Friday, August 24, 2012

Encouraging Literacy Through Play

One of the foundational elements of our children's education is their literacy.  If they cannot read with understanding and communicate in written form, they will have difficulty with most any business or job that they pursue.

Because I believe this to be true, I look for ways to bring literacy into our lives through fun and play. You can read about our "In Love With Reading" that we do each February here.  It can't all be fun and games but the more learning that can happen through fun and games, the better!

So, last February when I was doing my grocery shopping, I noticed a sale isle filled with valentine left overs.  On this isle were little mailboxes filled with valentine cards marked down to just a step away from free...haha.  I picked up five of these little mailboxes and stashed them away for some fun literacy play.  Last week, I finally pulled them out (as the kids were suffering from some serious cabin fever in this desert heat) and the kids immediately went to work writing messages and sneaking them into each-others mailboxes.

They continued writing messages all day and then reading the messages left for them.  All of this writing and reading and I never had to "crack the whip" and make them learn.  They were eager, willing, and happy to learn (mostly because they didn't realize that they were learning...haha).

Here are a few pictures of the literacy fun.

All five of the older kids are keeping their mail boxes outside their bedroom doors and exchanging messages from time to time.

While I believe that literacy is foundational in the education of our kids, I do also believe that God has created each child with different strengths and weaknesses.  He will use these strengths and weaknesses to develop character and for the plan that He has for each life.  So, if, like me, you have a child who struggles in this area, don't fret.  Our loving Heavenly Father has created each child to be exactly who they should be...strengths, struggles, and all.  But the more exposure you can give them to an area of struggle through play, the more you diffuse the stress and give them a chance to learn without realizing that they are learning.

What do you do to encourage literacy in your home?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

First Day of School Fun

Because we homeschool, we end up missing out on some of the excitement that surrounds the first day of school...a new teacher...etc..  So, I really like to create our own first day fun:)  Each year I look for some fun project that we can do on the first day of school before I introduce the kids to the new curriculum. 

This year I found that the aquarium near us would be having "homeschool week" at just the right time.  I suppose they know that homeschoolers will be the only ones venturing out in the first week or so of school.  So, Peter took the day off and we all went to the aquarium together.

First, the kids were part of a class where they were able to dissect a squid.  There was much anticipation over this.  They couldn't believe that they were going to actually cut open a squid.  I was pretty sure that a couple of them wouldn't make it through, but I was wrong.  They all enjoyed it.

Our little explorer.

Wesley did more looking than cutting, separating, or taking parts out...haha. 

What fun for the boys...and Abby too.

After the class, we walked through all of the aquarium rooms and studied the details of all of the different sea life.

I love it when they all do things together:)

Ransom loved these stingrays.  They kept coming over and rubbing up against the glass right in front of him and he would squeal with excitement.

 Yes, Seth is picking his nose again...sigh.

Inside the aquarium tunnel.

After driving home and a quick lunch and clean up (and a rest), we painted a sea life mural on a large piece of brown paper taped up on the wall outside.  It's still pretty hot our here so this project didn't last long.

And, we enjoyed some $1 water animals that I picked up the day before to keep us out of the gift shop.

Now to dig into the "book work".  We will be studying "Rome to the Reformation" this year.
Can't wait!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The REAL Life of a Large Homeschooling Family

We've all seen the photos of happy smiling families with tons of kids and do they do that?  I mean, it's hard enough to get just a few kids dressed up, hair combed, and smiling (without nose picking...yes, we have a nose picker in our family).  Well, the trick is digital photography and a large SD card...haha!

I believe that every homeschool family, whether large or small, is quite distinctive in educational philosophy, reasons for homeschooling, method, schedules, family size, choice of curricula, roles of parents, etc.  I have been in the homeschool community for over 25 years and never have I met two families who did things exactly the same way. 

So, the REAL life of a large homeschooling family must be flexible.  I am a scheduler and run a pretty tight ship mostly because I see no other way to get everything done.  But, there are times that having so many little ones with different needs trumps the schedule...and I am learning to be okay with that:)

Here are a few things that you would find in our REAL life large family homeschool.

In our large family homeschool, the start date of the new school year can be predicted by first trimester sickness.  This is the case this year, although I am coming out of that phase and gaining more energy every day.  I think my kids are secretly praying for me to stay sick just a little longer...haha. 

In our large family homeschool, the start time of a particular day may be predicted by a sick child, explosive diaper, character issue, potty training, chores that were incomplete, or a great conversation that happens and I just want to soak up that time with a particular kid...and sometimes because I slept in and am running around a little crazy.

In our large family homeschool, curriculum is second to character.  I strive to give my children a broad and well balanced education, but the best education in the world will not matter if their character has not been shaped and developed.  I can't count the times that we have had to put aside the books and deal with heart issues...or the times that I have let it slide and regretted it.

In our large family homeschool, we sleep in when some of the children have been unwell, ditch the schedule, and just hit the basics.  Everyone learns better when they are well rested and healthy.

In our large family homeschool, we do much of our schooling together (everyone who doesn't take an afternoon nap) using theme units.  This is my favorite thing.   

How does your homeschooling run?

Now that I am coming out of the first trimester sickness that has made this blog a low priority, I hope to  post a few times on how we school different ages, what we do for Kindergarten, and our updated schedule now that we don't have an infant in the house.

I guess that means I need to get busy with the planning.  There is still much to be done before that first day of school.

Looking forward to a great year of learning together with my kids!