Sunday, August 30, 2015

Chore Charts (2015)

At the beginning of the school year we implemented a new discipline system. This is partly because Ben and I thought the girls are old enough to have designated jobs and tasks each day, and also because Ben has been spoiling them rotten buying them toys all summer and we thought an allowance would be a good way to teach the girls about saving for the things they want and about working hard and earning money on their own instead of begging Daddy for toys every time we go to Target.

I made a list of 10 tasks the girls are responsible for each day. When each one is completed, I put an X next to it (I laminated these with clear contact paper and use a dry erase marker). Each X is worth 1 marble. Each marble is worth $0.10. So they have the opportunity to earn $1 a day. The tricky part is that they also have a chance to earn demerits. Demerits are earned by hurting hearts (hurting someone's feelings with unkind words or actions), hurting bodies, disobeying mom or dad, whining excessively, throwing tantrums or lying. Basically all of the things the girls struggle with on a daily basis. I put a tally mark next to whatever action they did to earn their demerit, and for each tally mark they lose one marble. At the end of every day, Ben counts their X's and puts them in a jar. Then he counts their demerits and takes those marbles out. This way the girls can visualize how much they have earned. Every weekend they exchange their marbles for actual money and have the choice to either save it or buy a toy. They usually earn $4-$6 a week. 

The girls take this system very seriously. They never EVER complain when I remind them to do a task and they HATE getting demerits. Sometimes I have to give Emerald a demerit for throwing a tantrum because I gave her a demerit. And sometimes I have to give her a demerit for trying to be sneaky and erasing her demerits. For every phase we're in, I have to come up with a new discipline technique that encourages good behavior and cooperation and discourages unacceptable behavior. For right now this is working amazing. I am pleasantly surprised with how effective it is and how much the girls LOVE it. They are so proud of themselves on the days they get no demerits and they love showing Daddy their charts when he gets home. This is also a good way to keep Ben involved in discipline because when they have a lot of demerits we have to tell Daddy why and he has a little talk with them and they never want to disappoint Daddy so this alone is a very good motivation for them to avoid demerits. 

This is what their charts look like on a typical day. All their X's filled or missing just one or two. And anywhere between 0-6 demerits. Their goal is no demerits because completing all chores + no demerits = an extra X! They get 0 demerits and 10 X's usually 2 or 3 times a week. On a normal day they get 1-3 demerits. They are good kids but not perfect by any means! We all love this system. And now when the girls buy toys they feel amazing knowing they worked so hard for them!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Emerald's Preschool Activity Book

Emerald is loving this Preschool Activity Book by Christian Liberty Press. It covers letter recognition and their sounds, numbers 1-10 recognition and counting, shapes and colors. There is also a lot of handwriting practice. She easily does 4 pages every day in one sitting and sometimes she does 5 or 6 just because she feels like it. She is very motivated and excited to do school every day. It's so fun to watch her love to learn! 

I also love how she can spell and write her name on her own. Preschool handwriting is so adorable, and I think she does a pretty good job for just turning 3 a couple months ago!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Science, Health and Social Studies (Mercedes' Kindergarten)

We are a couple weeks into the school year and so far we are loving it! Mercedes, who just turned 5, is starting her second year of kindergarten. Last fall when she turned 4, we did My Father's World Kindergarten. I highly recommend it for all of it's Bible, science and hands on learning. It's a great way to introduce homeschool to your children because it really makes them excited to learn. Every day and every activity is so much fun! It also introduces letters and their sounds and very basic reading skills and has a math lesson about once a week. I didn't feel confident that Mercedes had gotten enough reading and math to start first grade so this summer we have been going through kindergarten level phonic and math books by Christian Liberty Press, which are much more advanced than anything she did in My Father's World. She is about halfway done with both and will finish probably sometime in November or December. 

She also reads three kindergarten level readers every day. She is starting Awana in September and we will be going through the workbook and doing lots of memorizing for Bible, as well as reading stories from the girls' preschool Bible every day. I also ordered her a science, social studies and health book, all of which she will be done with by November or December. We are all set to start first grade this January! I am much less concerned with their ages and what grade they are suppose to be in than I am about keeping them challenged and excited to learn. Both girls have a passion for learning and beg for more constantly it's hard to keep up with them! 

The Science book is by Christian Liberty Press. It has a unit for each of the 7 Days of Creation and discusses the different things God made on each day. There are little activities, projects and experiments throughout the book as well as coloring pages and little quizzes and discussion questions at the end of each unit. Mercedes is having a lot of fun with it! The only complaint I have is that it's only 92 pages and she is flying through it (already on page 32 after 2 weeks of school) so it is definitely not something you could use for an entire year of school. For us it works great because even if she finishes it by October we will be starting a new one in January.

Social studies by A Beka is Mercedes' favorite subject this year. The lessons are about our community (our family, our town, how to be a responsible citizen and different "helpers" in our community like firemen, police officers, doctors, postal employees, teachers, etc). It teaches about safety rules (fire safety, how to dial 911, stranger danger, learning address and phone number, wearing a seat belt, how to keep our bodies and teeth healthy, etc) Our country (it's leaders, our flag, and geography) and other countries and cultures all around the world! There are lots of coloring pages and topics for discussion. 

Both girls really enjoy Health by Alpha Omega (Horizons Publishing). Mostly I teach out of the teachers' book, which has a topic for discussion each day. There are lots of ideas for games, activities, puppet shows, discussion questions, crafts, etc. to go with each lesson so I have been using some of those and coming up with some of my own. This book covers lessons on emotions, family, getting along with friends and how to be a good friend, the 5 senses, things we can do to keep our body healthy, safety rules and preventing health problems. It also comes with a workbook and there are assignments in it that go along with some of the lessons. 

Both girls also watch a Signing Time video each day to learn American Sign Language! 

With 7 subjects we stay pretty busy these days! I let Mercedes decide how much she wants to do in each subject each day and more often than not she wants to keep going long after I've planned for her to stop. I am hopeful that this school year is going to be a great one. We are off to a perfect start! 

Tracing Letters

Emerald has become very interested in writing letters over the summer. She didn't like tracing letters in workbooks with dotted or gray lines because she is a perfectionist and she couldn't make the lines perfectly straight. So I printed her out these sheets of letter outlines for her to practice. This way she had more room for error and still be able to stay inside the lines and not get frustrated, all while learning the correct way to write each letter. She begged for these every day and they kept her occupied while I did reading and math with Mercedes.

Emerald practiced so much this summer she can now easily trace letters in her preschool workbook and write her own name without help!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lily Pads (Spinach Pancakes)

For those of you who have children (or husbands) who are anti-veggies, this is a delicious way to hide spinach! Mercedes (my picky eater) adores them. When I tell her I'm going to make them she actually starts jumping up and down yelling "YAY!" She eats them with ketchup. My husband eats them with ranch dressing. I think they taste wonderful just as they are. Last night I made them for dinner with a side of bacon. 

2 cups of packed fresh spinach
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour (we use gluten free flour)
1/2 cup milk
slices of cheese (I cut the cheese with a circle cookie cutter so they look more fun for the girls)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender until it is completely liquefied and the consistency of pancake batter (it is sometimes necessary to add a bit of extra milk). Heat a frying pan over medium low heat and brush lightly with butter. Drizzle batter onto the pan in circles about 2 inches in diameter. Cook 1 minute or until the edges turn dull. Flip each lily pad and top with cheese. Cook an additional 30 seconds or until cheese melts.

Basically cook them as you would pancakes.

This amount serves the 4 of us (2 adults, 2 kids). I like to double the recipe and store half the batter in the fridge for lunch the next day. 

This recipe is from the Sesame Street Silly Snacks cookbook. This book has lots of delicious and healthy kid friendly recipes. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Homeschool Routine and Lesson Plans (Fall 2015)

 Last week we started a new semester of homeschooling. Mercedes started her second year of kindergarten. Emerald started her second year of preschool. It's really important for us to have a structured schedule and routine to follow. The girls behave much better when they know what's expected of them and what's coming next. They like the consistency and having things to look forward to every day. 5 days a week, this is what our day looks like.

I made sure to only schedule 30 minutes of sit down school time at a time for each girl to give their brains a break. With the exception of Mercedes' reading time because sometimes she gets overwhelmed and needs a few 5 minute breaks during her reading time to help her concentrate. That's why I scheduled an hour of phonics and reading for her. I also basically switched 30 minutes on 30 minutes off for each girl so they would both be getting my one on one attention throughout the day and nobody would get too bored or lonely. Emerald has actually been sitting in on most of Mercedes' reading, health and social studies lessons and participating in the science projects and activities so they really both have fun, get plenty of attention from me and learn a ton every single day! They have been extra happy and cooperative since starting school.  They are loving all the structured learning and scheduled mommy time!

In between scheduled school time and activities, the girls play on their phones (we've got lots of educational apps for them on their phones!) or they play toys (their favorites right now are Barbies and Disney Princess Magiclip dolls!) Since they are getting so much one on one attention from me during school, they have been much better about playing independently and even sleeping independently! As of two weeks ago this is the first phase in 5 years that neither of the girls has needed cosleeping. 

I also made a plan for our evenings and weekends. It includes a family game night, a family date night (toy store, movie theaters, frozen yogurt or ice cream, etc), and a mommy daddy date night while the girls are at Awana. I do this to make sure we don't get into a TV watching rut in the evenings and we are getting plenty of family time once Daddy comes home every night. The girls also joined Dazzlers Christian Dance team so they will be attending classes two nights a week as well as attending Awana at church once a week (I chose not to post a photo of this schedule as it includes exactly what day, time and location we will be at each activity throughout the week). 

Lastly, I wrote out a daily lesson plan for the girls to follow so they know how much work they are expected to do in each subject each day. In each subject, I divided how many pages are in each book by the number of days in the school year to figure out how many pages a day the girls would need to do in order to finish each book by the end of the year. 

The girls and I are all very excited about this school year and are having so much fun! Our days go by fast with so many things scheduled for us to do and so far both girls have been cooperative and enthusiastic about their school work. I try to make learning fun for them and incorporate plenty of games, projects, crafts, experiments and hands on learning opportunities to supplement their book work. We are still fairly new at homeschooling but we are loving every minute of it so far!

Our Homeschool Classroom (Fall 2015)

A few days before we started school, I stumbled across this article that totally motivated me to turn our living room into an awesome homeschool space for the girls. I think it turned out pretty great!

The girls each have their own desk and work space.

Emerald has 30 minutes of scheduled "preschool game time" every day and she gets to pick any educational game she finds on her preschool shelf.

They also have a big table for crafts and projects.

We are into our second week of school. Mercedes is starting her second year of kindergarten and Emerald is starting her second year of preschool. They are having so much fun so far! It is really helping to have a consistent schedule and to have a nice work space!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Emerald's Name (Tactile Letters)

Over the summer I have been doing these kinds of projects with Emerald to start introducing her to the letters in her name. I am so excited that as of a few days ago Emerald can now spell her name and write it without help! Today she was shouting out the letters in her name at the grocery store at the top of her lungs, over and over again. She's very proud of herself. This tactile letter project was the first one she did. I wrote her name out in glue and she filled the letters in with small shiny beads.