Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pretty Handwriting and other news!

Genna has beautiful cursive handwriting and she loves to practice!  I took some pictures to share of her first couple of assignments last week.  Remember she has not worked on cursive handwriting in school!

And, the boy...well, he is super smart, too!  :)  He made these all by himself!  He had to follow a pattern.

In other news...we got the rest of our materials in the mail yesterday!  So, today we were able to start with Genna's "official" 3rd grade math.  Last week I introduced multiplication and division and she caught on EXTREMELY well!  I was shocked.  Today, when we started we were able to go through 2 lessons because it was all stuff she really understood well since she was in school for 6 weeks. 

We also started with the homeschool chorus yesterday.  I was VERY impressed with how much time they are spending teaching the kids how to read music!  The kids sang for us at the end of class and sounded REALLY great!  I love the sound of children singing.  As a very special bonus, we went to dinner and the bookstore with our girlfriends who are also in the choir!  It feels great to spend quality time with my friend (we used to go months without seeing each other) and to watch our three girls get along and enjoy each other's company so much!  So much, in fact, that before we knew it we had been at the bookstore for 3 hours!  LOL

Well, the bus now needs to roll!  CCD tonight and helping my sister out with dance transportation!  :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pictures of the Classroom/Studio!

So far, things are wonderful...although, I have to admit that I am exhausted!  LOL  It is a good tired, though...because of all of the quality time I'm spending with my babies!  We went to PE with the RCHAL homeschooling group yesterday afternoon.  It was fun, but a little hard to see Genna go through the "new kid" syndrome.  :(  I've been there and done that MANY times as a kid who went to so many different schools, so I guess I really know how she feels.  On the flip side, though, I know it is just the beginning and that soon she'll have lots of new BFFs!  :) 

I have some pictures to share!

First, I have to start with the desks that God left waiting for us!  I was early for a birthday party...early and me are not a usual event!  So, since we had just dropped off at Goodwill, I had the idea to turn around and head inside to see if they had anything useful for our classroom.  I thought maybe they'd have a table or shelves...and only dreamed that they'd have these:

We went into the store and walked along the aisle next to all of the furniture.  When we got to the back...over in the corner...there they were!  Two identical old school desks waiting for us!  They were $14.99 each!!!!  These are EXACTLY the desks I had hoped to find - I had even described them to a friend. 

Here are more pictures from the classroom!  It is a work in progress, but I think it is coming along nicely.  Ignore the flooring...since it is doubling as my studio we had to rip out half of the carpet so that I'll have a flat surface to work on.  We'll be installing wood floors in the whole room soon.  Also, the shelves in the corner will be replaced with a custom built in desk for me with shelves that go to the ceiling and storage underneath.  I can't wait, but that money tree in my backyard has yet to produce a penny. 

Our daily behavior system...eventually I hope we'll be able to do away with this very "school like" aspect, but while we are getting our routine going I thought it would be helpful for teaching and enforcing good habits and discouraging bad habits!  I tried to be a little different, at least!  LOL  We are tracking the weather in Gennaville and Thomasville...if attitudes and behavior are good the weather remains sunny.  If things go downhill then the weather gets cloudy, and then finally, if things get way out of control things get stormy!

Calendar, daily behavior charts, chore charts, birthday list, and a cursive writing guide for Genna.

The board and some support materials! 

A view from the doorway...here you can see how the studio is incorporated...All I really have to do is move the desks out of the way and I'm in business!

And from the opposite corner...here you can see that we are even using the back of the door for our current English lesson.

Have a great day!  Off to finish up our day!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

First Day....A++

Our day was really great even though it wasn't as relaxed as I had hoped.  When I decided to start today I failed to realize that I had already made plans to take my grandma to a doctor's appointment.  And since no one else was willing and able to help me with that problem, I decided to make the best of it and use it as a lesson in flexibility while homeschooling! 

We brought workbooks with us and did those.  Genna has an Introduction to Multiplication workbook that I picked up because she hadn't been officially introduced to multiplication last year and A Beka starts in 2nd grade.  She totally gets it and I was actually amazed!  I planned for her to do 4 pages of the workbook and she did 16 pages!  LOL  She also is working on cursive and her handwriting, so far, is BEAUTIFUL! 

For Thomas, I wanted to spend the day examining what he does and doesn't know.  We went over the alphabet and there were only 3 letters he didn't recognize!  For the doctor's office I brought a Preschool Basics workbook and he completed the entire thing!  It covered concepts such as:  same, different, one more, one less, patterns, bigger, smaller, opposites, beginning sounds, etc.  Again, just so I could see where he stood and what, if anything, he wasn't aware of.  He is cool in the preschool department!  :)

The day started with the kids both waking up, on their own, with no alarm clock, at 8am.  We turned on Animal Planet and watched as Victoria Stillwell helped two families with their dog training while they had breakfast.  Then I brought them upstairs to see the classroom.  They were so excited to see all of the work I had done last night!  :)  (Pics to come soon!)  Then I set them off to complete their list of chores because we want to start our days with a neat house!  The quote of the day belongs to Genna... "Mom, I just don't think I'll ever get tired of this!"  She said this while she was emptying the dishwasher.  I struggled to hold back my laughter! 

By the time we were done with all of that and dressed it was 10am and time to head out.  We did doctor duty and had a nice lunch with Mam Maw.  Then we came home and within a few minutes we were in the classroom.  We stayed up there for 2 hours and they didn't want to stop!  LOL  I hope that attitude continues!

Monday, September 20, 2010

First lesson as a homeschooler...all about "Bittersweet"

Well, Genna and I had a heart to heart last night at bedtime.  She is sooo excited about homeschooling, but, like me, at the same time, she is sad about leaving her school.  There were some tears, and I asked her again if this is something she was really excited to try.  She said "I'm SO excited, but it is just still hard."  :(  I know.  So, we talked about what it means for something to be bittersweet.  I told her that I have the same feelings.  I explained that, while an adventure can be exciting and fun, beginning the adventure means making some changes and sometimes the changes aren't the easiest.  But, how when it comes down to it, the adventure is more exciting than the changes are sad.

Thankfully, in my own life I've had experience with change...From 5th grade to 12th grade I went to 5 different schools in 5 different states!  Some people would resent that and hate it, but I embraced it.  I think my mom and dad would agree, because, while there were tears with each move, I never begged them not to move.  Never kicked and screamed, either!  LOL  It was the best thing for our family, afterall.  :)  And, I can honestly say, that even now, I don't wish we hadn't moved all over the country.  So much of who I am is because of those moves and all of the traveling that came with them! 

So...bittersweet...that is the word of the week.  It isn't easy, but it is going to be exciting and fun!

Tomorrow is the last day of school for Genna!  Thomas, on the other hand, doesn't feel the need to return tomorrow.  LOL  Maybe he will change his mind.  I'll be whipping up some cupcakes this evening for Genna's class.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Curriculum...ahhh...the hardest part, intellectually speaking

Many have asked what curriculum I will use.  If this interests you, read on...if not...well...  :)

The short answer is that I've chosen multiple curricula...depending on subject.  And, mostly, because it was soooo overwhelming to choose, I've just decided to do what my friend did with her kids!  LOL  The way I see it...I've seen what the kids have learned and how well they are doing.  So, I can stick with that this year, and then if I want to change next year I can.

For Thomas' Kindergarten curricula I've chosen A Beka for both Language Arts & Math. 

For Genna's 3rd grade curricula I've chosen A Beka for Math and Shurley English for Language Arts.  For Reading we will also read books and do beginner book reports as well as reading comprehension drills with Social Studies, History, and Science subject matter.

Otherwise, I will work on Science and History with both children.  To start with I have chosen a history book called "History Stories for Children."  The stories range from "The First Christmas Song" to "Davie Crocket".  Then there is a Teacher's Key that offers discussion and comprehension questions/tests.  I have several similar books for Science - everything from Rain Forest Animals to The Human Brain.  :)  And, eventually we will add a curriculum called Sonlight for both History and Science.

And finally, I think...LOL...my kids have requested French Lessons as part of their day.  I LOVE French and am excited to spend some time teaching them and brushing up myself!  :)  I'm looking for a working VCR...if anyone has one that they can spare, please let me know!  The French program I have has VHS tapes to go along with it.  I'd really like to transfer those to DVD.  :)

The Bittersweet and the Frustrations

Well, from finding the perfect desks at Goodwill to the support I've gotten and finding books I need at a significant savings....everything has been going so well and I've felt God leading the way!  But that doesn't mean that I won't have some emotions and challenges.

I'm a little sad about leaving the elementary school that I've been associated with as a mom for over 4 years.  I have friends who are moms there and I hope we'll remain friends!  And we've loved every teacher.  Our feelings about homework and school really have nothing to do with them.  The school is an excellent school!!!  The principal is the best!  So, yes...that part of our decision to home school is bittersweet.

And here is the frustration...I was just there talking to Thomas' speech therapist.  Evidently they have JUST passed a law that eliminates home schooled children from qualifying for their services.  WTH??  I pay taxes!  Within the last year they passed a law that high school kids can go try out for sports with schools, but they turned around and decided that something that is needed won't be available.  Typical Louisiana!

Why is this frustrating?  Because...I'm doing what I feel is best for my kids and our family.  And I feel like I'm being punished for it.  There is my whine for the day!  LOL

His speech therapist is going to evaluate him today (his last evaluation was two years ago).  She may feel that any pronunciation errors are age appropriate and say that he can be done.  But if she doesn't...well, I don't know!  I'm stuck in a sticky situation.  I feel I NEED to remove Genna from the constant stress and do this for her.  But, I feel that if I do it for her I have to do it for him.

So, what's the plan.  First...try everything to see if I can keep him in therapy with the school since he is already established there.  Second, I will attempt to have therapy covered by our health insurance.  I think that is a long shot, but I will try!

And Third, I have a cousin who is a speech therapist!  Katie, you'll be getting an e-mail from me with the report.  His therapist mentioned that it is very possible that what is left for Thomas to work on I can work on with him.  We can make that part of his school day.  He can excersize daily instead of twice a week.  So, I may need some help...maybe suggestions for a book or two and maybe have you Skype with Thomas so you can give your professional opinion.  :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Social Concerns? and the latest...

Here is Genna's extra curricular and Social Schedule for the first few weeks:

Mondays:  Choir
Tuesdays:  Softball Clinic and CCD
Wednesdays:  Dance
Thursdays:  PE and Cheer Practice or Game
Saturdays:  Games

PLUS...here is the social calendar for the group I will be a member of (who we'll do PE with)...http://www.rchal.org/calendar.php

Thomas doesn't have a whole lot yet other than the RCHAL PE and socials.  But he will.  He simply didn't want to play soccer or football. 

Here is the big difference.  I've wanted to pack our schedule with things like this for a long time!  And never could, or I would and we'd be so stressed over homework and bedtime I'd be thinking that we couldn't go on.  Now, we won't have homework to deal with!  I just have to try not to double book us too often!  :)

Onto other news: 

Yesterday I went to Home School Cottage in Slidell and found a huge portion of my books there!  I saved $52!!!  It was overwhelming because the store is PACKED with books for Pre-K through 12th grade!  I spent 2 hours there.  :)

Genna has been begging for me to get things done sooner and make next week the last week of school.  Not sure yet if that will happen, but I'm hoping!

I'm nervous about notifying the school about what our plans are.  LOL  Because I love the school, and, while I think the homework is frustrating and out of control, I have loved every teacher my children have had there.  I don't want them to take my decision personally.  This is the only "bitter sweet" part of the process. :(  But I know I'm doing the right thing for our family!  :)

Thanks for all of the e-mails and comments of encouragement!  I really do appreciate them.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My First Homeschool Blog Post!

Hi All!  My name is Genette and, in our family, we've recently made a big decision.  I will be homeschooling my now 3rd grade daughter, Genna, and my kindergarten boy, Thomas.  :)  Several of my friends have suggested starting a blog because....so many people are wondering "Why in the world would they do that?"  And others are simply thinking I'm completely off my rocker!  LOL  I'm not going to deny that, but what I will tell you is why we've made this decision and why we think it is the right one for us. 

Warning and Disclaimer:  After reading all of this (and the rest of my blog posts as they come) you might be tempted to join me in my endeavor! 

My fascination began about 18 months or so ago, when my dear friend, and momma to my beautiful God Daughter, called to tell me that she was homeschooling her 2nd grader and Kindergartener.  As she began to explain I immediately wanted to know more.  It seemed like everytime I talked with her on the phone or saw her, we'd end up talking about their experience and I was never tired of hearing how much less stressful their lives were!  Followed by her, I had another friend in California who made the jump...and she is extremely happy with her decision.

At that point, I really didn't believe that I could personally handle the challenge.  I felt like most people...no way would Genna and I get through a day without pulling every hair out of our heads.  So, we kept on keeping on.  We kept on stressing over homework Monday through Thursday.  We kept on stressing when the kids weren't sleeping by 8pm.  We kept on waking our kids up before the sun came up and taking them out in the 30 degree weather in order to get to school in time for the 7:35am bell!  We kept on deciding NOT to participate in enriching activities because we just couldn't handle and juggle anymore throughout our week.  We kept on allowing days to go by when the only time our kids saw their daddy was when he woke up with them to get them to school.  Actually, we still are!  LOL  Because I haven't pulled them out of school yet.  We have a start date planned for October 5th.  That will give me enough time to get things ready.  I have a photography studio that is going to double as a classroom now!  So...we have work to do!  I'll post pictures as I have them.  The good news is that we've been wanting to renovate the room to be a more productive studio anyway.

The next question many people are asking is "why now?"  Well, lets see...I think my mom put it best when she said "Well, you are already spending 1 or 2 hours every night on homework...you may as well spend a couple more!"  Third Grade has been a shocker, to say the least.  I had issue with the quantity of homework last year, but it was managable.  This year it is actually to the point where I simply don't blame her for not wanting to do it!  LOL  Completely ridiculous, in my humble opinion.  I'll ask you all...if you or your spouse go to work for 8 hours...do they come home and work for 1 or 2 hours at the kitchen table?  Some might...but, that isn't the way it is supposed to work!  When do our kids get to be kids?  I found myself saying "No, we can't go ride bikes because there is just no time with the homework, cooking dinner and bathtime."  And then I felt so sad.  :-(  Genna is spending 45 hours per week on school and homework.  Homeschooling will be 16 - 20 hours a week (tops) and she will be learning more and learning faster!  Her instruction will all be one on one.  If she doesn't get something, I'll know it right away!  And since I'll know her level of understanding for each individual lesson the extra (home) work will be simply unnecessary!

So, what is the most common concern of the naysayers?  Social concerns, of course!  Well, simply stated...that is a complete myth.  There are homeschool groups/organizations available.  They are FULL of families.  Last week I spent a few hours at a picnic for one of the local groups.  I parked my van and looked in awe at what I saw.  Probably 40 parents and 100 kids were there.  All ages.  All completely normal and well adjusted!  The only real differences I did notice were all very positive.  They had conversations with adults, they were very helpful and polite, and very sweet with younger children.  I didn't hear one child crying there!  I'm really hoping that trait rubs off on my kids!  LOL  This group gets together for PE on Thursdays and then almost weekly there is another social activity on the schedule.  And I've heard that unofficially there are regular playdates.  On top of all of that the kids do a variety of activities and will add more! 

On an individual level....Genna is the child that I believe homeschooling will make the drastic difference for.  She is so smart.  But, like her momma, she struggles with an attention deficit - aka ADHD.  So, after school...when she is overtired and has struggled all day to remain focused and to keep her emotions in check she gets to the point where she is just done.  On top of that, she is a bit of a perfectionist. 

Thomas is a completely different kiddo.  He would do well in any environment.  He happens to LOVE being with his mommy, though!  :-)  So, he is happy as ever to hear that he will get to be home with me, get his education, and go out (with mom) to play with friends.

I think the first and most important part of my decision making process was all about confidence!  A few weeks ago I was beginning to toss the idea around in my own head.  Then I gently made the suggestion to my husband.  He completely shocked me because he was immediately on board.  Then, the next day I mentioned it to my mom...who did the same thing!  Shocked me with "I know you can do this and I think it would be great!"  With that, I felt like a million bucks!  This is a huge decision.  And it certainly isn't one that can be made without confidence.  Now I had two of my most important advisors in my corner saying "Get in there and knock this out because you can and because you want to!"  Since then, I've found even more support.  As for those who don't personally agree with my decision (I can tell who they are LOL)...well, they are coming around and will just have to see it work. 

Well, that will be all for tonight!  I'm sure as I go on I'll have much more to share.