Monday, December 23, 2013

The Whole Picture

There's blog life...

...and then there's real life.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Year D... and Year A?

I may think up a catchier title since I'm no longer calling it Tot School... but this will do for now. This is probably going to be a boring post to everyone except me. The short version is that I'm trying to keep things organized between my son and my daughter so that hopefully I can reuse some of my homeschooling ideas from him to her (I can hear you laughing, I know, I know, as my mom would say, "the best laid plans of mice and men..." but maybe there will be a little overlap? Let me have my moment of peaceful dreaming please.) I think best out loud and I this blog is mostly for my own record keeping anyway, so here goes.

Raccoon is doing preschool stuff and Ducky (her blog name used to be Robin but I'm changing it to fit more with her personality) is in baby school, which means chewing on things and creeping around at this point. Since Raccoon is going to preschool twice a week, I haven't done any lesson plans for him and we've just enjoyed things as they've come. A picture post will hopefully be coming soon. Our lives are currently utter chaos as we live in the middle of a messy remodel project, but I am hoping, praying, that life will return to something more ordered in December... maybe January.

Okay, so into the nitty gritty.

Here in Celosia, planned learning starts around one, so Year D is Raccoon's fourth year and I'm going to call what Ducky does "Baby School" until she graduates to "Tot School" next fall (although I may link up sooner if I feel like what she's doing matches up) and Raccoon will start Year E, which will roughly correspond to traditional kindergarten for him. She is already trying to copy what we do, at nine months old, grabbing a pen or paintbrush and trying to scribble on paper (she loves it when I grab the end of the pen so she can actually scribble with her fist on the lower part). So I'm guessing, I know it's far out, but that she's going to be ready for some kindergarten things the school year that she is 4-turning-5.

Raccoon's birthday falls nicely for his Year to correspond with the U.S. school year, but Ducky's birthday is at the beginning of the calendar year, so I have to decide if I'm going to do her Years by age or try to match them to a school year. I just need a system I can keep straight! I'm sure this is tediously boring to everyone else, but it's the kind of thing I love - making up peculiar systems.

                 Raccoon                     Ducky
Year A      1      2010*                  turning 1    2013             baby school
Year B       2     2011                    turning 2    2014             Tot School
Year C       3     2012                    turning 3    2015             Tot School
Year D       4     2013                    turning 4    2016             Preschool
Year E       5      2014                   turning 5    2017^            Kindergarten
Year F       6      2015
Year G      7       2016
Year H      8       2017^

*Each Year starts in September (or October if we do a soft start to school after summer projects)
^Next planned furlough to U.S., summer through Christmas perhaps

Okay, so that makes this Year A for Ducky, which is what I needed to figure out, or if not then I was thinking of doing a year of "baby school" for her before I called it anything else. Then she'll move into Year B in September, 2014, at 19 months until 27 months. The things I wrote down for my son's Year B were actually towards the end of his Year, so I think I'll be able to crossover some ideas and activities by that point. And if she's more of a I'd-like-to-do-free-play-on-my-own kind of girl, hallelujah! Ha ha. But I suspect she's going to want to "do school" like her brother. We'll see. (Hello future self, reading this post, how are things going for you? Drop me a note and let me know how close my guess was.)

I originally was going to start on my picture post of things we've done so far this Year, but I couldn't get past the title. Hopefully a little thinking ahead will serve me well later. How I love making plans... :)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Full Body School

Those three words sum up my approach to tackling homeschooling with Raccoon. We are going to be living out in the country, which I haven't had much peace about due to the King's long commute to work, but as I think more about my son, it's going to be a good thing for him.

An obstacle course.

An outdoor gym/playground.

A garden.

Water play.


Maybe we'll build a rock wall.

I have to find peace about this move. To trust the Lord that my mission right now is not somewhere out there, but right at home, three feet and two feet tall.

A great post about this? Carissa's Blessed with Boundless Energy. I especially love this quote, "Specifically, I have him do some highly energetic movement and some relaxing focused balance type work right before we begin any seat work. We have been going in this order and it has helped a lot." This gives me hope. The nuts and bolts of how to make things work in school for Raccoon, this is what I need. Raccoon's energy is a blessing when channeled properly and not so much when it heedlessly overflows.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Homeschool is a Go for Fall 2014 (K)

The King and I (*smile* do you like my new name for hubby?) have officially decided to homeschool Raccoon next year for kindergarten. We were pretty sure that this was the best choice for us, but there were a few factors that confirmed it:

1) His birthday misses our preferred school's kindergarten cutoff by six weeks, no exceptions, so it's homeschool or another year of pre-k (which would not be a good fit for him).

2) Unless the Lord steps in, we will be living in a semi-remote location in South America next fall, so our access to local schools would be limited anyway.

There are other considerations, such as our plan to do school only a few days a week and my excitement over not having to get everyone going in the morning, so overall homeschooling is a win-win for our family at this point.

All this is to say that I am finally biting the bullet and looking at curriculum!!! Since it's kindergarten and I want to ease into things, I'm not going to invest in a box set, but am going to do things piecemeal. Raccoon is also fairly asynchronous and needs a full body approach to learning, so it may take us awhile to find our groove. I'm okay with that. I will also have to figure out where Robin fits in as I want to do some Tot School things with her while Raccoon and I "do school." I am hoping that she'll be past the mouthing, grabbing, and ripping stages by then so that she can join us (She'll be 19 months... I may be asking for too much. Plan B for her is... nap time.)

I was hoping to find a bookstore with used curriculum. I have to look at something in order to decide it's usefulness, online descriptions don't work for me. I'm a page-flipper. Sadly, there aren't any used bookstores in my area, I think they have all gone out of business, but I did find a large book section at Goodwill. It's like hunting for treasure. Amongst the every-TV-show-known-to-children beginning readers, there are also amazing Usborne, DK, and other resource books. I have spent $20 (can't beat $1 each!) and I have everything except health and math and social studies. Confession: I don't even really know what social studies is, isn't it part of history or how society works or something? I'm off to Wikipedia for that one... "integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence." Oh.

Where was I? So several of the books that I have should last us several years as they are more comprehensive sources, such as "Everything You Need to Know About English Homework." I have a few of these on different subjects, and plan to use them as a starting point for different unit studies once I discover what works and doesn't work with Raccoon. I have specific lesson books for subjects like art, science, and music appreciation. As I look over the books tonight, I do wonder where they came from before Goodwill, and why, if they're so good, they still look like new. Hmmmmmm.....

Well, I'm off to make lists and plans and dream... have I mentioned that I loved school. At least, I loved the thought of school - unlimited learning and access to new ideas - but I have to remind myself that Raccoon's style and needs are different from my own. But still, I bought resources that I enjoy, because if I'm not interested, then how could I expect him to be?

P.S. Why all the books you say when you can find everything you need online?
1) We won't have high speed internet. It's back to dial-up days (almost) for us when we move.
2) I still love books and want to pass that on.
3) $1 a book saves me on printer ink and paper.
4) Recycle! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

I can do hard things

This is my new school motto. I told Raccoon that he is going to have to do hard things everyday. -Insert meltdown here-

I'm hoping that this will help him move beyond his paralyzing perfectionism. We have a little list of hard things he's done and hopefully it will continue to grow.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Confession: I'm a Nerdy Mom

Ok, yup, that's me... I'm a nerd. I think one of the most freeing things I've heard lately was a motto on a children's game, "It's OK to be smart." That's sad. I'm actually more like a nerd-in-hiding. The only reason I'm even writing this is because I like to record things that make me laugh. Today it was a sentence from here:

"This post is mainly for record-keeping, so it may be a bit of dry reading for many. If you are like me, however, you will find it fascinating in a very nerdy sort of way."

That pretty much sums up both of my blogs, mainly for recordkeeping. But it's okay, because I like them.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Projects and Dreams

When I find a new blog, I read through their latest posts until I find something that doesn't interest me. If It's right away, I simply click on. If I'm five or six posts down and still reading, then I'm in. This blog had me with the post "How to Mentor a Kid with Big (Possibly Unrealistic) Dreams."

Sunday, September 15, 2013


 We don't have fall in South America, 
so I plan to enjoy this part of the year 
as much as possible with Raccoon and Robin.

On our schedule for this week is a fall walk, raking leaves, and making leaf stained glass.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tricky Tuesday: Introvert Mom Extrovert Child

If I boiled down all of Racoon and my conflicts, this is at the heart of most. He needs more people time and I need more alone time. What I am trying to figure out is how much each of us needs to feel recharged. Right now our needs drain each other so neither one of us is happy. I currently need so much time to recharge (usually at night after everyone else is alseep), that there just aren't enough hours in the day.

I cannot feed his need to be with people all by myself, nor can he give me enough down time if it's just the two of us (well, three now with Robin). We seem to constantly be a sad couple, and I want to change that. At the end of the day, he resorts to being naughty because it's the only way he can get enough energy from my run-down batteries. It's a terrible pattern for us both and I feel squeezed dry.

So here are the million dollar questions: how much is enough and how do I make it happen?

"I aim to fit in my writing time as well as reading one chapter of fiction each day. If I get those two covered, I’m usually equipped to handle whatever twists and turns come my way," says Jaimie Martin at Simple Homeschool.

This is another great post on the topic - Grace for the Introverted Mom (favorite quote: "I won’t be able to sleep until I think about it.")

That sounds about right. But explaining this to my husband, also an extrovert, is difficult. "Why can't you handle just one child?" he used to ask me all the time when Raccoon was younger. Filling my needs can appear to him like I am being neglectful of our kids, or lazy.

As part of this post, I just have to mention that I love type talk. I am an INFP, my husband is an ENTJ, Raccon is an E_ _ _ (maybe SFP? N?), and Robin is still undecided. (Sidenote: understanding type has been very illuminating for my marriage. The two middle ones are personality and here is where my husband and I are similar, we are both Ns and our F/Ts are more middle than extreme. But our living preferences are exactly opposite - EJ (outgoing and structured) and IP (ingoing and unstructured). This is the secret to why we get along really well but have trouble living together. lol.) 

Our conflicting sources of energy are my biggest fear about homeschooling; how am I going to make it work for both of us? And throw in the fact that my little extrovert has social anxiety and needs very particular types of people interactions (small groups, a buddy, older kids).

Then we'll be adding in Robin once I figure out what she needs... which right now is not more than one car trip a day.

What am I doing that's working?

An outside preschool class for three hours two days a week. (We just started so I hope this works)
Stories on CD in the car (he usually wants me to talk nonstop in the car which drains me)
Projects for us to work on together at home (he gets my undivided attention and we're doing something we enjoy together)
Jumping on the trampoline together with Robin on a blanket on the grass (harder now that it's colder and wetter outside)
What it boils down to is outsourcing some of his energy needs without compromising mine.

What isn't working?

Finding enough kids for Raccoon to play with. Where can I find more opportunities for him that don't drain my energy? Outside spaces work best for us, but often there aren't any other kids there. We both get stressed at the play areas at kid restaurants (too busy and loud). Raccoon doesn't like structured activities like classes (too much sitting or waiting).

I can't save up my needs until nighttime. By evening I am empty and cannot cope with more demands. To stay sane, I need small breaks throughout the day with one long stretch (one to two hours).

Which of my strengths can I apply here?

What am I good at? Finding new places for us to explore. 


* Some sort of sport activity - it would have to be relatively unstructured and flexible with scheduling since neither one of us does that well with predictability. Maybe some sort of open gym? bouncy place?

* More playdates at home - I like having people come over because then I don't have the stress of driving, trying to get somewhere on time, and managing Raccoon's food allergies. These are usually a win-win for us. The problem is that Raccoon prefers children his age or a few years older, and everyone we know is busy at school.

* A homeschool coop - get-togethers yes, classes no.

* A membership to a kid's museum - we'd have to go at times when there aren't many children there, or it's the same overstimulation problem as at kid restaurants.

* A gym with childcare - I wonder how much this costs.

Possible solution (or first try at least):

Our win-win - unstructured play time with slightly older kids at our home, with a few special outings a week. I need a boy with a specific profile - extrovert! imaginative, energetic (but not out-of-control), playful, outdoorsy, and independent. Maybe I should advertise on craigslist:
 "Introvert mother looking for extrovert playmate for her extrovert son. 
Would prefer a homeschooled child (of any age) with flexible hours." 

Or as Raccoon suggested, we could just adopt more children. He said he wants five brothers and sisters. Sorry buddy, unless God steps in, that's not going to happen.

I've also considered getting him a kitten...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Project, Part II is Part I

My mom is a wealth of office supplies, so she gave me a 3 ring binder and a box of the old computer paper. Remember the kind with holes on the edges that fed through the printer in a one continuous piece? Ah, the memories.

Raccoon had fun helping me tear off the edges, separate the pages, then hole punch them. Voila! His first book was ready for inspiration.

Raccoon decided he wanted to do the illustrations first with crayons. 
He likes to just go for it, then decide later what it is. 
After about ten pages, he was done for the day. 

Another day, I added some new pages and decided to try a different approach. With just one marker, he drew the picture as I sat beside him and I wrote the story he told me underneath. I prompted him a few times by asking, "Then what happened?" and I got him started with "Once upon a time..." So here it is:

Once upon a time, there was a ghost named Alfie.

Alfie wore glasses. His father was watching him. 


There was a sign that said no enter. A man told Alfie he was going to hit him with his big knife.

 So Alfie cut the man's blade off with his knife. Alfie's father was mad. 

(I drew the right page at Raccoon's request, it's the only one 
where he wanted help. I also changed his to the man's for clarity.)

"I'm glad you're safe, but don't do that ever again," he said. 

(It seemed odd to me that Raccoon thought the dad was mad 
so I mentioned the safe part and he incorporated it into the story. 
The "...don't do it again" part is pure Raccoon.) 


 The man set a trap for Alfie. Traps are everywhere! 
A red line told him do not enter that yard. Bad men will take your food and eat it all.

(Raccoon said red but I wrote purple since that's the color the marker was, 
but I thought better of it and changed it back to red to stay true to his story.)

He crossed the line and a shark ate his food. Alfie decided to go home and eat his lunch.

(When I reread the story to Raccoon later, he told me it should be the bad men
who ate the lunch not the shark, implying that the story made more sense that 
way. His first edit, such fun. I still have to go back and change the original.)

Sharing his story with Robin.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Brainstorming for Fall 2013

Tonight I am attending my first parent orientation night for Raccoon. He will be going to preschool twice a week for three hours a day. But after this year, my husband and I feel like homeschooling is still the best choice for him. With this in mind, I want to begin figuring out what works for him and what helps him learn.

I LOVE this post about following the lead of the child. One of Celosia's rules is: If it's not working, stop. I haven't even started school with Raccoon and I already feel like my natural teaching inclinations are not going to work. I need a better plan. When Raccoon's hunger to learn is not satisfied, we are all miserable.

So, first, a list of what he likes with ideas of how I could make it school-y:

* taking pictures (he evaluates and chooses what he likes and wants to display, vocabulary, composition, lighting)
* physical activity (following directions through an obstacle course, a walk in the woods, scavenger hunt with labels)
* videos (educational clips, Netflix profile)
* being read to (books, magazines)
* likes freestyle crafts (cutting, gluing, glitter, tape, materials)
* imaginary play (write and perform skits, mini-movies)
* writing in the sand
* sensory play
* social / emotional role play
* field trips with learning pages

I also need to come up with new ways to use what we have. And keeping Robin involved but safe is going to be challenging as well.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Where is that switch anyway!?

This sums up one of my concerns about my son...

"He didn't learn the same. WHEN he learned, he learned FASTER, and deeper than any of the kids we were around. But he also didn't learn consistently like they did. It was like someone flipped a switch and he went from dark to lit up 100 watts all at once. Seeing that he learned so fast really didn't make me worried. (...) What did kill me was waiting for him to get that switch flipped. It never seemed like it was up to me but rather to some random timer switch." from Building Wing Span

Raccoon absorbs information, and remembers it, in amazing quantities, but his perfectionism wars with the flawed repetition necessary for mastery. At this point, I'm not sure when (sometimes I whisper to myself if?) he will speak Spanish (despite living in a fully bilingual home), and many other things that he is not just uninterested in, but actively dislikes. Letters also come to mind.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer Days

I have decided that this is our last official summer of Tot School. Raccoon starts preschool twice a week on September 3rd here in the States. Next year we'll be overseas again and starting to homeschool kindergarten, if all goes according to plan. Robin will be starting Tot School at about that time, which is odd to think about now since she's currently 6 months old. At that point she'll be a little shy of two years old. As Gretchen Rubin says, "The days are long but the years are short."

So here's to Tot School and Raccoon's last official post (the pictures are all mixed up time-wise, viva la summer loca!).

Arts & Crafts

My mom gave me these pumpkin sheets when Raccoon 
randomly announced in July that he wanted to make a pumpkin.

He actually wanted to carve one, but was persuaded to do it this way instead.

Thanks to Grama, Raccoon has done many large paintings
this summer, which I have hanging all over the house.

See the tongues sticking out? It's a family thing. Perhaps painting is as well, 
since my mother's father was a painter, among other things. This is the 
beginning of one of my favorites, which I have hanging in my bedroom.

When I see pictures like this, I imagine him as a teen,
long and lean, with his curly hair and gorgeous lashes.

Outside Play

Our wading pool, a yard sale find.

Which became our sandbox, thanks to my mom's inspiration and contributions.

Enjoying play time with his cousins.

A lake about 10 minutes from our house. Raccoon calls it the beach.

Mommy and me moments


Pensive ladies on shore

Raccoon loves horseback riding, just like his mommy.

Raccoon has always enjoyed bouncy houses, but now he gets to play on them
every week at church. This one, however, was outside at the 4th of July festival.

The way life should be.

A perfect summer day, jumping on the trampoline in the sprinkler with Daddy and his best buddy, C.

It wouldn't be tot school without a little dress-up.

 River swimming - it's cold!


Caleb gathered up a stack of thngs from his playroom 
and informed me that he wanted to make a horse.  


I followed his instructions and this is what we built. There 
weren't any spare parts, much to my surprise. It even had 4 legs.


Raccoon's middle name means warrior and he certainly lives up to it with his 
interest in weapons of any kind. His cousin is now his hero for having the 
biggest Nerf gun he's ever seen, and letting him shoot off several rounds.

Grama and Grampa, 4th of July 2013

I think Robin looks so much like my mom.

We are definitely a hat family.


I like this picture because she glows like the angel she is.

Strawberries to celebrate a long-time friend and SB's turtle,
which has now been chewed on by all three of my babies.



Robin's first baby doll, a gift from Grandma Millie (90 years old) at church.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Focusing on Strengths

"It is easy for those working with children with disabilities, including their parents, to dwell upon the deficiencies. But if children experience success in their strength areas, they become more confident in their abilities." SENG August newsletter

A social work major in college, I chose the strengths perspective as the foundation of my approach to family problem-solving. For me, it's the idea that everyone brings something to the table which can be used for the good of all. In homeschooling I hope to use my son's strengths - imagination, curiosity, energy, and marching to his own drum - to also improve his areas of weakness. I think we'll have the most success with project-based learning based on his areas of interest, incorporating reading, writing, and public speaking as means to the end.

Coming soon: a summer and book update.  

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Museum of the Month

Camlann, a Medieval Village

We watched a longbow demonstration while we waited for the big event - the knights!

 My knight in shining armor

Raccoon loved seeing them in armor, but there was too much talking and 
not enough fighting for him to make it through the 1 hour demonstration.

A real live knight!

Robin, however, was not at all impressed and promptly fell asleep in the baby carrier. 
Raccoon picked me some flowers, my sweet boy.

The highlight for us all (Grama and Grampa came too) turned out to be making
our own beeswax candles by dipping string on a stick into a large cauldron. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Museum of the Month

The Zoo - July 2013

The highlight for Raccoon was feeding some of the animals. 
He touched an alpaca and a deer.

Robin's favorite was a stuffed baboon in their taxidermy shop.

I liked the tiger show they did with their white and golden tigers. 
They fed them treats in order to visually inspect their bodies, so 
the tigers would stand up against the fence. It's amazing how big 
and powerful they are, and so gorgeous.

Of course, I couldn't resist a picture of this. :)