Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I homeschool my kids...sorta

I homeschool my kids....sort of. Let me explain.

As a former public school teacher I have seen first hand the downside of public schooling. Teachers can't give individual attention to the students who need it. There are too few resources in schools. The social aspect, especially as kids get older, is distracting to learning. I had thought about homeschooling Yip and Yap and had discussed it with my husband. But he was against it. Of course, I may not have argued very convincingly.

In my heart I am a teacher and I would love to return to the classroom someday. As well as seeing the downsides of public schools I also recognize that there are many positive aspects of public schools. Teachers have experience and resources most parents don't have access to. Sometimes students will listen to their teachers before their parents. (Yes, really!) There are lots of great teachers out there and there is so much students can learn from different teaching styles and personalities.

The boys' birthday is at the end of August and the cutoff date for kindergarten here in Illinois is September 1st. Technically, we could have sent them to kindergarten. (Our school system only offers full day kindergarten by the way.) Wisely, our preschool teacher advised against sending them. They would be the very youngest in the class and they just weren't ready. They were still immature and would rather play than sit and work. Go figure? Sending them to all day kindergarten wasn't going to work...yet. We decided to hold off a year and send them back to preschool.

Over the summer I worked with them a bit here and there on their numbers and letters, things like that. But I kept having the nagging feeling that I should be doing more. They may not be ready for full day kindergarten but why should that stop them from learning the basics? So in the fall I decided I would start teaching them at home; reading, writing, math. I didn't invest in any big curriculum or drop a lot of money on educational books and supplies. The resources I've used have been mostly free from the library and the internet. So far, it has been working fairly well.

Every morning after breakfast, we have a short math lesson and then a writing lesson that lasts about 30 minutes, sometimes longer. Later in the day, usually when the baby is sleeping, the boys have one on one time with me when we work on reading. Usually we only do this for about 15 minutes each. I don't push it more than that unless we are reading something the boys are really into. Sometimes I'll tie in these lessons with books the boys have been reading or a holiday. We've made quite a lot of progress, but I'll get into that later.

The rest of the day we'll work on craft projects, do science experiments,read, play games or just play. We bombard our local library once a week and pick up anything the boys may be interested in. Pirates, trains, space, snakes, spiders, human body, where babies come from, presidents, holidays, cowboys and Indians...we've checked out lots of different books!

During the next couple weeks I'm going to have a separate post for math, reading and writing and talk a bit about what the boys and I do here at home. The first post, math, will be coming up on Monday. These posts, of course, won't cover everything that we've done over the course of the year but it will hit the highlights and some of the more successful methods we've used.

So there you go. I homeschool my kids...sort of. We plan on sending them to public school next year and I am confident that they'll do great! I don't know what the future may bring. I might return to teaching; I might not. We might move and end up in a terrible school corporation and we might think again about homeschooling. Who knows? But for now, this is what we are doing and this is what works for us.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Flying Kites!!

The month of March, also known as the month of WIND, is upon us! I admit, for the last few years I have not enjoyed flying kites with the boys. Usually it is me who ends up flying the kite and chasing it down and throwing it back up in the air once it falls. Finally, finally, this spring the boys are old enough to do it all on their own. I bet they spent over an hour outside flying this old kite and boy did they have fun! And I had fun laying in the grass taking some pictures of it all!

..and they even helped little sister get in on the action!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Marker Monday - Spring Flowers from Toilet Paper Tubes

I love making these flowers in the spring! It satisfies my urge for planting seeds until it actually gets warm enough to work in my garden. The boys and I worked on these this past week. You'll need toilet paper tubes, paint, scissors, hole punch, pipe cleaners, wooden skewers (you can find them in the grocery store), glue and construction paper. Warning: Lots of pictures!
First, paint the inside and outside of toilet paper tubes a variety of pretty spring colors. I love when the boys leave fingerprints on the tubes; it adds some nice texture on the finished flower.

There are two different flowers I make. The first you could call a daisy or sunflower I suppose. Measure 2" from each end of the tube and draw a line so it looks like this.

Then cut the petals all the way around the tube, from each end, all the way around the tube. The petals are about 1/4" wide each.

Then fold the petals up right along both lines you drew.

Finally for the stem add a painted barbecue skewer and accent with leaves and pipe cleaners.

The second flower is a tulip. Begin by making four cuts from each end of the tube about a 1/3 the length of the tube. Round off the edges of each petal, from both ends, to look like this.
One end of the petals can be rolled out.

On the other end use a hole punch to make a hole in about the middle of each petal.

Fold up the bottom petals and put a skewer through all of the holes. Then add paper leaves...

...and pipe cleaners. You may find it helpful to use a little bit of hot glue in various spots to make your flowers more sturdy.

Now enjoy your beautiful bouquet of flowers!!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Devotions for Kids - Noah's Change.

Then God said to Noah, "Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it." Genesis 8:15-17

You probably know the story of Noah and the ark very well. The world was wicked and God decided to wipe it clean and start again. He told Noah to build an ark and load it with animals because the world was going to be flooded. God even gave Noah specific instructions on how to build the ark. (Genesis 6) But God didn't tell Noah to put a rudder on the ark. A rudder is part of the ship used to steer it through the water. After Noah, his family and the animals were aboard the ship they would have no way to decide where to go! God was definitely changing Noah's life and Noah didn't have any choice did he? He didn't know where he was going or how long it would take to get there. Noah just knew that his life was going to be very different than what he had known before but God was with him and would take care of him.

Has your life ever had a big change that you didn't choose? Maybe your mom is going to have a baby. Perhaps your family's pet ran away. What if your family is moving and you have to start at a new school? These are all changes that you don't decide on one way or the other.

God is with you always, even during changes in your life. Change is an important part of every one's life. God gives us change to help us grow and learn. You wouldn't want to sleep in your baby crib forever would you? Having a big kid bed is much more fun. What about learning to do things on your own like tying your shoes or riding a bike? Those are fun changes!

Change can be scary sometimes. You don't know if change is good or bad, easy or hard, fun or difficult. Sometimes we fight against change because we don't want to try new things that we don't know. Maybe you don't want that new teacher but she might be a lot more fun than you thought. Maybe you don't want to share a bedroom with your brother but then you realize how much you enjoy his company. God was with Noah and God will be with you and take care of you too!

Dear God, Thank you for the changes in our lives. I know change is part of growing up and You will always be with me and take care of me. Amen.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Meet my hubby, DR.

Thought it was about time to introduce you to my hubby, DR.

DR, that's his nickname. Or maybe it's D.R., sometimes it's even been Doctor. I'm not sure which exactly is the correct form! See, he's had this nickname since high school, maybe even longer!

Anyway, this is my blog and I'll just refer to him as DR. (Although when he leaves his socks on the floor I have a few other choice nicknames for him...but this is a family blog and we won't go there.)

DR and I will have been married for seven years this August. We had only been dating a couple months when he proposed and we hadn't even known each other a year on our wedding day. But he's like an old pair of jeans; fits just right and I would cry if I had to get rid of him. He's simple, no nonsense and rugged.

DR works in the agribusiness industry so he works long erratic hours but he goes out of his way to spend special moments with the kids. And when he does that my heart just melts. Like this day, he happened to be in town on an errand when I was dropping off the boys at preschool. We met in the parking lot and shared a lunch from McDonald's. Just a few minutes, but he held and played with Yahoo the whole time.

"Nice pose there Yahoo. What are you doing with that finger exactly?"

DR is kind of scruffy here. His hair and beard are usually much shorter but he's going to be in an Easter play this week playing the disciple Peter. So in the spirit of authenticity, he's been growing it out. I'm not a fan of the long hair but I love this time of year when he grows out his beard! I love to run my hands through it...that bugs him. I took this picture to have handy because next week he'll shave it short. I'll have to wait a whole year to see it again.

So this is hubby. My scruffy hubby who can't pick up his socks and has a weird nickname. Gotta love him!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Break Out the Beano! We're Roasting Vegetables!

Oh, folks! Have you ever roasted vegetables? Let me tell you...I am addicted!! I kept reading in various places how roasting is such a healthy and tasty way of preparing vegetables. Yeah, I'd roast carrots and potato wedges and they were pretty good but that was as about as far as I'd ever gotten. Then, somewhere, sorry can't remember where, I read about roasting cabbage wedges.

"What the heck?" I thought. "A head of cabbage costs less than a dollar. Not a big loss if it tastes lousy and I throw it out." While Yahoo and I were grocery shopping we hopped on over to the produce to pick out a head of cabbage and while we were there I loaded up on all kinds of veggies. Cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes...we'll roast em' all!

Preheat your oven to 350. Spread olive oil on pizza pans or cookie sheets then line up the veggies. Use a 1" paint brush, paint free please, to spread more olive oil along the top too. Don't be afraid to use too much. The paint brush really pushes the oil in amongst the cabbage leaves and makes it so much better.

Sprinkle ground black pepper and Kosher salt all over the veggies. I tend to use a lot of salt. The healthiness of the veggies counteracts the sodium, right?

Roast in oven about 20-25 minutes. Feel free to turn the cabbage over about halfway through...sometimes I do..sometimes I don't.

And..oh my!! These veggies were so, so, so good!! The tomatoes melted in my mouth. The cabbage was sweet! My kids ate cauliflower!!!

I am not ashamed to say, I ate a whole head of roasted cabbage in 24 hours! I am ashamed to say, my husband wouldn't let me sleep in the same room with him after those same 24 hours however. Next time, I won't forget the Beano.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Photo Thursday - Black and Whites

Last week the kids and I were battling some nasty little stomach bug that would NOT leave us alone. But there was a positive note to being sick for quite a few days. The munchkins stayed still and I was able to take a lot of photos of them. Here a few B/W's I thought I'd share.

Yip, wow...asleep?

Yahoo and Yap taking a rest. This one, is by far, one of my favorite photos. I think it's a combination of Yahoo's eyes and the contrast between her wakefulness and his sleeping form. This one's a keeper.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How to Solve Childhood Obesity - Whatever Wednesday

First of all...the title of this post seems to say that I know the answer of solving the epidemic of childhood obesity. I don't. Let's just get that out of the way, alright? Alright. So, let's get on with this shall we?

My husband likes to listen to talk radio from Chicago's WGN station. I can take it or leave it. The other night however, the radio was on and the show's host began talking about childhood obesity and how this generation of children may actually have a shorter lifespan than their parents. He also discussed children's lack of daily exercise and bad eating habits. So far I was on board with this guy! That's right! Let's talk about the nitty gritty and figure out how to fix it!

"In most Chicago schools," he said, "kids don't have gym class daily. Kids need to move more! When I was a kid we had gym everyday!!" He contined, "And the food and snacks these kids eat and have access to in schools. Pop and candy machines all over the place."

"I have a solution to these problems!" he exclaimed. Great! I'm leaning closer to the radio at this point eager to hear some intelligent conversation and solutions. His solution? "Teachers should spend less time on English, math and history and devote more time to exercise. As for the vending machines in schools? Raise the prices and the kids won't eat them."

WHAT!!! Was he kidding? I couldn't believe what he had said. I was so mad at this point I raced to the phone to call in and give him a piece of my mind! Thank goodness, the lines were busy and I couldn't get through. I had a hundred arguments running through my head about why he was wrong and I would have sounded like a ranting maniac if I had gotten through.

Now that I am a bit more calm though I do have a couple arguments against his solutions. First, teachers are being asked every year to teach more content with less resources in public schools. Why should they be expected to be responsible for the health of children which, as I view it, is parents' responsibilities . If kids need to move more it should be parents' jobs to get it done. Turn off the tv and go outside with your kids and play and exercise together. I doubt there is any adult in this country, myself included, who would be harmed by a little more exercise. Teachers have enough to do folks let's not burden them anymore with getting our kids healthy. That's our job.
The kids and I often go for walks and runs together. The boys have come to see me run races. This fall we are planning on running a fun run together! Sometimes when the weather is bad we load up in the car for McDonald's Playland and eat apples and drink milk. Sometimes when the weather is bad I bundle the munchkins up and force them outside! And guess what...they usually play outside for a long time even if it is cold. A little bad weather never killed a kid, no matter how much they tried to convince you otherwise.

However what is the school's responsibility are the foods they make available to our children be it from the vending machines or the cafeteria. I remember the vending machines at the school where I taught. They were full of pop and candy, nothing healthy. After school or basketball practice kids get hungry and they will eat whatever is available, healthy or not. Instead of raising prices, which I don't think will change kids' eating habits, get rid of the pop and candy machines and offer something else. My old high school has a vending machine for milk that is very popular. Why not fill vending machines with dried fruit, nuts and healthy granola bars? One reason schools don't change vending machines is because of the revenue they produce. For many athletic departments a large portion of their income comes from vending machines. Of course they don't want to change something that works. Parents, if you want it changed you are probably going to be the ones to do the work. The milk machine I mentioned before wasn't provided by the school. Instead it was put in by the Agriculture Dept. and stocked by parents. And no, the athletic department in that school didn't like it.'d think the athletic department would be for healthy eating!

I ate 12 years of cafeteria food and I hated it! So much in fact, that during the 5 years I taught in a public school I NEVER ate a school lunch...even when I forgot my lunch at home. Fried food, salt, tasteless...ugh, I just couldn't do it. I recently found this blog, Fed Up With Lunch; The School Lunch Project. A public school teacher in Illinois is eating school lunch everyday for a year and blogging about it. It's been very enlightening so far as what is being offered to our children as a "healthy" lunch.

My boys will be starting full day kindergarten this fall and I'm planning on packing their lunches. I don't know what their school's lunch program is like. It may be great, I don't know. What I do know is that if we start packing lunches now it will, hopefully, turn into a healthy habit for years to come. It will also provide my boys some independence to make their own food choices. The apple or the banana. The milk or the juice. How many times in their lives do kids face situations when they don't have a choice? Even as adults we like choices rather than being told what we have to do.

Childhood obesity is a big problem in this country. We all know that. I say start at home and don't expect the government of public institutions to fix it for us. I'm all for Michelle Obama and her national initiative but she isn't the ones fixing my kids' dinners or grocery shopping for my family. I am. I don't have all the answers folks; I just had a response to a radio guy that bugged me. What about you? Do you have some answers? What do you do in your household to keep your family healthy? What do you need to do better in the future?

In case you are interested here is a BMI Caluculator for kids.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Marker Monday - Clouds

In the afternoons, while Yahoo takes a nap, the boys jump on the Internet to play computer games. They usually stick to Curious George on but one day they were feeling rebellious and ventured to unknown territory...Sesame Street. There they found Drawing with Clouds with Elmo. I thought this would be a good time to continue our study of weather.

After a little bit of online surfing on my part I found what we needed to learn about clouds. Because I was an art teacher and don't know much about...anything... the phrase, "Google it!" is used on a daily basis in our house!

First we talked about what makes a cloud. The water drops in the air are spread out when they are close to the ground. As the sun warms the water droplets they rise like a hot air balloon. Very high in the air it is very cold and the water drops come together to "cuddle" to stay warm. I usually try to explain concepts using analogies the boys can understand. It helped to use the analogy of people wanting to cuddle in the winter when it's cold but not in the summer when it is hot. Same concept with water droplets in the sky. Clouds are then formed when the water drops come close together.

Then we talked about the three main types of clouds; cumulus, cirrus and stratus. Cloud types are named for their shape so we drew pictures of each type with a white crayon. We have puffy (cumulus), smoky (cirrus), and like a sheet (stratus). We have also been cloud gazing when we take walks or ride in the car. The boys and I talk about the different clouds in the sky and then we have fun trying to imagine pictures in them.

Finally we made clouds in a jar. Now this is cool! You will need the following; a quart jar, a candle and matches, tongs, a bag of ice, very hot water, a flashlight and a black piece of paper.

Pour about an inch of hot water in the bottom of the quart jar. I heated it slightly on the stove but not quite boiling. Light the candle and lower it into the water with tongs. Allow it to burn for a few seconds then blow the candle out and immediately place the bag of ice completely over the opening of the jar. Place the black paper behind the jar. Finally shine the flashlight into the jar and you'll be able to see the cloud forming and rolling inside. As I looked at the cloud I kept expecting it to dissipate like smoke from a candle would but it didn't. The cloud just kept rolling and rolling until the ice was removed. Then as the cloud floated out of the jar the boys were able to "feel" the cloud and how cool it was, not hot like smoke.

The clouds may show up better if you turn out the lights too. I didn't put a picture up of our cloud in the jar because I couldn't get a really good photo to show what it looked like. The boys loved this though and we've made clouds a lot lately!

Learning about clouds and wind has been a lot of fun for all of us. Hopefully I'll be able to keep this weather theme going. I'm not sure where to go from here but I'll keep you updated on any more fun activities we do!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Devotionals - A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3

"What a winter it has been! It has been so long with so much snow. I'm sure glad that spring is finally here aren't you?"

I bet you have heard someone say those words recently. Spring hasn't come soon enough for many people I know. What a long winter it has been. Wouldn't it be nice to get rid of the cold, dreary winter and have summer all year long?

God doesn't think so. He tells us in Ephesians that there is a time for everything. And that means a time for sunny summers and cold dreary winters. God has created a balance in our world. Imagine how boring going to the beach everyday would soon be if we didn't have the first snow to look forward to. Imagine how quickly we would get tired of making snowmen and hot chocolate if there weren't the picnics in the park to look forward to.

God also tells there is a time for happiness and for sadness. Life is full of disappointments; sickness, injuries, deaths. Although sadness isn't an enjoyable part of life there is a time for it. Without sadness, we wouldn't appreciate our joyful times and how wonderful they truly are. Being happy all the time would be boring because we wouldn't know any other emotion.

So the next time something sad or hurtful comes along in life, don't despair. God has assured us the bad times won't last forever. Winter won't last forever either. Happiness will come again. Those sad times will make those happy times that much better when they come.

Dear God, Thank you for sun and rain, happiness and sadness, and the balance of our world. Help me to be happy for everything you have given me, even those things that are unpleasant. Amen.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Macro Shots

Some photos I took the other day while waiting for my car to get worked on. Amazing the bits of beauty you can find in the most unlikely a tire shop!

Friday, March 19, 2010

This Kid is Way Too Independent!!

She shouldn't be doing this...she's only twelve months old! Here's Yahoo walking towards the road. She wants to go for a walk...great! But she doesn't want to hold my hand or wait for anyone else. Really...she's too independent for her own good. She's been walking for a month and a half but only had the chance to walk outside for the last week or so. It's about a tenth of a mile to the end of the driveway! And she did it all by herself. I'm not sure if I can handle 17 more years of this sort of indepencence. Where could she have learned this?? Oh!

Toast Cups with Peanut Butter and Jelly

I first saw this idea from Souffle Bombay using salad as a filler in the cups. Yeah...the salad idea didn't fly with Yip and Yap. So we pulled out this.

That's apple butter between the peanut butter and jelly. They also pulled out apples which we diced and peanuts.

First, Yip flattened bread with a rolling pin.

Then, he "painted" melted butter on both sides of each slice.

I tucked them into a muffin tin, because they just got smashed when the boys tried.

We baked them at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. It may actually take you less time. I kept checking every few minutes because I didn't want them to burn. That's a skill of mine...burning things.

The boys filled the cups with whatever combination of fillings they wanted and munched away! Two pretty satisfied customers and the beginning of two great cooks!
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