Friday, September 18, 2020

Starting School

This year we decided to homeschool all three kids!  It was quite the switch from what we had originally planned for fall 2020, which had me teaching math at Eastview (which I love), Summer finishing her elementary career at our local Southview Elementary (which we love!) along with the perks and special roles of a 5th grader, and the younger two continuing their education at Southview with favorite teachers and awesome friends. 

However, Covid-19 not only made education look different this year, but God had a different plan for our family.  He showed us so clearly that homeschooling was the right choice for our family this year, and it is amazing to watch how He shared his will with us so clearly, brought such a peace, and even worked out details like allowing me to take a one-year leave from my job.  All three kids were 100% on board and excited about it, and I cannot say enough how amazing this year has been already!  We started school September 2nd and I honestly wake up each morning so grateful that God blessed us with this year to be together.  I love teaching and I love being with our three kiddos, and I feel beyond blessed at the gift it is to spend each day with them doing what I love with whom I love.  God is so good to me!

Of course, with homeschooling, we still have to do school supply shopping, right?  I mean, that is one of the best parts of the back-to-school time of year!  This year I let the kids each pick out a fun 3-ring binder, fun pencils, and a new pencil case.  We do much of our work on paper (some lined, some blank) so, with dividers in our binder for each subject, it is really easy to 3-hole punch anything and keep ourselves organized.

Then came the preparation to find a space.  I wanted a space that we could set up and designate as school, so we could have a whiteboard, a world timeline, a world map, and hang up artwork and projects that wasn't the middle of our living room or kitchen.   Our basement is unfinished, and we had a remnant of carpet left, so we decided to carve out a school room in our basement amidst our storage, workout room, and guest bed.  It has been working really well and I LOVE having a separate space we can call school, and then "come home for the day" and live life in our house as normal.   Here are a few pictures of our school room space where we spend most of our time learning.

One of the things I was most excited to incorporate (adopted from my cousin Heather who homeschools) is a giant world timeline from the beginning of time until now, where we can place everything we learn about from Bible characters to historical figures to scientists to current events.  We have been loving adding to this timeline, along with using our world map to make both history, current events, and the lives of people we know and connect with come alive.  Along the top, our timeline goes up by increments of 50 years, but once we hit the 1600's our timeline goes down the side of the white board by increments of 5 years, as we seem to have more applicable history to add to years 1600+.

We started homeschool with a "soft start" the first week of Septemeber, and we made it fun starting our day with donuts and keeping each day short as we together learned what each of our curriculums would look like.

To introduce the idea of a timeline, the kids made their own, starting the year they were born, and added events they considered important or fun.

When it came time to have our "actual" first day of school the second week of September, it went really well as we had plenty of time to adjust to the schedule and the curriculum.  We started with special "Eggos" for breakfast, and then we did our traditional pictures outside on our "first day of school" and pictures of them in their desks!

We start our morning each day with Morning Meeting, which the kids love and look forward to.  Our morning meeting looks a little different each day but always includes prayer, pledges, weekly verse recitation, and going over our daily schedule.  We also have "speech" time where the kids share something they did in school, something they are learning in their Bible time, share about a book they are reading, or anything else they want to share.  They love this time to be up in front of the class and we talk about the elements of public speaking including volume, nervous habits, talking slowly, and more.  We also like to pick Bible characters to add to our timeline and/or read a poem from a very silly poem book when time allows!

We are super flexible and the kids can work however they are comfortable, on the floor, on a ball, in their desks, or on the guest bed.  They LOVE that the school room is in the workout area, and daily utilize the little trampoline and the pullup bar for breaks between subjects!

We use a jar and beans as our motivation for being on time for school and after breaks, as well as working hard, pushing through a frustrating moment, or helping others.  When the jar is full, they get to vote on a reward.  It has been extremely motivating for them so far!

We have been having a lot of fun with special speakers!  I have invited family members and neighbors to, if they are interested, talk about something they are passionate about or would like to teach.  Grandma is teaching us about Psalm 23 from the perspective of a shepherd and Grandpa has done experiments with electricity and changing out light switches as well as how to build something structurally sound.  Our neighbor Mr. James taught us about what is was like to be adopted from Belgium to the United States (when he was 10).  Our other neighbor Mr. Ken will be teaching us about what it was like to be in the Navy, as well as what school in Japan is like as he was stationed over there.  We are waiting to hear back from another neighbor who is Native American, and can't wait to hear her stories.  Another neighbor has half of his yard as garden, and we hope to take a field trip there soon to learn more about plants.  We are so excited to tap into the many resources around us and learn about our world through the people we know.  If any blog readers have anything they would like to share with us either in person or via zoom, feel free to message me!  Learning about the people around us is both interesting and generates great writing assignments that the kids are actually excited to do!

As far as the rest of our curriculum, we are doing IEW for writing, along with additional writing prompts including making a book about the people we interview and learn about to give to them, writing letters to our compassion child, writing stories, applying for classroom jobs (their idea!) and more.

For math, the older two our doing Beast Math, a problem solving puzzle based challenge curriculum that starts in 3rd grade.  They learn new concepts by reading a comic books style text that they both love.  Larkyn and I are doing game based learning for 15 minutes and IXL (interactive online practice program) for 15 minutes a day.

Beast Math

IXL- interactive practice

Awesome book of games - Larkyn picked up telling time so quickly through the games in this book!

For spelling, we are working through the spelling lists given by Southview using fun games and lots of whiteboard practice.  Summer uses our spelling time to learn Spanish through IXL and a game that we own.  We also work on phonics rules and sounding out by practicing on giant Bible names in the Bible.  This has been a great way to encourage sounding out a new word without the expectation that they "should" know it, and has also created some giggles!  Colton and Larkyn are also doing handwriting, and Larkyn loves that each week she gets to pick and color a border page to write the verse she was practicing all week!

For science, we are doing the Apologia curriculum and the kids chose to learn about astronomy.   We have had a lot of fun making our solar system out of balloons, measuring the distance of our solar system between planets with paper clips, and making the night sky and practicing finding constellations.  We plan to go star gazing this weekend.

Measuring balloons to make scaled to size balloon planets.

We hung these "planets" 16 feet from the corner of the basement, which is how big the sun's diameter would be using this scale of size for planets.  The far right balloon is black (to the right of the orange balloon) and that is Mercury.  Crazy to see the size differential between Mercury and the 16 foot diameter sun!  We also lined up almost 400 paper clips putting planets how far they are from the sun (using the scale Mercury was only 3-4 paperclips from the sun, and the distance between some planets was over 100 paper clips!).  We determined that each paper clip was around 13 million miles, and it is amazing to think about how big our solar system is (not to mention outerspace beyond that).  How great is our God!

For history, we are doing Story of the World, volume 3.  We love the interesting stories and have decided to act out our learning using lego people on our world map (battles) as well as make comic strips to demonstrate our learning.  They really absorb it and are able to retell the story back to Daddy every night at dinner.  

For reading, because all three kids are reading, and love to read, and read when they wake up, anytime they are in the car, for hours in the afternoon, and before they go to bed, I have decided not to do anything regimented with reading and to keep their love of reading alive!  We are doing a read aloud each day after lunch and we are currently reading Paddington Bear.  The kids also enjoyed E.B. White's the Trumpeter Swan.

For music, all three kids are taking piano lessons, and Summer is starting trombone.   Summer and Colton are really excited to be learning a duet together to "the Chicken Dance"!  Larkyn is beyond excited to start piano!  We are grateful that Grandpa K can give Summer private lessons on trombone alongside her zooms with our band director at Southview.

For movement, we get outside at least once a day, visit lots of parks, and each kid has picked a favorite sport to participate in.  For fall, the girls chose gymnastics and Colton chose soccer.

Another "priority learning" we have made for this school year is cooking.  All of the kids have taken an interest, and they pour over recipe books we got from the library and have all chosen to make various things.  Summer made a spaghetti bake with homemade crust alongside a sweet potato pie that was fantastic - all by herself.  Colton and Larkyn have done a ton of baking from banana bread, to zucchini muffins, to apple pie almost entirely by themselves and ask almost daily when they can make dinner themselves.  Its gonna be pretty great working myself out of a job in the field of cooking dinners....;)

We are headed out on our first field trip on Monday to an Apple Orchard with 3 other friends who are also homeschooling, and I can't wait!  I wake up each day feeling so grateful that God gifted us this special year together!


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