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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I have a secret... (told in memes)

I have a secret.

But- it has to come out at some point, so here it goes:

My eldest son attends school outside of our home.

GASP!

It all started a few weeks ago....

We were in the car going to the grocery store. My middle son, Harrison, said, "Mom? I think I wanna go to school."

Although this is not exactly how the conversation happened, this is how I can best sum it up:


I was shocked. However, I was supportive. My eldest, Carter, laughed at the idea of going to school and told Harrison a sarcastic, "Good luck!" and we went about our errands.

While we shopped I thought hard about what Harrison said. We discussed reasons for why he might want to go to school, and I listened carefully.

I talked to my husband that night and we agreed that it would be a good idea for us to check out the local schools. We talked for something like five hours. It was a late night, but worth it. We discussed a lot: our own immediate reactions, our first thoughts, the best timing for the kids, the various pros and cons, the changes in our lives, etc. After those five hours, we agreed it was best to look into the schools before we thought or discussed further.

(Even though I am the one who did the homeschooling, 
Kurt was a very large part of the process!)

The next morning I visited two local schools (and by local, I mean both within 3 blocks). Both schools were excellent, but I felt one of the schools would be a better "fit" if Harrison did indeed end up going to school. There was a lot that went into that decision, but I will spare you. I went home and discussed my take-aways with my husband, and we talked a few hours, and then decided the next step was to show Harrison the school.



My husband went to work, and I took the children to the school for a tour. Harrison bounced from room to room, excited by the happy faces, bright colors, and all of the neat things he saw. Carter walked more slowly. He wandered the rooms, hands tucked in his jacket pockets, analyzing things without saying much. The kids toured the music room, gym, lunchroom, 1st/2nd grade room, 1st grade room (the classes are combined, but 1st and 2nd graders are separate in the mornings), and offices. The principal of the school was wonderful, and answered Harrison's questions and told him what to expect if he decided to attend school.

At the end of the tour, Harrison told her he wanted to come. She said she would talk to the teachers, staff, and Priests and get back with us. We were about to leave when Carter said, "Where is my class?"

I felt a little like this:


After years of Carter insisting he wanted to homeschool, Carter wanted to attend school.

I was floored.

The principal was shocked as well, but did not skip a beat. She showed him the 3rd/4th grade class, and introduced him to the teacher. She answered his only question, "When do we start?"

I filled out paperwork and picked up uniforms the next day.

They changed their minds about fifteen dozen times over the weekend.

The kids started a trial on Monday. The school was so wonderful, and very supportive. We all agreed a trial was best. We woke up, everyone had breakfast together, and the boys showered and dressed in their uniforms. The boys went to school. I picked them up at the end of the day and they both expressed how much they enjoyed it! Their reasons varied, but the outcome was the same: school was great!

The evening was a bit more difficult. The kids couldn't wrap their minds around the concept of homework. "I was at school all day, and now I have to do more schoolwork at home?!? WHY?!" Kurt and I assured them it was a normal part of school, and we helped them complete their assignments. That evening, Harrison came to us and said he changed his mind and wanted to continue homeschooling. Carter changed his mind a few times as well- but he flip flopped both ways. They both agreed to try another day.



The next day Harrison told everyone he would not be attending any longer. He said his goodbyes. Carter asked to continue attending school.

It has been a few weeks, and Harrison is here (to my right, practicing the piano) and Carter is at school. It has been a difficult adjustment for everyone- from our patriarch to our toddler- not a single one of us goes untouched by this change. However, the fact that there are only six more weeks until the "end of the school year" made this a much easier decision! I am very thankful this came up when it did so they could get a taste of school without any large commitments. During this time both boys have had daily discussions about what they felt were the best parts of their day. 


Both seem to be settling into the fact that homeschool seems a great "fit" for Harrison...


While school seems a good "fit" for Carter....




I do not know what we will be doing this fall, but I know we will continue to homeschool during the summer, and Carter will be included in the lessons. Beyond summer will take more thought and discussion, and we will continue to allow the kids to offer their thoughts and input. 

I feel the need to express: We believe that homeschooling is an excellent academic opportunity. We also believe this particular school offers an excellent academic opportunity. There are positives and negatives with both options, so for our family, in this situation, at this time, we allowed the children a large "say" in the process. If we believed there was a "best" decision, my husband and I would make the decision- but as we see it, there are two wonderful academic opportunities, and we allowed the children to individually choose the one they felt was right for them. We are so fortunate not to have to choose a "lesser of two evils" but instead have a "best of two greats!"
Carter was welcomed in the school newsletter!

Carter walks to school. The school is just around the corner and a block down. Loves the walk!

Carter and Harrison play on the school playground (yes, that is a castle- it even has a bridge!) after school.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Vacation!!! (part 1)

Disney and Hogwarts trip with my parents! It was SO MUCH FUN! I mean, CRAZY amounts of fun! Seriously fun-tastic! Truly! AWESOME! Here is the beginning of our trip! We flew down and joined my parents in Orlando! (As with other trips, I dressed the boys in identical clothing, to help identify them should we become separated. This trick has helped me numerous times, when one would wander off a bit further than the rest of us, and would help me be able to accurately describe clothing in the event of an emergency- as I have a copy of the clothing on my other son!)


The boys were ready to fly!!! The fear on Harrison's face? He didn't want to have to put away his electronics! LOL!


Seraphina's first time in a stroller! (She liked it more each day!)


They loved riding the "subway" in the Atlanta airport!


Dinner with Grandpa and Grandma!!!! We ate at Uno's! They had gluten-free pizzas! Yum!

We had plans to visit Disney's Hollywood Studios the next day. Seraphina wanted to go extra early, she just wouldn't sleep!!!


In the morning, we were at Disney's Hollywood Studios right when it opened. My parents pulled into some great rock-star parking, and we walked to the park! I had read blogs and talked to other people who had visited the parks, and we decided to hit all the rides first and do the shows second. The boys and I headed to the Tower of Terror while my parents (bless them!!!) went with Fina and picked up Fastpasses to the Buzz and Woody ride (the most popular ride at any of the Disney parks right now).

Carter was very afraid of this ride, but thinking of how his cousin rode it made him find courage! It was a lot of fun!

Harrison, Grandpa, and I rode the roller-coaster next, and then my parents took the boys on Star Tours!


(Carter took this picture, and the one following)

We then headed over to Pizza Planet to celebrate Harrison's birthday!!! The Disney cast members were so awesome! They had given Harrison a birthday button, and everyone who saw him wished him a happy birthday! They gave Carter a button too, so he wouldn't feel left out! Seraphina got a birthday button as well (for her actual birthday, lol)! Pizza Planet was excellent, and the manager came out and worked with us to be sure that our meal would be gluten free! Harrison has been asking for a birthday party at Pizza Planet ever since he first saw the Toy Story movie. He adores Buzz Lightyear, and this was his dream come true!!!







Monday, August 26, 2013

Time4Learning

When we moved to Iowa, the laws (at the time) stated that I needed to have a supervising teacher oversee our homeschool progress or I needed to subject my children to standardized testing. I decided to go with a supervising teacher, and happily I was connected to a teacher who used the Portfolio Evaluation method, rather than monthly check-ins. I knew that homeschooling was a good fit for my family, I knew that the laws regarding what I needed to complete were in place, and I knew I had my ducks in a row, but trying to put it all together seemed like it would be a mess.

Insert Time4Learning!

Carter started Time4Learning at the beginning of 2nd grade. Carter loved it right away! After a few months, our homeschooled kindergartner, Harrison, asked to "play" Time4Learning too! We have now used it for over a year and we hands-down LOVE it. Here is why:

The (not-so) basics:

Time4Learning offers the fullest Language Arts curriculum I have seen in one location. This one program offers reading, phonics, vocabulary, grammar, writing, and more all themed and put together in an order that flows and makes sense. The programs I had used through other sites, other purchased curricula, or created myself, did not have the complete package that Time4Learning provides. Language Arts is not just a simple grouping of lessons students get to "click through," or can tune-out, but is an interactive and engaging set of lessons, complete with fun characters and themes! There are even separate Language Arts Extensions that go beyond the already thorough work offered in the program, giving students access to an even greater amount of learning!

Science, Social Studies, Math? Oh yeah! Time4Learning offers those too! The math offered by Time4Learning is not a series of memorized digits or formulas, but is presented with logic and practical application in mind. The Science and Social Studies subjects have fun, animated themes, and printable worksheets to enhance lessons.

As the parent, I get access to spelling lists, lesson plans, grades, and time logs, all with the click of a mouse. I can see what the kids have been working on, for how long they have been working, and their mastery level! This made the Iowa portfolio such a breeze! All I had to do was selected which reports I wanted, and click print! **We had other things in our portfolio, but the easiest part was the Time4Learning sections!

We get instant access to multiple grade-levels. With a single click, my 2nd grader was able to access 1st grade or 3rd grade work. Excellent for a chance to offer more of a challenge, or to review a sticky concept at a simpler level. So handy! Time4Learning also allows me to set the grade levels of subjects individually, so when a child finishes a given subject before the others, he is able to go up in that subject and continue to be challenged without changing the level of the other subjects. Time4Learning also allows me to change overall grade level if I want, anytime I want- no waiting for a new school year! Harrison started first grade this past winter!

One of the characters is named Harrison.... he is a harry purple puppet. This is just plain cool, and anytime Harry Harrison comes on the screen and his theme song plays, it is a guarantee both of my boys are singing at the top of their lungs, and paying attention! **There are a great deal of characters, and they change with grade level, so the chances of a child finding a favorite are pretty darn good!

There is a lot of flexibility. I need flexibility, and so do my kids. One of my sons loves workbooks and worksheets, and the other hates them. One of my sons loves to color and draw, the other would rather gag. Time4Learning allows us access to printable materials that can be cut, pasted, colored, and completed, but is also set up to allow these to be an *option* for kids who don't need or care for them. One of my children has nearly every worksheet printed and completed, and one of my children hardly ever completes worksheets (unless we are using them to reinforce a lesson or concept). This allows us a great amount of flexibility within the program, and makes it easy to tailor the curriculum to fit each child's learning style.

The price cannot be beat. At just $19.95 per month (with $5 off for additional students), this program is priced right! This program does not require any additional purchases, have hidden fees, or contracts. For less than $20 a month, I have access to full curriculums from pre-K to 8th grade, my records are all kept for me, and grades are completed for me as well. SPECTACULAR DEAL. (High School is $30 per month, for those with students who are ready for 9-12 grade work!)

I am very happy with Time4Learning, and it will continue to be in our homeschool for years to come!

As a member of Time4Learning, I have been given the opportunity to review their program and share my experiences. While I was compensated, this review was not written or edited by Time4Learning and my opinion is entirely my own. For more information, check out their standards-based curriculum or learn how to write your own curriculum review.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Carter's Baptism!


Carter has been attending Primary for nearly 7 years now. He has learned a great deal, and has prayerfully studied about Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and has decided to become a member of 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 

Carter's baptism is this Wednesday! He is so excited! We snapped a few pictures to use on our online invitations! 

I get a lot of questions regarding our beliefs, so I thought I would post the 13 Articles of Faith here:

13 Articles of Faith

  1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
  2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
  3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
  4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
  6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
  7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
  8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
  9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
  10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
  11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
  12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
  13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer Favorites

As summer is coming to an end, I decided to make a list of our favorite things of Summer 2013!


Movies

Yeah, we totally watched movies! We would pop some popcorn, huddle together, and enjoy a good flick! We watched some old favorites (Wizard of Oz, anyone?) and tried some new ones too (3 Little Pigs and a Baby... yeah, it wasn't my turn to pick, okay?). We would generally watch a movie during one of Seraphina's nap times. (It was a way to guarantee the boys would stay quiet, shhhh, don't tell them- they thought it was a reward for good behavior! I look at it as a win/win.) We would often play a game while a movie was playing too. Qwirkle Cubes is still our family favorite!





The Library

We love libraries! Moving here I was a bit skeptical of the library because of its small size. However, I have to give a shout-out to our local library! We have lived in a lot of different cities. Consequently, we have been members of many different libraries! I have to say, hands-down, this is the best summer reading program I have ever experienced. The library tracked the number of books or chapters read, gave bonus credits to kids who would "check in" with the library every week, and offered prizes based on amount read, in addition to random drawings! The last day of the reading program was celebrated with a library party! K'NEX, Legos, Wii games, and other fun activities were there for the kids! It was such a great way to celebrate the end of the program! 




Reading

This summer was great for reading! Yes, it helped the library had an awesome summer reading program, but mostly we did a lot of reading because... well, its sort of what we do. We love it! Carter is currently reading Harry Potter, and Harrison is choosing to read Magic Treehouse books! Seraphina has a small collection of board books, which she has near-constant access to, and she frequently picks up a book and brings it to someone! She will sit in the reader's lap, hand over the book, and happily hear a story!





Church

Our family had our own personal best attendance record for Church attendance! Here, the boys are showing off a handout they received in Primary. The boys love attending Church, and get frustrated with me if they are late! I love our Church so much, and I have loved to increase my own testimony while watching my children gain their own!





Baseball

Okay, okay, so I didn't *love* it at the time. But I am glad we did it. I am not sure if the boys will want to play next year, but a part of me hopes they do. They had a lot of fun, and it was a great chance to get involved with the community! (Kurt was an assistant coach and loved it!)





Food

Okay, okay, so this is a pretty silly picture to use as our example of food, but I couldn't resist- she is too cute! We love summer's fresh fruits and veggies, and we adore grilling out and picnics!




The Pace

There is something about summer that makes us want to slow down and take it easy. We are so fortunate to be able to have a lifestyle that allows us to have this most of the year (but even more so during the summer heat)! We do not have to worry about morning rushes, commutes for the kids, trying to toss together dinner, or being a certain place by a certain time. We are free to do what we want, when we want (with a few exceptions). We really love living this way, and it makes our days sweet and enjoyable! With me home, making dinner can take hours, mornings can stretch until noon, the kids can start their days when they are ready, and we can enjoy one another's company! We start the day with a cooked breakfast together, send Daddy off to work, and then the kids and I have our day's adventures before cleaning up, making dinner, finishing the day's chores, and bedtime! It is a wonderful life!

Back to school, back to school.... oh, wait...

For most children, the start of fall offers a new school year- a chance at starting fresh! So many new adventures to be had and things to explore! Homeschooling has changed what "new school year" means for us, but I still feel the need to celebrate it and mark the occasion.

I homeschool the kids year-round. My main reasons are to keep the kids challenged, engaged, and enthusiastic about learning. I can remember taking the first summer before homeschooling off; when we started that first day the kids were thrilled! But less than a week in and we found we had whiny frustrated children. Why? Their routine was so off. I had let them embrace the summer freedom (I believe it is a good thing) but the first few weeks back were a nightmare! I can only imagine how difficult it is for classroom teachers!

The next year I homeschooled year-round. I found it worked MUCH better for our family, but I didn't do it for the reasons I do now: I had sent Carter to a brick and mortar school. I was told Carter was great, amazing, excellent, and consistently one of the top three students academically in the class (and I could see that- I volunteered in the classroom often). Academics aside, Carter had a REALLY difficult time with the class itself. Carter hated school, cried 95% of mornings, and would withdraw from his peers. Carter had assessments done by the special education staff, and all of the concerns listed were social, his academics were excellent. With a tough decision before us, we decided to give homeschooling a try.

When Carter came home to homeschool, I was floored at how much he didn't know. Carter had been in a FULL TIME kindergarten, had performed at the top level of the classroom, and did not know (because he had not been exposed) half of the materials in most kindergarten curriculum sets. When we dropped K12, I bought a curriculum for 1st grade. Carter was INSTANTLY overwhelmed with most of the subjects, so I followed the advice of more seasoned homeschoolers, prayed, and purchased a kindergarten curriculum (it felt like a defeat, but I put my pride aside and did what was best for Carter). We started from lesson one in everything. The first half of the materials was completed in less than a month- if Carter could talk about it, and teach me about it, then he could move on. I focused on mastery and stopped looking at the clock or other kids. We finished his kindergarten curriculum and then went into the first grade set I had purchased. Problem: only half of the first grade curriculum was finished by the end of the traditional school year (June)... so... what now? We decided it would be best to homeschool through the summer, finish the first grade program, and start Carter on 2nd grade materials in the fall. We took our time, enjoyed the process, and finished. Carter was now AT grade level. BAM! Goal achieved!

So, yeah, even though my reasons for continuing to homeschool all year are different (I am no longer concerned about "catching" anyone up to anything- the boys are both doing really well) we still do it. With a more relaxed pace during the summer, and our hours decreased, learning still happens freely and the routine of formal education at home still stays somewhat intact. These are good things!

Over the summer, Carter and Harrison have been reading a great deal. They participated in our local summer reading club, and Carter's fluency scores went up an average of 30 words per minute (meaning he can read aloud at a faster pace). Carter has been reading Harry Potter, and Harrison is on pace to finish his 1st grade curriculum in a few months! Harrison asked us to add Spanish lessons to his homeschool curriculum, and Carter has requested more science experiments! I love how much they love to learn!

**Bah! I just realized that I haven't been updating the boy's books on Goodreads! I will start doing that again! Sorry!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Updates


A few updates:

Kurt accepted a job!
Carter is done with baseball, and scored runs!
Harrison is learning Spanish!
Seraphina took her first steps (10 mo 2 days old)!
All the farm cats had kittens!

Things have been busy, but in a good way! Kurt accepted a position here in Iowa and we have been working on our routine. Getting in a groove can be hard when there is a big change! So, we have been taking our time, giving ourselves flexibility, and working things out one step at a time.

The pictures above were taken in Cancun a few months ago. My mother bought the boys little boards and they had an excellent time playing in the ocean with them! Just a few years and I am sure I will have little surfers!