Friday, July 20, 2012

First Day of School to last

First Day of school:  Aug 2011

Last day of school: May 2012

At the beginning of the year, I asked the girls a few questions and I did it again at the end of the school year to see if their answers had changed.  Here are their answers:

Karis: then.... now

I like to be called: Karis... Karis Lynn
My favorite food is:  Cinnamon carrots, sweet potato fries, pizza with bacon and cheese, bacon and eggs, fried apples....   buckwheat porridge and granola with milk, yogurt, and raisins
My favorite color is:  "You know, pink! ... Pink!
My favorite sport is:  Soccer.... soccer
My favorite game is:  Chutes and Ladders... Princesses!
My favorite book is:  Boxcar children.... Richard Scarry's Picture Dictionary
My favorite thing to watch:  "Raindrops on Roses (Youtube)...  Maria!  (The Sound of Music) 
My favorite animal: gopher and turtle.... ostrich because I haven't seen one much!
My favorite schoolwork:  Numberline.... Clock and money
What I do best: numbers... coloring!

Karlie:  then... now
I like to be called: Karlie... Cinderella!
My favorite food is:  tortillas, apple sausage... tortellini
My favorite color is:  purple... purple; "I only like purple but for treats, I like chocolate!"
My favorite sport is:  soccer... "blastball because that's when you throw because I like throwing!"
My favorite game is:  Brown Bear, Panda Bear... Hi, Ho, Cherri-o
My favorite book is:  doggy book... Richard Scarry's Picture Dictionary
My favorite thing to watch:  Maria!
My favorite animal: giraffe... kitties
My favorite schoolwork:  coloring book.... workbook
What I do best: coloring, playing with Abbi... schoolwork, playing with Abbi

Our First Homeschool Year...

The past few weeks I have been in the throes of researching curriculum, co-ops, great literature, and lots of other fun resources for our next homeschool year.  I suddenly realized that I never gave an "end of the year" update on our first year!

The bottom line? I absolutely LOVE homeschooling!  I am passionate about education and get ever so excited about not only what my girls are learning, but also what I am learning in the process!  I love having my girls home all day with me and although we've had our share of unproductive or down-right bad days, I wouldn't change it for anything!

My absolute favorite part about homeschooling?  Without a doubt it is spending hours of our week snuggling on the couch reading my all time favorite childhood books to my girls.   That is definitely my favorite part of our day!

My downfall?  Curriculum.  I'm a nerd.  I love books.  I love it all.  I want to do it all.  I always plan waaaaay to much.  You remember my "great plan" for the beginning of the year?  Yeah, I pretty much only followed for a few days.  It was too structured for a baby with a changing schedule (who didn't want to follow "my" schedule :).  And it didn't leave enough time to take advantage of those "teachable moments" or to really dig in deep to our favorite read-alouds.  I was also going to do a "Letter of the Week" theme for Karlie but soon found out that she had learned all of her letters and sounds already from Karis and was pointless.  So I just did phonograms with both of them instead.

The best advice given to me?  A sweet friend named Jessica who has 3 precious stair-step children (even closer in age than mine!) told me not to try to do it all at once.  To start one thing, build it into a routine, and do it well for a week or two or even a month before adding something else.  Then work on doing those two things til we were set in the habit and ready to add something else.  Very simple, but priceless advice.  It worked.  My girls thrived on doing the one bit of schoolwork I had them do every morning and then got ever so excited each time I finally added another piece to our routine.  We ended up with only 3 real schoolwork periods: a short 10 minute breakfast memory board, a longer reading time on the couch, and a half hour table work time in the afternoon.  "Preschool" really doesn't take long.  (Although I will admit that I totally flunked the arts and crafts part of preschool... definitely not my strong suit.  We painted when they asked for it and did a few special projects, but other than a non-stop coloring obsession, that was about it. If anyone loves to do art projects and wants to have my girls over once a week, PLEASE let me know!)

Our Routine?  It now looks something like this (but is very flexible):
8:00 -- the girls all get up, eat breakfast, do our "breakfast board" (daily memory work), get dressed, do chores
9:00 -- we take a walk and play outside
10:00 -- Abbi goes down for a nap and we settle on the couch for reading time.  Karlie and Karis first get to take turns picking out books for me to read to them.  After about 30 minutes, Karlie goes to play on the living room floor (usually doll-house).  Karis does her reading lesson for the day and then chooses a "read-aloud" (chapter book) for me to read.  Karlie is playing but also listening and usually runs back to see the pictures in the read-aloud.
11:20ish -- (this varies greatly depending on whether we can put down our read aloud :) -- we break for playtime.  I do chores, dishes (yep, my breakfast dishes are still there because we have to get outside by 9 to beat the heat), and make lunch.
12:00 -- I get Abbi up from her nap and we all eat lunch.  If it is a pretty day, we go play outside again (usually pool, water table or sprinkler when it is hot!)
1:00 -- come inside, cool off and the girls play while I do some chores
2:00 Nap time!  Abbi sleeps but I put the laptop in the big girls' room to play audiobooks.  They hardly ever fall asleep anymore.  I try to do chores and dinner prep.
3:00 -- I let one big girl choose a quiet activity to do in her room and I do table work with the other one and then switch.  I usually do around 20 minutes with Karlie and about 35 minutes with Karis but it varies, depending on what we are doing and if Abbi wakes up in the middle of it.  I never thought I would do a lot of workbooks with my girls, but they absolutely LOVE them!  Karis practices her handwriting, reads a beginning reader story to me, does her phonics workbook, and then gets to choose some other table work to do with me.  Karlie pretty much gets to choose what she wants to do with me.  She has a number of pre-school type workbooks that she enjoys and we also play learning games together.  I have really enjoyed getting to have this one-on-one time with my girls and they really look forward to it as well.  They know to be quiet and listen to their audiobook because the worst punishment ever is not getting get up from naps early and do table work with Mama!  A lot of time I will cut up veggies for dinner while helping them do their table work.
4:00 -- They play while I cook dinner
5:00 -- Clean up for Daddy
7:00 -- Abbi goes to bed
7:30 -- big girls go to bed

Favorite Curriculum/ Books we used:
For Teaching Karis to Read:
The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading -- the girls loved the initial alphabet rhymes but the reading part was not super exciting.  Still, it has a great simple phonics and grammatical progression and is exactly what Karis needs.  I am more than happy with it.
Alphaphonics -- I take turns with this and the above to give Karis some variety and to help with fluency.  She likes that the letters are larger.
Bob books: She reads me one story each school day and they get progressively more difficult.  It has been great to use them as we go through our phonogram cards because she sees how the phonograms help her figure out words.  I just get these from the library.
The Writing Road to Reading and phonogram cards  --  The book is great and I am certain I will utilize its techniques next year since Karis is actually writing more now.  The phonogram cards are key -- there are only about 70 key phonograms in the English language and once a child can recognize them, she can figure out how to read almost any word.  They have REALLY helped Karis take off with her reading.  We memorize several a week and say them each morning as we do our "breakfast memory board."
Explode the Code Workbooks -- she absolutely LOVES her workbook and I am thrilled with the effortless way it teaches her to read and practice her handwriting as well.  This is probably her favorite "reading resource"

Chapter "Read-Alouds":  Our favorite part of the day is curling up on the couch with a good book!  I absolutely LOVE Sonlight's reading list for preschool and kindergarten.  We did not buy the curriculum, but instead I just got most of the books from the library.  There are a few great collections that I purchased from Amazon, but most of them are at our library.  I also requested books from the library from THIS classical book list.  Here are some of the books Karis most enjoyed hearing:
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Uncle Wiggily's Storybook
James Herriot's Treasury for Children
The Wizard of Oz
Betsy Tacy
Twenty and Ten
Grover's Dolphin books
Beatrix Potter Collection
Make Way for McCloskey
Corduroy and Company
The Boxcar Children
Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy Collection
Milly Molly Mandy Storybook
In Grandma's Attic

For next Year:  I have been talking to the area Classical Conversations director to try to get a new group meeting here.  I've been on the waiting list for 2 years now for the one that is here and they just always fill up with younger siblings of current members.   For a while, it looked like I was going to have to be a director, which I really didn't feel that comfortable doing since it would be my first year with CC.  But thankfully, another Mom who has been a tutor for several years stepped up and is willing to take over.  There are a few more details to get worked out, but I am planning on it all working out for the fall!  Next week I go to a 3-day parent practicum and my big girls have an educational play-camp and we just can't wait!!!  I will blog more about CC as we get started with it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Swim lessons!

Back in May, the girls took swim lessons at a local pool.  There was only one other girl in their class, so it was perfect.  The girls loved swim lessons and begged to go almost every day.  (We did 6 six lessons over the course of six weeks.)   For some reason, Karis kind of flipped out the last few classes about water in her eyes, but we got her goggles and she had some private lessons with Daddy at the beach and is now excited about swimming once again :)  These classes have been great for the girls, not only to learn how to swim better, but also to learn to stay on the steps and wait their turn to swim...  When we go swimming, I have to keep my hands free for Abbi so the girls have to take turns waiting for Daddy to take them around the pool.  They really do a great job!

My first iPhone post!

When Mark went on his business trip last month, everyone made fun of him because he was the only one without a smart phone.  He made fun of them because all their smart phone batteries were dying and at least he could still text his workers back home :)  But at the end of the week, they decided to get him an iphone and put him on the company plan so he would be able to do more when away from his computer.  He has really enjoyed it and the best part is that he takes pictures more often!  We have decided that the camera is fabulous outside and with plenty of light, but not so great when it is darker or when the targets are moving!  Here are a few pictures I stole from his phone....

Our sunflowers...

Our awesome zucchini!

The girls have been setting up their beach chairs all over the house...

Karlie pushing Abbi in her car. (I don't usually let her have her paci other than at rest time, but this was the first day she was feeling a little better after being so sick and I didn't have the heart to take it away from her.  Plus, she was totally hoarse from all her screaming and could not talk anyways.)

Sweet sisters snuggling on the couch:

A favorite treat:  Mellow Mushroom!

Sitting at church with their favorite teenager, Lindsay, the sweet girl who comes over to help me several times a month.

Karis begged to let us have a birthday party for our kitty, so we made a black bean brownie cake.  By the time we got around to making the icing the following day,  they had already eaten over half the cake, so I just let them each decorate a big square.  They got to choose 2 colors to put into their icing to see what it made.

Karlie chose blue and yellow:

Karis chose red and blue:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Obedience and Kindness

Grandma has been missing her girls and asked me to take a video of them singing or playing or something so she could see their smiling faces.  So I thought it would be fun for them to recite their memory work from the character study we are doing.  We are covering one virtue each week (from We Choose Virtues) and they have had a lot of fun with it.  This is not the best commercial, however, because Abbi wanted to be on the couch and she decided to attack Karis with tickles halfway through it, but I thought it would definitely fulfill the purpose of letting Grandma see their smiles!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Finally back to normal and some natural remedies

We did not take too many pictures this week because Abbi Grace was utterly miserable and pretty much needed to be held all day long.  Not only did she catch Karlie's virus, but it also got in her eye and it was red and swollen almost shut.  So pitiful!  The big girls missed their little buddy and made a special bed for her on the floor so she could lay with them while they played:

This picture was taken on Thursday, the first day she was really feeling better and opened her eye a little more.  Karlie had put on her special paint shirt from Grandma and Abbi kept playing with it so we gave her the one Karis made for her. She was so excited (although her eye was still making her a bit miserable so it was hard to see the excitement in this picture.)

After 5 days of a super high fever,  I decided to take Abbi to see my holistic doctor just to make sure an infection had not snuck in while her body was fighting the virus.  I absolutely love my pediatrician and she is open to my natural tendencies, but after last summer's ordeal I knew exactly the protocol she would have to recommend: a trip to the ER to take blood, x-ray, and spinal tap to rule out the worst case scenarios.  I didn't want to do that when my holistic doctor could use less invasive techniques to tell me what was going on.  She found that Abbi had a nasty virus centered in her spinal cord and intestines.  That made total sense to me because she had been extremely uncomfortable through the sickness, squirming all over the place and unable to get comfortable enough to sleep more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time.    Here were her tips for getting over any kind of virus:

1. Therapy bath to help hydrate (because dehydration is the most dangerous effect of high fever):
1 3/4 cups epsom salts
3/4 cup baking soda
3/4 cup borax
1/4 tsp. lavender oil (if desired to help relax)

2.  L-lysine -- 250 mg 3x a day (mixed into food)
3.  Zinc -- 15 mg (mixed into food)
4.  Garlic cut open and rubbed on feet
5.  Elderberry syrup every hour for 2 days
6.  Collodial silver --  every hour for 2 days
7.  Probiotics -- 4 times a day

8.  Lugol's iodine and magnesium oil patted on spine every 2 hours -- this sounds absolutely ridiculously crazy but supposedly the virus does not like this mixture and will "move" away from it.  You "chase" the pain with the mixture until it is gone and the virus has left.  It will often go to your weakest parts.  (For instance, with my holistic doctor's daughter, the pain moved to a part of her leg that was very sore from dance practice the day before.)  With older patients, it is easier to "chase" it and put the mixture wherever  the patient says that it hurts next, but with Abbi it was a little more difficult.  The first time she grabbed her eye and started screaming, which made sense because it was hurt but was very frustrating because I could not help her there.  However, the next time after placing it on her spine, she started acting quite agitated and grabbing at the top of her neck.  I placed the mixture there and she calmed down immediately.  Weird, but it seemed to be similar to what my holistic doctor had described so I am thinking that it worked.  If nothing else, iodine and magnesium are things most people are deficient in and desperately need, so I thought it was definitely a worthwhile solution to try.

9.  Hydrating tonic (very similar to one I already posted) to battle dehydration from the fever:
1 Tbs. raw apple cider vinegar
1 pinch baking soda
1 serving aloe vera juice
1 cup of unfiltered apple juice
2 cups water
5 drops sole*

*sole -- dissolve as much Redmond's Real Salt as possible in 1/2 cup boiling water.  Put in dropper bottle