeting room, or just sit in the children's area while the kids play or read.

5. Therapy dogs... A great program we have taken advantage of a few times is reading to therapy dogs. The volunteers (thank you!) bring in blankets and dogs, and sit quietly while the munchkin in question pets and reads to the dog. This is especially great for struggling readers, since dogs are definitely not the judge-y type!

6. Interlibrary loans... Sometimes I will see a book I really want to read or use for the kids' school, but not want to pay the price to buy it myself. Or maybe I will see a recommendation, but not want to buy it sight unseen. I can find pretty much any book I need by borrowing from libraries worldwide! They will send it to our local library (free of course!) and hold it there for me to check out.

7. Checking out books.... of course. Obviously. But this is really great for us right now, because it means we don't have to have wall to wall bookshelves to keep up with our oldest's voracious reading habits.

8. Programs and contests... This depends on the library of course, but around here there is something for everyone. I've seen Lego clubs, computer classes, storytimes, poetry contests, play groups, exercise classes, cooking, and everything you can think of.

9. Turtles and gerbils... Ok, this definitely depends on the library, but one of ours has pets. And since we don't here at home, they are a highlight of our visits!

10. Digital resources... Libraries often pay for online subscriptions to things like language courses and research magazines.

11. iPads, computers, and free wifi... need to work on a project, or have the kids do something on the iPad? You can either bring your own device and access the library's internet, sign in to one of their computers, or even check out an iPad to take to a comfy corner and use.

I know there are tons of other reasons to visit the library, but that is all I'm listing for now! What is your library like? Do you have a good one nearby, what's your favorite thing to do there?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Happy Ten Months Harmony!

Harmony remains the sweetest, happiest child in the universe. She has, however, devoloped an intense jealous streak, and is incredibly stubborn. This month she got to color for the first time (and every night thereafter, during ReC's preschoool, remember that jealous streak?), learned how to walk, climb on furniture, and say a few new words. Her favorite things are the sandbox, handing us stuff and saying "here", and water. Also running as fast as she can to unroll the toilet paper if she's sees the bathroom door open. She is loved and adored, and such a great mixture of sweetness and trouble! 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Warm Days

Me: Nope, sorry, not turning playing in the water today.

Tony: You know, I think I'll spray off the porch real quick.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Great AR Debate

Let me start by saying we love AR at our house. Cadence loves to read and loves tests. What more could you ask for? Plus, she loves to meet goals, and get cool prizes. Who doesn't?! I love that I get to see whether she's actually paying attention to what she's reading or just skimming, without having to read the book myself. But AR is a sort of mixed bag. It can be useful, even fun, but it can also backfire.

It's already started around here. As soon as a goal was set, it became more important to 'meet the goal!' than to read for any other reason. Cadence was reading this book about the Constitution just for fun, and I was pleased as punch. It was meeting a Social Studies need, she was enjoying it, it was challenging for her to read (something we struggle to find), life was grand. But... it doesn't have an AR test. So I had to make her stop reading a great book, that she was learning a lot from, to read something she didn't enjoy as much - and certainly wasn't challenged in any way by - so she could take a test over it and meet her goal for the week.

It also sort of stops the momentum, when you find a great series and have to stop and take a test instead of just... reading.

I've heard from other parents who have been struggling recently too. Their kid loves to read, but their goal was so outrageously high they decided to bomb their next reading test to get a lower goal. Or their kid used to love reading, but AR has killed it for them because they can only read books in a specific reading level, instead of books they love. Or the series they are in the middle of is so l.o.n.g. they can't finish it in time to meet their goal - even though the book is worth so many points it would cover their goal AND the next quarter's goal - so they have to either stop reading it to read something else, or not meet their goal. Or maybe their kid is struggling with reading, and the AR tests on top of reading the book is just too much and killing any desire they might have started to have for reading.

I get it, I do. It's nice to see if they are actually comprehending what they are reading, or just skimming, or so focused on the act of reading they can't really take in the meaning of what they are reading. I like it because I don't have to read the book myself to ask questions to see if she's actually paying attention to what she reads. I also like it because I like keeping track of things and seeing her meet goals. But it's so important to be careful not to let the points and the goals take over and become the most important part of a reading program!

What do you think? Have you had any experience with AR? Do you like it? Is there anything you would change about it at your school?