* twins * adoption * princesses * recipes * life*

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

another good one

Before I forget, I want to tell you I plan on doing an update on how the twins are doing here in the next day or two...you know: what they eat, how they sleep, walking or not, etc.

I did have to pop in here really quick and let you all know that I have found a new comfort food:

Homemade Applesauce (why do I buy the stuff at the store!!!)

32-36 apples of varying sizes and variety (Granny Smith, Braeburn, and Tree-Out-Back)
1 and 1/2 cup honey
2 and 1/2 cup water
some cinnamon

Peel, core, and cut apples into pieces (I used an old peeler, corer slice of my dads and then chopped them up a bit from there...Pampered Chef sells them and don't worry if you get a little peel in there.) On a side note the older two thought it was great to see who could eat the longest apple peel. Place chopped apples in a big pan with water, honey, and a few good shakes of cinnamon depending on how much you like in your applesauce. Cook on medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, let cool slightly and mash with a potato masher. It won't be smooth and runny like store bought, but thick and so tasty. I imagine it is good cold, but right now the steaming little bowl I have of it couldn't taste any better! Yum!!! A side benefit would be that your house smells amazing too.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

virtual school

Here is a little bit more on our homeschool method. They call it virtual school, not because it's pretending to do school or anything like that, but because most of our lessons are based online. In the evening I will log on for the following day's lessons, will look to see if there is anything I need to have ready in advance, and will pull the proper books and materials. The teacher's directions are spelled out in black and white for me, there are anywhere from 4-8 steps to teach the lesson (they suggest you utilize a couple of these activities, not just one, but you certainly do not have to do all 8 steps to the lesson.) We usually end up doing anywhere from 2-5 steps. All materials are provided for me, they are labeled according to subject...it's all free to me.

How is it that I get all our books, materials, online lessons, etc. free? We are part of an online academy, virtual school, charter school...many names but one idea. Our school is a public school. It is registered as such with the state, and receives funding from the state. I have to admit that free is nice, especially with the cost of adoption, cost of raising a family of 6, etc. I like our curriculum, let me re-phrase that, I LOVE our curriculum. If I were to hand pick one it would be very similar to the k12 curriculum. For first grade we will be doing the following classes: Language Arts, Phonics, Handwriting, History, Science, Art, Music, Math, and Physical Education. Through the Language Arts and History there is a good emphasis on learning through literature (I am a firm believer that if you learn to read and can assimilate what you are reading you have the foundation for learning nearly anything.) It approaches reading through a couple years of phonics before switching over to a more typical English/grammar teaching. We do our PhysEd through our local homeschool group at the YMCA. Art and Music are really half appreciation and half experience at this stage. Handwriting Without Tears is what is provided and it is what I would have ordered were I taking a more traditional route. Math is good as it provides lots of practice and builds nicely on previous skills. I haven't looked at our Science yet (first year teaching it), but I can say the girls are quite impressed with the scale, seeds, thermometer, magnifying glass, and all the other odds and ends that came with the kit.
If I had the money, I do believe I would be likely to order directly from K12 and go from there.

The downfalls of the virtual academy. You have to work with a school. It's not so bad really, but I feel like often times we are doing things simply because it's required, not because it's beneficial. For instance, we have to do four face to face meetings every year. Not that bad if you think about it...just have to meet up with a teacher (not necessarily our teacher) four times a school year. As it turns out though, there is NOTHING withing a 30 mile radius of our home. The ones we went to last year were all at least a 45 min drive. That takes 2 hours out of our school day plus whatever time it takes for meeting with said teacher, potty breaks, lunch etc. Another thing is that I prefer not to teach in a very traditional manner. As in, we do not generally do an hour of math, followed by a half hour of music, etc. It took until about the middle of last year until I found that all of us operate better on a block schedule. We tend to do a large chunk (4-6) lessons of one subject at a time, or will work a couple weeks on something that we are really going good at and excited about before moving on to something else. This makes it hard when portfolio time comes around as we simply might not be there yet, or we are well beyond it and have to go back and re-do the lesson it is based on. It also makes our progress look really funny when out teacher contacts us weekly via email and monthly via phone. I really like how homeschooling allows you to work with your child's interests and enthusiasms, but understand that there are things they never are going to be excited about doing...I'm trying to find that middle balance and an actual school does not make that easy. The other thing that I have a bit of a hard time with is that my girls are 12 mo apart in age and I would like to teach them the same subjects...not easy with the public school setting of a virtual school. We are first sorted according to age, then ability. For instance, we received all Kindergarten stuff for Little Bits, but I will likely be sending back the Math, History, and Handwriting as she did all of that last year. Then I will have to wait for the grade 1 stuff...meanwhile I will work on Art, Science, and Music to keep working and then will have to re-order all of those next year as they are not part of the grade K. It will take me two years or so, but I am hoping by then we will be receiving the same curriculum without all this business of sending stuff back and forth. I really am hoping they will allow her to "skip" a grade and then I know for sure we will be on the same page. I say two years as I know that their reading levels are not the same and I fully expect it to take that long to get on the same level for reading.

Sorry this post is so scattered. I really wanted to get it written and posted though. If anyone has any questions I'm more than happy to write more, but for risk of rambling on and on like I have habit of I'll end it here....that and it's getting close to nap time and we are going through a phase where we won't go to sleep without mommy in the room. Not a bad deal all around as I am finally getting around to reading the Harry Potter books. I am just starting book 5 and am amazed at how much more there is to the books compared to the movies. Is it just me or is Percy completely non-existent in the movies?

Next post is our CSA goodies ( it is squash season, finally!) and hopefully some photo's of the twins' dedication at church.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Back to school

It's that time of year, already. Time flies with two little ones!
My office has been over-run (more than usual) with boxes of books, art supplies, cd's, computer software, writing materials, maps, phonics kits...ten boxes worth of school curriculum arrived today. Yikes! I received notice yesterday that they had shipped and so last night we started cleaning out a cupboard. Why, until yesterday, it didn't occur to me that two kids in school meant twice the stuff is beyond me. You would have thought the girl's were opening their Christmas gifts the way they jumped and giggled at all their goodies. Especially exciting this year were the art and music boxes as they are not provided for kindergarten. Also, a new set of reading books was worthy of a good look and many smiles. I am so thankful my girls love to read!

Nicki has a good post on homeschooling, worth a visit to. We are not what you would call a traditional homeschooling family. I don't pour over the catalogs, debating what to get, which company to order what from. I think I would like it better that way...it is how we started out teaching the oldest to read. However, that costs money and we simply do not have any extra funds right now. We are with an online academy called Ohio Virtual Academy and we are very pleased with them. Technically you could say we are public school at home as OHVA is a public school registered with the state, gets funding from the state like any other school, and has teachers too. We have a teacher with whom we have weekly contact, send portfolio's to, and ask questions of. However, I teach the girls at home using their curriculum. We are able to work when the girls are at their best and I am able to teach them according to how they learn. It works quite well for us (though I do look forward to perhaps going back to traditional homeschool at some point, when adoption loan is paid off perhaps.)
We started homeschooling as our girls both just miss the cut-off for starting school. The oldest was nearly reading and wouldn't be allowed to go to kindergarten until the following year. So, we started at home teaching reading, basic math, and skills such as coloring, cutting, and other kindergarten skills. It has worked well for us. We take it a year at a time, so don't ask if we are going to homeschool all the way through 12th grade, I'll let you know about mid-way through 11th grade. As long as it is working (the girls are cooperating and are mastering their studies) we will keep going. Life has a way of changing on you and I prefer to set myself up for schooling a year at a time. Helps keep a bit of the pressure off. Yes, there is a bit of pressure with homeschooling...meeting the state hour requirements/peoples expectations, but most importantly is seeing to it that my girls learning and succeeding!
I am not anti-public school. I know many who go through the public (or private) school system successfully. I also worked with our public schools for over a year and know what teachers are up against. It isn't pretty and I can only imagine what it is like now as that was before I had children. The things that were happening in elementary school were things I am not ready to expose my child to. Do I shelter my kids? ABSOLUTELY and I make no apologies about it. Do I keep my kids from a healthy social life, not at all. Once school gets started, we will begin meeting with other homeschooling families once a week for gym class as well as classical dance. We also are involved with our church and see family and friends at least weekly. My kids are great with other kids, they enjoy being in the company of adults, and aren't exposed to the negative side of a public school social life. Do I look down on those who do not homeschool, not at all! Every family makes the decisions they know are best for their family. Just because it works for us, does not mean with will work for you and I do not presume to know the needs and workings of other's lives.

Any other homeschoolers out there getting geared up and ready to go? We are planning on starting Monday. We will be taking a couple weeks of vacation this year and I want to be sure to not fall behind. No adoption trips this year so that will surely help,though, the twins and balancing two in school might be more of a challenge than missing a month of school-time! How do you mom's with little one's at home do it, any tips for a mom with 1 yr old twins?