11 March 2014

How History cames to Life in our House

When I wrote my post about what we are learning this year, I hadn't started our history curriculum yet.

The Story of the World is a Christian approach to history, starting with the Ancient Times in volume One. As I told you in my previous post, I was not too thrilled about this part of history - I remember it as very boring. So reluctantly, I picked it up one day and started to teach it. From day one, I loved the story-telling way of bringing the histories to life. And so did Coqui. It quickly became his favorite subject.... and now I can't get him away from it!

So what do I like about it:
Each chapter's story are intended to be read aloud. So I like that we are spending quality time together. He learns, and I do too. After the reading, he has to summarize it for me and answer a few questions, which usually lead to more questions by him and a good discussion.

After the oral fun, there is some map work which is great Geography training. Many times, we have pulled out the globe or an atlas to dig a little deeper. Often, there is also a coloring page that goes with the chapter and hands-on activities. We have made cave paintings on brown paper bags, wrote cuneiform on homemade clay and hieroglyphs on parchment paper (to make a scroll), crafted a doll that became a mummy, build a pyramid out of Lego, painted a colorful coat (Joseph), wrote our own Hammurabi laws, and are now building a ziggurat out of cereal boxes, clay, and sand. It is so much fun for young (and old alike).

For each unit, the SOW book provides a list of book recommendations for additional reading. So I bought the Usborne Book of World History and the Kingfisher Book of the Ancient World. I never find my son reading 'school' books, but these are a constant go-to when he has free time. He loves that it has alot of pictures and each picture tells a short story or fact. It makes learning fun, interesting, and enjoyable.

We did this for about a month, when I remembered that I had a bunch of church ministry stuff in my garage. So I decided to pull that out and go through that as well. After all, our bible is a history book. I found more books and hand-outs and coloring pages, which we are using now - especially the girls are liking those. 

Then I came across this review about the Veritas Press flashcards. I remembered that someone had given them to me, and I pulled those out. They are put together in the same chronological order as the Story of the World books. So I love how it all came together for us. We pick up the bible and read the relevant chapters, too. Unfortunately, I only had the first set, so I decided to buy the next set, when I came across the teacher's manual. I had to get it and loved using it right away. It offers additional worksheets that go with the piece of art and the bible story.

It felt like everything was flowing together and I got more excited each time we opened the SOW book. On top of that, I found a children's bible that I had purchased years ago and that explains biblical times in an easy and understanding way. Coqui really enjoys how the Bible and History come to life. He soaks it all up and actually remembers it well.

We are so blessed to be able to home educate our children. It really is a blessing for all involved.

05 March 2014

Lent - A Time of Reflection, Repentance, and Renewal

The time flies, but I am sure that I am not telling you anything new. I can't belive that Easter is only 40 days away - can you? Spring has not sprung over here, so it is hard to believe that it is suppose to be around the corner.

That being said, today is the day that lent started. I have never done this time of reflection and repentance before, but I thought this would be a good year to start this tradition. And I wanted to include the kids in this, at least my two oldest.

What I read about this special time is that it is a reflective time of repentance and renewal. A time of examining ourselves and to make that conscious decision to turn away from things that are not glorifying God in any way. The suggestions go from adding something that pleases God, to removing something that distracts from God, or even takes His place. This is a time to grow in our relationship with Jesus.

For myself, I decided to add a daily devotional time and a prayer for a person that I felt I needed to pray for. I have not been very consistent with my devotionals over the past year and a half, and I feel the need to bring that good habit back into my life. After all, when I do spend special time with God and in His word, I feel so much better. So I recommit my life to more prayer.

The idea of removing something distracting was a bit harder. Finally, I decided to stay away from cheating. I am sure you are shocked now, but yes, I cheat. I dislike to claim that I am Vegan when fish is part of my diet, but unfortunately, lately, I have also had alot of dairy intake. And I felt convicted to change that. So no more cheese or ice cream for the next 40 days. Of course, I am doing that with the hope to slip back into the habit of being a full Vegan once again. 

My kids decided to stay away from candy and snacks - which I think at their age, is very appropriate, AND it was alone their choice. Coqui will do a 40 day devotional on his own. I hope that will lead to some great discussions between the two of us. Of course, we will include some of the bible stories involving Easter and the time before and after, in our school schedule.

What I want for them to take away from this experience is the feeling of grace and forgiveness. I want them to understand that we are all sinners and that we all need our loving God to forgive us, to show us mercy and grace. Eventually, I want to introduce them to the idea of salvation. (Romans 5:19 "For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.")

I am looking forward to the special time with God and with my children. I am praying for many blessings for us and for others that we are praying for. I am praying for further healing for myself and for a life that is filled with love rather than war. I want to commit my life to loving others, spreading the good news, and to being a light in this world. 

How about you, are you following the tradition of lent? What are you doing? 

Finally, here is a Prayer for the time of Lent:
Psalm 51:3-17 (NIV)
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

27 February 2014

Community at its Best

Bike Ride
The weather was beautiful, so the kids and I decided to ride the bikes to the playground and play on the play scape for a little while. I am so glad that I have an active, yet cautious toddler who knows her boundaries very well. It made for a relaxed time for Mami.

From the distance, I saw a Dad approaching with three children. They were, what I learned later, all under the age of five. I thought he was pretty brave for such an outing. He happened to be on the phone, and while he finished his conversation, his kids never left his side. I thought they were very well behaved to yield to the temptation of a playground so near by.

Once off the phone, the Dad immediately started the characteristic small talk that happens between parents on the playground. He apologized for his kids not playing with mine - they were too shy apparently. And then came the remark that prompted today's post.

"It's time that my kids start going to school to learn how to socialize better."


Of course, I had to answer in the only way possible for a homeschooling mom:
"My kids are home-schooled and have no problems socializing."

I am so tired of hearing people say that.
Our co-op making empenadas

First of all, we homeschooling parents are as much worried about socializing as parents with kids attending public or private schools - if 'worrying' is the right choice of word. Secondly, I think we don't realize that socializing doesn't only start with the school age, it happens since birth. Children have to learn to interact (well) with their parents, with grandparents, and siblings. When they are old enough, we introduce play dates, sports, and all sorts of things. The list goes on..... When my oldest was a single child, I was eager to have as many play dates as possible.

Since having three kids, two in active school, and one busy schedule, our play dates have become less frequent. That doesn't mean, we are not interacting with others. As a matter of fact, I feel we have become busier. Recently, I was asked how many activities we go to every week on a regular basis. Seven was the answer that caused a mouth dropped open. Yes, my kids go to seven different socialization opportunities during one week alone, every week. I do not think they are missing out on anything.

I love that my kids have a bunch of friends, all different ages. Some are older and great role models for my kids, some are younger and my kids get to be the role model. That teaches them to be respectful and caring at the same time. My children don't know what peer pressure is, and I prefer it that way. I also think that my children know well how to interact with adults. They are surrounded by them all day - although not as authority figures but as friends. They are not afraid to ask questions, to learn from them, or even to play with them.
Impromptu 'snowball fight' with tissues - it started as a minute-to-win-it game
Homeschooling is a personal decision, and when you homeschool, you have to get a bit more creative in finding ways to have your children interact with others. I don't think it's that hard but I do live in a very homeschooling-friendly state. We have tons of one-day-schools, co-ops, support groups, and other activities to choose from. In  general, kids are great at making friends easily, no matter if they go to school or stay at home.

So no matter in which situation you find yourself in, socialization is all around us. Every human being has to learn to interact well with others, may it be in our own family, with friends, and/or with authority figures. Homeschooling is not a hindrance but an opportunity to open our children's eyes to the world around us - just as any other more formal school setting is doing. Let's work together to make a better world. A world with great communication with each other.

Do you homeschool? Are you worried that your kids are not socializing enough?
Are your children attending public school? Do you have any issues with socialization there?
I would love to here from you.

28 January 2014

Homeschooling taught me flexibility

I have been quiet for so many reasons.....

One of them is that homeschooling has taken over our lives completely, but in a good way.

Even though we are still doing a more traditional schooling style with books and workbooks, it is more and more becoming unschooled.

The big word for 2013 would be FLEXIBILITY. And Mami was the student. 

Teaching a second/third grader with a preschooler and a baby on hand, is not easy, but it can be done - as so many homeschooling moms have proven it before me and with even more kids. It takes alot of energy, consistency, humor, and flexibility.

We started the year with a rigid schedule of when and how we did school. An 8 o'clock start in the morning was just one aspect. Following a schedule for all the subjects was another. Trying to be done by lunchtime was almost a 'must' (for Mami) because I would just run out of energy.

But wouldn't you know it: Babies grow. Babies become more active and mobile. And babies sleep less. Mix all this together, and you can imagine that our schedule was interrupted more and more often. With a baby that learned to crawl and walk and talk and getting into things, my attention was pulled in many directions at times.

Over the last year, we went from starting always on time and working through the entire curriculum until it was done, to starting whenever we got to it and doing most of our school work when the baby was napping, which is after lunch. So yes, school takes place most of the time in the afternoon now.

As you can imagine, it took ME some time to find peace with this. As a German, I feel like orderliness was given to me by DNA, so I kind of have to fight my own instincts here. But now, I am totally fine with the way we school. Actually, I love our flexibility. We enjoy school much more and we can enjoy other activities as well - without that guilt feeling of missing something or not doing enough.

Learning is so much more than textbooks and workbooks. It happens ALL the time, driving in the car, when the kids ask questions, or when we sit playing a board game. It is about exposing the kids to as much as we can - especially at their age now. When they get bigger, and they will develop their own tastes and interests, we will study those things in more detail.

So some days, school will be done in the mornings, some days we won't start until after lunch.
If something comes up and we have to change plans, we can. Like last week, our field trip was moved to Wednesday, which opened up our Friday for something else. So we are having two half days and split the work of one day over two shorter days to enjoy socialization.

I like to get my errands done in the morning, when I have more energy and the stores are emptier (lol). So when we do our weekly big shopping trip, school will take place in the car, in the grocery store, and afterwards at home. It kind of never stops.
Here, we are learning outside in the backyard while Baby is sleeping

So my message for other homeschoolers is that FLEXIBILITY can create a wonderful environment for children to learn every aspect of life, not just the academics. It can teach the kids to deal with the curve-balls that life throws us sometimes. When unexpected things happen, there is no need to stress.

09 December 2013

Cryoow doll winner

A while ago, I participated at a giveaway that was hosted by Grace for Moms. They were giving away one CRYOOW doll. I know..... you are wondering what that is! A funny name, right?

CRYOOW stands for CReate YOur very OWn personal doll! Here is a link to their webpage: CRYOOW. Basically, your child draws a doll, you send in the drawing and a doll will be sewn according to the drawing. This doll will be unique and there will only one be this one. So it is truly a one-of-a-kind-doll. Pretty neat, right?

So when I saw that I had won the giveaway, I knew my little princess (aka Peanut) needed to do a drawing in order for this doll to come to life....

She needed some help with the drawing, as it had to be a certain size for the company. So Mami gave a bit of help with proportioning things. She colored it all by herself and it took some time, as I told her she needed to work nicely.

Here is a glimpse - I think she did a great job.

I then had to scan the drawing and send it via email to Bali..... yes, a far away place to give birth to this doll. We waited patiently for the transformation to take place. I want to say, it was maybe two weeks. She had to be send all the way back to our country and was here in about five days.

In the meantime, my little girl had no idea that this was coming. So when the doll arrived, we called for a family meeting. We showed her the drawing to see if she remembered - she did! Then we showed her the package and told her to open it. She was so excited.
It took her a few tries to get her out of her package but then she finally held her in her arms.
Now the doll needed a name, and within minutes, she was baptized 'Abigail'. So now, Abigail sleeps right next to Peanut. A very special doll for a very special girl:
We are being blessed and very thankful for this gracious gift.