Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Favorite Homeschool Resources

   I have had several people ask me where I go for ideas, inspiration, and support for homeschooling Coop. I have a handful of go-to blogs from moms that are likeminded or also have preschoolers. I join forums for the same reason. Pinterest has played a huge part in helping fill my idea bank. I have realized that I will be pinning ideas from the same person and start following them. Pinterest is also a great outlet for me to share my ideas with other parents. We are all in this together!

   I have realized that the only way to not get burnt out or run out of ideas is to surround yourself with supportive, likeminded parents who have been or are in the same boat. Being a parent of a toddler is exciting enough but throw homeschooling in the mix and it's a whole different beast. If you don't surround yourself with other parents and resources that are available to you, it can seem overwhelming. With that support though, you find comfort in the hard days when either you or your child are just off your game. You find reassurance that a bad day, even a bad week, every now and then is okay and that you are not the only family that has them. The best thing about surrounding yourself with other parents and homeschoolers is that you can rejoice that much more in the happy days and find joy in watching your child grow and love learning!

  Here is a list of my go to blogs, websites, and forums:

What are your favorite go to parenting or homeschooling sites? I would love to check them out and list them here!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Puzzle Activities

   Puzzles are a great free time activity in our house. Coop loves to problem solve, so figuring out puzzles is right down his alley and an activity that keeps his attention for long stretches of time. Can you say Mommy magazine break?!  I wanted to make sure that he kept his love of puzzles without getting frustrated until he learned to master the harder ones that had more than 10 pieces. He is a perfectionist and if he thinks he can't do something he won't participate in whatever the activity is even if you tried to bribe him.

  I came up with an idea idea. What if I could give him another way to match the puzzle piece to its correct place in the puzzle. I removed all the pieces and numbered the actual puzzle base where each piece goes. I used a permanent marker but i'm sure you could use a pen or pencil. Just stay away from washable markers cause they will bleed. 

  I then numbered each puzzle peice with the matching number of where it goes. The easiest way to do this is to put the puzzle together then take one piece off at a time to number it.

   I handed him the puzzle base and placed the pieces down next to him. I told him that he could now match the numbers on the board with the numbers on the puzzle pieces and he would create an awesome picture!
  He jumped right in and was increasingly excited with each piece that he put together! I loved his conversation with each piece as he went.
  "Okay, this is a..... 5! You go..... HERE!"

  Seeing how much confidence this gave him was priceless. Look at his face! I like that I can do this with numbers, letters, shapes, and eventually sight words. I'm hoping he will be a puzzle solver for a long time!

Friday, January 25, 2013

And the Winner is.....(Menchie's Giveaway)

And the Winner is.................

Marissa Lane

Congrats! You won 4 coupons for free frozen yogurt at Menchie's Frozen Yogurt. Check your email!

Thanks to everyone who participated. I look forward to the next fun giveaway!

                                   ~Amber C

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Frozen Yogurt Fun (Giveaway!!)

  Yesterday we began "My Favorite Color Week". Cooper just happens to share my love for GREEN! The morning started off with putting on a green shirt and making banana nut muffins with a couple of drops of green food color. I have never seen him down a muffin faster! When thinking about this week lessons I took into consideration Coop's growing amount of cabin fever. I have found him on the back deck numerous times in the past few days shoeless, and happy as a clam. This normally wouldn't be a big deal but it has been around 32 degrees and there are still patches of snow on the ground. Sneaking outside is the only way he can see the backyard recently so I am trying to come up with outings for us to go on that I can also use as teachable moments.

  When our family does brave a trip out it's usually for dinner or dessert. Our favorite treat at the moment is frozen yogurt, which Cooper affectionately calls "freezing yogurt". I will never correct him because it's the little sayings like these that help me hold onto the baby I still want to see in my three year old! I thought that a trip to Menchie's Frozen Yogurt in Bearden , which has a plethora of yogurt toppings to pick from, would be a perfect way to include an outing into our Favorite Color Day!

  We arrived at the store a little before dinner and were greeted by their amazing staff. They are always so nice and even interact with Cooper, who is running around with excitement at this point. I let him choose his yogurt flavor from the easy to see pictures above each yogurt machine. I love that they had these in addition to the flavor name in print because even though he can't read, he felt so independent and grown up choosing all on his own.  He chose vanilla and we moved on the the fun part - the toppings! I reminded him that today was his favorite color day and that we could "hunt" for all the green things we could find to put on his frozen yogurt. He loved this and chose : green gummy bears, green peanut m&m's, and a couple of green gummy worms! The icing on the cake was when he was offered a spoon that was green. Win!

  This was such a fun way to start our "My Favorite Color Week"! Our family loves the Menchie's in Bearden and would encourage you to stop by if you are in Knoxville. I know that I don't have to twist your arm to go out and eat frozen yogurt but maybe a giveaway will give your family a fun night out! Yes? Here you go:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Favorite Color Week

Starting off "My Favorite Color Week" with a green banana nut muffin for breakfast!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Running Wild

   Apparently God is working on my heart, because this thought of just letting Cooper be a three year old and learn at his own pace is still heavy on me. Maybe God is giving me reassurance that I am teaching him when I need to teach, and letting him run wild when he needs to run wild!

   Have you ever had something planned out for you and your child to do that you are super excited about? You get out all the materials that you had to run to the store to pick up the night before. Everything is set up and ready to go. You call them to the table and as soon as they get situated say, "Can I go outside?" or "Can I go back to the playroom?" Please tell me that it doesn't just happen to me!

  I was once told by a close friend that she tries to let her son decide what they do every now and then, just to encourage him and let him know that even though he is young he has good ideas. I have tried to be more laid back when this happens, especially when he asks to go outside on a less than pleasant weather day. If you knew him you would realize what a huge deal it is for him to even step foot outside without one of us attached to him. He is exploring, digging, taking in every noise, and diving into what God has made for him. It is so amazing to watch! A few days ago after he had been outside for a while he looked up at the sun and said, "Mommy, the sun moved!" That led into a three year old version of a science lesson about the Sun, how the Earth revolves around it, sunrises, sunsets, and days. Some of the best lessons for our children, God has already laid out for us! I didn't need a book, although they help out greatly. I didn't even need to buy anything.

  When have you let you child decide the days plan and how did it go?!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lessons from a three year old

   Our trip to Alabama has been a huge success so far! The boys did amazing on the trip down. I made the 5 1/2 hour trip with only one pit stop, pretty impressive if I do say so myself. How did the activity book go over you ask? It was a huge hit! You can read about the activity book here. It kept him busy for a good chunk of time on the trip and it has been a great tool to use at grandparents houses while we are here. It gives him a little bit of normality to each morning since he is used to our activities at home.

    Being at my parents house this week has shown me something. I have been reminded of how my three year old needs chill time as much as I do. Yes I have used teachable moments that have come up while being here just like I would at home, but he has loved the laid back days that we have had. I think I put so much pressure on myself to make sure I'm teaching him during the week that I forget to just enjoy the day. I love unplanned, no expectations, lazy days with my little man! There really is a time and place for everything and today was a lesson from my three year old on how to let go. I'm excited about homeschooling him and the things we will explore, but I'm more excited about the memories that we will make on the way and seeing the world through his eyes!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Traveling Fun

   Tomorrow afternoon I am headed to Alabama for the week to visit family. This will be my first trip over 30 minutes from the house with both kids by myself! I have taken this trip a dozen times with just Cooper, but something about being in a car alone for 5 hours with a 3 1/2 year old and a 6 1/2 month old seems daunting. I have clothes packed and snacks ready to go. The car is gassed up and ready and Cooper is asking every five minutes when we are leaving.

   I know that it may be bad timing but I am known for wanting to pursue spur of the moments ideas! Standing next to the stack of clothes ready to be packed I thought, "I need some sort of activity other than the dvd player for Coop to have on the trip." I knew that there are lap book printables out there or 'busy books'. I wondered if I could throw something together with the school supplies we had at home.

Here is what I came up with :

3 Ring Binder
Clear sheet protectors
binder pencil holder
dry erase washable markers (bought these)
pages out of coloring books and activity books

I was so excited to put this together that I didn't take pictures as I went, but here is the finished product!

I alternated coloring pages with activity pages to keep him interested!
Marker comes off easy with a baby wipe
You can even add your own page like I did
here so he can practice his name

~Amber C

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Trials and Errors of Preschool

   When we decided to homeschool Cooper, our second son was only a few months old. There were so many questions and fears that I had about how both of them would adjust to having the other one around everyday. Cooper had, had me to himself for three years and Reid would need me around the clock for a while longer. There were many long night conversations with my husband. "Are we making the right decision? Will Cooper get enough attention from me? Will Reid get enough attention from me? Will Cooper be around kids his own age enough?"

    I'll be honest with you. These first 6 months have been challenging. All of us have had to get used to the new dynamic. There were many days that I would call Milt and beg him to come home early or just ask him to listen to me vent. Those hard days are immediately overshadowed by all of the good ones. Yes there is the weekly .......okay, sometimes daily breakdown from Cooper because of the lack of attention that he is getting from me at the moment. It really has been a trial and error for me. I have had to figure out how and when to get our learning time in around Reid's feeding schedule. The biggest thing is I have learned to read Cooper's emotions any particular day about his desire to have school that day. I have tried to start a daily schedule with him but learned very quickly that he is not to keen on that set up.

    I realized very quickly that I am very much a child lead homeschooler. Cooper is a sponge and begs to be taught. I kid you not, most mornings as soon as he finishes breakfast he says , "Mom can we do school today?" I jump up excited that he wants to learn and let him choose what he wants to talk about that day. The only things that are a constant to our day are handwriting and a bible story. This is such an incredible experience for me! I am just as excited to see what we will talk about each day. He keeps me wondering : will he choose cooking, shape sorting, the science cubby, etc.

  My favorite comment from him so far is, "Mom, I love my school at home with mommy!" These things make my heart melt and confirm that we are making the right decision for him right now. I have learned to take it one day at a time and do what is best for all of us. Some days they both just need to be held and have a pj day with mom and that's okay! Cooper is still preschool age and I want to encourage and grow his desire to learn. Letting him call the shots for a bit is making learning fun for all of us : )

Monday, January 7, 2013

Building Fun with Shapes

   Cooper has known his shapes for a while now but I wanted a fun way for him to learn that shapes put together with other shapes can make new ones as well as work with him on sorting. I had a spare egg carton in the kitchen and it was begging to be used as a shape sorting container! I cut the top of the carton off and put it aside for later use. I believe in saving as many things as possible when teaching him. You don't have to spend much money, if any at all, to teach your kids! I then cut up five different shapes out of paper: square, rectangle, oval, triangle, and a heart.

    I handed the carton to him with the shapes already sorted out into their separate places in the egg carton. We talked about what different shapes were there and what color each shape was. I asked him which shape was his favorite and which color he liked the best. I then introduced the concept to him of how you can put two squares together to make a rectangle and put two triangles together to make a square. He was very excited about this part and I'm pretty sure he saw where this activity was headed!

   With Cooper on the edge of his chair, I told him that he could "build" with the shapes and make whatever he liked!
  He replied with, "I'm going to make a jackhammer and a music museum!"
  I'm not sure where the music museum is or came from but he went to work! This kept him enthralled for a good twenty minutes. Each new creation had a story of what it was and what it did. I'm amazed at the imagination of this kid everyday!

   While he was still playing, I put one of each shape in a hole in the egg carton to prepare for when we would sort the shapes as we cleaned up.
Once he was finished building and creating I asked him if he could put each shape into their "home" in the carton. I guess because he had been playing for a while with the shapes he had "bonded" with them cause each shape now had a voice and enjoyed a little chat with him as they "walked" to their place in the egg carton :D We then placed the carton full of shapes into a gallon ziplock bag so that we could play with it later!        

  There are so many things that he is learning with this activity: shapes, counting, colors, encouraging imagination, and feeding his need for hands on learning!

Supplies needed:

empty egg carton (washed and dried)
5 pieces of different colored paper
ziplock bag

 I would love to hear about the shape activities you do with your kids! If you chose to do this one I would like to hear how it went. Please feel free to share a comment or a picture.

~Amber C

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Diving into Homeschooling

   I have been scouring all over for as many tips, blogs, and books as I can find on homeschooling since we decided to homeschool Cooper. It is hard to know where to begin. The first few days after deciding to homeschool, I was pumped and excited about our decision. I walked around blissfully ignorant. I didn't realize how many state laws I needed to be aware of, if and where I needed to fill out any forms. What I needed to keep track of throughout the year. The lists of questions went on and on.

   I found a book on Amazon that has been amazing! From page one it calmed my nerves and made the whole process easy to wrap my mind around. The book is titled "Homeschooling Essentials - A Practical Guide to Getting Started". It was written by Dianna Broughton. She is a homeschooling mom and director of Carolina Homeschooler (a homeschooling support group.) I knew that this was a book that was meant for our family in the current place in time that we are. We have a lot of "what ifs..." and "what abouts..." that we are throwing around concerning homeschooling. Our biggest question was discussed within the first few pages! The first heading on page 7 is "What about socialization?" Dianna even states that this is the question that she is asked most often. I love her response:

"If you're concerned your children will have problems because they're not out in the "real world," ask yourself if being in a room with 25 same-aged peers for 180 days a year is truly a real-world situation. As homeschoolers, your children will interact with people of all ages and backgrounds, in a variety of settings, throughout the year. Which is more "real"? Which group is really more "socialized"? "

   I was immediately re-energized with the original excitement that I had for homeschooling and wanted to tell every mom that I knew how excited I was for our family and how much this book meant to me. I was reminded that every playdate, trip to the zoo, and museum outing was "real world" socialization and a great learning situation for him.  I loved the fact that she encourages and reminds the reader to make their own decision. She constantly says that ''you know what is best for your child and family.'' She says to stand by those decisions! I have had to back up our decision to homeschool our son a few times and there is even a section in the book on how to have that discussion with family and friends. This book really is an incredible guide for people beginning to homeschool! It covers everything from daily schedules, curriculum, homeschooling methods, dealing with problems, and some of the authors' favorite resources. All throughout each chapter there are personal stories from homeschooling parents. I love this part because I feel like as parents we need as much encouragement as possible and it's always nice to read and get advice from someone who has 'been there, done that.'

   I whole-heartedly encourage any parent who is considering homeschooling and doesn't know where to begin to order this book! You can get it here from in paperback or a kindle edition. I look forward to learning more and deciding how we are going to go about things in our home. This is an exciting time in our lives and I can't wait to share some of it with you!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Here we go...

    Well, it's only the second day of the year and it's proving to be an exciting one already! Milt and I had decided a few weeks back that if we were going to pursue a second vehicle (and "if" is more like "when") one of us would need to get a second job. Since my job outside of wife/mother is part-time at Crossings on Sundays, it sounded like a nice change of pace to work a couple nights a week somewhere. We knew it would either be a welcomed change of pace or extremely overwhelming and more than I could handle on top of my avg. nightly sleep of around 4-5 hours. The more we talked about it the more overwhelmed I became. The boys are in such unique stages right now (I am starting to get a pre-school routine going at home with Cooper, and Reid is still in a "need mommy at all times" stage.) Thinking of how I would juggle all this just didn't make good sense so it was put on the back burner.

    I have spent a good chunk of time searching for the right preschool resources for Cooper. He is incredibly smart and just outright asks to be taught things. For example, we woke up one morning and Cooper asked to "do school" about fish. We were in a hurry to leave for a doctors appt. so I pulled up a Discovery Channel clip online about clown fish. He watched it happily while we got ready to leave. Once we arrived at the doctors office, guess what I had never noticed before in our doctors' waiting room fish tank?.......Clown fish! Cooper immediately ran up to the tank with three other kids standing there and looked at them and said, very matter of factly......."You know where clown fish live?....In an anemone." I wanted to explain to all the parents who stared at me with dropped jaws that he had learned that info only 20 minutes ago. I decided to let them think my three year old is a genius, because to me he is! Back to the point. I have finally found a site that has incredible, well written Christian based homeschooling items. I am beyond excited to use it! It is going to let Cooper be a three year old and learn through play. I don't want him to grow up before he is ready or learn everything sitting behind a desk filling out worksheets. The lessons are well put together and the teacher in me is having Christmas all over again with the free printables! If you are mother of a toddler or preschooler please check it out. You won't be disappointed.

     As far as the second job goes, Milt received an email response a few months ago after applying at the Apple store. He had applied almost a year before. He declined an interview because we had just had Reid and I would have killed him if he was out of the house more than absolutely necessary! He sent them a response letting them know that he was still very interested and to keep his name "in the hat" for future openings, but our current situation required him to not pursue the job at the moment.
Yesterday, we decided that I would not pursue another job, and not 24 hrs later guess who sends Milt an email? .........Apple. He rsvp'd to their hiring event this Friday and we will go from there. Apple has always been a company that Milt would love to work for. He is an incredible graphic designer for Johnson University, but what better second job for a creative than Apple?! It is a great opportunity for our family and we are just continuing to pray that God opens the doors that are best for us and shuts the ones that we don't need to pursue. I know that if this doesn't work out that God is going to provide for our family somehow,  because he always has!

   2013 is going to be a great year. I have the most amazing husband and boys. I honestly cannot imagine what this year holds, but if it is anything like years past it will be anything but boring! I hope that you have a wonderful start to your year and that I can encourage you, and make you smile a little through each post.

~Amber C