Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas fun

We had an awesome Christmas holidays!

The girls have been spending a lot of time playing with Christmas toys and games and enjoying family time now that their daddy is home from work over the holidays.

Here are some Christmas fun pics...

NyGirl enjoying this HUGE Christmas tree (not ours, by the way!)

So we tried our hands at a gingerbread house...it wasn't too becoming :-(    But...it was yummy!

Chowing down on the gingerbread house...

After all the excitement of gift-giving, NyGirl decided she'd take it one day at a time with her gifts (playing with them, that is).
So by two days after Christmas she had finally gotten around to the box with the telescope in it. I can't remember what I was doing that made me so busy, but after her constant "Mom!!!! Can you help me put this together???!!!!" she finally bounced off to our office with the telescope box and set of directions, and fifteen minutes later, returned with her telescope completely put together.
Here she is enjoying the fruit of her labors!

And finally, we couldn't end the Christmas season without properly giving thanks to the One who came for us. Here are the girls holding our (battery-operated, of course!) candles which we lit for our family bible time the night after Christmas. We read from Luke about the virgin birth, about Jesus being born for all mankind, for our salvation. It was a wonderful family time and we enjoyed having daddy read us scripture pray with the family.

Finally, we sat in our home studio a few nights before Christmas and recorded some Christmas songs! Click on the link below to listen (be sure your browser enables popup windows).

I hope you had a joyous Christmas...and have a blessed New Year!!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Learning The Planets With VoiceThread

Finally we have put together NyGirl's power point presentation into our VoiceThread account.

I will add, she did this project completely on her own (after a few lessons from me on how to create the Power Point slides).  She also took off on the remaining voice narrations after showing her initially how to do the first one in Voice Thread.  It was a fun project, and I think we'll be doing a good bit more of these kinds of online presentations for our upcoming lessons.

Take a look (and don't forget to press the play button):


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Voicethread For Educators

Voicethread is an excellent tool I just found online, as I've stated in one of my last posts...I plan to use it for NyGirl's study on the Solar System to help her present her work.

Here's a video on the VoiceThread website which shows what it does: http://voicethread.com/#home.b409.i848804

Essentially, you can upload documents or images your student has created (or that you the teacher have created) into a sort of slideshow, and create a voiceover narration for each slide. Then others comment on your slides and documents either by voice or text.

I am so excited that I want to create my first VoiceThread right now, but I am waiting until NyGirl has created most of her slides on the planets in Power Point first. The cool thing about VoiceThread is that it accepts different formats of uploads, or you can find images through the New York Public Library (integrated already in the system).
The possibilities are endless for educators. We can have our students use it for online projects, helping them to develop presentations that get "reviewed" worldwide. We can use them as teacher-to-teacher education, creating content that teaches others how to do things...or we can create materials online for older students to learn as well.
We'll see if this is something we enjoy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Learning The Solar System With Power Point

NyGirl has really been interested in planets lately. We have a full unit covering the solar system in her Houghton Mifflin science book...but it is very limited when it comes to techie ideas (though the book offers a supplemental website with additional quizzes and games that accompany the unit).

So I decided to create our own unit.  I thought about lapbooking and then scanning in the images to create a slideshow...until i found VoiceThread.  So instead, I ended up creating our own Solar System unit in which NyGirl will create a complete Power Point presentation to upload and narrate via VoiceThread.  In the process, she is getting some typing practice (we use Sense-Lang.org for typing lessons), and a general overview on how to use presentation software and become familiar with computer icons, commands, and tasks.
So far I have taught her how to select slide templates and styles, add slides, add transitions and effects, change fonts, and add clip art.  The easiest part was typing  the information in for the planet Mercury.

This is going to be a fun project, I can already tell.

The thing is, once younger students are introduced to the concepts of productivity and presentation software, they can run with it and leave us in the dust.  I think it's hilarious when some educators scoff at the idea of showing children in the lower elementary years how to use these types of software.  It's perfectly do-able and absolutely equips them with ways to express their ideas and thoughts, making school projects all the more fun for them.

So that's it for now.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all educators:  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!!!!!!

Whether you teach in a public school, private school, charter school, or home school-- ALL educators who TRULY care about our students, are worthy of being thanked over and over again this season.

I know that I am grateful to home educate my two beautiful daughters. It is a blessing from God to be their teacher.

Enjoy the your day of thankfulness!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Using Issuu to Create Digital Learning Portfolios

There is a really cool website I've been enjoying for a few years that takes your PDF files and converts them to flip-style online magazines or presentations.

Check out ISSUU.com.

I've used this for my other websistes before, but never thought about using it to digitize ALL that paperwork we've accumulated during our home school.

Well...DUH!  My solution for classwork paper management was in front of me the entire time!

So I've recently begun a project to scrap all paper clutter and digitize nearly all of my daughter's school work (except a few exceptional, "can't bear to part with it" paper stuff).  All of her artwork will be not only kept in a hardbound cover at home, but digitized as well.

I'll be sure to keep posted here at the blog about how our paper digitization goes (or doesn't go).

Meanwhile, here's a peak at our History, Geography, and Social Studies portfolio.  This is NyGirl's portfolio, for grades K-1.  It doesn't include everything we've done, but it shows a good bit of the paperwork we've completed last year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Slideshow of our American Girls lapbooking

Last week NyGirl and I worked diligently at beginning a lapbook for American Girls, the Kaya series.

To be truthful, I haven't been much of a project-oriented, lapbooking kind of homeschool mama.  I have been in LOVE with workbooks and notebooking since Day 1, and we used the classical approach last year.  I totally dug the Well Trained Mind books and forums.  Perhaps it's because I'm attracted to that method of learning, because I learned best that way.  But I've quickly discovered that my children learn in ways that I haven't been adept at teaching...

Which served as a nice wake up call.

I can't say I have since ditched workbooks, because I haven't.  I still use them regularly for math (a combo of Saxon and AO Lifepacs) and Language Arts.  But I am using more hands-on methods to teach now so my kids can pick up and feel objects (our math programs always had great manipulatives, but adding more projects to other subjects like history help my daughter cement the lessons in her mind).

mary pride homeschoolingI really like what Mary Pride talks about in her book, when she says to "cut the twaddle". A lot of what we parent teachers/teachers in general do is simply assign busy-work. When I had an infant/ young toddler these past 2 years, I had to learn to readjust my teaching methods for my then 1st grader to meet her needs and still be able to stay sane!  That meant (for me) assigning lots more coloring and workbook pages than I would normally have liked.  And that was okay for then.

I guess I'd like to experience doing more projects with NyGirl this year.  She is a hands-on kind of girl, but is also a great auditory and visual learner too, so I really have a lot of choice I think with presentation.

It's not that I need to "make learning fun" for her.  She already enjoys learning.  But for my kids, I want them to appreciate the journey of exploring ideas, and coming to valid conclusions, with limited help.  Maybe this is more of a Montessori method...I'm not even sure what to call it.  And one thing I know will help aid in this process is all of the online helps and technology available to us today.

So...NyGirl really enjoyed putting together her American Girl lapbook pieces...and we'll have to do more of this I see.

I also enjoyed creating this slideshow using Slide.com.  Lots of fun!!!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Ballerina

A few months ago my daughter had her final ballet recital of the year.  She is really into drama, arts, music and the like...and has been begging me again recently to start back ballet again.

I would, (ballet is not extemely expensive where we live), except that I made her choose between a few pre-selected activities.  Not wanting to overcrowd her schedule, we ended up joining a local gym instead, which allows her to have drilled and free play exercises in a class for kids her age.

Meanwhile, I thought I would put up her ballet pics...

At the end of the recital, she receives flowers from mom and dad :-)

Gotta love the giddy smile.

Okay, I'm not certain if my eyes were open or close, but I did try to jump in this picture with NyGirl.

You know how it is- when you're always the one TAKING the picture, there's never any proof you were ever present!  So I wanted to make sure I actually got IN the picture this time.

:-) LOL

More pics:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cool Homeschool

Cool Homeschool...

Deer in the backyard

I guess this would be considered science!

The girls are just looking out the window, observing nature around us, when suddenly we saw three small deer scurrying throughout backyard.

BabyZ is really enjoying this sight while NyGirl squeals with delight.

I couldn't take a decent picture through the window, but I would have quickly snapped the shot if I could have.

It was just so cool to see those beautiful deer up close so near to our home.

Biblical Character Day

One of the things my daughter really enjoys is our fun "themed" days at our local homeschool co-op.

In our family, in particular, we do not participate in Halloween activities...but many churches have a Fall Festival and the children have an opportunity to dress up and enjoy fun activities.

I have mixed feelings about fall festival, especially those that somehow "take the place" of Halloween- but one thing I know for sure- God created the seasons which we enjoy, so why not enjoy them, even celebrate them?  I can celebrate the God and creator of fall, spring, winter, and summer... so with that said...

Our co-op has Costume Day during this season.  NyGirl is enjoying dressing up as a biblical character- Esther.  I think Esther must be her all-time favorite bible character.

There is the whole thing about Esther being a princess and all...and NyGirl is definitely a girly-girl type and is REALLY into princesses.  So there you go.

Here she is during co-op, walking across the front of the auditorium to announce her character.  We had some really great costumes this year and lots of creativity in our group!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Enjoying Our Lives At Home

Two days ago, my kids were up early (around 7:00 a.m.), preparing for school.

We casually washed up and made a beehive for the kitchen to enjoy scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and oatmeal- along with a choice of toasted wheat bread or store bought biscuits. Lessons began soon after. By 1:00 p.m., the kids were out of school. We spent the rest of the day reading, napping, playing educational games on scholasticnews.com, and both listening to and playing music.

That was two days ago.

This morning we started our day pretty late. Although I'm usually up by 7:00 a.m., I let my oldest daughter (NyGirl) sleep in late. She needed the rest. She was just recuperating from a cold and I knew that school would have to wait. We're finally eating a quick breakfast of toast and a boiled egg. Instead of a regular morning routine of breakfast, music, books, and blocks, my youngest- our toddler (Baby Z.)- has had to adapt to this shift in our routine. She holds up quite nicely as we push our block time up by two hours- learning to keep busy with toys and entertaining herself for a while. School, inevitably, will begin whenever we are ready today.

I am hoping we'll have another school day like we did a few weeks back. I recall vividly the soft, gentle rain that drizzled from early morning until evening. As we drop off NyGirl at her early violin lesson at a local university campus, Baby Z and I head out to the grassy field in front of the building and spread out a cozy blanket on which to lay our snacks, sippy cup, and a bag of toys. Needless to say, it didn't take long for Baby Z to run off with the umbrella, leaving the blankie and toys behind. Let's just say sitting down in a huge field of grass is not attractive to my 20 month old! Running, skipping, and swirling around, feeling the freshly cut blades of dewey grass against her ankles, while watching the chirping birds fly into the overcast sky above was far more of an adventure for Baby Z.

We headed home after NyGirl's lesson and I had her practice a bit. She had learned to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and between her practicing, Baby Z's singing along, and the sound of the splashing rain outdoors, I realized I had happened upon a blissful moment in my mothering experience. Never again would I experience a moment quite like this one: the sweetness, the bliss of two young children enjoying lifelong learning and passion for music without fear. To be innocent, brave, and unafraid-- that is what I saw that afternoon in my children.

Later, NyGirl decides it's time to figure out what happens to a celery stalk if it's dipped into a water glass filled with dye. Her inquisitiveness takes our school day into a different direction.

Fast forward a few days, and we wake up one school morning to a pile of laundry and no washing powder. I pull up a chair to climb to reach the top shelf of our laundry room and dig out some basic ingredients for making laundry detergent from scratch: washing soda, baking soda, borax, and Fels Naptha soap. Immediately after her breakfast, NyGirl wants to help grate the soap. So we turn on some classical music, give Baby Z. her ballet tutu, and NyGirl and I start grating away.

Another out-of-the-box art project.

Amidst our daily math, science, language arts, history, geography and other assignments daily, I've found such freedom and joy in observing my kids grow and learn, pursue their passions with vigor and without fear, and bloom into bright and healthy children.

I think that is what every mother truly wants. Sometimes we forget when school days get hectic and schedules collide with other interests- we forget that our main goal as mothers is to enjoy watching our children grow and bloom as we take a vested interest in them.

I am trying now, after getting started on a late school morning, to remind myself of why I've chosen the path of home education these past few years. I am always convinced that no matter the method of education a family chooses, we all ultimately want the same things for our kids. It can get tough for all of us at times.

But it's those lazy mornings when the gentle rain reminds me of how much my kids enjoy the rain, and how much they enjoy being with me, that I find the strength, the courage, and the conviction to continue on my path of choice for our family.

I am reminded of how much the basics of wholesomeness (showing loving and compassion to one another) and character are so much easier to come by when I can be all the more invested in their lives. I keep telling myself that this short, sweet season will too soon be over, and before long my little girls will be young ladies. In those heart-felt moments, I embrace the present and I focus on today, not tomorrow.

I focus on today.
And today...the girls are relaxing before I start NyGirl on her SAT test practice this afternoon (if she's feeling any better by then). But until then...we relax. We enjoy life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Birthdays with friends

NyGirl just celebrated her 7th birthday.  Can't believe how fast she is growing up.
Thanks to friends, a park, and Chuck E Cheese's, she had a blast!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Learning to be patient

My girls are growing up!
My oldest just finished up her 1st grade year at homeschool co-op and is excited about entering 2nd grade.
My baby is running around happily disturbing her big sister and making lots of fun, laughable moments for the entire family.
We're currently working on potty training...fun stuff, I tell ya.

Each day there are moments I have to keep reminding myself (amongst the hectic summer schedules of soccer camps, birthday parties, and the like) how I must continue to practice patience.

I am reminded of a rose bud that hasn't yet come into full bloom, but is just waiting on the proper nourishment...and part of that nourishment is a patient caretaker.

Patience truly is a virtue that has to be practiced. It's not just some thing you learn to do overnight. With my kids, I am learning that now is not always best. Sometimes, it takes a little time...and I can afford to wait a little to make sure that what I'm asking them to do gets done in happy mode, as opposed to right now no matter what.

For example, I've learned that it can take a 6 year old 30 minutes to get dressed when it should only take 5...
But when I observed my daughter's process, I realized that she wasn't being slow out of spite. She actually was taking the extra time because she was motivated. She wanted to figure out the best outfit and piece it together just right. She wanted to make sure her socks were pulled up around her ankles just the right way so as not to bother her, and to make certain that her button down shirt was buttoned correctly. Everything had to match. There had to be pink in every piece of garment. And as frustrating as it was for me to wait for the process to unfold, when she finally unveiled her outfit, it dawned on me that I should just go right ahead and schedule in those extra 30 minutes every time I know she should get dressed to go out. Obviously barking orders to "hurry up" doesn't appear to work...so I may as well get with the program, right?

"Let patience have its perfect work".

Patience. I need more of it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Princess Teas and Carpe Diem

Today my daughter and I had what we call "LLIT CLUB Girly Time". It's our way of having special one one time and our acronym for "little ladies in training".

We baked Princess Tea cookies. I did the mixing and Nyomi, of course did most of the real work: mixing, measuring, pouring, rolling.

We made some Princess Punch too (a sweet little mixture of maraschino cherry juice and flavored sparkling water), complete with colored sugar rimmed punch glasses.
I'm not big on sugar in our home. We hardly keep white sugar or white, refined flours in our cabinet...but for this little treat, I decided to go out of the way.

Here's my daughter, enjoying her cookies. Just a sweetie!

And I constantly remind myself of how quickly these children grow up.

I remind myself that spending time with a child sometimes means exerting that extra energy and putting your best foot forward even when you don't feel like it.

It means planning ahead by shopping for extra ingredients and planning to devote some real time to those time-consuming projects...all just to bring a smile on that face and see her face lit up with joy when she's spent some quality time with mom.

I've also had to learn that just because I'm a stay at home mommy, I don't necessarily "make" time for my kiddos the way I think I automatically do by being at home. Making time doesn't mean just being there. It means working on things together, playing together, laughing together, living together, "being" together. And you can't do any of those things if you're not having fun, and if you don't plan for the fun.

So I've determined that in my journey of natural mothering...I'm going to have lots of fun and enjoy being with my kids - even with a messy house! I won't let dirty dishes keep me from playing a family game...
Not anymore. It's so not worth it.

I've determined that as organized as I wish to be and as dust free as I want my house to be, I want to make memories with my kids even more.

So I've had to weigh my options and let some things go.

The day will come when my house can be immaculately clean. The day will also come when my children will be grown and out of my house.

Carpe diem.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A remarkably fun day with the girls!

Today was a load of fun!!!

For once in a really long time, I got to just simply lay back and ENJOY being with them.

We started our day off with breakfast, bible stories from the old and new testament, and a quick math page from our Alpha Omega curriculum. We quickly got dressed, loaded the car, and headed out to find out about enrollment in a Mom’s Morning Out program here in town. I immediately liked it..my baby girl seemed to want to get in there and start playing right away…so I knew we had a match. Plus…I loved how relaxed all the kids seemed and they got plenty of attention from the two teachers.

From there…we headed to a local book store to look at some homeschool curriculum and help books…and from there, to a surprise visit to an art ceramics studio called All Fired Up. My oldest daughter made a beautiful cross with pokadots and “Jesus” painted across the top. I can’t wait for them to fire it up and make it all shiny and ready for us to pick up next week. She had a BLAST!!!!!!!!!!

Then we looked around at some consignment boutique stores at baby clothes for my BabyZ. A little pricey, but to be expected…after all, it’s boutique.

Then a quick trip to Heritage House coffee shop for hot chocolate and cinnamon buns…plus some “girly” talk with my 6 year old. She was beaming from ear to ear when we left. I’ve missed that smile. Glad to see it back.

Next stop:Movie Gallery. We rented Kit Kettridge. She’s already seen this in the theaters, but just HAD to have it again. Ny is totally into American Girls and has read all of the Kit Kettridge series.

Last stop: home.

While BabyZ took her morning nap, I set NyGirl out to finish her handwriting practice and a worksheet on verbs. Then I headed to my laptop and finished up my article on dance for a local paper. Sent it in and called the editor. I’m just waiting for a reply and meanwhile…working on a game plan for mapping out my next writing move…fun, fun!

And now…

Well, now I need to quit blogging and go plop in front of the t.v. with my daughter to watch Kit Kettridge!
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