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Friday, May 18, 2012

Our Dream Comes True

I'm a Little-House-on-the-Prairie-girl at heart. I love the idea of living off the land - homesteading. In a strange way, it seems like worship unto the Lord to me - using what He provided in nature for our livelihood.

I lived in the country as a child, but we never had animals or gardens or anything. Yet, as an adult, I've always wanted to try my hand at a small family farm. I have bought books about it, I've researched it on the internet, I've watched documentaries about it. I just love the adventure of it! It's work that, to me, seems so fun, it hardly could be work.

My children have caught the country-bug as well. They learned a lot about farm work when a family friend took them to a horse ranch for a month, and they moved hay, shoveled poop, and cleaned hooves. They loved EVERY SINGLE minute of it! They would beg to know when they could go again.

We currently rent, and with the strange housing market in Northern California, buying a home is now cheaper than renting. We have talked many times with my in-laws about buying land together that we would share. We've been shopping for months now, but in the difficult market, we just kept being met with disappointment. We prayed and prayed for the Lord to direct our steps, and open and close doors as He saw fit. That He did!

Last week, a property came back on the market after it had been pending, but fell out of escrow. It is a newer, four bedroom, beautiful farm house with a huge front porch and a circular driveway. It's absolutely adorable! It sits on five acres at the end of a court in a town ten minutes north of us. It's just about three to four minutes off the freeway. We made an offer, and much to our surprise, it was accepted on Monday. Contracts and papers have been signed, and we're thinking we'll get our keys by mid to late June. It's so amazing, it hardly seems real yet!

On our visits out to the property so far, my boys have already done a ton of exploring, caught a frog, and one boy sat and studied a ladybug on a blade of grass for almost 30 minutes - homeschooling at it's finest, in my opinion. We've had a dream planning meeting as a family to make a list of all we eventually would like to do with the acreage. We have plans for goats, chickens, rabbits, places to play baseball, basketball, and football, and even a go-cart track. We will take our time, learning about one thing at a time, but we couldn't be more excited.

So, our family is busy at work, collecting boxes, packing, purging, planning for a move in 4-6 weeks. Agh! It's craziness right now. My brain is so full of things I'm trying to remember. But we believe the Lord is ordering our steps, and I am in constant communion with Him, as I don't want to do this without His help.

We'll keep you posted on how things progress for us. Stay tuned...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Planning School For Next Year

My husband gifted me with the privilege of getting away for two nights to put thoughts on paper for next school year. I consider it so much fun to plan for homeschooling! I love every minute of it! I came away with a rough outline of the direction we will head. I still have more work to do, but the "skeleton" is done.

I started with interviewing the children.

The week before I went away, I talked with each child individually. Mainly, I discuss with them their passions, interests, favorite things, and what they want to learn about. I strongly believe in capitalizing on their individual interests while they have them. From this question, I gained the following insight:

 12 year old daughter
1. Singing
2. Piano
3. Volleyball
4. Reading
5. Gymnastics 
6. Art 


9 year old son
1. Sports
2. Building with Wood

7 year old son
1. Sports
2. Building with Legos
3. Art 

My younger ones are a little too young for this discussion, but I kind of know what they like and what I want them to learn.

After learning their interests, I discussed with the older children a few options about core curriculum changes we're considering. For my oldest, who will be going into Algebra 1, we're looking at changing curriculum, because she needs quite a bit of guidance with math, and Saxon, the curriculum she's used her whole life, is getting more difficult for her to learn independently (Mom can't help too much anymore). So I have her exploring online with Teaching Textbooks, ALEKS, and Math-U-See to see if she preferred one over the other. I'm doing the same with my 9yo son, just because math is his strength, and I felt like ALEKS might allow him to skip through what comes easy to him and focus on material that needs to be learned.

So, fast forward to my getaway, and here's what I've planned so far for our family.

I am looking for something new this year for Bible, and haven't quite found it yet. I'm trying to treat Bible like a class just like any other, where we actually study the who, what, when, and where of the Bible, book by book. I've got a few leads, but haven't made a decision yet.

I always require my children to spend time in personal devotions to God each morning - reading their Bible alone and praying.

We also do weekly character studies, memorize the order of the books of the Bible, do Scripture memorization, and learn great hymns.

12yo - She's thinking she likes the looks of Teaching Textbooks the best, as it's the most like Saxon in terms of format, but not as intense, which is fine for us
9yo - Probably going with ALEKS this year, as he's goal-driven and will enjoy filling in his pie chart
7yo - Saxon 3
5yo & 4yo - Saxon K

This year, I'm going with the state-adopted curriculum for most of the children.
In addition, they all will do some regular journaling, whether it be prayer journaling, nature journaling, or journaling based on a prompt I give them.
And, of course, lots of reading!
7yo - I will add a handwriting practice book for this son. I also have a subscription for him to Headsprout, and will continue with that to strengthen his reading skills.
5yo & 4yo - For my little guys, I will not be using the state-adopted curriculum. Instead, we will use Modern Curriculum Press's Plaid Phonics - this is the curriculum I was recommended when I started homeschooling, and I've used it ever since, and really like it. In addition, these boys will also have a handwriting practice book.

We've been using Story of the World for history for the past two years, and we love it. The whole family does the same history lesson together. We will continue with Level 3 this year. We are considering combining it with History Odyssey.

I'm very grateful that our charter school, Visions in Education, has science lessons for every state standard posted online at their Homeschool Hub. I've already taken the time to print them all out for the grades I will be teaching next year (8th, 4th, 2nd, & K) and put them in a binder. I then look for commonalities amongst them. For instance, the two younger grades both have Animals as a standard, and my 4th grader has Food Chains. I will spend a month covering that standard - all the children taught at the same time together the exact same lesson - and I'll use each of the lessons for their grade level. Another standard that three of the grades has is Health. Perfect! Saves mom time and energy to teach it altogether. I will not be buying a separate curriculum for science this year. We will use what's on the Hub, as well as the internet, encyclopedia, and the library to explore our topics.

In addition, we will be working through Vintage Remedies for Tweens as a family. I can't wait for this curriculum!!!! It will teach them all kinds of natural living skills, and includes projects in each chapter for them to complete. So fun!

I also have a very basic Health & Safety curriculum that I used with my older two (it's for early childhood and written by Laurie Anderson, but I couldn't find it online), and now need to complete with the younger three.

So that's all five of our core subjects.

This year, I will be developing a very simple daily workout for each of the children to complete alone with their morning chores. It will alternate strength training with cardio (totally kid-version, though). My goal with this is for them to not only be active, but get in the habit of daily exercise.
12yo - My daughter asked to do gymnastics again. She also expressed desire to learn more about volleyball. She's not ready for a team, yet, she just wants to learn more. We have a family friend who loves volleyball that I've asked to meet with my daughter to teach her the basics. After that, we'll decide if she wants to try anything else.

9yo - This is the most athletic of all my children, and he's regularly active in sports. That's P.E. enough for us.

7yo - This son may play a sport or two in the next year. It's not his passion. He enjoys watching more than playing. But he changes his mind often, so we'll see.

5yo & 4yo - These guys are in the exploration stage. At this age, we try lots of things to discover new gifts and abilities. They also express desire to play some sports, so we'll give different ones a try this year.

In our state, elementary children must take a fine art for one semester. That includes visual arts, music, dramatic arts, or a foreign language. Because I am a musician and play piano, I have a personal opinion that every child should take at least one to two years of piano. After that, if they don't like it, they don't have to continue. I taught my oldest piano, but she's ready for an outside teacher to take her to the next level. My boys have all tinkered on the piano and know a few things, but because of my busy schedule, I'm thinking of putting them in outside lessons as well.
12yo - Besides piano, my daughter will be doing voice lessons as well this year. We may focus on piano one semester, and voice the next. Otherwise, it can be way too costly. In addition, she wants to continue with the art class she took this year from a local woman who teaches art out of her home.
9yo - This is the child who resists all fine arts. He's an athlete. He doesn't like art of any kind. However, I'll have him take piano. In addition, he's expressed interest in learning some woodworking skills. I'm looking into a local 4-H club that offers a woodworking project that he could join next year.
7yo - This guy could possibly have a musical gift, but it's unexplored. He will do piano this year (eventually, he wants to try drums), and he also wants to continue with the art class he took last year. In addition, locally, we have a Lego class for homeschoolers that teaches introductory engineering skills. I think this guy would love it!
5yo - If I can, I will look at having this little guy do piano and art class. We'll see if he's old enough.

Technology is a requirement in our state for all elementary grades. My children work on Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing until they finish the program (my daughter already has).
In addition, I plan to teach my kids very practical technology this year - how to use the computer, the internet, sending emails, Microsoft products, Google products, smartphones, etc. We only really work on this once or twice a month.

I also read "How I Am I Smart?" during my mini-retreat and gained great insight and ideas!

So that's my head start! So fun! I love this stuff!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Planning For Summer

I can't wait for summer!!! All the Seilers are ready for it to arrive! We've been working very hard for over nine months now, and we're ready to play. Apparently, we're not the only ones...many of my blogging "friends" are starting to write about their summer plans as well.

So why a "plan?" Because summer can easily become a nightmare if children don't have some direction. My kids, left to their own devices for hours on end, end up fighting like cats and dogs and destroying the house. A plan or schedule keeps them productive and moving in a positive direction.

Tomorrow evening, our family is having a "Not-So-Bummer-Summer" Family Meeting. We are serving ice cream sundaes and discussing what everyone wants to do this summer. We want input from every family member, so everyone gets to do something they want to do.

I'm going to steer the meeting a bit by providing some ideas to the family, to get their creative juices flowing. We're going to talk about daily activities, weekly activities, and other activities we may just fit in once through the summer.

Some of my ideas include:

  • Time with Jesus
  • Chores (still have to do those)
  • Breakfast, lunch, & dinner time
  • Reading (I want them reading something every day)
  • Exercise (perhaps I'll create a list of exercise ideas for them to choose from each day)
  • Movie (there's a ton of great summer movies out, or we'd love to continue on our Little House on the Prairie series)
  • Computer Learning Games
  • Errands (inevitable)
  • Cooking (summer is a great time to teach kids to make meals for themselves)
  • Gardening
  • Afternoon Quiet Time (a must for mom's sanity)
Each week, we may include something like: 
  • Trip to the Library
  • Pool Day (at the community pool)
  • Museum Day (we bought a pass to the Sacramento Children's Museum this year)
  • Family Night (see below for ideas on themes)
  • Picnic in the Park
  • Scavenger Hunts
Here's some ideas I'll present to the kids of things we could do once throughout the summer:
  • Camping
  • Day at the Beach
  • Day at a Nearby Lake 
  • Water Park (mom secretly LOVES water slides)
  • Bowling
  • Slumber Party for all our friends
  • Lemonade Stand
I'm sure my children will add to this list of ideas. How fun!

  • Dessert-before-dinner night
  • Craft night (my children know how mom hates arts & crafts - I know, it's bad - so this night would be very special)
  • Coloring Night
  • Late Night Family Walk
  • Ice Cream Sundaes
  • Game Night
  • Bonfire & S'mores
  • Playdough Night
  • Movie Night
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Wii Tournament 
I found many great ideas in Life As a Mom's "Summer Survival Guide" as well as  Planner Perfect's "Ten Summer Fun Ideas to Do With Your Kids" and Smockity Frock's "Ten Tips for Free Summer Fun." Also, don't forget the Summer Family Movie promotions at nearby theaters: Regal Cinemas and Cinemark.