Loyal Reader Q&A

Since posting about D’s first day, several people have asked why we’re homeschooling C and sending D to public school preschool this year. Here’s the quick-ish answer, just in case you’re also wondering…

When C was preschool aged a few years ago, I was still working for the City 30 hours a week. In Iowa, preschool is offered to all 4 year-olds free of charge, and it seemed like the logical next step for her, so off she went. Throughout her year, we loved the experience she had. She was in a classroom of 15 kids, with a lead teacher and two assistants, plus an occasional ISU student or foster grandparent thrown in for good measure. We never felt like she was getting lost in the shuffle. Her mornings seemed to be spent mostly playing at centers or outside at recess, reading books and singing songs together with her class. I know she did some learning as well, because soon she was able to write her name and use things she’d learned against me. (My favorite example of this is when she kept getting up one night at bedtime. I told her the first step to falling asleep was to lay down, because she couldn’t sleep standing up. She responded with, “But astronauts do, Mommy. I learned it from Ms. Jill!)

When C went to Kindergarten the next year, she was in a class of 26 with only her teacher present. There were many times she was left to figure out right and wrong without an adult around to assist. The educational expectations outlined for the kids seemed overwhelming for a 5 year-old and C came home exhausted, frustrated and sometimes confused at the end of the day. That’s when we decided to give homeschooling a go. We are lucky enough to live in an area where there’s a great support system for homeschoolers and we’ve loved it so far.

As the time approached for D to start preschool, whether at home or at school, we decided that it would be good for him to spend a little time away from Mom and second-Mom (aka – his sister) to have a chance to play with other kids his age on a regular basis and figure out how to feel safe away from me, in a safe environment. So, because we’d had such a great experience with C, we decided to send him to Northwood.

I felt even better about this plan after attending the parent orientation a couple weeks ago. D’s teacher explained the vision and mission of the Northwood Preschool Center. It totally fits with my thinking of how I want my kids to experience school, especially at a young age.

Vision:
To create a positive learning community that fosters life-long learning by cultivating five core traits of successful learners: curiosity, persistence, flexibility, collaboration and reflection.

Mission:
To engage all learners academically, socially and emotionally, and physically.

With this in mind, we’re hoping to have another great year in preschool! Then our plan continues to be to homeschool both kiddos next year when D starts kindergarten.

If any other readers have questions, please submit them in the comments below, by email or in person and I’ll answer as time permits 😉

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She’s a 2nd Grader!

We deemed today Chloe Mae’s first day of 2nd grade. It’s really pretty unofficial, because we’re been slowly adding more structure and school back into our days since the beginning of August. And today (or this week for that matter) we still won’t be doing ‘everything’ that’s planned for this year. However, we needed a day to take pictures 🙂 and I plan on us really getting back into the groove this week. In addition to the fact that it’s “just time,” Devon is at preschool most mornings and Aaron’s out of town for work, so we need something to keep us busy!

We’re excited to continue our homeschool journey this year! We are continuing with the math, language arts and history curriculums we used last year. Additionally, we’re adding Spanish and Cursive and using a Magic School Bus kit for Science.

We aren’t using an official reading program, which for a planner like me is a bit intimidating, but Chloe is looking forward to picking out books she’s interested in from different genres. Today at the library, she picked out a book called, “Who Says Women Can’t be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell.” She has been reading the Judy Moody chapter book series for fun, and apparently Judy mentions Elizabeth Blackwell several times, so Chloe asked if we could find a biography about her to start off the year. I’m looking forward to seeing what other choices she makes!

After we dropped Devon off this morning, we came home and Chloe Mae was all set to take pictures. She said to me, “I know you didn’t do your hair or anything, so you don’t have to take a picture with me like you did with Devon if you don’t want to.”

Stop.

Hold it right there.

There is no way I want my daughter thinking that her hair has to look good, or she needs to have the perfect make-up, clothes or anything before she gets her picture taken. So we enthusiastically took a selfie. Honestly, this is probably a better representation of what I look like during my children’s childhood years anyhow (and maybe beyond. Who knows??) So, for the official (blogosphere internet) record, here it is:

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He’s a Preschooler!

I have had almost 5 years to prepare for this day. It’s been 3 years since I dropped off Chloe Mae for her first day. But, somehow, I was not ready to drop my baby boy off for his first day of preschool. I cried. Three times. The first time, we were waiting with Devon’s class in the lobby before he went back to his room. I hid behind Chloe while I cried – no joke. I cried as I was leaving the building and I cried again when Chloe asked me why moms sometimes cry even when they’re not sad.

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While I was a mess, Devon bounced back and forth between excited and scared. While eating his pancake breakfast (because Daddy is awesome like that) he went from rambling about what he might do at school, to snuggling up to my side and telling me that he was “just a wittle bit nerw-vous…”  While waiting for the magical minute when he would walk into his classroom and his day would officially start, he literally bounced with excitement, then pulled Chloe and I into a giant around-the-neck-hug and whispered in my ear that he was scared. In the end, he bravely walked back to his room without a backward glance.

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Chloe and I spent the morning without him, doing a little schoolwork (I swear we’re going to start in earnest next week!) and running some errands. At one point, Chloe Mae looked at me and said, “It’s so weird without Devon here. It’s just so quiet!”

We were back at the school 10 minutes before pick-up time, just waiting for our little buddy. When we picked him up, we walked out of the building, each of us holding hands with Devon, all the way to the car. He let us know that preschool was awesome and announced, “Snuggle Duck must have had a very boring day! He just sat in my backpack the whole time!” Turns out, he didn’t need any comfort from any stuffies, because school was just that great 🙂

This is what Devon had to say about his day: “I had snack, we read a few books before we left, there’s a art station, I have a blue folder and we got to learn about the stations. I made lots and lots of mail at the art station. I played at cars, the block station, the toy station, art station. That’s all. At recess, I played in sand. I can’t really explain the tools they had, but there were lots and lots of shovels.”

From the “lots and lots” of artwork he brought home, it looks like he was thinking about me while we were apart 🙂

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He is so excited to go back tomorrow. And I am so excited that he’s excited. I am most looking forward to watching him grow into his own little man and make new friends as the year progresses!

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2nd Grade & Preschool

All week, I’ve seen pictures posted by friends and family of their kiddos heading back to school. And all week long, as I’ve run into friends and family, they inevitably ask if we’re starting school as well. I think they’re looking for a yes or no answer, but I don’t have a simple answer.

D will be attending Northwood Preschool Center 4 mornings a week this school year, starting next Thursday. (You all can expect my adorable first day of school photos then!) The plan is for C and I to really start hammering out her school work when he’s in school, but one of the things I learned last year, is that flexibility is key for our homeschooling, so we may or may not really start up next week. Usually, flexibility is one of the things I love about homeschooling – although the planner in me does have issues every now and then 🙂

We have some things we’ve been working through all summer, so it’s hard to quantify the start date for our new year. When it comes to covering the curriculum I’ve chosen for C’s second grade year, we’ve started a couple things, but not all of it. And we don’t do every subject every day yet.

But we do still learn every day. One of our hopes for homeschooling our kids is that we can teach them about the world, by living in the world. We read books, the kids listen to audiobooks and build with Legos, Magna-tiles and PlayStix, C reads off recipes for me, they help me at the grocery store, we take walks, they help me with chores and the kids spend countless hours playing pretend.

I might fumble through my answer if you ask me if we’ve started school yet, but I can say that my kiddos are learning every day.

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Summer Lovin’

Dear loyal blog readers, of which I know there are many of you – well, at least 2… 😉 – you might remember my dislike for winter. I may have even mentioned it once, twice, possibly three or four times on here before. As much as I hate winter, I am coming to love summer just as much.

My favorite part of summer, this summer specifically, surprises even me. I love going to the pool.

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My view.

I don’t remember being a huge fan of the pool as a kid, so taking my own kids wasn’t always my first choice. Additionally, the first couple years we took the kids it seemed like more of a chore than anything. But this year. Oh, this year. The kids can swim! They’re not afraid to get their heads wet, and C has come so far, she can even go off on her own with friends for a bit to enjoy the slides, lazy river or “deep” pool. It’s 4 whole feet deep 😉

Speaking of friends – we often get to see them! Occasionally, we make plans to meet someone there, but more often it’s just a lucky coincidence! My already happy kids are ecstatic when they find friends, and along with friends, come friends’ moms, which means I get adult interaction. Score! It might sound corny, but the pool has created a sense of community for us this summer. For someone who never imagined herself being a stay-at-home mom, let alone one who homeschools and therefore rarely gets time away from the kids, this is very important!

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Watching the ISU Football team dive with a friend.

As summer draws to a close (at least as far as the pool is concerned) I’m already trying to come up with ways we can recreate this community once the dreary Iowa winter sets in. I’m not sure how this will be done, but I know that it’s important. And I’m also pretty sure it will involve hot chocolate.

And in case you’re missing the Olympics already, here’s my kids’ version of a swimming relay.

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Make Lists…Check!

When you have a lot to get done, or even a little, is there a more satisfying feeling than crossing an item off of a checklist? I’m a big fan. It’s possible that I’ve even started a list with, “Make a list” so that I can cross an item off pretty quickly.

Given my love for lists, I’m not sure why I didn’t think of making lists for the kids sooner. So many days, especially this summer when we’re not doing much schoolwork, it seems like a never-ending battle to get the kids to complete even the smallest task. On a recent day, when I had several things I wanted to accomplish, I decided to make lists for the kids too.

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The kids happily and efficiently completed everything on their lists – and even added something in D’s case. I’ve made lists several times since, with the same result. And I asked myself, why didn’t I think of this sooner?

Tonight, I came up with a quick list for the kids to accomplish while I was getting dinner ready. And they did. Without complaining. It’s seriously amazing. I’m not sure how long it will last, but I will happily make them daily lists as long as it works!

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Swingset, Take 2

Four years ago, we bought a swingset kit and within a weekend or so, we had a swingset put together that worked great for our toddler and baby. However, four years later, it was clear that our kiddos had outgrown it. They hadn’t outgrown the idea of a swingset, just the actual swingset we had. That’s when we decided to build our own this time around. And thanks to my handy husband, he was able to take my general ideas and make them a reality, even when it became more than just a swingset!

This time, we were not able to complete the project in a weekend. However, Aaron, in all his awesomeness, was able to complete it in stages, so the kids weren’t without backyard fun for long. First was the basic frame and the swings.

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When I feared for his life…

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Ready for swinging!

Then the playhouse was closed in, so the kids had a roof over their heads to play in. Another weekend brought the completion of the loft, and then finally the deck this weekend. We still plan on putting a door in, but I’m still calling it done 🙂

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C is totally impressed by our craftsmanship of the loft.

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D prefers to slide his way out of the playhouse.

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It’s done!

We found some battery powered lights for $3 a strand at Target – score! – to decorate the loft and added back in some accessories from the old swingset – like the periscope, steering wheel and chalkboard. I selflessly gave the kids the area rug from the living room to use in the playhouse (it will be stressful for me to pick out a new one, but after almost a decade with this rug, I’ll make the sacrifice for them!) We even picked up a couple adirondack chairs for the deck. Our “Tiny Tiny House” is good to go!

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It was a lot of hard work, mostly by Aaron, although I’d like to think I was helpful. The kids also loved to help out whenever they could – hold boards, help measure and be tool gophers. It was a family effort, and hopefully, a family project we’ll all get joy out of for many years to come.

Seriously, this playhouse rocks!

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The rock collection keeps getting bigger. And more colorful.

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