Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Big Move 2018

Here I am, two weeks before our move.  My mind is busy with getting ready to go from 1400 square feet to 400 square feet.  We’ve filled countless large blue bins with heaps of things we feel we are not ready to let go of.  But, we have hauled away truckloads to the dump, and to local thrift stores.  We’ve given away piles of things we once thought we couldn’t live without.  It was not until we began this journey that we realized how much of our stuff just sat on shelves, aging and not being loved. 

This is no easy road!  We woke up one day last summer and said to each other that we wanted a different life.  We wanted to feel like we could live and enjoy ourselves every day, and not get knots in our stomachs over the balance in our bank account and the lack of food in our fridge. 

My husband is a great provider for our family.  He works hard, and we always have what we need.  But, we wanted to do more than just skate by.  We wanted to do more than just pay rent and bills with our money.  Life is for living now, because who knows about tomorrow.  We could die tomorrow, but we are here today. 

We wanted to make a change so we could live a better life both now and in the future.  We talked about moving to a different state, where the housing may be cheaper.  But that idea presented many of its own problems.  We talked and prayed about going tiny with our living situation, and one day we found the perfect fifth wheel so we went for it.

So, here we are two weeks from making the big leap.  We bought ourselves a 40 foot fifth wheel that we are preparing to live in, parked in a stationary spot.  We got some new chairs to go with the dining room table and we bought a pretty rug for our living room.  We bought nice new faucets for our sinks, and even splurged on a brand new bed for our room.  We even got our little love seat that my grandparents gave us to fit in our bedroom.  I found the perfect spaces and containers for keeping some toys in the living room for our children.  I’ve spent time doing things like reorganizing our board games so they all fit just right in the tiny storage spaces.  We’ve told ourselves we are ready and excited. We’ve told ourselves that we have everything we need.


So, yes, a large part of me is very excited.  Excited for the change, and the lower level of stress in our lives.  Excited for the potential of change in our family, our relationships, and better use of our time and resources.  Excited to do something so different and daring, and all of that.  But, then another part of me is nervous.  Nervous because I’ve never done this before.  Nervous because some people seem to look at us sideways when they find out what we are doing.  So, then I find myself asking the questions- are we really doing the right thing?  Will we regret this?  Will we think we must have been crazy to make this choice?  Who knows!?
You know before you have your first baby, how excited and nervous you are?  You can read all the books.  You can read a library full of books if you want, to try to prepare.  You can talk to people who have already had babies.  They will talk your ear off all day long with their ideas of what is best.  There are a hundred different ideas.  You can pick the ones that sound best to you and plan to do those things.  You can even make a detailed plan about your child’s birth.  You can plan out how you want it to go, hour by hour if you want.

But, when it comes down to it, no one really knows how your child’s birth will go.  No one knows if after your baby is born he will have colic, and then all your plans for sleep will go out the window.  No one really knows until the child is here.  And it can be scary, and exciting, and unpredictable, and amazing all at the same time!  And you cannot know what you need to do, or how to do it, to be a good parent to your particular baby until you do it.  You may have read all the books.  But, no one can really prepare you until you are holding your child.  Then, you become a parent and you will know how to do well, from sheer love for your child!

So I’ll take this metaphor for our move.  I’ve sought advice from those who have done it.  Lots of advice!  I’ve researched all the things that people have said are good for this lifestyle.  We have even purchased some of those things.  But, when it comes down to it, we really don’t know what it is that we are getting into.  We won’t know what this life is like until we are in it.  I’m ok with that because I know we prayed about this and we made an informed decision. 

Our plan was to change our lives for the better, and I know we are on that track.  For the first time in our lives together, we will own our house and be investing in it.  And, absolutely- it is scary, and exciting, and unpredictable, and amazing all at the same time!  When you step out for a huge life change, how can you expect anything less?

So, for now I’ll just keep packing and hauling away stuff.  In two weeks our lives will be different.  I don’t really know everything that is involved in this change, but we are here because we chose to be!  It feels good to have more control over our lives even though I know we are not ultimately in control.  I pray that God will guide us in all our decisions, and I’m praying this one is a good one.  Only time will tell!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Adventures in US History and Pre-K: Our school this fall!

This is my first year teaching out of two teacher's manuals.  I am taking it pretty slow with Jaren still, and we are spending more time enjoying Joelle's curriculum together.  US History has a lot to offer that works well for both ages.  I know that I love the way My Father's World does their curriculum, so we are likely to keep sticking with it for several years. 
This year, we are excited to be learning a lot about US History.  There are a lot of events and people that I feel like I am learning about for the first time, so it is fun for me too!  We started off our year by learning about the flag, and had a fun patriotic snack.

One thing I LOVE about My Father's World curriculum is that it includes so many hands on learning ideas.  I love doing little, easy projects with my kids.  We have learned about the first explorers and the Native Americans- all while doing fun hands-on stuff.

We learned about some of the early voyages of the first explorers.  We made the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria.  We floated them in the bathtub and tried to move them from one end of the tub to the other end by only blowing on them with straws (like the wind)

We learned about Native Americans, and how they lived.  We made a model of a Wigwam, and made some paper Teepees

I found this cute set of Native American figures at Michael's.  The kids have really enjoyed them.

For Jaren's curriculum, he is learning about a topic related to a letter of the alphabet in each new unit.  For the Sun unit, we did several fun projects.  All of the projects in his curriculum work well for both kids too, so we all enjoy them together.

We melted some crayons in the sun.  That was a fun, easy project.

Another project they really enjoyed was making shadow pictures.  We put some of their favorite objects on a piece of black paper in the sun and left it there for a couple days.  When we took them off, the sun had faded the paper enough to show the impressions of the objects. 

Some worksheets and sit down work does happen in our house.  I just don't usually take pictures of these times.  I love hands on experiences, so we document those.  Here's a little of our sit down work:

Joelle's art curriculum (I Can Do All Things) is teaching her how to draw so much.  So far, this is a great book that she feels very motivated to work through.

Jaren LOVES cutting paper.  One of his weekly sheets does require him to cut out pictures while following a dotted line.  This has been great practice for him.  He always concentrates really hard, and actually does pretty well.
We are doing Bob Jones Press English this year, which we love!  It is very comprehensive.  Joelle has been learning about sentence structure, parts of speech, and writing methods.  She actually loves doing these worksheets. 
I really like how Jaren's curriculum has him practicing some great fine motor skills too.  On this page he is gluing the correct letter that goes with each picture.  He is working on learning the sounds for each letter. 


We find fun ways to do our work quite often.  This year we have started a Spelling curriculum for the first time.  We are using Spelling by Sound and Structure, which we really like because it is very simple.  Lately I've started trying to brainstorm more exciting ways for Joelle to practice her spelling words.  Her favorite ways to practice are with letter tiles, Unifix cubes, and paint. She is doing very well with Spelling

Jaren's work is still almost always very hands-on.  Lately, we've been working on counting higher.  He loves all our math manipulative toys such as the bears and the pattern blocks.  I use these to my advantage for teaching math in a fun way.  He loves counting the bears on his 100 chart.  

Jaren spends a lot of time playing, and I wanted this year to be that way for him.  He is a young five this year, since his birthday is late August.  I am purposely waiting until next year when he is six to call it his official Kindergarten year.  His attention span is not very long yet, and I anticipate that he will be in a better position for more sit down learning next year.  For now, he is even pretty good at directing his own hands on learning.  He regularly makes patterns and makes up his own games with toys.  I love to listen to him talking to himself.  He makes up elaborate stories using manipulatives!

Our Fall sensory play stuff is out, and being enjoyed constantly.  Our style continues to be very hands on.  I also pull many ideas from A Year of Playing Skillfully.  I enjoy setting up these invitations to play, and making them visually appealing.

Our Fall Sensory Bin

Fall stuff for creative and pretend play

A great activity for fine motor practice

We made vanilla chai play dough (from the recipe in A Year of Playing Skillfully).  It smelled so wonderful. The kids enjoyed playing with it with different kinds of manipulatives

This was our first experience with water beads.  They are so fun.

 I like to find a good balance between sit down work time and play time throughout the day.  If we get started at the time that I plan to in the mornings, we are done with school by 12:00 or 1:00 most days.  It does not take that long to get through the basics with two kids.  I've started a loop schedule where Joelle does English/Math/Reading or Spelling/Math/Reading every day.  In addition, I have History, Science, our current chapter book, and library topical reading aloud that I rotate based on the day.

The kids were enjoying an unusually sunny, warm day out on their play structure.  They set up a cozy area and Joelle was reading to Jaren.  So cute!

I've also started a  morning basket routine that includes most of the reading aloud that I rotate.  We start off most mornings (except for the days we have to rush out the door to Community Bible Study or Bridge Charter in the morning) with hymns followed by reading aloud time and some Bible study time.  The morning basket has been working so well for us.  It has given me a more relaxed way to get through books I have been meaning to get around to.  With the loop schedule, if we miss a day then we just pick up in the loop where we left off.  That way, I don't feel behind when we miss a day.  We are just continuing along as it works for us.  I'm so happy with how the hymns are working out too.  I have created a play list on Youtube of my favorites, and we just listen to 2-5 hymns per morning.  My kids are memorizing the words to hymns like Blessed Assurance, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, and I Surrender All.  It just warms my heart to hear them singing these words anytime of the day.  I have so wanted to get these in them because I feel they are so powerful. I grew up with hymns, but my children will not unless I am the one to teach them.  They just won't encounter them in church like I did.  So, I'm so happy this plan has been working out.  They are loving the hymns too.

That is an overview of how we are doing school this year.  I'm thoroughly enjoying this time with my children, especially as we get to do fun things most days as a part of their curriculum.  I really appreciate how My Father's World has so many suggestions for projects that are easy.  We recently enjoyed making butter together.  It didn't take many ingredients, but it was fun and memorable!  We are looking forward to seeing what else this year has for us.

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