It has certainly been a journey in soo many areas in my life which I won't get into now. I believe through this journey it has brought out some of the ugly and made it into the good. For all members of our family.
OK.. so enough about being all vague and deep ... now to the fun stuff. I am determined to stay on top of my planning. To stay on top of my game plan. To make this year fun for all of us (including myself). Frankly last year was not fun for me anymore - at least towards the end of the year.
I have my own 'mommy basket', in this basket I have four months of 'themes' planned out. Each month will contain books from our trips to the library, an educational video or two (I already know that Gabriel is a very visual learner), a planned field trip, crafts and special projects. Because this year I will be homeschooling two of my children (Ava, grade 2 and Gabriel SK), I have decided to take advantage of the themes Abeka (the curriculum we use) has planned out. Generally I will be doing them in order, but I have decided to add a few more themes. Each theme will last 4-6 weeks. That may seem like a long time, but I can always adjust the lengths of time we spend on each theme depending on the children's interest. I'm also going with the approach of 'keeping it open' (if that makes ANY sense to anyone out there reading this). For example, the first 'theme of the month' will be "The Pond".. ok.. now that can encompass many things, such as: insets, water flowers/plants, animals that live in, close or around ponds. Water ways.. how water travels. Crafts: build our own miniature pond, insect mobiles etc. Add in a trip to a large city zoo.. and you've got alot covered. Again if the kids don't seem very interested.. I'll move on, but I'm pretty certain they are going to love what I've got planned.
So how am I going to get through my first year of juggling homeschooling my two oldest children, while I work part time at my church, continue to run, care for and be with my two littlest ones, keep a home, get the kids to their activities.. blah blah blah? With my three-step PLAN: lots of prayer, patience, and planning. Oh and of course.. I'm totally going to go with the flow, ENJOY my children and the time I have with them. I'm not going to freak out if Gabriel doesn't like learning about the alphabet or has a bad day, or two or three.. I don't want to be a wound up mommy this year.
Here are some of the creative ideas I have planned to keep the kids motivated and excited about learning, while I keep everything organized behind the scenes ☺
Below is a desk that my hubby converted into a desk/shelf (huh?? anyway.. added a shelf in the middle with a door. I LOVE it! It's unique, stylish, bright and happy.. AND houses some of the children's workbooks and supplies:
Last year I came up with the idea for Ava to have her VERY OWN calendar. I also made and laminated little magnets to go into each square. That way I didnt' have to wake up to a 6 year old standing a foot away from my face EVERY morning asking me: "What are we doing today mommy". (Seriously that STRESSED me out!)... Ava just LOVES to know what is on tap for the day.. even if it's *just* school work - I think it makes her feel prepared and have a bit of control. The magnets consisted of subjects that we were covering that day (besides the reading, writing and math that she does everyday) as well as programs or special dates i.e. "Monday- skating", "Tuesday - theatre class", "Wednesday - Discovering God's world (science) and, "GEMS" you get the picture. Soooo this year Gabriel has HIS very own calendar as well. This way they can each see what's in store for the week or month and cross off each day as they pass. Again, I still have to make the magnets for this year.
My children LOVE to paint, colour, craft, draw or doodle almost EVERY second of the day if they could. And not that I don't love the stuff they make, but there are times when I get very overwhelmed with the AMOUNT of LOOSE paper around this house! So I have decided to have 'art of the month'. Each month one piece of art from each child will be 'featured'. I thought it would be a fun way to display their art as well to give them an opportunity to articulate to visitors or family members what their art is about.
OK.. lets get to the nitty gritty.. the drawers! Each drawer houses one or two types of medium. Paints (I like these little pods because each children can have their own (including Grace and Linden) and I can just re-fill them with my larger bottle of paints - oh yeah and helps with spillage ☺). Next is markers, crayons and chalk. The third drawer is play dough and all the fun things the children use to create with (i.e. cookie cutters, scissors etc). And finally the fourth drawer is the "mommy drawer".. my stapler, extra pencils, sharpener and my supply of "great job stickers".
The middle is the desk -- the shelf. The top is for Ava's work books, readers and my teachers manuals, as well as a few learning tools (i.e. flash cards, math speed drill cards etc). The bottom shelf is Gabriel's! Again, his work books, readers and my teachers manuals. Oh I just remembered what I DIDN'T take a photo of.. is the large bench we have in the kitchen. The seat opens and I've re-organized that as well. It houses the rest of the children's teaching tools (i.e. again flash cards etc), crayons and colouring books for the two youngest.
Here you can see how I have labeled each shelf for both children.
Here is another idea I'd like to implement this year. Ava is a GREAT reader, and she does enjoy it (most of the time). But what I have observed with her is that if she SEES progress it motivates her (isn't that like most of us!). She is also very TASK oriented (hmmm wonder where she gets that from? ☺). I KNOW that when she sees her 'reading list'.. it will motivate her to read her books (and then some) so that she can write them down on her list!
I try to keep it simple at our home. Firstly we are on a budget (and hey who isn't?). So what I found really worked last year what when it came to counting I just used buttons. And when it came to money I just used REAL money.. Canadian money (again I use Abeka and it's American.. but viola I've solved that problem). This year I MAY get the Canadian money set that I saw at the Dollar Store (hahha.. that should be in our budget to spend! ☺)
Another idea I am going to ‘feature’ the theme of the month is by using our fridge as a giant ‘white board'. Our fridge (like I am sure many of yours) ends up displaying your children’s artwork. The top of the fridge will display the ‘theme of the month’ card as well as something I’m calling: ‘Our Month in Pictures’. In this area I will post pictures of different activities or places we went in the month. Now this likely won’t cover absolutely everything we do, but it definitely highlight our month. I think this will be both a benefit to both the children as well as myself. For the children - they love to see pictures of themselves, as well they will be able to talk about what they did, what they liked about it, explain to friends and family what they did this month and just reminisce. For me – it will keep my accountable, keep me motivated and build my confidence that we ARE doing fun activities while we are learning.
The next project that I came up with (but I am very certain that this is not a new idea out there).. but it will be for me this year to implement and keep me on track for the year. Ta-da… my “Mommy Basket” In this basket there are four dividers, which in turn is four ‘theme months’. On each divider I have clipped a theme card at the top, then behind each divider I will add the different elements that I will need for the month. Whether it is colouring/painting pages, books, an educational video of the particular topic. I will also start to gather and add craft materials that I will need to have prepared ahead of time. This is what I found the BIGGEST obstacle for me last year. I had great ideas, great intentions.. but there were days that I felt that I failed my children. I had great craft ideas, little projects or even ‘field trips’ planned (in my head). This year I am determined to stay ahead of the game. EVEN in the field trip area as much as possible. For example, we have PLANNED to go the a major zoo this year and so I am ordering the tickets on line and putting them in my basket.. ready to go. I’m even ordering a gift card to a restaurant, that way we can treat the family out to dinner before we head home. I want to be prepared this year and be organized but not so OVER organized that I feel like I have all these standards that I have to measure up to OR that there is NO room for change. I just know myself.. if I am a little bit prepared I won’t freak out – throw my hands up and say “forget it.. just watch a show or go play outside”.
I’ll share with everyone something I learned about myself this summer and it is this: I was not patient with my children. I was not content with the stage I am at and the ages of our children. That has changed, and I am making BIG DAILY choices to be happy where God has put me. That He HAS blessed us with four totally awesome, unique children. And that I will be patient with their little-ness because I KNOW one day they will not be little. They will not look up to me to protect them, to learn with them or to just be there to ask: “Mommy what are we doing today”.
Man I love my children, and I am soo thankful for this awesome summer and the ways that God has shown me that my family is AWESOME. My husband is AWESOME. And my life is AWESOME.
So I am thankful.. (there you have it folks.. a bit of the the deep to follow the vagueness at the beginning of this post!
Super excited about the new school year. Teaching Gabriel to read and write, as I watch Ava blossom. All the while I listen and chuckle at the conversations Grace and
share with eachother. ☺ Linden