We’re Breeding Executives

Duh.  Our children are beyond brilliant and will run companies.  That’s what we mean when we say we are working on “executive skills”, right?  Not so much.  Though I do think they are brilliant.  😉  I’d like to share what I’ve learned about executive skills.  I am in no way an expert (or even close to it), but I think the information is incredibly important for all parents (not just homeschoolers).

After coming across the book Smart But Scattered  (which appealed to me for obvious reasons), I realized that not just for kids with attention issues, but for ALL kids, executive skills are something that are easily ignored, but perhaps at a major disservice.  We all know the joke about the helicopter mom:  the one who does everything for their kid and can’t just sit back and let them try things and make mistakes.  It is so easy to do, and frankly, I am definitely a helicopter mom in some ways.  I will always hover, to be sure my children are being polite, kind and respectful individuals.  I will always scoop them up to give them hugs when the get hurt, physically or otherwise.  And I will always be willing to help and to scaffold whatever it is they are doing.  I won’t always be willing to make their beds, do their laundry, and make sure they work up to their potential.  There are things I need and want them to know, in the core of themselves, and knowing they can take care of themselves and do their best work possible are some of them.

At this point you may be asking yourself “That’s all great, but what in the world are executive skills?”.  Since I am so nice I will save you a Google search.

Executive skills cover two major areas:  response inhibition and working memory.  Essentially kids (and adults) need to be able to think before they act, make a plan and then hold the plan in their mind long enough to execute it.  That is the most basic of basic ways I can think to explain it.  Essentially if you say “Excuse me, dearest of dear children of mine, please go put that sock in the drawer” (that’s how we all talk, right?) and your adorable lovey walks up the stairs without the sock and begins playing legos… That sweet little pumpkin head is lacking executive skills.  And you may get the most teensy-bit-angry and wonder “Will this child ever listen?!” and the answer is that they can learn to listen.  Just as they can learn to walk and talk, they can learn  to listen to directions and think them through.  But when your child was 9 months old, did you just start demanding he/she started walking?  No!  You put them in a device to help them strengthen their legs.  You bounced them on your lap and giggled as they “jumped”.  You held on to their chubby little fingers while they toddled between your spread out legs.  You helped and encouraged their learning!  And that’s what we are trying to do with executive skills.

A list of Executive Skills:

Response inhibition

Working memory

Emotional control

Sustained attention

Task initiation

Planning and prioritizing

Organization

Time management

Flexibility (the ability to revise plans)

Goal directed persistence

Metacognition (the ability to self evaluate)

(I pulled this list from here.)

So, if you are like me, you want to run and pin your kids down and start building these skills rightthisveryminute.  But if you follow the teachings of Charlotte Mason at all, you know the best way to attack a list like this is to pick one (or a skill set) and focus on it for 6 weeks.  At the end of that 6 weeks, the hope is that they have developed a habit.   So look at the list and pick one, and then you are ready to begin.  Good luck!

Just kidding.  (See!  No one likes a lack of direction and information!)

Again, I am no expert, and I can only share our journey as we try to teach our children these important skills.

Here’s one of my dirtiest secrets:  I lack some of these skills myself.  Before I had kids, I was a super organized person.  I knew what I was eating for the day before I woke up.  I have planners in my basement filled with deadlines, details, reminders, etc.  I had a file folder for everything.  After having kids I spend more time feeling like I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  Please, please tell me you feel the same.  And if you have more kids than I do and manage to keep it all in check, spill it!  I applaud you and want to know your tricks!  Anyway, I do still keep a planner (paper, please!) and Molly noticed and asked for one of her own.  This sparked the idea of supplementing our normal “calendar” time (which is really more for her little sister, anyway) with a more “grown up” version of calendar time, which would really provide some good practice for planning and prioritizing.  So each Monday, Molly takes our her planner and writes all of her activities for the week.  She has already filled in her friends’ birthdays, so she can be sure to be considerate and call them that day.  The rest of the week, our first task of the day is to take our her planner and review what is coming up.  Sometimes she may have conflicts and we’ll talk about how we should settle them.  Skip an activity?  Let them know she’ll be late?  Whatever the case, she is in on it.  In the next few weeks, I’d like to back off a bit on helping her fill it in, and let her see what she can do from memory (piano on Mondays, ballet on Wednesdays…) so the task is almost complete in her circle of responsibility.  She really enjoys using her planner, and lo and behold, her 3 year old sister wants to start using one, too.  I do remind her to use neat handwriting, but the fact of the matter is that this is HER planner.  I wouldn’t appreciate someone telling me how to use mine!  If she writes sloppily and runs out of room or can’t read it later, that is a good lesson for her, too.  I’m all about natural consequences. 😉

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About 6 weeks ago, we started the rule that before they come down stairs they need to get dressed and make their beds.  That was modified a bit to “after breakfast, get dressed and make beds” because it drove me crazy to have food on their clothes before we even started their day.  😉  However, Molly struggles with making her bed.  She has a really hard time remembering to pull up her sheet, and so it is usually hanging, sloppily out at the bottom of her bed.  What to do?!  I don’t want to hover and critique her every move,  but I *do* want her to learn to do it properly.  Peg Dawson (author of Smart but Scattered) suggests making lists and having them available for kids to see (with words or picture cues), as well as staying in the room to provide support for staying on task and providing encouragement along the way at first, and helping to solve any problems that arise.  We made a picture card map for cleaning her bedroom awhile ago, and it does seem to help, so I made one for making her bed, too.  I simply whipped one up in Photoshop (a word processing doc will do just fine),  laminated it and stuck it to the wall rightnexttoherbed, so when she tells me “I don’t know hooooooowwwww”, I can tell her, “oh yes, you do.”  😉  Because this is in very clear, direct and numbered steps, she also has a very clear guideline of when her task has been completed.  Peg Dawson is a huge advocate for forms of any kind (check lists, tables, charts, etc) to give kiddos visual cues and provide clear plan making guidelines.  There are lots of reproducibles in the book, however I think you could easily make them custom for your specific circumstances.  We have several lists around the house, including our school day in the order it will be done, so that she knows exactly what comes next.

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That’s all I’ve got for this huge undertaking so far.  I’d love to hear how other parents are attacking teaching these skills.  We’ve dabbled a bit with making plans (“can you please draw a picture of what you are going to do with your free-time today?”), but I think that is our next step.  We definitely need to practice our forward thinking around here!

Super Banana Muffins

Its Sunday so you know what that means at our house!  Muffin baking day!  My hubby scored some super ripe bananas that someone was about to pitch at work this week… ummmm, excuse me?  We can totally use those!  (Don’t have ripe bananas?  No problem.)  This recipe is *almost* original.  I took a couple that are faves or looked good and meshed them together, specifically one I’ve been making forever from a Cooking Light cookbook (that uses cream of tartar (I used all mine up in snickerdoodles over the holidays…), and this one from Ina, and made them a teensy bit healthier.  This recipe does have sugar in it.  I ran out of honey while making the granola… So if you have the honey to substitute, that is definitely the healthier choice.  Both of these recipes are stellar as is, but we’re always trying to make things a little healthier, right?  That is where the idea of granola on top seemed appealing.  Last week someone commented on the healthy nature of the pumpkin muffins, and we agreed that a muffin just doesn’t seem much like a muffin without crumble.  You know the kind.  The butter/sugar/four mix that makes the muffin purely the vehichle for its crunchy sweet goodness?  Since I truly can’t give those to the girls on a regular basis without massive amounts of mommy guilt, when I saw the Ina recipe with granola on top my first thought was “problem solved”!  I liked her additon of chopped bananas, too.

Super Banana Muffins

2 ripe bananas

1/3 c sugar

1/3 c brown sugar

(sub 2/3 cup honey for all the sugar if you have it!)

1/4 c unsweetened applesauce

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1/2 c white whole wheat flour

1/3 c oat flour (you can make it yourself)

2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1 banana, chopped

1/4 -1/2 c granola (store bought, or make your own – double the recipe for snacks for the week!)

We all know how to make muffins from here, right?

Preheat your oven to 350*

Combine the wet ingredients and sugar and mix with a mixer (stand or hand) until smooth.

If you are making your own oat flour, simply add some oats (a little more than 1/2 c) to a mini food processor (I have this one) and pulse until ground.  Should look like this:

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Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

Mix together dry and wet ingredients.  Do not over mix.

Gently stir in chopped banana.

Scoop muffin batter into 12 regular sized muffin tins, lined with paper liners or silicone muffin cups.  Top  each muffin with a bit of granola.

Bake for 15-17 minutes until toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean or with moist crumbs.

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The girls and I already gobbled a couple of these up as taste testers, and I know Adam promised the banana donor a couple as a thank you.  So its a good thing I made extra granola!

As always, I’ll freeze whatever is left in ziplocks and we’ll just pull a couple out for breakfast each morning and nuke them for about 30 seconds.

**as a disclaimer, these muffins are fairly healthy, and therefore do not taste like cupcakes.  They are moist and fluffy, but the sweetness is subtle!**

Now its time to get ready for our week at school!  What are you and your kiddos up to this week?  I think we’ll be making a model of blood and starting our Van Gogh lessons!

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super banana muffins

History Museum Field Trip

Today we went with out co-op on an incredibly fun field trip to our local history museum. We’ve been to the Field Museum in Chicago (and are due back for a visit), but today we learned all about the pioneers who settled here in our town 200 years ago. They heard stories about the pioneers and there was even a play area so they could try out many of the chores pioneer children would have been responsible for. Molly has been into chores the last few days, so this was pretty exciting for her to pretend to be a pioneer girl and comare and contrast what her chores would have been like. We were able to eat lunch there and then continue exploring the museum on our own. They loved the courtroom- and especially were intrigued by the locked doors that we think would have lead to the judges chambers. They declared it a mystery and went around the museum noticing that a lot of the doors had the same knob, with their friend C (a clue!). It was all great fun.

We know that the more humans are exposed to as children the higher their capacity for learning in the future. Getting those neurons firing and forming those pathways is so important and why field trips are a top priority for our family. Will they remember everything they did and saw and learned today? Maybe. Probably not. But I do know it was a very healthy day for their brains and that they were exposed to new (to them) ideas, patterns, architecture, thought processes, textures and more. So even our 3 year old who can’t quite grasp the idea of the pioneers in a concrete way still benefited greatly from the experience.

I honestly have walked by this museum dozens of times and never knew how kid friendly it was. It makes me wonder what else we are missing out on in our little town!

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Nomads and the First Farmers

We needed a day to catch up on some of our “fun” subjects (history, music and science!).  For history we are using a combination of both Ancients from History Odyssey  and Story of the World.

We have been studying the first people, or nomads, and also the first farmers who settled in the Fertile Crescent.  After doing our readings from Story of the World and A Child’s History of the World we colored the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the Fertile Crescent and some of the first cities (Jericho and Catal Huyuk).  There are maps provided with both curriculums, though you could find one on your own with a quick google search.

We learned in our readings about the first farm machine, the shaduf.  A shaduf is a lever with a bucket attached to one end.  The farmers would dig canals from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that extended onto their farm land.  The would then use the shaduf to scoop water out of the canal and onto their farm land.  After coloring a picture of a farmer using one, we decided to build our own.

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This coloring page was from the Story of The World program.  I would think it would be easy enough to replicate if you can draw a bit.

This one was my idea, so these are the only directions I have for you.  We honestly made it up as we went along.  We gathered supplies, which we brain stormed while looking at the coloring page.  We decided to make the posts out of legos, use pencils for the lever parts, yarn for the string, a children’s Advil cup for the bucket, and some rocks from the yard for the weight.

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I was too busy building to take step by step photos, but first each girl built a post and measured them to be sure they were of equal size so our shaduf would be level.  Then we used the yarn to tie the pencils together.  We then wrapped the yarn around our rocks so we could tie them to one end of the lever pencil and tied up the Advil cup with yarn on the other side.  This was the trickiest part because our materials were so slippery.  We ended up cheating and using some stickers to keep the yarn from sliding off.   Because this could have proved to be an incredibly frustrating project for them to try to build themselves (with the tying and wrapping of the yarn to the objects) I mostly did the work while they gave directions.  When they got confused they’d use their picture as a guide.

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In the end we added some farm land and a farmer and used little legos as water to demonstrate how it all worked.  Molly really, really enjoyed this project and it definitely was a great demonstration of how farmers were able to get water from the rivers for their crops.

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A better picture of it all put together.

**Because this got pretty heavy it fell over a few times.  I used some sticky tack (what we use to hang things on the wall) on the bottom of the legos and that did the trick to keep it all upright.**

We went a bit out of order and address cave painting next.  We talked about how we know what life was like for nomads because of the paintings they left on the walls of the caves they stayed in.  We used the iPad to look at lots of pictures of cave paintings.  Then we made our own!  (This idea was in The Story of The World curriculum.  It is definitely the more hands on of the two.)

We crumpled up brown paper bags to make our “cave walls” and picked out oil pastels of the colors we saw in the cave paintings.  They each picked an animal (a zebra and a cow) and went to work.  I thought these turned out pretty darn cute, and they loved pretending to be cave dwellers.  (Please forgive the awful pictures.  I may be forced to get out my real camera.  But then these posts wouldn’t come to fruition…)

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I hope if you have a kiddo interested in cave dwellers or ancient history these projects will be fun for you!  We definitely had a blast doing them, and I know the shaduf is going to be a favorite thing to play with in the coming days.

Happy Presidents Day!

Fun fact of the day:  George Washington was homeschooled until he was 16!

We follow our local school’s schedule for the most part, so we technically have the day off.  But, history is one of Molly’s favorite subjects, so we’ve spent our morning watching lots of little videos about the first and sixteenth presidents this morning.

We subscribe to BrainPop Jr which is a free app for both the iPhone and iPad, but can also be accessed on your computer.  Each week they post a new video which is free.  Each video has an easy quiz (perfect for lower elementary kiddos) and hard quiz (great for older kids) and a couple cute jokes.  You can download the app and never spend a penny on these adorable videos.  There are two levels of subscription.  For $1.99 a month (Brain Pop Jr. Explorer)  you can access three videos related to the free video, as well as their quizes and jokes, and these changes each week (and, if appropriate, these coorilate with what is going on in the world… Holidays, Martin Luther King Jr, etc).  For $5.99 a month (Brain Pop Jr. Full Access) you can access any of the videos and extras at any time.  Our kids love Mobey and Annie.  This is a fun addition to your day no matter which option you choose.  If you do want to subscribe its in app purchase and is billed through your iTunes account each month.  Easy peasy.

There is also BrainPop  which is geared more for upper elementary grades.  One of this week’s free movies is about Abraham Lincoln.  There seem to be several free ones, so look around!

A couple other videos about George Washington are pinned on my social studies Pinterest board.  Happy learning and happy Presidents Day!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

Yes, my third post on this blog is about muffins.  Seems random, for a homeschool blog, no?  Well, first of all, I’m pretty sure not everyone that is visiting (which is way more than I ever would have guessed!!) is a homeschooler- probably mostly moms who are busy.  So, I figure a few recipes here and there only add to the sharing.  🙂

A few months ago, our days were incredibly stressed.  Molly was melting down multiple times a day, and not just little ones.  Door slamming, screaming, stomping teenager-sized meltdowns.  You may remember that a main reason we started homeschooling was because of some “issues” we noticed with Molly.   In December, before Christmas, most days were ending with both of us stressed out and worried about how we would finish this year, let alone another.  My heart was torn because our relationship was so clearly strained over this thing that Adam *and I* now both believed in so fully.  But, if it meant Molly thinking I thought she wasn’t good none of it was worth it.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an information hoarder.  Which lends itself nicely to being a book hoarder.  So, one night after many tears from both Molly and I, Adam sent me off to the book store to lick my wounds.  He knows me so well.  Unfortunately for our bank account, this is what happened:

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If you follow me on GoodReads you can follow up on how I liked these books (though I’m not quite through them all).  I will say that I *highly* recommend Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids.  Highly.  Its not rocket science, but its basically our parenting philosophy in writing, and I really needed to get back to my roots.  Its a great book.

I had heard in passing about kids being allergic to Red Dye 40.  We don’t tend to let our kids have tons of processed food, but we aren’t nutritional saints, either.  And I honestly had no idea how many foods red dye was in.  But the symptoms of being allergic, or sensitive, to it were all there.  So, we decided to try ditching it (which isn’t always easy, especially at Valentine’s Day!).  While researching that, we also found several articles stating that protien in the morning was helpful in de-railing some other behaviors we were struggling with.   I will be totally transparent and say that my kids usually ate cereal for breakfast every.single.morning.  I am not a morning person and most days I feel like they are lucky to get cereal before I’ve had some time to wake up myself.  But I was willing to  try anything to see if we could improve things during our school day.  I started with making eggs, whole wheat toast and some fruit.  They both love eggs but they aren’t their favorite so we adjusted as the weeks went on.  At this point they are both really happy with a healthy muffin and a vanilla greek yogurt w/honey for their protein.  Some days they get a cheese stick.  Some days they get peanut butter toast.  But since we’ve been doing this (and watching out for red dye) Molly’s behavior has improved so much.  So, so much.  She isn’t begging for a snack an hour after breakfast and she is much better able to tackle challenges in school vs. slamming doors and screaming.  I’ll take that, anyday.

Looooooong way around to why I bake muffins each week and why I feel they can fill an important role in having good school days (at school or otherwise).  🙂  Its also far more budget friendly to bake a batch of muffins than it is to buy a $4.00 box of sugar cereal and only takes about 30 minutes.  Make them on Sunday afternoon and freeze them.  Microwave them or pull them out the night before and they taste like fresh baked all week long.  These look good, too!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

(adapted from Magnolia Bakery Cookbook– which is my favorite baking cookbook ever and if you love cookbooks and don’t have it put it on your wish list.)

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2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)

1.5 cups milk (great chance to use up left over butter milk, whole milk, cream or whatever.  Or use skim (or whatever you drink).  That is what I use 99% of the time.)  Sub almond milk if you are vegan/DF)

1 cup all purpose flour

.5 cup white whole wheat flour

1 T baking powder

1/2 t salt

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t pumpkin pie spice (just use more cinnamon if you don’t have this on hand)

2 large eggs (for vegan you’ll need an egg substitute.  I’ve read this one is good, though I haven’t used it yet.)

1 c pumpkin

1/2 c honey

1 t vanilla extract

You can add chocolate chips, walnuts, raisins, craisins etc.  We eat ours plain to avoid adding sugar, but in theory you could add stuff in!

Preheat oven to 400*

Grease well a 12-cup muffin tin (or use wrappers or silicone baking cups)

In a medium bowl mix oats and milk and let sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine dry ingredients, making a well in the center.  Stir in the liquid ingredients and the oatmeal mixture until just combined, being careful not to over mix. Batter may be lumpy.

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Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full.  Bake for 16-18 min (I find 15 to be enough to be sure they aren’t over baked) until a tooth pick (or whatever you have handy… I usually grab a knife)  inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs.  Do not over bake.

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I find this recipe makes 12 muffins plus three muffin tops (which only need 5-7 min to bake).  My sweet friend Kristine bought me one of these a few years ago and the girls and I just love them.  🙂

Happy Baking!

Printable recipe:

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Molly’s Curriculum

This question is honestly the reason I decided to start this little blog.  I spend a lot of time sending out links to people who want to know about “my” ideas.  And lets be clear, next to none of them are mine, and I will always do my very very best to give credit where credit is due.  I love to share, but nothing drives me more crazy than people who take credit when it isn’t theirs to take.  So, I promise to always link back to things I’ve seen elsewhere- so expect a lot of links.  🙂

The biggest reason I love homeschooling is the ability to choose curriculum that makes sense to my kids.  What works for my kid, may not work for any other kid.  Some people love “boxed” curriculums.  I love picking and choosing.  I also love that when we get a bit run down with these selections we can take a week to explore something they are interested in, a holiday, something that coorelates with a field trip and then come back to this with fresh attitudes.  Some people may think my kids are too young for science and history and fine arts… but thats what they love to learn about.  So that is what we do.

Last summer I spent a good deal of time investigating and researching and asking opinions on curriculum.  At the time I had two friends who homeschooled (coincidentally both named Summer) who helped me greatly in sorting out all the choices.  I couldn’t ever express enough gratitude to them for listenting to be weigh out my options.  Curriculum is pricey, and I was terrified of hating everything I picked.  Luckily, that isn’t the case, for the most part.  🙂

Math:  Math U See  We really are loving this program.  It is based on manipulatives you can order from the website and a DVD that introduces each lesson.  We started Molly with Primer, though more than half of it was too easy for her, it was an excellent base, introduced skip counting, telling time and the manipulatives, which would be very important later.  She started Alpha just a few weeks after the start of school and we couldn’t be happier with it.  Lucy started Primer at the begining of the year, and really enjoys it.  In the interest of being honest, Molly is at the point where we need to practice math facts, which isn’t all that fun for anyone.  Thanks to Summer, we’ve begun using Math Drills which is amazing.  You can specify which drills you need the kids to practice and when they finish a “test” it gives them a speed in MPH, and a certificate that they can email to friends and family.  Its brilliant.  Seriously.

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This was the first curriculum she “completed” and she was outrageously excited to be starting Alpha.

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Both girls working on their math and sharing the blocks. They do each have their own set. The case is from Container Store (thank you, Summer!). You can also see Molly’s planner in this picture, which is the main part of our “calendar” time for her. It is very important to me to teach her executive skills. If you don’t know about them, check out the book Smart But Scattered. Its not one I would recommend buying, but it is a good read.

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Lucy *loves* math. I think it makes her feel like a big girl. 🙂

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Lucy watching Mr. Demme

Spelling:  We use All About Spelling.  I can’t say teaching spelling is my favorite thing… I just find it a little boring to teach, but so exciting to see the lessons sink in and to see her apply them at other times of the day.  This program heavily relies on manipulatives, which for some kids is great, but for others is… dangerous.  😉  After some looking around and another great suggestion from my app guru Summer, we found iSpeak Word which we now use for the most part, during the manipulative portion of the lessons.   Then, on KinderTown (A friend recommeded this and it has been so helpful.)  I found Spelling City .  This has several great free spelling practice games, as well as a test feature.  We did go ahead and subscribe for a year, and I have to say we use it a lot, not only for the spelling features (which are great, Molly loves Hang Mouse) but also for the record keeping and vocabulary portions.  I also love that its all set up for when Lucy begins spelling.  We began with Level 1, which she finished at the end of the first semester and is rocking Level 2.  The whole thing has become much less frustrating since we’ve begun using the iPad as our “manipulative”.

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iSpeak Word… I turn the sound off, or she will make it say the word each time she moves a letter and spelling will take an hour. We mostly just use this in place of the letter tiles that come with All About Spelling.

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Working on Spelling City, which we love.

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Proud to have finished Level 1!

Reading/ Language Arts:  Because Molly already knows how to read, this threw me for a bit of a loop.  I started with Explode the Code and Beyond the Code, both of which she enjoyed.  While doing some research over break we switched to First Language Lessons and Writing With Ease.  Both of which we enjoy very much.  She really has a love of literature (which I share), so these are both right up her/our alley.

Science:  Here was my one big curriculum fail.  I went with Science Fusion.  There isn’t anything wrong with it per se, but Molly couldn’t get in to it.  Nothing was hands on, the worksheets were lame and the topics were dry.  Over winter break I spent a lot of time looking for something different and finally decided on R.E.A.L. Science Odessey.

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Learning about cells and the difference between animal and plant cells

History:  As I was looking around on the Pandia Press website I came across their History program, which we’ve begun.  We’re only on the second lesson, but so far Molly is enamoured with the book A Child’s History of The World .  She loves hearing about how people long ago lived.  So far her interest in “dinos” is rivaled only by her interest in the people who first lived after them.  She loves telling people that she learned that cave people drank blood like milk.  I think she likes the shock value.  😉  We are also using some materials, readings and ideas from Story of the World.

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The main text for history is the Usbourn Internet Linked Encyclopedia of World History. Here she is looking to see what color to use for the Mayan Ruins.

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What may have been their favorite project yet: the archeology dig. A shoe box filled with coffee grinds, small things from around the house, and an archeological map. This has been requested several more times.

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Our version of Geography. Each time we come across a character or friend or relative or person of interest in history/art we add a star to our maps, which we review every day. The love it. Molly especially likes being the “teacher” and asking the questions. 🙂

Art/Music:  We’re loosely following Confession of A Homeschooler’s Greatest Artists and Greatest Composers.  We’ve enjoyed both!  Both rely on the Greatist Artist and Greatest Composers series, which you can find on Amazon.    They also love doing puzzles with Jigzo.  A friend recommended it when I was bummed that an art puzzle app that I purchased didn’t have many of the paintings I was hoping it would.  Basically I Google a work of art, screen shot it, crop it and then you can use this app to create a puzzle for it.  I do wish it would store the photos in the app so the girls could use it without me having to get the photos for them, but it works.

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Learning about Picasso with a friend

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Learning about Picasso’s blue period with Nana, our favorite art teacher.

Other ideas of course come from Pinterest.  Everyone knows I love me some Pinterest.  I hope someone finds this helpful!

Clearly we love our iPad and it is a huge part of our schooling experience.  Next I’ll do a list of our favorite apps. 🙂

How We Got Here

But what about socialization?”

I’ll admit.  When Adam first said “We’re homeschooling.” after hearing some horrors of the public school system, I said it.  The worst, most silly thing you can ever say about homeschooling.  And, I’ll even (shamefully) admit that I said it when my niece and nephew were homeschooled for a period of time.  (In my very weak defense I was prepping for my entire career to revolve around the education system, and still young and egocentric I took this as a bit of an insult to my career choice.  “TEACHERS CHANGE THE WORLD!  THEY HELP THE CHILDREN!  Who would want to keep their kids from school?!”)  Never the less, he kept bringing it up, and I kept saying “Okay, we can talk about it.”, all the while thinking “Hahahahaha. Ummmmm, no.”   And then I started noticing things about our oldest.  She could read.  She was three.  She couldn’t do other things her friends could, like sit still for any period of time, or follow directions with any regularity.  She was really young for kindergarten, but too advanced for another round of preschool ( especially at $200/month…).  I eagerly anticipated her parent teacher conference for clarity that I was sure her wonderful teacher, Mrs. T would provide.  She didn’t. 😉  She echoed all of our concerns (young, highly active, distractable) and reinforced that she was, indeed, ahead of the curve, academically and that another year of preschool probably wasn’t going to benefit her in any way.  Homeschooling was a good choice, if we could do it, she said.  Just one year.  Then re-assess.  I probably looked a little stunned.  I felt a lot stunned.  So I called Adam, and to my surprise, he didn’t gloat.  Too much, anyway.  When I got home to where my mom was watching the girls, she said “Yea, I think you need to do it.  It’s just a year.”  And then I talked to my dad and he said “You’d be stupid not to!”.  Adam’s mom was incredibly supportive, too, and offered to help us purchase our curriculum.  And I kept saying But what about socialization?”  If you know Molly, you know that she is one of the most outgoing kids on Earth.  If you don’t know her, and you run into her at the park, you’ll find out really quickly.  Every outing  is prefaced with “Will there be new friends there?!”.  To me, Kindergarten seemed like heaven for Molly.  Just think of all those new friends.  But, as her Momma, I obviously had to step back and take in the whole situation.  Just think of all the frustration and boredom sight words would be to a kid reading fluently.  Just think of learning to count for a kid doing addition and subtraction.  What about if she gets in trouble, because she is too busy bouncing around the room, because the work presented isn’t at all challenging for her.  What if she ends up hating school?  Eventually the excitement of new friends would either get her in more trouble, or wane quickly in the shadow of being scolded for being… her.  For me one question followed another.  My heart and head didn’t even have time to dream up an answer to one before many more flooded in.

Will she hate me as her teacher? Will she hate me as her momma?  Will she be lonely?  Will she be sad?  Will she listen to me?  Will she forget how to be outgoing?  Will she feel isolated?  Will she flourish without lots of other kids?  Who will we hang out with?  Can I do this?  Can I do this better than a teacher who has been teaching?  Is this why I have an education degree I barely used?  Will people judge us?  Will her friends judge her?  What about other homeschooling families?  Will they judge us?  Will the accept us?  How do I know where to start?  How do I do this?  Are we crazy?  Why can’t we just be normal?   How will we integrate her back into public school?  Is this really just for a year?  Will I ever get to be by myself?  Will I ever have a clean house?  Will she be lonely?  Can I manage being a mom and a teacher and a wife?  Is this because I’m not ready for her to be gone every day?  Is this what is best for her or what is best for me?  What will this mean for her relationship with her baby sister?  What does this mean for her baby sister in general?  Will we homeschool both of them? Doesn’t she need to go to preschool, too?  Is it fair she will be home and not at preschool?  What does this mean for more kids?  Can I do this and have a baby someday?  Will I have to wear mom jeans?  Will I EVER get to shower on a regular basis?    On. And. On. And. On.

It is quite obvious at this point, that in the end, we decided we would try it.  Just for a year.  Just until she was a little older.   Its only been one semester (+ a month).  But I no longer worry about socialization.  I never worry if we made the right choice (well, maybe during handwriting time…. 😉 ) and even am already planning for next year.  I can see her flourishing, and I can see her growing.  And this is the only time ever I will put it in writing:  My husband was right.

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