Monday, August 29, 2011

Schooling the Senses: Hearing

While in high school I remember our US History teacher, Pastor Ferguson, turning music on during testing or just when ever we were working on our class work. I still remember listening to the soundtrack for the movie Gettysburg while studying US History. I knew when I grew older that was one CD (I feel old LOL) I wanted to own.

A few years later, Trent and I lived close to many of those Civil War battlefields I had studied about while listening to that soundtrack. As we drove the roads through these National Military Parks, we would often find this on our ipod and listen to it through the drive. Driving through these parks can be a moving experience in itself, but add the music and you can sense the emotions these men were grappling with.

Nothing made this more clear then the first time I experienced driving through Antiteam National Battlefield for their annual Memorial Illumination. The first Saturday night of December, you can drive down those roads, made hallowed by the blood of men who gave their lives for what they believed to be right. There is 23,110 luminaries placed along the drive, one for each person who gave up their life. We played this music and the emotions that took place with in me....I can't begin to explain.  If you can be in MD at this time of year, it is one of those things you must do in your lifetime.

Music can do this to you. It can calm and soothe. It can transport. It can challenge you.

Maybe you have heard of the Mozart effect or just the thought that the complexity of classical music can make you smarter. I am not a researcher so I have no definitive answer to this, but I do know that I get more done with music on. I retain what I read better when I listen to the classics (and I mean Bach and Beethoven, not the Beach Boys and Beatles).

We know that children learn better when more senses are involved in the learning process. I am trying to incorporate a multi-sensory approach to my homeschooling. Todays blog is focusing on their sense of hearing.

We always have classical music going on during school hours. It is just quietly playing, but I can sense a difference when I forget to turn it on. Currently we are mostly listening to the Brandenburg Concertos by Bach (One of my all time favorites). I plan to work through many pieces this year. I am also educating my kids to what they are listening to and who composed it, so it is kind of like Music Appreciation at the same time.

This year I plan to introduce them to new pieces each month: Holst's Planets, Mozart's Sonata in D, as well as pieces by Smetana, Beethoven, Dvorak...well and many more.

During our Unit Study time, I have downloaded two new albums from iTunes. The first is Patriotic Classics for Kids. This is fantastic as it has everything from America, the Beautiful and the Star Spangled Banner to the Marines march, Yellow Rose of Texas and Dixie. They are all done without words as classical pieces. We are using this as the background music for when we talk or are doing our silent reading.

During crafting time (which we have a lot of) we are listening to Songs of America by the Cedarmont kids. This album has children singing to songs like Yankee Doodle, Battle Hymn of the Republic, You're a Grand Old Flag and many more. Plus a great perk with this one is that it is a split track so your kids can learn it and then sing it themselves!

The arts are struggling to stay alive in our schools. With each round of budget cuts they become more and more vulnerable. Even if you don't homeschool you can keep them alive in your home. During dinner turn some classical music on in the background. While the kids do their chores crank up the tunes. Teach them to listen for instruments. Encourage them to actually listen to the words. Take the time to explain what the artists may even mean.

I would love to hear from you. Are your kids schools being hit with the cuts? How do you incorporate Hearing, primarily music, into your homes? Do you even know who Smetana is? Do you just want to say hi? Leave me a comment...they make me happy  :) Also if you totally love what I am writing (HA HA) you can also subscribe on the right hand side so you get ever post in your email box. Don't worry you won't be spammed. How would I find the time in my day to write that many posts LOL.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Strawberry Lemonade Cookies

Our church is having a meet and greet for the the students at Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) where my husband started working this year. Every year the church, which is right on campus, holds this event, and church members bring watermelon and cookies to share with them. I decided I wanted to go so I looked through my Pinterest boards for some cookie recipes. I picked out three but only had time to make two of them.

Roo helped me make the first batch -- Strawberry Lemonade cookies! Boo and I had already done the shopping in the morning to get all the ingredients so I had everything set out on the cupboard all ready for Roo's special time with me!
all the ingredients laid out for the cookies

We immediately got busy. Roo loved using the hand mixer. I was going to use my kitchen aid but wanted to teach her about over mixing wanted her to feel like she was doing it not just some machine.

So she mixed it all up and then it was time to make the cookies. I totally love Pampered Chef's (PC) Small Scoop. It was easy enough for her little hands and made perfect scoops each time. We also put them on PC's Large Stoneware Bar Pans. I love stoneware! I have never had anything ever burn on them. They always turn out perfect.

frosting made and ready to decorate!
So after baking them (btw, the recipe made 54 for us) I made the frosting and got out the sprinkles. I frosted each of them and then handed them to the girls to decorate. They had a blast! I did have to rotate evenly through though so that that one kid didn't get more then another and as a side note there were actually 55 cookies but we only decorated 54. One lucky cookie got a trip through my digestive system so that everything was fair. Aren't I the best mother ever ?!?!

I also enjoyed watching the girls decorate. It was a picture into their creative thinking. Loo used the sprinkles  with no real thought pattern except that Mommy had said don't waste them. I let her know she could use more then 10 sprinkles per cookie and then we were all good. Roo made hers to look just like the cookie I had demoed for them. Almost exactly! We really are twinies :). Boo on the other hand was super creative making some half and half with the colors, some just pink, some with the crystal like sprinkles. They sky was her only limit.  I love how even something as simple as this can show me another insight into my children!

This is the finished product along with the Lemon Crinkles that Loo and I made from one of my Pinterest boards as well. Look for that post coming soon. The students of SWAU seemed to really enjoy them and because I made so many of each we also brought a plateful over to our Fire Station.  The visit turned into an impromptu fire station tour and the kids had a blast. We have decided to adopt C company and bring them stuff all year! Without much planning we had a very fun home school day!

So here is the recipe as well as a cute layout I whipped up for the pictures. The kit will be going live in my store soon and I will post the links! Also here is the link to the site I got it from.

Kit Used: Strawberry Lemonade by Truman Studio (releasing soon)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Definition Day: Flexible

flex·i·ble [flek-suh-buhl] adjective

1. capable of being bent, usually without breaking; easily bent: a flexible ruler.
2. susceptible of modification or adaptation; adaptable: a flexible schedule

Mr Webster apparently knew that life happened when he thought this word should be added to the dictionary. In a normal school setting, there is little allowance for much flexibility. Standards need to be met, subjects to get through, etc. I don't fault teachers...honestly I 100% get it.

I love schedules...LOVE THEM. I am forever making lists and schedules, but that is a post all in its own. Today was about learning what Mr. Webster meant.

HOA pool. We were the only ones there today.
I woke up this morning with a thought that I would like to take my kids swimming today and I would like to go BEFORE the Texas heat gave me my third heat stroke of the summer. Our HOA pool opens at 10 am, but my schedule shows that is English time.

But not today! Nope today I was going to practice that very word. I mean isn't that a major reason why we love gives us the flexibility to alter our days and schedules to let life learning happen.

So today we went swimming. As a former swim teacher, I believe swimming is an important life skill to learn. You rarely fall on a floor and have to dance, or on a beam and have to perform a cartwheel. But if you fall in a pool or an body of better hope you can swim!

So I decided until our pool is shut down for the season we were going to practice for an hour at least 2 to 3 times a week. So this morning, I worked with my girls  on their swimming. The older two started off with 20 bobs and Loo worked mostly on blowing bubbles. I did have her go under with me 3 times.

We moved to doing some laps next. Boo, is quickly catching up to where she was. Did a lap with the front stroke and one lap with the elementary backstroke. Roo, was still struggling and wanted her noodle constantly. Loo, well she kicked and I got numerous face fulls of water.

We then moved to jumping and diving. I had all three jump to me. After Loo had jumped 10 times I let her go eat a snack. Then Boo and Roo worked on the sitting dive. They were doing pretty good. I told Roo she could go eat her snack but she wanted to stay and JUMP! She proceeded to alternate with Boo, who was practicing kneeling dives with jumping and swimming to the ladder...WITH NO NOODLE!!!! I was so proud of her and Boo was rocking the kneeling dive.

So today, we have had school in the afternoon. The kids are still focused and we have had fun. I feel like a good mother and teacher today!

A few other milestones worth noting:
  • Roo and I worked on our English yesterday from our incredible Language Arts program. We learned all about the squeely ee's (need, speed, bee). Anyway today she grabbed our Ted and Friends phonics reader for her quiet time. I stopped her and asked if she wanted to try and read it to me. That was about the end of the world...until we started. She has never read to me before. Today she read 3 pages! It was awesome.
  • Boo and I spent yesterday working on a spelling placement test. After yesterday we discovered she was spelling 3rd grader words...7 months into 3rd grade. So we finished the second test today and indeed, my second grader will be using the third grade (level c) spelling words. She loves to read and it showed!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 1 Lesson: Nothing is perfect the first time.

So today didn't turn out exactly how I planned but it certainly wasn't as bad as it could have been. For the most part our morning went according to plan...until English time.

We started off with back to school pictures. Yesterday, we went to Crazy 8 and picked out some fun little outfits for them to wear for the first day. I figure just because we are having school at home doesn't make it any less special. So this morning they got all dressed up and then right before worship posed in front of our front door. I think they look pretty cute!
Loo, Boo and Roo ready for first day of school!


We got started but I didn't take into account how hard it would be to balance teaching a 2nd grader, Kindergartener, and a "PK-3". Loo constantly wants my attention so that is something we will have to work on.

Handwriting really went well. I was very happy with both of the older girls pencil skills and their neatness with making their letters.

Roo finishing handwriting while Mommy teaches Loo her numbers.

Math went really well as well. They love Math-U-See. They really enjoyed working with the manipulatives. They both covered it really fast and were ready to move onto English.

Boo doing her Math sheet for today
 Then issue number 2 came up! The English program we are using (which is going to be fantastic) I had done some basic reading and thought I knew what I was doing. When it came time I realized I needed to spend a tad more time reading. So we did some basic workbook pages and I spent that time really reading a lot more intensely. Think I have it...think :).

We moved onto our Unit Study. This year our family is going to be studying America and all our states. I have written the entire thing myself. This part of the day went well.  This first week is studying about America, our symbols and basic map kind of stuff.

Unit Study project!
Today we learned about the cardinal directions (N, S, E & W) and even made up a little song about it. We then looked at the map and each kid took turns saying which direction we would go to get to visit different family and friends. Amazed at how quickly even Loo (3) caught on.

After that we made a craft I found on Pinterest. Each circle showed where they are in the big scheme of things. We started with our street then it moved onto: city, state, country and then our continent!

To find this craft idea you can find it here on my Pinterest board. We didn't do it exactly the same but they had fun with it!

So I think today went okish...hoping for a better day tomorrow :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Here I Am it is! My official life blog. This blog is going to be a record of  our life through my eyes.

A great friend said my life was like a kaleidoscope and I think that is very true. When you look through one all these little pieces combine to make a picture. It is rarely the same picture with the twist and turn of a wrist or a day later. But all those pieces are still there.

My life is much like that. There are so many pieces to me. Things that make me who I am. But because life changes and just the regular twist and turns we go through I am constantly changing. I am still the same person...just you see different sides of me at different times.

I am a passionate person. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I struggle with depression yet I love life! I am me...the person God created me to be! Ever changing to be more and more like Him and struggling with how to be that person. I am vulnerable. This is me it is who I am.

I am an east coaster who has recently made the move to Texas and am enjoying it. I love it here (which may come as a complete surprise to many...most especially me!) We moved here to follow God's leading which lucky for my husband was to let him live his dream of being a teacher.  I will be posting the story of God's leading in this because it is an amazing story with many tears, frustrations and ultimately triumphs!

So a  little more about me and what you will find here:
  • I am a wife to the man that God had waiting for me, Trent. He is the love of my life and I can't remember, nor would I want too, life without him. He is a talented graphic designer who is finally getting to live his dream of teaching. He has always encouraged me to be creative and eats whatever I put in front of him! I love him with ALL my heart!
  • I love being a mom! God has blessed me with 3 beautiful girls. Since this isn't private they all get fun nicknames too! Boo, 7, my oldest, is brillant and amazes me with how fast she comprehends stuff. She loves music and is always making up songs and trying to learn to play the piano by ear. We are hoping to get her in some lessons. Roo, 5, is my twinie. She is our middle girlie and has brown eyes just like me! But above that we are still very similar. She is very caring, compassionate and emotional! She is our little artist. They all like art but she LOVES art. Finally is little Loo, 3! Polite is her in a word...and heartbreaker. She is a happy outgoing little girl who loves nothing better then smiling and hugging you.
  • I am embarking on a new adventure this year...Homeschooling. I have written my own Unit Study for my kids for social studies/science. So you will see a ton of US Geography based stuff on here...just a heads up! This blog was partially created for that reason. To chronicle our school year and what we do.
  • I love to bake and cook. You will see posts with recipes...hopefully a lot! I adore it but it is always a struggle to balance that love with real life. So I am going to be trying to be better at menu planning and prepping ahead of time.
  • I have a home based business, Usborne Books and More. This blog will not be post after post of me trying to sell you stuff...but you will get a picture into my life doing this as well. I believe that illiteracy plagues much of America and provided with engaging material in the youngest years we could reverse this trend. If you don't have a library in your home for you and your kids you are missing out. Yes you can borrow books, but seriously there is nothing better then having a familiar book to go back to and read. Ok stepping off bandwagon now
  • I love to read. You will also find random book reviews because I ADORE reading. I believe in lifelong learning. We are never out of school...we just are self taught after college graduation.
  • I am a scrapbooker. This is my outlet of choice on stressful days. I am a digital scrapbooker and designer. You will see my layouts and maybe even some of my own kits on here. I may share some tips and tricks...who knows.
  • I am Creative. If you have never heard of pinterest you are missing out...seriously. I am going to make an effort to share the things I create from there and just in general. This is my therapy...and I love it
  • I thinking traveling expands horizons. We don't have the budget to be exotic...but I believe that taking my kids to explore the world around us helps them become more rounded individuals. So you will see a glimpse of that here on this blog.
So there you have it a glimpse of me...and my kaleidoscope of a life. Hope you enjoy this journey that I am embarking on!

Love, Aly