Thursday, January 26, 2012

Some Curriculum Changes

I am learning. . . now that we are 3 years in to this homeschool thing, that some curriculum choices that we make at the beginning of the year may not end up being the best decision for our family. I tend to be the type of person that insists on finishing what we started, but when we all dread something or one subject makes a child cry - then we need a new plan.

Basically, this year we really like almost everything. There were, however, 2 things that needed to be changed. First, was Lucy's reading curriculum. I struggled in the beginning with what to do with her. She was beyond a regular kindergarten reading curriculum, but didn't know if she was confident enough in her reading to jump into a first grade program (for reading only). I ended up choosing a 1st grade reading curriculum that was on the easy side in comparison to most 1st grade programs. I thought this one was sort of a happy medium between kindergarten and a true 1st grade (like I used with Norah in 1st grade). However, while Lucy started reading last year, she was really struggling this year to pick up all the phonics rules at such a quick pace. She was basically learning a new rule every day. She did great the day of the rule, but by the next day when she was learning another, she had already forgotten the one from the day before. She was crying everyday about doing her reading. She didn't mind actually reading to me, but she hated any workbook pages related directly to the rules. I seriously about made myself CRAZY trying to decide what to do with her. Finally, I decided to take more of a Charlotte Mason approach to her reading. She is reading to me every day and as we come across a word she can't figure out - we go over that rule. She is also using Explode the Code - but we are in a book that is a little on the easy side for her. She has it in her mind that because Norah is such a good reader that she isn't going to be a good reader. (She actually told me today that is going to have her nose in math all the time - just like Norah has her nose in books all the time.) I really think she needs to build up some confidence before I push her too much. So far, this is working and she doesn't cry about reading (she does whine about it - but it is much easier to deal with than the falling on the ground and sobbing that was happening before.)

The second change is with our science. We really enjoyed our science last year - but the curriculum that I bought this year for Norah came with its own science so I decided to go with it. Now, I need to say that we LOVE the history and Bible portion of Norah's curriculum. It is great for us and the girls love both of those subjects. Lucy does them with us because she doesn't want to be left out. The science is on the weak side. We just pushed through the first half of the year but after Christmas, I told Kevin that I couldn't take it anymore. I dreaded doing science with them and unless I took tons of extra time adding to the lessons, I didn't feel like the girls were getting much out of it. The books that we used are good, but there was no rhyme or reason to the structure. To me, it didn't flow well and it was mostly reading. The reading was such a brief overview that I didn't think the girls were getting/remembering anything that they were learning.

We just started using Real Science-4-Kids. I am excited about this because it comes with a book to read together, a workbook for experiments/observations/thoughts and a teacher's guide with detailed instructions. So far, the book is great - the pictures are fun and the writing is done is a way that I think they will remember what they are learning. I love the workbook because I don't have to come up with a science notebook for the girls - it is all right here and follows the book exactly. There are 3 sets of books for the pre-level 1 (written for grade 1-3, but I think Lucy will enjoy it as much as Norah) - chemistry, biology, and physics. I love that the books are divided into areas of science - perfect for my OCD personality!! The experiments look great too! This week the girls played with legos as we talked about atoms as building blocks and tomorrow the girls are going to build molecules with marshmallows and toothpicks.

The other change is my time with Daphne. Her totschool time had sort of fallen by the wayside. We got busy doing other things and I would plan to do stuff with her later in the day and it never happened. Now, I am doing school stuff with her first thing - Lucy joins us for most of it. Then Lucy does a couple of independent things while I work with Daphne. Then when I am done with Daphne (we usually work for about 30-45 min), I work with Lucy. We get all of her work done (except history and science - which we do with Norah) by lunch. Daphne is LOVING her school-time. She asks every day, "It my cool time yet? Peas?" Seriously, cute.

Norah spends the whole morning doing independent work. She practices the piano, works on math facts, completes her handwriting, works on her writing lesson, reads, etc. I try to change it up for her - but she is a creature of habit so she likes the regular schedule. Once Daphne goes down for her nap, er, I mean, rest time (Well, I don't know what to call her afternoon time in her room. She doesn't sleep, she doesn't rest, and she really isn't quiet. at. all.), I teach history and science. When we finish that, Lucy goes to her room to listen to a book on cd or to play. Then I teach math, spelling and grammar. The schedule is working well, except for the fact that we literally don't finish until 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon. The girls do get breaks here and there so it works for them.

I am glad that we are back into a routine after a crazy December. The girls are happy with the minor changes that we made. It is hard to believe that this school year is more than half over. I am so not ready to start looking at curriculum for next year but it won't be long!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy Birthday, DJ!

Daphne turned 3 this week. . . .although, she is trying to convince us that she is 16. Multiple times she told me, "I be 16. I be driving. You give me car?" Umm, no, not for a LONG time!

On her actual birthday we didn't do much out of the ordinary - we just had a normal school day. When I asked her if she wanted waffles or spaghetti (her 2 favorites) for dinner, she said, "Quesadillas." So, the girls had cheese quesadillas and we had tortilla soup. We had cupcakes after dinner - we tried a new recipe.

We had a little party yesterday - just family, but Daphne had a great time being the center of attention!

Daphne is a huge Minnie Mouse fan so we decided to do a few Minnie things for her party. The cookies are just chocolate cookies - my mom and I just rolled big cookie dough balls for the face and 2 little ones for the ears. We baked one tray to see how they turned out and then finished the rest once we saw how they turned out.
These Minnie Mouse heads are big and little oreos dipped in chocolate. This wasn't as easy as I originally thought it would be - oh well.
Showing Uncle Rick her favorite IPad games.

Daphne was hilarious trying to blow out her candles! Check this out!!

Daphne's little Minnie Mouse hat was made by Joyful Creations. She makes great stuff. . . check it out!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Run, Run, as Fast as You Can!

One of my goals for this half of the school year is to be better about my intentional 'totschool' activities with Daphne. Our first theme of the year is one of my favorites. . .Gingerbread Men. We read several versions of the Gingerbread Man, including this one, this one, this one, and this one.
The girls enjoyed a variety of activities related to gingerbread men. The crafts had to be Daphne's favorite. She was so serious as she worked. Cracked me up!!

We actually did a lot more than just crafts but for some reason I didn't get many pictures of anything else!! Whoops!!
Some of our other activities for the 2 weeks include:
playing with the snow. . . inside. Way too cold for this mamma to go out.
Playing with magnetic dolls. Daphne spent hours during the week playing with these. She loves them!!!
and painting! Look at that serious face!! Love it!

Basement Project. . . Done, Finally!`

I have been working on our storage space in the basement for a long time. . . .I mean, years. We have been in our house for almost 7 years but never utilized the space the way I wanted. I would start organizing and rearranging and then it would again become a collect all. Then I just sort of gave up and just continued to add to the mess and never put anything away. Ridiculous, I know. Finally, however, it got to the point that I couldn't walk from one side of the room to the other without hurdling over things.

As embarrassing as they are, here are the before pictures:

Notice that I didn't even shut the cabinet doors. How lazy is that?

The first step of the process was to take all the stuff out of the room. We literally took everything except the large furniture out into the school room. The plan was to have it completed by the end of our Christmas break. . . however, I didn't get it all finished so we did have school in various places the first week of January. Anyway, I started by arranging the shelves and cabinets where I wanted them and Kevin added a few extra things and moved the heavy stuff. Then I organized the clothes - with 3 girls and 2 nieces (plus a couple of friends who have passed along clothes) we have a lot of clothes of various sizes. I sorted them, thinned out, boxed them and labeled them. Then I organized all of the craft/sewing/art stuff.
We had this tv cabinet from our other house that has been in the basement as storage. There were things it it, but they were literally thrown in and stacked on top of each other. We never used it anywhere else because it is a corner cabinet and there just isn't a good place in the rest of the house.
Kevin added some shelves and peg board to the cabinet and voila! It is the perfect craft/sewing storage cabinet!!

I should add that there were times when Kevin and I were both working in the basement (or I was working in the basement and Kevin was at work) and the girls were just playing. Daphne wanted to help. . . .with everything! This is what she was doing most of the time:
After a couple of weeks of work, it is done. For the first time in 7 years, there aren't just areas that are organized. The whole storage room is clean and organized. I love it. Here are the after pictures:

To the left of bookshelves is an art table (ignore the white microwave underneath - that is gone now). The girls love that they can go in there and paint, glue, cut, and create. I love that it doesn't matter if they make a mess!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from the Swinigans!

While I am not one to set New Year's Resolutions, I do usually have a couple of goals that I strive to reach.
1 - Read through the Bible in a year (this is often a goal and I have yet to actually accomplish it all in one year). This year, Norah is going to try to do it too. She has her checklist of daily scripture readings in her Bible and she has day 1 checked off!

2 - Lighten up about my house. We have been doing a weekly cleaning on Saturday mornings (when we are in town) and I would like to continue that and just do my best during the week to keep things straightened up. If things don't get done, so what? My priority is my family - not my house!

3 - Play with the girls more. I know I am home with them all the time but we are usually doing schoolwork and housework. I often send them to play and don't sit down and just play whatever they want to play.

4 - Get my kickboxing certification - that is already scheduled for this month and I am super excited about it!

5 - Be more consistent about logging my food in My Fitness Pal. Be more consistent about having a cheat meal instead of a cheat day or weekend! ha! I also want to be better about sticking with the meal plans that I create. I am great at making meal plans and even grocery shopping, but about halfway through the week I lose interest and we often just wing it!

6 - Now that my hip is finally feeling better, I want to run another half-marathon! We are signed up for one in May.

Really, I could go on and on but 6 is good for now!! Anyone actually have resolutions? If so, what are they?