Week Two

Second week down, and already when I ask if Anna wants to do school she says no. Hmmm, maybe I'm going about this the wrong way!... During the middle of the week I stopped saying we're doing school and instead I would start something by myself relating to school (painting, play dough, sorting blocks, reading our little Bible) and more often then not she'd wonder what I was doing and want to join. She's still only 2 so of course she doesn't want to "do school", she just wants to play! And I definitely want to encourage that. I recently read an article (I read it from Facebook and now I forget who posted it so I can't link it up) about the differences between German children and American children. I loved it, and now I want to pack my family up and move to Germany. Not really, but I am ready to be different than what I've witnessed here in America. I had a friend tell me that her son's kindergarten teacher told her that school (and she's referring to kindergarten too) is for learning, home is for fun. I'm sorry--what?! I thought learning was supposed to be fun?! Shoot, I still have fun learning! In Germany the main purpose of kindergarten is to play and socialize. Everyday children are expected to play outdoors, rain or shine. One of the main reasons we're deciding to homeschool is because we want our children to find joy in learning. We both attended public school and feel like the joy of learning was stripped from us at an early age. I went to college for education and the schools I observed, did my practicums, and student taught in most days were spent teaching to test. Most of my fellow collegemates were encouraged and wanted to change what they saw. I greatly admire them for that, however, for me, I turned the other way and knew I didn't want my own children to attend schools where testing was the priority. So homeschooling is our only option at this point. Which I love so far--granted, we're only in week 2 of pre-K, ha! Ask me again in a few years ;)

Check out what we learned this week. We're following the ABC Jesus Loves Me Two Year Old curriculum.

The Bible Theme: God Made the World Around Me, Creation Day 3
This week we continued learning about how God made the world around us. We read about God creating the land and the plants on the third day. We read from The Beginner's Bible pages 9-12. We continued our Creation Day Book by making Day 3. We glued brown and green construction paper to make trees and plants, and Anna painted the water blue. We planted poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, and cilantro seeds and talked about how plants need sun, water, air, and dirt to grow. We've been watering our plants everyday. I glued uncooked curly pasta to construction paper to look like flowers and had Anna paint on the pasta. We're continuing to recite our creation fingerplay and have added "On Day 3, God created the land and the plants". I'm realizing if it's not with music it's harder for her to remember but if it is to music girl's got it down! So everything we're learning we're putting a beat behind it.

Starting to paint her water that turned into a snake. 
On Day 3 God created land and plants--and according to Anna, snakes.
My little flower girl planting her first flowers.

Verse: Genesis 1:1-In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 
Tune: Are You Sleeping? 
Same verse as last week. I love that she's already memorized a Bible verse! 

Song: The B-I-B-L-E
When I first introduced this song I was surprised to hear her pick it up so quickly. I asked if she'd ever heard that song before and she exclaimed "yes, at church!". We sing it together before we read our Bible story.

Color: Blue
We started the week with a color walk where we looked for blue objects. Anna found blue trash dumpsters, blue letters on license plates, blue cars, and my blue shirt. Anna knows her colors really well. This week it got to the point where I'd ask her to find the color blue somewhere and she'd just say "no". Stubborn much? 

Letter B
I printed out a block letter "B" and we dipped her thumb in yellow paint to make bumblebees on the "B". After the paint dried I added wings, stripes, and stingers with marker. We talked about how bumblebee starts with the letter B. Throughout the week we looked for the letter "B" around the house and while we were out. (I failed to mention last week that the two year old curriculum doesn't focus too heavily on letters. The objective is for the child to learn to say the letters of the alphabet correctly.)

Bumblebees start with "B"!

Information: First, Middle, and Last Name
We continued reciting Anna's full name plus Mommy, Daddy, and Theo's full names. 

Self Care and Manners: Say "Please"
Anna knows "please" really well. She knows that if she whines and doesn't say "please" we won't listen to it. However, this is something she definitely still needs to work on. I'm trying to get better at saying "Anna, I will be happy to listen to you when you say "please" first and in a big girl voice." 

Number: 1
We counted to 1 on our button counting card. I love how every time I ask how many buttons there are she says "just 1". She knows the number 1, she knows how to count to 1, and she knows how to find 1 object. Bring on the number 2!

Shape: Line
We made lines, er snakes ;) out of play dough. We put Anna's wooden blocks in a line. I drew vertical lines on a piece of paper using a highlighter. On one end of the line I added a green dot and the other I added a red dot. Then Anna traced each line starting at the green dot down to the red dot (this is prewriting activity). I glued uncooked spaghetti to a piece of paper and had Anna use blue (color the week) paint to trace down the spaghetti.

Book of the Week: When the Elephant Walks by Keiko Kasza
We would read this book in the morning, before nap, and at bedtime. It was an easy book for Anna to read along (recite) since there weren't a lot of sentences. We also made an elephant mask one day using a paper plate, cardstock paper, and paint. We didn't have gray paint so I mixed blue, brown, and white. I wasn't sure if it'd come out gray but I'd say I did a pretty good job guessing!

Motor Skills: 
Fine Motor: Sorting Activity
After borrowing this sorting toy from a friend I quickly realized that Anna has already got this motor skill down. She still enjoyed it but I wanted to give her more of a challenge so I switched our activity to one I found from a friend's blog (Katie's Chasing Vowels). I love that it's super simple to set up and with items we already had around the house (pipe cleaner, beads, and paper). The child strings the appropriate amount of beads onto each pipe cleaner. It was great for counting and for fine motor skills. It turned into Anna pouring the beads into a cup and less about the counting and stringing.

Gross Motor: Jump forward
While I played music each morning Anna worked on jumping like a frog, kangaroo, and "runny babbit"--she said this one day on accident and thought it was the funniest thing so we've continued calling it that. I love how she cracks herself up because she sure cracks me up!

Two weeks down and so far we're having a great time. I love seeing how fast and how much Anna's learning. My baby girl is officially a big girl now *sigh*


School is in Session!

We officially began homeschool preschool last week. Hip Hip Hooray! We started sooner than I had initially planned. I was thinking of waiting until middle of September to really get the ball rolling. However, Travis has been super busy, and if you personally know us then you know exactly what I mean, so to pass the time I decided to go ahead and begin school the first week of August. I've been researching for a little while on the best way to begin with an almost 3 year old, what curriculum would be best, and what approach would benefit Anna the most. I can imagine all the veteran homeschool moms chuckling as they read this. I already had one chuckle from a dear friend of mine after I asked for advice on how to get started. Play, play, and more play she advised. And throw in there letters, number, shapes, and colors, and Anna will be fine. Perfect! Except for someone like me; I like a plan, direction. If I don't have either one then Anna would play with her LaLaLoopsies all.day.e'ery.day. I like seeing what others have done before me, what's worked, what hasn't. So after a few weeks researching I found a curriculum I believe will work really well for us.

As soon as I found ABC Jesus Loves Me I was sold. For one, it's free (for in-home family use)! Two, they talk about Jesus, and not just that, it's their focus, which I love. Letters, numbers, shapes, and colors are included in each week's activities and play is encouraged above all. I also liked that I didn't have to go out and buy a bunch of supplies. A lot of the activities suggested items found around the house and books we could borrow from the library. It also encouraged incorporating learning into normal activities throughout the day from singing songs in the car to counting at the grocery or finding the color of the week while out walking. We can make it as elaborate as we want or as simple as we want picking and choosing the activities we feel best suits our family. Along with simplifying our home, I'm trying to make homeschool simple as well. This curriculum allows that, for which I'm grateful.

Since this was the first week I had no idea how Anna was going to handle school. She's gone to childcare at church and the YMCA and has been a part of a dance class for 8 weeks but she's never really been in a classroom setting for an extended period of time. I told her the night before we started that the next day during Theo's morning nap we would start school where we'd read a story from the Bible, sing some songs, and do an art activity. She seemed excited so I was excited. The next day came and after I put Theo down for his nap right on schedule I asked Anna if she was ready for school. "Nah, I want to play with my 'WaWaWoopsies'" Hmm, ok. After I sat with her for about 5 minutes letting her play I directed her over to the couch and we started our story. She seemed happy at that point and so I continued. We read our story, I introduced her to a few new songs, and then we did our craft at her new school space in our kitchen. First day was a success! The next 4 days were great too. A little push back a few times but all in all we both enjoyed it and it kept us busy while Travis was gone, Theo was napping, and kept us away from the LaLaLoopsies! Plus it was sweet seeing her learn and retain so much in just a week's time. It makes me excited for what else she'll learn in the coming year!

Read on to find out what we did this week. You can find more activities on ABC Jesus Loves Me.

The Bible Theme: God Made the World Around Me, Creation Day 1 & 2
Each morning we would read from The Beginner's Bible pages 9-11 which is the story of God creating the first two days. We started our Creation Day Book by making the first two pages. The first page was God created the night and day (you can see the first page in the picture at the top). The second page was God created the sky and water. We did a fingerplay: "On day 1 (put up number 1 with finger), God created light (close fist and then quickly open in the air and bring down to side creating arches. On day 2 (put up number 2 with finger), God created the sky (wave arms in air) and water (make waves with hands)". Using a coffee filter, markers, and a spray bottle we made the earth. We colored the coffee filter together with blue and green markers and then Anna sprayed the coffee filter with water. When it was dry it looked like the earth.

Creation Day Book Day 2: Anna glued cotton balls at top of page for the sky and the water was made from shaving cream and blue paint.
Turned into painting herself, naturally. 
Coffee filter earth. She loved spraying the water!

Verse: Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Tune:  Are You Sleeping
In the beginning, (2x)
God created (2x)
The heavens and the earth (2x)
Genesis 1:1 (2x)
This ended up being one of my favorite things about this week. Anna picked up on this song super quick and I would hear her singing it by herself a room away. This is one of the reasons I love this curriculum so much because it's teaching kids bible verses through music. What a great tool to help children retain what they've learned!

Song: This Little Light of Mine
We sang all four verses ("This little light of mine", "Hide it under a bushel, No!", Don't let Satan blow it out", "Let it shine 'til Jesus comes"). Anna loved this song and can now sing all four verses by herself.

Color: Red
We began our week by taking a color walk searching for all the red items we could find along the way. Anna found cars, car lights, Theo's stroller, her shoes, and a stop sign. In the middle of the week Anna used a red crayon to color a balloon that I drew on paper. We paired this with the fine motor skill activity and had her color on a vertical surface (the refrigerator). Throughout the week we looked for the color red in our house and while we were out. Anna wore her red sparkly shoes most days and we ate red raspberries.

Letter: A
Although Anna already knows the letter "A" pretty well she's not quite ready to practice handwriting so I printed out a block letter A and we added "Animal Stickers" to it. We worked on her knowing that her name and animal starts with "A".

Information: first, middle, and last name
ABC Jesus Loves Me suggests working on saying first name in the two year old curriculum but Anna's already past that. Instead we worked on her first, middle, and last name. We also talked about Mommy, Daddy, and Theo's full names.

Self Care and Manners: sitting quietly
We worked on sitting quietly while I read our Bible story.

Number: 1
We're making number flashcards and each week we will be adding to the cards. This week we made our first card. On the flashcard I wrote the number 1 and then Anna picked out a button and glued it below the number. Each day we counted the button on the card. We also found ways to count to one throughout the days. (You can see our number flashcard in the picture at the top.)

Shape: Circle
We searched for circles around the house. We took a circle walk looking out for circles like tires and balls. We drew circles on paper albeit not perfect ;) 

Book of the Week: Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
This book is super cute. Anna really liked it and by the end of the week she was able to say the last word in each sentence. We would read this story before nap and at bedtime. Throughout reading I'd ask Anna to find the red items and circles.

Motor Skills: 
Fine Motor: color on vertical surface
As mentioned above I had Anna color her balloon on a vertical surface. Coloring on a vertical surface allows extra muscles in the wrist and hand to be strengthened. These muscles are not used when writing on a horizontal surface.

Gross Motor: Play "Put the Fire Out"
This game lasted for about 1 minute before she was done. The idea was to draw a ladder with sidewalk chalk leading to a chalk drawn "fire". On the other end of the ladder you place a bowl of water with a sponge. The child fills the sponge with water, hops over each rung to get to the fire, and then squeezes out the water to put out the "fire". Anna did this once before she decided she just wanted to play in the water. So I let her.

Since this is all very new for us all we only spent 30-45 minutes each morning during Theo's nap on formal lessons (Bible reading, singing songs, and the art activity of the day). Everything else was thrown into our normal activities throughout the day. This schedule seems to work for us now. I also want to mention that we're working through the 2 year old curriculum although she turns three next month. She is further along developmentally in some areas taught in the 2 year old curriculum, however, a majority of it she still has yet to learn so I decided to keep her back. I felt the 3 year old curriculum would be too challenging for her at this point. When we get to a concept she has already mastered I'll alter the lesson to meet her needs.

I'm excited for what this year holds. It could fail miserably and my dreams of homeschooling my children throughout their school years could come to an abrupt end but I'm hopeful that it will be an amazing year full of play, laughter, and lots of learning.

{I received no compensation from ABC Jesus Loves Me. I just really liked it, and thought I'd share how it's helping our family.}


Storing Treasures

I'd like to think my little family are simple folk. At least we're trying to get back to that. I love the word simple. It's just so...simple. It means clearing the mess, the unnecessary, what's not essential to make room for only what matters. We've been trying to simplify our home for the past month or so. It's definitely a work in progress, and with kids, it'll be an ongoing project for a while. And I should probably admit I'm a pat rack so the thought of purging sentimental items that don't belong in a simplistic home gives me hives. We're getting there though. We've been reading books that help hoarders like us gain new perspective and take steps to live a simpler life (book list below). And that's what we're doing, taking steps, baby steps. 

This is not ok. "What to Expect When You're Expecting" when I'm not expecting anymore,
old lotions I haven't used in months, water bottle that's probably a week old (ew)

The first place we started was our bed side tables. I told you, we're taking baby steps. It ended up being a couple hours project! But once I was done with my table I was on a roll and breezed through my closet and bookcase and moved on to the bathroom while Travis was still working on his table. I took an afternoon while the kids were napping to work on the kitchen. I felt like we were moving out. It was as if my cabinets had vomited all its remnants onto the floor. (I really should've taken a picture. I'm doing a horrible job documenting all our work). But when I was all done I had cabinet doors that actually shut, the broken blender and quesadilla maker were finally put to rest, and every item left had a place to call home. Plus I feel so much better being in my kitchen. It just feels cleaner and simple. We still have a lot more work to do in order to simplify our home. We have closets and Anna and Theo's bedroom and toys that still need tended to but we've got a good start to the simpler life. 

Only storing books I'm currently reading: the Bible, "Food" by Jim Gaffigan, and
"The Meaning of Marriage" by Timothy Keller. I also have the kids' baby books
accessible so I can easily pull them out when a special moment pops up. 

My new tiny dresser between the bags full of clothes I'll be dropping off at Goodwill.

You may be asking why. I wonder the same thing somedays but as I'm throwing things out and taking items we no longer need to Goodwill it just feels right. We're a family of four living in a small two bedroom apartment without the prospect of moving anytime soon. Our closets our packed to the max, we're constantly stepping on toys, we're wasting time cleaning decorations we don't need. It's just time to live a life free from the clutter. Living the past four years in a neighborhood made up primarily of refugees we've learned a thing or two from our friends. When they moved to America they came with very little. While many have added a few things to their homes, they still live minimally. They aren't storing items that are of no value or use. Toys aren't strewn around the rooms and decorations hung mean something to them. They've really taught us the joy in living simply. I'm often convicted when I mull so much over what my home looks like or what clothes I should buy this season. When I need a reality check I just think about my beautiful neighbors and am reminded of what really matters in this life: relationships. The verse that I keep hearing over and over as we try to get back to living simply is from Matthew 6:19-21,

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

My treasures are my family, the sweet relationships we have with our friends, the experiences we have together, Jesus. I don't want to waste another minute with things that just don't matter in the end. Making our home a simple home allows us the opportunities to devote more time to our treasures and, I'm certain, will bring a more joy filled life. 

Come along with us as we simplify our lives (home, work, play, homeschool, spiritual). I'll try to do a better job of documenting our process. Maybe you'll be encouraged to simplify areas of your life as well. If nothing else I hope it'll be a time for you to reflect on what matters the most to you and lay up for yourself treasures in heaven. 

Books we've been reading :
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross
The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan