Snippets

Kids always have a way with words. It’s the combination of tone, expression, and word choice that make their phrases awesome. I have been trying to keep track of sweet things that have escaped my children’s lips over the past few months. I never want to forget their sweet words and thoughts.

Hula Girl’s teacher is of the same mindset. She loves listening to and reporting the words of the students in her care. She delights in them as much as their parents do! Here is a portion of a recent email I received from her:

[Hula Girl] said the cutest thing yesterday, and I actually wrote it down to tell you!  The last word on the spelling pre-assessment was “spoil.”  I used this sentence, “When you go to Grandma’s house, she will spoil you with treats, candy, presents, and staying up late.”  As I walked past [Hula Girl] she looked up at me with the happiest face and said, “Boy, does she EVER!”  It was precious!

Monkey Man has his fair share of intriguing things to say as well. Most of the time, he is quite imaginative and he tries his hardest to impress people.

A couple weekends ago, our town held a fall festival. (By the way, living in a small town that celebrates EVERYTHING is awesome. Downtown streets have been closed down at least three weekends in the past couple months for festivities. That might sound annoying, but there are easy ways around the closures. It’s so much fun to be here and be part of a town that is so focused on families and fun!) We attended the festival in the afternoon once Sugar Plum woke from her final nap of the day. We walked through the booths and roamed through a couple stores downtown. We decided to go to the coffee shop for dinner. We ordered some sandwiches and things and while we were eating, a local band came in and began setting up for an evening performance.

The band was made up of members who have adult children. They had banjos, violins, drums, guitars and keyboards. It was interesting to watch them set up and unpack their instruments; Monkey Man was especially interested in the process of tuning instruments. He was watching the woman with the violin with such interest that she invited him up to watch more closely. She asked him if he liked violins, and he said, “Yes! I am good at playing the violin!” She looked at me as if to ask if this was true. I shrugged. I asked him, “Where did you learn to play?” He said he had learned at school. “I’m the best violin player in my class!”

Ok, first of all, he was only in school for a grand total of 6 days. I’m certain he did not learn to play violin. But perhaps there was an instrument station in his classroom?

The woman then showed him how she tunes the violin and how she plays different notes. He was absolutely enthralled. So much so that her husband came over and said that if they can find their child-sized violin, he will give it to us so Monkey Man can learn to play for real. I think we will be enrolling him in violin lessons soon!

Both kids are very interested in art right now.

Hula Girl gave this paper to me and Jonathan last night. Each side is a different type of sunset.

Monkey Man created this picture for his self portrait for our schoolwork at home. It is him in the sky with a rainbow and clouds; the figures on the ground are looking up at the clouds and finding pictures.

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A Surprising Choice

I have a lot of friends who don’t know this about our family yet. That’s because I’ve surrounded myself with people who have very strong opinions on this topic, and I didn’t want to have people telling me their very strong opinions unless it directly affected them or they are family members. We sought out wise counsel and have made the best decision for our family… for now.

When we moved to Wisconsin, we had no intention of changing the way our family does things. We still eat organic, we still put Jesus first, and we still spend as much quality family time together as we can. However, one major thing has changed– we decided to put the big kiddos in public school.

Homeschooling is our first choice for schooling our children. I even researched and joined several Wisconsin homeschooling groups on Facebook before we moved. We were set on continuing along with our plan, and I have been gathering books and resources for the past year in order to prepare for Hula Girl and Monkey Man to learn some really neat stuff this year.

But the move has been hard on the kids. Like, really, really hard. I believe I mentioned that the kids and I lived with my parents for about a month and a half while Jonathan stayed at our former house, packing and cleaning and getting it ready to sell, before we moved to Wisconsin. Now we are staying in a temporary (wonderful, but temporary) house, and we have been house hunting and dragging the kids all around the area to find a house. We have one that will be ours in October, but in the meantime, we’re not exactly settled.

At first, it was a fun adventure for the kids– staying at Grammy and Grampy’s house! Camping! Staying in a new house! Sharing a room for the first time ever! Eventually, it turned into a real drag. The kids got sick of each other and were bickering nonstop all day. I had to make millions of phone calls and try to learn all about the new area (where to grocery shop? What kinds of insane winter gear do we need to stock up on? How do I get to the nearest Starbucks– it’s PSL season, after all–?). And Sugar Plum is still a baby who needs tons of naps.

We were all getting sick of each other, really. So. I took the opportunity to put the kids in a wonderful public school. I went and toured it before I made the official decision. If I were still teaching, it’s a school I’d be proud to be part of. The teachers are so engaged, the principal is extremely supportive, and the parents are very involved. The school is a 4K-4th grade elementary school, and it offers a wide variety of research-based programs and interventions that are actually really cool. (I kind of geeked out a bit on the tour and I even got jealous of the teachers who get to work there!)

The first week of school was just the two days prior to Labor Day weekend. Both kids were so excited. We got all their supplies and attended the open house the week prior to school opening. We met teachers and saw the classrooms, and the kids were happy and ready for the change. The first two days were wonderful; both kids raved about their teachers and their days.

The following week was not so smooth. Monkey Man made it clear he did NOT want to go to school. He just barely turned four in August. I was having a hard time with him being in school, anyway, due to multiple drop-off and pick-up times and Sugar Plum’s napping schedule. We made the choice to pull him back out of school and just keep him home with me. That has been a wonderful choice for him, and I plan to write a lot more about that soon enough.

Hula Girl, however, is thriving. I feel like we must have won the teacher jackpot! Her teacher is very structured and organized, and she is extremely communicative with parents. She researches and implements new approaches as fitting, and she is super engaging for the children, to boot. Hula Girl is a child who appreciates wit, routine, and structure. She loves knowing exactly what to do, how to do it, and why. Her teacher meets provides all these things while challenging her to better herself.

Hula Girl is above average academically; this was a huge concern for me. My personal experience of skipping a grade because I tested high is one I wouldn’t trade for the world (I had a few wonderful friends and there was a lot of very healthy academic competition in my graduating class), but I wouldn’t want to put the social struggles I encountered at the younger ages onto Hula  Girl. She is already a bit socially awkward as she is still working her way out of her extreme timidity around strangers. I couldn’t imagine sticking her in a public school classroom with second graders!

I have been very pleased to see the proactive ways her teacher and the school are working to support her and engage her academically. My ultimate goal is not to have her earn Valedictorian of First Grade status; rather, I want her to be somewhere she feels is safe, enjoyable and engaging while we sort out our living situation. I want her to make friends and practice treating others like Christ. I want her to walk away with self-confidence AND humility.

Public school is the current means to these ends, and I am so thankful for all the prayers and advice we were given when debating this idea for our kiddos. We plan to re-evaluate our decision at Christmastime, and see if we feel settled enough by then to bring Hula Girl back home so we can start fresh with our Charlotte Mason homeschooling experience. This is truly where we feel God is leading us as a family; we just want to make sure to go at the right time and in the right way. We’ve seen God’s hand in a very vivid way over the past six months, and we are eager to see how and where he will direct us next.

Preschool and Homeschool Plans

We’ve been able to just jump right in to school this year. Hula Girl is such an eager student; memorization and absorption of new material comes so naturally to her. I’m always a bit wary of doing too much too soon with her; after all, she is only four years old and I know that at this point in her life, free play should be her #1 daily activity. However, she just adores preschool time and asks for it even on weekends. Little Man even gets to participate, and he so enjoys it! Soon he will have his own curriculum to work through. I’m so excited to teach both of them every day.

Here’s a general rundown of what our preschool time looks like each day:

  • 15 minutes- Reading and dancing or doing finger plays or clapping along to children’s songs and nursery rhymes from What your Preschooler Needs to Know (Little Man joins us for this part, because it’s fun and he’s going to start the activity book in August!)
  • 5 minutes- Copywork- Hula Girl copies down short passages from our morning’s devotion or the week’s nonfiction reading in her copywork notebook
  • 15 minutes- Math- We are using the Math-U-See Primer Level to introduce math concepts. We do about 5 minutes of direct instruction on the day’s topic, and then she takes 10 or so minutes to complete the accompanying worksheet.
  • 5 minutes- Core Knowledge Activity Book 2– This book is full of short, fun activities to reinforce literacy, writing, math, and other subject areas appropriate for preschoolers. Hula Girl already completed the first book last year.
  • 10 minutes- Reading- Hula Girl is currently teaching herself to read the Dick and Jane books. We sit down for a few minutes at the end of preschool and she attempts to read one chapter. I help her sound out words she’s unfamiliar with and then she reads through the story two or three more times, until she feels confident that she can read it well. She takes several breaks to practice reading that story throughout the day, and when Jonathan comes home, she reads the new chapter to him- always flawlessly.
  • *10 minutes- Nature Study- Hula Girl observes her science projects or something out in nature (like a bird sitting on top of our truck) and sketches her observations in her sketchbook. I help her with labeling and write the date, her title, and what observations she wishes to include. Little Man sketches in his notebook as well; however, his sketches tend to resemble Morse code. 😉
  • *10 minutes- History, Science, Music, or Art- We read a short excerpt, listen to a song, or view a piece of art and discuss. Oftentimes we will then take the next thirty minutes or so to create something inspired by the historical event, scientific information, composition, or artwork. These things might include hats like Abraham Lincoln wore, diagrams of our vascular system, choreography to complement the music, or simple art projects which resemble the inspiration.

*Nature study, history, science, music, and art do not happen daily. When we drop “reading” as a subject (when she’s fluently reading without much assistance), she will be using reading to access all her history, science, music, and art information on a daily basis.

So far, this system is really working well for us. Hula Girl’s favorites are math and nature study, and she really enjoys reading (I’m not sure how she couldn’t like reading as we’ve spent approximately 25% of her life snuggled up together reading books). Next week, I plan to move Little Man’s roomtime to the mornings right after breakfast, so Hula Girl and I can work on preschool uninterrupted. It’s difficult and a bit silly to try to plan extra activities to keep him occupied during this time as he only wants to be doing exactly what his big sister is doing. She, being the perfectionist she is, can’t handle his stray pencil marks on the corners of her papers and it’s really hard to explain place value when every other word out of my mouth is “Stop!”

We have an opportunity coming up for next year to place Hula Girl in a homeschool program at a charter school in Colorado Springs. She would attend school once a week and they would focus more on the art/music/PE stuff while also emphasizing basic literacy skills. Honestly, I feel like her greatest benefit would be improving her social skills. She has been really outgoing lately and has wanted to talk to and play with every single child she meets. I am still trying to work through whether or not it’s justified to commit to driving an hour one way every single week just so she can “do school” when our intention all along has been to homeschool. I feel like we can probably find her some groups of friends around here with less of a commute.

Another issue is that she will be a new five at the start of the school year and although she is quite mature for her age intellectually, she is just developing some social skills other children developed a while ago. Her very shy nature kept her quite isolated from other children for several years. Her recent outgoing behavior has been wonderful but also illuminating in some areas. We discuss many interactions I observe and I am working to teach her to act graciously and sensitively to other children. She catches on quickly, which is a relief!

And so we will see how things go over the next few months. Regardless of whether we do the charter school program, we will definitely be starting the Core Knowledge Kindergarten Sequence with Hula Girl and the Core Knowledge Preschool Activity Book 1 with Little Man this summer. I love Core Knowledge as a teacher because it allows me to draw from many outside sources to create lessons uniquely meaningful to my children while giving me a general understanding of what material to cover in each year. I plan to marry the Core Knowledge curriculum and the Charlotte Mason method. With this in mind, I plan to read all the books from the Ambleside Online Curriculum each year just because we have plenty of time and my kids love to read!

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