Saturday, April 28, 2018

We took the Home-Schooling Plunge and we LOVE it! (Our Video-Yearbook)

So, I did it!! I've been playing with the idea of full-time home schooling for years. I've been part-time home schooling my younger kids (pulling my kids out of public school about one day a week) since Kindergarten. (Posts about Part-Time Home Schooling). I started out in September by pulling only Jonathan out of school, but after seeing how much fun we were having, the twins begged me to pull them out, too. So, in January, I took the plunge and decided to home school all three kids full-time!

All I can say is that I had NO idea how much we would love this!! To say, we've enjoyed ourselves would be an understatement. Now that I'm responsible for their entire education, I find that I teach in English the majority of the time. Most of their subjects and most of my material is in English. And let's face it, we live in the U.S. and they need to be literate in English. However, we still try to use mostly German when we're not home schooling and we also have German reading time and German class (where we focus on grammar, writing, and spelling).

We're now coming to the end of our first semester of home schooling. I've been taking little video clips of the kids for the past few months in order to document our maiden voyage on this journey. These clips, of course, don't show the stressful and non-cooperative times, only the good times! I don't want anyone to think that the kids never fight, complain, or whine!! They do!! Although, I must admit that most days are pretty amazing! In fact, I've been enjoying home schooling so much, that I literally feel a little giddy each night at the thought that I get to wake up the next morning and spend this precious time with my little people.

I think home schooling can be very mysterious to those who have never tried it. It certainly was to me. I often looked at my home schooling friends and wondered what their days looked like. Could they really learn as much at home as my kids were learning at school? Well, maybe home schooling is so misunderstood and mysterious because there are usually no outsiders witnessing a family's home school day. In fact, even those who home school really have no idea what another family's home school looks like. Each family will have their own style and their own methods (and that may vary significantly from year to year).  That's one of the reasons I'm posting this video. I thought it might be helpful to those considering home schooling or to those who are curious what home schooling can look like. Our style might not be your style or anyone else's, but it is what has worked for us this year.

After watching my video compilation, I've decided that we do "floor and sofa-school". The kids love to work on the floor or on the sofas. They are rarely at a table!! I also found that we very, very rarely used our designated home-school room. The kids preferred the kitchen table and family room. During the cool winter months, everyone in the house prefers the cozy family room with the roaring fire. It's what worked for us. Also, we happen to have a unique situation

which lends itself well to home schooling. I have three kids who are basically at the same level. The twins and J are only one year apart, so we study our language arts, history, science, German, and French together. Math is done on the computer and can be done at their own individual speed.

If I were to pick 5 things that have been key to making this a great home school year, they would be as follows:

1. The Good and the Beautiful Curriculum by Jenny Phillips

I can't say enough about the Good and the Beautiful!This is hands-down the best curriculum ever! I absolutely love it and it's probably one of the main reasons I look forward to each day of home school. It's uplifting, rigorous, well thought out, and so easy to follow. It requires absolutely no prep work. You literally open the book and go. The lessons are absolutely full of good and beautiful material...I guess that's how they came up with the fitting name. :) I love how it circles around and reviews concepts, while also constantly introducing new ones. I feel like my children are getting such a well-rounded education, and, as a bonus, I'm learning right along with them!! I LOVE it!!!

2. Baker Web Academy

Technically, we are not actually home schoolers. Instead, we are enrolled in a public charter school for kids who are doing school at home. Baker Web Academy (BWA) provides us with curriculum and learning materials choices at no cost to us! It's fabulous! We have so much educational material at our disposal that there is always something fun to do. Some of my BWA favorites are:
  • Modos Literature Curriculum--we love this one
  • Story of the World Curriculum (books, work books and audio CDs)-love, love, love!
  • Test Prep, writing, spelling, geography, and grammar books and work books
  • Science books and science kit supplies
  • And so many fun art sets, robotics kits, games, and so much more
In addition, they provide us with online memberships and materials for
  • Zearn (actually free to anyone, but BWA gives us the work books)
  • Mystery Science
  • BrainPop
  • Reading Plus
On top of all this, they also provide lots of fun field trips (like cross country skiing and snow shoeing) for families. Most of all, I appreciate that they respect my role as my children's teacher. I feel like they are supporting me in my role, rather than trying to tell me how to do my job.

3. Liber Leadership Academy

We joined a wonderful home school group/school which meets every Wednesday morning. The kids have fun classes where they do music, art, science and all sorts of other activities. The best part, is that they get to socialize with some great kids. They even get to have a real recess with friends. I've appreciated getting to know many of the moms. They are great ladies who have inspired me to be a better mom and teacher. The kids love their school and their friends.

4. Foreign Language Curricula

We are home schooling in both German in English. We've been using the Piri Curriculum published by Klett. It's a German grade school curriculum designed for use in German public schools. The book has a digital version which we enjoy. We also have lots of workbooks and sound tracks.
In addition, here are some of my favorite German helps.

On top of German, we're trying to learn some French. My favorite French helps are:

5. Music Opportunities
  • Pacific University String Project
We are extremely fortunate to live close to a university that offers a string program for children. It is extremely affordable and high quality. Our three kids have chosen to play violin, viola and cello. Twice a week, they practice with an orchestra group.
With so much going on, I haven't had the time to find a piano teacher, but we found the next-best thing: Hoffman Academy. The kids are doing their lessons online and loving it!!

I said I would only pick 5 things, but I'd like to add two more activities that have blessed the lives of my kids this year:

6. Sports

In order to help the kids keep up their associations and relationships with their friends from our local public school, we are encouraging them to participate in year-round sports. We don't want to lose touch with their good friends and the amazing families at our local elementary school. We also try to attend elementary school evening activities. It's important that the kids maintain their friendships. At some point, they may decide to go back to school.

7. Church

I have this last...but it should be first!! The kids' participation in Sunday worship and Wednesday night activities, including Cub Scouts and Activity Days, has been a huge positive influence in their lives. They get lots of social interaction, do fun activities, and are taught wonderful life lessons and good morals. It's here that the the lessons we are teaching at home are solidified and supported. The support our family gets from our church family is immeasurable. The kids learn so much from their teachers and leaders and are inspired and taught by so many good role models. Church is awesome!!

So, as we come to the end of our first semester of home schooling, I have to say that it's been an amazing experience.  One of the main reasons it's been so great, is because I've had so many helpful resources at my disposal. I didn't have to do this alone!! There is SO much help out there. How wonderful that we live in a country where we do have the choice to have a say in our kids' education!!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Growing Up and Not Wanting to Speak the Baby (Minority) Language

So, we have had an interesting language set-up in our house for the past decade: When the three youngest children joined our family, the older children and my husband and I decided to only speak German to them, so that they younger ones would learn German just like the older ones did. However, at that point in our family, the older kids were mostly speaking English to each other and to us. My husband and I have always spoken English to each other and by the time the older kids were teens, we spoke mostly English to them. But, even though we spoke English to each other, all of us were very diligent about always addressing the younger children in German. And the younger kids only spoke German to us and to each other.

This was the language situation in our home for at least 8 years. However, recently, the younger ones have been speaking more and more English. At first, it was only with each other, because they knew that if they addressed me in English that I would ask them to switch to German and that I would only answer in German. The older kids also tried to continue to speak in German to them, but it has been more and more difficult.

Recently, I had an insight as to one of the reasons why the little ones are no longer speaking as much German (the minority langue) to us. I think it has to do with getting older and wanting to be one of the "big" kids. Their whole life, they have observed their older siblings (who are their favorite people in the world) speaking English to each other.
They adore their big sisters and brothers. And all this time, they have noticed that the big kids speak English to each other, but German to them. This used to be fine, but now the little kids are getting old enough to want to be a part of the "big-kid-club". I think they see German as the baby language and they no longer want to be considered "the babies." They want to join in the English conversations that the older siblings each other as equals. They want to feel like they are old enough to be addressed in English!

So, that said, what can I do to help encourage them to keep up with their German? Well, I'm still trying to figure that out. This summer, we had some of our young adult kids home from college, so the little kids were constantly around them and they were always wanting to speak English to them. However, just a few weeks ago, we sent the last of our "big kids" off to college (see picture). So, now, it's just my husband and me and our three little kids. With the older kids gone, there isn't as much social pressure to speak English. I'm hoping that we can continue to have times when we speak more German.

I've been thinking about this new language development in our family. And I think it's only fair, now that the little kids are older, that we come up with a system that doesn't make them feel inferior or not included. So, perhaps, when the college kids come home, we can try to ALL either speak German or All speak English. As far as that goes, maybe I can try to speak German to my husband more often, too. Our former system served us well for the many years, but now we need to reevaluate our bilingual goals and come up with a system or language routine that will continue to foster growth, language, and family unity. I still don't know exactly what that looks like, but I do know that we want everyone to continue to learn and love our target language as well as feel connected to each other, because, really, that's what non-native bilingual parenting is all about!!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Socially Savvy: BEING Joyful, Genuine, and Christlike

·        6 Blankets on lawn, each with different treats
·        Hand out group tags (tape them onto girls)
·        Introduce Activity:
·        Review Socially Savvy Soiree
Good manners and social skills + genuine love and concern = graciousness, kindness & charity
o   Common courtesy starts with acknowledging those around you pleasantly.

§  Please & Thank you
§  Excuse me
§  I’m sorry
§  Greeting/acknowledging  others
§  Handshaking
§  Smile
§  Be on time
§  Cell phone manners
§  Holding door open
§  Introducing people to each other
§  Remembering name

o   Are these skills important?
o   Difference between fake/forced and genuine good manners? (love)
·        Seeing VALUE in EVERYONE is the key!!
o   Who do we sometimes fail to value (person pumping our gas, the store clerk, the person who just cut in front of us, our younger brother, the person who is socially awkward or who doesn’t dress like us)
o   How do we learn to value others?
§  “See” them!
§  Know their names
o   GAME
§  Close eyes, look down.
§  When signaled lock eye contact with someone else and say their FULL name. add Full name and assign compliment to each girl (bright, sweet, smart, athletic, artistic, poised, kind, compassionate)
§  Person who is last is out of the game.
·        Switch Groups (by color)
o   Read over Activity #1 as a group
§  Practice in your group. When signaled (Nina’s whistle) start up a conversation with someone else in the group, practice different “openers”.
·        Switch Groups (by number)
o   Go over Activity #2 as a group
§  Read over “Conversation rules” as group and discuss each one, why it’s important, etc.
§  Divide into smaller groups and use conversation starters.
·        Focus on “Talk slowly” and “Hold more eye contact”
·        Focus on “ Noticing details” and “Unique compliments”
·        Switch within group?
·        Switch Groups (by shape)
o   Go over Socially Savvy Goals again (one girl reads out loud to group)
§  Also go over BEING words
·        Body Language
·        Eye Contact
·        Include others
·        Notice Others
·        Be GENUINE!!
§  Activity, Game (talk about genuinely caring about others):
·        Put one girl in middle of group, have each girl say something nice about her
·        Conclude by bearing testimony of how special each girl is. How much her Heavenly Father loves her and how each of us is expected to treat each other like special kindred daughters of God.

This was our way of making sure that each of our 3 groups had new people in them. Only works if you have about 36 girls:
Each girl was given a shape. The first group was divided by color, second by number, third by shape.

Discuss the rules below. Share your opinion. Is the rule important to you? Why or why not? Would you add anything to this list?

Ten Rules of Common Courtesy
Show respect for others.
When appropriate, say please, thank you and excuse me. After you receive a gift, make sure you write a thank you note or follow up with a phone call, email or text message. Do not use the word “shut up” – it is offensive!

Always apologize when you do something wrong.
When you physically or emotionally hurt someone apologize even if it’s an accident. If you make a mistake, try to make amends whenever possible.

When someone is having a conversation, do not interrupt.
If you must interrupt a conversation, make sure you are polite and say, “Excuse me, I’m sorry to interrupt but…”

When you change your plans, let others know.
Honor your word. If you commit to plans, make sure you show up. If something comes up (which it always does), make sure you contact others immediately.

Respect the needs of others in public.
Do not talk obnoxiously or loudly in public. Be aware of your surroundings and the people in the vicinity; use your cell phone in a private place. Always be respectful towards the people that serve you.

Never embarrass another person.
It is NOT polite to embarrass someone. In fact, it’s rude and mean and only serves to portray you as a bully. If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything.

When refusing an invitation, be kind and honest.
We cannot attend every function so sometimes you will need to politely decline an invitation. Remember it’s okay to decline an invitation but it’s wrong to lie to someone.

Respect your elders.
Always be polite to adults and treat them with respect. Go out of your way to help elderly people, e.g., hold the door open. Consider having a conversation with them – that may put a smile on their face.

Use good table manners.
I’m not implying you should put a napkin on your lap or keep your elbows off the table every time you eat. You should however, chew with your mouth shut and never speak with food in your mouth – that’s gross! Do not use your fingers unless, of course, it’s finger food. Use your napkin not your shirt and don’t lick your fingers.

Respect other people’s property.
Treat other people’s possessions like they were your own. If you lose or ruin something that belongs to someone else, fix or replace it.