Pajama Day!

Ever wonder what a typical day looks like in our house? We don’t follow a schedule, its a rhythm and like most rhythms there are upbeat days and slow days. Some days we wake up early and head off on adventures…If I’m feeling up to it, those kinds of days could happen as much as four days in one week. But it is by no means our norm. Our norm looks a whole lot like a snowy pajama day!

The kids wake up whenever they are ready and they are allowed to watch cartoons or play until breakfast. I will make breakfast based on when the last kid has woken up or if any of the others are showing signs of being ready. They turn off the tv and sit at the big table for their meal and I read the daily Bible selection. They then clean up the table and any toys they’ve left out and settle onto our big comfy couch for stories. We start with the littlest’s selection of books (usually 2-3) and move up in age until all four have chosen at least 1 book. I start with the younger ones because they have the shortest attention spans and are usually already playing with blocks by the time I reach the older two.  Then we break out the only actual work I choose for the kiddos, math and copy work. 20140225-095109.jpg

We use Singapore Math as our spine, but we are not strictly adherent to all of the options that are found with this curriculum, in fact we only even own the textbook! It is our spine because through it I know that I am not messing up how they learn math. I know a lot of unschoolers don’t use any math curriculum but its my weakest subject and I fully believe that because of its logical and mastery based nature there needs to be some sort of flow in how its introduced. So we use the Singapore set because we like it. Its simple, colorful, and very well broken down into steps. We go through a unit or two per week and use what we’ve learned in our everyday actions.

20140225-095132.jpg

Little Mr. is currently working through 2A as a review, many of these things we have already introduced but he needs practice. So even though he understands what multiplication and division are, and even though he has his 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s and 10’s times tables memorized he still needs to be able to recognize that five bundles of ten is fifty. Its a bit strange but he understands if its written in a formula but seeing ten rows of five pennies doesn’t come across as fifty to him, he feels the need to count every one. Sooo, we are reviewing.

20140225-095209.jpg

Anything organized looks like this. He giggles, he plays with his sisters, he pretends the book is a hat…anything to not get anything done.  Which is why we utilize tea time and 10 minute lessons! Today it took him five minutes to read through the new lesson, thats it. We did more math later but he didn’t even realize it!

20140225-095228.jpg

Little Miss on the other hand LOVES workbooks and textbooks so I went ahead and introduced her to their Kindergarten B (based on her placement test).  She really enjoys having something that she can say is her “school” work. Her math also takes about five minutes to read through and answer some questions. Right now she’s learning about counting backwards so even though it took just a few minutes to go through the lesson we reinforced it all day long with little word games, books, and counting during lunch.

Little Curly Q has no interest in workbooks, at all! She gets her math through play and reading. We are counting everything with her. She likes to know if her things are equal to everyone else’s, she wants to know how many minutes until she can wake up from nap, how long do we have to be in the car and so many more unending questions throughout each day. Her inquisitive mind and creative nature are perfect for natural math!

20140225-095116.jpg

Little Bitty is a mystery to us. She understands everything that is going on around her. She has a very strong opinion about EVERYTHING and yet she barely talks! She is in a transitional stage right now between grunting and pointing to pointing and trying to say things (mine= my/ please= bbblllee…except no, that one is very clear!). You can imagine our surprise when we realized that she’s learning how to count too, “one,two, tree”, and that she can match her colors up! There are no flashcards or extravagant games in this house…she’s learning from listening, because we talk a lot!

20140225-095125.jpg

Copywork consists of one sentence chosen from one of the books we have read that day written out on a pieced of paper. I didn’t get a picture of that but the process doesn’t take more than 10 minutes most days. From that point on its free learning. Little Miss likes to grab a workbook and work her way through it, she has finished that Kumon workbook in the picture in three days, not because I force her to work on it but because thats what she has chosen to work on in her free time. Writing is most definitely her strongest subject, she’s very good at many things but for her writing is as easy as breathing… now if only we could get the phonics caught up so that her words are not a string of random perfectly formed letters!

20140225-095140.jpg

These two spend as much time as possible with each other. If Little Curly Q wants to learn about space and solar systems then Little Bitty is right there next to her, trying to take it away.

20140225-095148.jpg

To which Little Miss feels compelled to stop.

20140225-095220.jpg

If given the opportunity Little Curly Q would spend all day reading, she is a natural storyteller and little things like knowing how to read don’t stop her from being a bookworm!

20140225-095303.jpg

Sometimes they like to practice their photography skills…Im lucky she only took one selfie today!

20140225-095343.jpg

For the Arts we go to plays, read books about artists, make crafts but their favorite thing ever is to have Pandora playing on the speakers during their free time. Today was a bit of Spanish Guitar, other days its Jazz, Classical, Hymns, Celtic, Movie Soundtracks (like Lord of the Rings!), Bluegrass, Folk or Christian. On especially silly days we will play kids music but even they can’t listen to that stuff for too long!

20140227-132425.jpg

They play. A lot. With toys, markers, each other, blocks, tanagrams, dress up clothes, swords (made out of anything they can find), bows (that their dad made them with sticks from outside and 550 cord), Fishing poles (a stick, some string and a magnet)…if the weather is nice outside then I kick them out of the house and they play in the woods. From about 10 am to 2 pm (with lunch and tea time thrown in there somewhere) they learn through self directed play. I don’t intrude, unless its to kiss a booboo, and I don’t direct. It is during that time of the day that I work on dinner, make anything that needs to be made for the house, clean, organize or craft. If I have the energy (medically they are trying to find out why I rarely have any energy but for now its rough to come by) we will go for a walk, but not today. Its cold, snowing and I’m exhausted.

20140227-132403.jpg

We are all out of Chicken Stock, so Ive got that pot simmering. Tonight is AWANA at church so dinner is in the Crockpot, mmm chicken fricassee over white rice.

20140226-085312.jpgThe kids are taking turns (10 mins each) playing games on the Playstation before quiet time after cleaning up without needing to be asked!

20140226-085338.jpg

From about 2pm to 4ish its quiet time. I read, write or sleep…anything that is purely for me so that I have something to call my own and for my own sanity. Little Mr. does 30 minutes of educational reading (purely his choice but must be twaddle free), 30 minutes of fun reading (30 minutes is a guideline here, if he gets into it then none will stop him) and the rest is time to be alone and quiet in his room. All three girls still need naps, if they don’t get them then not only are they super cranky but they tend to fall asleep in random places by 4. However, just because they need them doesn’t mean they actually take them (they all share a room so getting them to fall asleep when they don’t want to is really hard!) so their rule is to be in bed, quiet and no talking. Sometimes it works, sometimes…not so much.
20140226-085349.jpg

When they wake up (between 345 and 430)they are allowed to play until we start cleaning up the house and getting the table ready at 430. Since Little Mr. does not sleep he is allowed to play games from 400-430 if his sisters are still asleep. When daddy gets home we eat dinner and end our day together as a family…unless its Awana, then mommy and daddy go out for a date with just one little one!!

Its our favorite night of the week…an hour and a half with only one kid!

😉

So that’s our typical day. We don’t do the same thing everyday. Its not really a schedule because those times and actions change regularly but we do stick to the rhythm. Wake up, breakfast, stuff to do or places to go, lunch, play, quiet/sleep, dinner, family.




Advertisements

The Homeschool Tour

Welcome to Our Home!

It is no surprise that we practice a style of homeschooling that is a hybrid of the Unschooling or Child led and Charlotte Mason and I have already written a few posts on what that looks like. However, I am often asked how I actually do this…and on a budget! So I took photos of our downstairs learning areas and will take you on a tour of how we use each room.

20140219-124740.jpg

This Afternoon I took the opportunity of having a clean house (and the children outside playing in the great 40 degree weather) to take pictures of our downstairs learning areas… otherwise known as our living room, dining room and kitchen! have you ever heard the phrase “I get more cleaning done in the 10 minutes before company than I do all week”…well in my house that is so true! We had a last minute change of plans and instead of going to Piano Lessons, Piano lessons was coming to us and of course that meant that the kids spent all morning (like 3 hours) watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates. I wish I could say it was something educational but I was in no mood to actually pay attention, there were walls and toilets to be scrubbed, books to organize, dusting, vacuuming…well lets just say school has been a priority lately and good enough is not guest ready!

20140219-124758.jpg

Ahh the epicenter of our life ,otherwise known as our science center or the Kitchen!

With as much as the kids eat, I experiment and the magic nature of my sink (does anyone else have a sink with the ability to spontaneously create dirty dishes?) I think I spend more time in this room than any person should! However, since the stomach is the best way to the heart, this is also a room filled with lots of love. I absolutely love how much light our kitchen gets during the day, and since there are no curtains (I never finished adjusting their length for this window) I find that it is the best place to gather light for our budding winter garden. My neighbors have pretty dishes on their windowsills… we have produce and I am totally ok with that! The kids and I have been getting things ready for our summer garden (we are gathering recyclable containers to house are soon to be seedlings) and soon I will have to find more space as we start our seedlings as well. This is more than just a place to grow pretty plants this is also where we do a lot of our baking and I actually let the kids help me as we work towards making more of what we eat. Because we use baking as both math and science we end up learning all about fractions, weights, measurements, chemical reactions and heat transference. Depending on what measuring cup is clean I will sometimes even have the kids try to figure out how many parts are in a whole. My sons favorite activity is to time how long it takes for water to boil or steam to rise. My almost 2 year old loves rearranging my baking area and so I help her learn through the process by keeping my stacking mixing bowls/pots /pans (smallest to largest) in the same area…and not freaking out when she empties the whole cabinet (not an easy task!)! My three year old is learning how to sort so she helps me empty the dishwasher (and she likes it!) while my almost five year old helps me put away groceries (she likes to know why we have to put the milk in the fridge but the pasta can go in the pantry). We are trying to let them be more independent (it is really hard when I know I can do the same job with less mess!) and have set up a wooden stool so that they can access their own cups for water, snacks and dishes. They love the independence… which is good because I hate the mess, it goes against my OCD grains… but its part of the process, right?

20140219-124807.jpg

Now into the Media Room… er… Living Room.

This is where we house the TV, Game consoles, Laptops, iPads and Piano. This is also where Geronimo, our male Beta Fish, lives… he likes to watch tv too. Geronimo has been a great lesson on animal behaviors and the need to take care of others. One day we will have more than just him… maybe a snake, or a tarantula… definitely a dog and once we retire… well lets just say daddy is already planing his own sustainable farm. But thats all just dreaming for now, so back to the media room. Lil G and Jo (starting next month) take piano lessons from a wonderful woman who attends our church and they love it! I can read music fairly decently and I can play treble clef but bass clef is a no go for me. I found this piano at a Salvation Army in San Diego for $150, it needs to be tuned but for our purposes its wonderful! The littles are always creating masterpieces on it and even my hubby will spend the evening just playing around with the sounds in an effort to make harmonies. The girls love to dance around our living room as I play around on the piano or even when I play pandora on our TV. We actually use our TV for a lot of learning, and some fun stuff too. When my husband came home from Afghanistan he just needed to have a smart TV (we don’t have cable but he is a gamer and wanted a good TV to play his console games on) and our favorite app on the TV is VUDU where we can access TED talks, Philharmonia Orchestra, Princeton University podcasts, Irelevant Astronomy, From the Top at Carnegie Hall, and Pandora. Depending on the day and the kids interests we could easily watch an orchestral concert, listen to Jazz or watch a short on the galaxies we barely know. We also have two gaming consoles that we use for games (even the littles love playing games and their hand eye coordination is better than mine!) but even more than that we use it for Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu Plus. We love documentaries, its a staple in our learning environment and NOVA and NATURE have some of the best options for young, eager and curious kids! There are also a lot of pretty great cartoons and shows put out by PBS, History Channel and Discovery Channel but we refuse to pay for cable and want things on Demand so Netflix and Amazon Prime are great options for us.

20140219-124816.jpg

20140219-124844.jpg

Here is a long view of our living room, the bookshelf between the columns separates an otherwise long and narrow room. There are several sofas and a small table that we use for board games, card games, blocks, coloring, writing practice, or really anything that requires all four children to be able to reach easily.

20140219-124829.jpg

Directly across from these columned bookshelves and right next to the camel colored couch is our lego area. It is a small area and we are still building our collection but we have often found a child sitting on that little wooden stool flexing their engineering creativity.

20140219-124837.jpg

Now on to the other side of the living room… this side really is more of a school room than any other part of the house but it also our main living area so we have had to be subtle in our set up. I have long since given up on the idea of having a “classroom” and honestly right now I don’t think we need one! Right now bookshelves, and an art easel (woohoo for ikea!) will work nicely!

20140219-124855.jpg

Our first bookshelf on our way through is filled with our YA, science fiction and fantasy collection… those are more for mom and dad than the kids! On top are our two encyclopedia collections (both found at a thrift shop for $10 each collection!). The smaller ones are from the 60’s and have black and while illustrations but they have been great for research and comparisons. The larger white ones are all Animals with great color photos. The two small green cans hold pencils, paint brushes, rulers, and our pocket microscope (the best $15 I have ever spent on Amazon!!) while the pencil box holds our crayon collection. The crayons and Pencils are only within reach during the day because otherwise our walls become canvases, and that is bad because it requires hours of cleaning on my behalf.

20140219-124914.jpg

This is the kids downstairs bookshelf, we have more upstairs with kids books but I’m still trying to find a set up that fits up there. In the meantime this keeps a small part of our fun kids books in one easily accessible place. on top we have a half hour hourglass, the holding spot for our calendar pieces and some fun knick knacks that needed a home.

20140219-124904.jpg

Between the kids bookshelf and our Ikea storage shelf sits our workboxes and Globe. Back when I thought I would need to have the days materials all organized and laid out every morning I found this gem in a local thrift shop for $5! What a steal… but now that we have adopted a more relaxed environment I use this for workbook storage.

20140219-124953.jpg

Top drawer is for my eldest, he knows what is in there and when he says he’s bored I send him in there to find something to work on. Our rule is that you must finish what you start, so if he decided half way through that he would like to do something else my response is always the same, “when your finished with that page you may do that.” … it also really helps us have proof for the county that he’s learning. Most of the workbooks are from the dollar store, the dollar spot in Target or I found on clearance in one store or another.

20140219-125542.jpg

Second drawer is for my eldest daughter, and her overflow (mostly phonics stuff that will be used with her sisters as well) is down below her sisters drawer.

20140219-125552.jpg

My middle daughters has some preschool practice sheets as well as workbooks.

20140219-125603.jpg

Up on the wall is my fabric covered cork board. I found this fabric in the clearance bin at Hobby Lobby for $2 and I found the cork board at the thrift shop for $1, I just stapled the fabric around the cork board and hung it here to house our school stuff & chore charts. On the left hand side I have some scrapbook paper push pinned into an envelope shape with each kids name written on it. The blue strips are their chores and the red strips are their school subjects and the envelope on the right is for work that has been finished. Its a nice visual that helps them see whats going on without me needing to print or make up a new list every week. The puzzle pieces will be used as a place to pin interesting notes for each kid (every things color coded so that the kids know who’s is who). Since three of my kids are working on phonics and letter recognition we have a weekly letter that just hangs out there for them to see all week. The green Crayon/pencil, glue bottle and apples are the days date (everything is held up with push pins) and the white boards hold the days assignments (written in color coded dry erase) including each kids copy work written on removable mini boards (center, under the green crayon/pencil thing). I’m not great about changing this daily so sometimes its weekly work instead, but it works for us and doesn’t look too schooly.

20140219-125613.jpg

So this area looks a bit messy because it is used often by four children under 6 years old… they don’t know how to put things back perfectly yet. Starting on the top left is a collection of science books, nature guides and DK encyclopedias filled with great pictures. Two shelves of toys and a regular microscope that really doesn’t work well. The last box on top is filled with a Story of the World (we never really use it and I might end up selling it one day), a kingfisher history of the world encyclopedia, a 1919 speller (found in an antique shop in Ramona CA), a 1920’s reproduction language book filled with copy work ideas (found it in a thrift store in Lancaster PA), and a collection of well illustrated fairy tales, Aesop fables and Mother Goose stories (I found this 1920’s reproduction in Barnes and Noble when my oldest was only a few months old). Then on the bottom left is our stack of library books, I’ve found that if I don’t have a set place to keep them my children wander off with library books and they disappear into the abyss! Next is three (or four) different kinds of blocks that we use ALL the time. Blocks become manipulatives, they become physics experiments, quiet time aides and any other thing that my children can imagine. And last, in the pretty wicker box is my stash of diapers and wipes…hidden but accessible so that I can send any one of the kids to retrieve it for me when needed. Sitting nicely on top is our collection of wooden game boxes (2 chess sets, and two really random games we found for a $1 at a thrift shop and have not yet played).

20140219-125622.jpg

These next few pics are our big storage areas, this big entertainment center was made by a friend of our families when I was in high school, when my parents downsized they gave it to us. The bottom of this area is filled with our VHS, Video Game, DVD collections and our overflow charts/posters and binders. Ok now for the picture below, the honkin huge red box is filled with empty composition books and our files that we show county at our reviews. Next to that big ole box is my collection of curriculum and workbooks that have been given to me or picked up randomly over the years…some we use, some are meant for 5th graders…some I thought I would use and haven’t yet.

The middle row has my collection of learning aides based on subject that I have found at the dollar store, dollar spot at target or on clearance. We have science experiments, magnifying glasses, garden trowels, “growing” animals and water beads fill our science bin. The math bin has a combination of flashcards, clocks, play money and math-y knick knacks. The Language Arts bin has flash cards, phonics aides and writing aides. underneath that is our bubble collection, which is kept under lock and key, and it all sits next to our gigantic play dough collection (which was gifted to us and terrifies me).

The bottom contains our math manipulative (squishy blocks in different shapes that I found in the dollar store and a huge container of dried beans), all of our writing/drawing supplies and books that Ive read to help me on this homeschooling journey. (Those drawers down there are my hubby’s domain and we don’t enter it)

20140219-125630.jpg

My kids favorite part of this area… Puzzles, Board games, Dominoes and Cards. The Drawers hold all of mommy’s office supplies but the kids don’t know that, they think its daddy stuff too!

20140219-125637.jpg

What looks like a mess up there is our recyclable collection… we use this stuff for crafts, science experiments or we turn it into organizational supplies…the kids also like having that big box for their pretend play… its a rocket, a pirate ship and anything else they want it to be!

The top shelf holds more recyclables, tanagrams, musical instruments and phonics practice aides. The middle shelf is all craft supplies. The bottom shelf has our opposition books, coloring books and binders. That brightly colored binder holds my theories and ideas on homeschooling and it sits next my planner. I will write another post on how I use those two.

20140219-125644.jpg

ahh…MY favorite spot in the house…our super comfy couch where i read the kids stories, crochet while they play, work on my novel and type up these posts! that little table is perfect for tea or my morning coffee, a stack of books and that abacus (we actually use it a lot!). It sits right next to a nice window and our backdoor so when the little ones want to play outside but baby girl does not or is sleeping I get to hunker down on that great green couch and cuddle up with her while they play and explore the world outside.

20140219-125657.jpg

The last part of our classroom is right there… those woods are were we do our nature study, that playground is perfect for PE and the whole area makes for the best recess! Hope you enjoyed the tour, see you next time!

20140219-125712.jpg

Homemade Instant Oatmeal

My kiddos are oatmeal fiends! They can easily eat 2 packages of instant oatmeal every day for breakfast. So let’s do the math together, 2 packages multiplied by 4 kids equals 8 packages of instant oatmeal per day! Most boxes of oatmeal come with 10 packages for about $2.50 a box.

Now the natural thing would be to just make a pot of oatmeal every morning but here’s the thing, lil G likes peaches n cream, Jo likes blueberry, Ana likes banana, and Ellie likes strawberry. It would cost more to have those fruits on hand to sprinkle in than what I spend on oatmeal in a week.

Also because they eat so much I’m a bit worried about the amount of preservatives and additives that go into their little bodies, but I’m on a budget so what’s a girl to do?

This momma messed around with Pinterest looking for ideas and surprisingly no one had a recipe for the fruit n cream variety of instant oatmeal…at least non that I could find. So I made it up. I looked at the ingredient pouches of the organic stuff I couldn’t afford while in the grocery store and then got a bit creative in the kitchen. I haven’t done a cost analysis so I can’t tell you if this comes out less expensive but I know what’s going into it and the convenience of having large quantities on hand for a quick, healthy microwaveable breakfast is worth it to me!

So the first thing you’ll need is a decent food processor…my bowl broke this morning so I’ll have to fun another, but I love the ease of this one and it was a wedding gift so yay!

20140218-112154.jpg

Next you’ll need some oatmeal (I’ve used old fashioned and quick oats…both work well) if you want to go organic great, if you want to sub steel cut try it out and let me know if it works!

20140218-112426.jpg

We use brown sugar in ours, but any sweetener will work. If you prefer Honey or Maple, go with powdered versions for storage purposes.

20140218-112719.jpg

Ok, that’s the main part, now this part is all based on the flavor desired.

For the fruit and cream variety you’ll need
Non fat dry milk

20140218-113619.jpg

Freeze Dried Fruit is the key here, Ive tried using dried fruit and the consistency just does not work well. I found Organic Freeze Dried fruit at my local organic market but they also sell it on Amazon. We like to make a batch of each of the following: Strawberry, Blueberry, Banana and Peach. However I have also found cherry and apples (I use these in our apple Cinnamon batch) so maybe a Cherry Almond flavor in the future will taste good!

20140218-113659.jpg

20140218-113709.jpg

20140218-113717.jpg

A pinch of Powdered Vanilla (totally optional if you can find it, I found mine at a specialty spice store in Annapolis), and a tiny pinch of salt…like less than an 1/8 tsp per batch!

20140218-113946.jpg

Place the freeze dried fruit into the food processor and pulse until the chunks are manageable. Then add everything else and pulse until mixed.

I store mine in small plastic bins but I have also used snack size ziplock bags when we are on the go.

20140218-114531.jpg

20140218-114541.jpg

20140218-114548.jpg

20140218-114558.jpg
I use a 1/2 cup for each kid but one serving is 1/3.

You can use water or milk, 1/4 cup makes it like this

20140218-114804.jpg but some of my kids like it liquidy so I add a bit more. Then microwave for 1 min and 30 seconds if you like it like this or 2 mins if you prefer it a bit more goopy.

Viola! Instant oatmeal!

We also keep these other ones on hand …

20140218-115056.jpg

Oatmeal raisin has cinnamon instead of vanilla and raisins instead of freeze dried fruit.

Apple cinnamon omits the Dry Milk and substitutes the vanilla powder for cinnamon.

Maple and brown sugar also omits the Dry milk and substitutes the vanilla for granulated maple syrup.

I hope this is helpful!

Living Learning

20140215-234638.jpg
Yesterday I was asked by another homeschool parent, while participating in an online discussion, “how do you get your kids to love reading?”…which made me think, how do I do it?

The honest answer is that we live a life of learning.

20140215-234956.jpg

As I thought over the priorities we have in life I realized that this has nothing to do with homeschooling and everything to do with how we live our life. Anyone can do it, homeschoolers, public schoolers, after schoolers, private schoolers, unmarried adults…anyone can have a life based on learning!

20140215-235416.jpg

Anyone can follow their interests, anyone can learn to love learning… Your probably learning all the time without even realizing it!

20140215-235724.jpg

So what does it entail? How do you teach this to your kids? How do take advantage of a learning lifestyle?

1) Explore! Take the time to explore your curiosities, area, and talents! Find you tube videos or online courses that will teach you for free something you have always wanted to learn. Try new things, who knows maybe your a natural with woodworking! Discover things for yourself and bring your kids along. Show them that trying out new things can be fun. Spend a day driving around ( or an afternoon checking out maps of your area) because you never know what you will find in your back yard!

We found a county park that is a working farm based on the depression era agricultural business model… The kids had a BLAST, even though it was freezing! I found this little park while messing around on google maps and it’s less than a mile from where we do piano lessons!

20140216-000607.jpg

2) DO!!! Don’t make excuses, go out and take advantage of the area around you! We have lived in big cities and small towns, ten minutes from amazing museums and hours away from all the big stuff but no matter where you are there are always learning opportunities if you are willing to go out and make them. It’s all about how you look at your environment, how you speak to your children (or mentally to yourself!) and how often you act. In this Pinterest driven generation mothers (everyone really) the ideas are easy to find, easy to hoard but not always easy to get going. So this part is going to require you to roll up your sleeves and just get to it!

20140216-001900.jpg

3) Talk! Talk to other people about the things you enjoy doing, you never know what awesome event you didn’t know (or class, or place…) exists just around the corner. Talk to your kids about everything… All the time. Use regular language, ask open ended questions, ask questions you don’t know the answer to, use words they don’t understand in everyday language and encourage them to talk back! (Reading counts for this as well, read, read, read and when your done reading have them read! If they can’t read yet have them make up stories to go with the pictures, that way every book is a new adventure! I have a bunch of ideas about reading but I’ll save that for another post!)

20140216-002905.jpg

4) Slow Down… I think this is the hardest part of the list. We live in a busy world filled with fast tracks and fast food. How often have you taken the time, I mean really prioritized the time to look at the stars? Watch the birds? Notice what bugs actually live in the dirt next to your front door? Have you ever searched for owl pellets or tadpoles? You don’t have to be home all day to do it… We have spent five minutes looking up at the stars as we come home from an evening activity and watched the birds soar from our spots at a red light! When it rains, instead of running to the nearest shelter, grab an umbrella and look at the sidewalk because you may be able to save a few earthworms trying to cross the expanse! If your interest is art consider finding patterns in the shadows near your desk! If you love food try to take the chance to try creating a new culinary masterpiece on a Saturday afternoon… Go for it, you have the time.

20140216-004025.jpg

5) Take Advantage of the Technology in your Hands! My phone is our lifeline! I cannot count how often the kids have asked a wild question that throws me for a loop while we are in the grocery store, car or even in the bathroom at Target! At that moment I have no clue how to answer, I am nowhere near our pile of books and I know that if I answer the question it will fuel more questions … but that’s exactly what I want! More questions, yes!!! School boards talk about STEM and having the latest and greatest technologies in classrooms to build better environments for students but with out curiosity and an open discussion environment how will you get them to ask the questions that matter? Yet if your response is always let look that up later and then you never get around to it, are you helping the situation? Some people have their phones filled with games or music… Mine is filled with educational apps. I have encyclopedias, safari, periodic tables, nature handbooks, star guides, google earth, and educational games galore! (I recognize that not everyone has a smart phone but if you don’t at least have a notepad available to write the questions down so that you can & will look the answers up later.)

Learning does not require classes, textbooks and dry problem solving… Use the world around you, ask questions, act on ideas, and live learning purposefully! After all, we learn something new everyday!

The Tea Time School

20140214-132247.jpg

This is our school. A pile of books related to our current interests. However, getting my rambunctious kiddos to settle down enough to purposefully listen has always been a struggle.

20140214-132353.jpg
This is our school room. Our kitchen table is our center of gravity. Everything starts here. Even their imaginary adventures usually start with a discussion over a meal.

20140214-132520.jpg
But if I want any kind of quiet or listening to occur, there needs to be full mouths involved. Sure, the kids know how to listen and enjoy story time, but getting them to actively listen with the intent to learn is so very much easier if they are eating!

20140214-132627.jpg
So whether it’s snack time or lunch time, our readings take place over tea! It’s a chance to practice manners and listening while filling bellies, and it’s a great way use my special dishes that would otherwise just gather dust! We read poetry, look at art, read through a story or two based on our current interests and we debate! Yes they are small, but debating and challenging their logic at this stage has really helped then to critically think about things they hear. Whether it’s the silly story my 3 year old makes up or the historical fiction on pirates we are reading. They actually start asking questions based on content!

20140214-132832.jpg
Still, it’s only part of how we do school. Sure it’s the most schoolish looking part of our day but we also grow plants from food…

20140214-132955.jpg
Discuss life cycles, natural patterns we find in the world around us, how bright it is at night when the ground is covered in snow regardless of the moon…

20140214-133129.jpg
Talk about safety: fire safety, knife safety, stranger danger, crossing the streets and buckling up. The beauty of fire and how we can use symbolism, alliteration, and vocabulary to describe it in writing…Or how to use primary colors to create a mixture of colors that look like fire…Or the science behind fire looking at fuel, oxygen and catalysts!

20140214-133810.jpg
The weather is irrelevant! We still spend ample amounts of time outdoors learning from nature. We take our math from our daily lives, it’s in everything we do.

20140214-134056.jpg
Finding patterns, testing hypotheses, challenging ideas, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing regardless of what grade they are in, we challenge their understanding of the world and help them broaden their horizons: without it feeling like school.

20140214-134347.jpg
If you ask them how long they spend doing school, the 20 minutes around the table may be all they respond. Yet that is just the start of our school day, learning is happening consistently, even while watching tv!

20140214-134537.jpg

When Plans Fail

20140211-142155.jpg

Remember this photo? Yep, that’s the hallway from my bedroom to the kids rooms. It has every toy we could find in any of the three rooms stacked about two feet high… Ok fine I’ll be honest, thrown about two feet high.

I have struggled for years (since my oldest was born) with my OCD nature and the sheer amount of messes children…even newborns… Create. What is it about these little creatures that causes such chaos?

20140211-142456.jpg

Everything gets destroyed, including my plans.

As I lay in bed this morning I created my mental to do list:
– wash the dishes
– get started on the laundry
– organize the toys
– give the kids a bath (this a morning event for us, mom n dad are way to exhausted to handle this at night)
– go to the library
– go to the lake
– fold the laundry (not even put it away, just get it folded)

So that was my idea for the day, I didn’t even plan any “school” because I figured that was enough to fill our day, and going to the library and lake really ends up being enough school for a day.

20140211-143123.jpg

Well it’s quiet time (230 pm) and we went to the library and the lake. Oh and baby girl got a bath. That pile of laundry has been staring at me for almost two weeks. The three oldest were told at 0830 over breakfast of the days events. They were told to take quick showers and get dressed. I then took my shower and bathed the little one…we were bathed and dressed by 0945…the three oldest were naked playing in their rooms. Showers were canceled and I told them to get dressed. 1015 rolls around (breakfast has been cleared from the table, diaper changed, kitchen wiped down but dishes are still in the sink) two kids have on clothes but no socks or shoes and the third is in panties running around like a chicken…seriously, she was clucking. By 1030, with mom standing right there, all three were dressed and searching for coats. We left the house at 1055.

This doesn’t happen every morning but it happens more often than I would like to admit. We have all gotten better about time management when we have a time limit, but if it’s just a whatever kind of thing, like the library, then this always happens!

Anyway, we finally get underway and find to our great surprise four huge Turkey Vultures eating something in the field around the corner from our house! I should have taken pictures but we were to busy analyzing the situation (and watching for cars as we blocked the road).

Who knows if we would have been able to view such an amazing sight had we left any earlier! It was wonderful and fascinating! The kids spent the rest of the ride asking questions about birds, scavengers, predator/prey relationships and about the anatomy of vultures! We have spent hours bird watching and in nature but to see a scavenger that they had only seen on Wild Kratts only five feet away and interacting with other scavengers was a great start to our day!

20140211-145148.jpg

The Library was even better! The girls met another homeschooled little girl (in first grade) and played for a full hour while G and I found every book he thought we could use this week as we learn about birds and pirates (he felt that we should break up winter animals into bird and mammals because they probably act differently during winter).

Jo and Ana had so much fun playing that they actually asked twice to stay longer! It’s such a rare treat for them to get real play time in with a girl their own age so it was fantastic. As the kids said their goodbyes, I decided we would do something totally different from our norm.

20140211-145937.jpg

20140211-145955.jpg

20140211-150018.jpg

20140211-150029.jpg

20140211-150044.jpg
Picnic Lunch at the Diary Farm! We had never been here before, and it is not a working dairy farm anymore but there were parking spaces, playful horses and cows in the distance to watch as we ate our lunch.

20140211-150242.jpg
G decided we needed to know all about the latest Captain Underpants book he had read so he divulged the parts he found hilarious between mouthfuls of hot dog.

20140211-150435.jpg
Jo moved from one side of the car to the next giving her stuffed kitty a nice view.

20140211-150528.jpg
All while the youngest two are to their hearts content!

20140211-150619.jpg
We headed towards the lake and found a gaggle of geese! The were everywhere, and the kids loved exploring the lake while looking for signs of spring. According to little G it must be coming soon because there are so many more birds out than usual!

20140211-150833.jpg

20140211-150847.jpg

20140211-150858.jpg

20140211-150913.jpg

20140211-150926.jpg

20140211-150949.jpg
By this time it was almost 1400 and mommy was exhausted, even though the littles were ready to explore some more, so we headed home. After a beautiful bluejay, four young white tailed deer and countless scurrying squirrels, the children and I were shocked when one of the vultures was still in the corner eating!

20140211-151240.jpg

20140211-151251.jpg

20140211-151302.jpg

20140211-151313.jpg
Mesmerized, we sat there watching this vulture eat what was left of a squirrel! We were three feet away from him and we were able to see some amazing details. No cars came our way for almost 15 minutes as we parked in the middle of the road to watch nature take it’s course. It was better than any movie and even little Ellie was ecstatic!

So here I am exhausted, with half of my to do list unchecked… Yet completely comfortable with how our day has progressed. Sometimes, life has plans of its own and you can choose to embrace the ride or complain and miss out! I’m so glad that for once I embraced the chaos today and experienced the unadulterated joy of just choosing to be content!

A Tale of Mice and Men

20140207-121811.jpg

While going through my new nightly routine (little by little I’ll figure out this whole adulthood/ responsibility/ homemaker thing) of cleaning up the kitchen I found a sight all too well known by these eyes. Tiny black dots scattered behind my microwave and along the edge of my sink. I move the microwave to find a pile more of these disgusting little dots next to a chicken bone that I KNOW was thrown in the trash.

I do what every modern, independent women does when they see such obvious signs of Unwelcomed guests… I screamed. Not a panicked girly scream…although I have no doubt that if the originator of those dots had been behind my microwave that is exactly what would have exited my mouth…no this was more of the kind of scream that is usually followed by obscenities… but quickly adapted for little ears.

The little ears showed up first, then Man of the House.

His response was more manly and far more sarcastic.

The little ears were curious and clueless.

We explained that somehow a (hopefully) small mammal of the rodent species (gosh I hope so) had found it’s way into our house and was hiding behind appliances eating our food.

The littles immediately asked if this was a new pet. I’ll stick with daddy’s response “not unless it’s food for our new snake!” …and no we did not buy a new snake, much to my husbands chagrin. We went into the danger of these kinds of visitors and sent the littles to bed excited about a new adventure.

I cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom, swept out from under the oven and fridge, disinfected and wiped down everything in sight. My kitchen was now cleaner then when we moved in! We went to bed and I awoke to more little presents from unexpected guests.

Now my pantry was by no means messy, I had worked hard to organize it and keep everything just so in my dollar store containers. I swept it out daily and regulated the tiny feet trying to empty it of snacks.

20140207-123551.jpg

Not messy at all and I thought it was pretty safe… Until our little guest proved me wrong! That little rodent ate through the packaging of several food items!

Enter yesterday morning: all pain had dissipated in the rage that clouded my senses! My exhaustion melted with determination! This uninvited guest put this witch on a rampage!!

The rampage has seen to a new era of cleanliness and order … Which have been sorely missed by the parental units that abide within these walls. I have spent the last 24 hours (minus normal human needs- like sleep) cleaning and organizing EVERYTHING in sight!

I have even made new messes while cleaning others.

In fact, I have made it my mission to organize this house from top to bottom!

Thanks to some shopping trips to Target and Ikea along with the use of every mason jar in my possession, I have remedied the packaging issues.

Housing has come to the house to set traps and seal holes.

In a way the guest problem is on it’s way to being fixed!

20140207-124511.jpg

Heck, my pantry looks even better than before, my house has not been this clean in months, our closets actually have clothes hung on hangers instead of piles on floors. Bathrooms are spotless, sheets have been changed, corners and knick-knacks have been dusted!

But my hallway looks like the picture above…and so I guess this tale of mice and men has lead to an early spring cleaning! So thank you little guest, don’t come back, but thank you for helping me find my motivation to make this house an orderly home once again!