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Category: Homeschooling

Egg Science

Egg Science

A very wise women once told me to enjoy the early elementary years of homeschool because around 3rd grade things would start to get a little more difficult. I couldn’t have possibly understood what she meant but her words proved to be true.

So, when she told me to take a deep breath and enjoy the later elementary years because 6th grade was going to sucker punch me…I listened and took her advice.

For me, it’s a combination of homeschooling four kids at the same time and one of them being in sixth grade but long gone are the days of finger paint, craft projects and theme oriented snack times. Goodbye fun mom, may you rest in peace.

I’ve learned that I’m more likely to do “fun things” if I incorporate them into our school day because lets be honest…when the weekend rolls around there’s a long list of other things I’d rather do.

For the last couple of weeks we’ve replaced our regular science curriculum with random egg science experiments from the internet and reached a unanimous decision- eggs are really cool!

Who knew eggs were strong enough to stand on? And how adorable is Breck’s face in this photo? He couldn’t contain his excitement from this experiment. 

We learned that with a few items you probably already have in your house you can completely remove the shell of an egg leaving only the membrane intact. When the shell is removed the egg absorbs the liquid it’s floating in which makes it larger.
The boys made predictions of how many books could be stacked on top of a raw egg before it cracked. We were horribly off on our predictions when our egg held 18 books. If you try this experiment be sure to put plastic under the egg. You’ll thank me later. The creativity came out when each of us had to come up with a way to protect our egg in the “Egg Drop Challenge.” 

And of course I jumped at the chance to stick a label on something but you probably already knew that. 

And oddly enough, it turns out wrapping a raw egg in Play-Doh is an excellent form of protection.

In an effort to check the “school box” I made journals for the boys to record the information in each day. Do you see what I did there? Cheesy, I know, but I just couldn’t resist. Happy Easter!

Business As Usual

Business As Usual

Right before we left the states to head back to the Middle East we had a microscopic bit of snow in our city. Our boys learned then that homeschooling has its advantages and disadvantages. While our cousins were at home curled up on the couch watching movies, we were in the school room handling business as usual.

However, there are also great advantages to homeschooling. One of those advantages being, no matter where we are, we can carry on with school. And when you travel as much as we do, that’s a pretty great incentive.

We have been living in a hotel for a little longer than originally anticipated so it was imperative that we resume our school schedule, even if for no other reason than to bring some order to our day.

We’ve set up a nice little system here in the hotel and Taylor Academy is in full swing. We eat breakfast and then work together to clean the table off and get school started. When lunch time rolls around we put the school away and prepare lunch. After lunch we clean up the table again and drag the school books back out. Finally, when we finish school for the day, we put all the books away and transition to dinner…again. Doesn’t that just sound delightful?

I must admit that my OCD nature gets tested regularly by the fact that we don’t have a designated “school room.”

I try to stay as organized as possible by creating neat stacks for each of the boys but when the laundry drying area doubles as a bookshelf, things can get cluttered. 
And no need to worry about the fact that the majority of our school supplies are still packed in our tubs. We may not have the necessary supplies but we are getting by just fine. You’d be surprised how resourceful I can be when backed against a wall. I’m encouraging myself with the idea that once we get settled in our home and have the school room set back up the schooling will practically take care of itself. And today I’m choosing to live in that reality so please don’t spoil it for me.

Prayer Words

Prayer Words

I have a love–hate relationship with the beginning of a new school year. I hate saying goodbye to the lazy days of summer, learning new curricula and schedules, the rampageous tax free weekend back-to-school shopping and trying to determine how everything is going to get squeezed into the day.

At the same time, I love that our days are more routine, new packs of vibrantly colored crayons, little ones climbing in my lap to read  books and I especially love how the beginning of a school year is a natural time to reflect back on the previous year.

crayonsBefore we dive head first into a new school year, as their teacher, I set aside some time to think about each of our school aged boys. I ask God to show me areas of strength and maturity each child has displayed in the previous school year and then I thank Him for developing those traits in each of them.

I then spend time praying for God to show me areas that may be lacking or need further development. I choose one specific word that embodies what I’m asking Him to do in that particular child’s life and I make that their “prayer word” for the year. I usually choose a verse of Scripture to accompany each child’s word which makes it easy for me to pray that Scripture over them.

He shall remain nameless but I’m guessing if you’ve spent any time with our family you know who got the word “self-control.”  I’m praying Proverbs 25:28 over him and he’s working diligently to memorize it. “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self control.”

I found a cute little Etsy shop that makes adorable wooden signs. I had a personalized wooden sign made for each child to put on their desk and also to remind me to pray for them often.

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As a mom it’s so easy for me to get frustrated with characteristics (or the lack there of) in my children. Choosing a prayer word for the year allows me to temporarily step out of my role as mom and look at things from the perspective of a teacher. My hope is that when I’m wanting to bang my head against a wall because the b’s look like d’s, the paintbrush got sharpened in the pencil sharpener and the five year old is still reading “bed” as “bad” I can exhale and be reminded of the eternal value that can be accomplished with one heartfelt prayer to a Good, Good Heavenly Father.

Goodbye Summer… I love you!

Goodbye Summer… I love you!

For the first time in the history of our homeschool career we decided to take a full 3 month summer. Yep, you read that correctly. We took off the entire month of June, July and August and it was the best decision we’ve made in a long time.

There were no summer bridge activities, no reading programs, no math practice. Zip. Zero. Zilch. We did absolutely nothing that falls into the category of “educational.” I know some of you are sorely disappointed and have vowed to never ask me another homeschooling question again. No offense taken.

So what did we do?

We met friends for playdates,IMG_6268

We slept late, learned to knee board, climbed trees, visited four different countries, went to soccer camp, rode the inner tube, caught lightning bugs at dusk, saw the Crossfit Games, adopted a dog, swam until our fingers were wrinkly, took dinner to friends, broke a couple of bones, soaked up time with cousins…IMG_6002 and most importantly, we learned that we are able to see the goodness of a loving God much more clearly when our lives are simplified.

Unfortunately, no matter how much I kicked, screamed and pleaded with summer to stay around a little while longer the inevitable happened and September came knocking.

We are slowly dipping our toes into the shallow end of the school year and mourning the loss of lazy days and flip flops. And while every detail of “Back to School” didn’t go as planned, I did manage to snap a few pictures to document the year that I’m certain I’ll treasure for years to come.

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My Favorite Things: Homeschool Edition

My Favorite Things: Homeschool Edition

Trying to get our homeschool curriculum from the states into our last country of residence was a logistical nightmare bit of a challenge. Getting our homeschool curriculum into our current country is almost enough to make me put the kids on the neighborhood bus headed to the local madrasa. (Arabic for school) Ok, not really, I write for effect.

I’ve had to start thinking outside the box when it comes to curriculum ideas and pester my teacher friend Candice to death in search of things to help “enhance” our educational experience. Fortunately, there is a plethora of options if you are willing to do the research and sort through the good, the bad and the down right stupid. Don’t tell my boys I used that word, m-kay?

But what’s even better than sorting through the 89,763 options? Having someone do it for you. So, here is a little gift for you. These are a few of my favorite homeschool helps. I use the word homeschool because that’s where I am today but these are also great for any parent wanting to enhance what your child is focusing on at school or pre-k.

Storyline Online

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My mother in law loves to read to my boys when we are in the states and as a result my boys have a long list of books they want her to read. Unfortunately, the distance makes reading in your grandmother’s lap a challenge. The Storyline Online Website allows my kids to sit and watch some of their favorite stories being read to them by famous actors and actresses. It pales in comparison to a grandparent but we’ll take what we can get.

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As evidenced in a recent blog post, I’m still figuring out what to do with the baby escape artist while the other boys are doing school. In the meantime I have used ABCya! often to aid in reinforcing skills we are learning in our daily curriculum and to keep the younger boys focused while I am working with the older ones on the more intense subjects.

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I don’t know many 80’s kids that can resist the urge to jump in and sing along when they hear, “Butterfly in the sky….I can go twice as high.”

That same wonderful information we learned watching Reading Rainbow has not only been added to Netflix, it’s been developed into a website for children and families. The website does charge a fee of $9.99 for one month, $29.99 for six months or $49.99 for a year subscription but I think it’s worth it. I’ve paid for other websites in the past and regretted that decision but this one did not disappoint. We use it often for video field trips, online library or a quick story-time break from school.

Some of these may be old news that has just made it around to me but I hope you can find something in here that is useful. I’d love to hear from you. What are the homeschool helps you use the most or the things you’ve found for your school kids to help make the journey a little easier?

Homeschool and Babies

Homeschool and Babies

While I’m still a long way from being a homeschool veteran, I’ve been doing it for seven years and have learned a few things along the way. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I can tell you what not to do because I’ve made my share of mistakes along the way. And that’s what today’s post is about.

One of the most common questions I hear from new homeschool mamas is, “What do you do with the baby while you teach the older kids?”

If you had asked me that question this same time last week I would have had a nice answer for you. I would have showed you our daily homeschool “routine” and mumbled a few sentences about the pack and play and saving the more labor intensive subjects for when the baby naps. And then, this happened…

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My little circus performer figured out how to climb out of his pack and play- wreaking havoc on our homeschool bliss. Yep, that’s a game changer.

I was just telling a friend last week that our homeschooling year was going really well. We’ve found a routine that works for our family, our curriculum is a good fit for the boys and we have a homeschool room to spread out in. We were living’ the homeschool dream.

IMG_1074And then our beautifully orchestrated daily routine (the one in which I impart immeasurable wisdom to my children while they attentively hang on to my every word while politely raising their hand should a question arise) took a tumble.

Now, this little angel wakes up with puffy eyes, bed head and ready to start the day. Doesn’t that look just say it all?

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After breakfast we get dressed and start school. I put this little punkin’ in his pack and play, fully anticipating a wonderfully productive morning while he plays contently in the corner.

IMG_1003But then I’m quickly reminded that he can climb out when I find him slamming his fist down on the computer keyboard.

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His big brothers are so patient with him and try to include him in the work, which goes well for about 1.6 seconds until big brother needs his headphones back and the baby loses it. *Insert Temper Tantrum Here*
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Once he learns he’s not getting the headphones he moves on to more interesting things, like tackling his brother while he tries to do math.

IMG_5171 (1)Or my personal favorite, playing in the bidet.

IMG_1894As you can see, our homeschooling routine is currently under construction and in need of a little creative thinking which I’m sure to figure out as soon as I finish cleaning the bidet.

Back To School

Back To School

When I was an elementary school teacher I learned pretty quickly that the first day of school would always be eventful. There would always be an unexpected event that makes the day a little extra exciting.

-A child falls asleep on the school bus and misses her stop, sending everyone into “missing child” mode. Hysteria ensues.

-Somebody forgets to bring a lunch resulting in crocodile tears in the lunch line.

-The student who thought he was a car rider missed his bus because he was in the car rider line instead of the bus line.

I’ve since transitioned from public school teacher to homeschool teacher and it still holds true that there will always be unexpected events on the first day of school.

Last week we started back to school, which means I am required to flood your news feed with adorable photos of the boys. Just humor me.IMG_1008IMG_1020IMG_1006IMG_1013

The day began with a bang. We found Brax in his crib, without a diaper, painting the sheets and walls with the contents of said diaper. Art for the day? Check. Seriously, that’s gross, even if you’re his mama. Lucky for me, he cleans up pretty nicely. IMG_0996 (1)I peeled off the hazmat suit and headed downstairs to fix breakfast. We usually start the first day of school with a special breakfast. This time we had pumpkin chocolate chip muffins which may not sound special to you, but finding pumpkin here is like finding gold at the end of a rainbow so we were ecstatic.

Thanks to my friend Lora, we dished out washi-tape coded school supplies.

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We cuddled on the couch, read lots of books and I was reminded of how thankful I am that I get to teach these guys ….despite the random poop clean up. IMG_1033IMG_0978

Redemption for the Loser Mom

Redemption for the Loser Mom

I had marvelous plans for the summer. I really did.

My boys are in an outer space phase so I planned to spend a few weeks teaching them about the solar system. And when I say “teaching” I mean lots of science experiments, Magic School Bus episodes, Pinterest projects and picture books. You know, all the stuff that often gets neglected in an effort to finish the “real curriculum.”

I downloaded several books from the summer reading list and browsed Pinterest for cute reading charts to keep track of our accomplishments. I planned fun outings. I googled “summer boredom busters” and collected the random supplies. It was going to be an epic summer. It was.

Then we decided to move a few months before we had originally planned. All of my “fun mom” ideas were instantly replaced with uninspired, uninvolved, formulaic ideas from fun mom’s evil twin. Maybe you know her, “Loser Mom.” I think she’s taken up permanent residence in our home the past couple of  months.

At this exact moment my sinful flesh wants to tell you that, as of today, we’ve lived in four different places in a span of six weeks. Or that we’ve moved to a new country or how for the past three weeks someone in our house has been sick and that I deserve a “Loser Mom” pass because we’ve driven around for 4+ hours everyday with five kids in the car looking for a home. I want you to hear that it really isn’t my fault that I’m completely dropping the ball in the motherhood arena because well…I’m a sinner, that’s what I do. I seek to justify the things that make me feel like a failure in order to win your approval. Lame, I know.

The guilt started to flood in. I was ruining our summer. Our boys had watched enough TV and played enough video games to send the average child into a full blown media coma. I had served crackers for lunch and cereal for dinner, again. My kids were wearing the same outfits they had on for three solid days  the day before. The dishes and the laundry were embarrassingly behind. I proceeded to scroll through Instagram only to be reminded that every other mom on the planet was doing a better job than me. I sank deeper. The guilt was crippling.

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In a hail mary effort to get something praiseworthy done in our day, I reached for the children’s Bible and decided we would read a few verses together. At least I could check the family worship box. And then the Lord showed me that He’s at work, even in my failure. The One that created my innermost being reminded me that “His power is made perfect in MY weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

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As I mindlessly thumbed through the pages of the Action Bible the voice of our second son broke through my inattention. “Mom, do you think when I grow up and have my own children I should tell them about this day?”

I managed to muster up a voice that sounded somewhat interested long enough to ask him what about this day he would tell his children.

His answer caused my heart to leap and shatter all in the exact same moment.

“You know mom, how for so many months we prayed that God would give us a house that has an upstairs, four bedrooms, a place for us to play outside and still be close to a dukan and He answered every one of our prayers. I can’t wait to tell that story to my kids when I’m a dad.” (dukan is the word for a convenience store in our neck of the woods)

Oh, that story. The one I totally missed because I was too nearsighted to see it unfolding right in front of me. The one that my seven year old had to bring to my attention.

I had become so wrapped up in comparing myself to other moms that I missed what God was doing in our home. I had sank so deeply into my own self pity that I couldn’t see His hand at work, right in my own family. And worst of all, I was so focused on what I thought I needed to do that I missed what my Creator had already done.

I think I’ll tattoo Psalm 90:17 on my forearm, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us– yes, establish the work of our hands.”

In my weakness- in my frailty- He reminded me that it’s not all up to me. Even on my worst days, He is faithful. So for today, I’m not hiding my loser Mom moments, I’m posting them right here for the world to see and holding my head high because It never was me that made my measly efforts successful…It was Him.

 

Curriculum Choices

Curriculum Choices

Although I’ve been greatly pleased with the curriculum we have used for the past couple of years we are changing things up a bit for next school year. Because we were moving overseas and shipping would be a nightmare we needed to figure out all of our curriculum needs eight months before we would actually be using the curriculum. For my homeschool peeps that know what a challenge curriculum selection can be…you feel my pain. We were in the middle of the school year using one set of curriculum and now I needed to think through curriculum selection for the next school year for two children because Brody would be starting kindergarten in the fall. In the past I’ve tried to finish up the school year before I began trying to wrap my mind around what the next year would look like, that wouldn’t be the case this time.

I sought the advice of those who had gone before me and decided an all in one curriculum would be much easier given all of the other changes that were right around the corner.

In the fall this little man will start kindergarten.

IMG_8043I chose the Go Phonics curriculum for him along with Saxon Math One.

Braeden will begin third grade in the fall using Saxon Math Three, First Language Lessons Level 3, and My Father’s World  for everything else. Now, can we just all pause for a moment of silence because I’ll have a third grader and be schooling two children for the first time since my homeschool career began.

IMG_8271For our Bible time we will be using God’s Promises and the two older boys will begin Arabic lessons as well.

Needless to say I’m super excited about our new curriculum but not nearly as excited as I am about my new co-teacher that arrives in two weeks!!!!

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