Sunday, October 27, 2013

3rd Shuntiversary!

I am a few days late in posting this but Caleb's shunt turned 3 years old on Thursday. This is Caleb's second shunt that he got from a revision in 2010. His first shunt lasted just over 5 years. We have a relatively new tradition of celebrating the shunt's "birthday", we call it the Shuntiversary! Anyone familiar with a shunt knows that there are no guarantees with these tricky little things. They can decide to stop working at any time. A shunt can work for 20 years or 20 days. You just never know. So when your child's shunt is working nicely and doing it's very important job, you celebrate!

You can't have a proper celebration without some kind of sweet treat, so we picked up a box of gluten free brownie mix at the store. The GF brownie mix was pretty good...after I slapped on about an inch of yummy homemade chocolate frosting.

Mixing it up! Caleb is wearing his KAFO's so he can stand up at the counter. This is actually really hard work for him.

Benjamin got a turn at mixing too.

We lit 3 candles, sang "Happy Birthday" to the shunt and then ate a brownie.

Here's to another year! Hopefully we'll be celebrating the 4th Shuntiversary next year. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

"How's homeschooling going?"

I get asked that question quite a bit, so I thought I would answer it. We are currently in a our 8th week of homeschool. I would definitely say our school year is off to a great start. I honestly didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how I would do. I didn't know how the boys would do. I was worried about Caleb who spent 5 years of his life in public school. This was a very big change for him, for me, for our family. But I can honestly say that I have been so blessed by the last few weeks. I have not doubted my decision once, if anything I'm more confident than ever that homeschooling is the best option for our family. I love it. I love the relaxed feel of our days. I love that I get to spend all this time with my boys. I have them for such a short time and I want to make the most of this time in their lives. I love watching them learn and I've learned a fair bit myself. I love seeing Caleb rested and refreshed each morning. I love the changes I've seen in my family already. I love the changes I've seen in myself.

I love that Benjamin can't sit down to do work. He kneels or lays on the floor or even sits on his table to do his work. I love that being home allows him to learn in the way that best suits him. And I love that I'm getting to witness all of this.

I love how excited Benjamin is about learning. He is so proud of himself when he learns something new.

I love learning with Caleb. I love seeing how his brain works. I love the questions he asks. I love that he'll just sit and look through his dictionary and learn new words. I love that he can spell words that I can't.

I love watching Caleb and Benjamin grow closer by the day because they are actually getting the opportunity to be together.
(Benjamin is shaking a jar of cream to make butter)

A relationship if forming here. 
I love that they always pick out the same color shirt to wear.

 I love that Caleb reads.

And reads.

And reads.

And reads.
He reads all the time. I love it.

I love that my 8 year old puts his hand on my legs while he does his work. I love that when we lay on the floor to read together, he puts his head on my shoulder. He hugs me more. He talks to me more. He smiles more. I've mentioned before that I really felt like I was losing him last year. Our relationship was suffering as a result of him being in school 8 hours a day. It was separating us. I cried and prayed about it so many times. I just wanted my son back. God answered that prayer with homeschool. I've seen so much improvement now that Caleb is home. I'm not suggesting that homeschool hasn't been an adjustment, it has. Caleb was not crazy about this change at all because public school was all he knew. He still misses the "fun" parts of public school like the events and activities and I think he feels like he is missing something by not being there. I'm doing my best to help him connect with other homeschooled kids in the area by doing a weekly homeschool p.e. class and park play dates every Friday. This has been a huge change for all of us but we are finding our rhythm. 

I think I've had about 20 people call me "brave" when I tell them I homeschool. They say "brave" but I think they really mean "crazy." I'm not brave or crazy. I'm just doing what is best for my family. I don't think I realized how stressed the public school schedule made us until now. We are just so much more relaxed now. We are finding the joy in a more relaxed schedule. We are soaking up the time together.  I'm learning to just breathe. I'm learning to slow down and just enjoy. I'm savoring.

So yeah, homeschooling is going good.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Our Schoolroom

Our house is kinda small, less than 1600 square feet. We definitely don't have a lot of extra space. When we decided to homeschool the boys, I knew it would be a challenge to find a separate space just for school. I know some families choose to use their main living area and kitchen table for their school. I knew I couldn't handle the clutter and extra stuff out in the open. My personality needs the main living areas to be relatively tidy. I knew I had to have a separate space for my own sanity. Luckily we moved the boys into the same bedroom a couple of years ago and the nursery was changed to a playroom (a big room to dump all the toys so my living room stays somewhat clean). So utilizing the playroom as our new schoolroom was the best option. It was a fairly easy transition once I got rid of some things and organized a bit.

I thought I would share our schoolroom as it looks now and how I made it work. I certainly don't have it all figured out and from what I understand I'll probably change things a hundred times. I've actually changed some things since I took these pictures! You'll notice differences between the pictures if you look close enough.

I bought the net to contain all the balls. We have a ton and they used to be all over the they are not.

The first thing I did was organize, and I mean organize, the toys that were already in the playroom. We already had this organizer, I just made some labels for each bin so that there was a place for everything.

To make the labels, I just took photos of the toys, created a collage with added text, printed, laminated and cut. I used velcro dots to attach the labels to the bins. It was a really simple way to organize all the toys. Everything has a place now. It's really nice. We've had these labels up for several months now and they have worked perfectly.

If you spend enough time researching "homeschool organization" you will find numerous sites that showcase an immaculate homeschool room that looks like it came straight from the IKEA catalog. Well I didn't want to spend a fortune on organizational furniture, so I went to Lowe's. All of the shelving is the Closet Maid brand. It's cheap, but relatively sturdy and it looks fine and serves it's purpose.

More organization containers with my labels. I got the small plastic containers at Walmart for .97 cents each. I bought a ton of them. They are awesome.

I spent hours and hours and hours on this calendar "center". I got most of the components at Confessions of a Homeschooler. I spent so much time printing things out, laminating them, cutting them out, putting tiny little velcro dots on everything. I spent a small fortune on velcro dots. Seriously I have an entire container full of little laminated things that go with this calendar center. I pictured us singing the "Days of the week" song and we would talk about the weather and review the letter/color/number/shape of the week. I spent so much time on this thing with such high hopes of using it daily with Benjamin. Can I tell you something? I kinda hate it. You'll notice that there really isn't anything on it. That's because I hate it. I thought it would be fun but it really just feels like a chore and it hasn't been fun at all. It feels to "schoolish" or something. I would take it down but I spent so much time on it that I can't bring myself to put it away. I'm sure there are plenty of homeschoolers that love this sort of thing...I am not one of them. But if you come to my house, you'll probably see this calendar display because it represents hours and hours of time spent. 

This is the boy's working area.
I bought the tables at Walmart. They are perfect. They are height adjustable and they can fold up if needed. I use the "Workbox System" and I love it. I won't go into the system here because you can google it and find a ton of information. Basically it is a way to organize the daily work, it allows for independence, and things move super smoothly. I love it. Love it. It just suits my need to plan and be organized. When the boys come into the schoolroom, they can get started immediately because the workboxes are already loaded and ready.

This is Caleb's area. I don't use a traditional school chair with him because his posture is terrible in those things. He usually sits in the green cube chair (that we have had for years and we love) or if I really want to challenge his trunk strength, I'll have him sit on the ball. See that clear clipboard on top of the green binder? I made Caleb a slant board to help with his handwriting. I found this tutorial online that said to just duct tape 2 binders together and velcro a clipboard to it. It's an instant slant board for about $4. It really helps Caleb. The clear container on the left of the table is what I use to organize his Math-U-See blocks.

I made the boys name plates that show what their names mean. They each have a small organizer with their pencils, crayons, markers, glue, etc.

The "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" tree is kinda cute, a little "schoolish" but cute. Benjamin is working through a letter of the week type curriculum and at the end of each week we add the letter he just learned to the tree. He thinks it's pretty fun. I use a rolling cart for my printer, laminator, and paper. I love my laminator. I love to laminate things. It's a borderline obsession really.

I think that about covers everything in our schoolroom. We are wrapping up our 6th week of homeschool and I plan to do about post about our first 6 weeks soon. It's going great. I really love it. And for the handful of you that are interested, I may do a post about our curriculum. 

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Fun with homemade sand

This is such a fun activity. We made the "moldable sand" for the first time last summer (as part of our "Cool Summer Days") and it was a big hit with boys. We took advantage of our flexible homeschool schedule and the gorgeous weather by playing in our homemade sand yesterday.

Seriously if you have kids you have to make this stuff. It's super easy and amazing. It's just flour and baby oil (you can add glitter if you want...I don't). It's 5 parts flour to 1 part baby oil (5 cups flour with 1 cup baby oil). 

It holds together like wet sand does.

It smells amazing, thanks to the baby oil. Your hands will smell like a newborn baby the rest of the day. Who doesn't like the smell of a newborn baby? And it moisturizes too!

He's cute. Look at those tiny freckles on his nose. Seriously, so cute.

Good, messy, fun.

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