Thursday, October 29, 2015

20 Ways to Be the Best Homeschool Parent {According to 9-year-old Aidyn}

I interviewed Aidyn about what it takes to be the best homeschool parent, in his opinion. I sat down next to him with a notepad and invited him to dish.

So if you'd like to glean a little wisdom from my fun (and honest!) son, please read on. All bold points are his suggestions verbatim; I may have added some insight, explanation, or excuse to save my reputation!

How to Be the Best Homeschool Parent {According to Aidyn}

1. Take them on field trips.
Okay, he has a point here. Field trips rock! He loves them because they get him out of the house and physically moving. I love them because they often fulfill a range of "subjects." Zoography, reading (the placards and signs), geography, physical activity, science, and math can all be accomplished in a trip to the zoo.

2. Have fun.
Well, yeah. But sometimes I really need this reminder.

3. Throw parties.
As an introvert who relishes quiet time, this one is hard for me. But we've thrown skeleton parties and book-related parties, and they've always been a smash with memories that live on longer than any textbook lesson.

4. Have poetry teatimes.
This beautiful family ritual was prompted by the lovely Julie Sweeney Bogart from Brave Writer. We don't always have the fanciest teatimes or the freshest homemade goodies (sometimes a box of cookies from Safeway is all I have), but the mood is always warm and festive and flowing with poetry.

5. Take them to the park.
Everyone loves running around and climbing like a monkey, right?

6. Help them do school by drawing pictures to make things easier to understand.
Sometimes a fun illustration of a glacier plowing through a mountain like a bulldozer makes things easier to understand. And more exciting! (Side note: I'm a terrible artist, but it results in some funny cracks about what I'm drawing)

7. Play outside.
I'm sensing a theme developing.

8. Give them thousands of snacks, yummy snacks, like cupcakes and cookies.
I promise I give him fruit and veggies, too! Really!

9. Give them fun things to do like drawing, coloring, and reading.

10. Do Spelling Power, math, and reading.
I'm glad he covered the basics.

11. Put on Reading Rainbow.
"I can go anywhere!" "I can be anything!" Who doesn't love that?

12. Fall asleep watching an afternoon movie.
I promise I've never fallen asleep during afternoon movie time and neither has he! But we do get comfy and relaxed.

13. Take them shopping for colorful school clothes.
I guess the ritual of school-clothes shopping isn't lost to homeschoolers.

14. Have 80s Saturdays.
I know that might sound confusing, but occasionally we have turned back the clock and had 80s Saturday mornings (just for fun!). I make a YouTube playlist of 80s cartoons and slip old commercials in between, and we stay in our pajamas watching retro cartoons, eating junky cereal, and playing with 80s toys I scrounged from thrift stores. We do the 80s because it's the decade of my childhood, but we've "gone to" the 70s before, and you can easily pick any decade and go there.

15. Take them to Disneyland.
He's definitely my child. But Disneyland can be very educational! We've done so many unit studies inspired by Disneyland themes. The possibilities are endless.

16. Take them to the apple farm and museums.
Of course.

17. Jump in the trampoline while doing school.
This is not something we've done before, but he really wants to try this!

18. Go on walks and look at leaves, bushes, and trees.

19. Tickle and squash and wrestle.
Sometimes it's helpful to be reminded that we are homeschooling, not schooling at home, and home is a place to cuddle, be silly, and roughhouse every once in a while.

20. Build a fort.
Everyone loves forts.

Here's some that I would add (from a homeschool mama perspective) because I've learned how important they are and need the reminder:

  • Chill out.
  • Enjoy them and allow them to help you grow.
  • Embrace the discomfort (hate parties? Throw them anyway).
  • Never underestimate the power of a food break, a coffee break, a retreat-to-our-separate-areas break, a bath break, an outdoor break, a movie break, etc.
  • Everything counts. Even if there is no worksheet to prove you did anything.
  • Never call yourself a perfect homeschool parent; never call yourself the worst.
  • Never underestimate the power of a back rub (for both of you!)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Play School with Jack~ Letter Bb

Play School for 1-Year-Old (12M) Jack
Week Two
Letter Bb

Letter-of-the-Week Box~ Letter Bb

Since I had so many blue items, I made a separate blue box for Jack to explore.

This week's Letter Bb box is filled with blocks, balloons, buses, a stuffed bee, wooden letter Bs, foam Bs, flashcards with bears, a barn, a bird, and a boar.

 As usual, Jack taste-tests everything first!

 Jack explored his Bb box on Sunday morning.

Dialogue went something like this:

"You're holding a big bee!"
"What's that, Jack?"
"That's a stretchy balloon you're holding."
"Does that block taste good?"
"Here's a bus. The bus goes vroom-vroom!"

I noticed he didn't have lasting interest in the Bb box like he did with the Aa box last week. I left it out during the week, but he rarely initiated play with it, which is okay. I think next time I will fill the box with much fewer cards and more hands-on objects.
 Here's Jack playing hide-n-seek with the bee.

Books~ Bear and Ball, Blueberries for Sal, and a big book read-aloud

We read Bear and Ball by Cliff Wright several times during the week, and Jack just adored it. It has a sing-songy quality to it for faster reading but can also be slowed down to browse and explore pictures and comparisons.

We also read another favorite in our house: Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.

This wasn't the type of book Jack wanted to sit down and hear, so he mostly wandered around while I read it aloud. Aidyn loves the book, so he listened to every "kuplink...kuplank...kuplunk!"

And, though it doesn't start with a B, I began reading Charlotte's Web by E.B. White to Jack while nursing. When he was a newborn, I used to read while nursing but fell out of the habit and, unfortunately, started just watching TV while nursing him. I was missing out on some golden opportunities for undivided attention! While I read to him now during a nursing session, he murmurs and points his finger at the book and my lips as I read. I've even noticed more babbling since I started reading during nursing sessions. Sometimes he finds Charlotte's Web while he's crawling around and opens and flips through the pages, which absolutely warms my heart.

More Language Activities

All week, our home has been filled with the sunshiney melodies of the Beach Boys, the drama of children's Broadway songs, and the familiar crooning of the Beatles.

Jack loves dancing to The Beach Boys best!

Jack still enjoys scribbling in his journal. I typically lay his journal and crayons out and invite him to write, and he usually makes his marks. If he doesn't, I don't force him to.

Throughout the week, Jack also:
  • watched/mostly listened to a little Mister Roger's Neighborhood
  • read stories with Daddy
  • spent time exploring outside with Grandma
  • babbled a lot
  • started declaring, "Done!" whenever he was finished with a task
Physical and Sensory Activities
Balloon play

This is Jack's first time really discovering balloons, and he loved it!

 Here he is playing with Aidyn and his cousin, Danielle.
B is for Balloon

Water Play
Jack loved the water play area at the Stockton's Children's Museum.

Mirror Play

 Playground Play

We practice RIE as much as possible so when Jack is on a play structure, I mostly just spot him. I do not place him on any structure or move his body to perform any task. He climbed this play structure himself and experimented with getting down the slide. He scooted backward but wasn't ready to let go.
Funnily enough, on the outdoor playground (just minutes before), he climbed up to the slide, scooted backward, and slid down (!) by himself for the first time, but this tinier slide scared him a little, which, again, is okay
Small Motor

Jack has been practicing his pincer grip for picking up foods and is learning to feed himself with a spoon.
 Jack has also worked on: 
  • climbing up and down the stairs (he's very adept at it now!)
  • standing and cruising
  • standing and taking one step
  • playing on the trampoline
  • climbing up and down from various objects and heights
  • playing in his ball pit
Exploring the World 
Jack, Aidyn, Grandma, and I visited the Stockton's Children's Museum and found many opportunities for play, exploration, and learning. Jack crawled and climbed everywhere and touched everything he could get his hands on.

Jack made a furry friend at the pretend pet clinic. He opened all the bottom cages, freeing all the animals he could!

Grandma and Jack found a big stuffed bear!

B is for big bear!

 Jack was enthralled with this giant bear. We pointed out its sharp teeth, thick fur, and long, black claws.

Healthy Foods
Jack enjoyed lots of bananas this week, but I only photographed one banana food:
   Banana-quinoa cereal
He also ate banana-pumpkin yogurt and banana slices (to practice pincer grip).
This week Jack was not very interested in the Bb box, presumably because it had too many cards in it. He did enjoy the stuffed bee and played endlessly with the blocks. Next time, I'm going to use fewer cards and more hands-on goodies.

I've noticed Jack talking and communicating more. Reading aloud during nursing sessions is something I'm definitely going to continue. 

He's also becoming more adept at balancing and climbing on playground structure (with no instruction from me!). If the weather holds up, I'm going to take him to the playground for more opportunities to play.

I wish I would have been more varied in our B-foods because I stuck mainly to banana. He ate other things, of course, but I would have loved to have him try Brussels sprouts! When I make my grocery list next, I'm going to include C foods to try with him.

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Adjective-Themed Poetry Teatime

Poetry Teatime (a la Brave Writer) is one of Aidyn's favorite homeschool activities. He lovingly demands it every week, and I try my best to scrape something together. This week, I actually had a spare moment to plan something (!), so we had an adjective-themed poetry teatime.

 Easy table set up with books, drinks, apple slices, candles, and an assortment of colorful adjectives.

 Aidyn sampling a self-described "smooshy" marshmallow (I quickly added "smooshy" to our car assortment).

 We read from Many Luscious Lollipops: A Book About Adjectives (Explore!) by Ruth Heller, who writes many wonderful books about parts of speech and other fun subjects) and
Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What Is an Adjective? (Words Are Categorical) by Brian P. Cleary (another prolific writer of books about parts of sppech).

                                            The illustrations in Heller's books are amazing.

Our adjective-themed poetry teatime helped tremendously when we moved on to grammar work later in the day.

Here are some more adjective ideas:

Hands-On Skeleton Unit Study and Skeleton Party {Party School!}

Hands-on Skeleton Unit Study
and Skeleton Party
{Party School!}

Every Halloween season, I ask Aidyn to pick a topic related to the holiday. This year he chose skeletons and decided to throw a party around our topic!

You'd think having a party is the antithesis to learning, but Aidyn mastered all sorts of skills through planning for his skeleton shin-dig!

What is Party School?
Party School is inspired by Julie Bogart from Brave Writer, and it is just what it sounds like: a party centered around a school topic. The opportunities for learning are endless, real-life based, and FUN! Aidyn happily wrote, studied the skeletal system, and participated in creating an awesome party for his cousin and friends.

Step One: Create invitations!

Aidyn worked on writing (I dictated his invitation message on the board), copywork, handwriting, designing, and drawing just by creating invitations to his party.

Aidyn played a couple anatomy games over at Shepperd Software.  

Step Two: Learn all about skeletons!

You can't have a skeleton party without knowing a thing or two about them, right? ::insert sneaky homeschool mom grin::

We learned:
  • the names of major bones in the body
  • location of bones in our body
  • how to care for our bones and make them strong

 Labeling the bones.

Playing Pin-the-Bow-Tie-on-the-Skeleton game

This one is Pin-the-Apple-above-the-Mandible

 Watching Disney's classic "Skeleton Dance"

Step Three: Prepare for the Party!

Aidyn helped me purchase supplies (like skeleton decals, plastic bones, and bone candy). On the day of the party, he decorated the house and trampoline, blew up inflatable skeletons, and tested the Bone Toss game.

 Bones for the game and goodies for the prizes!

 Aidyn practiced division by dividing the candy and the bones into equal groups.

 He even crafted the Bone Toss sign.

 His cousin, Danielle, helped hang decorations.

This gentlemen kept the drinks cold.

Label-the-Little-Skeleton game

Step Four: Party!
Reenacting the Skeleton Dance as it played

Some of the kids playing the Bone Toss game.

Jumping on the trampoline (to keep our bones strong!).

 Even Jack got involved by tossing bones.

 Bone sorting.

 Our party somehow led to a screening of Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

We ate hot dogs and "marshmallow bone treats" (forgot to take a picture because we were having so much fun!), and the kids all had a blast and talked about bones the whole day. Win, win!