A Week In The Life of Our Homeschool

If you would have asked me last year what I thought I would be doing RIGHT NOW, the answer would have been: NOT homeschooling my kids. And yet, here I am…homeschooling my kids…and I actually kind of love it. No, I really love it. I love watching my kids learn–and learning along with them. I love playing teacher again. I love the way our boys’ relationships with each other and with us have strengthened. Homeschool has been a good move for our family, and I’m glad we made it.

We are still very new to this whole homeschooling thing, though, and I get a lot of questions from people about it.

How is school going?
Overall great, with plenty of hiccups and meltdowns along the way.

Are you exhausted yet?
Ummm…YEAH.

What do you do all day?
Stuff…I call it “playing with a purpose”.

Our days are surprisingly packed and the weeks have been flying by. In order to give you a better picture of what school looks like for us, I’ve put together a little tour through our week. So pack your bags and come along with us for your first week enrolled at the Peterson Learning Academy!

Day 1
On Mondays I introduce our weekly themes: our book (with our curriculum, Five In A Row, we have a new children’s book each week. We read the book every day of that week and base our activities around the themes found in the book), letter of the week, and Bible verse.

This week’s book is Ask Mr. Bear by Marjorie Flack, a classic book that has been enjoyed by four generations of children. The book is about a little boy who is trying to find the perfect birthday gift for his mother, so he asks all of the animals he meets if they have a gift for him. The main themes from the book that  we focused on this week were farm animals, forests, and birthdays (mostly because I wanted an excuse to eat more cake).

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After reading the book through one time we jumped right into our farm animal theme. We started with a matching game where the boys had to match animals with their products.
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Then we went outside to “milk” our “cows”.IMG_6854

Even though our cow udders were actually latex gloves and our milk was actually water, we still had a lot of fun (and we all agreed that we would not want to wake up early every morning to complete this chore).IMG_6856

Once our cows had been properly milked we measured how much water…er…milk…made it into our buckets. Despite a significant amount of liquid being lost to squirting themselves and each other, we did manage to pour enough into measuring cups to complete the activity.
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All that milking made us hungry, so we headed back inside to make a snack–farm style! We made our own butter by pouring heavy cream and a pinch of salt into a jar…IMG_6864

…and shaking, shaking, shaking like crazy!IMG_6867

Just when we thought our arms would fall off from exhaustion, the butter came together and we were able to enjoy some toast with VERY fresh butter.
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With tummies full of butter we were ready to move on to Messy Time (I have boys, so “messy time” is a suitable term for our artistic endeavors). Today we made “cow udder art” (ok, I’ve gotta think of a better name for that one…). We filled some more latex gloves with paint, poked holes in the ends of the fingers, and squirted away. They are very modern. I think I’ll sell the completed pieces to an art gallery and add the money to the boys’ college funds.
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After messy time we did a little work with our letter of the week, “o”. The boys love using their “dibble dots” (Bingo stampers), so we did a dibble dot letter tracing page to work on fine motor skills.IMG_6846

Monday happened to be a school holiday for the other kids in our neighborhood (Darn! We almost forgot to celebrate Columbus Day!). In the afternoon we met up with a bunch of the kids to go for a creek walk in our neighborhood. IMG_6876

Day 2
This was our “forest day”. After doing calendar time and reading our book again, we packed up and headed out for a day exploring the woods where Mr. Bear lives. There are several great hiking trails within a few minutes of our house, so we didn’t have to go too far to find a good forest. 
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The boys wanted to climb every tree we came to. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.IMG_6893

We hiked (and by “hiked”, I mean I hiked and they walked for short spurts between rides in the jogging stroller) a little over a mile to a small lake.
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The boys went “fishing” with poles we’d made that morning at home (they caught lots of little green plants and muck on their lines but, sadly for them, no fish).
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They also had fun exploring this exciting “tunnel” we found near the lake (and my, how it echoed!).IMG_6913

During our walk we made a nature board. I had painted several colors along one edge of the board and the boys worked together to find nature treasures of every color that we then taped on to the board. Their favorite finds were an acorn, multi-colored leaves…and an orange peel that someone had left on the side of the trail.
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When we returned home we made a page for our memory books (3-ring binders that we’re adding to all year). Today’s page was on the colors of Autumn and we used our color nature board to help us complete a poem about the different colors we see in nature at this time of year.
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Day 3
Our day started with the boys “reading” books to our dog, Bota, while I made breakfast.IMG_7011
Wednesday mornings are usually spent at our church doing either Playhouse (a fantastic morning just for preschoolers–they have open gym time with bounce houses, ride-on toys, gymnastics equipment, climbers, Play-doh, puzzles, crafts, stories, and circle time) or MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers). This was a MOPs week, so the boys went to their Moppetts group where they do a little Bible lesson, craft and games with other children their age. Meanwhile, Mommy went to her “class” where I learned how to take stunning iPhone photos while noshing on an uninterrupted hot breakfast and chatting with my friends.

Moppetts wore out little Jacob and he fell asleep in the car on the way home. While Jacob was napping, I took advantage of the quiet to work one-on-one with David. David has his own handwriting book that we are going through this year and he completed the “o” page for our letter of the week.IMG_6998

Then David did a letter building game, working with our letters of the week from this week and last week.IMG_7004

We had just enough time to do our “writing project”–thank you notes for his birthday party that we had last weekend!IMG_7007
After Jacob’s nap the boys worked on some animal puzzles together.IMG_7023

Then it was calendar time (a group activity where we go through the days of the week, counting, patterns, and graphing using our daily calendar). I’ve also been incorporating a song or poem each week that goes along with our theme, and this week’s poem is about farm animals. The boys used our farm puppets to help act out the poem.
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Next, we caught up on an activity that we ran out of time for last week when we were studying Corduroy. We made a page for our memory books that involved measuring and weighing their teddy bears.IMG_7030

Finally, we had Bible time. We’ve been using our Awana Cubbies book for a lot of our Bible time activities, and today’s story was about God creating the animals (quite fitting since we’ve been learning so much about animals lately!).IMG_7033 

Day 4
Now that we had heard our story several times and were getting quite familiar with it, I gave the boys some time for dramatic play. We started by talking about setting and we looked through several of our favorite books so we could identify the setting of each story. Then we got out the butcher paper (thank you, Melodie!) to draw a mural of the setting in Ask Mr. Bear.

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After our setting was complete, we hung it up and set up a “stage” so we could re-enact the story with puppets. The boys had a great time making their puppets move and talk just like the characters in the story.
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After several versions of the puppet show we worked on a letter-o craft project (they made an o-shaped octopus with Cheeri-o suckers on the tentacles…the vast majority of the “suckers” ended up in their mouths, though, so we counted this as snack time. Bam. Double-duty art project.)
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While they were content at the table with bowls full of Cheeri-o’s I had them color a mini farm animal book. The pattern of the text is so simple that they can “read” their own books–they really enjoyed getting to read to me for a change!IMG_7048
Day 5
Friday fun day! Since the plot of our book this week centered around a little boy trying to find the perfect birthday gift for his mother, I thought it would be fitting to have our own birthday celebration (note: Friday fun day also apparently implies that we got to wear pajamas and/or Halloween costumes all day. Homeschool for the win.)

I try to do at least one cooking project with the boys every week, so we headed into the kitchen to make birthday cupcakes (shhh…they were actually banana muffins, but don’t tell the un-birthday boys).IMG_7052

While our muffin cupcakes were baking we made a collaborative book. On each page they dictated while I wrote who they would like to give a gift to and what it would be. Then they drew a picture of the gift in the “gift box” at the bottom of the page and taped a piece of wrapping paper along the top edge of the gift box. It’s a really fun book similar to a lift-the-flap book that I’m sure they’ll enjoy reading and re-reading.
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We also played some balloon games. The first game involved rolling dice and bouncing the balloon the same number of times as the number they rolled. Once they got the hang of this we added a second dice and they had to add the numbers together (David could do this on his own, but Jacob still needed some help counting and adding the larger numbers).IMG_7064

We also did an experiment with balloons and FIRE (this one definitely had the wow factor going for it!). I blew up two balloons—one with just air, and the other with air and about 1/4 cup of cold water. We made predictions about what we thought would happen when the flame touched each balloon and then tested out our theories (the air balloon popped right away and the water-filled balloon lasted awhile longer before exploding). We talked about how heat changes things and they gave me examples of things they have seen changed by heat. Then we went back into the kitchen to check on our muffins in the oven to see how heat had changed THEM!IMG_7071

The boys decorated their birthday muffins with some frosting and sprinkles (eh, why not…) and I gave them each a birthday candle. We sang “Happy Un-Birthday To You” and they each made a wish before blowing out their candles. Then they licked their plates (and fingers, and table) clean.IMG_7072

While they were eating their cupcakes I got out their baby books and showed them the only completed sections in the books–their very first birthdays. We compared the size of their baby footprints to their giant boy feet and the size of their newborn ID bracelets to their giant boy hands. We looked at pictures of their tiny little selves and Mommy gushed about how stinkin’ adorable they were. Mommy may have also cried. Just a little.IMG_7079

After our snack we went back to our book and found all of the gifts that the animals suggested Danny give his mother for his birthday. We listed each gift on a whiteboard and then came up with rhyming words for each gift. I have a little rhyming song that we like to sing any time we rhyme, so we sang several verses using our gift rhymes.IMG_7084And thus concluded our week of Ask Mr. Bear (and with it, our unit on bears). This afternoon we’ll go to the library to return all of our bear books and check out some new books for next week’s study of pumpkins!

I hope you enjoyed coming along with us on our week of learning. Until next time!

XxX Allison

Ready For (Home)School!

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Can you believe it? Summer is OVER, and hi-ho-hi-ho it’s back to school we go. Back-to-school is always a special time of year, but this year is totally unique for us as it will be our inaugural year of homeschool. The butterflies are stirring.

Even though I’ve formally been out of the classroom for the last five years, I still suffer from Teacher Complex A. I can’t walk by the school supply aisle in a store without stopping to ogle the newest offerings, and I have a strong affinity for paper cutters and laminators. I speak in my Teacher Voice when I mean business–even with other grown adults. I’ve been known to opt out of traditional home décor in favor of colorful die-cut shapes so we can practice our letters and counting skills. You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the teacher out of me.

You can imagine how giddy I’ve been these last couple of weeks, then, as I’ve eagerly set up my own classroom at home (and by classroom, I mean I have completely taken over the entire house). This was no small feat considering we just moved into this house a 12 days ago, but where there’s a will there’s a way, amirght?

We’re officially starting school next Tuesday after Labor Day, although we’ve already started tinkering around with some of the school stuff because the boys saw it and were curious and I’m not about to miss the opportunity to capitalize on their eagerness. Since this will be our first year of homeschool, I know that I’ll be making tweaks and adjustments as the year goes on. For now, though, here is the set up for the 2015-2016 school year at Peterson Learning Academy:

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This year we will be using a curriculum (and I use that term lightly) called Five In A Row (FIAR). After reviewing the first volume of FIAR, however, I decided that Before Five In A Row (BFIAR) would be a better fit for us this year since most of the FIAR lessons are geared toward early readers and writers and we’re just not quite there yet.

Each week we will read a different classic children’s book (think Going On A Bear Hunt and The Runaway Bunny) every day for a full week (five days in a school week = five in a row). The curriculum/guide suggests learning activities across all subject areas that go along with the themes of the story. This is called a unit study approach, and I really like this idea for my multi-age preschool (see how fancy we are here at the Peterson Learning Academy?). FIAR allows me to adapt ideas to meet the interests and needs of both boys while keeping the focus on hands-on activities (I have a strong aversion to worksheets and rote seat work for kids of this age, but we can get more into that later…).

I will also be supplementing a the BFIAR guide a bit as I find necessary. For Bible I plan on using the FIAR Bible Study Supplement, The Jesus Storybook Bible, and Five Minute Devotions for ChildrenFor handwriting practice (for David only) we’ll use the Get Set For School My First School Book by Handwriting Without TearsI made my own planning notebook because that’s just how I’ve always done it and it works and I like it.

As far as the classroom goes, we have several spaces to choose from. I’m sure as the year goes on I will see how each space works best and we’ll move around all day as it suits us. This is our learning corner where we will do calendar/circle time and work on projects at the boys’ small table.
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I also set up some bookshelves and storage on the opposite wall so I can keep books and supplies at the ready.IMG_6113

The drawers next to the bookshelves contain supplies (crayons, markers, scissors, glue, tape) and manipulatives (teacher speak for Stuff We Use…letter and number magnets, big foam dice, ice cube trays for sorting activities, blocks, felt board pieces, puppets, pointers…all kinds of goodies).IMG_6115

The living room just happens to be in the center of our learning space, so we’ll use the couch and fireplace for story time and cuddle breaks.IMG_6121

Our dining room table will be another great workspace since we can clear it off and have plenty of room to lay out projects.IMG_6123

The kitchen will play a big role in our learning adventures this year. I plan on doing at least one cooking project each week that goes along with our story, so I wanted to make sure the kitchen was accessible for the boys. I dedicated several lower drawers to the supplies they’ll be using most often in our cooking: measuring cups and spoons, baking dishes, bowls, and cutting boards.IMG_6126

Perhaps what I’m most excited about, as far as the actual learning space is concerned, is the fact that we will have nearly unlimited access to the Outdoor Classroom (thank you, California sunshine!). One of our decks will host our outdoor learning stations: a sensory table (designed and built by Jon, our resident playtime architect and Principal Daddy), the “Play Doh Table”, and a big tub of plastic toys and Play Doh tools (plus a comfy chair for Teacher Mommy).IMG_6130

Our new house is in an awesome location for outdoor explorations. We live in a mountain canyon with a creek in our back yard–what else could two little boys ask for? We will spend plenty of time out in nature exploring and using our senses as we learn about the world around us.IMG_5921

Right up the street from us is a large lake with trails and beaches. Yet another exciting venue to explore in our outdoor classroom.IMG_5971

Since reading books will be a big part of our year, we will also be spending plenty of time at our local library enjoying books together.IMG_5925

I’ve joined a local homeschool co-op that a fellow homeschooling friend of mine is a part of, and we’ll be having weekly park days and field trips throughout the year. Not only will the park days and field trips be fun for us, but they will also give me and the boys an opportunity to connect with our peers. In addition to the co-op, we’ll also be attending MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) or CBS (Community Bible Study) each Wednesday morning, and AWANA on Sunday evenings. We’ll have quite the varied schedule, but I’m sure we’ll never get bored!IMG_3285

I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for us as we embark on this new homeschool adventure together–wish us luck!

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