Monday, September 17, 2012

School Time- Recapping the first few weeks

We've been in school here for 4 weeks.  It's been amazing!  Beth is in the 3rd grade, and Jacob started kindergarten.  I realize I should have probably been emotional about that, but the difference is that I didn't send my baby off to school.  This year, we decided to give homeschool a shot.  There have been no complaints from the students, teacher or principal!

Why in the world are we homeschooling?
I have always felt a tug and desire to homeschool.  After many discussions and LOTS of research and plenty of prayer, we decided to give it a try.  When we told the kids, they were excited.  That made it so much easier.  It is a blessing and a joy that I was already a stay at home mom.  Since Beth was already home for summer, it was an easy transition.  Our decision in no way criticizes your decision for your children.  Each family has to make the decision that is best for them.  But what about the deeper reasons?  We can vacation whenever we want, without worrying about missing learning in order to beat the crowds.  That's a deep reason, right?  Ok, really, we want to guard our children from things that make children grow up too fast.  We want to insulate, not isolate, our children.  We want our children to have a Christian view of the world- from great moments in history to creation to morals.  We want our kids educated in the way that is best for them.  Small class size, individualized instruction, being able to go with the moment (either to explore something cool or to take a break when frustrated), .... No school uniforms or special school clothes to buy, just regular play clothes.  And even jommies some days.  We want our kids to be lifelong learners, to know how to learn something when it isn't being "fed" to them.

What makes me qualified?
Well, as a matter of fact, I have a college degree and certification from the state of Texas to teach elementary grades.  However, research has shown no difference in the success of homeschooled children of college educated parents or those with high school diplomas.  I love my kids more than a teacher would and will push through whatever struggles we have to keep a love of learning.  I've been in the classroom and seen how a smart, well-behaved kid gets lost in the shuffle when the teacher has to focus on the struggling or misbeahving students.  I've seen that one teacher can't meet the individual learning differences and needs of 25 kids in the same short amount of time.  I know how much of a school day is spent on administrative stuff or the latest and greatest method (that doesn't get tried long enough to see if it really works) that every teacher is expected to do, not to mention the time wasted on assemblies and things the kids don't really pay attention to.

What's so great about homeschooling?
I LOVE spending time with my kids, sharing a love of learning with them.  I know my kids' skills and can adjust the lessons to suit their needs.  I have learned that Beth needs to do math in the morning instead of saving for the end of the day.  I have learned that Jacob works quickly, taking about half the time I've alloted for his subjects.  I love seeing the pride when they learn a new skill or discover something really cool.  I love being able to shift our lessons around, doing only the minimum in a day so we can take a field trip.  I love being able to drop assignments or half the practice problems, the busy work, when I know a skill is already mastered.  Being able to go to the gym for mommy to exercise while the kids play, coming home to work on school, breaking for lunch, then finishing school- all before the neighborhood kids are out of school.  With Kevin working at home when he isn't traveling, he can be part of our learning, playing and field trips.  We can go on field trips when places aren't busy.  The zoo was amazing last week!  We can go out to eat in the middle of the day- lunch specials, being seated right away.  We are spending more time as a family, both learning and playing, than ever before.

What about "socialization"?
"Socialization" is defined as a "process by which an individual develops a personal identity and learns norms, values, behavior and social skills."  Do I really want a bunch of kids shaping the "identity" of my children, teaching them conversation skills and values?  Nope, we think that we parents and the other people we choose to surround ourselves with are the best way to shape them, not a random selection of kids.  Now, if you really want to know if my kids have social interaction, I assure you we are busier now than before.  Beth has gymnastics, Jacob has soccer and piano lessons.  We attend classes once a week with other homeschool families, plus additional field trips and social events.  Church 3 times a week, where the kids are involved in the AWANA program as well as their age appropriate Sunday class.  We get together with friends for playdates and hang out time, both with homeschool families and those who choose other routes.  Plus, the regular interaction with kids and adults as we go about our daily lives- library, stores, haircut place, .... We are able to teach them the social graces, manners, conversation skills, compassion, etc, that they will need to use as adults.  I am looking so forward to expanding these opportunities as we get our bearings and find ways to volunteer in the community.

What's been the most fun so far?
We are doing science class together.  I started this thinking that Jacob would just be exposed and we'd cycle back through it with him later, as Beth needed to move on to other things.  Boy, was I wrong!  These kids are picking up amazing knowledge.  We're learning together, and it's super cool.  We chose Apologia's Zoology: Flying Creatures, which means we're learning about birds and insects that fly.  We do some reading, some notebook activities, some field hunting and some experiments.  If I had learned science this way as a kid, I probably would have liked it much more.  We've built and flown gliders, learning about flight.  We've caught and examined insects, naming body parts and identifying special features (did you know you can tell the difference in girl and boy bugs?), refrigerating a live wasp to see what being cold-blooded really means.  We have been entomologists- even Jacob can tell you that.  Beth even touched and held the dead insect!  All this, and we're just 2 chapters into the book!
The other amazing thing has been to see Jacob's reading skills explode.  He's trying to read everything he can.  He's got a few simple books he reads by himself.  The pride he has that he did it is incredible.  I can't wait to see how much more his reading takes off as he gains the skills to read bigger words.  We may need a bigger bookshelf!

So, while we're only homeschool newbies, it has brought so much joy.  Look and ask around, you'd be surprised how many people do this too.  While for many there is still that "those weird people" stigma, the faces of homeschoolers are more normal than you realize.  In 2009, there were an estimated 300,000 students being homeschooled in Texas alone.  Incredible! 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hale Family Olympics

We have enjoyed the 2012 Summer Olympics!  We watched part of the opening ceremony, parts many sports, but mainly swimming, diving and gymnastics.  We have talked about the athletes participating, their hard work and dedication, the history of the games....
But, I still wanted us to connect to them in another way.  The first was that we randomly drew the name of a country that has historically brought home a lot of medals.  We have charted each medal they've earned, thanks to the daily updates on the internet. 
After the first two day with no medals, I let Beth choose a different country.  She has been a little happier.  However, since she's not winning the overall number of medals, she's been a bit pouty.  We used the opportunity to talk about how the athletes must feel, since they're the ones working so hard and not taking home a medal for their country.  It didn't seem so bad to not get a sticker after that!

To make the olympic experience even more fun, I used some ideas (a little adjusted) I saw in a magazine to have our own backyard events.  The kids were so excited!
First event: Shake It- 4 ping pong ball in a shoebox (I didn't have a rectangle tissue box).  They had 15 seconds to shake out as many balls as they could.

Second event: Ping Pong Toss- from the chair, toss ping pongs into numbered cups.  They had 2 rounds of 15 seconds.  Beth had the advantage with longer reaching arms.

The final (and silliest) event: Snack Toss- Shower caps covered in shaving cream.  Then they had to toss cheetos at each others' heads to get them to stick.  Beth got handfuls at a time, while Jacob was methodical with one at a time.  Of course, Beth had to sit in a chair to even out the playing field, so to speak.  Sadly, this event was cut short when fire ants came to the fun.

With a total score of 18 points, Jacob won the silver (blue) medal.  Beth brought home gold with 31 points.

We all had a great time!  The best part was hearing "thank you" for the fun stuff.  I think we'll do it again.  Thankfully, I have 4 years to come up with more events for our next Hale family olympics.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My dad

I found a little interview about dads (thanks Pinterest) and knew the kids would love answering the questions.  Here's what they think of their dad.
My dad is ___ years old
     Beth: 35
     Jacob: 24
My dad weighs ___ pounds
     Beth: 127
     Jacob: 35
My dad's favorite color is ___
     B: blue
     J: blue
My dad's favorite super hero is ___
    both: Batman
My dad always says ____
     B: "Go clean your room"
     J: "Be quiet"
My dad's job is ___
     B: to take care of us
     J: working
First thing in the morning, my dad ____
     B: wakes me up
     J: says "good morning"
My dad laughs when I ___
     B: say something weird
     J: do funny things
My dad's favorite food is ___
     B: BBQ
     J: guacamole, and salad with yucky stuff
I love my dad because ___
     B: he loves me
     J: he works and I'm gladful for that

For the most part, they've got a pretty good idea about their daddy.  Without a doubt, they are some lucky kiddos to have a daddy who loves them so much and takes good care of our family.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A birthday to remember

Beth managed to extend her 8th birthday celbration quite a bit.  And loved every minute of it.
1. Popi and Yaya came to visit and took her shopping for gifts.  She got clothes and shoes.  Such a girl!!!
2. Celebrated with lunch at Cinderella Castle on birthday day (more coming on that soon)
3. Presents from Mom and Dad and Jacob- just what she wanted
4. Birthday mini-party.  Just Beth's best friend, Faith, came along for a day of fun- movie, out to dinner, Build A Bear, then a stop for ice cream, followed by a sleepover.  Whew!
5. Grandma and Grandpa came up to celebrate, and even brought a cake!
All this celebrating was about a month long.  What fun!

I can't believe how fast time is going.  It seems just yesterday, she was this little 4 year old, such a sweet little punkin.
Now, here she is, 8.  EIGHT!  She has grown so much, inside and out.  She is as tall as the average 10 year old.  Her hair has turned wavy.  She is compassionate and empathetic.  She is a bossy big sister (and most of the time, he takes it well).  But, she is also a very loving big sister.  She loves to play school, teaching him to read and fun little songs. She loves books, of all kinds.  It's been fun for me to pull out the last tub of books I have from my teacher days, getting a stack out for her that she's big enough to read now.
I have sure enjoyed the blessing God gave us in this sweet girl.  I look forward to seeing how He will use her for his glory!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ride, Jacob, Ride

Jacob is very much a physically active and adventurous little boy.  We decided to take the training wheels off his bike, to see what he could do.  He was pretty nervous to get on the bike.  It took a little bit before he understood the difference in how it felt without the extra wheels.  Once he was convinced that Kevin wouldn't let him go, he was ready to give it a try.
He alternated between giggles and panic.  If he felt the bike lean a little, he'd let go of the bike and grab Kevin's arm.  He took a couple breaks, learning how to leave his bike since it didn't stand on its own anymore.
Beth was pretty happy to ride around all over the park area.  Hard to believe it was just last summer she was learning this skill just last summer.  Now, she's all over the place and fast!
So, a few attempts, and Kevin managed to briefly let go of the bike.  When we told Jacob he did it, he was pretty proud.  It's a pretty awesome moment to watch!
I bet with a couple more days out there practicing, he'll have it down and be speeding everywhere!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.~ John Dewey

After a great report at the dentist office, Jacob and I took advantage of being in Fort Worth and of our new science museum membership.  Lots of kindergarten classes had the same idea for the day, but we made the best of it. 
There was a new exhibit called Grossology. It's about the gross things (though important) about our bodies- like burping, farting, barfing, boogers, body odor, etc.  Lots of activities and fun things to do, including shooting ping pong balls into a nose.  However, Jacob's favorite thing was the "playground".  The kids all seemed oblivious to what they were sliding on- the path of food from the mouth all the way through and out. 

So many areas to explore- building with all kinds of materials, playing music on all sorts of household items, craft projects... One neat area is about cows and ranching kind of things.  Jacob remembered a really cool activity where they can ride a horse and herd cattle on a tv screen.  Since there was half a class waiting in line, we moved on.  Next time, though, we'll check it out.

In the kids area, his favorite part was the outdoor water play.  We found a rare moment when there weren't other kids around, so he actually got to play.  The busy table- the water guns- took a little bit of patience waiting for a spot to open up.

I think the dinosaur dig is one of the best and favorite things at the museum.  It was already pretty warm outside, but Jacob was happy to play for a while.  Once a whole class came outside, he readily agreed to move onto some other activity.

With the membership, we also get entrance into the Cowgirl Museum (right next door).  We popped over since we had a little time before we had to pick up Beth at school.  Ah, it was so calm and quiet.  The kid corral was full of things to try out, then we went through the rest of the exhibits at 4 year old speed.  I'm hoping to actually see the stuff next time.

It was a nice day, just me and Jacob.  We will certainly enjoy many visits to the museum and plan to include Beth and Kevin next time.  Jacob wants them to see the Grossology exhibit.  I'm really looking forward to the Titanic exhibit coming soon!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Art comes to life

Spring Break offered lots of opportunities for fun things to do around Fort Worth. After having the kids' pictures taken, we headed over to Amon Carten American Art museum. That day, they were featuring artist Georgia O'Keefe. There were activities (and refreshments) for the kids. The timing was perfect since Beth and I had just read a library book about that very artist. At the museum, the kids were given cards with specific art to find, along with questions to discuss to notice and take in the art. There were docents available to talk about the art and artist.
Then, the kids had the opportunity to draw like Georgia O'Keefe. One of the painting showed a flower VERY close up. The kids got to pick a flower and were supposed to draw it close up. They were a little timid at first but did a great job!
I love exposing the kids (and us parents) to culture like this. I love that the flexibility of Kevin's schedule and availability of technology allow him to do things like this with us, while still working. We'll definitely need to make more trips to museums.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring has arrived!

Ah, Spring!!!!!! Of course, I finally post this, the day after a cold front came through. Well, I'm looking forward to the weather warming up quickly.
We've had so much wonderful time playing outside. Our house has become an active place for lots of neighborhood kids, playing with our kids for hours. Great fun!
The kids and Kevin snagged a bit of time to ride bikes. It was Jacob's first ride down the road, and he was pretty proud. It was great until they had to come back up the hill. It's a tough ride! Once back in the driveway, there was not time to lose- Jacob had to hunt for snails and roly polys and dig in the dirt.
The simple joys of spring! Great memories!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I know, I haven't posted in a long time. Nothing overly exciting has happened lately.
Beth had a field trip, but I forgot my camera. Beth takes gymnastics once a week and is really improving in her skills. Jacob is signed up for a soccer camp twice a week in May, and he can hardly stand the wait. They are both rocking and rolling in their AWANA club for church. I am amazed at how many scriptures they learn and retain. Spring Break is next week, and we'll have some fun stuff to do. Hopefully, I'll remember to take my camera along.
Kevin is busy as usual with work. I completed my participation in the spring Just Between Friends consignment sale. I am getting into spring cleaning- hard work but feels so good to have a major task accomplished, a part at a time (baseboards and fans today, windows and blinds next week). I'm doing some re-organization of closets and toys. I also completed all the digital scrapbook pages for our 2010 Disney World trip. I had a marathon weekend, completing 17 pages. I haven't scrapbooked since- got a bit burned out. I still have to finish ordering the pages, but I'm loving the way it's coming together in the album so far. Here's a peek at a few of the last pages:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Conversation with Jacob

I found this little questionare for kids thing through Pinterest. (Oh my, so many ideas there! Proudly, I've used about 5 that I've pinned!)

Here are the questions and Jacob's answers. I love the peek into his busy little mind!
What's your name? Jacob
How old are you? 4
What is your favorite color? blue and green
What do want to be when you're all grown up? an Indian, no, umm..... a Cowboy (said with complete Texas twang)
Who is your best friend? Beth. No, Jaxson and Jonas. And Jesus.
What is your favorite movie? Mulan
What is your favorite book? Daniel and the Lion's Den (what we read last night)
What makes you happy? When a friend plays nice with me
What makes you sad? When nobody plays with me
What is your most favorite food to eat? Lots of things (which means a sectioned plate with something in every section- stick cheese, lunchmeat ham, cheese nips or goldfish, yogurt or peaches or grapes and a dessert- candy or thin mints or brownie)
What is your favorite song to sing? (and dance/act out) I'll Make A Man Out of You (from Mulan)
What games do you like to play? Guess Who and Sorry

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Truth in the Tinsel

Early in the Christmas season, I asked Beth what she tought of when she thought about Christmas. She said family and presents. While those things are certainly a part of Christmas, I realized our focus and balance was off. Talking to Kevin, we realized we wanted to refocus our family on the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus wasn't left out of our celebrating, mind you, we just wanted there to be more of Him.

I did some searching and searching online. I saw many things that looked amazing, that really told the story. Since my kids are 4 and 7, I knew we needed something simple and quick. The Truth in the Tinsel fit the bill! It was an e-book download. I printed the pages I needed. I already had most of the supplies in the craft closet, but did go buy a few things(and tweeked a few projects to fit what supplies I had). Reading the Bible passage, the discussion and the craft took about 15-20 minutes. That was great for the short attention span of a 4 year old but still deep enough for the 7 year old to not be bored.

With time being what it was and that it was already into December, I knew we wouldn't have time for all 25 crafts. Some days, we combined the stories and talked about them, making only one craft. Sometimes, we made two crafts. Some, we just skipped altogether. The kiddos really looked forward to this family Bible and craft time!

We all learned so much about the story of Jesus. It was a really special time for our family. I had wound garland with lights and ribbon on the stair rail, but I thought it was still missing something. Every craft we complete was hung on the garland, reminding us every day to celebrate Jesus.

We are already looking forward to next year, making sure we plan the time to complete every single day and honoring our Savior in the Christmas season!