Our daughter-in-law is starting to homeschool our 4-year-old granddaughter.  She's very excited and eager to start to homeschool preschool.  Today we both searched through my shelves of books and materials for things that she could use to teach the baby to read.  I know.  At four years old she's not a baby, but it's a hard habit to break. She's still the baby in the family.   So we started pulling out the books I used with my own babies.  I showed her how I used each one, even sampling one with the baby.  Just like our kids have different learning styles, we have different teaching styles.  So I wanted her to take a look at each one and choose which would be best for her.  For our older kids we used Alpha-Phonics, and with our youngest we used Phono-Graphix. We've homeschooled for thirteen years and have made many changes over the years. We've used so many different resources.  I have my favorites.  And actually, there are some books and resources that I may have a hard time surrendering, even after I'm done homeschooling all our kids.  But I'm happy that our daughter-in-law is homeschooling and we'll be keeping my favorite ones in the family.  So I'll be sharing with her,  and hopefully someday sharing them with our other kids if they homeschool.  Of course, as I say this, I'm reminded that  there's always new homeschool curriculum coming out.  Our youngest uses Time4Learning, and that wasn't around when our older ones were little. They would've loved it!

We've used so many different things over the years. Some have stayed with us and some haven't lasted more than a few weeks.  Through our elementary years we're more eclectic.  I'll use a little of this and a little of that, even getting creative with materials at times.  When our kids reach high school, it gets a little more structured, as we're more concerned with the credits needed for high school transcripts.  I just don't want to take a chance that I may mess them up if they want to take their education further. So structure equals less freedom and more discipline with our schedules.  It means more responsibilities. Especially once they're dual enrolled in college.  If they want to dual enroll, we start with one college class to be sure they can handle it.  If they're registered for a college class and homeschool writing courses, they know that the college class takes priority over any other course, extra-curricular activity or job.  The college course grade is one that will be on their record and affect their gpa, not just for high school, but also for college. For example, one of our kids took an online college class. That was not a good idea for this particular child.  The idea was that the online class would allow more flexibility, but instead, our student often forgot to check in for assignments and tests. Of course, our student got a less than acceptable grade. That was one lesson learned by our student and by us! 

This year two of our kids became drivers, started college classes and part-time jobs.  The changes have meant we've had to adjust in different ways.  We've had to be more mindful of our schedules.  We've had less freedom to take spontaneous trips or vacations.  Also, family dinners have always been important.   However, with additional activities, classes, jobs, friends and schedules, there have been fewer family dinners.  At times I'll cook a meal for six, and it'll end up being just three of us.  Sometimes the kids have been at work, in class, or even out at an event or with friends.  Sometimes they've planned to be home, and their schedule changes when they get called in to work. This summer they didn't take college classes, so it's meant more time to be together.  We're having some sweet times together.  At times we've had to intentionally plan it, and other times it's been spontaneous.  Either way, it's always fun to have time together, whether it be a planned trip to the beach for the day, the library for a few hours, or a game or movie at home for the evening.  Even if it's only for a few minutes, they'll take time to play two-player games with Sami.  The World Cup has also afforded us more time together, since our family loves soccer. We've watched games together either at our oldest son's place or at our home.  It's been fun cheering for our favorite teams together.  Also, our kids are making new friends at work, and we've had more opportunities to be intentional to invite them over more often to get to know them.

What about your family?  Some of you may just be starting out, but some may have older kids.  What brings your family together, if you have older ones?  And if you have little ones, what traditions are you starting in your family?  

Learning Games for Preschoolers

Our son married a wonderful girl last month. I now have a new daughter....and I also have a new granddaughter.  She has a soon-to-be 4-year-old daughter, and she's a sweetheart. I know you may think I'm biased, but believe me when I tell you that she is super smart, kind, considerate, lovable....this is the moment when a mom of a toddler is reading this and she says, "Sure she is. She's your granddaughter." or "Sure she is. She doesn't live with you." You're right on both counts. Her mom and I agree. We do agree she's got her moments, like most toddlers. I've actually seen her when she's had a tantrum. And I'm so impressed with how gentle and patient my daughter-in-law is with her. Perhaps that's why baby is so tenderhearted and sweet.

Well, my daughter-in-law has decided to homeschool. She was homeschooled through the last half of her school years. So she has experience and knows the benefits of homeschooling.  Can I say that I'm happy that they're choosing to homeschool?!  I hope all my babies will be homeschooled. Baby is only 4 years old, but mom is eager to get started. And baby is also excited to do 'schoolwork'. It's been a long time since I've had a little one. She's stayed with us a few times while they go out on a date or when mom needs to run errands. We have tea parties and dress-up parties. We play with puppets and have puppet shows.  She's such a little actress.  She's been taking ballet and loves to put on little dance shows.

There's lots of learning going on through play when she stays with us.  Sam loves to play with her.  She's a wonderful auntie.  She loves playing on the computer, too. We've found some fun learning games for preschoolers.  We've installed some fun educational apps on our iPad that she enjoys playing. When my kids were little, our greatest resource was the library.  We spent a lot of time at different libraries, children's museums, the park. And I look forward to doing that with Sam and baby, too.  Our library has fun Story Time scheduled several times a week, which includes a craft. 

The internet is a great resource today. I have a Pinterest account and I'm finding loads of hands-on learning activities there.  I also found a fun program at our local humane society for young readers.  They've joined with the libraries to create a program called Wags & Tales Reading Program.  Kids can read a short story of their choice to a therapy dog. This helps boost kids' confidence in reading, plus it's fun for them. So I'm starting to put together some fun activities for the summer because our granddaughter, who lives in North Carolina, will also be visiting us this summer.  Of course, we'll be doing days at the beach or the waterpark here in Florida, but I also want some fun things to do at home besides swimming in the pool or baking cookies.  So if you have any fun activities or suggestions, please comment below and let me know. 

Getting Ready to Meet Felicity and Kaya

Samantha has been invited to an American Girl summer book club.  She is so excited. This is the first personal invitation she's received to be part of a group or club. She's especially excited because it's a book club, since she loves to read, and it's an American Girl book club, since she loves and has American Girl dolls. She needs to read two books, Meet Felicity and Meet Kaya, before the end of next week. She's almost done with the first book.  To prepare, I've gone through the book and picked out words that she's not familiar with, like fret, ginger, harness, scoundrel, breeches, tannery, to help her with word meaning and comprehension. I wanted to create my own list at SpellingCity, but then as I did a search for Meet Felicity, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were a number of lists already created by other members, which we can use. These word games give a boost to her reading comprehension. While some of these may be words that most girls her age would know, they're not words that we use in our everyday conversations or that she may have read too often in other books. Also, Samantha has Down syndrome, so her vocabulary knowledge is not as extensive as a typical child her age. Which is why I'm so glad that she is an avid reader. The more she reads, the more her vocabulary will grow and the more her comprehension will improve.
She reads every opportunity she gets.
To be sure she's understanding what she's reading, after she's read a few pages, I ask her what she's read. If she doesn't have a good understanding of it or if she cannot answer some of my questions, I'll read it with her again. It's okay if we read the book repeatedly. The important thing is that she read the book from beginning to end and that she understands the flow of the story, the problem in the story and the solution in the story. We also talk about lessons to take away from each story, the characters and what she thinks of each character. Sam and I haven't done a book club before. So I look forward to her being a part of this with other girls and their moms. It'll give her an opportunity to hear the girls discuss the books and to have some input into conversations. This is an area that Samantha really needs practice in, and this will be the perfect setting for her. She'll be with friends who know her and care about her, and she'll be familiar with the topic of conversation. I'll tell you more later about our book club experience. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your experience with book clubs. Maybe share with us some ideas we can bring to share with our friends.

Graduate Slideshow

Well, I've been talking about it for weeks and graduation day came and passed. It was a beautiful ceremony. We have a lot of homeschoolers in our church. So we have our own Graduation and Promotion Homeschool Ceremony.  We had five high school graduates and 3 kindergarten graduates. All girls. And we had approximately 35 kids promoted from one grade to the next. Our main focus in our graduation and promotion is character. Each child is given a certificate highlighting a character or two that they have shown growth in throughout the school year. Mom and Dad will have written out a short blurb regarding their child and their growth in these areas, and this is added to the certificate.

We invited all our family to the event. It was a big day for our daughter! We are the only homeschoolers in our family and this was everyone's first time at a homeschool graduation and promotion. I've participated and been in the audience of many graduations, and let's be honest. We wait and wait for our graduate to make it to the stage for his or her diploma. And once that's done, we can't wait for it all to be over.  At least the graduations I've been to have been a long drawn-out event where we just listened to names we don't know being called out.  A homeschool graduation and promotion is different. And maybe I'm a bit biased, but it was fun and interesting listening to each character trait being read for each student.  And to watch the expressions on the kids' faces and their reactions was priceless. Our family was impressed with the sweetness of the whole ceremony. And I even had one of my nieces ask me questions on how to homeschool her babies. The audience cheered and applauded each student as their character trait was read. The kids were eager to hear what their parents had written. And the parents were filled with joy to celebrate the end of another school year. In this case, the parents have played a major part in the character building of their children through much daily prayer and discipline, through highs and lows, through moment by moment opportunities to teach academics and good character. Of course, academics are important, but academics will only get you so far without good character. Wouldn't you agree?

The best part of the whole celebration were the much anticipated slide shows. Each homeschool high school graduate had a slide show for all to view, followed by the parents saying something to their graduate, and the graduate honoring and thanking their parents. It's safe to say that there wasn't a dry eye in the house. My daughter's slide show was a complete surprise for her because mom put it all together for her.  Well, actually, I selected the pictures and the songs, but my nephew did an amazing job of putting the whole thing together. And still, once I saw the finished work or art, I had to acknowledge that it was God who produced, directed and edited the whole thing...not just the slide show, but her life. In the end, all I could say to my daughter is this is the end of just one chapter of her life and I eagerly await to see what God will continue to do in her life.