Monday, January 28, 2013

Sticking with resolutions

Sandy Toes Creations: Sticking with Resolutions

Lots of hard work this month for everyone! But, our schedule has been working wonderfully! I have felt so much more relaxed! I'm working hard to keep my resolutions this year. And I don't usually make new year's resolutions; specifically so I don't have to feel like a failure for not keeping them! I think the most helpful changes have been:

Less T.V. in the morning (I have not completely expelled it in the am).

Getting to work earlier on some core subjects so the rest of the day I can relax (figuratively speaking), knowing we've got some good learning in already.

Getting up earlier to do a few things myself before the kids are demanding breakfast! Also, I'm more awake to get them started on their activities.

Sandy Toes Creations: Sticking With Resolutions
I make a mean fried chicken!
Having a meal plan again, so I know what I'm making each day and am not staring into cupboards wondering what the heck I'm doing (as much). Yes, I have been cooking dinner almost every day! We're spending less on take-out and eating healthier. Yay!

But the very best thing for my stress relief has been documenting what Monkey is learning and activities he's doing as he does them, or shortly after. Before I forget about it! Which is only about a 3-10 minute window!

Our last meeting with our Education Specialist was a breeze! I had a list of all the the field trips we did and everything from building with Lego's, to online math games, to baking cookies, written down in one place and ready to go!

I have not even been very strict about the schedule. We have never completed everything on the "outline of what we would like a day at home to look like" I wrote out with Monkey's help in my last post. We're out on field trips or in classes most days, but I've been trying to keep our mornings routine. Our day's have more or less been: eat breakfast, do the devotional when I'm actually sitting at the table with them (mostly I'm not, so I will be working on this one!), work on something (anything having to do with reading, writing, or math), then go off to do something active. Then, when Boo is down for her nap, Monkey and I have some focused time together; a board game, writing pen pal letters (I did find him some pen pals!), online learning games (he likes when I sit with him), reading books on his current unit study, or anything where I feel he's learning and working. We try to use the time on things we just can't do when Boo is up and getting into everything. 

It's been hard work for me to stay on track, but it's really paying off. I hope I can keep it up!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Creating a Homeschooler's Schedule- Include Your Child(ren)

Sandy Toes Creations: Creating a Homeschooler's ScheduleWill I ever have a schedule that works that I can stick to?
Probably not, as things are always changing; the kids needs, my needs, our goals, etc. But I can keep trying, right?! Since the over scheduling and then freaking out episodes of the fall... we've had no schedule at all! a very relaxed schedule as far as "school" type stuff. We have our classes and outings on the calendar, but when we're home (which was suddenly in abundance over the holiday season) I have found that we've been getting nothing done! Okay, I know there's lots of learning going on just through play, and educational toys and materials abound in our house, but...

By the time I drink my coffee, check my email, get us some breakfast, run around picking up this and that, oh, it's time for lunch already?, before I know it "Daddy is home!!", i.e. time to play with him and no more (if there was any) focused work. And not nearly enough reading, math, science, etc., went on during the day. Not to mention accomplishing anything myself; cleaning, writing, art... Needless to say, it's time for a little more structure. Not a ton, but enough for me to be motivated to get up earlier and have a plan of some things to accomplish each day or at least each week.

Do you use a curriculum? So far, we do not. We have a mix of materials, much of which we borrow from the library and the DLC (our local homeschool resource center), usually we do unit studies (pick a topic to focus on and fit each subject into that area of interest). I try to fit a little of each subject, reading, math, science, etc., in each week. Some weeks are more focused on history, some on science, and so forth.

I started writing down my goals for Monkey that I'd like him to learn by summer (aka: the end of Kindergarten) and what I want us to do more of and less of. Both kids were bouncing around me being so loud I was not having an easy time thinking! Then I realized, why am I doing this alone?! It's his (Monkey's) schedule! So I sat down with him and he was happy to be part of the planning process! He told me what he would like to learn and with a few suggestions from me, how he would like to go about learning some of these things. Such as reading; we decided together that because he enjoys playing Reading Eggs (an online game) he will play it a few hours each week, of course we'll practice in many other ways as well.

He made a list of things he'd like to learn about (unit studies):
Sandy Toes Creations: Creating a Homeschooler's ScheduleInsects
Arctic Animals
Nocturnal Animals
African Animals (can you tell he loves animals?)
African People (culture)

We will use this as a guideline of what subject we'll study next. We usually stick to one for about two weeks. Sometimes longer if he's really into it, otherwise, we switch when the library books are due. 

We wrote out what we both want more of:
Science experiments
Board games (math games *wink*)
Reading practice
Writing practice (he would like a pen pal from Africa. He has a sudden interest in Africa, not sure where that came from, but great!)
Story time at the library
Start our day with God (reading out of our kids devotional, a Bible verse, & a prayer; really starts us all off in a better mood each day. We need to get back to what's really important!)
Earning stars (star (reward) chart)
Learning to read music...
(the list goes on)

and less of:
TV (Ok, this is what I want less of, it's been on every morning longer and longer, and needs to stop! But he was on board once I told him we'd have time for other things without TV. I asked what show he couldn't live without, so we agreed, no TV in the morning and he could watch Wild Kratts in the afternoons.)
I find he's a lot like me; if I say "No", there's automatic resistance. If we talk about why and he understands my reasons, even if he still disagrees, there's respect there and he will consent. 
Take-out dinners (my idea again, we're spending way too much and not eating enough healthy food all because I can't seem to think about dinner until we're all too tired and hungry to think! I just need a meal plan and Monkey is going to help me plan what to make for dinners and maybe even try some new foods, we used to do this and it worked great!)

I wrote down things I need to do (the dreaded New Years resolutions; I'm a bit late getting to this, but never too late to start, right?):
Do not turn on TV in the morning (there goes my quiet coffee/email hour)
Use the Star Chart again (reward chart)
Create a dinner menu (again)
Write down list of what kids are learning/activities they're doing as they happen throughout the day (This really helps me feel accomplished since I can hardly remember what we did yesterday, let alone all month, and keeps me from feeling like we didn't learn enough!)
Get Monkey a Pen Pal
Label music notes on Monkey's keyboard
(Hardest of all:) Keep the table clear so we can eat meals there! (It's my office, studio, craft, and school table, and catcher of mail, newspapers, who knows what all, till I have time to go through it! Very hard to keep clear!)

Then I made a list of what we generally do each day of the week, because I must just like lists:
Mon- cleaning day (we all work together on the larger cleaning projects, like the kitchen and bathrooms), karate
Tues- park/hike, History Class
Wed- Home, unless planned Field Trip or Farm Class Day. Awanas (kids club) in the evening
Thurs- Kindergarten class, karate
Fri- Home, unless planned Field Trip

And Monkey and I together made a general outline of what we would like a day at home to look like:
Breakfast/ devotional
Reading time: choose one: workbook, play Reading Eggs, or flashcards (sight words)
Project on current unit study subject
Play outside
Lunch while mom reads a story
Math/science project or game
Reading Eggs

I tried to keep it all simple and manageable so I will actually do it! We officially got started earlier this month, and so far, so good! Of course, I'm still very flexible, the schedule is just a suggestion, so I don't stress over it. The hardest part is making myself get up earlier so I can get a little work done before the kids are up.

The best, main stress reliever for me, has been writing down what we're doing (mainly what Monkey is doing and learning as he's the school aged one) in a notebook throughout the day as it happens. Just a quick note: he rode his bike, he drew a pic, built with Legos, read this book... By the end of each week, even just one day, there's so much learning that I would never remember we did! Some days I didn't write anything, as I was too busy to worry about it, other days are a few lines long, and some days are a whole page full! Now I won't have to wrack my brain for what we did the last month come time to talk to his teacher, but even just for myself, I love being able to see that we really do and learn so much all the time!

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