Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Week 4: Isaac and Jacob and a lot of catching up. . .

Tap/Ballet Class
Well, another week has come and gone and I'm here blogging about it on Tuesday of the following week.  I feel like this past school week was so crazy and smashed together I almost thought about not blogging it.  Tuesday night was the first Booster Club Meeting for the parents in my Choir program and it put a bit of a wrench in our schedule, so several of the days melted into one and you'll find that several of our pictures from the week have Claire doing all the activities in the same outfit. . . this is because for a day or two I was putting plans for two or even three days into one.  It worked out fine, but the veteran teacher in me feels terribly guilty about it.  But then I'm reminded of why I'm doing this in the first place, to give my child and myself freedom and flexibility in our learning (among other things, of course) and I stop feeling so bad.  

 Somewhat homeschool related this week- Claire started her second week of the Fall Semester of her Tap/Ballet Class at To the Pointe Productions.  The class is adorable.  Six or seven of the funniest three and four year old little girls tapping around the studio and then halfway through they all bound out the door, into the waiting area to get their ballet shoes only to run back to the classroom ready for more.  The girls, when waiting for their turn, are usually talking, sitting on the floor, twirling around or lying on the floor kicking their legs into the air.  It's incredibly lady-like. But she's loving it, even if she, thus far, dances like a, er, three year old.
I went back and forth with my decision to put Claire in the class, but seeing her dance around the house, at my rehearsals at school and listening to her beg for "ballerina" stories, I had to go for it.  I chose the studio because it's commitment to modesty and it's Christian roots (it's not, specifically, a Christian studio but it retains much of those values in performances and at recitals, so I'm told). If Claire decides to continue with dance over the next several years and into her teenage years, I'm not sure I'm real interested in taking her to a place where I have to, constantly, fight with instructors over what is appropriate.
So, for now, here we are.  Preschool dance parents.  She loves it and so far the other parents have been nice.  Ashlyn likes to walk up and down the long hall in the studio while sister dances for an hour.  At some point, it might be nice to be able to leave her for that hour and get some grocery shopping done (our supermarket is down the street) but for now, she needs help with her shoes. . . and it's incredibly entertaining to watch the class.

Isaac, Jacob and the Letter D
This week we told stories about Isaac meeting Rebekah, Jacob and Esau, Jacob's Dream, Jacob and Rachel, Jacob Wrestling with an Angel and Esau forgiving Jacob.  Now that I write this all out, maybe my feeling of the week getting crammed together was not just me but also the nature of the concepts brought up this week.  We talked a lot about traveling by camel (Isaac's servant travels to Rebekah, Jacob travels to Rachel, and Jacob travels to meet with Esau). And character traits like honesty (Jacob deceived his father and stole his brother's birthright), what a "blessing" from the Lord might be (this was brought up a few times, especially with Jacob) and forgiveness and what that might mean. . . all concepts and character qualities we'll have to continue to reinforce but ones, I believe, are never too early to bring up.

So this week we did a few activities surrounding the letter D.  I try not to get too hung up on her writing and am trying to focus more on the process.  For "D", it was "top to bottom, back to top and around to bottom."  She's shaky.  She's three.  But she likes writing her letters. Sometimes, I'll get a, "I not can!!!!"  To which I always say, "Try."  I've found that sometimes, when she thinks a task is too hard, she'll do it wrong to try and get out of it.  Example, if she's too nervous to write a letter for fear of messing up, she'll grab her pencil or crayon and hold to wrong, usually with two fists.  She'll look at me with a look that says, "Is she gonna buy it?!" I never do.  And, 90% of the time I can get her to try the letter and we yell and cheer when it's done.  Cue huge grin.  

 The crafty/art activity to go with one of the Bible Stories was also a writing activity.  After reading the story of Jacob deceiving his father to gain his brother's birthright, I write Claire's name with dots so she could trace her name. Then, she assignment was a color over her name.  Draw designs and scribbles so that her name was hidden by other colors.  Jacob deceived his father and said he was his brother, Esau, and hid who he really was.  

This time, with the giant letter D on the ground, Claire wanted to do Ballet over her letter.  Did I mention that she really, really loves that class? Then, (Yes, in the same day. Yes, this was supposed to be two separate days) Claire glued cotton balls to a "D" on a sheet of construction paper.  Great, but full, school day.

One story had to do with Jacob travelling a long way to meet Rachel.  We put long pieces of artists tape a opposite areas of the living room.  Claire jumped from one end as far as she could and then we taped down the distance she jumped.  Mommy joined in, too!  After jumping several times we picked which tape was furthest from the "Rachel Tape" the closest?  Etc.  Ashlyn joined in on this one, despite her inability to jump. :-)

This next activity went with Jacob wrestling with the Angel/God.  The yellow ball (remember the yellow ball?)  was supposed to be a balloon.  This might have been significantly easier with the balloon but it's what we had and she didn't seem to care anyway.  We threw the ball up in the air and she was supposed to catch and throw it back up.  After a while, I told her she could not use her legs. Only her arms.  She had to kneel and play the ball game.  It, obviously, got a lot harder.  We related this to the story of Jacob when the angel touched his leg and while they were wrestling we he could not use it much.

 Fingerpainting letters, remains one of Claire's very favorite things, so even if it's not listed in the book, I try to let her fingerpaint at least one thing during the week if there is time.
 And we've discovered Starfall.   Here is a game she played that showed a picture of the word and she had to complete the first letter.  We also played a little pumpkin decorating game as a treat after we did the word games (which she didn't realize was school anyway, so it was all just fun before bedtime!)

But one of my favorite homeschool adventures with Claire this week was during "Saturday School" :-)  I had to do a lot of things in my garden out in the backyard.  Too many plants were overgrown and needed some serious pruning.  I also needed to dig up a mint plant that was taking over (if you warned me beforehand, yes, you were right, I'm just slow at getting this sort of thing done).  Claire was determined to help.  I love how she loves the garden and being outside.  Both girls do, really.  It's such a joy to be out with them, since there's so, so much to see out there and learn from.  I want to continue to have them help me, no matter how "in the way" they seem since, someday, they won't be "in the way" and keeping them interested in "work" when they think it's "play" is something I want to keep up.  They are valuable in our home and loved beyond measure :-)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Week 3: 1st Dodger Game and Abraham

First Dodger Game/Hello Kitty Bobblehead Night
I great milestone was reached this week for the girls.  Months ago, Christian and I noticed that on the Dodger Schedule, "Hello Kitty Bobblehead Night" was scheduled for Monday, September 9th at 7:10pm.  Not really considering the wisdom of dragging our children out to Los Angeles, close to bedtime on a weeknight, we excitedly, bought tickets for the game.  I have been a Dodger fan since I was very young. My Uncle Steve was a big fan so I decided I would be too.  1988 was a great year for me.  3rd grade and the Dodgers won the series.  It's been a bumpy ride for a fan ever since then but this season's been great and I'm glad we decided to do this crazy thing Monday Night, even if waking up at 5am the next morning for work wasn't, exactly a picnic.  Thanking God for Starbucks and students who give giftcards for that place. The girls did remarkably well at the game and having the theme of the evening be Hello Kitty made it perfect for the girls.  It took us a while the get there and, since the Dodgers are currently winning, the crowds going into the park were pretty crazy.  It look us a very long time to get into the stadium and I think we finally made it to our seats at about the second inning.  They were playing the AZ Diamondbacks and there were several big moments during the game, notably the Home Run Hat Trick by Juan Urribe.  Claire's comment after each home run, "Everyone's is so loud!!"  Ha!  But she understood it was because the Dodgers were winning and that was good for her!  At the 7th inning stretch, Hello Kitty (someone dressed in a character suit) was up on the Jumbotron.  She was "Singing" down below.  Claire almost bolted out of her seat, wanting to "go down and hug her. . . " She was so excited, I felt terrible having to tell her "no"  Luckily, the game was interesting enough for her and she didn't get too upset that she was so close but so far from meeting a celebrity.  Ashlyn was our biggest concern, since the game started at her bedtime but she did great.  I'm really, really impressed with both of them.  It was nice to be together at the stadium as a family.  Several times during the game, however, I'd look over at Claire and she'd look so, so sleepy.  I'd ask if she was tired and she'd flick her eyes wide open and say, "No, mommy!  I watching the game!"  Made me proud, but we left in the 7th inning.  Lucky for us, the game was not close, and we didn't miss a major upset while driving home.  Dodgers won 8-1.

Claire's first Dodger Dog

Week 3: Abraham 
So, with all the excitement Monday night, preschool this week was a little less structured.  In fact, to squeeze elements of the Abraham story as well was work on our letters and some numbers, we had Herman Family Saturday School and then rest the last Abraham story and discussed it before bed tonight (Sunday).  There will be weeks like this, and the great thing about doing it a home this way is there IS that flexibility to do our formal learning whenever works for us!
The letter of the week was "C"  According to the book, I should have had Claire do this project with cottonballs.  Well, mama was fresh out of cottonballs and (remember that Dodger game?!) had plenty of sunflower seeds so a "sunflower seed "C"" it was.

Our focus, thoughout the Abraham stories was how God keeps his promises (much like how we ended our Noah and the flood lessons) and how important it is to trust God like Abraham did.  First, Abraham had to trust God when he told him to pack up and leave Ur to live like a nomad. Then he had to trust God when Lot took the best land for his flocks and THEN he had to trust God to keep him promise that Abraham would have a son and he'd have as many descendants as the stars.  Claire mad a little craft that represented Abraham trust God with his life when he made him travel from his home (she colored and mommy folded a 3x5 card into a little tent) and then Claire painted "stars" on a black sheet of construction paper using a balled up piece of paper towel.  I didn't know how much of everything she truly got until we took the story and craft with us to Sunday School at church (we have a preschool lesson for the kids during the sermon) and she was able to tell much of the story.  It was pretty neat to see what she had learned.

 We did some more "letter C" fun.  I am still totally amused at how excited she gets about the tape letter on the floor.  I'm hoping she keeps this excitement up for the next 23 weeks/letters.  This time she was supposed to take a toy car and move it along the letter while making the letter sound for "C."  She insisted on wearing the tutu (that is way too small for her, btw, but she doesn't care).

One thing that I think is so fun and effective about this program is the fact that they get to act out the stories a couple times a week.  In the book it said to make a tent out of a sheet.  I wasn't sure where I'd hang the sheet so I just pulled out our Kidco Peapod and that was our "Abraham Tent"  Then I turned on Claire's Twilight Ladybug and then we turned off the lights (one time when doing school at night after dinner was a good thing for us!) and we reviewed the story of God promising Abraham his family would be more than the number of the stars.  We talked about how you can't count the stars; there are too many!

And, of course, we did our "bookwork."  I've mentioned before that this program stresses letters and their sounds and Claire is already very familiar with those so we are having her practice writing letters.  She, actually, seems to enjoy it, although, needs encouragement.  Sometimes, she'll blurt out "I CAN'T!" if a letter looks difficult.  I usually make her try it and she always is so pleased with herself when she does it.

This was another "act out the story" day.  It was the day we talked about Abraham entertaining the 3 visitors from heaven and their message to Abraham about his promised baby boy!  We had a "picnic" with three of her stuffed animals and talked about how God wants us to be hospitable and kind to others.  We never know when we may be "entertaining angels."

Our last picture for the week is of our Sunday School classroom.  Just Claire and Logan and Ashlyn this week.  A little chaotic but fun anyway :-)
 At bedtime, tonight, we read and talked about the story of Abraham and God asking him to sacrifice Isaac to test his love for God.  Sure a multifaceted story for a 3 year old, but we talked about how important it is to love nothing more than we love God.  We need to be willing to give up whatever He asks us to and how that's not always, and often isn't easy.  This homeschooling thing is not just teaching Claire truth, but hitting mommy's heart too.  So even though it was a crazy, busy, somewhat off week, we were able to make it a productive week, too.  Hardly a second to breathe, but on to next week!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Week 2: Noah's Ark and the Santa Ana Zoo

First, I'm going to attempt to address a question I've been getting over and over again.  How in the world are you planning on homeschooling when you are working outside the home?  To be honest, I haven't a clue.  Luckily, my "regular hours" are part-time.  I teach musical theater and choir from 7:30 am until around 11:30 am but, often, return to the school (30-40 min drive with no traffic) for meetings and rehearsals and take much of what I do home.  This year, I'm learning how to schedule everything even tighter, to try and balance it all.  Last year we had a fantastic nanny that came to our house and loved on and took care of our girls 3 days a week.  She left for Bible College in August so we couldn't have her back.  Then, due to a few things I won't get into here, I'll be getting paid a bit less this year.  The decrease per month will amount to about the same as we paid our sitter per month last year so we realized, besides starting out preschool at home with Claire, there are some financial and practical changes that made us need figure something different out for the next 10 months. We've worked out a few things with Christian's schedule so that he can be home with the girls as long as possible, and if the morning permits, he can do some preschool activities with her to take the load off of me.  For now, he's working 11am-7pm three days a week and 8:30-7pm the other two.  We have various family members and friends stepping in to babysit during the hours that our work schedules cross. It's worked out, thus far (it's only been a week), but I'll have to admit that I'm pretty exhausted.  So far, we've "done school" after naptime and sometimes I've had to squeeze it in after dinner.  Claire's, understandably, not as focused at that time and on those occasions, so I've had to improvise with a few activities and do what she's up for doing right before her usual bedtime.  The other hard thing about this that I really, really hate is the fact that we don't sit down to dinner together on weekdays.  Ever. I eat with the girls or sit with the girls while they eat and then I will either wait and eat with Christian gets home or I will leave him food to re-heat and I'll sit with him while he has dinner but I miss our nightly family time.  Hoping something changes soon but this is where we are at and we are having to shift our lives accordingly.  Possibly, when things get too nuts, this blogspace many fall silent for a while.  I hope not. I'm enjoying chronicling all of this.  But I'm aware that the task before us is great.

Unit 2: The Earth and the Flood
The theme of the week was Noah and the Great Flood from Genesis 6,7 and 9. We read a section of the flood story everyday of the week (except for Friday, which was Tower of Babel day). The fingerplay this week started with "Two big bears got on the boat. . . " and we worked on holding up two fingers.  Random, I know, but she's figured that out now, but something I take for granted being able to do, took a bit of practice for her!

 We read the first part of the story and our first craft had to do with numbers and counting.  "Noah built the Ark with his 2 hands" so we traced her hands, cut them out and I let her paste them onto construction paper. Then, she practiced writing the number 2!  She traced it first and then wanted to try and do it herself.  Not too bad!

  After the end of day one I diverged a bit from the Little Hands to Heaven manual and came up with my own music.  All week, at the end of school time, we sang the "Arky, Arky" song.  Needless to say this was a HUGE hit around here.  I made up my own motions to the song and we marched around the house singing, "Riiise and shiiiine and *clap!* give God the glory, glory. . ."  Our neighbors probably think we are nuts. . .

Breaking out the Finger Paints
The Letter of the week was "B" so she fingerpainted an upper and lowercase B. She loves, loves, LOVES fingerpainting and asked me to draw more and more Letter Bs so she could paint more.  I think we ended up with 4 different painted letters by the end of it.

Giant Letter B and Sink or Float?
Again, the giant letter on the ground was a HUGE hit.  I missed a couple activities on day two so I ended up doing this on day three.  I put the giant letter on the ground in masking tape in the living room during her nap, then went upstairs and filled up the tub with bathwater for our "sink or float" activity.  When she woke up, I told her I had a huge surprise for her.  We went downstairs for the giant letter B and she was ecstatic.  "WHAT IS IT?! WHAT IS IT?!"  "What do YOU think it is?" "Letter B! Letter B!"  Her task was to take her foam blocks and put them on the letter B.  She took her task very seriously. . .

Then after that was over, I read to her more from The New Bible in Picutres for Little Eyes and then we headed upstairs for "Sink or Float?"   Anything involving water is certain to be a big hit at our house.  First, we talked about what the two words meant and how Noah's Ark floated in the storm.  After I was sure she understood, I showed her the tray of objects we were going to use.  I had created a chart with the objects in one column, Claire's guess in another, and the outcome in the third column.  Ashlyn tried to help with this, but it was mostly moral support and random splashing in the water.  (Sidenote, I do think she gets something out of just being there for Claire's lessons, although, I'd like to figure out more ways to involve her).  

The Rainbow is God's Promise
On the day we talked about the end of the flood and Noah returning to land, we talked about God's symbol of His promise to us, to never flood the world again.  We discussed the colors in a rainbow and I cut up pieces of construction paper for her to glue to another sheet of paper so she could create a rainbow!  She had fun with it but it was one of those activities I wish I could have done with her in the morning.  She was very proud of it when it was finished but I did help her a bit toward the end.


I did get her to write her name on this project.  Neat watching that.  Not too bad!  

Santa Ana Zoo
We finished our week with a zoo trip on Saturday.  I think if I had really thought ahead and had really gotten myself together, I would have taken the girls to The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles to their Noah's Ark Exhibit.  It would have fit perfectly with what we've been talking about and it would have been something totally different for us.  This was our 3rd trip to the zoo in the last couple months. Don't get me wrong, we LOVE the zoo and had a fantastic time.  I'd never been to the Santa Ana Zoo (our other zoo trips this year were to the LA Zoo and to the little Orange County Zoo inside Irvine Park) so it really was a good trip and I'm glad I went but I think the exhibit at the Skirball is super high on my list right now and am hoping to take them in the next several weekends.
However, much to my surprise, the Santa Ana Zoo turned out to be a great trip for us and a good end to a Noah's Ark week.  I had always heard how bad this zoo is and, sure, there are things that really need updating.  It's not a "stay all day and be at the zoo" type of zoo.  We were there for 3 hours and saw everything (we didn't ride the train, however, we were hitting the "we didn't take naps today" wall so we opted to head home instead). There were tons of monkeys, anteaters, ostrich-type birds, an aviary and a little area with farm animals all of which my children really, really loved.  Ashlyn's awareness of the animals was so fun to watch.  Her favorite was a big blue Macaw.  Both girls loved watching the monkeys and the turtles int he pond in the aviary.

Next week Abraham is on the theme list as is the Letter C and Number 3.  Looking forward to another good week!