Monday, March 30, 2009

My four year old son wears red heels.

The kids have spent a good deal of time outdoors drawing with chalk while I work inside. A few minutes ago, I heard a clop-clop-clop that sounded just like the noise my heals make when the kids are wearing them.

Merika had just come inside, and Keagan was by my side, so the noise had to be coming from Nolyn. I peeked outside to find my four-year-old wearing my favorite red heels.

"What are you doing with my shoes on?" I queeried.
"They make good holes!" he answered, as he punched them into the grass.

At least they are made of material that wipes off well.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Fruitful Dollar Tree

Dollar Tree is awesome. I'm sure most you know that, and those of you who don't probably don't have to live on a tight budget.

For home educating families like ourselves, Dollar Tree holds a plethora of goodies, especially if you think outside the curriculum box. I had a few things in mind, so we headed over to our neighborhood store to grab a "few" items.

As you can see, we made out like bandits (except, we paid). I couldn't believe all the great finds they had this time, but maybe it was just because I was actually looking for things to use in specific activities.

I'm always amazed by the intelligence of one-year-olds. I think we vastly underestimate their baby brains. Keagan understands quite a bit. The other day I "caught" him throwing stuff in the trash. I was a little panicked, thinking I would find half of my kitchen in the garbage can, but to my surprise he was throwing away wrappers my older children had left out (tisk tisk, ha!). When I'm working in the kitchen, I can hand him something to throw in the garbage, and he'll complete the task with a huge grin and a yelp of glee. In these photos, he is transferring beans from one container to another. Joy lit up his face. I love how my children love these little things. So many people think those who are easily entertained are "simple minded" but that's "simply" not true! In my opinion, it is those who have to be constantly entertained by television and video games and cannot enjoy the simpler joys of life that are "simple minded". They are not self motivated, but lazy.

The mini-buckets are from Texas Roadhouse. They were dessert tins that you could keep! The kids really love them. The little plastic containers came 8 to a package at, you guessed it, Dollar Tree. This is a wonderful activity for young children. It helps them build those muscles in their hands. We call this a "dextrous activity".

The original photo was quite dark, but I love his expression. Every now and then he'd take a bean up to his mouth, then giggle before pitting it in the tin. Guess he was just checking to see if I was paying attention!

While Keagan played with the beans, Nolyn and Merikalyn put together a puzzle. They recently really got into puzzles, so we've been collecting them. After they really get the puzzles down, we throw them into a bag of other puzzles. The task becomes a tad more difficult when they have to sort through pieces from four or five other puzzles! It's a great way to make what you have go the extra mile. Change it up!

Keagan loves playing with the little boxes. Each box has something different in it (mostly used for counting or dextrous activities)- beans, elbow noodles, googly-eyes, etc. Some are empty. He would shake each box then appear to be comparing the sounds. He'd peek into the box, then toss it back into the bucket. (He has a great arm- he over-threw by several yards a few times!)

What I love most about our method of home education is the simplicity of it. It gets everyone involved. Older children can play with younger children. Of course, it isn't always smooth sailing. Sometimes Nolyn hijacks Keagan's activities. It's important to be aware of what each child is doing. For one thing, I don't want Keagan downing a bunch of pennies or uncooked beans. Most of all, I am aware the my children do have a sinful nature, so I have to pay attention to their actions and reactions, so I can immediately correct and disciple (or guide).

Keagan really loves getting involved in our homeschool. Even though I miss the "babyness", I really love this stage. I could do without the disgusting diapers and runny nose due to teething!

Here is Merikalyn doing a dextrous activity. She was picking up beans one by one with a spoon and transferring them to another container while counting.

Keagan and I playing with the little containers of counting items.

These little cones are AWESOME. I can think of SO may things to do with them like use them as bases in a game, or for ring toss. Today, the kids used them to jump over and weave around.

We like our curriculum to last. We use enough paper with our crafts, so we try to make our work books stretch (even though some of them only cost a dollar). Using beans or other counters for their math activities helps them work out the problems, and they can use cardstock with numbers written on them to portray the answer. Even though the problems come with picture examples, I find it is easier for them to have their own items to manipulate. You don't have to spend a bunch of math manipulatives. You can use beads, beans, noodles, crayons, dominoes, marbles, or whatever else you have around the house. In fact, I encourage you to use household items, because it helps children understand that math is used all over the place. We have a bunch of flipflops (I have about a dozen pairs, and the kids probably have about half a dozen). We sometimes use our flipflops to do math problems. They can also use math to set the table. How many plates and napkins will we need? If Mom and Dad are going to use the larger forks, how many small (dessert) forks will be needed? We are having company over. How many extra settings will we need? Dad isn't going to make it home for dinner, so how many settings will we need now? You get the idea.

When you are cleaning out the pantry, have your children count the canned goods or even sort them out. Keagan LOVES to play with the cans! Children can also count the cans as help to put them away after a grocery trip.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Homeschooling Around the Home [1]

I decided today we'd tackle the children's toys, but after the day began rolling, I realized it wasn't something I wanted to dig into just yet, at least not right now. I did talk to the children about it, preparing them for the moment, and was met with a million "Can I Keep" questions.

I realize it's been a while since I talked about our homeschooling adventures, so here you go, complete with photos!

All three children love the Handwriting Without Tears "tools". Baby Keagan pulls the box of "sticks" out several times a day.

We also use these sticks to make patterns/shapes. I make a pattern, and Merikalyn copies it. She did a really great job, especially since Keagan kept messing with both of our patterns!

We made ground beef tacos today. Every time I'm in the kitchen baking or cooking, the kids want to be right there with me. I wish I could say I use every opportunity to get them involved, but, well, sometimes I feel like it's a big hassle. Sometimes I just want to throw together a meal without having to explain everything or maneuver around stools. I just like to have my space sometimes. Yanno? Making a meal requires multitasking, but making a meal with children? That's like SUPER DUPER multitasking! Plus, every time I use the oven, Keagan is right there, so I have to balance on one leg while I try to hold him back with my other foot, open the oven, take out or put in whatever I need, and then shut it before he gets any closer!

We're using pistacho shells for a craft and a counting game, so the kids enjoyed "helping me" with the shells by eating the pistachos! Opening the shells is great for working those muscles in their little hands. Some they couldn't open, so they just put them back in the bag, but many were easy to crack. I'll post more on our crafts and games later.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cruises, car wrecks, and smashed fingers... oh my!

Several things happened over the last couple weeks. Mom and Dad went on a cruise and brought back really cool stuff for the kids (which we picked up today). Merikalyn slammed her finger in a car door (OUCH!). Keagan reached the ripe age of 18 months. We "celebrated" the eight-year anniversary of Mom's car accident (in 2001). ("Eight years of pain and heartache," I said. "Have a piece of chocolate cake.") Oh, and Nolyn got his Spring haircut- a mohawk (we do this every year, and he was begging me to do it again).

The following photos of from today. We stopped by Mom and Dad's condo on the way home from our church in Louisiana, and they gave the kids their special gifts (from the cruise).

The three amigos.

Ole! (Nolyn's shirt and Merikalyn's dress were also special gifts Mom and Dad bought on their adventures, along with the hats, of course.)

Poppa with Nolyn and Merika. They are holding a floatie/blow-up cruise ship. Merikalyn is wearing one of the head covers that many of the poor women make and sell in one of the villages they visited.

And here's a precious photo of my other baby... :) He fell asleep with the stuffed dog, and Mom and I thought it would be hilarious to add other props... like a pacifier and a bottle!

I know some of you are wondering what Merikalyn's flower girl dress looks like. It is currently being altered, but here's a couple photos I snapped before we took it to be tailored.

As you can imagine, she loves wearing it because it makes her feel like a princess! You can kind of see that the tip of her pointer finger is a little "blackened" from the clash with the car door. I remember what that feels like... ugh.