Tap Tap… Is this thing on?

Life continues to roll along here. We started back to homeschool about 6 weeks ago. Then co-op started a couple of weeks later – the day after Labor Day. The thing we’ve been enjoying the most at home has been a book called Time Traveler by Usborne. We have studied medieval castles, the Vikings, and are currently in the midst of the Roman Empire. All 3 of us are fascinated by it and it’s become the thing we look forward to reading about during afternoon snack.


Current status – Isaac:
He’ll officially be 7 1/2 in 4 days. His primary passions are Pokemon Go, Minecraft (discussions, not playing it), and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). He started BJJ in July and has found his niche. Here’s are a quick video of Isaac and one of his favorite instructors, Israel. The studio is run by Professor Ruy (pronounce hooey) who is a black belt. Israel and Jojo are Ruy’s primary assistants and all 3 of them are amazing men. Isaac has gotten stronger already. He goes Monday through Thursday for an hour each day and he begs to go. Isaac’s co-op class with Miss Sevara has been creating all sorts of things. He’s recently brought home a bridge and a catapult he’s made. They’ve been fun projects.

Current status – Laine:
She’s been 5 1/2 for over a week now. Her passions are anything glittery, pink, twirly, princess, or unicorn. She’s in dance once a week and is still enjoying it. She gets to use the barre this year, so that’s exciting and new for her. Tap dance is harder than ballet, but she seems to enjoy it. She is also getting better at her reading. Today she read “Tin Raft,” which is the first story in her second All About Reading Level 1 book. She is moving slowly and steadily through the curriculum and I’m thankful that she’s pacing herself in such a way that she’s not getting overwhelmed but still moving forward. Laine has a new teacher this year, Miss Chris(tina). Her class is awesome. She’s working on mindfulness, studying human anatomy, and learning geography. She never wants to leave when I try to pick her up after class. I’ve teased Christina a few times that she’s going to end up with another daughter.

Both kids decided to continue swim lessons into the fall, so we’ve switched from week-long lessons to weekly lessons. This week was their first chance to go in the big pool. They did great, but they need to get a bit more comfortable with it before they move up to the next level. I expect that to take a couple of weeks.

Life is Good at 6

It’s been quite the week for Isaac. He finished Level 1 of All About Reading on Saturday, April 20. For those of you not keeping track… that means he finished his first 49 reading lessons in under 2 months. That’s INSANE. I expect Level 2 to take significantly longer as it covers meatier concepts and there are more lessons. I *think* we can expect to finish a lesson every other day. But who knows? He certainly doesn’t lack for determination. On a fun note, his friend Anderson finished a day earlier, so we’re getting together Friday to celebrate the boys’ accomplishment. But wait… there’s more!!! The best part? The boys want to celebrate by starting their work on Level 2 together!!! Ha ha ha! Every once in a while, things go REALLY WELL. This is one of those times. I’m writing about it so I can remember it on the Internet for all the rest of my days. He wanted me to take a video. Please forgive the terrible audio quality.


Here are a couple of pics of him not holding still long enough for me to photograph his excitement last Saturday.

We celebrated the completion of AAR1 on Sunday (Father’s Day) by getting breakfast from Rudy’s. It was a sacrifice Todd and I were willing to make for all of Isaac’s hard work.

This week he continued on his incredible growth streak in a completely new way. Isaac is suddenly mastering his swim classes! He’s always been worried about swimming and being away from the pool for months was enough to worry him all over again. Last year he had an instructor he really liked, so that was a massive help. This year, he didn’t want to take swim lessons again. I informed him that it’s a life skill and, thus, not optional. Them’s the breaks. Anyway, after a mere 3 hours in the water, he got bumped from Level 1 (Blue) to Level 2 (Orange). I am BLOWN AWAY watching him in the water. He’s so much more confident, he’s a great deal stronger, and he’s genuinely pushing himself to get stronger and learn more. 

I’m trying to fasten my seat belt and hang on for the ride. I’m excited for this latest “growth” spurt in his ability to work on new skills. It’s been so exciting from my seat on the sidelines and I’m happy that Isaac is remarkably proud of himself and he recognizes that it’s his own efforts that are paying off.

Meanwhile, little sister is also taking swim class. She’s also doing well, but we don’t have the opportunity to practice for an hour after every class like we did last summer. There was a baby pool available to us last year that was right next to the pool where their lessons were conducted. I think they’d both be up a level if we were spending more time at the pool and she had a chance to practice her skills. I’m not going to push her – she is usually the one who wants to work on the skills over and over again until she masters them. This was her today:


All About Reading

Hello Dear Readers,

Isaac informed me about 2 months ago that he didn’t WANT to learn to read. He has better things to do with his time. OK. I’m still breathing. Laine is incredibly eager to learn to read, so I’ll just teach her.

Anyway, I had been researching curricula for teaching reading. The curriculum we use for most of our homeschooling just hasn’t wowed me with the way it teaches reading. There’s a lot of emphasis on letter sounds and helping the kids learn to write letters properly. I think both of those are important. However, I don’t think that’s going to a) excite Isaac to want to read or b) allow me to feel like we’re covering all of the bases. In my research, I’ve come across the name All About Reading a few times. Then a fellow homeschooler I’d never met told me this was THE program as we were discussing kids and reading. I came home and went to work on Google. I gave both kids the assessments to figure out where their skill levels were. Both qualified for Level 1. After giving this a long hard think, I decided to call the company. The incredibly helpful woman at All About Learning could have been in my head. First, she said 2 different things that really captured my newly-6-year-old in a way that I myself couldn’t quite put into words. It’s honestly like she’d had a few chats with him and then called me up to talk it over. It was uncanny. Then she said something about how *I* was feeling about what we’d been doing and it was all I could do to keep myself from sobbing on the phone. She touched directly on my biggest fears. These people KNOW what they are talking about. She both understood the boy in my house AND the mom who wants to do this thing right. I am in awe.

At her suggestion, I purchased the Level 1 program for Isaac and the Pre-Reading course for Laine. This has been a great choice for us. Laine’s already up to letter I in her class and is motoring right along. (For reference, she turned 4 in late March, but will pour over books for an hour at a time while she looks at pictures and tries to read the words). She’ll work through all of the capital letters and then we’ll go through all of the lowercase letters via this program. There’s an adorable little Zebra puppet (Ziggy) who works alongside Laine and she is having a great time helping him learn. She gives him a lot of encouragement and hugs. It’s utterly adorable. I feel great because I’m working at her pace and we’re mostly doing crafts and playing games. She is picking this up VERY quickly and I don’t feel like she’s getting the short end of the stick because I don’t know how to teach this. I’m no longer reluctant to try teaching reading.

Meanwhile, there’s Isaac. Level 1 teaches with a combination of phonics/phonemics (the sounds letters make) and sight words (words like “the” that you just have to recognize). He’s also playing a lot of games – some of them are even games that have him sounding out words on flash cards – and he’s really having fun with it! He’s knocking my socks off every single day because he’s not only asking me if we can do schoolwork, I’m finally watching this click for him. The focus is on getting him to read, but it’s not done in an obnoxious way and it’s done so well that we are both genuinely enjoying the time together. There are letter tiles on magnets we’ve put on a baking sheet (so we can use it at the dining room table) and we put together lots of words there and he sounds them out or spells them to ask me to sound them out. That’s also been unexpectedly fun for him.

This program is everything I’d hoped to find in a reading program. I’m thrilled with the teacher’s portion of it because it is remarkably well-organized and I am able to follow a plan. It took me about 20 minutes to set up Laine’s Pre-Reading stuff. It took about an hour to set up Level 1 for Isaac. Then I went back a week later and ordered the Reading Games with Ziggy book for Isaac and he asks for these games with the zebra puppet all day long (I know Grandma will be surprised that he wants to play a game over and over and over again!) There won’t be gaps in the kids’ learning. They’re both moving forward and having a fantastic time without me feeling like I’ll have to force them to work on their reading skills (#1 on the list of things I’m not about to do…) It’s self-paced, so Isaac has been on Level 3 for 5 days (because I’m really and truly not going to rush this). Here’s where we were today:

Tap the pan (Sentence)

and

Sam can nap (Sentence)

I can’t figure out how to post a video within the blog any more, so you’ll have to click on the links to watch them. 

I also didn’t video me hugging him and then jumping up and down in my excitement. You’ll just have to imagine what that part looked like.

More Kindergarten

Homeschool is continuing on really well, but I’m not doing a good job at updating the blog. I’m going to do an update for about 2 weeks’ worth of schooling because Todd left with my laptop power cord… for Austria. I’m not able to do much with my blog on the old computer upstairs because it is painfully slow and my new power cord won’t be here until Wednesday. Bear with me…

This is the pile of books and manipulatives we’re going to be using this school year. I meant to post this photo in the beginning, but forgot about it.

Isaac continues to work on his letters – he LOVES to write them BIG on the easel!!!

We made a weather vane when we were learning about wind.

Not school-related! Laine was helping Todd work on the shed and I loved this shot of her in her little work gloves.

You needn’t worry that it’s “all work and no play” around here…

Painting and crafts aren’t a part of our daily plans, but I know the kids would like them to be. I’m trying to get better about that.


Isaac working on his “Explode the Code” workbooks. The kids and I are crazy about these books. I actually had to hide them from Isaac for a while because he wanted to work on them *constantly*. They’re a fantastic tool for learning phonics/phonemics.

Using the magnifying glass to inspect some leaves and debris from around the yard.

Sorting the leaves out:

Working on the letter t in “Explode the Code.” 


These are some of the pages from his “Explode the Code” workbooks. You can see where he’s really mastering the letter sounds. I’m ecstatic about how quickly he’s picking this up.

I promise there will be more soon. I have the photos loaded onto my laptop and I’ll work on updating again as soon as I get a new power cord – hopefully Wednesday afternoon!

Kindergarten – Week 1

This week, we started homeschooling in a more official capacity. I decided to try firing up Ye Olde Blogge this week so I could show you a little bit of what we’re doing. The future looks bright!


We did some fun things and some serious things. I obviously didn’t document every single thing we did because I want to be engaged in this process, but I thought it might be fun to share some.

Isaac decided to create his own instructions and then follow them to build a tower:


He practiced writing:


This is a neat program. It’s called Handwriting Without Tears. First, we “build” the capital letters using big lines, little lines, big curves, and little curves. Then, we follow the “wet, dry, try” method. I write the letter on the chalk board. Isaac traces over it with a wet cloth, then again with a dry cloth, and then finally he draws it himself. He *really* liked this method when we tried it this week. 





I’m glad he’s enjoying some of the process.



Then we practice again by writing it in his workbook. He’s less thrilled about having to write the letters so much smaller, but he’s working on it. He’s such a perfectionist that he tends to get upset if it isn’t just like he wants, so I’m thankful for erasers!


Meanwhile, not to be left behind:


For history, we’re reading a fun book called Living Long Ago. This week we discussed different modes of transportation. There were boats called coracles that had animal skins wrapped around a wooden frame and then were coated in tar to make them waterproof. We made our own version of this using a plastic bag and pipe cleaners. I was ecstatic that it didn’t immediately sink!


The other history lessons come from the Usborne Children’s Encyclopedia. I can’t possibly say enough good things about this book. It has QR codes (those little square boxes on nearly every package of everything that you can scan for more marketing materials). We scanned several of them and got to see videos on cloud formation and hurricanes (for science) and then saw a neat video about how the first farmers settled down in the Fertile Crescent. Clicking additional links while we talked about Ancient Egypt took us to a *phenomenal* site from a children’s museum in Birmingham, UK. We got to take a 360* tour of a pyramid – inside and out as well as learning lots of new info about mummies via an interactive page. I was so fascinated! Isaac put up with me. LOL! 

We also have a fun science book we’re using, but it’s British, so they talk about fun experiments we can do using radiators. I had to laugh. Even if we had radiators in Texas, we certainly wouldn’t be using them during school hours in early September! So we tried to use the heat from the road. This would have worked better a few weeks ago when the temps exceeded 100*, but we tried.


For P.E., Isaac learned something new (and not my favorite) this week.



Unrelated to homeschool, Laine has started ballet and tap classes this week and she’s very excited about it. It was exceptionally cute to watch her and her new friends.




Finally, marginally related to homeschool, I now need glasses so I can keep up with our literature-based curriculum. I pick them up in 2 weeks, but here’s the preview:


Anyway, Isaac is on his way!

Christmas 2013 Update

Guess what?! This is a reasonably timely post! Woohoo!

Christmas was fantastic this year. We went to the 4:00 service at St. Julian’s on Christmas Eve. The kids both opted not to be in the pageant, but we enjoyed watching the other children. It was the perfect service for our squirmy kiddos. There were plenty of other wiggly, not-quite-silent children there, so ours were perfectly comfortable and I spent very little time worrying about their activity level. Isaac even held a lit candle through an entire song and didn’t catch anything on fire! 🙂

We had chili from the slow cooker that night, so it was a nice relaxing meal time. We watched Elf to unwind before bed.


Kids went to bed at semi-reasonable hours and then Todd and I finished our Santa prepping. I think we did pretty well – we were in bed by 11:30, which was better than I expected. Isaac may still have been singing in his room at that point…

He ended up sleeping late because he’d been too excited to fall asleep the night before. Laine awoke at 8:30 and Isaac woke about 10 minutes later. That worked out just FINE for Mom and Dad!


Isaac was the first to unwrap a gift, of course:


Laine got a helmet because she keeps trying to ride Isaac’s bike and she generally moves too quickly for our comfort.


Isaac got some new Lincoln Logs to supplement the set he got from Aunt Kristin and Uncle Dave last year. We have spent the majority of 12/26 building with the two sets combined.


Laine had to take a brief respite to carry on with all of the unwrapping.


The kids got Todd a coffee mug for work. It has pictures of the 2 of them on it. Isaac helped him open it.


Jackson got an enormous chew bone, but was moving too fast for me to get a good shot of him with it.



One of the favorite gifts of the day was the tent from Todd’s sister, Shannon, and her family. Isaac even slept in it in his room last night. This thing is going to get a LOT of use.



It was fun to watch Laine carefully pull tiny pieces of wrapping off of boxes while Isaac yanked them open as fast as possible. It’s hard to know how much is difference in dexterity versus temperament.


I have learned that I apparently have an addiction to BBC programming. Some of my favorite gifts were a Tardis mug from my sister, Doctor Who and Sherlock shirts, and a Harry Potter/Doctor Who necklace. Todd also got me the full set of Harry Potter Blu-Ray discs. (He also got me tickets to see Wicked in Austin next March, but that’s not related to the BBC. I got him the box-set of West Wing on DVD – also not from the BBC.)

The kids were excited about gifts from Aunt Kristin and Uncle Dave. 

“It’s mine and I love it!”

Laine and I checked out Bell, who is Jingle’s new best friend. Isaac never calls her Bell – she’s just “Jingle’s best friend.”


Isaac got a new soccer goal and ball set, which I think he’ll enjoy.

Laine got “Rody” who is a bouncing horse. This thing is hilarious!

The dress-up box from Grandma and Grandpa was a success. Laine tried on virtually every hat at least once. Todd and I also had fun with the different hats. 

Nana got Laine a little purse to carry around. She also received a picnic basket. She loves to carry things around in the crook of her elbow. This is how I expect her to look for a few weeks now:


The phone was also tremendously exciting. I guess it’s in the genes…


Nana also got Isaac this nifty drill set. He has had  a BLAST putting all of the screws/bolts into the tray and taking them out again. He usually uses the drill, but also experimented with the wrench. He doesn’t have much patience for the screwdriver.



Elke, Christian, and Milena came over for supper, as has become our annual tradition. I made my first Christmas goose and will definitely do it again. Meanwhile, Christian entertained all of the kids…


Today, Rody continues to be well-used. I laugh every time Laine gets on this thing. She doesn’t have any interest in holding on so that she doesn’t fall off…

Not to be outdone: