Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Time4Learning Review

The opinion expressed here is mine. I'd like to disclose that I have been supported in writing this review by receiving a free month to review the program.

As I've said before, homeschooling has not come to me as naturally as I'd anticipated.
I had visions of very structured mornings - first we'd do our daily devotions, followed by quiet playing for Brooklyn and Simeon while Lincoln read and practiced his handwriting and I taught Judah how to read. Then we would seamlessly transition into handwriting practice for Judah while I went over math lessons with Lincoln. In the meantime the younger kids would be done playing with blocks and would quietly begin putting together Lego castles. After math with Lincoln was finished, we would take a small break for lunch and the two babies would go down for their afternoon naps - without any tears or temper tantrums. The babies would sleep for approximately three hours - during that time I would finish any history and geography lessons, send the boys to their room to read, catch up on my blogs, catch up on my Psych episodes, write a new blog post, finish the laundry, make my own bed and clean the toilets. At 4 pm all my children would emerge from their bedrooms happily and well rested and we would all sing educational tunes while I made dinner. And then Mike would come home and I'd throw my arms around his neck and say, "Oh Darling! Homeschooling is the most fun ever!" and he would twirl me around and we would laugh and the children would fetch his pipe and slippers and we would all gather around his feet while he read us a chapter from The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Then I remembered Mike doesn't have a pipe OR slippers and that my children learned their alphabet by watching Leapfrog videos and that playing quietly is a joke and that naps never never happen unchallenged and I realized ... I'm kind of screwed.

Thankfully, Melissa had told me (on more than one occasion) about Time4Learning and I'm so glad she did. It has saved my butt and made me feel like less of a homeschooling failure. Originally we signed up for Time4Learning as a way to tide us over until we got our act together and came up with an actual plan that was going to work for our family. I was glad for the free month because one of my biggest fears is putting money into something that ends up not working for our family. I've read over and over that most homeschooling families put a lot of money into curriculum that they end up tossing and we just don't have money to be blowing around so anything free grabs my attention. After spending a month with the program, I'm hooked and I feel more than ok spending the $35 each month for my boys to use it.

One thing that I've really enjoyed about T4L is one of the same things I have enjoyed about homeschooling over-all...flexibility. For example, Lincoln has a difficult time with math. It doesn't come easily for him, therefore he hates it. T4L makes math fun. Their lessons are done in a colorful interactive format - instead of listening to someone ramble off facts and tell him what to do, he actively participates during the lesson. T4L even has worksheets that can be printed off that he can do with the lesson. This came in handy the other day as he was having a lot of frustration with one lesson in particular. After two times through the lesson I had him take the quiz. He scored 1 out of 10 correct. I printed of the hand-out and he went through the lesson again, this time writing down and practicing each concept. At the end, when he took the quiz again, he scored 9 out of 10 and was able to tell me what he had done wrong on the one he had missed. (It also helped that I told him he could say the questions out loud to make sure he understood them.) Most of the math lessons also have games as part of their lesson. It's a great way to get the practice in - Lincoln is having fun while also solidifying the concepts he has learned. Tricky tricky! When Lincoln finished his math unit (in this case Number Sense) he is given a comprehensive exam. He scored a 68% so I knew some of the concepts hadn't sunk in. I also realized at that point that he struggles with the terms 'test' and 'quiz'. I had to explain to him that the quizzes and tests are really for me to make sure he understands what he has learned - another great thing about homeschooling is we can go at our own pace and make sure he really understands. He seemed satisfied with that and wasn't as freaked out by the low score. When we went back into the program every aspect he had scored high on was marked with a star that said MASTERED over it, while the areas he scored low on just had a check mark with a COMPLETED over them. We spent the next few days going over lessons in the ones he didn't master and yesterday when he retook the comprehensive exam and scored 100% and he saw a huge star and a MASTERED over everything he'd done, his smile went nearly to his ears. It was good for me too; I knew spending the extra couple of days on the things he didn't totally understand had been worth it.

The curriculum for Judah (Kingergarten) is a little slow, but he seems to be enjoying it. The first lesson is computer basics, teaching how to use a mouse and navigate the website. From there it has moved onto basic Kindergarten stuff. Judah, unlike his brother, seems to enjoy taking quizzes. He tends to rush so he doesn't listen to all of the instructions half the time and misses what he is supposed to be doing, but if there is nothing distracting him he does well.

I like that T4L offers lesson plans. Coming up with a plan has been a huge struggle for me so it has been helpful to have the subjects broken down into lessons. I am able to determine how many lessons I want each child to cover during the week in order for them to be able to move onto the next level. They also have a bunch of online support and parenting forums which have been helpful when I've not know exactly how to go about teaching or helping the boys learn a specific concept.

I'm not sure how long we'll use T4L, but it may end up being our main plan. In addition to math and language arts they also have science and social studies. I usually let Lincoln do those subjects on his own since he finds them to be fun, but I want the main teaching of those subjects to be done by me and Mike. I feel less stressed about those areas as they seem to be less foundational than math and reading. We also have to supplement the math and reading a little bit. Lincoln draws a blank when it comes to basic math facts so we recently purchased some flash cards by EduPress and a CD full of skip counting songs by MathUSee. I also feel it will be important that they continue to be challenged in their reading, although T4L does a great job of introducing new sound combinations (for example, /io/ and /ou/ ) that I would probably not even think about until I realized they didn't know how to pronounce them. However, we are slowly building our own personal library and I am working at making reading a more important part of our day.

Overall, after just one month, I'm excited about Time4Learning. We still have to figure out our day and how to give both the boys equal learning time in an undisturbed environment. I'm sure that will forever be a challenge, but as far as what they'll be learning ... I'm thankful to know that part is taken care of.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Oh the weather outside is ...


During the beginning of November we had record high's for our area - in the high '70's. Two weeks later we were having near blizzard conditions and record low's for our area; in some places it was in the single digits.
On Thanksgiving morning we had received two inches of new snow and by Thanksgiving night all the snow had been rained away.

My children are on the edge of utter ecstasy (snow) and total devastation (rain) on a day by day (sometimes hour by hour) basis.

The Pacific Northwest is like a box of chocolates I suppose.

How confused do you think this azalea bush is?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving List

I have so many things to be thankful for. Yet somehow, sometimes, I get into this whining grumbling rut where I seem to wallow in my self pity and focus only on what I wish I had to be thankful for. The last few years God has really worked on me in this area and I think (hope?) I'm getting better. One reason I love this time of year is because we have a holiday devoted specifically to being thankful - it forces me to look beyond my little grave of self pity and think about all I have been blessed with. And although I don't feel I've been in my little wallowing hole as of late (thank you Lord) I still wanted to come up with a list of a few things I am especially thankful for ... (not in order importance...except #1 and 2 of course). Happy Thanksgiving!

1. The thing I am always most thankful for is that I have a relationship with God through Jesus. Also, that He really truly leads me so gently. I feel like that last couple of months have pushed me to another level of faith and understanding - and it's pretty cool.

2. My husband that still makes my knees weak when he smiles, the children he has given me, and the life he has made with me.

3. I tolerate gluten. Hallelujah for carbs. Amen.

3. I am beyond thankful that the great state of Washington is so lenient with their homeschooling laws and that I have the freedom and flexibility to educate them the way I feel is best.

4. That my husband not only has a job, but a job that provides well for our family ... and one that he enjoys. Rare and wonderful.

5. That I have four children. It's just cool.

6. Hot showers. Mmmm...tankless means endless. So. Very. Thankful.

7. I'm thankful for my DSLR camera.

8. Riesling. And I'm beginning to be thankful for merlot.

9. I know I've mentioned it before (and I'm sure it will be mentioned again) but my mom lives less than a mile away. And I love that. And she's one of my best friend's. And she let's me use her Shark steam mop. And she babysits for free. And she makes me dinner. And she lives less than a mile away.

10. I have a group of women I meet with once a month - they are all married to police officer's. I have grown to depend on these women immeasurably. Not because my husband is a jerk, or his schedule sucks, or his department is difficult ... but because they accept me and encourage me and uplift me. It is rare to find a group of women who refuses to berate and belittle the men in their life. I am proud and thankful to belong to this fabulous group and to count those women as some of my closest friends.

11. I have some girlfriends that I grew up with - and we all still get together. How cool is that? It doesn't happen as often as I'd like, but at least once or twice a year we've been able to make it work and the time is sweet. I am thankful that we continue to make the effort to maintain and cultivate our relationships.

12. I was able to spend some quality time with my sister and niece from Arizona this year. I cried when they went home. I miss them.

13. Jen came for almost a week. It was wonderful. I cried when she left.

14. My sister in laws - Tara, Sarah-Jane and (soon!) Candace. I'm also thankful for the men who made them my sister in laws... my pesky little brothers Isaac, Micah and Matthew. How I love them.

15. My in-laws. No woman is as fortunate as I am (in my opinion).

16. Julie. Technically she's Mike's sister in law, but she's one of my dearest friends. She's basically wonderful.

17. My sisters. Rachel and Rebekah.

18. My coffee grinder and barista.

19. Starbucks.

20. Worship music.

21. My King size bed.

22. My dad. I'm 31 years old and to me - he's still pretty Supermanly.

23. I'm close with my cousins and I count them among my dearest friends. Family reunions are probably near the top of my "Most Fun Weekends" list.

24. Being debt free.

25. Netflix on the Wii.

What are some things YOU are thankful for this year? Does being thankful help you to stay out of self-pity ruts?

Monday, November 22, 2010

What I am not.

I am not a hot weather fan. Nor am I a cold weather fan. Which is why the Pacific Northwest is the perfect place for me.

Although I love hot weather. I mean, Mike is taking me to Maui for our anniversary in 66 days (give or take a few hours.) And it is snowing out and I love love love snow and am hopeful that this winter will be as snowy and cold as they say it it going to be.

So, I'm pretty much a mixed up jumbled mess of loving a tan as long as their is air conditioning and wanting to sled as long as their is a roaring fire and hot chocolate (preferably with a little Bailey's. Just sayin'.)

I'm glad you all got to know me a little better today.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Giveaway!

Since I've had such an overwhelming positive response to my little photography venture I teamed up with my friend Jenny at Pixy Print Lane to do a giveaway...
I wanted to make sure you all got a chance to get in on the action so click Genesis Ann Photography to get all the details!

Tell your friends!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Best Decision

I've started reading Keys For Kids with my children every morning. I grew up with Keys For Kids - they are great little devotionals. Every day there is some scripture to read, a verse to memorize, and a Key - a shorter easier little phrase that sums up the story. It really is a great little resource for my family - the verses are good to have my older boys working on memorizing, and the Key is awesome for the babies. They feel such a sense of accomplishment when Mike walks in the door and they can all tell him what the Key for the day was! And for me ... well, I feel like I'm taking care of some of my most important jobs as a mother.
First, teaching them how to read and understand the Bible.
Secondly, teaching them to memorize and hide the Scripture in their little hearts. The times when verses from the Bible have come to mind exactly when I needed them are too many to count. I want, so badly, for my kids to have that same assurance and guidance as they grow.
Thirdly, leading my children to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and helping them to develop their own personal relationship with Him.
We are backed up a couple of days on the Keys For Kids since we took the kids away for a couple days at the beginning of the week. I opened up today's Key and found that it was part 2 so I found yesterday's story and printed it out. I sat down with the kids and scanned the verse and key.
The verse was John 3:3 "I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
The key was "Live forever in heaven."
Oh boy I thought. We're getting to some meat today!

After reading the little story I read the 'How about You' section: Did you know that your soul is the most important part of you? Nobody can see it, but it will live forever - in either heaven or hell. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you'll live with Him in heaven someday. If you haven't done that, don't wait. Trust Him and be born again today.

As I read that, Lincoln raised his hand. "Mom," he said, "I don't know if I've done that. Can you ask Jesus into my heart for me?"
I had to explain that only he could ask Jesus to be his Savior - that it was a decision I couldn't make for him, but that I could help him if he wanted me to. I explained that we all sin, and because God is perfect and can't look at sin, that our soul had to go to hell. Then I explained that Jesus had lived perfectly and that because He died, and more importantly rose from the dead, that if we asked Him to be our Savior, when we die, God will look at us and see Jesus in us - His perfect Son, and that our soul can go to heaven. And then I told him that if he believes that in his heart and says it with his mouth, then he will go to heaven.
And then we prayed and my son asked Jesus to be his Savior.
And I bawled like a little baby.
"Why are you crying Mom?"
"Because Honey. Not every mom knows for sure that she will see her child in Heaven - but me, I know. I know without a doubt that you will be there and that makes me so happy the only thing I can do is cry."

I'm still crying. The joy in my heart makes me want to explode. This decision that determines the course of my son's life - I don't take it lightly. I understand that he doesn't totally get it all; that Mike's and my responsibility for leading him and directing him is only just beginning. But Lincoln has taken that first step - he has a faith now and this momma ... well, she's a blubbering joyful mess.

An unashamed blubbering joyful mess.

Click HERE to read Keys For Kids

Sunday, November 7, 2010

An Admission

Can I admit something?

When I have something percolating through my mind, it kind of takes over everything. Like ... everything. For example, Mike has walked into our room a few times while I've been busy pondering what it is that's been on my mind (and probably making funny faces while talking to myself) and I just about kung-fu chopped him in the face each and every time.

Have you ever been sneaked up on? It's terrifying.

My husband's ninja assassin skills aside, this thing that has so consumed my thoughts is the same thing that has caused all my writer's block. I've tried writing about it a couple of times but it never comes out right (I know...rehashing what I've already said). So, instead of powering through it, I have a friend over and talk about it because that is so much easier.

And I feel less sneaked up on.

Then, a day or two ago, while reading the Bible, I read this verse.

Psalm 27:13 
I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

And just ... whoa.

I can't even write much more about it because it doesn't do justice to what it meant to my spirit.

And all of that to say, now I have even more to think about. Which probably means more writer's block. And more kung-fu chops to Mike's face.