Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Rest of the Trip

We ended our beach trip guessed it...another trip to the beach.  We keep life jackets on the kids whenever we are at the ocean.  While we still watch them like hawks, it is an extra safety precaution that helps us relax a little bit more.  

We got rained out after a few hours (as we knew we would) and then we hit up the aquarium.  This one was smaller than the one in Wilmington, but still enjoyable.  Of course Phoenix went crazy over the sting ray petting tank.  There was a smallish shark in there as well, which is what he is petting in the picture below.  I had to roll his short sleeves up eventually.  

I am pretty sure that he would have gotten in if he was allowed to.  

Every good beach trip ends with a nap for Phoenix on the ride home.  I am glad he still does this!  

The Nina and the Pinta

In 1492 Columbus made the first of four trips to the Caribbean on three Spanish ships, named the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria... (it is a song we learned in CC this year).  When I heard that the replicas of the Nina and the Pinta were only a few short hours away from us, I had to bring the kids to see them!  How cool is it to get aboard the Nina?  

I was surprised to see that they were black, but I learned that they covered the wood with black tar to protect it and make it last...makes total sense!  The ships were tiny!!!  I was shocked with the size considering the journey that they made.  We were only allowed to go on the deck, not underneath.  Why?  Because the crew LIVES under the deck!  They sail they ships to different ports around the country.  They are looking for more crew members and another cook if any of y'all are interested.  

It was cool to see the ships, but I don't think it is something we would do again (once is enough).  I am sure that the kids will remember going on these ships though, and hopefully it will make Columbus's journey a little more real to them.  

Beach Trip

We took a quick weekend trip down to the coast last weekend.  We got there Saturday evening (thanks to the kids soccer games), and were able to hit up the beach for a bit before the sun set.  Travis told the kids that we wouldn't be swimming, so they didn't need to wear their suits.  I silently remembered my dad telling us kids the same thing, and how within minutes our clothes would be soaking wet and we would be waist deep in the waves.  Maybe our kids would be different I thought.  Wrong.  Although they did not get totally soaked.  

The sky, the water, and the sand were so beautiful!  I wish the beach was closer!

Travy-D's Birthday

Travis turned another year older wiser.  Audrey and I met up with him for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, it was especially delicious!  Travis was still full from that for dinner, so we ate light.  I made him some homemade chocolate chip brownies for his birthday treat.  

The kids love getting into birthdays, Audrey picked out a big spotlight flashlight, and Phoenix drew him a picture and spelled his name correctly on his own!!!  Both Audrey and I were so impressed.  We are so grateful to have Travis in our family, he is such a fun dad and husband, and he works so hard.  I truly admire him.  I love you babe!


We had a low-key Easter weekend.  We relaxed, watched 4 sessions of conference, worked on projects, and ate some good food.  Travis finished an oil painting of the company logo for his office, Audrey sewed 2 rag dolls and some clothes for hers (she made one doll for her and one doll for Phoenix), and I made a pencil skirt for Audrey, and then I spent two sessions working on a dress for myself that when I held up to myself in the mirror I realized with horror that the fabric was super tacky.  And I had done such a good job sewing it!  Alas, I wouldn't even let the nine year old version of myself wear it, so it was time spent improving my skills...but nothing to show for it.  Phoenix played Legos.  We had an Easter egg hunt that night, it was dark, and the pictures are blurry, but it is was it is.  

We put candy and money into our eggs.  Audrey got more eggs, but Phoenix won the jackpot ($10).  It is a fun tradition.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Post About Homeschool

I have been asked by several friends who are entering the world of homeschooling for advice in general and curriculum specifically.  I decided that a blog post may be a more efficient way to respond.  This is a rather lengthy post…you have been warned. 

Last year at this time I was overwhelmed with all of the options that homeschooling has to offer.  How was I going to choose curriculums for so many subjects that fit my teaching style and Audrey’s learning style?  I wanted the freedom to choose each subject by itself, you can buy package curriculums that include all of the subjects, but I didn’t feel like that was the best route for us.  I asked all my homeschooling friends for advice on what has worked for them.  One of my friends recommended the book, The Well-Trained Mind.  I rented it from the library, and read it immediately.  I only focused on the sections for elementary school.  I took notes as I read and at the end I had 6 pages of notes.  I hadn’t heard much about the Classical method of schooling before this, but when I read the book, I knew that this was exactly what I needed.  It spelled everything out for me, several curriculum choices for each subject, schedule suggestions, and the whole concept of Classical education. 

One of my biggest issues with the public schools here was Common Core.  I felt like the assignments were sometimes ridiculous, and obscure.  I hated the focus on quantity of writing, rather than quality.  Audrey would have a whole page written out, full of spelling and grammatical errors, with no corrections on it.  Her math assignments were abstract to say the least.  I wanted her to have a good foundation to build the rest of her education off of, and she was NOT getting that in the public school. 

Here is what we used this year for curriculum:

MathMath-U-See, both Audrey and I have loved this program.  It is easy for the parent because you watch the 3-5 minute lesson with child (about once a week), you get a refresher on the concept, and I learned quite a few new math tricks.  The teacher explains everything in a clear way, and there are no frills or distractions.  I have been amazed with Audrey’s progress in math this year. 

GrammarFirst Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, this was written by one of the co-authors of The Well Trained Mind.  I have always thought of Grammar as a dull subject, but Grammar is one of Audrey’s favorite subjects!  This curriculum has given Audrey solid, old-fashioned (in a good way) grammar skills.  I started her off in 2nd grade grammar and writing because her skills were so weak.  She is now a good way through the third grade level.  One of the things that they have the students work on is memorization.  Audrey has memorized quite a few lengthy poems this year, a skill that I never knew she had! 

WritingWriting With Ease – this was also written by one of the authors of The Well-Trained Mind.  Basically you/your child reads an excerpt of a classic story, and then writes a summary, does some copy work, and diction.  I am passionate about classic literature, so this was a great fit for me as a parent.  Audrey has greatly improved her summarizing skills this year. 

Spelling-  Audrey is literally the worst speller that I have ever seen.  The poor child has no natural sense of how to spell words, it is almost humorous.  I spoke with her teacher last year about it, and her teacher gently said “some kids have it, and some kids don’t”.  I accept that she is to opposite of a natural speller, but I absolutely think that she can improve her spelling skills!  All About Spelling is the best thing that have ever happened to spelling challenged kids.  It breaks down all of the English rules for spelling words.  I have learned SO much!  This program is the only hope that Audrey will ever have to improve her spelling.  She still struggles with it, especially if she is writing a long letter to someone, but she has improved SO much during the year!  I started her off in first grade spelling, we did one lesson per day, and now she is almost done with third grade spelling.  This is one that if you want to start, you should start from the beginning (level 1), each level builds on the last.  If your kid is a natural speller, there are plenty of other spelling programs out there that would be great.   If your kid struggles with spelling like Audrey, this is your answer!

History – We tried Story of the World, and while I enjoyed it, it was over Audrey’s comprehension.  Too many strange names and weird words, it just did not hold her concentration.  I would revisit SotW in Middle School I think.  What we have switched to is more Unit Studies.  For example, we had planned a trip to Biltmore, so we did a month of reading, research, and projects on the Vanderbilt family, and Biltmore itself.  It set the foundation for Audrey to be completely fascinated with Biltmore, she fully appreciated it, and so did I!  I love researching, and I love history.  Right now we are doing a unit study on Williamsburg, we listened to all of the Felicity American Girl Doll books, and we are reading books from the local library about the history of Williamsburg, and what life was like back in the 1770s.  We are planning a trip to Williamsburg sometime in the near future. 

Reading—Audrey did not like reading, in fact, it was the worst chore you could ask her to do.  My goal for this year was for her to develop a love for reading.  After reading books of her choice, at or slightly above her reading level, for half an hour every day, for the whole school year, she is finally showing signs of being interested in what she is reading!  I did not choose a specific reading program for her, because I felt like just putting a book in her hands was the best route for this year.  The makers of All About Spelling have a reading curriculum called All About Reading, I may purchase that for Phoenix next year because I have been so impressed with their spelling program. 

Science – We have also approached this with more of a unit studies approach.  I usually switch off between science and history, so one month we focus on history, and the next science.  We are planning a trip to Idaho this summer, so when Phoenix ends Kindergarten we will start a unit study on Yellowstone.  I really like to study something, and then go experience it, and the kids have loved doing that also.  I did try a science book at the beginning of the year, it was one of the ones recommended in TWTM, but it wasn’t a great fit. 

Handwriting—Both Audrey and I have wanted her to learn cursive, and a few moms recommended Handwriting Without Tears.  I bought one for Audrey, and a beginner one for Phoenix.  I really love both of them!  I always wondered why my kids wrote floating in between two lines, but it is because they never learned how to properly write their letters!  I am actually considering purchasing the beginner books for Audrey also so that she can learn the proper way to write letters.

One of my friends was also starting homeschooling last year, and she was also doing the classical method.  She told me about Classical Conversations, a homeschool group that gets together once a week for a 24 week cycle.  They go over math, grammar, science, art, music, geography, and Latin every day.  I instantly knew that I wanted to be a part of this!  We joined CC, and I literally knew next to nothing about it.  It does cost roughly about $500 per year (for the elementary age).  Both Audrey and I looked forward to our CC day, it was kind of a day off for her, and a day off for me!  The moms are expected to stay in the class with their kids (unless they are a tutor).  I have made a few good friends, and it is so refreshing to talk to other like-minded people.  Audrey gets the classroom experience, without all of the bad stuff in public schools.  Every week each kid can do a presentation, so they get a lot of oral speaking experience as well.  They also have spirit days (crazy hair day, pj day, dress as your favorite historical character day).  We have gone on several really good field trips with our group.  I always say that CC fills in all of the gaps of homeschool.  There is a book of stuff the kids are supposed to learn each week, so if you wanted, you could use solely the stuff from CC for history, science, and Latin.  CC may not be the answer for everyone, and it may not be available in all areas, but for us it has been a great addition to our homeschooling. 

We belong to 3 homeschool groups; CC, our local town homeschoolers, and the LDS homeschoolers in the area.  Our area is incredibly homeschool friendly.  There are SO many people here that homeschool!  Because the public schools do year-round school here, there are always camps offered all throughout the year.  I have put Audrey in a week long gymnastics camp, and an ice-skating camp this year.  I signed both her and Phoenix up for a week of gymnastics camp in August.  It is so nice for both Audrey and I to have occasional weeks off!  I sewed SO many projects during my last week off, and it was awesome!  Audrey is also part of a homeschool theater group.  Your commitment only lasts for about 3 months, so I figure that I will have the kids do about one play per year.  I am going to sign both Audrey and Phoenix up for art classes once a week next year.  Art is one subject that I did not excel in this year, so we are going to hire that out. 

Homeschooling has been an awesome experience for us so far.  I am not trying to convert anybody to it, it certainly is not for everyone, but it has truly blessed our family.  I feel confident that Audrey is getting a solid education, and she is protected from so many things because she stays at home.  She has been able to be more social this year, because we have so much free time.  I also feel like my kids will be well-rounded because of homeschool.  We can travel both for fun and for educational purposes, the kids will have time to do many activities, and most importantly, they have time to play and be kids!  I have been homeschooling Phoenix on his track outs, and he has done so well with it!  He will finish Kindergarten, and then he will start homeschooling.  All of us are so excited for him to be home during the day.  

Friday, April 3, 2015

Chicago Summed Up

The main reason that Audrey has always wanted to go to Chicago is so that she can see The Bean.  Kinda funny...but its true.  We hit this up on Monday morning, and we can officially check The Bean off the list.  

We had a fantastic trip to Chicago!  The kids got the full city experience, which is exactly what I hoped for.  We rode on the train, in buses, and in a taxi.  We also walked to some locations.  On the last day we saw several "crazy people".  We ate amazing food: CPOG, Lou Malnati's, Palermos, Paris Club, Sprinkles, and my personal favorite, Firehouse Donuts.  Best. Donut. Ever.  It was so fun to see my sisters, we were only missing Joanna.  Leah was a wonderful host, her apartment was so nice, and we were never in want for anything!  

We rode the train to the airport, and Jess noticed that I forgot both booster seats.  Oops!  Luckily, Travis bought a replacement one for Audrey before we got back, and Phoenix has his 5 point harness.  Trav picked us up from the airport, but he had some work to finish at the office, so I drove the kids home.  When we got back, both kids went over to our couch and cried their little eyes out for a solid 30 minutes.  I asked them why they were crying and Phoenix said, "I just miss them so much!" and Audrey said, "Me too!".  Those little cuties!  It warms my heart that they have such close relationships with all of my sisters.  Travis tried to cheer them up when he got home but he was unsuccessful.  He asked them how Teddy was, and that brought on a new wave of tears.  This trip was everything I hoped it would be, and more.  

Some more cute pictures...

Jessica joined us early on Saturday morning, and she spent the rest of the weekend there.  The kids were sad when I told them that Alexis wasn't coming...but when Audrey and Phoenix were two, I sure as heck didn't bring them on trips like this!  

Phoenix was a dog named Freddy Bear.  I think Teddy was happy for the company.  

We went to Sprinkles Cupcakes.  It was my first time!  They were very good, what I liked about them is that they tasted homemade, like something that came out of my Mom's oven.  Teddy got his own cupcake, and he loved it!!

On Saturday we took it easy.  We watched a movie in Leah's apartment complex movie theater, Clifford, it never gets old.  We ate a delicious dinner at a french restaurant called Paris Club.  The highlight for me was the chocolate mousse was SO amazing, and this is coming from a girl who isn't a chocoholic!  

On Sunday we went to my Aunt June and Uncle Steve's house.  The kids were super excited to go, and this was one of their favorite things!  My aunt and uncle are two of the funniest and kindest people you will ever meet.  We got there at 3 and didn't leave until 11:30 pm!  We had a great time, and we ate delicious food.  My Uncle Steve made the best pecan pie I have ever tasted, he said it was Grandma's recipe.  

Museum of Science and Industry

I had never been to this museum before.  It. Was. Huge!  So big that we barely made a dent in all that it had to offer.  We went here the day after The Field Museum, and both Leah and I were feeling pretty exhausted.  There was an actual submarine from World War II.  We learned the story of it, saw pictures of the capture crew, and the POW's.  ( it was a German submarine that was captured by the US, but the Germans thought it was destroyed).  

There was this submarine simulator that showed how it was for a submarine to go down.  A lot of resistance at first, and then it drops like a bullet.  The kids could control it, which was awesome.  

Michelle told us to make sure that we saw the baby chicks hatching...the kids loved it!!

There was this mini model of Chicago, the tall building in this picture is where Leah works.  Pretty cool!  

We got into both museums for free with our Marbles membership (we paid a little extra for a membership that would be nationwide).  We saved at least $150 between both museums!  This museum was really crowded, we went on a Friday at around midday.  There were field trip groups galore, but also a ton of families.  We took a break and bought some french fries and we must have been starving because I am still thinking about how good they were dipped in the ketchup!  It would be fun to hit this museum up again without the crowds and with more energy.  

Cute Pictures

Here are a few cute pictures...

Yummy Oberweiss chocolate milk!!