Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Ay ay ay! Another late, fuzzy start today.

(I really do say "Ay ay ay," and "Oof da" in normal conversation. Don't judge me, please. :)

It's true that Xander got to bed late last night. It's true that the TV is on and has been for a while. It's true that I've been on the computer for...a while. It's true we missed library story time - mainly because I wasn't sure if Nick could handle it after getting up at 5:30 this morning.

On the other hand, it's also true that:

  • Xander got up before 10:00 in a cheerful mood. 
  • Nick has been sitting in a corner reading aloud to himself for half an hour. 
  • Xander is playing his Lego Frog Rush board game instead of some more mindless activity. 
  • The TV is on (mostly) high-quality PBS kids' programming. 
  • I got what I consider to be a nice breakfast on the table for everyone (homemade waffles, blueberry syrup, turkey bacon, chocolate milk, coffee for the adults...) and they verbally appreciated it. 
  • I realized after talking to Grandma Bonnie that we will still be able to attend library story times when we are staying with her for our (Erik's) work trip.
  • And, importantly, Xander was good about doing lessons yesterday even with a delayed start. So there is hope for later.
Ooh! Three other bright spots I thought of just now:

Nick now likes baths again, after my little breakdown in patience yesterday evening: "Guys! In the tub! People take baths, you know! This is not optional," etc., etc.

I finally persuaded Xander to write a sentence when I used the show Wild Kratts as motivational material. "Raptors have sharp beaks and powerful talins."

Every time I tell Nick to go wash his hands and face in the bathroom (which is often because he is an always-hungry, dirt-loving boy), he runs off and does it. SO much less work than when Mom has to do it every time!

Wanna see one of the shelves Erik made for Xander's walls for Lego project displays? The top shelf is deeper, for big buildings or vehicles, and the bottom shelf will be great for the minifigure characters Xander creates by mixing up heads, bodies, outfits, and accessories.

Awwwwww, Xander just said, "Maybe when I am an adult I can get a kitten or a cat for a pet!" I said, "Yeah, when you don't live with me or Dad anymore because we're allergic." He said, "Yeah, but I'll wait for one of our neighbors to move away and live there so I can be near."

I would love that, sweetheart.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Official Learning-At-Home First Day

Today, Xander woke up very late. Almost 10:00!!! I think this is the latest he has ever slept in. Because his school-year sleeping-late-time was about 7:30, I was counting on starting our homeschool day at 8:30. I thought that would allow him to be done with workboxes by lunch time so that the few hours after lunch, clean-up, and SSR (sustained silent reading) would be his to do what he liked. But no. We usually put him to bed by 8:30 at the latest, but he seems to fall asleep after 9:00 each night. He tends to wake up at 8:30 in the morning. This is VERY late for our household. It is, however, a pattern for him the last week or two.

I think we will take advantage of the homeschooling schedule and try a later schedule for him. If it doesn't work well for any of us, we can always change it. I am thinking Nick and I will do breakfast, morning cards, and outside play before Xander gets up. Nick can have snack while Xander eats breakfast at 8:30. While Xander gets ready with his morning cards, I can do Core Knowledge books and activities with Nick. Then I hope to have time for both to participate in Morning Meeting before Nick goes to independent playtime. This will be the start of workboxes for Xander.

I will try an 8:00 bedtime for both boys, while letting Xander write in his journal with a small light on until 8:30. I'm hoping 8:00 for Nick will mean he sleeps in until at least 7:00 in the morning. This will all be on a trial and error basis and subject to change.

After Xander got up very late this morning, we "hung out" doing our own things, reading, and playing Angry Birds (Xander) until a cranky Nick went down for nap. (Nick has been extremely emotional and tired-looking this week. I am stumped as to what is going on, other than a runny nose.)

1. Then Xander did a classification card game, putting animal cards into the classes of Invertebrate, Mammal, Bird, Fish, Amphibian, or Reptile. He learned enough from his recent trip to the aquarium to know more than me about which class dolphins belong to! As I've said before, he remembers facts that he hears aloud. Plus, who wouldn't remember a lot about a bottlenose dolphin show with three dolphins? :) Another thing I loved to see was that he could easily read the description below each class. When words are in context, he has a higher reading level than when he is reading word lists. I imagine that is typical.

For lunch, he helped me design this Lunch Ahoy! that he had picked out from one of our Family Fun cookbooks.

And this is pretty amazing: He ate the cheese slice sail, carrot stick mast, tuna salad, Goldfish, and a bite out of the green pepper boat. This is after telling me (repeatedly, on several occasions) he doesn't like green peppers.

2. We read most of the rest of Maps and Globes by Jack Knowlton and explored our globe at the same time.

3. Xander was resistant to copying sentences for social studies. I moved on to free drawing and cutting with tons of copy paper, some construction paper, fine point markers, and scissors. He cut and decorated and "floated" a snowflake.

4. Then I read him many pages of Learn Chess Fast and was impressed by his ability to understand the moves, strategy, and terminology. Yes, he has played several games of chess already, but he showed me he could also read the charts that showed what square was called what on the board and then was able to read the diagonals as, for example, "a2 to g8."

5. Xander played Star Wars Jedi Math on his Leapster for a while.

6. I think I can count watching Wild Kratts as an educational activity. Xander and Nick watch it, mesmerized, and really learn a lot of facts about animals from it. Today's is about Great White sharks. I'll try not to mention it too often, though; they like to watch it every day.

7. Late in the day, we got around to doing the United States and Texas pledges to the flags.

On to my own progress. Two weeks ago, I got into a steady rhythm of running every other evening. Last week, for several different reasons, I did not go running. Last night I went out on a 25-minute outing that was mostly jogging, though I did stop every once in a while for about a minute at a time. It was a terrible-feeling run. I had no reserves to draw on. I think the culprits were being out half the day at the pool party and also neglecting to drink much water during the day. I felt pretty shaky, heavy, and plodding. However, it counts as jogging and I will let myself count it as two miles.

Nick ended up sleeping three hours for his nap. He needed it.

This Week's Mom-Goals

I'm going to try following Money Saving Mom's format for showing progress toward goals. We'll see if it sticks.

10 Goals For This Week:


1. Memorize 1 Peter 1:3-4.
2. Run 5 miles this week and take a long walk one day.


3. Start to use Cozi as our family calendar. Transfer appointments and events.


4. Schedule Xander's tonsil removal surgery.
5. Get Xander a digital camera.
6. Start reading aloud The Hobbit in the morning.

image from ruby0042

7. Finish my first Mother Bear Project bear.
8. Throw a family birthday celebration for Erik's birthday.


9. Write three Homemaking Cottage articles for September.


10. Call homeowners insurance to change to rental property policy.

Goal Setting

Money Saving Mom has a good, simple goal setting format that I think would do me some good. I have plenty of goals for the children and homeschooling, but I also have plenty of personal goals. I tend to overdo and overplan, so if I put these goals down in print, I have a better chance of scaling them back to reasonableness.

The goals in green print are the ones that I am not sure I will accomplish this year.

Goals for School Year 2012-2013

Scripture study every morning.
Go to church and Sunday School every Sunday that we're home that is feasible. Otherwise, the Daily Office from The Mission of St. Clare.
Follow my personalized Rule of Life plan.
Run in at least three 5K races.
Complete Hal Higdon's Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced 5K training programs (8 weeks apiece).
Clean daily along the lines of my online friend Valerie's methods and plans.
Get dressed and ready every day (with a semblance of style) using The Perpetual Student's Wife as a model. Outfit, make-up, hair in 15 minutes. Shower at night. Only with extra time can I do jewelry, nails, etc.
Commit to keeping a journal (daily).
Meal plan and cook every day using categories of food for each day and some freezer cooking.
Finish current knitting projects (mustang, baby hat and booties, charity bear, napkin rings, socks, Nana's Bath Mat).
Do ongoing service with Xander and/or whole family.
Begin studying piano on a regular basis using the Alfred books I have.
Put together a photo album for the year using Shutterfly or something similar and order it.
Put together a scrapbook/portfolio at the end of the school year showing some of Xander's work.
Learn to use the Singer sewing machine from Grandma (study manual).
Finish envelope back cushion covers for living room.
Get Locks of Love hair cut.
Go running every other evening or more.
Do strength training (Jillian Michaels's No More Trouble Zones) twice a week.
Slim down in a healthy way using my adapted plan from Ask Lauren Fleshman.

Try my best to have a focused conversation with Erik every day when he gets home from work without kid interruptions ("couch time").
Have monthly date nights with babysitting by YMCA or family/friends.
Spend most evenings with Erik after my run. Include playing board games, watching "our shows," and movies.
Other goals I'd rather not publish.
Re-read The 5 Love Languages.
Try to eradicate complaining from my life.
Start to use Cozi as our family calendar and list-keeper so Erik and I can both view and edit.

Finish 1st grade material with Xander (can extend through summer months if I want).
Incorporate work travel with Erik into school through journaling and travel scrapbooking. Get Xander a digital camera.
Go through What Your Preschooler Needs to Know and the Activity Book 1 with Nick (can extend through next year if I want).
Attend Preschool Academy through Parents as Teachers with Nick (can extend through next year).
Sign them both up for a sports team this year.
Continue to teach both some swimming skills in a non-threatening environment.
Go on at least one field trip per week (can be nature hike, museum, special park, class, farm, factory, etc.).
Follow our adapted Plan from The Parenting Breakthrough with each boy.
Look more into Lone Scouting.
Teach Xander/have him practice riding his bike, with and without training wheels.
Teach Xander to tie his shoes.
Finish The Hobbit and then watch the movie.
See if I can have Xander send monthly letters (with photos or drawings of where we've been) to Bailey and JT.
Get Xander's tonsils out in November.
Maintain this blog for anecdotes about the boys, homeschooling logs, and personal goal setting.

Spend some time on the Chronicles of a Babywise Mom Google group on Sundays.
Possibly spend some time on the Fascinating Womanhood ~ Alaska Alumni Yahoo group on Sundays.
Possibly do an occasional blog post on my Fascinating Ways blog.
When we are home, invite a family over for dinner every week or two.
Do the same for playdates for Xander.
Keep knitting for the Mother Bear Project.
Write at least two notes, cards, or letters per week.
Call immediate family members once every week or two.
Spend Sundays on rest, church, service, family, and nature activities.

Learn to knit [this pattern] which can be sold with her permission. [can't find it again; keep looking]
Write for a half hour on Homemaking Cottage articles every other day. When articles for the month are done, work on improvement of expository writing, photography, and vlogs.
Do National Novel Writing Month again if Xander wants to do the Youth version (can incorporate into school time, thus freeing some of my time as well).
Keep learning. Any of my learning could come in handy in the future if I progress baby step by baby step.

Follow new budget plan for saving/paying off car.
Tithe 10% or more of my own income. Give to local food pantries, etc., with extra money.
Check for surplus over $3K or $4K on the 10th of each month to put toward paying off the car/savings.
Make sure homeowners policy is changed for rental.
Get haircuts with coupons - one person per month - and do manicure/pedicures at home (as always).

Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day of School

First day of school! I decided to take the first-day photo in swim gear to show what kind of first day you can have when you homeschool. :)

Today Xander slept in a little bit. (So did I, but I got up when I heard Nick come out to the living room.) We are not doing workbox lessons today because this afternoon there is a Not Back to School Party with area homeschoolers at a big pool.

We did, however, do our morning meeting stuff. We checked and changed our magnetic calendar, pledged our allegiance to the United States flag and then the Texas flag, crossed off days on Xander's Dinotopia calendar (and marveled at the pattern all the cross-offs made), read a paragraph about our country's first president, and read a page about Texas.

(State motto: "friendship"
State bird: mockingbird
State tree: pecan tree
State flower: the bluebonnet, of course)

Somehow, this led to Xander wanting to write (draw) in his journal. I'm not going to stop that!

Nick and I read Where's That Fish? several times this morning. He loves that book. I borrowed it from the library several months ago along with a book called Ocean Counting: Odd Numbers. He fell in love with both of them. Yesterday, I found Where's That Fish? at the library and re-borrowed it. Nick saw it and asked where "Ocean Numbers" was. I didn't have it, so he burst into tears. Geez.

But he has been loving reading Where's That Fish? ever since. I am really going to have to buy a copy.

We are now back from the Not Back to School Party. It was hundreds of people at a huge pool and the kids both had a blast "swimming." Xander wore a life jacket and arm floaties the whole time, but he also "swam" around on his own with no fears for hours. Nick wore no floaties and wanted me to hold him. By the time we left, he was practically swimming on his own with my arm around him. He still loves being dunked underwater, almost limitlessly.

Close-up First Day of School photo

Friday, August 24, 2012

Exciting Things Are Happening

Lately, Erik and I have had to make some pretty big decisions. I have had some nice moments of peace with these decisions and now everything seems to be coalescing in a way we could not foresee. For myself, I feel as if prayers for guidance have been answered, though I know Erik would not agree with that analysis. :)

First, Erik realized that the situation at the office is not secure for many, many people. Some job "feelers" have come to him through professional references, so we have had our minds on several different options. I think these kinds of feelers and opportunities are going to continue to come to him and in greater frequency as time goes on, due to his professional network. I hope so! We have been blessed in that Erik has had a job continuously, even though we have moved quite a bit for work opportunities. I am impressed at the way he has navigated through the murky waters of this economy and always provided for us.

The prospect of moving again or traveling more for work opened up the discussion about homeschooling. That was one thing I was not as certain about. Now it seems like part of a complete future for us.

Erik was on the geophysical team on the project out of state this summer. He had told the person in charge that he could do geophysical work about twice a year at most, because he didn't want to be separated from his family more than that. When he came home and discovered how light the work was at the office, he re-contacted the head of the geophysical group to say he was available. Yesterday, Erik was offered a permanent role with the geophysical group, meaning lots of travel. BUT...the times he is not traveling, he can still be based here, where we want to be. His role at his current company is probably solidified now that he has work to fill 100% of his time. He's not worried about traveling a lot because - thanks to our homeschooling decision - we can come with him when it is practical.

Today he was offered his next geophysical job. It's in Panama City. For those who don't know, Panama City is an hour away from where he grew up and where his mom still lives. This is going to be one of the easiest places we could ever travel to and stay for a period of time. The word is that the project is going to be about two months long.

It is amazing the way these pieces are coming together.

Another big decision was to buy a new car rather than spend $500 to get my good old Saturn inspection-ready. (It would cost another $1700 to get the air conditioning working, and believe me, it's a hardship not to have air conditioning here.) I will have to say goodbye to the first and only car I bought on my own and paid off. I was with Erik by the time it was paid off, so he had something to do with the paying-off, but at that time I was still working full-time, so I feel a sense of pride in having fully owned it. It was sad to think of getting rid of the Saturn. Xander was verrrrry sad himself; he has a hard time letting go of things. Example: he still has an old pair of shoes, falling apart, sitting on his closet shelf because he didn't want me to throw them away. They don't fit him and they are raggedy. I could throw them away and maybe I will, but I tend to forget about them sitting way up there. Whenever there is talk of discarding something, he gets teary and says it is his favorite fill-in-the-blank and he loves it. He once saved a cutting from a piece of paper after I had cut flash cards out of it, because it was "so beautiful." It did look remarkably like a sword...

One day I was telling Erik how much Xander liked photography. In the course of talking about it, I realized it may be less about the art or technical science of taking photos and more about saving things. He wants to preserve a moment in time or the details of how something looked at a certain point.

Back to the car. Erik is now driving home a 2003 Lincoln Aviator. Gulp. I think it's going to be beautiful and comfortable. It has built-in DVD player and screens. We got it because all the other good deals we found were being snatched up before we could get to them. This one was a reasonable price because it is so old, but it only has 41,000 miles on it.

Can you picture me driving a luxury SUV? I can't. :) It should be a nice ride to get us to the Panama City area.

Other decisions we've had to make include getting Xander's tonsils out and signing him up for taekwondo. The taekwondo might have to wait because we seem to be on the verge of going out of town for a while. The tonsil procedure is one we have thought about since Xander was two years old, but he never had serious physical problems so we didn't want to do a surgery. Since about two years old, he has snored more than usual, eaten less than usual (which may not have anything to do with tonsils, but I just have a feeling...), mouth-breathed a whole lot, slept restlessly, and gotten strep throat about three times a year. We were reluctant to have him go through surgery, but now that he is in favor of it himself (and has started making this cat-coughing-up-a-hairball noise at the table), we are going to go through with it. I have high hopes for his quality of life afterward.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Children's Museum Day

We spent all day getting to, enjoying, and coming home from the children's museum! We were out the door by 8:50 this morning to meet a neighborhood moms group friend at the train station. I had not truly met her before today, but I say "friend" because I am pretty close to a few of her mom friends and they often mention her. I'll call her M in this post in case she doesn't feel like being talked about in a blog post.

Because I made a wrong turn on the way to the station, she kindly waited for us outside a Kohl's and drove in front of us to the station. We got all the kids out of our cars and starting slowly walking toward the station; then M had a thought that maybe she hadn't locked or closed her car doors. I can relate. She went back to double-check, then we walked up to the ticket kiosk and had to wait behind one other person to get our tickets. We bought our day pass tickets for the train, and then...the train took off. We missed it. If I hadn't made a wrong turn, we would have made it. If she hadn't double checked her car, we would have made it. If we had walked very briskly up to the station, we would have made it.

She and her children hung out with us for a while. They were having a blast running around the pretty station with some other kids, finding roly polys, playing in and wearing dirt (Nick), and playing "run away from the Tyrannosaurus" (Nick, of course). Because of her one-year-old's nap schedule, she had to skip the train business and drive on to the museum. They got there about an hour before we did, but it was fine. We waited for the train with another two women and their children who had missed the previous three trains! They helped me out because I didn't know where I was going once we got off the train downtown. It was a pleasure to meet them; they were such nice people and kind of went out of their way to be friendly to me. One of their children, a four-year-old boy, got on swimmingly with Xander.

My boys did well on the train. The walk from the downtown station to the children's museum was 0.4 miles, aka 35 minutes on foot with my sloooooooooowwwwwwww children. Everyone passed us on the sidewalk. A mother pushing a preschooler in a stroller and carrying a baby on her chest passed us. But the boys were having a great time. Xander kept turning to people and saying, "Look! We're in the city!" We certainly seemed like country mice.

We met up with M and her two children right away at the museum. It was not a huge place, but had lots of little play spaces and activities packed in. It was jam packed and therefore a little bewildering and distressing, because Xander wanted to run off to things like a great big two-story slide ahead of us, while Nick wanted to go somewhere else, and M and her baby needed to be yet another place. A little worrisome. If no one had been there, it would have been an awesome space to explore with the kids. They did have a great time there. We spent time at the play fishing pond, large slide, pretend diner, train set-up, hang-like-a-bat area, baby/toddler space which was quite incredible, and the "geometry" exhibit filled with tinker toy type blocks and wheels, gears, and more. That was our last stop as Nick was reaching his last moments of patience (he was starving and tired). Unfortunately, they only got a minute or two in that room, which could have been their favorite if we had found it sooner.

Then we had frozen yogurt together next door. M's little girl (5 years old) and Xander really hit it off. We are getting them together at the playground tomorrow morning. Nick and the baby bopped around to the fro yo place's music. We trudged back to the train station. Both boys were "dying" from lack of water (we had just run out of water on the walk to the station). Xander tried to pull a croaky, dying voice on me, and after explaining when we would be able to get more water, I said something along the lines of, "Oh, well, make it work." He is no stoic. But both boys were lovely on the train home, considering.

Oh, and I had not been looking forward to our drive home because our car is now making an airplane-like noise. I will not be driving that again if I can help it. Erik and I are car-shopping on Friday.

We are safe home, we are well watered and fed, Nick fell asleep on the couch, and all is well. Erik and I get to go out for our anniversary tonight because our friend Jenny volunteered to watch the kids!

Nick on the train, trying to come around and see what I'm taking a picture of

at the museum, taking a snack break

Xander and friend hanging upside down like bats
captivated by the fish, of course

yes, here is the captivation

Xander's quick creation in the "geometry" room

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Later in the Day

I already posted what we did in the morning. Later, our little globe arrived in the mail, so we learned about globes and found all the continents on it. At first, Xander sounded disappointed as he said, "It's so small!"

I said, "That's because it's child-sized!"

Xander brightened. "Oh!"

I also gave him an opportunity to earn gummy bears by:
  1. estimating the number of gummy bears in the bag I gave him and writing down his estimate
  2. counting the gummy bears and writing down the actual number of bears
  3. sorting them by color onto separate sheets of paper with color headings
  4. picking up gummy bears, one by one, and tallying each one on the appropriate paper before eating it
He did not end up eating all the gummy bears. I decided to save them for Nick to "learn" with.

When Nick got up from his nap, he was surprisingly chill for a few minutes. By that I mean he did not come right up to me and ask for me to "carry up" or "hold my hand," both of which are code for "let's get me something yummy to eat." After a few minutes had passed, he did ask me for something to eat. I asked if he would like to earn some gummy bears. Yes, he would. I asked if he could count them. Yes, he could. We went to the table to see how many he could There were zero gummy bears on the table. Pretty sure that was Nick in those first few chill minutes. He said yes, it was him.

Later still, Nick and I did some drawing and stenciling with sidewalk chalk out front. He had the urge to go #2 (which he still does not successfully do in the potty), so I bribed him with chocolate chips to sit on the potty for a while.

Xander wanted to do more lessons to earn a few chocolate chips, so he finished coloring the oceans blue on his little world map. He colored different continents different colors. We read the first several pages of Maps & Globes by Jack Knowlton and Harriet Barton. It's a really good book for his level!

Erik came home, carrying an absolutely gorgeous bouquet of flowers for me. We both made dinner, interspersed with the activities I was helping Xander finish.

It was about to rain, so we didn't get to the pool today.

Erik made it clear to Xander that he would not get a reward for every single thing he did. I agreed and said that the rewards would probably decrease from daily (if he did his four lessons each day) to weekly. He suggested that the reward come on Fridays. I said that was a good idea.

Xander was supposed to be smiling...sorry, viewers

Can you find the camouflage Xander?

Big Day

This was the week of our wedding anniversary. Happy 8th Anniversary to me and Erik! And Happy Anniversary to Jeremy and Leslie, of course!

me reading my vows to Erik

the conclusion of our double ceremony - the Star Wars theme was playing as we walked back down the aisle

Xander and I and his dad have been talking about homeschool options and expectations. Yesterday, Xander took a trial taekwondo class and liked it very much. At the end of a trial week, we will decide whether he will continue that class.

Yesterday, Xander also said that taekwondo class was "way too easy" and "I already know everything." I can tell you that neither one of those statements is true. We did have really good discussions about learning after each of them - in my opinion.

Today, we:
  • Looked at Interior With a Bowl With Red Fish by Henri Matisse, talked about cool colors and warm colors, and identified different shades of blue in the painting. We also talked about cool colors and warm colors that can be found in nature. I told him that Henri Matisse was from France and that he spoke French. Xander added bonus material by asking if he knew English. I tried looking it up and my best guess is no. The point was made that anyone can look at his paintings whether they speak French or English or any other language.
  • We made tissue paper flowers and displayed them. They were made in cool colors.
  • We sampled a free Lego club online class and Xander said he would like to participate in it once a month. There was a young boy who shared a Lego star fighter he had made and then the teacher taught a lesson about gears using Lego gears as an example.
  • I showed him a trailer for the upcoming movie The Hobbit, which he wants to see (and so do I! very badly!), and introduced the book that the movie is based on. I'll be reading it to him at breakfast time, whether he likes it or not. So far, he does not like the idea. Oh well.
  • We looked at a large world map and talked about world facts (like the world being called Earth, we live on the world, the world is a giant ball shape, the world is mostly covered with water, part of the world is land...) Of course, Xander already knew most of it and did not hesitate to tell me so. He began to color a small world map - water blue, land green - but said his hand was very tired. We also talked about continents - he knew what they were but not that there are 7. We went over some facts about continents. I was going to have him color the continents different colors and patterns as well, on another map, but he said, "Remember? My hand is too tired." I counted each of those as half an activity and said we would have to finish them tomorrow.
  • I wrote this week's spelling words on a chalk board while Xander said, "Awww, I hate spelling!" He read the spelling words and we discussed them. I showed him how to write the words using Do-A-Dot markers and he was hooked. He wrote each of the spelling words by using dots. I counted these as two separate activities.
  • He got to pick a treasure out of our new treasure box! Because I knew it would take some doing to get him to finish four activities in a row each day when he has been on a summer fun schedule, I told him I would start out by letting him choose a treasure whenever he finished four lessons in a row in the morning. My friend Charity has been saving up Happy Meal toys to send to us. Yesterday we received the box. Instead of telling the kids they had gotten a cool package in the mail, I hid it. Voila! A brand-new treasure box.
Erik, Xander, and I all had some concerns about homeschooling over the weekend. Xander stopped liking the idea and started being upset that he would miss first grade, and he loved his school, and he didn't want to miss out on first grade. We discussed at length. Erik and I had a talk in private. We eventually decided to lay out the facts to Xander and let him make the decision. He chose homeschooling. I've been nervous to officially withdraw him from school because I was afraid he would change his six-year-old mind. He has not said a word about changing his mind.

Today, when I was showing him the Lego club online class, I told him it was a class for homeschoolers. He said, "I'm a homeschooler!" I finished the paperwork to withdraw him from school.

This week is an easing-in week, so I may not have us do everything we would normally do. This afternoon, we will go to the community pool so Xander can practice his newfound swimming skills with the confidence that a life jacket and that particular pool give him. Tomorrow, we will meet a neighborhood moms group for an outing to the children's museum. The next afternoon, we will meet another group at the playground.

one of our first homeschool activities

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Morning's Activities

It's just past 9:30 in the morning. The kids have been outside, played cats vs. dogs, had breakfast and snack, identified letters in the ABC pretzels I bought last night, looked at the new Dinotopia calendar from Grandpa Larry and Grandma Alla, sung along to kids' songs, and drawn cat fur and whiskers on their face and arms (the last one was just Xander).

This is after he washed himself off. Ahem.
Xander says this is a good look/pose for him.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Curriculum: Core Subjects According to Texas

Xander took a nap just because he wanted to try sleeping in our new papasan chairs

This blog might become quite heavy on what we're doing for homeschool each day. It's a natural place for me to write down what is going on each day and it's easy to come back to when I need to access that information.

The state of Texas does not require any particular documentation. Other states are different. For my own peace of mind and preference, I want to keep logs of what we do. What Texas requires is a written curriculum for the subjects of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship. Oh, and we must be teaching these subjects in a "real" rather than a "sham" manner. Got it. I am not going to treat teaching my child as a sham. Texas does not regulate private schools and homeschools are considered private schools here. I'm pretty appalled at the above five subjects being the only required ones.

I'm not worrying about doing a certain amount of daily schooling yet, because the district's first day is not for another couple of weeks. I intend to do something along the lines of half-days four days a week all year long, with varying-length vacations when we decide to take them. We also want to do educational field trips, classes, or errands on most Fridays and Saturdays. I think it will be convenient to have a lot of the same days off as the public school district. Friends may want to play on those days, for one thing.


So our written curriculum for reading used to be The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, plus help from Letter of the Week, Dr. Seuss books, the LeapFrog Letter Factory DVD, and Bob Books. Xander knows how to read now. I will be trying to use to purposefully find more challenging books for him at the library as time goes on. We will be using First Language Lessons, Level 1, for grammar, and What Your First Grader Needs to Know for literature selections. (There are numerous free Core Knowledge lesson plans available for various subjects.)

I'm also going to use the book Games With Books for fun activities and set up a weekly library day when Xander can choose to borrow whichever books he wants. I contacted the Pizza Hut Book It! Program which includes homeschoolers. I remember doing that program as a child. Even though my reading was intrinsically motivated, I super-loved getting personal pan pizzas as an extra!

I can't forget about The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. We own this book and I have read blog posts about him so often that we have sort of internalized the information. We sometimes refer to his extensive reading lists. We will be doing Sustained Silent Reading together each day - and actually we already did this during the summer. In the mornings, I read to both kids whatever books I would like for them to hear that they might not choose on their own. (Think character building and classics. ;)


For spelling, we are going to start with spelling workbooks from the Scholastic Phonics Program we were given years ago by Grandma Bonnie. I'm not sure what spelling approach will be best, but certainly starting with something we already have is a good idea. For computer time, I am also going to have him visit and to see if their spelling games are fun for him.

On second thought, the Scholastic spelling workbooks leave spaces that are too small for Xander to consistently write in, so we will proceed more slowly with those. The Spell Bright Level Two curriculum at Letter of the Week will be good to use as well.

We already do sight words flash cards occasionally at the table. He is at 99.9999999% accuracy reading first grade sight words.


For math, based on Kim's recommendation, we are using Singapore Math textbooks and workbooks. We have plenty of board games and activities that teach math skills. Off the top of my head, we have (and play) Uno, Monopoly Jr., a tangram puzzle set, Clothespin Hearts, and Busy Bugs (which we all love despite the adult reviews at that link - thanks, Great-Grandma!). I just bought Xander marbles and will be doing math activities with those. I also might find or make some math facts flash cards. Xander and Nick love flash cards. Ooh, I just saw that PBS Kids has tangram computer games.

I almost forgot: we also have Star Wars and SonicX Leapster games that teach math concepts.

From Xander's school, we got a huge Texas Math workbook by Houghton Mifflin. I think they had already done some of this throughout the year. I know they covered the topics, but it looks like all or almost all of the workbook is uncompleted and can be used by us as well.

Good Citizenship

Good citizenship will be covered with the What Your First Grader Needs to Know material, patriotic music, a civics game we have, celebrating holidays, and attending holiday events. We will also follow Michelle Dial's program of having morning meetings that include the Pledge of Allegiance and a review of a president of the week and a state of the week. At Faubion Elementary, they also do the State Pledge of Allegiance (probably mandatory across the state). I imagine we will do that but Xander will have to teach me. :)

By the way, we use What Your Preschooler Needs to Know and the corresponding Activity Book 1 with Nick.

There are plenty of other subjects we will cover, but I'll talk about those curricula later.

Here's what we've done today so far (and this is why I'm not very worried about learning academics):
  • eaten family breakfast, during which Xander and Nick played a game of "Chicka Chicka Blank," which is similar to the verbal game "Walrus." They made it up, but Walrus is an actual conversation game made up by someone else. You can look it up on Wikipedia. ;)
  • Xander has read to Nick and talked through scenarios using some of his toy brochures
  • Nick has "read" books to himself on the couch
  • the boys reaped their reward for filling their "Super-Sibling Jar" which was initiated after a small unit we did together on how to be a great sibling. The reward was to eat the candy in the Super-Sibling Jar while playing board games of their own choosing. We have played a game of Robots. Xander is now setting up War of the Ring in his own way. I am still amazed at how much he remembers - verbatim - after hearing someone read aloud or teach. He remembers some of the real instructions, which are complex, to say the least. Nick wanted to take a look at the marbles, so we counted them and put them in a special bag in an effort to not lose any of them. (For future personal reference, we currently have 26 marbles.)
  • Xander and I have talked over reasons we like to win (to feel proud of ourselves, to try our best, to improve on what we could do before, and to win prizes)
  • Nick is "journaling" by drawing in his road trip composition book
  • later, I will let them play in the back yard with their new crazy sprinklers
Xander's "wrong chess" set-up (he knows the difference)

War of the Ring

Xander took this picture

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Destin Road Trip

We got back from our road trip last week. Here are a few photos of what we did with family.

the ocean was a big hit but it took a while for Nick to get over fears because we hadn't been to the beach in years

Erik at the beach

me and the "little boys"

these two had a blast for hours

woohoo! Nick on his own without holding someone's hand or being "carried up"

they just love each other
Bailey and Xander at the aquarium

Xander said this was the best day of his whole life (he has said that before)

Nick felt the need to cuddle up with his dad's belt for nap time
Gulfarium train

sibling play (sorry about the extremely glowing eyes)

get ready for more requested-by-Xander pictures of food

this is an orange-adillo, I think (orange segment with an armadillo-like peel-shell - I guess I see it)

How's that for ending a post with a bang? :)