Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Learning Lab {Our school space}

I know it's semantics but a while ago I thought about changing the "name" of our school room into the "Learning Lab". It just sounded so much more inviting and less sterile. More free and exploratory! So here is our Learning Lab. I love that it is always a work in progress, dynamic in more ways than one! And it's also the space the kids go to everyday we don't have official "school" It's their creative space, a fun place! At first when we moved in I was hesitant to make the room a space for homeschooling. I thought about tucking our things into a spare room. But we cramming 3 desks and all the works into a little 10x10 room isn't ideal, and a bit claustrophobic. I struggled with the idea mainly because this room is the room you walk into as soon as you step into the house! It was designed as a sitting room of sorts. It was actually Dave that talked me into using the space and I'm so happy he did. After all, it's what our life is for in this season!

Our original "Learning Space" was just a corner in our dining room! 

The space at a glance.

Workpockets and work baskets.

We love the workbox system for organizing all the different activities and subjects for each child, but this work pocket idea that came to me while looking through a Lakeshore Learning catalog works fabulously! (although I ordered it off Amazon for cheaper!) Bigger activities or hands on manipulatives can be added to the work baskets.

All sorts of things fit in the pockets!

 This area also hides a computer lab for the kiddos to watch videos, play online educational games, connect to Brain Pop, etc. (This is an older photo of the area, it's changed since I've added the workpockets)

We have a circle time area. We start the day here with our Circle Time, Bible, History and Geography...it's needs some color on the walls...but that is for another time!

We were incredibly blessed by a friend who scored these desks as they were being thrown away.....God is amazing isn't He? She also gave us the Art easels in the Art Escape!

So that is about it. The only challenge to this room is that you can't close the doors on the mess! I suppose it's motivation to keep the room neat, although it's a wreck more times than it's neat!

Today we are linking up to:


Not Back to School Blog Hop

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Keeping Sane while Homeschooling

Alright I said it. Indirectly, yes homeschooling, if you are not careful....can drive you insane. Being a homemaker in itself has the potential for some serious craziness, but throw in the responsibilities of being a teacher~no wait make that 6 teachers~ the principal, the vice principal, curriculum support, custodian, Librarian, Health room Nurse and the PTA Committee Chairperson! I mean just the parent-teacher conferences are enough to send you packing.

Now combine those responsibilities with Household management and either you've got an engineering genius or a madhouse. And though sometimes the footprints on the wall all lead to complete chaos, for the most part these last few years have been an experiment on how to stay sane and homeschool and to do it all well. (mind you I did not say perfectly!)

The truth is you can do it all well. I am going to share with you the changes and things I've done over the years to make our homeschooling and life run relatively smoothly. This isn't a series on how to pick the best curriculum, or your state homeschooling laws, this is the nitty gritty on how to actually accomplish your school goals and manage your home, and do it well. After all no one likes being behind, but there are ways to "keep up" with it all even when you have 4 kids 6 years an under like I do! Here are some of the topics that will be covered in this series:
  • Scheduling your Days
  • House keeping
  • Laundry
  • Meal planning and prep
  • Homeschooling with toddlers and babies
  • Homeschool planning
  • Chores for littles
  • Organizing for homeschooling
  • Organizing for Life
As we go through this series, please feel free to ask questions or add your own personal tips and tricks to the mix! These are things I've found that have worked well for our family. Not that I have everything figured out, or that my house is a museum. But when you implement certain routines and tips, you can keep up with your home at a level that you can be proud of. Of course it takes diligence and hard work, but it is not an impossibility, nor does it have to be stressful! I hope you find this series helpful!

Friday, August 19, 2011

FREE Art Activities

I found this awesome website yesterday by the National Gallery of Art! It's a super fun place for the kids to experiment, create and even print out their creations! Check it out!

There is way too much on this site to really do it justice in this little space. But playing around on the site will quickly get you addicted! You can create collages, still life's, digital photo art and much more! The site uses images, people, backgrounds and objects taken from famous works of art to create your own new works of art!

Its is a great way of introducing kids to artists, styles of art, famous images and the elements of art. I have a feeling the kids will be fighting over this site......

There is fun for everyone! An idea I had was to save all of your child's creations and print them out in a book as well! How cool would that be to have your very own prints! 

Happy creating!

Homeschool Mother's Journal #......uh.......

Well it's been a few months, so let's just jump right in!

In My Life This Week.....
There are lots and lots of biiiiiiiggggg changes going on. My sister, her husband and two children are moving down the road from us! They bought a house, got the keys and are ready to start life here in the Islands as a family! We are pretty excited they are only going to be a few blocks from us (so I'll be visiting when she makes meatloaf). I'll still be watching TJ, and picking Bella up from school (literally at the end of our street). But once again in this fast paced year we will be re-arranging rooms and life. Maybe just maybe we'll actually be able to move in completely! And by move in I mean go through the oodles of boxes in the attic and set up my long lost sewing space......

In My Homeschool This Week.......
We have taken this week to slowly start the transition back into a school routine. A few weeks ago I set our schedule/routine including Liora and TJ and adding Gracia as a part of our "Tot School". But this week we've taken a laid back approach to getting into the groove of things again. From past experience I know jumping in head first causes much stress! Taking it one day at a time was about all I could handle at this point!

Monday we started off by taking a look at all our new books and supplies, Tuesday we started a little of our Circle time routine, Wednesday we did a little Math and today we did a little reading. Each day we tried to follow our schedule for the most part, taking breaks, keeping up with chores. I think I may actually be ready to start out the school year next week!

I am inspired by.......
I should say, I've been inspired to give my children their own Art Escape. I've highlighted the idea behind it as well as photos in my previous posts. I'll be sure to update everyone on the space and how it's being used!! As a former art teacher, I have to say I really miss the everyday mess of Art and creation....and I would really like to make sure my kids have a solid foundation in the Arts!

I've been inspired by my husband finding my college collection of Art Lesson plans....it's a gold mine of ideas (pre internet days!) I am kicking around the idea of writing a Scripture inspired Art Curriculum to share! One that is easy for parents to use (needing no previous "art" experience) but is also full of great ideas using simple supplies, highlighting Artists, Art History as well as Art Theory.

Questions or Thoughts I have......
Is there even a market for an Art Curriculum like I've described above??

What's working for us.......
 After 7 long years of being behind on laundry. (seriously I've never been caught up) I have finally found the secret to keeping the laundry monster at bay. This is the 4th week of my laundry baskets being empty and it's been easy.....easier than being behind on laundry all the time! And NO my family has not joined a nudist colony, although.....that might be an easier way to keep up with laundry!

I've got some plans in the works to keep up with the rest of the house as well......I may just have to share my findings if I can conquer this house management thing!

I'm reading.....
A Thousand Gifts By Ann Voscamp....still reading it. I've been trying to chew on this one word by word....it's such an amazing book, if you haven't read it yet you must.

I wondering if I am the only one who reads 5 books at a time. Really, it's a little ADD, I know, but I can't seem to stay completely interested in just one book. So I read many at one time. Makes me wonder if I am getting the full potential of each book? So what else am I reading then you ask?

.Last Child in the Woods, The Ministry of Motherhood, The Birthing House and Keeping a Quiet Heart
There, my secret is out.....

A photo to share..... 
 Our new Art Escape! The kids love it, and actually it's right outside the Master bedroom, so it's nice to be near the kids as they create and enjoy art!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


This past weekend we went to the North Shore and watched our friends play in Summer Music Festival. It was put on by a family (of 11 kids), so musically talented, it blows you away to watch them. Most of the kids in the family play a wide variety of instruments, and when I say "play" I mean at a Master's level. Most songs are improvised and it's not uncommon for the kids to switch instruments with each other throughout the performances. If you want to be blown away....or transported to another world, spend some time on their website RonArtis.com . Not only are they musically talented, but in the visual arts as well.

They are a homeschooling family, so talented and free, and they love God so much they are amazing to be around. While we were sitting there I asked a friend, "How in the world do you raise kids like this?" her answer inspired me. She said simply, "Our children are us. They will be what we are." I could go on and on about both the intellectual as well as the spiritual implications of her insight. How they have impacted me this week. But there was one way that I was really inspired.

See, I am actually an education major....an art education major. It's been so long thought since I've felt this creative, artistic urge. And recently I've wanted to show that side of me to my own kids, awaken those abilities in them and give them some freedom to find their own creativity and gifts. So this week I started by setting up an Art Studio for them. A place where they can go whenever they want, paint, sculpt (play with play dough), create! Now I realize with some freedom with art supplies there also comes mess. But I'm learning and training them to care for the space themselves, give them the tools to not only have the supplies at their disposal but clean up as well. Over all I think it's gone fairly well this week. I know they have enjoyed the area, they've spent about 4 hours each day in the space. It has been amazing to watch them outside painting and creating.

Here is a peek at their Art Escape......
A simple little space with everything you need to create!
I am blessed with an outside covered lanai (patio), and yes we do live in a warm climate year round, so it makes it easy to mess up and clean up. (I'll share more later on indoor art areas). I was given 2 easels for art and simply added clips to hold the kids art work. A TV tray table sits in the middle to hold water, brushes and art media (paint, oil pastels, etc). All of the kids Art supplies are located in the plastic drawers on the right. We use a small camping picnic table for the kids that cleans up perfectly with a little help from a magic eraser! And I hung a rope from one post to the house, added some clothes line clips for wet paint.

Painting smocks and shirts, brushes and magic erasers!

Of course we don't have rules for what you can create, but we do for using the work space! I tried to keep the rules short and sweet (although Jonah kept saying "Rule # 49596").
1. Put on a painting shirt or smock.
2. Gather your supplies.
3. Create!
4. Clean up!
As long as they clean up their area, I love the idea of the kids creating for hours on end!

Make sure the drying rope is low enough for the kids to hang themselves!
Three drawers were enough to house paper, paints and clay!

And we are ready to create! 

So far the kids have really loved the space. I've been playing some classical music for them while they create. I hope to showcase what they have done in the future! 
If you have an art space or are inspired, leave a comment and a link to your blog, I would love to check out your Art Escape! 
I'll also be posting some ideas for indoor, less-mess art areas in the future, now go create something!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

{Homeschool} Art Series

In homeschooling we talk Math, and Language Arts, Science and History, socializing, discipline, Co-ops, groups, curriculum choices, philosophies.....but do we ever talk Art? Not crafts, making paper back puppets and glitter pens. But Art, as in Monet and Impressionism, line-shape-texture, sculpting, painting.......I am finding it's actually a tough subject to find in terms of Homeschooling. One that is disappointingly lacking in our {Homeschool} community! We know that the Arts in general have gotten a backseat in terms of funding and attention. The focus is on Math and Reading scores (subjects that are important)! I think (no, I know) that as a homeschooling parent, we can offer our children experiences far better than they would have otherwise. With a little effort and patience. So.....lets talk art.

Let me introduce this series by saying, I was an Art Major, more specifically and Art ED Major. So for years Art was my breath, my life, my love. I'll admit, I have never thought of myself as very talented, but I loved creating, doing, making, learning. Over the years of adding children and starting homeschooling, I've found myself less and less creating art, and even more so letting my kids create less than I would like.

Why? That's easy!

Art is messy. It is, there is just NO WAY around it right? Paint on clothing, play dough ground into the carpet, little tenny weeny bits of paper everywhere.....glued to the floor......

Art takes time. It takes work to get out the supplies and then clean them all up again. Sometimes it feels like it took 30 minutes to prepare, 10 minutes of art and 30 more minutes to do damage control!

Art takes talent. Even as an Art Teacher, I've had those thoughts....."how am I supposed to teach them when I can't draw myself??"  I understand it takes a little back ground knowledge to teach something, and in the area of Art it can be extremely intimidating.

To start off this series, let's discuss a little (and please feel free to link back to me in your own blogs, Facebook, twitter...)

What does art look like in your Homeschool? 

Are you using an "Art curriculum" or adding crafts to other subjects like History and Language Arts?

Where do you struggle when it comes to Art?

What would you like to see in this series? 

I've got some ideas planned for this series including:

Art Areas (setting up and maintaining an art studio for your kids)
Art Links to Artists and History
Everyday Art Ideas
Foundations of Art
Great tools and tips to have on hand

and much more! So link up, comment, discuss! I'm very excited about getting back into the stroke of things! Help spread the word to get this going!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Curriculum Round Up!

I'm always interested in what curriculum other people have chosen, mainly because I like to see what works in each family with kids of ages similar to mine. I always come across something I haven't heard of and it's fun to peek into the schoolroom of someone else! So this will be what it looks like in our "Learning Lab" this year:

Jonah (2nd grade)
  • Sonlight Core C with Grade 3 readers. I know he is only 6, but that kid can read! I am taking the grammar part of it slowly and working on introducing him to concepts, but not overwhelming him.
  • SpellWell, Explode the Code, MCP Phonics, Wordly Wise and Hooked on Phonics Master Reader
  • Handwriting without Tears and A Reason For Handwriting
  • Horizons Math 2
  • Story of the World Volume 2
  • Apologia Astronomy
  • Telling God's Story Bible Study
  • Calvert 1st grade curriculum (we'll be using the reading, Math and Social Studies)
  • Explode the Code
  • Handwriting without Tears
  • Story of the World Vol. 2
  • Sonlight Science and Apologia Astronomy with Jonah
  • Telling God's Story Bible Study
Gracia(Preschool-age 3)

We like starting the day together in Circle Time. We go over skip counting, days of the week, tell time,
talk about the month or activities we have coming up, and a few other things (that is a whole post in itself!) We do Bible study together and then History or Geography. The kids do separate activities for Language Arts and Math and then come together again to do Science, Art, PE and those subjects. I know with kids of younger ages some of the facts and figures may go over their heads. I do believe being introduced to basic concepts and supplementing activities on their own level helps introduce them to a subject that we can build upon later!

I hope you enjoyed your view into our upcoming year! I would love to answer any questions! Hop on Over to Heart of the Matter and link up your blog!

Not Back to School Blog Hop

New schedule

I'm  the sort of person that both loves and hates being on a schedule. In one sense a schedule brings a rhythm, a security and comfort knowing what needs to be done, how it will get done and when. But on the other hand, they can get boring and monotonous! That is why summer and breaks in between are so necessary! I didn't used to but now,  I actually enjoy letting the house go a little, not rushing around trying to keep everything in it's place and on time! But as we head into the new year, I know without a doubt the laundry will pile up, the dinners not be planned well, the house a disaster if I don't plan well......so here it is, my schedule for next year.

I am hoping it will {mostly} work out. In a house full of little ones it's easy for something to go wrong differently than planned. But at least with a skeleton of a schedule we've got an action plan! It will be a little tricky some days picking Bella up from the school up the road, but she'll just join in the schedule at around 2pm. I even scheduled myself some "free time"....dreamily I might even start some sewing projects, catch up on blogging or *gasp* nap or read a book!

One thing I did notice is, I failed to schedule myself a time to shower......hmmmmm.

So how do you get yourself going from the summer lazy routine back into the busy school season? This year I've taken the slow approach. I've read you should just jump into a schedule full steam, without looking back! That has never worked for me. It actually makes the schedule more stressful. I'm not great with change, remember?

This year I've decided to go a different route. I've been easing myself into the schedule this week and next week. The following week we will hammer it down a little more with our "Week of Review" before our actual school year begins. Let me say it's been nice to ease into this school year. So how do you do it?

1. Make a Skeleton Schedule I take our routine already and write it down. What time normally do you get up, eat, school, lunch, play etc. Don't try to reinvent everything and wake the kids up at 5am. Seriously no one needs that trauma.

2. Make a To Do list. What else realistically needs to be done during the day? Laundry? Errands? Blogging? Napping!

3. Find REAL Time When you start writing all this down you will actually see where you are wasting time, where you need more time to accomplish certain tasks (that always seem to be on your to do list) Now you can start to fill in the spaces logically! For instance a huge frustration used to be cleaning. After a long day of teaching, kid rearing and meal prep I would have try once a week to clean the entire house top to bottom. Okay besides that being downright stupid for a Mom with 3 (at the time) kids under 3, I didn't even have enough time in the day to accomplish the task! But separating the cleaning throughout the week (Mopping Mondays, Toilet Tuesdays, Washy Wednesday, Thirsty Thursday, Foliage Friday~ uh yes, it's that cheesy) I can set aside an hour (most times I finish in less) to clean that one area. Of course throughout the day we straighten, and the kids have chores as well. But this way the floors get vacuumed and mopped once a week, the bathrooms scrubbed, etc.

4. Make it official. Yup, type it out, write it down, share it with the world (or just your family), post it somewhere, talk about it, go over it. I used publisher and have tweaked the schedule many times with the addition of new family members, saving the old printouts just for memory sake. Let everyone know of the changes that are going to happen, what is expected and how you are all going to work together.

5. Ease into it. For me jumping in head first was stressful. Going from no schedule to being "tied to a clock" wasn't a friendly experience. So this year I have been watching the clock and just trying to keep some of the appointments. Having breakfast done by 7:30, starting some laundry at 8:30, getting lunch ready, etc. I am familiarizing myself daily by glancing at what time it is and asking, "what will we be doing at this time?" This week I mainly stayed on top of meals and cleaning. By today we've had clean rooms for a week, laundry caught up and a clean house. Next week we'll add a few more things from the schedule and by the time we are ready to get back into the full swing of things everything will flow naturally!

6. Change what isn't working. Obviously it's your day and life, what you are doing has to work for you otherwise life will be stressful! Make your schedule fit your family, lifestyle, habits and hobbies.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It came and went....

Summer that is. So that's it!? In and out like a flash. I can't say we didn't enjoy our time. We took part in Awana camp, VBS, made trips to the beach and pool, lazed around, got some projects done, rearranged, reorganized and re-alized....summer is just about over! Dave is back in school and I am preparing for the start of our year! As always I have lofty goals, "School Year Resolutions" I suppose....here are a few

  • To enjoy this year more than any other year.
  • I want to have 4 days of school planned.
  • I don't want to over do it!!!!!
  • Do more Science Experiments, Art projects and Field trips! (wait didn't i say I didn't want to "over do it"?
  • I want to focus on what God has for us this year, not on what I want to accomplish!
  • I want to take each day as God gives to us.
  • I would love the kids to be involved in either music lessons, Gymnastics, Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts.....
  • I should probably state again I don't want to over do it!
  • I do want to stick to a schedule or routine....
  • I want to live life, not from emergency to emergency.....life is not an emergency!
  • I want to finish this year's curriculum (I've come closer each year!)
  • I would love to be a part of a Homeschool group or co-op.....
As each year goes by and we gain more experience as a homeschooling family, I feel more and more comfortable in my skin as a parent and teacher. But each year I look forward to tweaking things just a little to get them running more smoothly. This year, there are no huge changes taking place, no babies being added to the family or moving. In a few weeks it will just be us again, and finally I'll be able to get into my own groove.

I've been getting lots of things crossed off my list like making my own planner and putting together Gracia's curriculum (Preschool!!) Planning review weeks and the first term, reorganizing the school room and making the kids portfolios from last year. Little by little we are headed into a new and exciting year!

But before we do.....maybe we'll take one more trip to the beach......