Saturday, April 27, 2013

To K4 or not to K4- that is my question.

Here is an example of my "homeschool newbie-ness" (probably not a word- I made it up because it sounded cool, lol).

I just attended a homeschool conference and was so excited to get almost all my curriculum for next year!

I only have 3 things left to buy:
* I still need to buy my (Catholic) religion books (no Catholic publishers were at the conference). 
* I really liked McRuffy Phonics/Spelling/Reading/Language series I used this year for Cian's 1st grade and plan to buy it again for 2nd grade, but they weren't at the conference either.
* I need to decide what to do for Zoe next year. Hence the title.

For Zoe this year I used a download purchase from Confessions of a Homeschooler website called "Letter of the Week" preschool. We have liked it and all the small motor skills have been great. Her coloring, scissors skills, and writing have drastically improved! She was 3 when we started homeschooling this past fall, so it was a perfect preschool curriculum for her.

SO, here is the homeschool newbie statement: "You mean I get to decide my child's educational path based on her readiness and abilities and not when her birthday falls on the calendar?!?!?!" Lol! It is so true though!

It was a easy decision to skip a grade this year with Cian. He was beyond what he would have received in a Kindergarten classroom where he would have been this year by his birthday. For example, he has been reading since right around his 3rd birthday and he is currently enjoying 5th grade chapter books. (I do want to send a "shout out" to some amazing K/1st grade teachers like my mom, my friend LJ, and another good friend AK, who when a teacher before homeschooling, went out of her way to provided extra resources for her students that were above their grade level. Those kind of teachers do exist out there, the problem is just getting lucky enough to get one!
(Please note, I am not trying to imply that everyone has to homeschool. I'm just saying it has been what is best for our family. I also am not trying to bash teachers! They are incredibly overworked and underpaid! My family has TONS of teachers and I respect their hard work and dedication. I was a teacher myself for nearly a decade!)

(Okay, additional side-note, I also don't want this blog post to come across as negative towards the school my kids attended before we decided to homeschool. Although there were academic areas I felt they should have done more, especially at the K level, there are some great teachers there too. We loved the preschool teachers for example. If they ever had a tired or stressed day, the kids NEVER saw it. They put their heart and love into their job and the kids feel it! The 4-year-old preschool teacher Cian had was very accommodating and let him leave class to do Accelerated Reader tests on the computer. (It just said "Cian, 1st grade", lol!)

Okay, not trying to ruffle any feathers here. Back to the topic at hand: Zoe's curriculum for next year.

I have been trying to decide what to do with her next year. Choice #1: I am so in that traditional school mentality that she is 4 so she must be needing to do 4-year-old preschool. However, I then remember that a particular month on the calendar doesn't define my child and that may not be the best choice for her.

Then, I think, what if I do Kindergarten with her? Choice #2. Well, I like to plan ahead and my little organizing brain starts to think about my future 17 year old Zoe in college. I'm not too worried about Cian going to college at 17, he will turn 18 that same November. Zoe however, is a January birthday. So then that worry over that silly calendar sneaks back in! She would be 17 that whole first semester.

Okay, enter into the discussion: Choice #3 - K4, Kindergarten for 4 year-olds.
I am very interested in this! I have done internet searches on homeschool K4, but what is interesting is I have actually found through those searches that there are quite a few public schools doing it too!

Anyhow, back to the homeschool K4. There are only a few that I found and the majority will not work for my family. I am seeking ideas other have. Also, what others have done with a 4.5 year old for that school year. Preschool, K4, Kindergarten??? Feedback and ideas most welcome!!

I am hoping there are more programs out there, but these are what I have found:

Confessions of a Homeschooler has a K4 program. Now this is going to sound weird since I adore their preschool program, but I wonder if this is "good" enough. What I mean is as far as I can find it is not accredited as a K4. The creator is very creative and very talented, but I get nervous with no education credentials for her or on the program.. Also, I wonder if it will be a big enough step up from the preschool? Thoughts? Has anyone used it?

Ironically, the only 2 homeschool curriculum companies I found that have a K4 are A Beka and Bob Jones. Both of these companies are anti-Catholic. I am sure at their preschool level they are probably fine, but as a matter of principle neither of these companies will get my business or money.

(Okay, I feel I need to add yet another side-note. I just want to make the statement that I am not against all Protestant publishers and  for certain subjects have no problem using some them. There is a big difference between a publisher being non-Catholic and anti-Catholic. There are many publishers that are Protestant AND Catholic friendly if that makes sense. These particular two companies are not.)

Okay, focus needed, lol. I am looking for ideas and suggestions for Zoe who will be 4.5 next fall.
What have other homeschoolers found to work?
What are your thoughts on a 4.5 year old in preschool, K4 or K?
Do you know of any other companies that offer a K4 curriculum?
Thanks for any suggestions!







Tuesday, April 23, 2013

H & H Assignment: Why and When to Start a Family

I have always wanted to be a mother.

I can remember being a child and playing with dolls constantly. When presented with the constant childhood question, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" my answers would change from time to time, but the constant was I always included "I want to be a mother."

I always knew that the man I would marry would have to want to have kids. I felt this was important as it was something in my core that I knew I would only feel fulfilled if I was a mother. My hope was to have four children someday.

Brian and I married in June of 2002. I had always heard it is nice to have a year just as husband and wife. I also liked the idea, and we decided to start trying to begin our family almost exactly a year later. We were hoping for a "teacher baby" meaning due date in the later part of spring semester so I could take maternity leave and then have summer also to be with the baby. We started trying in June of 2003 and became pregnant right away and I "knew" before I officially knew that I was having a daughter. I just had a feeling, like that feeling that I knew I had to be a mother. I knew that my 1st born was going to be a daughter. We tossed around a few names, including calling her Mckinsey, but my heart was set on naming my child Grace. Grace is "our gift from God" and I truly felt that she was even before I met her.

When Grace was born I was just literally moved to tears. She was the most amazing, beautiful thing I had ever seen. I was so filled with love and joy. A deep sense of longing in my soul had been fulfilled with this gift God had given us- Grace.
Grace only a few days old

We talked quite a bit about when to have another baby, looking for that one perfect time spacing between kids. My brother and I are 4.5 years apart and I knew I wanted my kids closer than that, but didn't want them super close as I wanted to cherish each bit of the baby stages with each. We decided 2 and 1/2 years would be perfect and we got 2 years 3 months between Grace and her little brother Cian.

Brian loves Grace more than life, but I gotta say, there is something exciting for a man to see on an ultrasound that he is having a son. It may be the fact his name will carry on, or perhaps just a hope for a miniature soccer fan, but either way, he was excited.

Our 9 lbs. 13 oz "little" boy was born in November 2006.
My little guy in his 1st Ireland jersey

Our next little bundle of joy was Zoe. Cian got his name because we wanted a strong Irish name and both loved the name Cian. (We would have used it for Grace had she been a boy, lol!) Zoe, like Grace, got her name for what it means. Zoe's name means "life." We believe that we had been blessed by God with a third little life and that is what she was named. Side note- it definitely fits her, she is very full of life! Lol! I was very excited to hear that Zoe was a girl. I was glad to have one of each, but when we were going to have a 3rd I had hoped for another girl. 

After having both Grace and Cian, I was so terribly sad to have to go back to work. Being on maternity leave was a very happy time for me as I was with my other "babies" too! For Zoe, we were lucky to have her in January 2009 and I took off almost the whole semester from teaching. Zoe was a beautiful, sweet baby girl!
Zoe on her birth day

With three young children and us both working full time, we had our hands pretty full, but God knew our hearts had more love to give. When Zoe was 2 days away from being exactly 2 1/2 (Good one God, my perfect spacing- I get it, lol!), we had our little Ellison. She has been such a great blessing and joy. I cannot describe how important she is in our life. Having faith in God means trusting that He has a plan for you. He knew what our family needed and blessed us with her. She was our little catalyst for change. Instead of having 3 in daycare and working for a parochial teacher salary, her birth gave us the motivation to make a change. I decided to do what I have always longed for- become a stay-at-home mom and that allowed me the opportunity to homeschool. I count my blessings daily and thank God for my husband and the amazing children we have. I feel so lucky to be their mother.
Ellison in her little newborn outfit







The Kevin Bacon Connection

So there is a game called The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. It comes from the notion that any people on earth are about 6 people or acquaintances apart from one another. In the game any celebrity can be traced from Kevin Bacon back to Kevin Bacon in a chain of 6 celebrities.
I've not actually played the game, but I've had my own little "Kevin Bacon" experience.... 

Here's the backstory:
I decided that keeping a blog during our homeschooling experience would be a great thing for the kids, for Brian and I, and for family and friends to see what we were up to at Teach Academy (our homeschool-hence the name of the blog). It has been a little virtual yearbook which has been really nice. Relatives all over the county and abroad have been able to see current photos of the kids. This is particularly nice because since blogging and Facebook, I think it has been YEARS since I have physically printed a photo!

I had created webpages in college and use Facebook, but am not super tech savy so I asked my friend Jen (who always has an awesome looking headers on her blog: http://lifeatcheshirefarm.blogspot.com/
to help me! Long story short, she gave me some insights and encouraged me and I became a blogger!

Well, I have another friend that is a new friend I met this year from homeschooling that is also quite the blogger, her name is Laura. Laura also has awesome blogs at http://wherelovestarts.blogspot.com/
Laura and Jen didn't know each other, but met through my blog and became friends! Cool, huh! Just call me Kevin Bacon, lol!

But, it gets even better!! Laura has a friend named Carla. Check out her blog equally awesome blog here: http://www.ltmrfmly.blogspot.com/ Laura thought Carla and Jen would totally hit it off as they are both homesteaders. So they connected in the blogosphere! Then we all decided to meet up in person and have formed a little blog community we called H&H. Homesteaders and Homeschoolers.

It has really been awesome! We have grown in friendship and can spend hours in laughter. They are all very talented writers and I love reading about their thoughts, their children, and just their life in general. They motivate me to want to blog more! I have actually, after a recent conversation with these gals, decided that my family homeschool blog can go beyond just kids art projects or a cool fieldtrip. Of course, I will still have those on here, but I'm going to start putting more of my thoughts and memories on here too. I hope my blog readers don't mind. :-)

So, why the Kevin Bacon title? Well, I just thought it was really cool how myself and these 3 awesome ladies have connected this little "Kevin Bacon" circle by blogs. We had individual friendships and have connected each other in a friend circle now too. We can talk about blogging and life and well, everything. We are so alike on some things and so different on others, but it doesn't matter. We are just 4 cool ladies that are all friends now who love to blog and love life.

Recently, we decided to challenge each other by having some blogging topics and assignments each week. This week we will be blogging about our own journeys of "Why and When to Start a Family." My next post (later today or tomorrow) will be on that topic and check out my blog gals at their blog links above for their stories. Feel free and invited to share yours too!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ellison stars in "The Angry Cow"

video
Grace was asking Ellison, (20 months), what some animals say. The cow one is hysterical!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Curriculum Shopping Time

To prepare for a homeschool conference I am going to be attending, I made a curriculum shopping list. 
It contains all the subjects the kids will have next year, all the kids names, and what I am using next year.
In most cases, I was very happy with what I chose for this year. A few I changed. A few I plan to "see what's out there" at the conference.

As you can see I am a very eclectic homeschooler, lol!

Here's what it looks like: