Reading the Classics

Caroline suddenly became convinced that she needed to begin reading from our collection of unabridged classics. We’ve read several together but she’s never attempted one on her own before and I had planned to have her start with one of the easier ones next year.  She begged me to let her read Oliver Twist because she recently read an abridged children’s version and loved it, but I talked her into starting with The Wizard of Oz.

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The Last Regatta

We’ve been participating in the annual Sparks Regatta for several years now, which is an Awana activity for kids in grades K-2.  We’ve had plenty of opportunities for trial and error and learning from past mistakes. Last weekend, Caroline participated in her final Regatta before she moves up to Truth and Training in third grade next year. She really wanted to do a Titanic theme, even though Josh warned her they probably couldn’t make a fast Titanic.  Her response was, “That’s ok. I’m really going for the prize for best design.”  So the two of them set out to build the best looking Titanic boat ever.  The problem was, when they tested it out in the bathtub, it literally sunk!  So after a lot of disappointment, they started over with a new idea that would keep the boat as lightweight as possible. The ship was only a small portion of the overall boat, and the rest was the water. They even included a little iceberg!

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Her boat may not have been one of the fastest, but she accomplished what she set out to do.

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Audiobooking with Audible

After becoming inspired to keep reading lots of good books to my kids, I decided to look into how audible works to see if it might be something I’d want to utilize as well.  My kids have been listening to audiobooks since they were itty bitty, but we’ve always done it via the cost-free route, which has been getting the CDs from our library.  They listen to audiobooks almost every day in their rooms during their quiet afternoon time, and on weekends we allow them to fall asleep listening to them (on weeknights they get thirty minutes of time to read to themselves before going to sleep). There are plenty of book titles that the library doesn’t have though, and sometimes fumbling with several CDs (that are often scratched) isn’t the most convenient thing. There’s nothing more frustrating than making your way through four CDs of a book only to discover the fifth one is damaged and skips. I’ve discovered that audible is a great way to easily get more great books read to my kids. I can download an audiobook and within seconds it can be played anywhere from my phone, our iPad, or the iPod touch that the kids use, which all have the audible app that is logged into my account. It’s amazing how quickly you can get through a book, even if you only listen to it each time you’re in the car. Twenty minutes here and there adds up to a lot of “reading” and I feel like it’s a much better use of our time than just listening to music. Not to mention, nothing guarantees me a nice quiet drive like an audiobook that captivates my children.

Now, the downside is that audible is expensive. Some of the books are between $15 and $20, which I normally cannot stomach paying, unless maybe it’s a really long book that would last us for an extended amount of time.  To get the best deal, I decided to get an annual membership, which gives me twelve book credits for approximately $12 a piece.  I’ll only use those credits for books that cost at least that much. You also have the option to not apply your credits and pay normally, which is what I do with the cheaper book titles, since I don’t want to waste my credits on them.  Additionally, audible members get an extra 30% off, so a book that is normally $10 will only cost me $7!  Not a bad deal!

The “bookmark” feature is very handy.  If we’re listening to a book in the car and then one of the kids wants to keep listening on their own in their room, I can mark the spot we stopped at and let the child keep listening and then the rest of us can go back to where we left off when we’re all listening together again.

One of my favorite features on audible is the sleep timer.  Since these audiobooks don’t come separated into CDs that are timed perfectly for listening to in one “sitting”, I needed a way to make sure my kids didn’t listen to an entire five hour book late into the night. Audible allows you to choose the amount of time you’d like it to play and then it will stop at the end of that time, so we set it to play for one hour at bedtime and I don’t have to remember to go turn it off.  You can pick up right where you left off the next time you’re ready to listen.

 

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A Few Photos from February 2016

We took a week off of school when the temperature surprised us and was in the 70’s. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend time doing things like playing at the park and visiting the zoo.

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The kids were excited to go with us when we voted last week. They were only slightly disappointed that their own opinions didn’t count.

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You can’t play a game of ping-pong around here anymore without constant “interference”.

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But they sure are fun to have hanging around our schoolroom with us everyday.

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A Daily Reminder

I’m so blessed to be married to a remarkably thoughtful and romantic man. He’s especially good at expressing himself with words.  Discovering hidden notes is something that I’ve become very accustomed to over the years. Not long ago, I was looking for a new Bible and Josh helped me pick out one that was just perfect for my needs. Shortly after acquiring it, I found this sweet note stuck inside (in Song of Solomon…how appropriate).  It may not be as elaborate and beautiful as some of the many cards he’s made for me over the years, but this note means so much to me. I’ve kept it right where he put it and every time I grab my Bible and see that little green slip of paper tucked in there, I am reminded not only of my husband’s love but of God’s amazing love for me, as well, that is exemplified in my husband and the way he cares for me.

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Reviving Our Read-Aloud

One of the earliest habits we developed in our homeschool was reading-aloud. In those early days, I remember eagerly scoping out what other homeschool families were doing, as well as looking into all the different educational philosophies and ideas. At some point, I stumbled upon some statistics about the academic benefits that children receive from being consistently read to and I knew it was something I had to include as a part of our school days.  That’s not to say I loved it immediately. If you have never read-aloud for long periods of time (in other words, not just picture books), I can tell you that it definitely takes some practice. I remember feeling a bit awkward at first, but after really enjoying our first few books, I was pretty much hooked and was constantly on the hunt for our next book.

We’re halfway into our sixth homeschool year now and we’ve continued to read together almost daily. On average, we read about 10-15 books together each school year. I’m also often reading something with one of the kids at bedtime. And of course, we try to read at least 1-2 together over our 8-week summer break.  I decided the other day to look over my bookshelves and try to count how many chapter books I’ve read to the kids over the years and I was surprised that I’m up to almost eighty books!  That was really encouraging to me because there are definitely times that, like every homeschool mom, I’m critical of myself and think that I could be doing more, but when I consider the hundreds of hours my kids have spent absorbing literature being read to them (and that’s not even including the 100+ audiobooks they’ve listened to for fun), I feel like that’s at least one thing we’ve done really well.

All that said, I feel like this year we began to find ourselves in a bit of a reading rut. We’ve eased into reading mostly biographies to go with our history studies or classics, and while we’ve definitely enjoyed them, we have been missing the “on the edge of your seat” feeling that you get when reading a mystery or adventure story. This is the first year I’ve found myself pondering, “I wonder if I could maybe slow down on the reading to them and gradually let them read all on their own, since they are both very strong readers now.”  Elliot is reading around 100 books per year while Caroline is on track to read around 60 this year, so it has definitely been tempting to “pass the baton” and have them do all their own reading.  I wasn’t really feeling motivated and inspired to continue much farther into the future. The payoff just wasn’t feeling quite worth the time and energy it was costing me.

Just in the nick of time, a friend of mine mentioned The Read Aloud Revival to me. It occurred to me that maybe instead of quitting, our read-aloud time just needed some reviving. I checked out the website immediately and began listening to the pod-casts. Episode 1, which discusses how beneficial reading-aloud is to older kids who are already proficient readers, was particularly great. I was immediately inspired to keep going with our habit of reading-aloud. I came up with a plan that will hopefully keep me from burning out and will keep the reading fun and engaging. Instead of doing all historical/biographical books and classics, I’m going to also make sure to include several “just for fun” books. Additionally, I’m going to occasionally use audiobooks for our school read-aloud time. Sometimes Mom just needs a break!

 

 

I adore my collection of classics, but they are definitely not “light reading” and I’ll probably limit myself to one or two per school year (I’m also requiring the kids to read at least one each school year).

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I’ve been collecting up some historical fiction books that I think will still be really enjoyable to read together over the next few years as tie-ins to our history studies.

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And a few “just for fun” ideas that are on my list at the moment,

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“How long is a typical homeschool day?”

“How long do you spend doing school?” That’s probably one of the most common questions I hear. People who don’t homeschool usually assume it’s somewhere close to the length of an average public school day and are usually surprised when I tell them exactly how much free time we end up having each day.  Basically, we finish up our school work in about half the time public school kids do. Just to be clear, my kids aren’t receiving half of their education. One thing people fail to consider is that in a classroom of 25 or more students, you have to allot time for all of those students to finish up each lesson before moving on to the next subject. Kids are basically forced into working at the pace of the slowest student in the class.  With homeschooling, you finish your lesson for the day and you move on to the next thing.  No waiting for everyone to finally catch up with you.  No class bathroom breaks, no slow transitions to the next thing on the schedule….you just move on and get stuff done and very little time is wasted.

One particular thing that has really helped us become super efficient with our time has been implementing the drawer system. I’ve done this almost from the very beginning.  My kids have been learning how to work independently, whenever possible, for the last four years. I’m there to help if they should need me, but for the most part, they can both work through their daily tasks on their own.  After they’ve both worked from top to bottom in their drawers, which typically takes around 2 1/2-3 hours, we cover the other subjects we do together. Depending on the day, that would include things like history, geography, poetry, etc. We wrap up with reading aloud nearly every single day.  This “group work”, as we call it, takes about another hour. On a good day, it’s not uncommon for us to finish up around lunchtime, leaving the entire afternoon for leisurely reading, playing games, creative projects, being outside, and just enjoying childhood. And mind you, we are accomplishing a full week in four days, leaving the extra day open for their enrichment program where they have their “fun classes”.  These kids are living the good life and they know it. We thank God every day for the freedom that homeschooling gives us!

Here’s how I “post” the kids’ tasks so that they know what they’re doing.  Each column is a school day and each color represents a drawer. They can see their entire week and even work ahead if they choose.image

Our drawers are conveniently attached to our ikea desks (I’ve seen some people set up drawers in a separate location).  On Sunday night, I make sure their drawers have all their materials so they’re set for the upcoming week. image

If you think my school room looks a bit empty, you’d be right. When I took these photos, my students had long since finished their work for the day and were enjoying an unseasonably warm afternoon outside.

 

Introducing…Victor Grisco

I live with three very creative people. I, myself, am on the far left-brained side of the spectrum and don’t find much enjoyment out of creating something new (unless it’s a new organizational plan or schedule of some kind), so it’s interesting for me to observe what goes on in my house and the constant need there is to be creating something. Josh, being highly creative and doing mostly non-creative work during the day, finds himself needing a creative outlet in the evenings and he’s sucked the kids into his world of creative ideas.  I’m so thankful I have him to be that kind of inspiration to the kids because they most definitely won’t see much of it in me.  They do lots of art projects together but lately they’ve been really into creating music on apps called Korg Gadget and Tabletop.  They’re working on creating an entire album of songs. Elliot came up with several band name ideas, and in the end “Victor Grisco” won the most votes, so that’s what they call themselves.  Don’t ask why…I’m still not really sure, but I guess it does sound pretty cool.

You can take a listen to their most recent song, Coherent House.

And here’s one of their album cover ideas.  I wasn’t kidding when I said that these three are serious about creating stuff.

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Star Gazing

We discovered a cool iPad app not long ago called Sky Guide.  With it, you hold your iPad up to the sky and it will tell you what stars and constellations you’re looking at. If you’ve ever wondered the name of a really bright star you’re seeing, or would like to know if a certain constellation is visible, this app allows you to easily do that.  Additionally, it’s kind of interesting if you hold it down to the ground, you can determine what the other side of the world is seeing!  Our kids have really enjoyed this and we look forward to using it throughout the different seasons as different constellations become visible.

A few nights ago we were able to identify many of the bright stars we were seeing and locate several constellations.

The Big Dipper

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Daddy-Daughter Dance

Last weekend Caroline and Josh went to their Daddy-Daughter dance. This was their fourth one and it’s become a very special thing for them both.  Caroline delights in preparing for this event. She loves to surprise her Daddy with the things she’s chosen.  This year, she had a few new things that she thought would knock his socks off.  She chose a dress that she felt was more grown up than last year. She also chose shoes that had a bit of a heel and she felt very grown up about that! Additionally, she is now able to wear “dangly” earrings and she got a special pair of those. Also, her hair is getting longer now and she was anxious to do a special hairdo with it. Our girl is really growing up fast.

The “updo”

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Waiting to surprise her date

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