Tag Archives: homeschooling

Curriculum Choices for 2015 and a Personal Update

Hi everyone! It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?

Life. Got. CRAZY. Between trying to wrap up the adoption of our younger two sweeties and finishing graduate school, and adding on internship hours to that graduate school experience, my blog had to take a backseat. I can’t tell you how many times I logged on in the past….however many months, only to fall asleep with the laptop open on my lap, and half a post written.

Personal update part:

On September 4th, 2015, in front of our loving family and dear friends, we adopted our youngest two children! How long have we waited for this day? Four years, my friends. Having had these two cuties in our home for over two years as our foster children, I honestly didn’t think September 4th would make anything feel different, but let me tell you: Everything in the world feels different. It IS different. We are a forever family. We are no longer in limbo. We are official, united, crafted by God, and it is done. Praise the Lord! It feels freeing, it feels real, it feels final, and it feels like the biggest relief in the world. You think the last month of pregnancy is long? Try waiting four years, four months, and twenty-three days to finalize the adoption of the children God put on your heart. Whew. Labor. Seriously.

On a much less exciting, but nevertheless important note, on September 11th, 2015, I took the comprehensive exam required to earn my Masters of Arts in Counseling degree, which brings me one step closer to becoming a licensed counselor. The experiences I had in my internship were, in a word, irreplaceable. I also hope to share some of those experiences with you.

PROMISE an adoption-centered post is in the works, complete with pictures of my dear ones, but today’s post is dedicated to my amazing friend Sarah, who first encouraged me to start this blog. She has been asking me for weeks “What curriculum are you using this year?” And while the adoption post I’m working on is highly emotionally charged and sentimental, this topic felt a lot less intense and thus provided an easier vessel to encapsulate my return to the writing world.

In short: it’s been too long, a lot has happened, and I’ve missed you all. 

Onto the Curriculum fun!

I am still homeschooling Buggy, my biggest little. He is six now {can it be?}, and in first grade this year.

Let me say: First grade is So. Much. Fun. You learn to read books, you learn to tell time, you learn the states, and if you’re lucky, you get a creative and imaginative teacher who lets you explore all the wonderful weirdness of being six or seven. Love it!

I began planning out our year in May. I absolutely did NOT want to fall into the madness of scrambling in July to craft a year’s worth of curriculum in a few short weeks. Our public school started on August 24th this year, and I was determined to also start our homeschool on that same day.

Facing Struggles, Admitting Failures

For Buggy’s Kindergarten year, I wanted the entire year to be loose. Frankly, I needed it to be loose. You can ask my friends in our homeschooling group how many times last year I asked, “Do you think he’ll be okay this year?” Hint: It was often. And they were always gracious in encouraging me that I was not “breaking” him.

I was a mama swamped in my own schooling, facing inflexible deadlines, single-parenting a lot of the year with a dual-career husband, parenting kiddos with unique and special needs, wrapping up an endlessly long adoption process, and facing personal tragedy the likes of which I’d never seen. It was a HARD year. 

Honestly, I don’t know how we did anything last year.

Did we do anything?…

We played a lot. A subscription to ABC Mouse from my sister-in-law was a life saver. {Buggy knew more than I did about the Grand Canyon from that program just in time for our summer vacation to the incredible geological wonder}. We started a phonics program, but ultimately did not finish it. Started a lot of things, in fact, that I did not get to finish. I felt like a failure. Like I had failed him. And I felt like eyes were on me as my son was not advancing at the same rate as his publicly-schooled peers.

But our life is simply constructed differently, and that’s the path we chose when we decided to homeschool, so I chose to accept that right now, no, he’s not where they are. But that doesn’t make him less bright or less intelligent or creative. He colored, took field trips, learned a lot about grace as we blindly felt our way through a tough diagnosis for my youngest son… And in the midst of it all, I saw him grow as a person. His Sunday School teachers commented on the positive changes they saw in him as well. Friends commented on it. Family saw it too. He grew in other ways last year, ways that illustrate God’s grace even when we feel distracted and consumed in our other children or our other pursuits.

This year though, I wanted different. I was determined to have a successful, progressive year. After many hard-fought interventions, I had peace that my youngest child was taken care of. We spent the past year building up a fantastic team around him to give him the support, structure, and nurturing love that he needs to thrive. I knew with him taken care of, I could then focus on Buggy again. By May, my boys finally started bonding, our home was feeling more harmonious again, and I was feeling less depressed and anxious. I was ready to tackle first grade.

Studying Math

Studying Math

Choosing Curriculum

The first thing I wanted to do was check my local state standards {I’m in Texas, so I reviewed the TEKS, our state’s local educational standards} to see what other first graders were learning this year. Based on that information, I crafted a list of my own educational priorities for my son, and determined the subjects we would study this year:

  • Reading/Phonics/Writing
  • Math
  • Life Science
  • Music/Piano
  • Bible
  • Art History/Art
  • Social Studies/ Intro to U.S. History
This year also includes fun journal prompts for Buggy every morning to spark his imagination.

This year also includes fun journal prompts for Buggy every morning to spark his imagination.

I know, it seems like a lot. 

But hear me out:

We don’t tackle all of these subjects every single day. Art, for instance, is a once-a-week thing. Bible as well. Our science curriculum is structured to be done two-to-three days a week. The only things we do every single day no matter what {even if we have to play make up on Saturday as we did this weekend} are math and phonics.

So, after I determined what I wanted to teach, I had to determine how to teach it. That was harder. That took a LOT of research, question asking, and prayer.

I knew that regarding math, I wanted something that was based on repetition and review. I wanted a math curriculum that focused on mastery and integration, a curriculum that would connect one concept to the next in order to solidify the previous concept. I knew that I wanted a science curriculum that was secular-based. Many homeschooling science curricula are based on ultra-conservative views that never speak of the theory of evolution or the big bang theory, and I know that while we believe  in creationism, my son needs to at least know of these theories in order to make it most public high school classrooms. Lastly, I knew I wanted a reading program that relied heavily on phonics and writing.

After summer’s worth of research, here is what we’re using this year. After being in school for three weeks, I can say with confidence that we made all the right choices for us {links included}:

All of our school supplies, journals, and text books, and our geography corner.

All of our school supplies, journals, and text books, and our geography corner.

Buying it ALL

If you clicked on the links above, you might be thinking, “How in the WORLD did she buy all of that!?”

Well, no, we aren’t rich, so scratch that off the list.

I spent about $100 on all of this curriculum because I shopped wisely. I would say at least 50% of it was purchased through my local homeschooling co-op trading and buying site on Facebook. Ask around in your area to see if such a site exists for local homeschoolers near you. In most cases, I simply posted on our local Facebook site, “I’m looking for ____,” and a homeschooler would respond within a few days saying they had it! In one case {regarding the science curriculum}, a mom popped up saying she had it, but it was only via download, and due to copyright laws, she couldn’t sell it. However, she shared with me that the first nine lessons in the curriculum were available for free download if I was interested {a “try-before-you-buy” system}, so that’s what we’re doing until we have saved up the money to buy the rest of the curriculum for the year! If my fellow homeschoolers did not have the curricula I was searching for, I looked on Amazon and Ebay. Although many of the links I shared send you straight to the publishing source, I would encourage you mom to mom to simply shop around.

Also- keep in mind- with the internet at our disposal, so many things can be accessed easily that weren’t so easy before. Later this week, I’ll be sharing some of my money-saving ideas for homeschool that might spark some creativity in you as well.

Are you pleased with your curriculum choices this year? Have any great finds or resources to share? Let me know in the comments!

Blessings,

Kat

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Kindergarten Space Unit: Day 1

We began Kindergarten a couple of weeks ago and things are rolling along nicely. For the first week, I focused mostly on just letters, numbers, Bible studies, and getting back into the routine of things. This week, however, I asked Buggy what he wanted to study and he immediately shouted, “SPACE!” So we’re studying about space.

Day 1

What We Read: 


I took the moon for a walk book 

   I Took the Moon for a Walk by Carolyn Curtis, illustrated by Alison Jay .

We both loved this book and read it several times. This lyrical rhyming book is perfect for little ones and the illustrations {which I tend to obsess over} are  whimsical and fun. Buggy asked to read it over and over, and I was happy to oblige. An excerpt from the book:  “I took the moon for a walk last night, it followed behind like a still Summer kite, though there wasn’t a tail or a string in sight, when I took the moon for a walk.”  Beautiful imagery.

The moon over star book

 The Moon Over Star by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.

I grabbed this book at our library because the illustrations are beautiful. I have to admit, I choose books from the library based on the illustrations and then decide whether to read them or not to my kids later. I always read them before I share with my kids, and this one was not a disappointment. This is the story of a young girl who experiences the excitement of the 1969 original moon landing while watching her grandfather struggle with the changes happening in his country. She aspires to be an astronaut herself and hopes one day that an African American girl as an astronaut is not such a rare or unusual thing. The pictures and the story in this book are beautiful. It’s also quite an informative book, because it offers the details of the story of the moon landing in a narrative, first-hand-observational setting. My 5 year old enjoyed it and had a lot of questions after reading this, but it may not capture the interest of younger kids.

What We Made:

Moon

You take 1/2 cup of Elmer’s glue {or the cheaper off-brand like I did} and 1 1/2 cups of shaving cream {the kind you find for $1 at the dollar store, if you’re me} and mix them in a bowl. I used a plastic bowl that could be parted with just in case this craft experiment was a huge fail. Draw a decent moon-sized circle on a sheet of craft paper or a paper bag {what we used} and let your kiddo go to town with the gloopy stuff. Buggy LOVED it! He enjoyed squishing it and smearing it. He kept saying, “It smells like shaving cream, but it doesn’t feel like shaving cream!” When they’re done, let it dry. Then cut out your circle and admire your moon!

I found this craft on Pinterest, from No Time for Flashcards. I love her blog. I’ve found SO many neat ideas for activities and crafts on there, and this one was definitely a winner.

How We Played: 

I think sensory play is SO important at this age. I also have a two year old that I’m trying to keep entertained while I’m educating my five year old, so I look for activities that will capture both of their attentions.

Two words: Moon. Sand.

We bought ours pre-made from a children’s museum, but you can find recipes for it Here, Here, and Here. These recipes call for flour, but I prefer the moon sand that actually uses play sand so it gives it a sandy yet mold-able texture, and you can find such a recipe Here.

I let my boys explore this fun concoction with their hands first, then I brought in cookie cutters, Lego blocks, and army men to allow them to experiment and play. Buggy loved pretending that Batman was landing on the moon for the first time and had fun cutting out shapes in the sand with various cookie cutters. Little Bear (2) just enjoyed feeling the sand between his fingers and repeatedly said, “Mama look!” while he showed me his fistfuls of sand.

What we Watched:

I am a HUGE supporter of Reading Rainbow. Remember that show? I loved that show. Still do. When we were driving to Tennessee this summer to visit family, we took about four Reading Rainbow DVDs with us to keep our kiddos entertained on the trip. I was worried it wouldn’t capture the attention of my two year old, but it did! My five and four year old were entranced as well. All three were in love with LeVar Burton and the magical way books come to life on this special show.

Since I knew my kids were entertained by this series, I checked out a Reading Rainbow episode on DVD from my library. Good news: Even if your library doesn’t carry Reading Rainbow DVDs, you can find them online! Yay for internet! 

We watched Reading Rainbow, “Space Case” {1986} and my kiddos loved it! Lucky for you, I’ve pinned it on my Pinterest page, so you can find it HERE

Stay tuned in for the rest of our out-of-this-world space week, and don’t forget to check in on my Space Unit page on Pinterest for more great ideas on a space unit for little ones! 

Blessings,

Kat

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Filed under Activities, Books We Love, Creative Ideas and Crafts, Kitchen Table Classroom, Learning at Home

Good to be Back

Oh how I have missed blogging! I missed everything about it, and it wasn’t until I took a break that I realized just how special this blog is to me as a spiritual and emotional outlet. So I’m very glad to be back.

Let me catch you up on the HUGE changes in my world that have happened in the past 6 months…

-We have two foster kids that have been with us since June. Miss Priss is 3 and Little Man is 2. And Buggy is 4. For those of you keeping score at home, that means I have a 4, 3, and 2 year old at home. I’m officially insane. But really, I love it. More on them later.

-We bought our first home last month. Our closing date was October 10th. I loved our sweet little rent house, but it was too small for our growing family, and we were eager to become home owners and be licensed for MORE foster kids {I know…I’m insane} and God opened the door for that to happen. So now we’re setting in, and I’m constantly amazed at the fact that we even found and were able to get into this house. God is good!

-I started my Masters of Arts in Counseling in August. So far, so good. The terms are short terms year-round, and I finished up my first term with a 4.0, something I never did in college. So that’s exciting. I’m loving the idea of counseling others and working with children more and more, and I absolutely love the program I’m in.

-I’m juggling homeschooling Buggy with the two littles and moving earlier this fall, which was NOT easy. Things are finally settling down, so I am able to school him more frequently and I’m able to get back to blogging, which I have sincerely missed.

-I have been tackling DIY projects all over the place in our new home, which is so exciting -and exhausting. I’ve waited a long time for a home of my own to design exactly how I want, and I’m really enjoying using my house as a creative pallet to express our family’s vision and priorities.

I’m amazed that even in my hiatus, you guys are still checking in and reading my little ole blog here. It sure is humbling! Thank you for hanging in there with me while I took a much needed break, and thank you for inspiring me to keep going with my writing, which I so dearly love.

More to come!

Kat

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New Books We Love

I love children’s books! I love expanding our home library, and I have a dream that when we live in a slightly larger house someday, I can have an entire room filled with beautifully illustrated children’s books and wonderfully imaginative chapter books. YAY! Since we don’t have that perfect dream room right now, I stuff children’s books in every nook and cranny I can find and Little and I spend hours pouring over them together. I love when I can purchase a new one and share it with him. He gets so excited! I guess children’s books are my vice, but I just get so excited about them! Continue reading

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A New Way to See Homeschool

051Up until recently when Little turned 4, “homeschool” here simply meant a designated time of day when we’d stop playing, turn the TV off and read together or play an “educational” game or activity. I didn’t push it and didn’t structure it like school because he was only three. Since he’s four now, I decided to add more structure to our school time in preparation for preschool. Continue reading

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Kitchen Table Classroom: Learning The United States

Little turned four 2 weeks ago {I cannot even believe it!} and we had a fabulous pirate party {post coming soon}. We also took a trip to California last week and had a fantastic time together as a family enjoying Disneyland, Hollywood, Santa Monica beach, and Beverly Hills. I have so much to post on! I’m sorry I’ve fallen behind.

A New Routine Continue reading

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Kitchen Table Classroom: Touch-and-Count Cards

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This morning Little and I created some counting cards to help him understand manipulatives better. I simply printed out the numbers on sturdy cardstock in an easy-to-read font and then used things from around the house to glue to each number.

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We used pinto beans, googly eyes, colored cotton balls, black eyed peas, and macaroni noodles to create touch-and-count cards for Little to use to physically SEE and TOUCH the value of each number.

I remembered that when I was in Kindergarten, we used to put dots on each number to remember the value of each digit. Little is such a hands on learner, I thought I could turn the number dot idea into something even more visually exciting.

Happy counting!

Kat

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