A Day In The Life of 3 Kids

img_0204I have a few friends who are currently pregnant with their third child. This, of course, has spurred many-a-question about what this mystical/maniacal life with three children actually looks like. It’s hard to say exactly what life is like with three kids–it’s the most wonderful and most busy my life has ever been! Perhaps the best way to demonstrate what life is like with three kids is to SHOW you what life is like with three kids.

Here is a typical day for our family, with our three kids aged 1, 4, and 6:

6:00  Wake up to an alarm. Forget the days of getting to “sleep in” until the children wake up on their own, because now that you have three children at least one of them is old enough to be in REAL school (i.e. a school that takes attendance and administers tardies to late parents). Which means you have to get your tired bum out of bed before the true chaos begins so you can get a head start on the 1.3 million things that must be done before 8 AM.

6:02   Go to the bathroom in peace. Savor this moment, because it is the only time you will pee without an audience today.

6:05   Prepare coffee/tea/install IV line of caffeine

6:15   Get out the lunchboxes that you started packing last night. Finish filling them with the “fresh stuff” that you didn’t want to get moldy and/or soggy overnight.

6:20   Greet the early bird (Kid 2) and offer him a banana on the couch so you can start making breakfast.

6:21   Start making breakfast

6:22   Hear the baby (Kid 3) waking up on the baby monitor

6:23   Nurse baby, change diaper, dress baby. Make a mental note to savor these last few months with a baby who snuggles into your arms and can’t talk back.

6:35  Return to the kitchen to resume making breakfast. Pause briefly to scrub crayon off the couch where Kid 1 decided to practice his modern art skills while you were otherwise disposed with the baby.

6:39  Dog is whining at the door and crossing her legs. Grab the leash, put the baby in the stroller, and take the dog out for a quick walk around the block.

6:50   Warm your coffee back up in the microwave while you resume the breakfast preparations.

6:51 Realize you’re out of eggs, and scrap the breakfast preparations. Pour bowls of cereal instead and call it good.

6:55  As you’re carrying the cereal bowls to the breakfast table, you hear squeals of “Moooooooooom!” coming from the bathroom. Kid 1 did his business, and needs help cleaning up. The only problem is, he started trying to “clean up” himself, and now we need to scrub and disinfect a large portion of the bathroom and unclog the toilet that just had an entire roll of toilet paper flushed down in a single go. Do what needs to be done.

7:07  Wash hands. Thoroughly.

7:08  Re-heat your coffee in the microwave.

7:09 Pour milk into the cereal bowls on the table and call the kids over to eat. WHERE IS KID 1?!?!

7:10  Go wake up Kid 1, “The Teenager”, who likes to party with his stuffed animals all night and sleep all morning.

7:13  Rush Kid 1 to the breakfast table and tell him to shovel that cereal in his mouth as fast as he can, because we have to go, Go, GO!

7:15  Sneak back to your bedroom to finish getting ready while your kids are busy eating breakfast

7:23  Hear a loud crash coming from the general direction of the breakfast table. You don’t hear any crying, so just ignore it.

7:25 Re-heat your coffee in the microwave

7:30  Wash dishes from the failed breakfast preparation and encourage kids to PLEASE EAT FASTER BECAUSE WE STILL HAVE TO GET DRESSED.

7:35 Go change baby’s post-breakfast diaper.

7:38  Help kids clear the breakfast table and return to their bedroom to get dressed.

7:40  Argue with a 4-year old about not wearing shorts and a t-shirt when it’s 40 degrees outside. Tantrum ensues.

7:48  Start the shoe hunt. Find multiple sets of shoes that actually fit your children and have both shoes from the pair happily residing together. Celebrate this victory by throwing fictional confetti in your mind.

7:53 Re-heat coffee in the microwave, and transfer it to a travel mug for the remainder of the morning.

7:54  Kiss your husband goodbye.

7:55  Put on coats and backpacks and head out to the minivan (You have 3 kids. You definitely own a minivan.)

8:00  Strap baby into her car seat while the big kids whine about who touched who and why they can’t buckle their own seatbelts.

8:10  Bring Kid 1 to the elementary school. Chat with parents about the news of the day, or nothing at all…it doesn’t really matter what you talk about, you’re just excited to talk to an adult who doesn’t hold you captive while regaling you with stories about Angry Birds or PJ Masks.

8:25  Do your special handshake and kiss goodbye with Kid 1 (He’s still young enough to let you kiss him goodbye. Remind yourself to enjoy these moments.).

8:30 Drive Kid 2 to preschool.

8:45  Give Kid 2 his special handshake and a kiss goodbye, because you still have a solid 2 years where that will still fly.

9:00  Stop at a trail on the way home so you can squeeze in some much-needed exercise (And by exercise, I mean push your baby in the stroller for a few minutes while she screams and angrily throws Cheerios at you.)

9:45  Drive home and get baby ready for her nap

10:00 NAP TIME!!!!
Do 3 loads of laundry (This is only today’s laundry. There will be more tomorrow.), empty the dishwasher, prep dinner, vacuum, pay bills, return phone calls, contemplate cleaning the bathroom but decide to save that one for later. Pat yourself on the back.

11:30 Wake baby up early from her nap because it’s time to start school pick-ups.

11:45  Shove a sandwich in your purse to munch on in the car while you’re driving hither and yonder.

12:00 Pick up Kid 2 from preschool.

12:15  Stop at the grocery store to stock up…for the third time this week. Three kids eat all the food and no matter how much you buy, you are always out of something.

1:30  Drop off groceries at home and feed Kid 2 and baby a snack.

1:35  Change baby’s post-snack diaper.

1:40  Back in the car to pick up Kid 1 from school.

2:00 Pick up Kid 1 from school. Feed him a snack in the car while you drive to swimming lessons/soccer practice/dance class/science club.

3:30  Feed all 3 kids their post-swimming/soccer/dance/science snack and drive back home

3:31  Baby falls asleep in the car because this is supposed to be her nap time, but since she is the third child she never gets proper naps. She will probably develop life-long sleeping problems because of her erratic baby nap schedule.

3:59  Pull into the driveway and pull your key out of the ignition. Baby wakes up immediately, and she’s ANGRY. She will stay angry until bedtime, because car-naps ruin life.

4:00  Unload kids and one gajillion THINGS from the minivan. Things breed and multiply in the minivan/house/yard/laundry pile when you have 3 children.

4:30  Read and do homework with Kid 1 while Kid 2 runs circles around you and baby screams at your feet.

5:00  All the kids are totally losing their sanity and self-control. This is the perfect time to start cooking dinner, so do that.

5:30 Pour yourself a glass of wine so you can finish making dinner.

6:00  Dinner is served! Watch in exhaustion as all 3 of your children proclaim their utter disgust at what you have prepared and claim that they are not hungry. They don’t eat a single bite.

6:30 Clean up from dinner and wash dishes while the baby pulls out and licks all of your Tupperware.

7:00  Bath time! Your 3 kids will splash so much water out of the tub that you won’t need to scrub the walls or  floors after all.

7:30  Make piles of pajamas on the floor and tell the big kids to get dressed while you get the baby ready for bed.

7:40 Come back from getting the baby ready for bed to find the big kids running around the living room partially dressed–they are wearing underwear. On their heads.

7:45  Wrestle the big kids into their pajamas and park them in front of the TV so you can put the baby to bed.

7:55  Muster up an ounce of energy to read a bedtime story to the big kids.

8:00  Lights out.

8:02  Fall onto the couch with a bar of chocolate and Netflix.

8:03  Pass out on the couch with a bar of chocolate and Netflix.

9:00  Feel your husband nudging you, and realize that you fell asleep on the couch again. Get up and finish your “night chores” (pack tomorrow’s lunches, run the dishwasher, fold the laundry from earlier today, sign the homework folder, re-stock the diaper bag).

10:00  Get into your real bed and call it a night.

10:01 Dream of a beautiful life that is full of joy and challenges and love.

6:00 AM   Wake up for a new day, and realize that your dream is actually your reality with 3 kids.

DIY Rice-Dyed Easter Eggs

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I’m always on the lookout for creative takes on old favorites. So, when my friend over at Silicon Valley Toddler posted this idea for coloring Easter eggs with rice, I was intrigued! We decided to try it out and–WOW!–what a fun activity with absolutely gorgeous results. This method is a relatively mess-free way for toddlers and preschoolers to get in on the Easter egg-dying action (no spilled cups of egg dye #ftw). Read on for the how-to.

What you need:

– Hard boiled eggs (Easy-peasy directions: arrange eggs in the bottom of a large pot so they have a little room to dance around–old eggs that have been sitting in your fridge for a week or two are best. Finding old things in my fridge is never a problem, so this works quite well for me. Cover the eggs with about an inch of cold water and spalsh some vinegar in the pot for a bit of Voodoo magic (actually, it will just help keep the yolks sunshiney-yellow instead of that nasty gray center you get sometimes). Put the pot on the stove and bring just to a boil. Turn off the stove, cover the pot, and keep the pot on the warm burner for 12 minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Transfer the cooled eggs back to their egg carton and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. Done and done.)
– Dry rice–a few cups of cheap rice will do
– Liquid food coloring (we went through one whole box of food coloring when we dyed 1-dozen eggs)
– Plastic containers with lids (My mama taught me to never throw away a used margarine or lunch meat container. If your mama taught you the same, use a few of these instead of your fancy Tupperware.)

What you do:

Place a handful of rice in each container (make sure the container is deep enough for the egg to move around with the lid on).  Add a hard boiled egg to the container and several drops of food coloring.

 

Put the lid on your container and shake it to your little heart’s content!

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If you want a mulit-colored marble-ized effect, go for it. This is your egg, no judging here. Just move the egg to a second rice container with another color of food coloring.

Once you’re satisfied with your creation, remove the egg, brush off the rice, and leave ’em to dry completely.

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What gorgeous little speckled creations!

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A few notes:
*This project is best done outside. Or inside, over a drop cloth with an extra dose of patience.
*If the color starts to wear out, just add a few more drops of food coloring to the rice.
* Your fingers will get a little (and by a little, I mean a LOT) messy when you touch the wet eggs. If you don’t like rainbow hands, just wear disposable gloves. Keep wet wipes or a hose nearby for your kids, because we all know they’ll be little balls of tie-dye magic by the end of this project despite your best efforts for cleanliness.
* Have some extra plastic Easter eggs lying around your house? Make your own noise makers (as if your children don’t already fit the bill): Fill a few plastic eggs with a bit of the dry rice and tape or hot-glue the egg shut. Shake, shake, shake–you have your own little maracas!
* Save the rice! After you’re done dyeing eggs, spread out the colored rice on cookie sheets to air dry. Store the dyed and dried rice in an airtight container (that’s fancy language for a Ziploc baggie) for future art projects. We’re going to make these cactus next week in preparation for our upcoming vacation to the desert.
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10 Confessions of a Homeschool Mom

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This year we embarked on one of our most monumental adventures to date: homeschool. Many aspects of our daily life have changed, and almost every area of our family life has been impacted in one way or another by this decision. It’s been a huge adjustment for our family–and by family, I mean ME. Because ME had to give up solo runs while the boys were at preschool. Because ME had to re-learn how to take kids to the grocery store. Because ME had to spend time on the weekends planning for the week ahead. Because ME had to change.

Homeschooling these last few months has been a learning curve and a glimpse into a new world for me. I’d always wondered a bit about those crazy women who decided to educate their own kids–how on EARTH did they do it? And WHY on earth would they do it? Now that I’m (proudly) one of those crazy homeschool moms, I have a few observations to share with you. While these observations stem from my own very limited experience, I know many other homeschool moms who would agree with me on these points.

I now present to you: 10 confessions of a homeschool mom

1. Every family homeschools for a different reason
The reasons why a family chooses to homeschool are as varied as the families themselves. Some families homeschool for academic reasons, some for religious reasons, some for flexibility in their schedule, and some for behavioral/social reasons. Our decision to homeschool this year was based upon a bit of each of these.

I wanted David (who started this school year as an almost-5 year old) to have one more year in a less-structured, less-academic learning environment. David is a very active boy and I wanted him to have freedom to move and learn by doing–and have lots of time each day for play and exploration. I wanted him to have a Christ-centered education and to study the Bible. I wanted to be able to take random vacations and take time off school when we had visitors in town. I wanted the ability to adjust his school schedule to meet our family’s needs (Jon’s job requires lots of late nights, so starting the traditional school day at 8:00 every morning would require an early bedtime, and thus missed opportunities to spend time with Dad every day).

2. You do not have to be a teacher to teach
I have a background in teaching and spent my pre-motherhood years teaching in both public and private schools. While this may seem like an advantage for homeschooling, it’s actually been a bit of a detriment. I’ve spent most of the last few months un-learning many of the methods and approaches I used to employ in the classroom. Homeschool is a different kind of school, and it requires a different approach. As it turns out, love and commitment to your child’s learning is the most important “credential” for a homeschool teacher. This sums it up pretty well:

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3. Homeschool days are short and sweet
In a traditional school there is a lot of busy work and transition time–that’s just what happens when you have to pace 20 children throughout the day. At home, however, you can just do what you need to do for your kids and be done with it. We usually spend about 1.5-3 hours per day “doing school”. That’s it. This frees up lots of time to pursue other interests each day, which I love.

4. Homeschool can be both highly social AND incredibly isolating
…and most days it is both. Between homeschool co-ops, field trips, park days, church activities, clubs, and sports many homeschoolers spend the majority of their time “socializing” with the outside world. On the other hand, much of your time as a homeschooler is still spent at home “doing school” with the same people you eat, sleep, and breathe with the rest of your life. There are times where I feel like I just need some downtime at home to get a break from all the activities…and there are other times where I feel an undeniable urge to get out of the house and be with people (People who are not my kids. Specifically, grown ups.).

5. Homeschoolers know they are different
While homeschooling is the fastest-growing form of education in America, it is still not the most common choice. When I tell people that we’re homeschooling I get a lot of mixed reactions. Many people are supportive of our choice, but others are confused by it or disapprove altogether. When we are out in public during “school time” I am often thankful that my kids are still young enough to not get too many quizzical stares or questions from bystanders wondering what they’re doing out of a classroom–and I wonder what it’s like for homeschooling moms with older kids or teens who are out and about during the day. We know that we are different, and we kind of like it that way!

6. You are not in this alone
One of the things I was most concerned about when we decided to homeschool this year was that I would be all alone trying to figure this whole homeschool thing out. Not the case. Not at all. There are vast support networks for homeschool families and seemingly limitless resources. I have found a great community of homeschool families that have walked alongside me and encouraged me this year. I have felt many things during my first year of homeschooling, but solo has not been one of them.

7. Some of the greatest benefits of homeschooling have nothing to do with school
As I mentioned earlier, we had many different reasons for homeschooling this year. What I didn’t anticipate, however, were some of the positive by-products of our decision. For instance, this year I have seen my boys’ sibling relationship grow closer as they have been learning and collaborating together. Our family has been more relaxed without rushed mornings or curricular commitments. We play together every day. We spend lots of time outside. We can wear super-hero costumes or our pajamas all day (Let’s be honest–I’m 8-months pregnant and I hardly ever wear not-pajamas any more. It’s a win-win.).

8. Homeschool moms need a break, too
There is no shame in driving to the gym just so you can take advantage of the free childcare. Catching up on Facebook while you mosey along a treadmill is totally legit, right?

9. Homeschool is not for everyone
Just because I have made the decision to homeschool, I do not look down on other people for making different education choices. There are huge advantages to other forms of education, and I truly believe that each family needs to do what is right for them and their kids. I never thought I would homeschool because I didn’t think it would ever be the right choice for us, yet here we are. Each child and each parent and each season in a family’s life is unique. Just as traditional school was not the right approach for us this year, homeschool may not be the right approach for your family this year (or ever!). I’m cool with that.

10. Sometimes homeschool moms want to quit
Being with your own kids 24/7–and trying to get them to learn something every day–is exhausting. There is endless work, there are defiant children (who sometimes just don’t want to learn), there are sibling spats to work through, there are household chores that still need to be done…and it’s enough to make us want to give up. Every single homeschool mom I know has days when she wants to quit. But you know what? Those days are balanced out by a thousand other days where we feel accomplished and proud and awed by the whole experience. And that’s really the whole reason we’re doing this in the first place.

My first year as a homeschool mom has been a crazy, incredible journey and I’m so thankful to be on it with my kids. It’s been a growing experience for all of us, in the best way possible. I don’t know how long we’ll be on this journey together, so I’m trying to embrace it for what it is and enjoy the time we have here–however long that will be!

And now that you know all of my secrets, give me a hug next time you see me–or at least a firm reprimand to get out of my pajamas before noon.

 

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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We’re Going To Homeschool?!?!

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Seeing as yesterday was David’s last day of preschool, I thought it would be fitting to make our big announcement. After much thought, prayer, and deliberation we have decided to take on a new challenge in the Fall: homeschool. That’s right, folks–HOMESCHOOL.  As in, me having my own little classroom of two darling pupils located halfway between our kitchen and the boys’ bedroom. Every day. All year. By myself.

This is a relatively recent decision for us, and we’re still piecing together what “homeschool” will look like for our family. As I’ve started to share our news with people, however, I  have discovered that our somewhat unconventional decision has the potential to spark a lot of debate/dismay/panic. So, in order to answer some of your burning questions, I thought I’d put together a little Q and A session for us:

Q) Are you crazy?!
A) Yes, but I think we established that fact long before the topic of homeschooling came up.

Q) I could never homeschool my kids. They’d drive me nuts.
A) That’s not really a question but yes you could, and yes they would.

I believe that homeschooling is a calling–it is not something that you simply fall into or decide on a whim. One lesson I have learned (repeatedly) is that God equips the called, not that He calls the equipped. To be quite honest, I don’t have a clue how I’m going to do this. I do know, however, that God has called our family to take this on for this “season”, and I trust that He will lead us every step of the way.

I’m fairly certain my kids will still drive me nuts, though.

Q) Have you always wanted to homeschool?
A) I’m going to answer this one with an emphatic NO. No no no nooooo no. Because I used to be a teacher, a lot of people assume that I’ve always wanted to teach my own children–not the case. Not at all. My response to the “Would you ever homeschool…” question has always been, “Only if it’s the only best choice for my kids.” I know that homeschool is night-and-day-different from traditional school, and I never really thought I was cut out for the job. Plus, I REALLY like my free time (which just so happens to only occur during the hours my children are away at school).

Which leads me to the next question:

Q) Why on earth would you decide to homeschool?
A) The short answer is: because it’s the best choice for our kids and our family right now.

The long answer is…well, longer. I could write a whole post on this one question, but I’ll try to summarize some of our thoughts here. The main factors that went into our decision include: the privilege of building our childrens’ character and teaching from a Biblical worldview; the ability to address the specific learning needs and learning styles of our children (our boys are c-r-a-z-y); flexibility in the daily schedule to allow more “wiggle time” and play time (which research shows is more beneficial than strictly academic instruction for young children); more time for pursuing outside interests and extra-curricular activities; proximity to home (as in, roll out of bed and you’re already at school); the absolute absence of the term “high-stakes testing” (and for those homeschooled students who choose to participate in state-mandated testing, consistently scoring 30% above their “typically schooled” peers);  allowing our children to get enough sleep, at the times that naturally work for them; having more time together as a family mid-week (like, we can actually be awake during some of the hours when Daddy is home); and financial considerations (one local private school that I visited had an annual tuition of $24,000. For KINDERGARTEN. For the love…).

Plus, I genuinely enjoy teaching and being home with my children (they’re actually really cool people), so it’s kind of a perfect fit.

That, and I also think I enjoy torturing myself a bit.

Q) Are you trying to shelter your kids from the world?
A) Yes, and no. The world shelter is defined as “a place giving temporary protection”. There are several matters in The World to which I would like to offer temporary protection to my children while I build a strong foundation for them so they will be able to weather storms on their own. I am not naïve enough to assume that I will shield my children from every potential Bad Thing that is out there, but I’m happy that I will have more time in these early ears to equip them for the challenges that lay ahead.

Q) What will you DO all day?
A) Here’s the thing: I can’t STOP my kids from learning. All day, every day, they are learning. When my boys work together to build the world’s tallest Lego tower, they are learning. When we go to a new park and spend 3 hours exploring nature trails observing the flight pattern of a butterfly or which objects sink or float when they throw them in a creek, they are learning. When we bake cookies and they measure and count each ingredient, they are learning. For children, the world is a classroom.

While my children are little, I want them to…well…stay little. To explore. To play. To be bored for awhile and sort their own selves out. To sit in a cozy lap and read books all afternoon. Next year we will do a lot of that: exploring, playing, reading, learning as their interests lead us (plus some hardcore academics thrown in for good measure).

If this homeschooling thing sits well with us, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of curriculum options available to us. We can use “official” curriculum provided by our local public school district, formal curriculum packages available for purchase, an assortment of unit studies pieced together from Pinterest/library books/my brain, or anything in between.

All I know is we’ll be doing it all (or most of it all) in our pajamas.

Q) Going against the stream, are you?
A) I guess so. Strange as homeschooling may sound, though, it’s not that strange. A growing number of my friends already homeschool–so it doesn’t seem that unusual to me. In fact, with nearly 2 million families choosing homeschool for their children this year, homeschooling is the single fastest growing form of schooling in the United States. 90% of Americans still choose traditional schooling for their children…but 10% (and growing each year) are choosing homeschool. I dunno…a part of me has always kind of enjoyed the challenge of an upstream battle.

Q) How long are you going to homeschool?
A) As long as it’s the best choice for our kids and our family.

We’re going to use next year as a trial year to work out the kinks and see how we like it. David will be in Pre-K next year and Jacob will be entering preschool, so we still have plenty of time to decide if this will be a good long-term choice. We’re just going to take each year as it comes, and go from there.

If I’m comatose or neurotic by this time next year, we may have to call it quits.

Q) So, are you against “normal schools” now?
A) Absolutely not! Jon and I both went to public schools (whoop!), and I’ve taught in both private schools and public charter schools. Each school setting has different strengths and challenges, as does each individual school. We plan on transitioning the boys to a traditional school some day–whether that’s in a year or two or ten, I don’t yet know. I love schools and I’m excited to try out one more type of school for myself.

Q) Won’t your kids become socially awkward now that they’re being homeschooled?
A) You’re wondering if Boy 1 who believes his toys are actually alive and Boy 2 who has full-blown conversations with my hair might possibly become socially awkward? Not a chance. There are actually plenty of opportunities for homeschool kids to interact with their peers: homeschool co-ops and support groups, church groups, sports, extra-curricular clubs or lessons, and playing with friends in the neighborhood. My boys will also have plenty of time to interact with their favorite life-long friend: their own brother/new-schoolmate.

Q) Now that you’re homeschooling, are you get an ugly haircut and frumpy clothes and move off the grid?
A) Now that you mention it, that doesn’t sound half-bad. I actually don’t even know what my hair looks like any more because I only ever wear it pulled back in a “messy bun”, my clothes are already about as frumpy as yoga pants and t-shirts can get, and I’m kind of over this whole overcrowded-too-much-traffic-people-everywhere thing. As long as we have internet access so I can binge watch Netflix after the boys go to bed, “off the grid” could work out just fine for us.

And so the ending to this school-choice saga is the same as the ending to any good story: unexpected, yet inevitable. It’s been a huge decision–but now that our choice has (finally) been made, we are excited and confident that it’s the right one!

I hope that this Q&A session has been helpful for you and that I’ve answered all of your questions. If you have any additional concerns, feel free to keep them to yourself for awhile so I don’t have a nervous breakdown before this whole homeschooling thang goes down.

Wish me luck!

How We Do Allowance: The 4-Year Old Version

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Money: we all need it, we all want it. But when is the right time to introduce kids to money? I think the answer to that question varies from family to family and kid to kid but, generally speaking, early is best. From a very young age kids can understand wants and needs, and money is the mechanism by which we acquire our wants and needs.

A few months ago it became quite clear to us that David was ready to start learning about money and the responsibility that comes with it. For Christmas this year, David had created a wish list of all the toys and games and books and doo-dads that he wanted. Well, Christmas came and went, but the wish list kept growing. Every day–nay, every minute of every day–he was begging us to add more items to his “wish list”. The want, want, wants were getting out of control. We knew that it was time for an intervention, and the Allowance Jars were born.

Since he is only 4 years old, we wanted David’s allowance to be pretty simple. We had three main goals with his allowance: to start teaching him the value of money, to encourage him to save some of his “income”, and to be generous with his “assets”. As a result, we decided to set up three jars, one for each goal: spend, save, and serve.

To make the jars, I just cut slits in the tops of three mason jars. Then I printed off the labels spend, save, and serve, and I glued one label to the front of each jar. Each week we give David three quarters, one quarter for each jar, as his allowance. He puts the money into the jars himself so that he is learning the responsibility of tracking where his money goes.

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He is allowed to use the money in the spend jar whenever he chooses (usually a gumball from a vending machine or a trinket from the dollar store). This money never lasts long, but that’s fine! He’s learning what he can buy with his money and, as an added bonus, it’s cut down a lot on the gimme’s when we’re in a store (I just remind him that he can use his own money to buy that bright blue lollipop in the checkout line). I’ve also taken David on a couple of special outings with me specifically so he can go shopping with his money–he feels so grown up when he places his goody up on the check stand and pays for it all by himself!

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With the save jar, he is working toward a spending goal. We came up with a goal together of something more expensive that he really wanted (a Zurg action figure). We researched the cost of his goal purchase then printed off a picture of the toy to put on the jar as a visual reminder of what he is saving up for. He still has a long way to go, but I’m sure with grandparents visiting soon he’ll reach his goal in no time at all 😉

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The serve jar is my favorite. Right now we have him bring the contents of that jar with us to church each week so he can put his money in the offering basket. As we’re packing up his coin to bring to church he always exclaims, “That’s the money I get to give to Jesus! That’s God’s money!”. As David gets older we’ll probably work with him to come up with more ways to use his “serve” money to be generous and help others, but for now he’s grasping a simple and wonderful truth.

So, there you have it! Easy-peasy allowance that even a 4-year old (and their parents) can handle.

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