First day of homeschool: A dad’s view

My wife and I talked about homeschooling long before we our oldest son was even remotely close to being school-aged.  We’re almost always on the same page with things and what to do on the first day of school is no exception.  First day of school means one thing.  FIELD TRIP!!!! Growing up field trips were always the highlight of the school year.  Yeah of course we got out of going to class and doing “real” work, but most of the time they were fun and you really DID learn something.

For us , back to school day in the past has sometimes meant a “not back to school day”  We’ve enjoyed a beautiful day at the beach instead of the kids rushing off to school.   What could possibly be better than having a day away as a family relaxing at a near empty beach.    That day was a great way to say goodbye to summer and start off the school year rejuvenated!

Fun in the sun!

Fun in the sun!

 

Last year we had our first day of school in New York City.   The core of the science unit was going to be astronomy and the Space Shuttle Enterprise is at the Intrepid Museum.  What a great way to kick off learning!! All year long as I got opportunities to do science with them, we could reflect back to our trip!  Being there with them was truly a blessing and really helped me connect all year long.

Off to see the shuttle

 

Being a part of their first day of school does some amazing things

  1. I get to show them I value homeschooling.   In taking a day off from work to be with them and engaging in the activities of the day, I show them that their education is important to me.  My hope is that this isn’t the only day I show them this, but that its the start of a daily reminder that we are blessed.
  2. It shows I value them.   It is often easy for dad’s to get caught up in work and let mom’s do all the schoolwork stuff.  Taking a day with them shows I value them more than anything else.  Again,  I want my kids and wife to feel loved and valued every day.  Making a special production of this big day is always a lot of fun!
  3. It allows me to start the year engaged and fully a part of their education.  I now have a starting point for what’s going to be taking place all year.   This connection allows me to easily re-engage them as the year goes on and build on what my wife has been working on daily.  It also gives me a chance to help her catch up on things when life gets crazy, because it does!
  4. It allows us to reflect on how far they’ve come.  Each year the kids write down some of their favorite things as well as drawing a picture.   It gives the whole family a chance to reflect on how their interests and abilities have come over the last year.

I’d love to know what other families do on the first day of homeschool!  We’re always looking for new and different ideas to add into our first-day routine.

To read about other homeschool families and their back to school traditions please visit this link here.

 

Summer Reading List for Boys

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One of my biggest goals for my children’s education is that they grow up just loving to read.  Instilling this virtue is, in my opinion a multi-step process.  What time is better for fun reading than summer right! Step number 1, and probably key to everything, is finding fun reading selections that your boys will enjoy and even gravitate to.

I’ve managed to create two little boys who are voracious readers.  I often can’t keep a good supply of books handy as they run through everything I bring home rather quickly.  Recently we sat down together and I asked them to list for me their most favorite books ever!

Ezra is 5.  He began reading simple words as a late 3 year old and then things just took off from there. These days he reads at probably a 4th or 5th grade level though for pleasure reading he often chooses slightly simpler books.  I think that’s wonderful. Those are the books that appeal to his 5 year old mind. I often find him hanging out on the couch or his bed, Kindle in hand, hanging upside-down reading.  Yes, he likes to hang his head off the couch or bed to read!

Noah is 7.  He began reading right about age 5.  Though he grasped it quickly he didn’t really develop a real heart for reading until I gave him a kindle about a year later.  Ever since then there has been no stopping him!  I couldn’t tell you where he is at by now as the last time I tried to measure it he scored off the chart.

Here are their choices!

  • Anything Magic Tree House but most especially #3 Mumies in the Morning and #4 and Pirates Past Noon.  Pirates and Mummies are favorite themes for our boys.
  • An obvious choice would be anything in the Boxcar Children’s Series!  We’ve picked up a number of them at 2nd hand book stores and for the Kindle.  Last year I was able to purchase The BoxCar Children Mysteries Box Set: Books One Through 12 on the kindle for something like $25.  I see now the price has gone up dramatically.  So it might be wise to get these through another source.  In all the investment was well worth it.  I’ve lost track of how many times each boy has read through these.  I’d say a good 5 times a piece.
  • The A to Z  Mysteries are beloved in our home. My boys just LOVE mysteries.  It’s probably why the Boxcar Children are such a hit. They have read several and were hard pressed to choose just one favorite.
  • Ezra recently read Penny and Peter by Carolyn Hayward.  He read it straight through twice over a couple of days.  He originally became interested in the book after I read Here’s a Penny by the same author out loud.
  • My husband has passed on a love for the Hardy Boys.  These are books that he read as a child and has since shared them with our boys.  We began them as read alouds but then the boys just took off with them on their own.  We gathered a few copies from Grandma’s house that once belonged to Daddy.  We picked up a few extra’s as Kindle books.
  • The Rescue Team by Billi Tiner is the story of two dogs who form an amazing bond and then go on to help rescue a lost child.  Animal books are much adored in our home.  This was no exception.
  • The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare is adored by Noah.  He just loves animal/animal/outdoor/old time type stories and this classic just fits the bill perfectly.
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beaverly Clear is one of those books that I read as a child that I just knew I had to share with my own.  I had intended to use it as a read aloud but my boys got through it before I could even begin.
  • Dolphin Adventures: A True Story by Wayne Grover.  Another animal book!  Do you see a trend with my children? This is the true story of how a diver saves the life of an baby dolphin.  My boys loved this books so much they’ve worn out the paperback copy that we have.  I’m not sure we have a book that is more beloved.
  • My boys LOVE the Little House series! They really seem to be drawn to stories about early America, simpler times and farm life.
  • Of course Charloette Web by E.B. White as well.  We originally read this together as a read aloud!  Noah and I cried together when Charolette died.   Since then they’ve read the book themselves numerous time!

FREEBIES!

  • Old Mother West Wind is an old classic that I saw one reviewer describe as a combination of Aesop’s fables, Kipling’s rhythm and mischief, and Disney’s cottoncandy sweetness.  My boys just adored the fun of the this book.
  • Lightfoot the Deer is another classic described as a wonderfully descriptive tale of the conflict between deer and hunter from the deer’s point of view.  Noah said he just felt so drawn into the story.
  • The Aventures of Reddy Fox the Burgess classics just have that timeless quality to them that my boys seem to really enjoy!
  • The Tales of Big and Little by Josh Kilen.  This is actually a 3 part books, the first is available free as of this writing.  These books are just pure fun. They are shorter and novella like.  Each one leaves you at the edge of your seat wanting more!  My boys ran through these VERY quickly.

What’s on our reading list for this summer?

I’d love to hear some more suggestions from you!  What are your children planning to read this summer?

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Review of Bird Cage Press’s Game Go Fish: Ancient Egypt

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I was recently recieved for review a sweet little card game called  Go Fish for Ancient Egypt by Birdcage Press.  This beautiful card game retails for  $10.95  and is recommended for children ages 7 and up.

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This isn’t a typical game of Go Fish.  With these beautifully designed, high quailty, glossy cards and the accompaning booklet you and your children will begin learning new facts about Ancient Egypt’s Gods and Godesses, Pharohs, Mummies, and other relevant topics. All while playing a game!

Each card has a photograph or drawing of an Ancient Egyptian symbol, artificat, or an important person or God of the time. The item is identified with a word and it’s meaning.  They are placed into categories. There are 7 categories and each category comes with 6 different cards: Gods, GoddessesSymbols, Pharaohs, Mummies, Afterlife, and Hieroglyphs.

The artwork on the cards is stunning.  The photos or drawings are fantastic high quailty.  The cards themselves are made from a stiff and glossy cardstock that will make them sure to holdup reasonably with time.  The definitions are easy to read, understandable, and informative.

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These could make fanastic flashcards!  They could be used to assist with report writing or similar assignments.  They can even be used with Ancient Egyptian art lessons.

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There are a couple of different ways to play the game.  You can play by category where you ask your opponent if they have any Goddess cards, for example.  They must hand over ALL of their Goddess cards.  Once you’ve collected all 6 cards in a category then you place those cards aside much as you would a pair in traditional go fish.  The player to win the most categories wins!  This was our favorite way to play.  Even my fiver year old Ezra was able to enjoy the fun!

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You could make the game a bit more challenging by requesting a specific card, such as Pharoaoh Hatshepsut.  Each card contains the title of all of the cards at the bottom in neat type.  Again, once you have all 6 cards in a category you win that category and set the cards aside.  Even though the cards were labeled  I let my boys use the included booklet during the game to help them.  Older kids might be challenged to give the definition of the card they are after.

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Speaking of the booklet! The booklet that comes with the game contains details on every card, and the playing instructions.  This booklet adds new information such as background information and maps of Ancient Egypt and is just as beautiful as the cards and a resource of its very own.

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Over all, we find this game to be excellent.  It was fun and engagement and the learning didn’t stop!  They begged to play it again and again.  It was a fine supplement to our Ancient Egyptian studies.

 

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Review of Two Christanity Cove Activity Kits

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We recently recieved for review two Activity Kits from Christianity Cove.  Christianity Cove is a source for Sunday School lessons, Bible games, crafts, skits and activities for Children’s Church.  In my review I aimed to determined whether the activity kits they sent me are the stuff of a high quality Biblical education as well as how adaptable they are to for the homeschool family.

We began with the Fruits of the Spirit Activity Kit which was designed for children ages 4-12.

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It comes as a 26 page downloadable PDF.  Inside you will find 15 different object lessons, crafts and activities.  The goal is to instruct children in an understanding of how the Fruits of the Spirit can have an impact on who they are and their daily life.  The product retails for $19.

Most of the items required are those that can be typically found around your house or easily added to the shopping list for your next grocery trip.

We started right off with an object lesson that teaches the children the lesson of John 15:1.  We discussed how being attached to the vine, or Jesus, makes our lives fruitful.  Jesus is like the food and water that feeds our soul or our hearts.  But removing ourselves from Jesus will make our hearts wither away like the raisin that has been deprived of water.  With each step in the lesson we used a different food as an example of something in the world that can help our hearts grow in Jesus, adding it to our cups, until at the end we were left with full hearts and a great snack.

Over all I think the lesson was very good.  It had great depth and provided a platform for excellent conversation.  Unfortunately I didn’t take the time to preread the lesson in great depth.  I skimmed it to get an over all feel and then reviewed the ingredients list.  The list is a bit vague… it says for example, a cluster of grapes. I peeked in the fridge and saw we had about a cluster left so I felt prepared. Really I needed a cluster of grapes for each child.  I have 3 children.  The one cluster didn’t cut it.  It didn’t specify how much each child would need and so we struggled a bit to make things stretch.  Also, the project calls for a coconut.  I personally had never busted open a coconut before.  While that provided for a whole extra lesson in and of itself, I wish I had thought that threw ahead of time as we made a tremendous mess with that.  While fun, it disctracted us for a while from the real lesson at hand.

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There were also fun games like the Juicy Jump Rope Rhyme that my children and I sang together more times than I can count.  We left out the jump rope though.  My guys haven’t figured out how to do that just yet and I figured learning the lesson of the song was more important that working in the jump rope skill.  We did jump, leap, and hop while singing though.

There were some interesting craft projects as well.  One had us using popsicle sticks to create our very own fruits of the spirit tree.  My children really enjoyed this.  I do wish the company had included a printable for the fruits.  They include so many printables but with this activity I sort of had to invent my own.  It worked out in the end but it would have saved me some extra steps.

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A second craft project was intended to be a gift for someone.  It was titled… I’ve Got the Fruit of the Spirit! Candy Jars!  You were supposed to use a babyfood jar, runts candy, and other craft materials to make something like looked like a doll with a belly full of fruit.  I really really wish we had been provided an example photo of the finished project.  Most of the steps, like twisting pipe cleaner end to look like hands and feet, were confusing to not only my children but to myself!  An example would have cleared up a lot of confusion.  In the end our projects looked so ridiculous we decided to keep them instead of giving them away.

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Near the end of the pdf you’ll find printable worksheets such as as word search, a word scramble, and a coloring page that includes a tree with apples that have all of the Fruits of Spirit written on them.  I skipped the last page.  The words were handwritten and some were difficult to read.

I certainly believe my children learned quite a bit about what God wanted us to learn from the scriptures in John about the Fruit of the Spirit.  It was time well used in our home.  We had some great laughs and great soul reaching conversation. I do think the projects are more involved than we typically do on a regular basis and that might have added to a more clumsy feel for us.  I know there are many families that just adore big projects.  Christianity Cove  and Fruit of the Spirit Activity Kit might just be perfect for you.

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The 10 Commandments Activity Kit is meant for children ages 4-11 and includes games, crafts, songs, snacks, and worksheets.  It comes as a 52 page downloadable PDF. Inside you will find 15 different object lessons, crafts and activities. The kit is available for $27 as an early bird special for the first 250 orders, and then the price goes up to $47. 

One of the first object lessons we did was to demonstrate how, when God gave Moses the 10 Commandments He knew that it’d be impossible to follow them all of the time.  With this lesson we taped the 10 Commandments, written on foot prints, to the wall.  The children were told to walk along them. Now clearly this is impossible.  With a little help you might be able to get a step in but that’s about it.  We discussed how it is impossible for us to be good enough to get into Heaven and that is why God sent Jesus to take the punishment for us for each time we fail to follow a rule.

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Another fun activity had us fishing for scripture versus.  The children had to fish a scripture verse, written on a piece of paper, from a bowl.  We discussed each verse, it’s meaning and implication on our lives, as they read them.  Then we identified whether it was one of the commandments or not.  This helped a great deal with memorization of the versus.

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One of the games we played involved a treasure hunt!  What child doesn’t love a treasure hunt!  The treasure was a scroll of the 10 commandments.  The children were given clues that led to more clues that eventually led to the scroll.  It was great watching the children figure out how to find the next clue.  The clues were things like… Clue #2: You will find clue number 3, hidden beneath somebody’s shoe.  Then they’d all run off to our shoe closet and turn them all over.  The prize at the end was a bit of candy and a reading of the scroll with the 10 Commandments.  While this activity was lots of fun and rereading the 10 Comandments always reinforces their memory of them, I wouldn’t say they exactly learned anything in-depth from the activity. In fact I’d say that was generally what was really gained from these activities… memorizing of the 10 Commandments.

Both of these Activity Kits were quite enjoyable.  They certainly added some spark to our normal Bible study. They gave us a geat jumping off point for in-depth conversation and our own study of the topic.  My children did gain new information that was worthwhile for our time.  Overall I’d call them both a general success with some room for improvement.

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Review of Joyce Herzog’s Bible Quotes

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As a Christian Homeschooling mom I strive to integrate Bible study, scripture memorization  and Biblical discussion into as much of our day as is reasonable.  I do want my children to be exposed to God’s word as much as is possible.  It is my hope that as they grow they’ll learn to understand it, analyze it, ask questions about it, and discuss it in depth.  I want them to be inspired by it.  We use various techniques throughout the day to accomplish these ideas.  I recently has an opportunity to integrate one more.   These past few weeks we’ve had the opportunity to review an ebook of Bible Quotes by Joyce Herzog.  With this resource, intended for elementary aged children studying phonics or in need of handwriting copywork practice, I’ve been able to integrate the Bible into our copywork, spelling, penmanship, reading, punctuation, and grammar studies.

 

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This comes as a downloadable 26 page ebook.  The pages of full of long lists of Bible quotes that focus on phonetic skills.  The Phonetic skills are based on the Scaredy Cat Reading System which is s seperate Joyce Herzog product.  It is very clear and straight forward.  The phonics rules are listed near the top of the page for quick reference and scriptures are listed below.  If using scripture in your phonics lessons or handwriting practice is important to you than this could be a great time saver.  No more digging through the Bible looking for passages that cover the sounds you are studying.

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As you can see in my photos, the pages are very clean and great for printing.

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We used this a couple of ways in our homeschool.  Thought my children have a pretty good grasp of phonics I do find that in-in depth study of the topic helps with their spelling.  I would search out the page in the ebook that corresponded with the rule we were reviewing and print that out.  Then I would cut out just the passages (usually 2) that I wanted them to copy and I would tape them to a sheet of a paper with lines.  I found just handing them the entire sheet of scriptures, even if I marked the ones I wanted them to copy, was too much.  They’d get lost or distracted by the excess words.  I would ask them to highlight the word in the scripture that went along with the rule we were studying.  Using the highlighters added a bit of fun to work.  For us, this served as a phonics practice as well as a handwriting practice.  In addition, we liked to discuss the scripture verse and see if we could think of a few ways it might apply to us.

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As I mentioned before, Bible Quotes is designed to go along with the Scaredy Cat Reading System, however it does work well as a stand alone product.  I definitely would refer to this as a tool for parents.  It isn’t a workbook or anything that I think I would ever hand to an elementary aged child.  It’s a great reference for finding appropriate scripture to supplement reading and phonics study whether you use the Scaredy Cat System (which we do not) or not.

Bible Quotes ebook costs just $12 is just one of the many products Joyce Herzog offers, including the Scaredy Cat Reading System and many other educational and homeschooling resources.

 

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Homeschool Helper App Review!

A week or two ago I devoted quite the long blog post to a negative review of homeschool planning program that just didn’t work out for me at all.  If you are interested you can click on over and read A Negative Review of My Well Planned Day.  Today I’m going to tell you about a program that DOES work for me.  In fact, it works so well it blows away my expectations regularly.

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Let me introduce you to The Homeschool Helper App.  This is an app that is available for iPad, Android, and Kindle Fire devices.  It does not work on smart phones and for good reason.  Smart phone screens are just too small.  You’d give yourself headaches trying to see everything on such a small screen.  It costs all of $4.99 forever.  That relatively inexpensive price tag not only includes this great app, but also all of the updates, and access to a fantastic technology support person who will gladly help you should you ever run into a snag.  But I think I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

With the Homeschool Helper App you are able to create lesson plans for an unlimited number of students and up to 14 subjects for each student.  Lesson planning is pretty intuitive.  You have the option of creating lessons in bulk, copying lessons to another or more students, and when life gets in the way and your school plan doesn’t turn out quite the way you expect you can even bump lessons out a day or more.

The Homeschool Helper App is also fantastic for keeping track of grades (on a traditional scale or via a Pass/Fail system).  You are able to see at a glance how your student is performing in every subject.  There is an attendance tracker, a reading list, a subject list, a report card, and a list that will summarize absolutely everything for you.  For those you live in states where you have to keep track of hours there is even a flexible way to keep track of that too. Would you like to keep a list of tasks you’d like your children to complete?  Yes, you can even do that in the Homeschool Helper App.  You can create reports on all of these things and email them for safe keeping and printing straight to your computer.  Each and every day I create a report on the lesson list for each of my children.  This allows me to print off all of their assignments for the day so they can check them off as we go along.  This has gone a long ways towards helping them be more independent in their schooling.

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If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming have no fear!  The Homeschool Helper app people have built short video tutorials right into the app.  In no time at all you’ll be able to get your whole homeschool up and running.

This is one of the most stable and reliable apps I have ever used.  I have actually purchased it twice!  I first put it on my iPad and then I decided I’d prefer to use it on my Kindle Fire HD.  There is nothing wrong with using it on the iPad, I just love my Kindle so I decided to switch.  I have plenty of experience using it on both platforms.  Your device of choice does not impact the user experience.

Nothing in this world is absolutely perfect and I have run into a couple of very minor gliches.  Each time I used the in app email feature to email the developer.  Each time I had a response almost within moments.  Certainly within a couple of hours.  Each time he walked me through a couple of steps to trouble shoot.  As he worked to develop a fix for the problem the developer kept me updated often with a couple of emails throughout that day and/or the next.  My issues were rapidly resolved.

There is a backup system too! Should your tablet bite the dust, get lost, or you decide to upgrade to another device all of your data is retrieveable.  How fantastic is that!  Of course, you do have to remember to run the back up from time to time!  I recommend setting the in app reminder to do so.

On top of all of this they do consider feature requests.  Email them or post to their Facebook page any request you have.  Of course this is an app and it is already very feature rich.  Not every suggestion is possible…. but it never hurts to ask and if it can be done reasonably and to the benefit of most users they just might implement it.  Oh, and that Facebook page of theirs?  They answer every single person who posts, usually within a couple of hours of the post.  This is one responsive company.  Did I mention it is run by one homeschooling  family?  The Dad, Paul, did the programming and his wife uses the app everyday with their own children.  Customer service is beyond phenomenal.

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Some things that MIGHT be considered a draw back for some.  First, you cannot use this from your desktop computer in any way shape or form.  It is all in app.  I went ahead and picked up a bluetooth keyboard which in my opinion is way more comfortable than typing on the screen.  Second, this isn’t cloud based, it won’t sync between devices.  I found I actually appreciated that fact when we were without power during a storm.  I could still charge my tablet in my car and despite not having internet I could still access everything I needed and we were able to keep on schooling.  After all, we didn’t have anything better to do!

If you are looking for a planning system and interested in using your tablet more often in your homeschooling than this could really work for you.

Celebrating NOT Back to School!

The first sounds I heard that morning were those of a little boy’s foot steps as he came bouncing down the hallway and into my bed.  Ezra was the first to rub the sleep from his eyes as he snuggled his way into my bed.  Noah wasn’t far behind.  There we were, 4 of us in a queen as snug as a bug in rug.  Of course it was only moments until Joyanna started hollering from her crib.  That made 5 all squished in together.  Absolutely perfect and absolutely crazy.  I love those moments.  I ate it up.  I was slow to get moving.  I didn’t want to rush the day.  Eventually the cries of “I’m STAAARRRVVVVVIIIINNNNGGGGG” When is BREAKFAST!?”  Wore me down and so we all scooted out of bed and hopped along to the kitchen.  Daddy declared it French Toast day and before I knew it eggs and bread were flying every which way!

It was back to school day here in the town we live in.  All around us parents and children rose early and scuttled along down the sidewalks to the schools or bus stops not far from where we live.  This year Noah could be a first grader.  I say could be because he has a pretty late fall birthday and it would have been acceptable to hold him out of school until this year.  So he could have started kindergarten if we had decided that was the way to go.  Either way, he absolutely would have gone to school on that Thursday, September 1st.  But we do things  a little differently in our house.  If you follow my blog you have probably come to realize that we are a homeschooling family.  So when the rest of the town celebrated back to school day we celebrated NOT back to school day doing all of those things we couldn’t do if the boys went to school.

A leisurely snuggle in bed followed by a hot family breakfast around our kitchen table.  We had all of the time in the world and I planned to soak it up.  Afterward the boys tramped up the stairs and dove into their Lego wonderland for a while while my husband and I cleaned up the messy kitchen.  My husband spotted me from across the room as I held my tea mug by both hands savoring the warmth and enjoying the pace of the morning.  I was smiling and he wanted to know why.  I was just so content with life right in that moment.

The moment passed quickly.  The boys were back down and demanding to know when we were going to Kid City!  It is a tradition to go some place fun on this Not Back to School day.  I had suggested the beach just as we had done last year.  But Ezra thought of Kid City.  Once the words were out of his mouth is was all either wanted to do and they were anxious to get going.  So we did!

We spent the day at the children’s museum.  The boys ran and jumped and played!  Joyanna completely enjoyed herself as well.  She is a very strong walker now so she was able to really explore the museum pretty independently.  I think she had more fun than anyone else did.  Her surprised and delighted expressions made me focus my camera on her quite a bit.

We ate a great lunch at a local pizza place and headed back to the museum for even more fun.


Joyanna was a total hoot.  She really got around and did her best to try her hand at just about everything.  That is, except for one thing.  There was a slide that just looked oh so exciting.  She climbed the stairs, sat herself down, scooted to edge, all with a look of determination… and then… she’d smile and back away.  She must have gone through this 3 or 4 times before we finally moved on to another room.  I admire her courage for even thinking about it.  I’m sure she’ll give it a shot another day.

All in all I’d call it a great NOT back to school day.  We’ll officially begin the new year on the day after labor day.  I’m sure there will be a blog post all about that day as well!

Watching History In the Making! Final Space Shuttle Mission!

My boys love anything space related.  They are particularly fond of the space shuttle program.  Watching astronauts walk around in space gives them a great thrill.  They then spend weeks lining the floors with couch cushions so they can hop around and pretend to be just like the astronauts they saw on television.  There was no way I’d let them miss the final space shuttle launch last Friday.

We watched online on Mommy’s nice big computer monitor.  They sat enthralled for 45 minutes.  I hoped and prayed the launch would not be delayed as I would have had two very dissapointed little boys on my hands.  I showed my boys maps of Florida pointing out where the launch was taking place in relation to our home.  I showed them the radar that threatened thunderstorms that could curtail the day’s events.

When it coincedently thundered here both of them began to get a bit worked up!  They were convinced the shuttle wouldn’t launch due to the storm.  It only took a moment to explain our storm had nothing to do with the storm down in Florida.  They were relieved.   I held my breath when the countdown was frozen at just 31 seconds to go.  I exhaled when the clock started again.

In the back of my mind I did worry a bit about what I would do should the unthinkable happen.  What if the launch went terribly wrong as it did so many years ago with the shuttle Challenger.  I remember that day.  I was home from school watching on my grandmother’s old TV.  I didn’t know what I’d say to my boys should something horrible happen but I figured I’d cross that bridge when I came to it.  Thank God all went just fine.

Now we spend time each day checking into the NASA channel just to see what the astronauts are up to.  I know we’ll all be very sad when the mission is over and everything is said and done with.  But we plan to learn and enjoy while still can.

This is one of those times I’m thankful we have the opportunity to homeschool and live the life we’ve been given.  Without that luxury we would not have been able to enjoy this historic moment in quite the same way.  I best wrap up!  The boys are anxious to see what the astronauts are up to now!  I think it might be time to hit the library for a fresh batch of books about space, space shuttles, and the space station.

 

So the School Year Comes to a Close I Guess!

Yesterday I was pondering what to blog about today.  On Wednesdays I typically blog about something in my life, often unrelated to photography.  Wednesday is supposed to be my day off from my business so sometimes it feels good to think about other things.  I am like most other business owners as I drink, eat, breath, sleep, and constantly think about my business.  It is good to focus on other things from time to time.

There is something else that I drink, eat, breath, sleep and constantly think about… if it is possible to be all consumed by two things at once.  That would be my children.  They make frequent guest appearances here on the blog.  They are Noah age 5, Ezra age 3, and Joyanna who is just 1.  The boys will celebrate their next birthdays this fall (as if they haven’t been planning those parties since LAST fall!)

This year was our first “official” year homeschooling.  In Connecticut where we live children are eligible to enter kindergarten if they celebrate their fifth birthday before December 31st.  Noah was 5 in November so he could have been eligible this year.  That means, if I had sent him, he’d just be finishing kindergarten and we’d be looking ahead to first grade this fall.  I realize that if we used the public school system I might not have sent him for a variety of reasons.  He was just so young and though academically he was already beyond kindergarten last fall, emotionally he was still just a little boy.  I’m glad it wasn’t a decision I had to make.  Keeping him home with me made that easy.  And it also made for an excellent year.

We were incredibly busy.  I think at times we were too busy and that will be a lesson I will take with me into next year.  This year we participated in lots of homeschool days at museums and other venues.  We took a number of field trips with our friends.  We were involved in library story hours, an art class, nature classes, 2 homeschool groups, basketball, soccer, karate, church, and our Bible study.  We faced some challenges when Daddy destroyed his Achilles tendon.  It was an injury that required surgery, a cast, and lots of physical therapy.  Oh, and I kept steadily working to grow my photography business.  We had a brutal winter and our home suffered it’s own share of damage that has required renovations.  In short, it was a crazy year.

I learned a lot this year.  Yes that is right!  ME the Mom.  I learned right along with my children.  We did lots of unit studies on various countries.  Italy and France were amongst our favorites.  We studied weather and how clouds are formed.  We worked our way through math and telling time.  We practiced our handwriting, our spelling and…. our patience with one another.

It is a funny thing, lots of people tell me that they could never homeschool as they would never have the patience.  They talk to me like I’m some saint who can remain calm through most anything.  That cracks me up!  My son Noah is the slowest, pokiest, little boy I have ever met… or so it feels like when we are in the middle of a math sheet and I am just desperate for him to get through with it.  I’m far from perfect.  FAR FAR FAR from it.  Despite my best intentions I’ve yelled.  I’ve shown my frustration.  Yes, I even shed a tear or two.  There were even days when I saw the kids walking down the street headed to school with their backpacks and lunch boxes when I thought that maybe, just maybe, that might be the better deal. Sometimes, when you are deep in the trenches you loose site of the bigger picture.  Thank goodness I have my husband to lean on during the tough times which made those moments relatively fleeting.  He keeps my feet firmly on the ground.

This year I learned that my son responds FAR better to a gentle voice and a loving touch.  I’ve learned I just HAVE to rein myself in and love on him when really I want to scream and yell.  Screaming and yelling simply does not work.  I’ve learned that it’s okay to toss aside the work for the day and snuggle up on the couch for cuddle time.  Oh what a joy to be able to do that whenever it is needed.  I learned that my son is far more intelligent that I ever hope to be and that I need to get out of his way and let him be who he is.  He will lead and I will follow.  My plan is keep my eye on the path ahead of him and run ahead from time to time and lay down bumpers if need be just to make sure he keeps moving in the right direction and that he doesn’t stray off.

The biggest thing I learned is that my children are learning and growing often despite me and very rarely because of me.  This homeschooling journey is more about them teaching me how to be a better mom, a better person even, then it is about me teaching them much of anything.  We’ll grow into new people together.  When I sit back and think about that I am just insanely grateful that I get that opportunity.

Noah finished most of what would be considered first grade material in March and April.  Since then we’ve sort of been coasting along dabbling in 2nd grade stuff or just simply reviewing and enjoying the skills he’s learned.  Ezra cruised right through most of kindergarten.  He woke  up one day livid his older brother could read and he couldn’t.  So he set out to teach himself.  For a couple of weeks he would sit with books and read the letter sound of each and every letter in the book without any attempt to blend them together.  Finally I sat with him and showed him how to blend simple 3 letter words and that was it.  He’s been off to the races ever since.  The 3 letter words were enough to satisfy him for a while.  He now knows just enough to get by and that makes him happy.

This summer we will continue to work bit by bit.  I’ll have Noah read to me here and there.  We’ll work a few math problems a couple of times a week.  We’ll study some of our science books (a favorite things for Noah).  We’ll go to the playground to play with friends and we’ll spend LOTS of time outside!  Oh, and I see a lot of crazy Lego sculptures in our future as that is what the two of them are obsessed with right now.  I am amazed by their creations.

In the fall, we’ll ramp it up again!  This time, a whole year smarter.

It was an excellent year.  I can’t wait to do it all over again!

And just for fun here is a photo of my crew.  I took it back in March and never got around to sharing it.  I thought it’d be perfect for this post as this is just who they were this year.  Happy Wednesday everyone!

Friday Loves! And of course… the NOT so loves!

Friday again!  How did that happen?  The weeks just fly by don’t they?  The busier you are the faster it all seems to race away.  I really am trying to find the time to stop and smell the proverbial roses as they say.  I think I’ll try to choose one activity each week that makes me SSSLLLLOOOWWW DOWN!  This week I took the time to do something I have been MEANING to do for a couple of months.  Photograph MY OWN CHILDREN!

You know the saying, the cobbler’s children have no shoes?  The photographer’s children have no photos!  I’m always so busy photographing everyone and everything else that my own kid’s get a little lost in the shuffle.  Joyanna is ALREADY 10 months old!  I’ve got to do this while I still can.

Oh, and Mom.. don’t look… these are your mother’s day presents! (You all KNOW she’s going to look right?)  Oh it doesn’t matter anyway, I’m just sharing ONE today!  I’ll share another next week when I post about improving your photos using great light.

So let’s start with some NOT SO LOVES!  Get them out of the way so we can end on a high note.

  • I still can’t get the check from our home owners insurance cashed.  It needs to be Fed Exed across the country.  But FIRST we need to have a notary stamp it.  Ugh!  Like I have time for this nonsense!
  • Repairmen who act like they can’t be bothered.  Look buddy, if this job is too much of a pain for you I can always take my work and my money someplace else!
  • When I go to two grocery stores looking for something simple and neither have what I want.
  • Gas prices… have you SEEN THE PRICE OF GAS LATELY?
  • Diaper rash, ok yes I wrote this one last week.  It’s here again because our problem has not been solved.

Ok, now on the wonderful things!  LOVES!

  • I love love LOVE my new iPhone!  This thing rocks!  I can text like every other person in the world now.  I can answer client emails and Facebook posts on the fly.
  • I LOVE Instagram http://instagr.am/.  It’s this fun way to share snapshots from your iPhone.  I’m having a blast with it and probably getting a little carried away!
  • I LOVE the sessions I’ve booked this week.  Yeah me!  Still crossing my fingers on that wedding I wrote about last week though.
  • I LOVE the photos I captured of my baby girl this week.  Ok so I’m biased.  But I just think she is the most beautiful child!
  • I LOVE my son Noah who completed the entire first level in his math program this week.  Go Noah!
  • I LOVE the couple whose wedding I am photographing tomorrow.  Jeremy and Jen are the coolest.   I consider it a true honor that they asked ME to document their big day.  (A not so love would be the butterflies in my tummy.  It is my FIRST wedding of the season.  It is also the first wedding I will ever shoot where I know MANY of the guests.  Please pray I don’t trip and fall and make a fool of myself.  I’ll never live it down if I do!)
  • Oh! Almost forgot another LOVE!  I LOVE the 50mm 1.4 lens I’ve been renting this week.  I used it to take the photo of my daughter below.  This is on my must buy soon list!  It is just DELICIOUS!  I’m going to rock it out at the wedding tomorrow!

Have a great weekend everyone!  But before I go, here is a quick collage of some of my loves this week!  You’ll see my bride and groom, my baby girl, and my iPhone with an instagram photo.  Take care!