Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Our Kindergarten Curriculum

No matter if you are a well seasoned home school parent or a beginner the one question everyone always asks is what curriculum are you using. So for those who are curious I will share that information with you today.

In searching for curriculum I found that a whole curriculum didn't work for us. I know families that love Sonlight and My Father's World and other whole package curriculum and it works well with their families. For me, I knew that wouldn't work as well. I have a background in teaching and don't feel I need something so scripted. My background in special education has given me the ability to adapt curriculum for the individual child, which I will need to do for my own kids since they are very different learners. 

What we have ended up with is a bit of a hodge podge. I've taken from several different places. I will start preschool with the two younger in the fall because they want the school time too. It establishes the routine early for them as they are a year apart and will continue to do reading and math together for the next several years. We will use the Horizons preschool for 4 year olds. 
Together all three will do social studies and science and we notebook for those subjects. It is simple and easy topics that they want to know more about.  At night we are reading through the Little House Series. We pick and choose things that interest them with in the book to talk about during the day. They are very curious about how different things were back then and I want to cultivate that interest. 

Science we are talking about dinosaurs. They are curious about the different kinds and love seeing the pictures of skeletons. Each dinosaur has a page in their notebook with a picture of the dinosaur and the skeleton along with something they learned about it. 

We also do experiments from time to time using Clifford Science Kits. These are great simple experiments for little ones. Before the experiment begins the girls are to predict what might happen and draw a picture. At the end they tell what happened and draw a picture. This has been a lot of fun. 
For our Kindergartener we have chosen Spelling U See, Logic of English, and Math U See. All have worked really well for her so far. 

Spelling U See focuses on the visual part of spelling. Since we don't spell phonically most of the time, Spelling U See doesn't focus only on that part past the first level. There isn't meaningless word lists that the student will memorize and then forget. The lessons are short 10 minutes and focus on reading, copywork, listening, and speaking. My kindergartener actually likes spelling, and is cruising through the program. What I like about it most is that my other two will probably need to go through it slower and this has the ability to really benefit those students who struggle with spelling.

Math U See is similar in the fact that students do better when they can use as many senses as possible. It also focuses on mastery, which is really important to me. This is different then most curriculum used in schools today. Schools use a spiral approach where they will introduce and then reintroduce the next year. Math U See believes in mastery so that if you can count, you can add. If you can add, you can multiply and so on. Students have a video to introduce each new lesson, manipulatives, and work book pages. Students work as fast or slow as needed.

English of Logic is a phonics, reading, spelling, and handwriting program. Although we are already using a spelling program, we use the spelling portion to practice reading words and writing them. We have chosen the cursive program and I'm very surprised how well she is doing with both reading and writing cursive. What I like about this program is that it teaches specific phonograms instead of briefly teaching what sounds letters make. We blend words and chunks, play phonogram games, and practice different fonts that the letters may make. It is a very well rounded program that uses as many senses as possible to help students learn. 

All three of these programs I chose because they are based on ability levels and not grade levels. Each focus on mastery. My girls will be able to move through the levels at the pace that is best for them. My oldest will probably move much faster then the other two because of her learning style, but I believe these curriculums are set up in a way that not only cater to many different learning styles but also at different learning speeds. There is no pressure to finish by a certain time so that they can start at the next grade on time.

If your homeschooling I'd love to hear what you are using and what you love about it. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things for Baby

There are a few things I absolutely loved having when my girls were babies. Today I want to share two of my favorites.

 The first thing is called Milkies Milk-Saver Breast Milk Collector. This is so amazing. I found out about this product just before I had my third daughter. I had mastitis with both my other girls even though I did everything right.  When I found this product I was hoping that it would prevent mastitis.

How it works is simple. You insert over the nipple on the side you are not nursing. When your milk lets down, you collect in the Milkies allowing your breast to drain naturally. Most mornings I was able to collect around 4 oz or more. I rarely had to pump and still had plenty of milk stored up.


 Another thing I love is my cloth diapers. I started using them when my oldest had just turned two, my second was about 7 months old, and I was pregnant with the third. It started using them because I wanted to save money. We were spending $80 a month on disposables and cloth only cost us a few hundred for several years.

At first I wasn't sure but was willing to give it a try. The more I used them, the more I started falling in love with them. The poop didn't bother me because I learned shortly the I had worse poop messes with disposables. The washing didn't bother me either. It just became part of the routine and I never really noticed the extra laundry. It ended up being easier then I ever thought. 

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What did you or do you use that you love for your baby?

Microwave Kool-Aid Playdough

Kid's love play-dough, but it can be expensive to keep play-dough stocked. Growing up it was one of my sister and my favorite activities. My girls are no different. They can sit and play for an hour.

My mom always made play dough from scratch. I can remember her standing over the stove making us a new batch of play dough. 

In High School I helped out in a special education preschool room. Several times during the year I made play dough for the kids. The teacher had a great recipe that could be made in the microwave and used Kool aid. I thought it was a much better recipe then the one my mom made. It smells so good and is so easy you can make it almost anywhere. 

Now that I am a mom, this is the recipe we use in our house. I makes a large batch of play dough, so all the girls have plenty to play with. 

Microwave Kool Aid Play Dough

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 Tbs oil
4 tsp Cream of Tartar
2 cups water
1 pkg of kool aid

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Heat water and oil to boiling in a microwave safe bowl. When cool to the touch, mix together. Knead as it cools till it is all mixed and smooth.  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Potty Training Woes

I have now potty trained all three of my girls successfully. I can now tell you that you can read all the wonderful books, blogs, and articles you want but nothing will really prepare you for potty training. 

Let me tell you that everyone makes it look so easy and maybe it is for them. But all kids are different, so your child may be easy or maybe not. Let me tell you how different mine were.

First I will tell you I did use the boot camp method with all three at some point. This was the most effective way to train. They got underwear and potty breaks every 15 minutes to start. The time gradually turned into every couple hours after about a month. They all started somewhere between 2 and 3 years old.

My first was the easiest. By day three she successfully peed and pooped in the potty. After that it was easy until about a year later when she was constantly having accidents. It was her not wanting to take a break and go to the bathroom. I took away her dress up clothes since they were important to her and I was tired of washing them. Every time she went in the potty she got one back and when she had an accident, one was taken away. Within a month she was back to being accident free. 

The second was the hardest. She had no desire to be clean and would play in her wet clothes after her accident. It was very frustrating and I just couldn't get her to care. For about 6 months I was cleaning her up several times a day. She rarely went a whole day without having an accident and NEVER pooped in the potty. 

I tried rewarding her but nothing seemed to work. We even gave her a Barbie when she finally pooped on the potty. Finally I decided to take away her My Little Pony's every time she had an accident. Like her sister, she could earn them back by going in the potty. Again like her sister, after a month she was accident free and finally pooping on the potty. 

The third was in between the two. She learned quickly how to pee in the potty and had no desire to use the potty chair but instead the big potty (we have one of the seats that has a built in child seat). It took her a few months to finally poop on the potty. The crazy thing is, it took us going on vacation to get her to start pooping on the potty. She went at our hotel, at her aunt and uncle's house, and at gas stations. For most of our trip she stayed dry. It has now been two months and she has had very few accidents. 

In my experience potty training takes work. It is so worth it once they are trained but it is much harder then most want to admit. It's ok if your child is taking a long time to learn. It's ok if you feel like it will never end. You are not alone. It will end eventually and it does get better eventually. 

I'd love to hear your stories. What worked for you? What kind of crazy stories do you have? 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The 5 Love Lanuages of Children

Do you love your child? I mean really love your child they way they need to be loved? I didn't really understand what my child needed to feel loved until I read The 5 Love Languages of Children.

There was so much I learned, I could never list it all. I can say that I now understand my children much better. When we have poor behavior I take a moment to reflect on if I've been feeding their love bank.

The 5 Love Languages are: 
  • Touch
  • Quality Time
  • Gifts
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service

My oldest has the love language of gifts. Anything can be a gift and she has so much joy. The hard thing with gifts is that I really need to make sure that I am still showing her love with all love languages or she will see gifts as empty. 

The middle is very much words of affirmation. She is very emotional when she is told she has done something wrong. She needs to be encouraged often as her ability to do something depends on that encouragement.

Our youngest is a touch girl. She is content and always has been content to just sit on my lap for long periods of time. She also has to have a paci and blanket even though she's almost three. When she is having a bad day, it is often because we have not had enough cuddle time. 
After reading this book, my relationship with my children has really changed. I feel more in tune to their needs. There is very practical advice for each love language. Their love language may change over years, but I have a guide to meet those needs.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Earn money with Bing and Swagbucks

 (Contains Referral Links)

Have you heard and signed up for Bing Rewards yet? I signed up about a year ago. I earn points by searching and turn them into gift cards. Everery time I get on my computer I spend a few minutes searching under Bing. I earn at least 16 points and now Bing rewards will reward you for searching on your phone too. Now you have the ability to earn at least 26 points. Additional points can also be earned by referring a friend.

What's really great is that I earn points on Swagbucks too. Recently Bing added Swagbucks as a reward.  I take my 500 Swagbucks and use 450 to purchase an Amazon gift card. Woo-hoo 50 Swagbucks left over!

Over the past year I have used my gift cards on Amazon to purchase Home school items along with other little things for me and my family. I've tried the surveys and other ways to make a little extra cash and this has been by far the easiest. It takes a few minutes a day but adds up over time. I'm not making much but every little bit helps.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book Review: Reshaping it All

If you grew up in the 90s you know who Candace Cameron Bure is. Very few kids went through the 90s never seeing an episode of Full House. 

Back in November I had the privilege to hear Candace speak at a women's conference. She is very refreshing coming from the mad mad world that is Hollywood. Most stars are out of touch with the average person, never really being able to relate with normal hard working people. Most child stars end up messed up with drugs, alcohol, and very unsafe lifestyles. 

Candace is very different then the average Hollywood actress. She will be the first to tell you that she's not perfect. Every day is filled with mistakes. Reshaping it All is about her journey of faith, food, and constant struggle.

What I liked most about the book was the fact that she has practical advice but it isn't a how to on weight loss. What it really comes down to is your attitude and what are you going to do to make God the center instead of food.

It will make you feel encouraged and not alone in your struggles.