Back to School or Not Back to School

back to school
Kiddos 2014

 

Since everyone is getting into the “Back to School” spirit, I thought I’d go ahead and share a few thoughts on what our plans/goals are for the time period known as the next “school year”.

Since I ditched our oh-so-official “preschool” back in February, I’ve been pretty slow to do anything school-related.

I have in the past three or four weeks picked up the Seton preschool books that Katherine received from my mother-in-law and we’ve been very slowly working our way one or two pages at a time through the books. It generally works out to about three days a week. We’ve also very slowly been working our way through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

And that is the full extent of our preschool at the moment. (Well, other than the mountains of books we read.)

Katherine 2014
Katherine 2014
K1
Katherine 2013

As far as moving on to Kindergarten, I’m pretty much stuck firmly into a “I don’t know when we’re going to start that” place. The main reason being that legally, according to the laws of our state, a child doesn’t have to be enrolled in First Grade until they are age 6 by September 1st. And as far as I know, Kindergarten isn’t mandatory. Katherine’s birthday doesn’t fall until the end of September, which means legally I don’t have to have her enrolled anywhere until the 2016-2017 school year (two entire calender years from now).

But when I think about that in my mind, I feel like that may be just a little too long to wait to do anything official. But then I read things that say kids should just play for the first seven years of their life and not do anything official……. And oh, I get stuck going ’round and ’round in my head.

The other reason I’m not sure we’re going to start Kindergarten right now, this September is that Baby Z. is due to arrive at the end of October and the thought of even attempting to homeschool with a newborn sounds completely daunting, and basically when we’d start up again, we’d most likely end up starting over… which defeats the purpose of starting in September.

{See, haven’t you always been just dying to know exactly how my mind works?!??!?!?!!?!}

John 2014
Johnny 2014
J1
Johnny 2013

Anyways…. What I see working for us is as follows:

Begin Kindergarten (with Katherine) in January sometime; after the baby’s here, we’re all settled into a routine and all those end of the year holidays have passed.

Religion – I’m thinking about using the Seton Religion program (if you scroll to the bottom it’s there). Also, keeping on doing the normal religion learning we do everyday. The prayers, Bible Readings, learning about Saints, keeping feast days, things like that.

Reading – Keeping on working on the reading thing. If that means using the 100 Easy Lessons then, we’ll keep doing that. (If we’re done with that, I don’t actually have a plan in place, but I guess I’ve got a little time to work something out.)

History – A Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. I checked it out from the library a few weeks back and enjoyed the timeline, layout, etc… I didn’t look at the activity book that goes with it, so I may try to get a hold of that before I make a firm decision. I know this book is intended for “1st Graders” but I’ve heard suggestions of taking two years to go through it if beginning in Kinder so I think we may try it.

Math – I’m pretty sure I want to use the Saxon program, so we’d being with Math K. I enjoyed Saxon when I was in school… but then again, I was almost a math major in college, so I may just be weird like that 🙂

Other than those few things I don’t know what else I would consider “essential” at this point. Maybe keep working on writing (forming letters, numbers, words, etc…). We’ll probably keep up with our random art stuff that we do, but that’s stuff we do all the time anyways, not really anything out of the ordinary. I guess we could call it “school” and have one more subject, but it feels less stressful if I just call it “art time” and let them have at it.

I think I’d also just like to let them keep exploring their own interests… You know, checking out books from the library they want, building with LEGOs, doing whatever outdoor playing/nature stuff we end up doing, things like that.

For Johnny:

I think maybe I’ll get a few preschool workbooks for him (like Katherine has now), and let him do those. At the moment he really enjoys coloring while we do “school”, so something for him to do along with us is probably a good idea. And depending on how it feels I *might* start the 100 Easy Lessons with him. But that’ll just have to be a bridge we cross when we get there.

Karl 2014
Karl 2014
No, I do not have a troublemaker on my hands. Nope. Not me...
Karl 2013

For Karl:

Definitely no workbooks for him. I would however like to have him learn the letters and numbers. He can sing the alphabet song and count up to about 13 (in order), but he has no clue what any of the letters or numbers look like, so I think that’s what we’ll work on with him.

I think that’s probably enough rambling about school for the next six months or so 🙂

Do these kids look like they could sit in a classroom?!?
Last year’s “first day of school” photo (for comparison). Click the picture to be taken to that post!

Linking up with Charity at The Wounded Dove for this weeks edition of #GoodEnoughMom.

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On why I’ve decided to “give up” preschool

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Last month I finished a book called Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: How Our Children Really Learn — And Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less by Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek. While the info presented wasn’t anything new and shocking to me, as in, I’ve already been doing a good number of the things mentioned in the book without even thinking about it too much, it was eye-opening in a way that confirmed my decisions as a parent. I tend to think that I do a lot of “going against the grain” when it comes to parenting, and while I’m ok with that it is nice to once in a while have other sources confirm what I’m doing.

The book confirmed to me that the way I allow my children to spend the day – running around, playing outside, goofing off, being independent, playing in their play room, reading books or playing library, doing puzzles by themselves, playing with blocks (not playing with electronic “educational” toys) – all those things was really the only thing I needed to be “doing” in order for their pre-schooling to be complete. Because while they’re doing all these activities, they’re learning. Even if I’m not hovering over them and nitpicking every part of their activity (which I don’t do), I can still guide them in learning things like letters, numbers, shapes, colors, etc… All things which come up during the normal course of play, which doesn’t necessarily have to be “taught”.

I realized while reading this book that quite possibly the reason people send their children to preschool is to make sure the child gets all the exposure needed to learn the letters, numbers, etc… (if not to get a leg up academically, which BTW the book went into a lot of detailed experiments about how early academic “booklearning”/”schooling” doesn’t necessarily translate into “smart later in life”). And I said to myself “well, that’s what we do here. We learn the letters, numbers and all, just by our everyday interactions. (Especially on the days we don’t “do” school).”

It hit me, why am I spending so much effort trying to make sure we “do school” or read the appropriately titled books for whatever letter of the alphabet we’re on? One, we can’t realistically accomplish all the activities in the little preschool book I have (totally not the fault of the book, completely everything to do with me not being able to keep things moving all-day-long). Two, at the end of the day, will it really be beneficial to them if I try to “push” it?

The other thing that really caused me to look at the “why am I giving up preschool”, last month I made a post (you can find it here), where I mentioned how frustrating it was some days to not be able to “do schoolwork”.

I am hoping to not start anything formal until kindergarten because trying to do something with preschoolers is so daunting

That comment, sealed my deal. I realized I was trying to do too much. I was already teaching my kids their ABS, 123s, colors, shapes, even beginning reading skills, just by normal every day interactions. And Playing! Trying to add more on top of that was exactly what the commenter stated “Daunting”. So, in my effort to simplify the chaos that happens over here, I’ve decided to cut out the formal book-learning preschool stuff and just focus on the “play-learning” stuff instead.

I still may use the book to guide a conversation or two, but I can’t keep telling myself I “have to do these activities or my children won’t be ready for school”…. I don’t even remember preschool being something “official” until maybe 10 years ago, so obviously before then there were brilliant people, who never did a preschool curriculum. I’m also going to attempt to do a little more child focused learning for a while. For example, right now the kids are fascinated by telling time, clocks, etc… I have no idea if they’re even able to mentally grasp that concept, but I don’t see any reason to not keep at the very least talking about it (even if they don’t get it yet, when they are able to grasp it, they’ll already have the vocabulary to talk about it).

I think that’s it for this afternoon. Time to get moving on dinner 🙂

~Ruth Anne

*** Disclaimer: I understand that for some families keeping their children at home all during the preschool years is not possible or simply not something the family wants to do. That’s OK. If that’s what works for you and your family, then by all means, keep at it. I’m not advocating for “don’t send your child to preschool”. I just feel that “doing” preschool while we already informally “do” preschool is too much for me.

Book Lists 2013

hi-tech list making right here!
Hi-Tech list making right here!

I was originally going to do this post in a straight list format, but decided I’d actually post a few books which were my favorites then just list out the rest. With a few exceptions, I made a separate blog post of the books I read every month. However, since I switched blog addresses part way through the year, some of the posts aren’t on this address. Anyway, I’ve linked them all at the bottom, if you’d like to check them out.

Favorite Reads in 2013 (in no particular order)

* A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons – George R.R. Martin. Both of these are from the Song of Ice and Fire Series (more commonly known as Game of Thrones Series). I love the story. I think one thing I love so much is that the characters are real. The “bad guys” come up with moments of goodness, and the “good guys” still have faults and failings. No one (so far) is perfectly good or perfectly evil (well, except maybe Joffrey, but he’s been taken care of now, so that’s fine…). I keep finding myself asking “what happens next?” then answering “Oh, I’ll just read the next book”. Then I’ll promptly remember that the next book isn’t out yet. So, boo. {A side note: The HBO series loosely follows the books, and if you’re trying to compare them and use the books as guidelines, it gets really messy and mixed up. I prefer to just enjoy them separately.}

* The Penderwicks  by Jeanne Birdsall. Loved this children’s series about this family of four sisters and their adventures! They’ve gone on my “want to purchase” list of books. I look forward to reading them with the kids in the next few years.

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Not sure if I can really explain why I loved this book so much. Very thought provoking. It was a very quick read so if you have a chance you should definitely pick it up. I think it may be getting a reread soon.

* Call the Midwife Series by Jennifer Worth. Can’t say how much I love these books. I love the stories of people. I love the stories about birth. For a brief period while I was in school I was in the nursing program with the intention of going into midwifery, so books on the subject hold a special place in my heart.

* Heaven’s Song by Christopher West. A book on Blessed John Paul II’s teaching on the Theology of the Body. The book was very dense, with tons of things to think on and ponder. I could probably read it again and get something totally different out of it.

* A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. I worked on this book for what felt like months. If I say I enjoyed reading it, I’d be lying. But, getting some of the background of history was well worth it. My U.S. history is patchy at best, so it was nice to get more info on “what happened”. I probably won’t be adding any more history books to a reading list anytime soon. Unless they’re in memoir format or something.

Other books read in 2013 (I enjoyed most of these too. Some were hard reads, but I don’t think there was anything that I disliked).

* Signs of Life – Scott Hahn (a book finished this year, started last year)
* The Iliad – Homer (also finished this year)
* Inheritance – Christopher Paolini (finished this year). Side note: this was probably my least favorite book that I read
* Why do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday? – Michael P. Foley
* The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
Stealing Mona Lisa: A Mystery – Carson Morton
*  My Sisters the Saints – Colleen Carroll Campbell
* The Seven Storey Mountain – Thomas Merton
* The Pillar of Fire – Karl Stern
* The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (Book 1) – Alexander McCall Smith
* Designing Your Own Classical Cirriculum: A Guide to Catholic Home Education – Laura M. Berquist
* Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – This book is in the process of  a re-read for the “Jane Austen and Motherhood” group I’m participating in for the upcoming year.
* The Nanny Diaries – Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
* Hail, Holy Queen – Scott Hahn
* Why Kids Matter – Johann Christoph Arnold
* Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine
* The Midwife’s Apprentice – Karen Cushman
* Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
* Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown – Maud Hart Lovelace. I’d love to get the rest of the series now!
* (Star Trek) A Time to Be Born – John Vornholt (Read at the request of my husband. I enjoyed it rather more than I thought I would 😀 )
* A Woman Clothed with the Sun – Edt. John J Delaney – A book about the apparitions of Our Lady. Very informative and well put together for someone coming with almost no knowledge on the subject.
* Shopaholic & Sister – Sophie Kinsella
* Miracle on 10th Street – Madeline L’Engle (for Advent)
* Lucia Child of Light: The History and Tradition of Sweden’s Lucia Celebration – Florence Ekstrand. Full of info for St. Lucia’s Day celebrations. Definitely keeping in on file for next year… Now, to remember to check it out from the library BEFORE St Lucia’s Day…
* The Best Christmas Pageant Ever – Barbara Robinson. A reread. I was going to read it with the kids, but there was too much going on, so I passed on it this year. Next year though!
* The Clutter-Busting Handbook – Rita Emmet. My very, very first book read “cover to cover” on a kindle. I used to not be a fan of reading on the eReaders, but since hubby got one for Christmas, I decided I must try it…. so much better than trying to use the Kindle app on a phone! So, now I can add some books to there that I don’t own, but are available in the free domain markets. Win-win!!
* The Gift of the Magi – O. Henry. Ok, not a real book, but I read the story for the first time, and thought I’d include it.

{Updated 12/29/13 – because I forgot to include the books I reviewed….}

* Saint Monica and the Power of Persistent Prayer – Mike Aquilina and Mark w. Sullivan (excellent book)
* Sisterhood of Saints – Melanie Rigney. I didn’t read every single word of this one, as it’s a 365 daily devotional. But what I did read was excellent and I plan on continuing using it in the coming year.
* Small steps for Catholic Moms – Danielle Bean and Elizabeth Foss. I didn’t review this one, but forgot to include it in the previous list. It’s also a 365 daily devotional. Also excellent!

Books read out loud to the kids. Planning on continuing this in the coming year. Open to suggestions. What have your 3- and 4-year olds loved listening to?
* Little House in the Big Woods – Laura Ingles Wilder
* Charlotte’s Web – E. B. White
* Little House on the Prairie – Laura Ingles Wilder
* Kirsten’s Surprise: A Christmas Story – Janet Beeler Stall {An American Girl book}

Links to books read by month:

Jan/Feb (yes, one post because I didn’t think to start the monthly posting until February)
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
{No post for November because I only read one book, which I finished on the 30th, and I never got around to posting on it. No post for December because I’m doing this post, the last seven entries in the “list” were read in December}

That’s all for now. Will be posting a 2014 Reading List some point soon!

~Ruth Anne

Linking up with Haley @ CarrotsForMichaelmas:

WhatIReadIn2013

Also linking up with Modern Mrs Darcey for the favorites of 2013!

Advent: Hope & STS{13}

Today is the first day of Advent!!! I’m so excited. I know, it’s supposed to be a time of prayerful preparation for Christmas, but I still get so excited, just knowing what’s coming. I think my children inherited that excitement… either that or they’re just being typical preschoolers who get crazy excited about any event that happens around here!

From this morning’s homily: Advent is our “rehearsal” for Christ’s second coming. Tonight, we will light our first candle on the Advent wreath which symbolizes Hope. We’ll be focusing on expectantly hoping in Jesus’ return this week.

Some of our simple Advent-in-Progress shots that have happened today!

Christmas Books
Christmas Books
Creche... waiting for our King
Creche… waiting for our King
Jesse Tree  (first ornament symbolizing Adam and Eve and the Garden)
Jesse Tree
(first ornament symbolizing Adam and Eve and the Garden)

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{This is photo #23/365}

Linking up with Simple Things Sunday.

and Sunday Snapshot

Ni Hao Yall

25/365 and a preschool art project turned lesson

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Today during our impromptu preschool session we made a Sacred Heart of Jesus. With my kids you only have to *think* anything that has the words: paint, glue, scissors, or paper and they’re all over it, ready to dive in.

Initially I figured this would just be something we did to further our study of the letter H (yes, BIG heavy things taking place in this preschool), but I realized about two minutes into said project that I didn’t really know much about the Sacred Heart. So I got out my phone and our Roman Missal and got me some education too.

I’ve always heard that when you teach, you learn, but I didn’t really expect that to happen today. It makes me very glad to have the opportunity to “teach” my kids at this stage in our lives, and makes me excited for our future learning.

As a side note: we also got in a reading lesson, complete with the writing portion! Katherine did great!