Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why homeschool?

So...why homeschool?

I get that question a lot.  In fact, some people don't even ask it...but I know it's right there festering in the back of their minds and they WANT to ask me.  But they don't know how to word it, or how to ask it without seeming rude.  I was once one of those people:)

Several years ago I met a homeschool family. 
I knew very little about homeschooling, and wasn't even all that interested in it.  I just enjoyed their company, and one day was invited to their home to see what their typical school day was like.  My perception of homeschooling was forever changed.
I watched two boys eagerly showing me what they were learning, experiments they were conducting...I listened as they couldn't wait to recite to me all the countries of the African continent.  The boys were very social, great friends with each other--able to play with my son (age 3 at the time?) and also hold adult conversations well.  I was...well...impressed!

It is amazing the journey that began that day.
I have since met many homeschool families.  Some that have children who are now grown, some just starting.  And these are not families that I met at homeschool conferences.  These are families in Madison, WI that I have met at random through various social functions I've attended.  Some at the place I volunteer weekly. Some at church.  They are EVERYWHERE!

It is a huge movement!
I am very much pro-public school, pro-private any school really!  I attended a great public school growing up:)  And I have treasured family members who are teachers.  So do not be afraid of me because I chose homeschooling.  We each do what we feel is best for our child(ren).  I chose homeschooling for many reasons unique to my family.  Mostly, I want my kids to fall in love with learning.  To desire to seek knowledge the way they seek cookies.  Some kids do that easily in public school settings, they just "get it."  I wanted to be able to tailor my kids' learning environments specifically to their needs and interests.  So that they never fall through the cracks, never want to give up on learning.  For the pure joy of it!  And at the same time I wanted to develop their character, to teach them through the lens of a Christ-centered worldview.  For me, Jesus is not a word spoken on Sundays or a fairy tale of sorts.  He is the light that directs my paths daily, I speak his name and it is like honey on my lips.  I will follow Him forever.  And sending my kids to private Christian school was not finacially viable.  And I am glad for that, b/c it led us to homeschooling!  It is a huge responsibility, yes, and very time consuming.  It is time consuming to blog about it!  But I enjoy sharing with long distance family and allowing people a window into a homeschool family if they are curious what it is all about. 

I enjoy having Gabe and Quinn around and passing on my love of learning.  It is truly a blessing to have the ability to CHOOSE our children's educations, isn't it?  What a great country, what a great STATE we live in!  To be free to educate our kids in the ways that are best for them as individuals!

So, whether your kids are public schoolers, private schoolers, homeschooled or charter schooled--welcome to my blog about our journey.

"Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see."

May God bless your children's journeys!

Kindergarten Week 3: Sun unit

Kindergarten Week 3:  The sun!

(Gabe and Quinn empty the contents of their bags after collecting items on a nature walk)

Letter of the week:  Ss
We have officially started phonics again.  We left off with phonograms and digraphs in the spring.  This year we are starting slowly with a little review time, reviewing handwriting especially.  This week we are reviewing the letter "S."  I am not sure how the rest of the year will progress...I am taking my cues from Gabe.  We started this week by using a fabulous website called, where we played games relating to reading skills.  Gabe LOVES this website!  It is fabulous, and FREE! 
When we ended our preschool year, Gabe was reading simple words, beginner BOB books, and knew a handful of sight words.  This year I hope to have him reading on his own completely by the end of the year--BUT, it is more important to me that he enjoys the process than how quickly he arrives at that destination.

Let's paint!

(the boys really enjoyed this activity)

Some of our sun-themed activities:
-painting with patterns in orange and yellow
-keeping a chart of how long it takes grapes to turn into raisins when left in the sun
-learning about shadows
-book of the week:  Bear Shadow by Frank Asch


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Kindergarten: Week 2

Kindergarten Week 2:  Creation unit continues

Our study of God's creation continued this week.  This is a chart we made.  (Quinn drew all the wonderful, colorful straight lines!  He likes to feel big and participate in school, too.)

Our songs this week included:
BINGO, Old MacDonald, and the B-I-B-L-E
I found some fun felt pieces online at, the kids loved to take turns putting the pieces up.  (Did I say take turns, oh--a better way of describing felt time is that they squabble over whose turn it is...) Gabe is a little bit "over" the whole preschool song thing, but we do songs mostly for Quinn who is still learning letters.

Gabe is going through a "get that camera away from me" stage.

This week we completed our creation timeline and Gabe finished the illustrations for his creation book. 
When he was listening to the bible's account of day two's creation, he got all confused.  And so did I.  Have you ever REALLY read the description for day two?
It's all about creating the sky....separating water above and below the sky....but the actual creation of the seas does not occur until day 3.  Ummm....CONFUSING!
So, as we read the story from the bible for day 2, Gabe illustrated it complete with a sea.....
and what is a sea without jumping fish?  And sunken treasure???

He was surprised the next day, day 3, when we read that the sea was formally created.  And then again surprised on day 5 when sea creatures were created. 
So, now he tells people:  "And this is day 2 of creation, but nevermind the fish I drew--there were no fish yet on day 2--I was losing my mind!"

The front of the creation book:

Our completed creation timeline:

Why teach creationism?
There are many theories out there on "how" the earth was created.  Molecules piggybacking on crystals, aliens planted life here, you name it!  I am very big into apologetics lately.  I spend lots of time listening to podcasts on scientific evidence relating to creationism.  I do not teach my son creationism as a way of shielding him from the world.  I teach him creationism because it FASCINATES me, it is more than wishful thinking--it has scientific support.  (A great movie on this subject is "No Intelligence Allowed" starring Ben Stein.)  I will most definitely be teaching my children other theories as well, such as evolution and the big bang theory.  I believe it is critical for them to see all the evidence and know what the world is selling.  But all of that is shelved until future years and maturity.  We are starting with the solid, and I believe truthful, foundation of creation as seen through the eyes of a magnificent God!

But my absolute favorite part of homeschooling thus far, has been the blessing of allowing Gabe the luxury of unstructured time.  Time to pursue those playful pursuits of childhood!  This week he was a LEGO maniac.  He spent HOURS building glorious creations! 
Once he felt a project was complete, he would summon Quinn and say, "Want to play with my LEGO house?"  So the two of them would pick out little Lego dudes and spend the next hour in pretend-Lego-world together, jumping from towers...hiding treasures...falling through trap doors....
There were moments this week when I had small amounts of time just peeking at them, watching them play together and laugh together!
And that is so precious.
(Gabe concentrates as he adds the final touches to his latest LEGO creation.)

This week Gabe also started fall swimming lessons.  This is his second swimming class, and he loves it!  It will be interesting to see what he learns this session....sometimes I wonder about the value of swimming lessons at such a young age?  I mean, really--do they learn survival skills??  Mostly it seems they learn to be comfortable with the water.  And I supposed that is important.  Gabe begged me to sign him up for swimming again; he really enjoys having time in the warm water, having a teacher other than mommy, and being able to splash around with other kids.  I also see the value in that, so we forked out the $30:)
Mommy time!
I spent Thursday evening at a wonderful homeschool kick-off event hosted by F.I.S.H, the support group that I am a member of.  I attended a few great seminars, and scored an armful of inexpensive books at the used book sale!  I got to socialize with a few wonderful homeschool mommies:)
By the way, did you know that Dr. James Dobson (formerly of Focus on the Family) is a HUGE homeschool fan and supporter?
Check out his new family talk program!
Follow the link to hear some great podcasts regarding the modern homeschool movement.
Dr. Dobson now has a radio show that he hosts along with his son Ryan Dobson, and Ryan's son Lincoln will be homeschooled!

Next week.....looking forward to starting phonics once again!
It will be a full week.  Hoping to have time to blog about it?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Kindergarten: Week 1

It's our first week of kindergarten!
Raise your hand if you are excited!

Kindergarten Week 1:  Creation Unit
(Where do I start??)

Let me start with today:  Happy Teddy Bear Day everyone!
All bears and stuffed animals were invited to class today.  (see photo above)
We read about the creation/invention of the teddy bear from Vermont Teddy Bear Company's was way over our heads.  Oh well!
After class we had a lovely teddy bear picnic outside on the picnic table, with sandwiches cut into CIRCLES for day 4 of creation:  sun, moon, and stars.  We talked about spheres.  After the wasps showed up...we ran inside!!  EEEEK!
Gabe enjoyed drawing bears all day today, in fact--he called Grandma Rollmann to ask her what she wanted her bear to look like (templates compliments of Clubhouse Jr Magazine, a subscription that we adore that was a gift from Grandpa and Grandma Rollmann)

(the bear Gabe created for mommy)

(we use My Father's World curriculum for the basics, I add in additional phonics, books, songs, etc)

(Gabe will tell you:  it's really SQUARE time, because we gather together on a SQUARE blanket!)
During circle time we open the day with prayer, then we sing a song.  This week we are learning how to sing the alphabet a little bit differently than we are used to!  TRY IT!
A-B-C-D-E-F-G, H-I-J-K-L-M-N, O-P-Q, R-S-T, U-V-W, X-Y-Z
Now I know my ABC'S, and I know that God loves me!
(notice the elimination of that mysterious elimenopee letter!)

2.  100 CHART
Each day we put one popsicle stick into a clear jar, and we write the number of sticks we have on our "100 chart."  We are working our way toward the 100th day of kindergarten.  As we advance, the popsicle sticks will be used to teach counting by ones and tens.

We go outside to check the weather, and record it on our calendar.  We also have a felt-board weather display in the dining room, which Gabe enjoys changing each morning!

(dining room=weather central)

Gabe sits quietly (ya, right!) with a bin of fresh library each week....while mommy works one on one with Quinn.  This week Quinn is learning about colors.  We play color matching games during our 15 minutes together, and read books about colors.  Gabe mostly looks on and sometimes needs to sit on his hands to keep himself from joining in!
Our favorite book this week:  Mr. Pine's Purple House by Leonard Kessler

We are reading through the history of creation in the book of Genesis.  Each day we read one day of creation, and add a number to our timeline.  Then we color a corresponding page for the "creation book" we are working on.  This week, for day 3 of creation:  earth and plants, we planted seeds.

(our creation timeline)

Phonics will be starting more heavily in week 3 of kindergarten.

We end the day watching a utube video of the hymn "My Father's World" by Fernando Ortega.  We are attempting to memorize the first two verses!  Sometimes the boys sing along, mostly we watch the video of amazing places that God has created!

Currently Gabe is practicing the first 8 notes of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
After our introductory creation unit, we will be learning about the life of the composer:  Mozart.

Each day the boys get out their school bins, with contents that change weekly.  We store the bins in our dining room, where most of our schooling takes place.

In the evenings I read aloud to Gabe from a chapter book titled Autumn with the Moodys, by Sarah Maxwell.  The book is number 2 in a series of 5 books that chronicle the adventures of the Moodys, a fictional homeschool family.
(I met Sarah Maxwell at a homeschool conference in May, and she graciously signed the first book in the series for me!  We read that book--book 1:  Summer with the Moody's, in the early part of the summer...and Gabe begged for more!  So I bought the entire series online!  The books were not available at the library....booohoooo....) 

Thanks for taking a peek into our journey.
Check back soon!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Gabe's first violin recital!

Gabriel's First Violin Recital
(photo:  practicing before the recital starts)
The recital was held at Capitol Lakes Retirment Home, downtown Madison.
Gabe plays his solo:  Twinkles "A"
The Suzuki Violin class with their instructor, Miss Lindsay.  (Gabe is front left).  Are you wondering...what in the world, how young are these kids??  Great question!!  Well, Gabe is the youngest one in the group; he began lessons four months ago at the age of 4--which is a prime age for beginning violin using the Suzuki method.

What is Suzuki?  Suzuki method is an educational philosophy that uses a nurturing envioronment to develop children's character, along with their musical talent.  The movement was started in Japan guessed it...Suzuki!  Suzuki believed that learning music went hand in hand with developing noble character, endurance, and discipline.  The "nurture" factor involves small steps, immersion into the language of music via repitition and imitation, and lots of encouragement along the way!  Suzuki saw music as a form of language, and believed that if youngsters can pick up the art of speaking in their native language long before they learn to read it--the same could be achieved with instruments.  Therefore students learn to play their violins before they are ever taught how to read sheet music.  Songs are memorized!  Performances are part of instruction, in order to make performing natural and enjoyable.  The method is not about raising musical prodigies; rather it is about character development.  Gabe has a weekly lesson, about 15 minutes long, and we practice at home daily for at least 5 minutes (at least....we try!)  There are many things for kids to be involved in today, and I believe strongly that the number one things kids need is:  uninterrupted space to be kids!  To play!!  So I love that this method accounts for Gabe being a 5 year old playful boy--he is allowed to be silly and tell jokes at be himself....

And before you start thinking that we are some weird crazy people with ecletic taste and no feet in reality, I want to throw my hands up to heaven at this moment and tell you, truly, that this whole experience is a gift from my God.  I just want my sons to have opportunities to impact this world with good.
And God, You see the desires of our hearts and move mountains in ways that make me weep with joy!
Praise You, God, for the tiny violin in my kitchen.
Further proof of your magnificent goodness.
From the mom who pinches pennies!  Worshipping a God who moves mountains....

Friday, April 23, 2010

PG rated spelling practice

Today was such a FUN school day!  Gabe, Quinn and I were huddled up around the door of the fridge, where Gabe's new magnetic dry-erase board is located (gotta love the Target $1 hot spot!!).  This week we are learning the phonograms "ear, ur, and ir."  So we were huddled there doing some spelling practice, using words that contain our new phonogram friends...words like girl, earn, and squirt.  I would say a word, and then we would work together to decode it--with Gabe writing each word on his board.  Quinn was standing next to Gabe, and as Gabe was breaking down the word aloud, Quinn was shouting "A!"  "O!"  "E!" "DO!" ( means 'two')  Little Quinn was desperate to start spelling too.  I smiled and tucked the moment into my heart.

Then we played a spelling game of hide-and-seek monkey.  It is very similar to normal hide and seek, only the hider is a plastic monkey....and he hides only near objects containing one of our new phonogram friends.  For example, in the first round I had Gabe close his eyes and count, and I hid the monkey near a "shirt."  Then I would give Gabe "the monkey is hiding somewhere in the living room."  Or "the monkey is hiding up high, somewhere higher than your head." 

Eventually Gabe wanted to be the one to hide the monkey.  So I closed my eyes and counted.  When I began hunting for the monkey, Gabe was generous in giving me some hints.  "Mom!  It' the room that I am in.....right NOW!"  And he hopped into the kitchen.  I looked everywhere.  No monkey.  I asked if it was inside something.  He thought long and hard...and said yes.  This will be funny later on in the story.  And then he bounced down the hallway.  I asked for more clues!  He said........"it's somwhere where I keep my body healthy." 

I asked him, "Is it in the kitchen?"  Gabe replied..."No."  I said, "But you told me that it was in the kitchen before!"  I'm thinking....."where does he keep his body healthy???"  I said, "Is it in the pantry?"  He said, "No!"  I asked, "The bathroom then??"  Gabe sheepishly replied, "where do I keep my body healthy?"  and a huge grin erupted on his face.  I know that grin anywhere.  That sly grin!  I put my hands on my hips and said, "Gabe.....I am CONFUSED!!"

Then my 4 year old innocently clued me in.  "Mom, it's by my peepee, where I keep my body healthy!"  And sure enough, he pulled down his trousers and there was this sad little yellow monkey hanging out of his underpants.  I burst into rolls of laughter, and said, "That poor monkey will NEVER be the same!" 

And Gabe--with a serious and very concerned face said:  "Why, mom?  Why will he never be the same??" 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

a day in the life...

It's the little moments, you know?  The moments that were not planned, that unexpectedly creep into your day for better or for worse.  Those are what life is made of.  I have an entire binder that outlines my day--hour by hour...listing my expectations for myself in an effort to effectively run an active household.  I think that God made me a type A personality for very specific plans...but I also wonder if sometimes He doesn't just put His finger in the smooth glass surface of my day to cause a few ripples.  Even waves.  To make me set aside my binder and wake up to REAL LIFE.

This morning Gabe would not listen.  At all.  We had to run to violin lessons, and despite being told more times than I have fingers to "put socks on..." I had to do it for him.  "Get your shoes and jacket on, Gabe."  It was as if he had lost his ears.  (Those silly ears are constantly getting lost...)  I had to do it for him.  This was the cycle of our morning.  He spent more time in the naughty corner than out of it!  (And he wouldn't go to the corner, I had to do that for him, too). 

At violin lessons he listened 80% of the time.  To a perfectionist parent, paying big bucks for these private lessons--that was unacceptable.  I felt the urge to let loose yelling this morning.  But even though that would have felt really, really good for at least 60 seconds...instead I offered up a quick desperate prayer for patience.  Am I totally failing as Gabe's mother, God?  He doesn't listen!  Show me how to speak his language!

Then I slowed down long enough to hold Gabe's hands and explain why he was on his LATEST time-out, a 15 minute whopper T.O. just before lunch.  I told him the ways in which I was proud of him today:  for learning how to balance his violin on his shoulder, for obeying right away when it was time to start quiet-time.  He beamed.  For the past few minutes he has been on a mission to impress me with his super-duper obedience.  In my business today, I had concentrated so much on what I needed to have happen that I had forgotten just to be Gabe's mom:  with neverending love, support, and patience.  I had forgotten the language of motherhood.

After lunch, in an effort to keep Quinn out of the dishwasher as I was loading it....I would roar at him and pretend to chase him.  He would run off giggling and screaming, and it would buy me at least 30 seconds of open-dishwasher loading time.  Then those little pudgy feet would come tromping back for more.  Gabe heard this, and he started in with, "Chase me, chase me!"  Before I knew it I was chasing both of my kids around the house pretending to be a silly mommy-monster!  We were all rolling with gut-wrenching laughter!  Zoe was attacking me, trying to save the children!  Another one of God's ripples.  And then a I see Gabe hunched over by the couch.

"Gabe, what's the matter??  I'm going to G-E-T- you---RAR!"  And Gabe says, "I think mommy monster made me poop in my pants!!"  And he was not kidding.  Off to the bathroom for a little afterparty cleanup.  A little lesson in how to wipe.  A lesson in hand-washing.  More reminders of "get your fresh undies on, Gabe.  Get your pants on buddy.  Please don't play choo-choo's without pants and undies on...."  And then:  (almost) instant obedience.  My kid came bouncing down the hall wearing fresh pants and undies, with a proud smile. 

I have to laugh at my binder.  My schedule.  Rarely do I have a day that goes according to binder.  Yet I long for that perfect, seamless day.  I attempt it with each new morning.  That's why the binder still exists and I haven't thrown it into the snow.  And at the same time I cherish and bathe myself in the joy that is motherhood--the complete chaotic, unscheduled ripples that God blesses me He takes His mighty hand (probably His left) and invisibly crosses things off my silly list... and adds new things in bold