April Snowflakes

One way to cope with April snowflakes is poetry. So here’s a little poem I wrote a few years ago for “Poetry Day” in our homeschool.

Winter’s Last Kiss

Winter came back for a kiss good-bye,
Tossing snowflakes in the April sky.
‘Oh my, oh my!’ little children cry!
‘No, not again,’ frowning grown-ups sigh.

But the joyful birds – steadfast to sing,
Tweet, chirp and trill – such sweet songs they bring.
Robin, finch, and blackbird with red wing,
Add voice to the glad chorus of spring.

Let’s send off showers of April snow,
Thankful for a cup of hot cocoa.
Farewell, winter! Far away you go!
Green grass, green leaves – come and grow, grow, grow!

Fly, Butterfly, Fly!

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When the little package arrived in the mailbox that sunny afternoon in May, I was not sure what to expect inside. My two daughters were busy playing in the backyard, so I was alone when I cut open the cardboard box and found the five tiny caterpillars inside a little cup. It was just what I had ordered. The cup had a thick layer of gooey brown food on the bottom and a nice tight lid on top. This project was to be the highlight of our homeschool unit on butterflies, but I secretly feared these caterpillars were dead upon arrival. I could not detect any movement whatsoever.

Continue reading over here at The End in Mind.

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A Hard Road Paved with Grace

At a crossroads. That’s where our homeschool journey began. By God’s grace, we felt peace that the public school path was not an option for our soon-to-be Kindergartner. But still two paths remained: private school and homeschool.

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The private school option seemed like the most obvious route, especially since our oldest daughter was already attending preschool at the local private Christian school and enjoying it.

Click here to continue reading “A Hard Road Paved with Grace” over at The End in Mind.

Rain Boots and Books for Summer

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Remember that rain song in the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh? You know the one during which Piglet’s house floods and he gets swept away?

And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down

in rushing, rising rivulets,

Till the river crept out of its bed

and crept right into Piglet’s.

That’s our theme song this spring. Forget the sandals and shorts. Our wardrobe has shifted from winter coats and snow boots to rain jackets and rain boots.

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The flowers love the showers, and my little girls sure love the puddles. Somehow rain boots make you brave in a splashy sort of way.

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A big sister’s steady hand also helps encourage a daring little adventurer across the rocks. I won’t mention who got wet this time.

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The last day of school is Friday, and that will wrap up our sixth year of homeschooling! I love getting to share the many adventures of daily life with these two precious girls, and we are all in a hurry to shift into a slower speed for the next few months.

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Bring on summer! I am looking forward to spending more time outdoors, especially on the lake, and I am also looking forward to relaxing with some great children’s books. If all this rain keeps up, we will have plenty of time for snuggling up on the couch with our books.

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Here’s what’s on our homeschool list for summer read-alouds:

  • Hitty – Her First 100 Years by Rachel Field: We already started this chapter book about a delightful wooden doll who writes about her own exciting adventures. I am surprised already by the non-stop action in this story, which was the winner of the 1929 Newbery Medal.
  • The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars: As a devoted fan of E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan and a huge fan of Trumpeter swans themselves, I am eager to read this compelling story that received the Newbery Medal in 1970, although I haven’t yet figured out how swans figure into this tale about a 14-year-old girl and a younger brother who is missing.
  • Old Yeller by Fred Gipson: Maybe you watched the movie in elementary school, too? I don’t remember if I ever read the book, but I do remember this story about a boy and his dog is a tear-jerker. I tend to confuse it with Wilson Rawl’s Where the Red Fern Grows, so I hope reading Old Yeller will help me distinguish the two. Published in 1956, Old Yeller is a Newbery Honor Book.
  • Abel’s Island by William Steig: This is another Newbery Honor Book, and it tells the story of a mouse who is swept away from his wife in a rainstorm and must learn to survive alone in the wild. Steig is also the author of Brave Irene, a fantastic picture book about a girl fighting a snowstorm.
  • The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson: This story is about an old hobo and the friendship and adventures he shares with a group of children. Published in 1958, it is also a Newbery Honor Book with delightful pictures by Garth Williams, illustrator of the Little House series and many, many other classics in children’s literature.

 

Of course, if the weather turns out really lovely this summer, a few of these books might get bumped to fall. Flexibility is this homeschool mom’s favorite tool.

What’s on your reading list this summer?

Winter’s Last Kiss

It’s “Poetry Day” in our homeschool, and it is snowing. Again. In April.

So here’s the poem I wrote after sipping what I hope will be my last cup of hot cocoa for a long while.

Winter’s Last Kiss

Winter came back for a kiss good-bye,
Tossing snowflakes in the April sky.
‘Oh my, oh my!’ little children cry!
‘No, not again,’ frowning grown-ups sigh.

But the joyful birds – steadfast to sing,
Tweet, chirp and trill – such sweet songs they bring.
Robin, finch, and blackbird with red wing,
Add voice to the glad chorus of spring.

Let’s send off showers of April snow,
Thankful for a cup of hot cocoa.
Farewell, winter! Far away you go!
Green grass, green leaves – come and grow, grow, grow!

8 Tips for a Great Kindergarten

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Homeschooling Kindergarten is so much fun. And while both my Kindergarteners seem to have run off to higher grades in a blink, many of my friends are making plans to teach 5 and 6 year olds at home next fall. So here’s my two cents on Kindergarten.

1. A little structure with curriculum was helpful for me the first year of homeschooling, mostly because I didn’t have a teaching degree and didn’t feel super-confident. But don’t feel compelled to buy/use lots of curriculum for this age group. You can do wonders with a library card and a little creativity.

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2. Read-aloud, read-aloud, read-aloud. Reading lots and lots of picture books (and a storybook Bible and maybe a few chapter books) out loud is most essential. Listening to written word read is a vital part of literacy. This is where the library card comes in handy. Check out audio books in the children’s section, too. These are great for car rides, younger sibling’s nap times, or times when Mom is busy elsewhere. This post about reading includes various lists of children’s books you might want to put on reserve at the library.

3. Emphasize reading not handwriting, and don’t complicate letter names and sounds with pictures of apples, bananas and cats. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is an excellent curriculum that avoids the unnecessary “B is for Banana” work. Instead, you point to the letter and say only the sound. A very dear friend/elementary school teacher used it with her children, and that’s how I first heard about this book. It worked really, really well with both my girls. We waited to start it when they were nearly 5. There’s a tad bit of handwriting included in those lessons as well; I consider that part very optional, especially at first and especially with boys. I’d suggest just doing the 10-15 minute reading lesson part and then take a break.

4. If you want to teach handwriting, too, do it at a separate time for 5-10 minutes and don’t rely on pencil and paper only. Hands-on learners seem to like to do letter handwriting lessons on Mom’s back or in a tray of salt or with finger paint or play-dough. Have fun with that; there’s plenty of time for pencil and paper later. Also, lacing cards and writing with chalk are other fun ways to work on strengthening fine motor skills for pencil-holding.

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5. Do teach math. For my youngest’s Kindergarten year, we used “RightStart Math Level A.” (We’ve also used RightStart curriculum with my oldest since 1st grade and love it. Check out http://www.alabacus.com for samples and more details.) What I like best is that it is Montessori-style teaching, so it comes with lots of manipulatives and fun math games and visual reinforcements like the AL Abacus. It is really light on worksheets, which I think is wise, and it de-emphasizes counting. It stresses the importance of mental math and thinking through math problems, rather than just memorizing math facts. I personally have totally re-learned how I do math with this curriculum!

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6. Go outside! Aside from reading together, almost nothing is more wonderfully memorable than time spent enjoying God’s creation with your children. Soak up the sunshine, smell the flowers and learn their names, discover what little creatures are living nearby — what they eat and where they make their homes. This is science!

7. If you do purchase a boxed curriculum like My Father’s World or Sonlight, don’t let it consume you. You are the parent and the curriculum writers are simply giving ideas. You have excellent, creative ideas, too, and you are the world’s leading expert in what your Kindergartener knows and likes and needs to learn. Don’t become a slave to any curriculum.

8. Stay flexible. Don’t feel like what you do the first year sets things in stone. As you go along, you can always change it up or combine styles or switch out what isn’t a good fit for your child’s learning style or your teaching style. Flexibility is one of the huge benefits of homeschooling.

Hitting the Books

It’s been a long, hot summer but now we are hitting the school books again! During our break, we read aloud one of my favorite chapter books: Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. By the way, Rawls is also the author of the tear-jerker Where the Red Fern Grows. Anyway, Summer of the Monkeys partly inspired the sock monkey theme we have going in the school room this fall.

Our bubbly first-grader named her newest monkey Gris.

And our dilligent fourth-grader named her newest monkey Marron.

The sock monkeys and books aren’t all that’s new to the classroom this year. The biggest addition is a couple of used school desks (with storage under the lid!) that I bought from a nearby Christian school that had closed. The girls are quite enamored with these desks, and I love that they are exceptionally durable and adjustable in height.

So that’s a quick update of what’s shaping up around here. I might be back in a few days to discuss some of the books and various curriculum we are using this year. But for now, please excuse me. I have some reading assignments waiting!