Tuesday, July 22, 2014

American Girls Collection: Meet Samantha Curriculum

     During the Spring I began reading the original American Girl series to Marley.  I have been excited to introduce it to her, so we gave it a try and she adores the series.  She runs to me with her book in hand reminding me to read another chapter.  These books are so kid friendly with the short chapters and darling icon illustrations that appear between the paragraphs.  The plots are very simple and fun for children. And my favorite part is that it introduces a period of history to Marley.  An era of many changes, petticoats, washboards, introduction of electricity and motor vehicles, is quite interesting and fun to explain to a 4 year old.

     I was able to buy most of the original series on Ebay for about $1 each book.  We started off with Meet Samantha.  Right away Marley was enthralled with the introductory illustrations for the cast of characters. I think this is great for young visual learners who need a bit of a foundation for their imagination. She enjoyed the book so much that every time we read more, Marley would run to her daddy when he arrived home from work and tell him about the characters and what happened in the book.  I was thrilled to see her enjoying the book.
     I found that each chapter gave me an idea for an activity I could do with Marley that related to the book.  These enriching hands on ACTIVITIES can enhance the educational experience as well as create beautiful memories.

     CHAPTER 1: Bake Jelly Biscuits recipe link.

     CHAPTER 2: Simple sewing practice link.

     CHAPTER 3: Make a tin can phone tutorial link.

     CHAPTER 4: Stitching a plastic canvas.  (This can be done with young children if you use a dull needle and you monitor their work. This toy needlepoint kit is great.)


     CHAPTER 5: Playing with dolls. Maybe have a doll pretend tea party.

     CHAPTER 6: An act of service.  (The moral taken from the book was to be considerate of others, so maybe do a favor for a neighbor or leave some change at a vending machine.  Teaching children to think of others is a priceless lesson. More examples

      After we finished the book, I took her on a field trip to the Newland House Museum.  The house was built in 1898, so it was a perfect way for Marley to see in person how Samantha might have lived.  Marley was adamant to carry her book with her throughout the tour.  I enjoyed flipping through the pages showing her similarities we could recognize, such as the long underwear, the quilts, and an antique sewing machine.  It was a lovely little field trip for both of us and very memorable.

     We took a break from the series, because I didn't want to burn through it so quickly. Now we are working on Happy Birthday, Samantha!.  Marley is enjoying this book even more than the first.  Now that she is familiar with the characters, she feels more connected with the stories.  I love when I say the name Eddie Ryland, and Marley responds with "Oh no! Not Eddie."  Haha!  Seeing her develop a love for the characters is so precious.  It also gives her incentive to learn how to read.  I occasionally remind her that once she can read on her own, she can read all the books she loves by herself.

Homeschooling goal: Establish a love for learning.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Preschool: Letter & Sight Word Matching Game

     When I first officially started homeschooling Marley, I made some Disney alphabet flashcards which have come in handy and we have used them often. I just downloaded the letters, and printed them out on regular paper and then took them to get laminated.  Marley loves them because she is a big Disney fan, as am I.

     Today I wanted to do a letter/sight word review.  I printed out about 20 basic sight words and taped them to note cards.  I laid out the Disney alphabet and handed her the stack of cards.  I instructed her to match the first letter of each word with the appropriate Disney letter.  We went over letter identification and reviewed some sight words.  She has her letters down, but is still learning to identify sight words.  It was nice to assess where her progress has brought her.  She had lots of fun (as you can see in the photo below) and once she got the hang of it, she played the game several times, attempting to go faster each time.  She was very proud to complete the activity by herself.

     After the game, I challenged Marley to write the sight words on her chalkboard.  She chose only a few cards and copied the words as best she could.  After writing those words and saying them out loud, she had definitely memorized those sight words more than the others.  Looks like this will be an exercise we practice regularly with more words. ;)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Think Outside The Box: My thoughts on homeschooling.

Throughout my homeschooling research, something has occurred to me on several occasions.
The concept of homeschooling really takes an unconventional method of thinking when it comes to education.

My generation was raised in a society of public schools, sitting at desks, turning in homework, taking tests, and getting "good' or "bad" grades.  Does that make up a good education? Maybe for some.  But honestly, in my own experience, it was generally a waste of time.  With the exception of math and science, I felt I reached a plateau of learning very early (around age 12).  Everything beyond that was time fillers, learning to write lengthy essays that regurgitate the opinions of individual teachers, and studying to pass pointless tests that did not actually measure any acquired knowledge.  I most often observed peers who were quite intelligent, struggle through school because they did not have good memorization skills.  "School" as we know it, is a funnel that gives good memories an edge. Those intelligent kids who struggled were not given opportunities to explore their own talents and skills or to progress academically at their own pace.  They were mainly broken down by the common standards of school and came out of it feeling exhausted and mediocre.  I think that is pretty sad.

I have come to believe that the vast majority of us are geniuses, but we aren't provided the opportunities or circumstances to reach our full potential.

Clues to identifying the 8 intelligences currently observed. (I believe there are many more, but they have not been pinpointed yet.)

I have met and read about many happy and successful people who were homeschooled.  All of them say they loved being homeschooled and that it offered them ample opportunities and flexibility.  One of the main things I hear is that they are grateful for the sacrifices their parents made in order to homeschool.  Seems to me that homeschooled children are rarely lacking in a loving supportive home, or confidence.  But what kind of grades did these kids get? How would they have measured up to the class average? Did they get their college degrees?...

When it comes down to it, I think to myself: I don't care. I don't care about grades or awards or even degrees.  Sounds crazy, right?  But what is most important to me is to raise my children in a loving home that supports them in their individual dreams.  I want my children to be able to make goals and find their own way of achieving those goals.  ACCOUNTABILITY, CONFIDENCE, CREATIVITY, LOVE, SUPPORT, and INDEPENDENCE.  In my opinion, these are the keys to success.  And I hardly think there are tests that measure any of those things.

And "homeschooling" provides a way for parents to assess each child's needs and to take control of their educational path, rather than leave it up to the system.  So, maybe public school is the best option for a child.  Maybe that environment will allow certain children to thrive.  I know a few homeschoolers that homeschool one child, while a sibling attends public school, and another sibling experiences a hybrid education.  I have great admiration for those parents.  They are truly making the greatest effort to provide the best for each of their children.

I have realized there is no need to be offended when someone expresses they would never homeschool because of X,Y, Z. They are just not able to think outside the box of conventional school.  To them, the idea is completely foreign and strange and crazy.  It's okay.  Because it is not important to please others or to assure them of our decisions.  It is important to make our own paths and to provide for our children as our instinct/spirit guides.  Trust and press forward.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Return To Reality

Oh my! The last few months have been a long and miserable trip through exhaustion, loss of appetite,  nausea, vomiting, anti-social behavior, and random mood swings. Yes, I am referring to that wonderful journey called Pregnancy.  We are expecting our 3rd child on December 2nd! Its very exciting and happy news, and yet I am one of those women who have awful 1st trimesters that seriously take a toll on everything in life.  There were times of clear insanity when I felt like I just wanted to die, because I was tired of crawling to the bathroom to dry heave for the umpteenth time of the day.  I am a big complainer but honestly, now that I am past the worst, I can look forward to returning to my regular routine and being the happy motivated person that I am...sometimes. ;)

Obviously through the last few months of misery, homeschooling was out of the question.  Luckily, I had the opportunity to send Marley to a small home based part-time preschool program.  She was 1 of 6 girls who were taught by a well known mother from our church.  It was nice to know she was able to engage in some educational activities away from her crazy, grumpy, sickly mother.  She had fun and brought home some cute art projects, but definitely did not progress as much as she would have with me.  I would have pushed her a little harder to really absorb information. But I think that's the benefit of learning one on one with the parent.  I think as parents we know our child's potential better and how much they can learn at a certain pace.
One thing I loved about the preschool program: they had a few opportunities for the kids to perform songs in front of the parents.  I think performing is a significant way to enhance self-esteem,  confidence, social interaction and work ethic, so I will be advocating that for all my children.

A little while ago I was approached by a friend referring Marley to a special preschool program in our area.  At first, I was going to politely decline because I plan to homeschool, but after I heard more about the program my instinct told me to look into it further.  This particular preschool program pairs up typical children with atypical children in an academic and social setting.  They work together to help each other along with the tasks and activities.  My friend said that Marley seemed like a good fit for the program because she demonstrates patience and understanding of feelings and good social skills.  I have also noticed these traits to be her strengths.  After discussing it with my husband, we agreed that the program would be a great opportunity for Marley to work and interact with peers that may not be of the same level of development.  We would love for her to acquire the wisdom early on that each person deserves love and respect regardless of differences. So we said yes and decided to enroll her in the program.  It breaks my heart a bit because I was really looking forward to doing activities with her at home, but I prayed about it and feel this is the right decision for her this year.
I will have more time to spend "homeschooling" Dylan (my toddler) and Baby Desmond next year.  Luckily Baby Desmond's curriculum will only consist of breastfeeding, love, and cuddles. ;)

As far as the summer goes, I plan to do a quick (10 min) academic review at least twice a week just to keep those letters, numbers, and sight words fresh in Marley's mind.  One of the things I disliked about school was coming back to school after 3 months forgetting everything I had learned the semester before. Anyone else?
I also plan to enlist Marley as a co-teacher and have her help me with a summer curriculum for Dylan, which will consist of reading board books and singing songs to her little sister.  I've noticed that giving Marley the responsibility of helping her younger sister learn makes for a happier sister relationship. Should be fun for all of us! We shall see.