Saturday, July 23, 2016

My Homeschooling Wild Cards

In my last post, I mentioned that the work boxes were a "Brand New To Me, But Would Be Bang-A-Rang If It Actually Works" thing for me. It seems like an easy solution to organizing, but those don't always work in real life. 

Well, I have a couple of other things that fall into that category, too. Mostly, I'm trying them because I hope they help me accomplish the feel I want for our homeschool. I hope they help me focus on the girls instead of on the worksheet, I hope they help me stay calm and kind in my tone of voice, and I hope they help us all enjoy this incredible opportunity we have together. I know those are mostly God-things, and I know that I'll never get it all right, and I don't need to, but maybe a few of these things can help...

One is Quiet Bins for Evelyn. Or Morning Boxes or Morning Tubs, or a million other names that you'll find them under on Pinterest. On the one hand, they seem ridiculously yuppie (just sharing my initial thought). Like, you need a bin of activities when your preschooler just wants to color. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to try them. And to be honest, there are times when I fit the mold perfectly for "ridiculously yuppie", so maybe I just got sucked into the crazy. These little bins have the potential to be a really fun thing for Evelyn, and a good way to remind me that she's only 4 years old, and school for 4-year old's should be all about fun! My goal for Evelyn at the end of this first school year is that she can recognize her letters and tell me the sounds for them. 
That's pretty much it. 

Here's what my first batch look like...

There's a "red" puzzle for colors, a bin with pipe cleaners and beads, a sheet of construction paper that I glued googly eyes to and included a box of crayons for her to make a face, colored Popsicle sticks and plastic animals, and Sofia the First lacing cards. I've found a ton of other ideas online, so I'm hoping these are things I can keep going each week. I'd also like to gradually make these bins more difficult, to reinforce numbers and letters that she's learning.

My next thing I'm trying is called a Morning Basket. Be prepared for some very "feel goody" feelings for a second...I read an article that suggested this basket as an alternative to jumping right in to school. She talked about how they spent their mornings rushing through breakfast, with her snapping at her kids to hurry up, so they could clean off the table and start schoolwork. So she tried morning baskets...not her original idea, but anyway. The idea is that, after breakfast, school starts...gently. You put on some classical music, snuggle up on the couch, and spend some time together. You can use this time for a lot of different things, but here's what I'm going to try: 

This morning basket will be used for our morning devotions, our favorite read-aloud (currently the Clementine series), and whatever Social Studies biography we're working on. In a perfect world, I imagine us snuggling on the couch and reading together before we all go frolicking into the playroom to start on Math. In real life, I have no idea what Henry will do, how long Evelyn will sit still, or if the girls will even like this. I want to try it, because I love the idea of what happens if it works! I love the idea of our day starting with joy; maybe not calmly, but doing something we all love in a slightly more relaxed setting.

Okay! So those are my wild cards. The things that are very new to me as a teacher who's been out of the classroom for seven years (and never taught kids this young to begin with), but things that I hope will help me reflect the kind of classroom we want in our home. 

Homeschool Room Reveal

 Being able to share this room was one of my main motivating factors for coming back to the blog. It's been a total labor of love, and Steve has been our hugest supporter! The process started last October when he was out of town for 5 out of 6 weeks. I started to think about homeschooling pretty strongly, because I didn't want our family to have to be separated for that long ever again.

Fast forward through a lot of prayer, a lot of talking, and about four months, when we saved his Christmas bonus in order to paint the room and re-do the floors. The floors made this room! It's bright and sunny, and so completely functional. it is!

Bella's desk and art supplies. This area is usually covered with various drawings that I have to go through and purge about once a month. In my head, this is where I imagine Bella will do some of her work when it requires "quiet", or at least fewer distractions from the other two little humans. The shelves have pens, pencils, markers, erasers, glue sticks, and scissors. The top shelf has items we don't use a lot (yet), like beads, dry-erase markers, and felt animals.

Our Calendar and Bible Verse wall. This room has a ton of windows, which is amazing! But the downside is, that there isn't a ton of wall space, so if you don't want to cover all the windows, you have to get creative. On the window ledge are our "calendar things" like coins to "make the date", extra calendar squares for holidays, and a little laminated list of what I'm supposed to do during calendar time. 
(Because I find calendar time super boring, but I also know Evelyn needs to learn it, so I don't want to forget something.)

Right now, Mel's piano is acting as a very pretty shelf. Lessons aren't in the budget right now, and the girls haven't shown a whole lot of interest anyway, so I use it to hold file folders and extra books.

Our main table. When I first started thinking about buying a dining room table for this room, we were a little worried it would be too big, but it makes the room so functional, and allows Henry and Evelyn to be included, as well. We even got a second booster seat for Henry, so we don't have to keep dragging his chair from dining room back and forth. Money well spent for the sake of sanity.

My corner is a pretty great mix of things that I love and things that I need. I have pictures and art and hanging's a Type-A girl's dream.

Okay, some of my copper mug with the brass knuckles that Whitney bought for me, my little plant, because succulents are apparently the only thing I can keep alive, the gold-handled scissors that Steve got me, and the paint-dipped pencils that Mel just surprised me with this morning! (They're in the copper mug...aren't they beautiful!)

And no, it doesn't normally look like the picture above. Normally, it looks like this...

These are my daily workboxes. I have a few "brand new to me, but look really cool and would be bang-a-rang if they worked" things in our classroom, and these boxes are one of them. On the left, are each of Bella's subjects. I have her first 12 weeks planned out in hanging folders, so in theory, I'll go to the hanging file each week, and pull out the papers or experiments and supplies that we'll need for each subject. In my head, this is organizing at it's finest. We'll have to see how it actually works...

My extra construction paper, printer, laminator, and all of my teacher manuals are on this shelf. Along with math manipulatives, books I want to read with the girls, and binders with my lesson plans.

Whew! So, there it is! I'm so excited and can't wait to get started! We're praying that it's a positive experience for the girls, too, and for our family as a whole. 

One more week to go!

July Is Almost Done!

How is it the end of Summer already?

I love the freedom that Summer gives, and the great excuse to stay in PJ's all day or watch Netflix for four straight hours, but I definitely crave structure, and by the time July comes around, my girls do, too. I am ready for school to start, even though I know that no one's actually leaving the house to go to school this year.

Some fun July memories...

Dinner at Taqueria Tsunami

Breakfast at J. Christopher's

I stole the girls' kiddie pool after doing yardwork

Henry posed like Daddy

Henry tackled Bella, and then yelled!

Bella proved that she still rocks the "bed head" game

Evelyn made mud...

Daddy and Henry read a new book

Henry learned the word, "hot", and then walked around the playground and pointed to every hot surface he could find.

Evelyn posed like a pro while jumping off the diving board at Miss Lori's pool

We painted...and Henry ate it all. (Thank God for Crayola and washable paint.)

Steve and I got new glasses

Ashleigh and Ryan came over and brought Molly, Jack, and Teddy to play with our kids. Then "Mrs. Lucas" showed me how to do Bella's hair "fancy".

Courtney, our babysitter, gave the girls horseback riding lessons for their birthdays! My favorite thing about Court is that she makes them help with all of the prep...washing Princeton, grooming him, cleaning out his horseshoes...Bella gets to learn that riding lessons are more than just getting on and riding across a field!

Grooming Princeton...even Henry got in on the action

Carrying Princeton's saddle to the stall

Henry got ready to be Daddy's riding partner on the motorcycle.

We took advantage of warm weather (and total laziness) and gave the girls baths outside. 
P.S. they hated it, and screamed almost the entire time, even though they had JUST been playing in the exact same water.

Our friends, Jess and Jeramie, found this amazing toy motorcycle at Goodwill! It's beautiful and he loves it!

We got the girls new, butterfly bedspreads and each of them got a "throw" pillow to go on top. They've never had official bedspreads, just a sheet and whatever random blanket they chose, but this looks a lot prettier, AND it helps me teach them how to make their beds! (A chore that I've never made them do, but will start with homeschooling.)

Evelyn's throw pillow is a 3-D flower, and Bella got a bear with a floral headband. Each one fits their personalities pretty perfectly. Thanks, Target!

I emptied all of their toys and animals into the hallway and gave their bedroom a very thorough cleaning. Not many toys got thrown away, mostly just cleaned and re-organized. 

Henry fell off of Evelyn's bed and bit his lip. There was so. much. blood. For a cut that was about 1/2 long, blood poured all down his chin and chest, all over his hands, and all over my hands as I picked him up. Luckily, he didn't cry long and the blood dried up pretty quickly.

Bella and Evelyn have a beautiful fascination with nakedness. They like to strip down and run towards us while shaking their little rear ends. 

Daddy had a lot of travel this month, and this last week seemed especially long. This was a rare, quiet moment when I had given all three humans their dinner, and everything was quiet.

Yay! We are officially up to date! I'm sure I missed a lot, and sacrificed some of the "real" for the glossy, Instagram pictures, but at least we got the memories down!

Summer Vacation In Maryland

Other than my parents in Florida, practically my entire extended family, on my dad's side, lives in Maryland. I have great childhood memories of visiting cousins and the beach and walking on the boardwalk, but Steve and I haven't been up there since Bella was a few months old - it had been seven years! That's just way too long, so we decided to take our "Meyer Side of the Family" summer vacation on the Eastern Shore. 

It was one of those vacation where you're exhausted by the end, but you made so many cool memories! When you add everyone up, there's over a hundred aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, and all of that, so our girls got to meet so much family! And they did great - no shyness - they jumped right in and seemed to embrace everyone with no questions asked!

Playing games with Max and Adam

Out to lunch with the kids

Max and Henry...these two became BFF's by the end of the week

Seriously, Adam was a natural with Henry. He carried him around, let Henry climb all over him, and kept an eye on him when it was a big group of cousins.

Road trippin' in style! It's been a month now since we took this trip, so my memory is glossing over the 8 times that Henry puked, or the fact that six of those were all over me...

Crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge...a favorite childhood memory for Mel and I. The bridge goes down, under the water, so it looks like it just disappears.

Mel and I had a sister date on the boardwalk and became total tourists, complete with henna tattoos!

Papa and Mimi took Bella and Evelyn on their very own "All Out Boardwalk Date"...Tony's Pizza, Thrasher's Fries, and lots and lots of rides! Here's Mimi and Evelyn on the ferris wheel.

Words cant' describe the level of mind-blowing that happened in Bella's head on Assateague Island. A beach where wild herds mustangs roam? We could have left Bella there and she'd have lived a happy life.

More games with Mel and Aunt Melissa

Nighttime snuggles and reading with Papa

Group dinner with as many of us as possible!

Steve, Mel, and I took the kids for a lunch downtown, and some of the cousins (or technically, second cousins) walked down to join us! We loved that everyone lives within walking distance to each other!

Snow cones downtown! Only $1.00 a piece! These may have happened multiple times.

On the beach with Henry and June, one of the newest little second cousins

Family pose on the beach

Taking selfies is getting harder and harder, and Henry usually ends up getting elbowed in the face

One of our few together!

Maryland blue crabs...a tradition that we remember from our childhood AND seven years ago!

Took the girls to the Candy the rain. It was totally worth it! Old-fashioned candy, delicious fudge, a ton of chocolate - it was amazing!

Thrasher's fries and Bella's smile...both leave me speechless.

As best a shot as we could get!

I love photo booths!

This was our last morning in Maryland, and even though it was rainy, it was so much fun.

Girl Cousin Date Night - Meghan, me, Sara, Bethany, Andrea, and Mel...we went to this local restaurant called The Blacksmith.

My dinner...a pot roast on top of polenta. 

Evelyn ending every night on our bed, and on my pillow...we're still working on this.

Family picture

My dad and his siblings...Karl, Liz, Anne, Melissa, Peg, and dad...Karl drove down from New York to be there with everyone for a few days.

Hanging out after our blue crabs

Naomi, Evelyn, Bella, June, and Genevieve

Lily and Bella

Cousins and more cousins! For the kids' benefit, we basically called all grown-ups "aunt" or "uncle" and all of the kids were "cousins".

Relaxing on the beach

Wiped out after a long beach day!

Reading with Mimi

Sampling Bella's lollipop from the Candy Kitchen

A last shot from Papa and Mimi's date...this time with Papa and Bella on the ferris wheel.

It was a busy week, as we combined our immediate family's vacation with some vacation time with Papa and Mimi, and a vacation spent visiting our extended family! We made some precious memories and reconnected with family members we hadn't seen in years! Definitely a new tradition!