Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Very Fun (and mostly free) Family Day

What a lot of fun we had today! Jon and the boys were up early and headed out to breakfast and to see a hot air balloon launch. They had a wonderful time.... and I was able to do some school planning.

This afternoon I returned from an errand and found the boys (all three of them) enjoying the sandbox. Jon and Adam worked really hard on a sand castle masterpiece! They wanted to be sure I put a picture of it on the blog. (See below)
Jon's boss has been very generous about getting sports tickets for his employees' families to enjoy. Today we had tickets to go to the Columbus Crew Major League Soccer game. I happened to read online this week that the Ohio Historical Center (which is right next to Crew Stadium) is free on the Saturdays in August. So, we spent a few hours there before heading over to the game. The boys loved the collection of (stuffed) native Ohio animals. They also really enjoyed the variety of old vehicles on display. There were several interactive stations set up for families. We really had fun! We were very hot sitting in direct sunlight at the soccer game... and the game ended up being scoreless... but we still had a really good time. Ray was especially interested in watching the game and expressed interest in learning to play as well.

(Yes, Adam and I were there too. Adam just didn't want to have his picture taken!) It was a busy, fun family day! Thank you God!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First Day of School

We have successfully completed our first day of homeschool Kindergarten and Pre-K!

It was a very good day, but not really what a typical day will be like for us. The boys were very excited to start school today. They got up and got dressed quickly. When they came downstairs they discovered a special surprise. I had made "kindercones" for them, based on a German tradition of giving children school-related gifts on the first day of school. The boys were thrilled! The cones contained harmonicas and shaker eggs for music class, pencils, stickers, some snacks, and tubes of action figures (one had space figures and one had knights).

During breakfast my mom called to continue a tradition that my grandma had for us when we were growing up: she sang, "School Days" to the boys. Adam accidentally hung up on her! ;) After breakfast we started a new tradition of gathering for family prayer before Daddy left for work. Jon took this picture of us --- our official first day of school picture I guess!
Here's a picture of our prayer corner / circle time space:This is where we will begin school each morning. We will talk about the date and the weather and any holidays or feast days. We will practice our prayers and poems. Then we will move into music time (We are using "Making Music, Praying Twice), religion lesson/discussion, and/or special story or theme presentation.

Here are some shots of our school room:

The cloth bins are workboxes that I will fill on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. (These will be our most concentrated school days. On Mondays we will be doing circle time and academic work in the morning and then going to an enrichment program in the afternoon. On Fridays we will once again be attending a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Montessori session all morning and then we'll take the afternoon off.) The work boxes will contain several activities to be completed independently (puzzles, worksheets, flashcards, learning activities, etc). The boys have been waiting for this day to begin their workboxes. Adam especially loved this independent work.
Our main work table
A smaller desk for sitting and writing and concentrating. Ray used this area today for his Math and Phonics work.Here's Adam working on a sticker mosaic page from his workbox.

Today we did our circle time, a religion lesson and craft, and then recess outside! After that we did some book work and their workboxes. Ray did Math, Writing, and Phonics. Adam did some workbook pages. Then we had some reading time and worked on our project binders (more about those soon).

Next we had lunch and played outside.

My favorite part of the day was beginning our year-long tree study. We went to the side of the house where we have a lovely cherry tree. We sat down on a blanket, looked at the tree, made a list of all of the things we noticed about the tree, examined the bark/leaves/cherries with magnifying glasses, and made some sketches and rubbings that will go in their nature notebooks. Ray really enjoyed taking several pictures of the tree as well. We know it's a cherry tree of some sort, but couldn't find the exact name for it in our field guide.

Next we painted pictures of the tree. This was awesome! I almost cried as I watched them concentrating so hard and enjoying this so much. I thought, "This is it. This is what it's all about. This is where and how I want them to learn." I know that I won't have these blissful learning moments every day, so I am really savoring this.Just when I thought the day couldn't get better, my friend Sara called and asked if she and her boyfriend could come visit. Matthew is an artist! He came and talked with the boys about their paintings and showed them some of the cool stuffed monsters he's been making. He even did a little art therapy activity with us! So cool! Here's a shot of Matthew and Sara:Here's Matthew teaching Ray about how to make a stuffed animal:
So, after that, I was spent. The boys sat down to watch a video and I grabbed a Diet Coke, checked email, and then started folding some laundry. Lo and behold.... another surprise arrived on our porch. Packages from Pappy and Mary (my dad and his wife)! The boys were so excited! (I had no idea that so many "presents" would be involved with the first day of school!) The packages contained lots and lots of fun school supplies and even some holy cards and rosaries. Our living room looked like Christmas once all of the unwrapping was done! We ended this exciting day by going to dinner at Bob Evans, stopping at church for a few minutes of Adoration, and then playing on the church playground. Both of the boys are eager to do school again tomorrow.... so I need to get off the computer and get some rest!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Touch-A-Truck Day

While I was enjoying myself at the Homeschool Mom's Day of Reflection, Jon took the boys to our community's annual "Touch-A-Truck Day." All of our local service departments brought their vehicles to a park. The children had the opportunity to learn about the vehicles, talk to the drivers, climb inside, push all the buttons. There were police cars, street sweepers, garbage trucks, snow plows, tractors, loaders, backhoes,..... totally awesome stuff for the preschool boy crowd! They even got to ride in a canoe in the pond! Our friends Ryan and Libby and their dad and grandpa met up with them as well.

Our FINAL Pray and Play Date for This Summer

Here are some highlights from our LAST Pray and Play Date. I hosted it here at our home and we had a beautiful day. The theme for this week was, "Fishers of Men." We also celebrated the Feast Day of Saint Rose of Lima. One of the girls in our group was especially excited to celebrate this, her feast day. It turned out that several of us have the middle name Rose (including me)! We said a prayer to Saint Rose, colored pictures of her, and even enjoyed a yummy pink cake!

The moms definitely enjoyed these Pray and Play Dates as much as or more than our children!
This week's craft project was decorating a paper plate fish. This is the sparkliest fish of all!

We had several game stations set up around the yard, including:

Sink or Float -

Fishing for Snacks (Goldfish crackers of course!) -

Fish Pond (Magnets on the end of dowel rods.... catching paper fish with paper clips attached) -
Magnetic / Not Magnetic (We used small dowel rods with magnets attached and sorted out a pile of objects as we determined which were magnetic) - We all gathered for prayer and listened to a poem about Jesus calling the fishermen to drop their nets and follow him. We played a fun game of "Pass the Fish." I just love this last picture. First, because Maggie is so cute and happy.... but also because of all the crazy fun you can see in the background!
We really enjoyed all of the Summer Pray and Play Dates. We learned a little, prayed a little, and had a great time with friends.

Educating for Heaven: A Day of Reflection for Catholic Homeschooling Mothers

I was privileged to spend last Saturday with 50 wonderful holy women. We gathered at a local parish for a day of reflection on our vocation as Catholic homeschooling moms. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to be refreshed and filled with grace as we prepare to begin this new school year. We attended Mass together, listened to four amazing moms give us insight and encouragement, and had time to visit with one another without being involved in a child-centered activity. It was a great day.... and we're already planning an OVERNIGHT retreat for next year! Hurray!

We enjoyed a really delicious lunch. There were NO chicken nuggets or french fries! Several of the ladies prepared special YUMMY salads and we even got copies of their recipes in our folders.My mom did an awesome job arranging these beautiful fresh flowers for the tables! (Thanks mom!) Everyone appreciated them so much and many ladies got to take some home. I am pondering many great insights presented by the day's speakers. Probably most significant is the caution not to compare what I am doing or how my children are progressing with how/what other families are doing. That is such a temptation and downfall for me. It seemed to be a common thread among the speakers that we need to have a clear vision about why we are choosing to homeschool and we need to focus steadfastly on that vision and not be pulled on tangents away from that. So, I am praying about and trying to articulate a clear vision/mission. One of the speakers emphasized that God has given each of us our children for a special reason. I am exactly the mother that Ray and Adam are meant to have.... with all of my talents as well as my shortcomings. There is no perfect curriculum to use. It doesn't matter if I have the perfect plans, perfect classroom, perfect materials. Those don't exist. The most important thing is that we are on this road together, learning and loving every day.

I can't believe that this is the week when we're "officially stepping off the edge" into homeschooling. I'm so glad we've been thinking and talking and learning and praying about this for a few years now. I'm not scared. I feel confident and at peace about our decision and our plans.... but there is just a little voice in my head asking, "You're really not sending Ray to Kindergarten?" We're really not. Instead, we are teaching him right where he is / how he is.... taking one day at a time. I know there will be really hard days and this is not an easy undertaking, but I also know that there will be awesome fun times --- a-ha moments that I will get to share. I know I will learn as much or more than the children. I am very excited. Please pray for us!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Celebrating the Assumption

We've enjoyed celebrating the Assumption of Mary the past few days. Yesterday, in addition to attending Mass of course, we had dinner with a special dessert..... blueberry cobbler on top of "clouds" of vanilla ice cream. It was a big hit! Hubby gave it an 11 out of 10. (That's a lot for a logical CPA!)

Today we met up with our "Pray and Play" friends on the grounds of Saint Therese's Retreat Center. It was a beautiful setting on this gorgeous summer day!

First, we all gathered in the Marian grotto. We talked about the Assumption, presented flowers to Mary, sang "Immaculate Mary," and prayed our prayer cards and the Hail Mary.

Then we made these Assumption crafts:

We had blue plastic cups, with a hole punched through the bottom and a piece of yarn strung through it. The children attached a bead to the top of the yarn, glued on cotton ball clouds, and then attached pictures of Mary to the bottom of the yarn. When they pull the yarn, Mary rises into heaven! (We made the same craft for the Ascension, but with Jesus of course.)

After that we enjoyed some yummy snacks: pastries, grapes, and marshmallows ("clouds").

My boys' favorite part of the day was the unplanned "service project." The retreat center grounds were covered with twigs and all sizes of branches, probably blown down in recent storms. When a few of the boys were beginning to act up, I persuaded them to use their powers for good instead of evil. We became the "STICK PATROL!" Soon most of the children joined in as we collected sticks and stacked them behind a shed. We definitely left the place looking better than when we arrived. And, amazingly, there were no notable injuries.

We also had fun kicking balls around, blowing bubbles, and playing "Holy, Holy Mary" (instead of "Duck, Duck Goose.")

We have really loved these Monday Pray and Play dates. Unfortunately, I didn't get to take pictures of last week's outing to Delaware Dam. We talked and prayed about the Holy Spirit, made windsocks, flew kites, took a hike, played on the playground, and enjoyed a picnic lunch. Next week is our last Pray and Play for this summer. Time is flying by and it's time to get ready for school to start already!