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Back to School 2016

So I kicked off this blog on July 13th of 2015 with our first day of school post.  As I wrote about in that post, our first day of school did not go as planned because we had been without air conditioning in our house since Saturday night.  The repairman was scheduled to come out “sometime on Monday” when he could “squeeze us in”.  So we actually had to pack our school books and head to the library and do school there until the repairman had a better idea of when he could come by.

Flash forward to the first day of school, July 11th, 2016 and we start our day headed to the mechanic to pick up our van that we had been without all weekend.

What IS it with things breaking the weekend before school starts???  (I don’t have a blog post to confirm the dates but the washing machine broke sometime in July of 2014 too….July is NOT our month….)

But we did start our day praising Jesus that there was nothing seriously wrong with the van and no additional repairs were needed beyond the battery that we replaced the previous Thursday.

So it was still early when we got back home so the first day of school DID happen (almost) just as I planned!

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The first thing he wanted to tackle was reading.

If you want to know why we start back to school in July, check out our “semi” year round homeschool plan here.

Here are the “must do” back to school pictures:

(The desk looks MUCH different than it did the night before – picture here)

The ballons on the desk made him so happy.  They’re his balloons.  I took them off the sticks so I could lay them on the desk.  But it still made him so happy.  He gets so excited about the little things.  It’s one of the things I love about him.

I get my back to school sign printables here.

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Our Worst Homeschool Day EVER and How We Got Through It

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Here I am, 48 hours on the other side of what was, hands down, bar none, the WORST day we’ve had in one and two-thirds year and 4 days of official homeschooling.  It was the WORST.

Bug is a smart kid and a sweet boy.  And homeschooling so far has been pretty great.  But I’m not going to lie, some of his coursework is getting harder.  He can DO it but it takes a little more effort that he’s used to.  Things until now have come so easily too him – I was afraid of what would happen when they don’t.

Math – he’s really good at.  I swear that boy sees the world in numbers.  He’s always figuring up this and that in his head.  Like the weather app on the phone says it’s 62 degrees right now and the low tonight will be 48.  He will figure up how much the temperature is going to go down and tell you.  He’s 7 and does this math in his head.  We have recently switched to Singapore math which I think is perfect for him.  But he’s having to think a little harder.  And he has a bad habit of shutting down if the answer doesn’t immediately come to him.  So now we’re working problems like 104+65+11 and he has to write it down and work it out and he hates that.  And word problems, heaven help us if he has to read a word problem.

Spelling – he’s a decent speller.  But again, if the answer doesn’t immediately come to him he shuts down.  And he’ll just start spitting out random letters.  And it makes me mad when he does this.

Writing/Language – Sweet baby Moses, this is his weak point.  He hates to write.  So I allow him to do a lot of diction.  But sometimes he doesn’t even want to think.  Make up a sentence about a cat using an adjective.  *crickets*    Now if we were driving down the road he’d be telling me fantastical stories he just made up in his head.  But if it’s for school…I can’t get a single sentence about a cat out of him.

Everything else he’s fine with.  He loves to read, to be read too, he loves history and he loves science.  But lately, he’s been throwing a little attitude in with his normal frustrations over the subjects he doesn’t like.  Which reallllllly gets under my skin.  I’ve been getting a lot of “I don’t LIKE school” and “I’m NOT going to do school today”.  In these moments I (try to) calmly go over the facts –

You have to do school – either here are home or in a “real” school.  It’s the law and Momma would get in trouble if you didn’t do school.

We are blessed that Momma can stay home and homeschool you.  We have a lot of fun and you get more free time.  Which he knows.  He knows that we get started waaay later than the kids in school and he always points out when the bus is rolling past the house and that he’s already finished with school and having fun with his toys.

He knows how good he has it.  But the ‘tude pops up more than I like it too.

So flashback to Tuesday.  It was 2:30 and we still had two more assignments to get through.   I was tired and things were piling up that needed to be done that I couldn’t get too because I was having to “hold his hand” through every lesson.  Things he SHOULD have been able to do on his own but wouldn’t.  And I wasn’t able to step away for a minute to make lunch, put clothes in the wash, go to the bathroom…

Everything that day had been a fight.  Math was a fight because I wanted HIM to copy the information from the word problems so I could make sure he could line them up correctly.  Spelling was fight because the new words were hard.  Even read aloud time (which is usually ok!) was a fight because he’s not fond of the book we’re currently reading.  Language was a fight because, well, I don’t know, because there were words I guess. I had painstakingly transferred all the assignments for language to dry erase lapboards so we could do our underlining, editing, and fill-in-the-blanks on dry erase boards with fun markers.  And he wasn’t having it.

And I had had it.  We both yelled, we both cried, we both took a timeout.  We tried again.  We yelled and cried some more.  And took another time out.

And here is how we got through it….

I did a lot of yelling.  I am not proud.  I yelled.  I was mad.  So he was sitting in his room where I had banished him too for his own good.  Because I was mad.

Did I mention I was mad?

I grabbed a book and asked him to meet me in my room.  Our favorite place to read during the school day is in the bed with extra pillows, blankets and stuffed animals.

So here he comes with his two favorite stuffed animals dragging his well loved blanket behind him.  And he climbs in the bed with me and falls against my chest, sobbing.

He was sorry.  “I am sorry for my bad attitude.”

Now I’m crying.  I apologize for yelling.

I ask him to take a deep breath for me.  And try to stop crying.  I want to read him a story and then we can talk when we’re both feeling better.

I can’t even remember what we read.  Seriously.  It was only two days ago and the book is probably still on my bedside table.  But I can’t remember it.

I do remember him cradled against my side studying each picture on every page as I read.

I do remember his deep, jagged breaths as he tried to calm himself so he can listen to the story.

I do remember breathing him in.  Oh, how many times we’ve snuggled and read a story in these past 7 years but this time I just wanted to soak him in.

I do remember squeezing him just a little tighter because I wanted him to know, to feel that Momma was sorry.

After the story, I asked him what we are supposed to do when we mess up, when we need help or when things are going badly.

“Pray.”

So I told him I was going to pray and if he wanted to add anything to our prayer I would let him.  I started by thanking God for loving us and blessing us.  I asked for peace in our hearts and to remove the ill feelings and bad attitudes.  I asked for forgiveness for our mistakes today.  And G chimed in with “I’m sorry for my bad attitude” before erupting in sobs again.  I closed the prayer and hugged him until he felt better.

And then I suggested that we end our school day and start fresh the next day.

I think that last bit made ALL the difference.  He knew we still had work today.  We had abandoned language in the midst of our bad moment.  Books still splayed open on the desk.  I can’t be sure, but I feel like he knew we were going to have to go back to that and it was upsetting him.  He wanted to be done.  He needed to be done.  And he was dreading not being done.

Oh, but grace.  I decided we needed grace.  I was in no mood to talk about nouns and adjectives.  And I knew there was no way he was going to absorb anything from the lesson in the state he was in.  No good was going to come from trying to do it.  Or even science which we hadn’t got to yet – even though he enjoys science – there are just times that you can’t even enjoy your most favorite thing.

So what do you do when you’re faced with the WORST homeschool day ever?

Or rather, what should you do to stop a really bad day from turning into the worst day ever?

1.  Take a time out.  Everyone.  

Send the kids to their rooms.  If you have tiny ones, secure them in a crib, bouncer or somewhere where you can step away for a moment and retreat to your quiet place.  Even if it’s the bathroom.  Cry.  Pray.  Breathe.  Take a few minutes to get it together.

2.  Come back together but not back to the situation.  

Bond over something.  Snuggle on the couch and read a book.  Or watch a cartoon.  Just be close for a few minutes.

DON’T go back to the school books.

3.  Pray together.

Now you might be saying, “Well, you should do this first!”  But I have to disagree.  Prior to the time out I was in no mood to pray.  And you say, “Well, that’s not how it works.”  Well, maybe it doesn’t.  But for the benefit of my 7 year old and using this moment to teach him about prayer I need to be in a better frame of mind.  I can angry pray by myself when I have my timeout.  Then I’ll be in the right frame of mind to lead prayer.

Also, allow your child to pray to if they feel comfortable with it.  Modeling prayer is something I’ve tried to do all along with G.  He says his bedtime prayers but in moments like this he prefers that I pray because he “doesn’t know what to say”.  I keep reminding him that he can say whatever he wants to God or whatever he feels like he needs to say. But I don’t push.  So his words he contributed to the prayer on this day were a welcome surprise.  It made my heart swell.

4. Call it a day.

Seriously, if it’s that bad, just let it go.  That’s the beauty of homeschooling.  There is so much grace in homeschooling.  Now, if you’re having a hard time on a regular basis, then I’m not advocating calling it quits after 2 subjects every day. At some point you’re going to have to do steps 1-3 and then go back to the books and power through it.

But if it’s occasional, sometimes you just need to reset.  We ended up having a wonderful afternoon together – just being together.   And later that evening while he was playing with LEGOs I grabbed our read aloud book, missionary stories and Bible story book and did the next days reading.  He was attentive and it was enjoyable and it got us ahead in those subjects,  which was helpful because I knew we had a little catching up to do the next day on the subjects we abandoned.

5.  Start Fresh the Next Day

We started our morning the next day with a prayer that our hearts and attitudes would be better and that our day would be blessed.

We had a better day.  🙂

What do you do when your homeschool day has been bad?   I would love to hear how you reset!

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Weekly Recap – in which I recap TWO weeks

Forgive me for not recapping last week.  We took a field trip to Montgomery with our co-op.  It’s a good two hour drive so it was a busy day!

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I’m glad we went.  BigG was really excited about going.  Which is great, because I thought it might be too boring for a 6 year old.  But he had a great time.  I’ll tell you more about it in minute.

Let’s start at the beginning of the week.

We were reading My Father’s Dragon and have enjoyed it a lot more than the first read-aloud in Sonlight Core A.  Well, BigG enjoyed the Boxcar Children but I did not.  But we’ve both enjoyed My Father’s Dragon.

Here’s what he worked on during read-aloud time (because he has to have something for his hands to do):

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If you’re familiar with the book, you might recognize it as a map of the island and all the animals the character meets.  The black thing is the dragon flying away.  LOL.  The book is part of a series so I’m hoping the library has the others.

We made fossils out of toy dinosaur skeletons and playdough.  (We were wrapping up the Apologia Zoology 1 chapter on pterosaurs and I needed something to keep him still and quiet for a few minutes.  It was a big hit!  He’s done it twice on his own since!)

History was Vikings.  BigG loves vikings.  We recently read Imagination Station: Voyage with the Vikings so everything we learned from it was fresh in our minds.  We’re on book 4 of the Imagination Station series and we love it!  They’re a lot like Magic Tree House books but with a Christian spin.  We usually read them at bedtime.  It’s our non-curriculum reading but equally as educational.

So then there was Montgomery.  We went to:

It was a lot of fun!  But boy were we tired!  But not too tired to stop at Peach Park in Clanton on our way home for ice cream!

The Saturday, we went to the Anniston Museum of Natural History for free admission day they do once a year.  We always love our trips to the Anniston Museum!  There was a reptile show too.  BigG loved it!

Well, that was last week.  This week, we managed to stay in our county.  LOL.

We just started our next read aloud in Core A – The Hundred Dresses.  And history this week was all stories from I Heard the Good News Today.    I’m really pleased and pleasantly surprised at how much we are both enjoying this book!  This week we read about St. Patrick, Columba and Boniface.  All of them were missionaries in the early ADs.  I get a devotional in the mail from Samaritan’s Purse (a charity that we support) called Prayer Point and each week it tells a story of what the missionaries are doing in a specific country.  I decided we would pick this up once a week, find the country on the map, read about what the missionaries are doing and pray for the things it lists are being needed in that country.  This has gone over very well.  I’m pleased.

So basically, to recap, things are very positive!  Our Sonlight curriculum is working well!  BigG is being an open, receptive student.  And things are just going well!

We’re taking Monday off to spend with family and swim.  How about you?

Weekly Wrap-Up
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We’re in 2nd Grade!

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So what if it was the 1st day of the 5th week of school before I took our back to school picture?

IHeartNaptime has these ADORABLE back to school printable signs that we use every year.  And they just say “I am a ___ grader” instead of “first day of” so I don’t technically have  to take the pictures on the 1st day.  As long as I get a picture before August is over, I’m happy!

 

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Week 5: Pterodactyls, King Tut and Togas

This has been a good week!   We took last week off so this was week 5 of school.  But in our Sonlight curriculum we just finished week 4.  Since Sonlight was new to us this year, we spread week 1 over 2 weeks to get used to it.

Anyway.  We took a few moments at the beginning of the week and back up to what we talked about 2 weeks ago – Ancient Egypt.

I picked up this awesome book at a book sale a couple weekends ago (it even still had all the posters in it!)

Learning About Ancient Civilizations Through Art (Grades 3-6)

Full-color posters and activities that teach about eight incredible cultures of the past: Prehistoric, Minoan, Eqyptian, Mayan, Pompeian, Chinese, Mayan, and Pueblo

I gave less than $5 for it at the sale.  Which was awesome.  It’s for grades 3-6 but some of the activities are easy enough to pare down for a 2nd grader.  I knew we had to take a moment and go back to the civilizations we had already discussed.  We looked at the poster of the cave painting and discussed where it was and how it was found (Sonlight Core A week 1 discusses cave dwellings and cave paintings.  We even made our own cave painting)

But we spent a few extra moments on the Egyptian section of it.  We studied King Tut’s Throne, made a cartouche and designed our own throne.  I’m glad we took the time to do that because it gave me a chance to see what he retained from a couple weeks ago.

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Our history this week has been about Ancient Rome so of COURSE we had to make Togas to wear.  And we talked about Roman Mosaics and made our own.  I really think art is a great way to learn about ancient civilizations.

History Pockets: Ancient Civilizations, Grades 1-3 is another great resources.  We’ve been using the “words to know” cards and “Postcards from….” sections in our History Journal and have done a couple other activities that go along with our section of history (so far, the book has been useful for Egypt, Greece and Rome – 3 of the first 4 Sonlight Core A history topics!)

I know it sounds like we’re supplementing a lot to our Core A history.  There was a discussion about this in one of the Sonlight Homeschool Mom Facebook groups I’m in.  We’re using Core A which is suggested for K-2nd grade/ages 5-7.  We are on the higher end of the core recommendations – which is fine and I’m glad we didn’t skip this core and go straight to B.  But so far the history (which is at most, 2-4 pages a day from the Usborne Children’s Encyclopedia or The Usborne Book of Living Long Ago: Everyday life through the Ages – which are fun books.  But so far it’s a repeat of our history last year (which was just a hodge-podge of stuff I put together based on BigG’s interests in countries and maps) and lots of Magic Tree House books.  So I was getting a lot of “I knew that already” and history was taking about 5 minutes a day.  So I’m glad to have something that is hands on and expands our history to 15-20 minutes a day – still a reasonable amount of time to expect a 2nd grade almost-7-year-old to pay attention.

Ok, so Tut, Togas and Pterodactyls….

We’re bouncing through Apologia Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the 5th day.  It’s a deep text.  We’re hitting the high points.  We actually started it back in the spring because we were finished with our 1st grade science way early thanks to BigG wanting to do 2-3 lessons at a time and it having only about half a year’s worth of (easy) lessons in it.  Plus, spring is a great time to start learning about bird’s anyway!  We turned our back yard into a haven for birds, got to see some species of birds even I had never seen before and make science come alive a bit.

So we’ve finished the bird part of Zoo 1 and we skipped ahead to the back to do the butterfly section while it was still spring/early summer and could study butterflies outside.  Now we’re on the section about Pterosaurs.  We’ve spent a little more time on this portion because dinosaurs has been a HUGE interest area for BigG for years (but yes, we learned that pterosaurs are a different order of animals than dinosaurs.)  So it’s been fun.

We’re going to make fossils today to wrap it up and move on to another section.  I think we’re going to do bats next.

This was a really long post to say that it’s been a great week!  We took a week off last week so we came back this week refreshed and ready to learn some more!

Be sure to check out my post on our “Semi-Year Round Homeschool Schedule”.

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This post is part of the Weekly Round Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers!

Weekly Wrap-Up
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Weeks 3 and 4 Wrap Up: Field Trip, History Journals and Art

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Wow, last week was insanely busy.  I didn’t even have time to write about it!    We did take another field trip.  This one was short and only partially educational so we did a half school day that day.   What are your requirements for day to count as school?  I feel like three core subjects must be completed to call it a school day.  Our field trip day coincided with the end of a math unit and spelling test day.  So when we got home he did his tests, reading and a short LA assignment.  School day done.  🙂  (As I’m writing this, today consisted of Science, Reading, Spelling and Art.  We doubled up on some lessons earlier in the week because we have plans tomorrow and then next week is our break.  So we couldn’t really start anything new.   But I still wanted it count today as a school day.  Our state requires a certain number of days to be completed.)

We are rocking along in Sonlight Core A and still loving it!

One thing we started this week to go along with Core A’s history is a History Notebook – or History Journal.  I stocked up on these Primary Journals when they were on sale for back to school.  (I got them for $2 each).  So we’re using one to journal about history.  Which is mostly me writing down important facts after our history readings, having BigG read the facts to me and then illustrating something from the reading.

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Writing skills is something we’re working hard on this year.  But I’m not pushing him because when it comes to writing, that really backfires.  Sonlight’s LA for 2nd is about all the writing he can stand for one day.  So as long as he’s doing that well, I’m ok with him dictating and me writing.  We do the same thing with our Apologia notebook.

As for week 4, we didn’t take any field trips this week.  (I know!  I broke our streak of a field trip a week for 3 weeks!)   We finished reading The BoxCar Children which is the first Read Aloud for Core A.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t love it.  But we did read two stores from James Herriott’s Treasury for Children.  They were sweet stories.  BigG and I both enjoyed them.  I can’t wait to read more.

I’ve also been trying to find something for Art that’s REAL art and can be taught by someone who is not artistic (me).  I came across the Adventures in Art Curriculum at a consignment sale for just $5!   And it just so happened to be 2nd grade!

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We love art.  BigG loves making art and we both enjoying looking at art.  So far, this curriculum is great!

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So that’s four weeks of school down for us!  Local public schools start back next week but we will be taking our first one week break!  Yay!

Next week I will share with you our semi-year round schedule for school.

This is part of the Weekly Wrap Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers!

Weekly Wrap-Up
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Loving Sonlight Already | Core A Week 1 & our Supplemental Activities

I am so glad that I found Sonlight for our school year. After 2 weeks, I’m already in love. I love how it’s laid out for me and all I have to do is pick up my IG and the books we need and go. And I love how the subjects work together. It makes the lessons flow instead of feeling like we’re shifting gears between each subject.

We’re using Core A with Language Arts 2. The history seems a little light but I think it will pick up. Core A is made to work with K-2nd grade so I figured it might be a little light but everyone I talked to said not to skip Core A if your child fell within the age range. And I hate missing out on stuff so we went with it.

Core A History starts at dirt.  By that I mean creation.  But since it uses Usborne’s Children’s Encyclopedia and The Usborne Book of Living Long Ago it presents an old earth, “dinosaurs before man” and evolutionary version of history.  The Sonlight IG does a good job of helping you navigate these topics if you’re unsure of how to do it.  This is a topic I’ve discussed with BigG often so it was just a normal discussion to him.  He knows why we believe they way we believe.

One of the first history lessons discusses “cavemen”.  And while we don’t dispute the fact that people used caves as shelter, we don’t believe that they were unintelligent neanderthals.  One of the things the section on cave people discussed was cave paintings.  It suggested making a cave painting of your own but it was about putting your hands on paper and blowing paint around it to make a handprint.  That sound messy and not fun.

So I improvised!

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Make a Cave Painting

In the lesson it talks about how they made their own paints and used twigs, feathers, reeds, etc as “paintbrushes”.  So we went outside and gathered some things that we thought might make good paintbrushes.

We came back in and got started.  Ideally I would’ve used a brown piece of construction paper to paint on but apparently we’ve had a run on brown in the house and there wasn’t a piece to be found anywhere.  Orange made a good substitute.

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We discussed how mixing paints and making cave paintings actually pointed to intelligence and creativity bestowed upon man by our Creator.

We talked about things that might be easy to paint using the tools we had.  He decided on water, a boat and mountains.

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About halfway through trying to use a stick to paint mountains he decided that it would just be easier to use his finger to finish them.  So he did.  And he thought that was AWESOME.  Apparently I’ve never let him paint with his fingers before.

Here’s what else we’re doing to go along with our Sonlight:

Vocabulary Notebook – This is coming in handy.  When we come across one of the vocabulary words in our read-aloud, we write it down with the meaning.  Plus any other words that are new to BigG.  We review them everyday before we read our next chapter in our read-aloud.  He always points out the word if it comes up again.  I have no plans to test him formally on these words.  I think reviewing them each day is sufficient at this level.

Busy Activity during Read-Alouds – BigG is no stranger to chapter books but the first read aloud, The Boxcar Children, is lacking the pictures he’s used to in our newer chapter books we’ve been reading.  We have an older edition of it, I don’t know if the newer ones have better pictures.  I don’t mind that it doesn’t have exciting pictures – I think it’s good for BigG.  But I have allowed him to sit with his Legos or Play-Doh during read-aloud time.  The only stipulation is that what he makes during that time has to relate to the story somehow.  When our chapter is over he has to tell me about what he’s made.  This works as a check to see if he was really listening.   One day he made a boxcar out of Legos.  Another day he tried making the children out of Play-doh.

That’s all for now!  Can’t wait to share more with you as we keep going through this year!