Monday, September 18, 2017

Homeschool Today

A lot of good things happened in our homeschool today.  There are always challenges and obstacles, but I was happy with so many things.  I took a bunch of pictures; I thought I'd share.

Peanut struggles with reading so much, but I am figuring some things out.  A few days ago I discovered that if she sings, she remembers.  I will point to the letter A and ask her what it says and she will fall apart-- she doesn't remember!  A!  I've only been teaching it to her for years!  Over and over and over again!  But all I have to do is start singing that Letter Factory song, the one to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell."  "The A says ___" and she immediately says the short A sound.  So we sing our way through our short vowel sounds and it helps so much.  Today I discovered that she does really well with the "word hop" activity recommended in her language book.  I wrote all those basic two-letter words she has been struggling and struggling with on index cards and spaced them out on the living room rug.  She had to hop from card to card as she read each one.  She kept saying "that was FUN!" and wanting to do it again.  WIN!

Of course Leaf wanted to hop behind her.  

We have been having great success with this Tiny Polka Dot math game that I got.  Today we played "hungry numbers" where we had to "feed" each numeral cards that had the corresponding number of dots on it.  Frog and Peanut both loved this.

Here's our table covered with books and here's Leaf doing her fine-motor-skill thing...

...while Twig builds a tall tower with Magna-Tiles.  LOVE Magna-Tiles!  What a blast to watch my two-year-old build with them!

The Rabbit has been needing help with math.  This has been a challenge for me to find the time.  Usually with Teaching Textbooks my kids have been able to work independently, and that's what I was counting on when I planned our schedule.  The Rabbit has had very little trouble with math over the years.  But nwo she's run into some snags (long division!  horror!)  So today we curled up together with her book and worked through the lesson together.  

I have had this Pattern Play set for years, and recently Frog has gotten into it.  He really loves it.  There are cards with patterns on them that they can copy, and he really enjoys that.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Feeding the Twins

We have so much fun watching the twins eat.  They make the most hilarious faces, especially Leaf.  She has one eye that will pop open wide when she is biting something.  It is such a delight.  I am so grateful that my children have plenty of food to eat.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

September Butterflies

We have a crazy amount of butterflies in our front flower garden every afternoon.  It's so fun to go outside and see them flickering about.  Twig especially loves them.  Oh, how she wants to hold one!

They are extremely hard to photograph.  They fly off when I come close with the camera, and if I step back and snap a broad picture of the area somehow none of them turn up even though there are at least 2 dozen of them fluttering around.  In this picture, though, you can see one above Twig's head.

They make me think of one of my favorite poems:

By Helen Hunt Jackson

The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.
The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.
The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook.
From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.
By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.

Bits of Real

In case you are thinking that because I said school is going "well" that means my children are calmly and obediently and happily going through the lovely routine I have set up, I figured I had better clarify what "well" means to me when it comes to homeschool.

"Well" means I am not having a nervous breakdown.

My kids are very normal kids.  They fight.  They dawdle.  They whine and complain.  They cry noisily over silly things.  They go into hysterical fits of laughter when they are supposed to be serious and focused.  They forget things.  They drop their pencil on the floor fifty billion times.  They do all of this and more during school Every Single Day.

One of the hardest things about homeschool is that home is the place where kids feel comfortable, where they can turn off and relax.  Trying to instill some academic discipline in them in that environment is a huge challenge, and it can take a long time.

I remember all those years with the older kids where I used to go on these rants sometimes: "You don't even know how good you have it!  If you had any idea what it was like in public school, what it's like for all your peers, you would thank your lucky stars I make this so easy for you, and that you can do it at home sitting on the comfy couch in your pajamas, and you would do it all cheerfully and gratefully!"

I was vindicated when I finally did send them to public school.  "Oh, Mom, you were right!  We had it so good!  And we didn't appreciate it!  If only we could go back!"

The Rabbit is now my only child left at home who has had an institutional school experience.  She went to Kindergarten, and she knows what school is like.  That has helped a lot.  It hasn't made her a perfect model of diligence, but she understands how school is supposed to be.

The younger kids do not.  So that is a challenge I am facing right now.

Peanut in particular is having a hard time, bless her heart.

We start out the day with a song, right?  The reality is that sometimes I am the only one singing.  One is crying hysterically because it was their turn to move the calendar marker and someone else moved it.  One is mad because someone invaded their personal space.  The other is crying because the mad one hit them.  Etc.

It goes on like this all day.  I've had to learn to deal with it and keep things moving on.  I have to be flexible and rearrange my plans to suit the kids' needs without letting them steamroll me.  It's a juggling act, and it's not always easy to find the balance.

Public school classrooms are the same, really.  Lots of interruptions, kids who distract and disrupt.  Teaching immature young humans in any environment is a challenge.

So, "well" doesn't mean the kids are perfectly complying.  "Well" means we're managing to get through most of our stuff most of the time, despite the challenges.

And there are moments: beautiful, beautiful moments when everyone is excited and engaged, drinking deeply from the cup of learning.  Those moments are glorious and make it all worthwhile.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Handling School with the Twins

The question I see most often on homeschool forums is "what do you do with the toddlers while you're trying to do homeschool?"  I am always interested in answers to this question, since there is never one solution that works for everyone and even veteran homeschool moms need new ideas.

I think at this point my answer to this question would be "keep them near you and keep them involved."

This is how I'm handling the twins this year, and so far it's working.

In times past I have tried to encourage them to go play upstairs during school; sometimes I would even assign an older child to go up and play with them for awhile.  It never worked very well.  It usually ended with some awful mess in some place that they weren't even supposed to be.

We aim to start the day with a clean living room and a tidy homeschool room.  This way they are happy to play in the living room with whatever toy set I get out for them (ever notice how kids are much more eager to play in a clean room than they are in a messy one?)  Morning is their happiest time, when they love to play together.  It's cute to see the way they will get some plastic or stuffed animals and make them talk to each other.  They will often do this for a long time.  I guess this is one advantage to having twins.

During the time we are in the school room sitting at the table (Frog Time, Peanut Time) they are welcome to come join us, if they want.  I mentioned how Leaf in particular likes to draw very small "pictures" on paper.  She will do this with a lot of concentration for quite a long time.  I pulled one of the kids old critical thinking workbooks off the shelf and told Leaf it was her school book.  So when Frog and Peanut are working out of their workbooks Leaf has her own place where she can draw to her heart's content. She doesn't care that it's already written in, she just loves it because it looks like a real school book.  Of course then Twig wanted one too.  Luckily I have plenty of old workbooks lying around.

The twins are often able to participate in our game time, but if they can't, I can get something else out for them that makes them feel included.  Man, they love those Bananagram tiles.  And of course, they are very much able to be involved in read-aloud time.  

I was pleased at how well they did at library story time last week.  We haven't taken them to the library much over the last year or so... it was sort of a nightmare to be at the library with two shelf-demolishing toddlers.  But now they are older.  The story time we went to was geared toward 3-5 year olds, but they sat through most of it happily.  There was a craft at the end in another room and I didn't take them in to that, and then I had to hurry the rest of the kids through the craft because the twins started to lose it at that point.  But we're getting there.

I'm looking forward to watching them learn and grow this year alongside their older siblings!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

One Week In

We are one week into our homeschool year, and I probably shouldn't talk about how well things are going because this is still the honeymoon period, but I really am pleased so far.

As I pondered how to set up our day, I definitely had clear inspiration from the Spirit about a few things, and that has been the reason for the success.

There has been a really interesting shift in my focus this year.  In the past I have spent most of my time with older students, making their lessons a priority.  The littles I mainly tried to just keep busy, giving them short lessons here and there where I could.  This year, I only have one older student and a bunch of littles.  The littles are now my priority, as my older student can work on her own much of the time.    It's been a really fun change for me.  It's like going back to my early years of homeschooling, only I know so much more this time and so I enjoy it more.

We don't officially "start" homeschool until 9 am, but we have things to do before then.  The Rabbit has to practice her piano and do her math on the computer while I do all my morning stuff like get the laundry going, start a batch of bread, etc.  Frog and Peanut are supposed to help me out with these chores (that's hit or miss, but it's a nice idea.)

At 9 am we have opening exercises.  We sing "Teach Me to Walk in the Light" (we will sing it every day until they all know the whole thing and then we will switch) and have a prayer.  Then we recite our theme scripture.  This year it is Doctrine and Covenants 109:7-8: ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;
Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God...
We then have a short discussion about the day: what day it is, what the weather is, what is going on that day, etc.

After that it's Frog Time!  This was one of my inspirations.  During Frog Time, I work one on one with Frog.  We sit at the table and do some handwriting, some reading, some math, some logic, etc.  I keep things moving and it only lasts 20 minutes.

At 9:30 it's Peanut Time!  She gets 30 minutes of one-on-one.

During Frog time, Peanut gets to do stuff on the computer like, and when it's Peanut time, Frog gets his computer turn.  And all this time the Rabbit is sitting at the desk working on her language and scriptures and journal and things... I am there if she has questions but she can mostly work by herself.

At 10 am, we take a break.  We play a game and have some recess.  I have so many games and manipulatives that I have always felt didn't get near enough use, so this is my chance to use them.  I made a big list of everything I have so that I can make sure I rotate through stuff.  This last week we played Memory one day and another day we played with Jumbo Bananagrams.  The kids all just loved it.

One day a week we go to the library, and 10 am is our cue to get ready and head over there for 10:30 story time.  For years story time was a staple at our house, but it faded away as the schooling needs of older kids didn't allow the luxury.  I am so happy to get back into the routine of going to story time every week.  Also, I remember fondly those years where we would check out a huge stack of picture books after story time and take them home and have long cuddly read-aloud sessions throughout the week.  That is another thing that is experiencing a revival at our house right now.

On non-library days, at 10:30 we move on to our group lessons: science, history, or art. Science and history are mostly geared toward the Rabbit, but Peanut and even Frog can participate to an extent.  For art, I am focusing on Peanut and Frog, doing the Artistic Pursuits preschool book.  Of course the Rabbit wants to join in, which is great.

At 11:30 we start cleaning up and making lunch.  We eat around noon and then it's quiet time.  The twins nap and hopefully I get a bit of rest and the other kids play in their room or watch an educational video.

After that, there is a little window of time before we have to go get the Plumfield kids.  I am working to make this into a read-aloud time, cuddled up in my bed with lots and lots of picture books.  

It's a good school day.  I think everyone's needs are being met, yet it is a pace I can handle.

Thursday, August 31, 2017


I have had quite a bit of success with the garden this year.  May I present to you my first honeydew melon that I have ever grown myself.

It was big and it was sweet and delicious!

It will probably be the only one I get off the vine... maybe one more small one.  Next year I shall have to work at increasing yields.  But this was a good start!