Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Please don't call me a single mom.







As many of you know, my husband has joined the military.  Right now he is away at basic training and the kids and I are hanging at grandma and gramdpas house.  It's been a big adjustment for all of us but I'm feeling pretty good about it all so far.  I've paid bills AND taken the garbage out by myself.  That, my friends, is what I call winning.

Here's something interesting though.  When people hear that Ryan has gone and how long he'll be away for I get responses like, "How does it feel to be a single mom?" or "It must be a big change to be doing the single mom thing".

But let me tell you something.  I am not a single mom. 

My dad was raised by a single mom.  I have some wonderful friends who are single moms.  And here's the thing about these women.  They have the hardest job in the world.  When it's two hours past bedtime and the kids are still awake, there is no one to take a shift so they can relax.  When the toddler is having his fifth meltdown of the day and its only 2 o'clock, they don't get to call their partner to complain.  They do all of the wake ups, bed times, meal prep and clean up.  They kiss all the booboos, wipe all the tears and pick up all the messes.  I've watched single moms in action and I am in awe of all that they do.  I don't think I could do it.

Before Ryan left for basic training, I called him at least once a day to complain about some trivial part of my day.  Before he left, I shoved a baby in his arms the minute he walked in the door after work.  Before he left, I let him handle bed times and as many diaper changes as I could get him to do.  And even though he's gone right now and I can't convince him to get up with the kids so I can sleep in on Saturdays, I know that this is only temporary.  And that's what is getting me through. The knowledge that Ryan will be home to take some of the responsibilities off of my back is what motivates me when A wants me to read the same book for the 57th time or when W splashes water all over me during bath time.  It's not always going to be this way and knowing that helps me remain calm.

Just because Ryan isn't here right now, doesn't mean that he isn't an active player in our marriage and this parenting team.  I still run decisions by him.  We still discuss issues the kids are having.  He is still there to commiserate after a very bad day (or at least he would be if he was allowed to use the phone).

I can only imagine how he would feel if he heard someone call me a single mom.  Being away from us has been hard for him.  He missed Ruby's first word.  He didn't get to see B's face light up as she realized that she can read "big" words now.  He's had to listen to A cry over the phone because she misses him, knowing that he can't come wipe her tears.  All of this has probably been harder for him than it has been for me.  I'm sure he feels guilty about missing things.  To completely write him out of the picture by saying I'm doing this alone will only make it harder for him.

We chose this together.  We know it will be hard.  There will be times when we are apart and times when he will miss things.  That's the nature of this job and we knew what we were getting into.  Giving up his spot in this parental duo was not part of that.  He's just doing it by correspondence sometimes.

I know that people don't mean to be hurtful when they say these things.  It's just something that people say and I get that. And I appreciate, more than I can say, that they are acknowledging how hard this is for me because it is hard.     But words are powerful.  I don't want the work that single moms do to be downplayed and I don't want husbands who have to be separated from their families to feel any more shut out than they already do.

So please, don't call me a single mom.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Reading Goals {and free Reading Log Printable}

We've finally found and visited the new (to us) library!  It's kind of exciting to have access to big city libraries.  There are so many books to chose from!  Now that we have our very own library card, we've set our reading goals for the year.  I'm excited to see how we do!

Reading Goals for the Kids

This year we're aiming to read 50 chapter books.  I'd like to include a wide variety of genres and subject matter including lots of living books about Canadian history and geography.  

I like to work off of book lists because...well, because I like lists and I might be a little bit obsessed with checking off boxes.  We will be choosing books from Sonlight's Core B Read AloudsSimply Charlotte Mason's Book Lists and Simple Homeschool's Top 25 Read Alouds.  We will also be choosing many books from The Canadian Homeschooler's History Through Living Books List (this is such a fantastic resource for Canadians...I highly recommend checking it out).

B and I have agreed that she will read one book that is at her reading level each week.  She isn't very confident in reading independently yet so this was more than she wanted to do at first but I think she will warm up to it quickly! 

Reading Goals for Mama

I'm setting goals for myself this year in the hopes that my box checking compulsion will motivate me.  I love to read but often find myself too "busy" to do it as much as I should.  So my goal is to read 100 books this year.  I am starting with BBC's Book List Challenge.  I've read only 15 of them so this should keep me busy for quite a while! 

I've made up a reading log printable so that we can track our progress and I will share it below.  Click on the image to download it.  

***Terms of  Use: Before you download the pages, please agree that you will not share these files directly via social media, email, blog posts, etc. These are for personal use only! If you would like to share them (and I hope you will!) please link directly to this post with this link address:

http://whenwereathome.blogspot.ca/2014/09/reading-goals-and-free-reading-log.html


Please do not sell or change these files in any way. 

Thank you!***


Reading Log Printable


I'm so looking forward to cuddling up on the couch and reading with my four favourite little people. 

Any good book recommendations?







Saturday, 20 September 2014

5 tips for making memorization fun for kids!

After a long week, I've come up with 5 tips for making memorization fun for kids. If anyone else has children like mine, this may come in handy.


memorization for kids


I've heard it said that all kids love repetition.  My kids did not get that memo.  They do not watch the same movie over and over.  They get bored of a song after they've heard it a few times.  They don't have a favourite outfit that gets worn everyday.  In fact, the only things they do repeat are the words, "I'm hungry" (about 70 billion times a day).  I should have remembered this fact about them when I decided to introduce scripture memorization.  The best way to memorize something is to repeat it.  Over and over and over.  Obviously, this went over really well with my kids.

When I first brought out the memory verse box, the kids were intrigued.  Until I dared to repeat the verse a second time.  The third time was met with stares of disbelief.  Was I really going to make them listen to it again?!  And then, I asked them to say it three times with me.  I wish you could have seen the eye roll that I got then.

Luckily, I never back down from a challenge.  I know that memorization is an important skill to have.  I know it gives the brain a good work out.  And I spent a long time making those scripture cards so we are using them!

I don't particularly like whining though and I want my kids to enjoy the things we do when home schooling.  So I came up with five strategies for making memorization more fun (for all of us).

My first tip is to get loud.  As a mother of four children, this is probably the only time you will ever hear me encouraging an increase in volume.  I suggest waiting until nap time is over and maybe leave some ear plugs in neighbours mail boxes.  Seriously though, they love this!

  • ask them to yell the passage as loud as they can
  • see who can be the loudest
  • send one person upstairs and one downstairs and see if they can hear each other say it
  • go outside and yell it 
  • play music loudly and see if they can make themselves heard over it

This one is a little more my speed!  Get them up and moving while reciting their verse or passage.  It doesn't seem as boring when your body is moving and as an added bonus, you can count it as phys ed!  

Have them recite while:
  • doing jumping jacks
  • running in place
  • doing head stands
  • jumping rope
  • bouncing a ball
  • clapping their hands
The possibilities are endless.  This is also a good opportunity to get the wiggles out if you've got a squirmy student. 

 I used to do this with my Sunday school kids every week and it is so much fun! Have them say it while acting like different animals.  My kids love being mice; making themselves really tiny and saying it in their squeakiest voice or tigers; growling it out while swiping their claws.  They also enjoy singing the verses.  I often name a tune for them to sing it to (Phantom of the Opera is my personal favourite.  Hilarious!).  Have them try it in different accents or have them make up actions to go with the words.

Games work really well in this house.  They don't have to be complex or involve any prep time either. 

  • race to see who can say it fastest
  • bounce a ball back an forth, saying the next word as you catch the ball...if someone misses, start again
  • write the passage out on paper and cut it up like a puzzle for them to reassemble
I remember in school, there was a chart displayed on the wall and for every Bible verse we memorized, another sticker was put on the chart.  That was motivation enough for me!  I worked my butt off and ended up memorizing quite a few verses that year! Of course, I am a little bit (some might say extremely) competitive so that may have been a factor too.

 You can give stickers for every verse memorized or a special treat when they've memorized a certain number of verses.  Maybe they can earn a 15 minute later bedtime or be excused from their least favourite chore (if it got me out of laundry, I'd memorize the whole Bible!). 

I'm sure every family can come up with their own reward system.



So there you have it.  My five tips for making memorization fun!  

Is memorization a part of your homeschool?  What is your strategy?


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The problem with schedules.









I am a lover of schedules.  I print them out in aesthetically pleasing charts and post them on my fridge.  I look lovingly at them throughout the day and pat myself on the back for keeping it together and staying on track.  Schedules keep me sane.  They keep me organized.  They keep me happy.

Until they make me crazy.

I have a bit of an obsessive personality.  If I'm not careful, I can start to take my beautiful schedules a little to seriously.  I'm the kind of girl who likes to make lists and methodically check off each box.  Sometimes I treat the schedule more like a to do list and leaving some of those boxes unchecked can make my eye start to twitch.

For example:  I have lessons scheduled for the morning.  We have always done it this way.  It worked beautifully last year and I had no reason to think it would be any different this year.

Of course, we had a small, stationary baby last year instead of the mobile, destruction loving toddler that we have now.  And we lived in our own house with lots of space and nothing interesting in it.  Grandmas house is much more fun...and distracting.  And we had daddy.  And I was getting sleep. Things are a little different now.

But the schedule says lessons happen in the morning.  So lessons need to happen in the morning.  Even if this means spending more time chasing the little tornado than I do teaching.  Even if it means cleaning up all the potatoes she threw out of the cupboard (she also took a bite out of each one because just throwing them isn't enough fun).  Even if it means wanting to rip my hair out every time it comes time to do school.

That's the downside of schedules.  They can't adjust themselves to changes in your life.

I've always said that our schedule is more of a guideline but I haven't been treating it that way.  The beauty of home schooling is that we are able to be flexible in the way we do things, tailoring our day to fit our current situation.  The problem is that you actually have to let yourself be flexible! I could see that what we were doing wasn't working but I was having a hard time making the changes that were desperately needed.  All for the sake of sticking to a schedule.

I'm stepping away from the schedules and check lists for a while so I have the time to re-evaluate.  It's hard to stay on track when you aren't even sure which track you should be on.  I need to see how our days unfold naturally.  To try a few things and see what leaves me with my sanity intact.  To have some time to remember that my schedule does not have to define my days.

Hopefully soon I will have found something that will work in our new environment (I'm going to take a wild guess here and say schooling should happen while the baby is sleeping) and I can put up a new schedule.  This time, I'll remember that it can (and should!) be changed as our life changes.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Preschool Planning {plus free printables!}

I will admit that up to now, I have never planned for preschool.  I am a huge believer in play based learning and letting them learn through everyday life.

HOWEVER.

I have four children. One of them is doing grade work.  Two of them are in preschool.  One of them just likes to destroy things.

I tried doing the same laid back, unplanned, let it happen style preschool that we did last year and the wee ones were not amused.  They took their education into their own hands.  They learned about buoyancy by dropping things in the toilet.  They experimented with gravity by throwing things down the stairs.  They played sorting games with clean, freshly folded laundry.  You get the idea, right?  It wasn't working.

So this year I am a planning her preschool mama!

I'm still keeping it laid back and play based.  I have activities that they can do with minimal supervision and I  have some mommy led activities (ie. "work" like big sister).  There are some work sheets because they have asked for them but no pressure to finish them.

I plan by the month because I don't have time to plan weekly and I could never sit still long enough to plan the whole year!

I'm continuing with our monthly play doughs and sensory bins (though they often end up staying longer than a month) and I will also rotate the tot trays out monthly.  I only have shelves for four trays but I plan eight so I can switch them around if the kids start getting bored.

Our themes change weekly.  I try to have a worksheet for each day so the kids can work on that while I work with B.  I try to keep a variety on hand: colouring, tracing, cutting, do-a-dot, play dough mats, etc.  I try to tie  our daily activities into the theme as well (baking, painting & drawing, modelling, crafts and handwork).

W and A are quite happy with our new set up and R isn't crying (much) so I can only assume she likes it too!

I've put together some planning sheets that I thought I would share.  There are three: one for the monthly planning, one for weekly planning and one to record everything you need to do, make, buy, etc.


preschool planning printables


***Terms of  Use: Before you download the pages, please agree that you will not share these files directly via social media, email, blog posts, etc. If you would like to share them (and I hope you will!) please link directly to this post with this link address:

http://whenwereathome.blogspot.ca/2014/09/preschool-planning-plus-free-printables.html


Please do not sell or change these files in any way. 

Thank you!***



Monthly Preschool Planning Sheet

Preschool Monthly To Do List

Weekly Preschool Planning Sheet


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Our first day back to homeschool!






Our first day of school was Monday.  Given all that has been going on around here, it went relatively well!

True, I didn't get any of the morning meeting sheets printed.  No, I didn't put together the pre-school activities that I had planned.  And yes, I completely forgot to unpack the painting and craft supplies.

BUT I'm still calling it a success.  There's nothing wrong with easing into things, right?

We started the day out with a new not back to school outfit.  I want to give them the experiences that I enjoyed most as a child during the back to school season and that ever so important first day outfit was always one of my favourites!

I put their brand new (empty) morning meeting binders and pencil cases with their very own school supplies on the desk for them to find. They were very excited about that! The idea is that they are responsible for their own things this year.  We will see how successful this is!

After we finished lessons, we went out for our traditional first day of school lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sun!

It was lovely and low key and there were no melt downs (those started the next day).  B even told me she thinks this year won't be "so boring, like last year".  

I guess I'll take that as a good thing! 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Our Borrowed School Room

As promised, I am going to share our borrowed homeschool room.

We are staying with my parents for a while so my mother has graciously offered up her scrap booking room for us to use.  It a pretty big room but there is a LOT of stuff in there (have I mentioned that my mom takes scrap booking pretty seriously?) so it is a little snug.  Luckily, I tend to fall on the minimalist side of things so we didn't have too much too bring in!

B is pretty excited about having a desk.  The way the desks are set up will be perfect to keep certain preschoolers from writing on B's papers. Our calendar board will stay on top of our cube shelf when we aren't using it, as will most of our arts and crafts supplies.  Beside the shelf is a closet and I'm attaching our white board and clock to the door.

I realize that two pictures isn't much of a tour but they sum it up pretty well. Please excuse the quality.  The lighting is terrible down here!





Truth be told, I am really missing our dining room table.  Annnd the house it resided in.

We've been here for two weeks and Ryan has been gone for one.  I won't lie.  It's been hard.  The kids have been loving it here with grandma and grandpa, which has mostly distracted them from daddy's absence. There have been some rough patches with tears, attitudes and a general increase in chaos but that has mostly subsided.

I'm looking forward to starting school on Monday.  It will be a nice distraction and we need the rhythm it brings to our days.

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