Two Co-Ops

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Since we visit these friends on their farm about every week for playtime, Rachel is quite familiar and fearless with the chickens and was elated to be considered proficient enough to help the other kids at co-op pet the chickens.

The choices here for what to be involved in are dizzying.  There are multiple dance studios to choose from…and multiple dance classes at each studio.  There is gymnastics, horse back riding, piano, Girl Scouts, homeschool art classes, multiple museums, and multiple libraries.  There are also multiple homeschool co-ops.  Coming from a town with ZERO homeschool co-ops, it has been an interesting adventure deciding which ones work best for our family.

Originally we were just going to do one that met every other week at our church, but then we tried out Classical Conversations and I absolutely loved it, and so did the girls.  All the other moms were incredibly friendly and welcoming, it is extremely well-organized, and the tutors for each class are engaging.  Plus, they have fun field trips and Mom’s Nights Out.  The kids are learning enough that it truly feels like a supplement to our own school stuff, and they are making friends, too.  Win!  I honestly never thought that I would like Classical Conversations but I am thankful that my friend suggested it and that we tried it out.

Then, my dear friend who owns a 12 acre farm 20 minutes from our house said that she was starting a forest/farm school co-op and I immediately volunteered to run the forest school portion.  This has worked out fantastically, and I sincerely enjoy doing it.  And since Nature is such an important part of what I want to teach my children, we have been so grateful to help and participate.

In many ways, life is lonely living off-base.  The girls haven’t made a single friend in the neighborhood (though Rachel knows all the dogs by name).  They both talk about how much they miss Kodiak, the playground across the street, and their friends.  Co-ops have helped to ease that loneliness and I thank God every day for leading us to two stellar ones!

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Homeschooling in the heat

It has taken us quite a while to work out a rhythm for our homeschool days–and weeks.  I was somewhat perplexed with how to get outside time given the insufferable heat of Florida.  I’m still recovering from the Kodiak thought of “SUNSHINE!!!! GET OUTSIDE IMMEDIATELY!!!!”  I have finally reconciled that the humidity and heat in Florida during the summer is the equivalent of a constant rainstorm in Kodiak during the winter, so I don’t need to feel too guilty about lack of outside time right now.

Except that I go a bit crazy if my kids are inside all. day. long.  And they go a bit crazy, too.  So for the past few weeks we have been starting our day with math.  Outside.  This gives Allison and Patrick a chance to play while Rachel does her math work–she enjoys math so she’s willing to do it while they play, and then I let her play while I hang laundry and do a few small things around the house.  By then it is hot and we all troop in for History/Bible/Literature on the couch.

But the weather is shifting a bit now, and I’m thinking we will try to lump most of schoolwork into the morning and have the afternoon available for park time and Nature Walks.  I wish I could nail down the perfect rhythm, right now, for the rest of eternity, but I’m grudgingly admitting that children change, the seasons change, and, well, life changes as a result!

The wilds of Florida

Thanks to a new set of orders from ye olde Coast Guard, we spent the summer prepping, moving, recovering, unpacking, and recovering some more from our transcontinental move from Alaska to Florida.

It’s been a huge adjustment, and we are still adjusting.  It’s a climate shock to be in the humid subtropical region once again.  It’s a culture shock to be in the “beachy” region of the Deep South.  We miss Alaska deeply, but it also feels like a lifetime ago that we had our last Nature Walk.  Even typing that makes me want to cry.

It’s a lot harder to find NATURE here in the Florida panhandle–unless you count the Nature that finds you.  The children look like they have chicken pox from all their mosquito bites, and I’m still plagued by ant bites from three weeks ago.

But it brings a smile to my heart to watch my children finding their home in this strange new environment.  Like me, “home” requires an orientation to the natural world in our location.  Both girls had an amazing time catching “love bugs” at the park.  They have built numerous sandy fairy houses.  They have marveled at praying mantises and rejoiced in watching the squirrels frisking around the yard and burying acorns in their rosemary plant pots.

Even more exciting have been our butterfly encounters.  We gave Allison a container butterfly garden for her fourth birthday and carefully position the pots of plants so that we can see them through the living room windows.  All sorts of butterflies have alighted and enjoyed the lantana and milkweed.  We even watched a crop of monarch caterpillars grow, and grow, and grow!  Rachel in particular checked on them multiple times a day and had no qualms about picking them up and cuddling them and demanding to know if I thought they were cute.  I demurred politely.  Sadly, all the caterpillars mysteriously disappeared before they built chrysalises.

And blessedly, we live an hour from the beach and have made it out there every week for the past five weeks.  It’s about as wild as we are going to get for a while–at least until I overcome my phobia of snakes.

One Small Square: Tundra

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Rachel found the One Small Square: Tundra book at the library and said, “Mommy, can we get this one?  This one looks good.”  And so we did.  Mother of Divine Grace does  not do a formal science study for Kindergarten or First Grade, reasoning that getting them to read, write, and understand basic math is a hurdle in and of itself, especially while chasing after other small children.  Which is all true, to be sure.

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Allison, of course, wanted to do a diorama too.  And wouldn’t you know, this all came about the morning after Steve took the carload of recycling out!  Thankfully, I found a small box and all was well.  She cut out her flowers and sun herself, as well as drew the flowers.

 

However, whenever Rachel has “compared schooling notes” with her public school friends, she laments over the lack of science.  She has no idea what science is, exactly, but knows emphatically that “It sounds fun.  They learn about birds and rocks and animals.”  So we happily added Nature Study back into our daily plan.  I had been intending to make Nature Study part of our homeschool once I got our rhythm and general plan with MODG nailed down, and I honestly love Nature Study, too!

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Allison was delighted by her flying snow goose.  Each girl picked out the animals she wanted to add to her diorama.  Allison also has a caribou, three lemmings, and a snowshoe hare(I assume it’s named Rosie).

 

We read a few pages from One Small Square: Tundra each day, and talked more about anything on the page Rachel or Allison had interest in.  I did find a BBC: Earth video clip of an arctic fox catching a lemming and she got a kick out of that.  We finished the book two days ago, and worked for the past two days on a diorama.  I had Rachel pick what season on the Tundra she wanted to depict.  She selected summer because she wanted there to be flowers, but that morphed into spring because both girls requested baby animals for the diorama, too.

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Rachel, of course, then also wanted an airborne snow goose.  However, she also requested a mommy snow goose, baby snow geese, and pond to accompany the flying father.

 

Blessedly, Patrick took a long nap today (so, like, an hour) and I was able to sit with the girls and draw and cut and help them paste their animals into their dioramas.  We were just about finished placing Allison’s flowers when he woke up.  Since the wind chill was 0* F when I woke up this morning it seemed a good day to work on our tundra study.  Next week we will begin One Small Square: Pond.  And they are already excited to do another diorama.

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Rachel’s diorama includes the aforementioned snow geese, a ptarmigan with chicks, a snowshoe hare turned brown for the summer, two lemmings, as well as a few flowers that she did totally on her own.  She was amazed at my drawing skills and wanted to know if I had taken lessons!  Quite flattering.

Art Study

Mother of Divine Grace includes Art Study as part of their Kindergarten program.  We do it about two times per week and it generally takes 2 – 10 minutes.  The syllabus includes all sorts of ideas for how to “study” the art pieces–matching, describing in many ways, telling a story about the piece, etc.  Occasionally, observation skills are built by having the student copy the piece.

Here is “George Washington on a White Charger.”

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Here is Rachel’s rendition.  She worked on this for 25 minutes straight!

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On a side note, I find it galling (to put it mildly) that Donald Trump is now in the same lineup of Presidents that includes George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and FDR.  How is it that Republican Party has gone from Abraham Lincoln to Trump in 150 years, anyway??? Every morning during our intercessory prayer time, Rachel prays that God changes Donald Trump’s heart so that he is nice to people.

 

Switching Horses Midstream

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MODG Kindergarten plus a few extras 🙂

 

Well, I dithered and prayed and researched and finally selected the loosely-guided curriculum that we started back in September.

And it was fine; we read lots of books and it was Catholic and the FB support group was basically awesome and I discovered many new “living” Charlotte Mason resources through those wonderful ladies.

But it wasn’t a match made in Heaven.  It was a great place to start, and a great way to see which way we needed to go from there.  Sometimes, you can’t find the answer till you start.

For me, Mater Amabilis was a mix of too much to do, and not structured enough.  There was literature, 2 history books, 2 geography books, 3 religion books, poetry, music, Nature Study, phonics, handwriting, optional foreign language, and math to be juggled and metered out each week/day.  For Kindergarten.  There was no suggested daily break down of tasks, and a few of the books we just plain didn’t like.  At all.  And it seemed, poking around on the FB group, that that was  a recurring theme throughout the grade levels.

So we indeed “switched horses midstream” and started Week 1 of Mother of Divine Grace’s Kindergarten program after the New Year.  At this point, my plan is to just keep at it, taking a break for moving this summer, and transition to First Grade sometime in the fall.  And it is great.  For me, it has the perfect amount of structure, but is easy to switch out resources or change the pace in a particular resource if I feel that fits our needs better.

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This is a blank book for Rachel’s Bible illustrations and narrations; she will add to this for years!

 

For instance, I spent 45 minutes one night at the end of November perusing the Internet for the lyrics to a Christmas song for us to learn and a simple Christmas poem for Rachel to memorize.  With MODG, Catholic hymns and classic poems are provided and integrated.  In the syllabus it says “Have your child memorize the title and author of ‘Rain.'”  Well, it took her a few days to get that down straight, but now, 10 days later, she has the entire little verse memorized.  We may not complete the memory work perfectly, but we do work on it everyday.  The syllabus is nicely structured but is easily deviated from if that’s more your style.

For MODG, our day generally includes
Morning Time
Daily Prayers: Morning Offering, intercessory prayer, 1 decade of the Rosary (we just say 5 Hail Marys not 10)
Poetry;
Hymn;
Classic Picture Book;
and every other day or so we do Art Study)
Math (finishing MEP Reception level then will move to Abeka Kindergarten Math); Handwriting (we are continuing on with Memoria Press’s New American Cursive versus MODG’s recommendation of Writing our Catholic Faith since cursive is very important to me, plus we had already started it and have had great success with it)
Religion (Reading, alternated with illustrating and narrating Old Testament Stories from Golden Children’s Bible)
Phonics (I am shocked, but we are really enjoying Teach your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and we do this after our chapter book read aloud time every night right before Rachel goes to bed)

We are also going to do Memoria Press’s Kindergarten Crafts book, which corresponds with different classic picture books, and I will read out loud Nature Study books and we will take once Nature Walk per week–this will all hopefully occur on Fridays, since MODG is set up on a Mon-Thurs schedule.

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At this level, Rachel illustrates the particular Bible Story, and then dictates her narration which I write down on the opposite page.  I write almost exclusively in cursive, which is one of the reasons I adamant about teaching cursive to all my kids.

We didn’t do school today

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Rachel took the white board and dry erase markers and carefully copied out the print and cursive letters from her alphabet chart that hangs next to her seat at the little table.  I am actually really impressed both at the initiative and legibility!

We didn’t do school today.  Or yesterday.  Or Monday.  I generally aim for 4 days per week of “school” but sometimes…recovery from a long trip, snow, or a sick sister get precedence.  I took these pictures of Rachel’s projects today, though, to remind myself that learning is happening, even when I’m not directing it.

 

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This “snow castle” is from Tuesday, but Rachel built a structure similar to it today on her own in the yard

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Rachel dressed herself and then Patrick up as elves and Steve was King Gnome and I was the Elf Queen. Even better, she put her “fancy” shoes back on the shelf when she was done without being prompted!

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Rachel invited me to create this scene with her on Allison’s dresser

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I asked her to make a card for her friend’s upcoming birthday, and she did…with sparkle.

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Unprompted, Rachel unpacked her crayons and watercolors and painted the mountain we see from our dining room window, half covered in snow with the “glow of the sunset on top, see, Mommy?”

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We read 4 chapters from our latest Read Aloud book. I love this one as much as she does!

Lunchboxes

 

Every night as I am cleaning up from dinner (or after if I forget!) I pack the girls’ lunches.

Yes, we homeschool, and my kids use lunchboxes every day.

This has been a lifesaver.  We often go out in the mornings after Patrick’s brief micro nap, and invariably the laundry needs moved along, Patrick needs to nurse, and dozen other things need doing, too, as soon as we remove our multiple layers and sodden boots.  So now, lunch preparation is one less thing in that rush.

Basically, the girls now eat the lunch, and I generally pick it.  I will ask them if they would like this kind of sandwich or that kind of sandwich, or do they want this stew for leftovers or not, or do they want carrots or peas for a vegetable, etc.  And sometimes, it’s a complete surprise when they open their lunchboxes!  I even include the necessary silverware.

Because we DO homeschool, and we DO eat at home, I DO make allowances.  As in, I will, upon polite request, dump out the noodles and cheese and heat those up.

This has been a game changer for us!

Now the hardest part is finding space in the fridge for two lunch boxes amidst the cauliflowers, yogurts, and leftover stew, which is what Patrick and I will have for lunch.  The girls elected to have cheese slices and pretzels tomorrow.  And I snuck in some carrot sticks.

Camping: the ultimate Nature Walk

At the beginning of the summer, and thus the beginning of camping season, Rachel told me, “Mommy! The most fun thing about camping is s’mores.  And the other most fun thing about camping is that you get to spend ALL DAY OUTSIDE!!!!”

We managed probably…10 separate camping trips, for a total of maybe…18 nights camping this summer.  I think.  I didn’t keep track.  But I did make sure to take lots of pictures of our last camping trip.  Our go-to campground at Ft. Abercrombie was closed for the season, so we headed to Buskin River instead.

Flaming yellow cottonwood leaves; dark green spruce needles; crisp blue skies and crisp autumn air!  Family, hugs, winter coats, grumbling at mommy’s “just one more try for a picture!”  S’mores, dollies, bicycles, and fairy houses. Followed by a chilly hike at Near Island, before home.  Now we get to let our trailer hibernate for the winter!

A day…

Not every Kindergartener gets to hold their baby brother during morning circle time.

Or wear a princess dress for handwriting (while mommy folds laundry and sister builds magnatiles).

And not many Kindergarteners get to go barefoot at recess.  Or pick enormous dandelions.  Or identify toadstools.  Or parade around the neighborhood with dolls and parasols.

(Not pictured: a huge fight about who was going to carry home the parasols, strollers, and dolls from barefoot, sunlight delight recess.  Hint: it ended up being the same person who folded laundry during handwriting).