Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Happy 8th Birthday, Mad Mad!

Dear Madalyn,

I can't believe you are eight years old!  There is just something about turning eight.  It just feels so...old!  You are looking less like a little girl and more like a "tween" now.  You're new adult teeth are starting to come in.  You're getting taller.  Sigh...it's hard to remember when you were a baby.  Sometimes it seems like yesterday and other days it seems like it was so long ago.


This year you had your first Thanksgiving birthday.  You were born on a Monday and it happened to be one of my then co-worker's birthday.  She told me that sometimes you would have a Turkey Day birthday and after eight years you finally did!  We had already had your party so we spent the day watching the parade and hanging out at Papa and Grammy's.  Over the weekend I took you to see Frozen as a birthday treat.  You loved it and it has become your favorite movie! 

These are some things about you at eight years old:

You are finally starting to like reading.  You were so proud of yourself for reading "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" aloud to us yesterday.  You can read a lot better than you let on and although you haven't read many "big books" you did read Smile and Diary of a Wimpy Kid recently.  

You still love tomatoes.  They are definitely your favorite food which I think is weird since I don't like them at all!  

You love watching movies with your daddy. 

You really love your daddy.  You ask me every day, "What time will daddy be home?"  And I mean every.  single.  day.  

You are very intuitive to people's feelings.  And you give great hugs when someone is sad or upset. 

You like art and drawing.  

Sometimes you and Annagrace can really get mad at each other but I know that you love her very much.  Recently we were shopping with some of your birthday money and you said, "I wish they had Minecraft cards."  When I asked you why you said, "Because Annagrace really wants one and I would buy her one if they had them."  I got teary eyed.  That is so YOU--always thinking about other people before yourself.  

You before your Teen Beach Movie birthday party!
You are absolutely one of the sweetest kids I know.  I am so blessed to have such a wonderful, sweet, beautiful little blue eyed girl.  

I love you, Mad Mad! 

Love, 
Mama

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Layla Joy: Four Years Old!

Dear Layla: 

Somehow I blinked and you turned from a chubby faced toddler to a tall, thin, hyper four year old!  I remember clearly the day I found out you were going to be joining our family.  I woke up that morning with an all too familiar feeling of lightheadedness.  We had just put our house in Virginia up for sale only three weeks earlier and we were not planning on adding to our family any time soon.  Fortunately, God had other plans and he blessed us with you! 
 
Shocked!
I found out I was expecting you in the Elkton, VA Burger King bathroom.  I couldn't wait to get home to take a pregnancy test!  I managed to keep it to myself until I got home.  I gave your dad a card telling him how much I loved our family of five. The look on his face was priceless.  Let's just call it a joyful shock!  

I not-so-secretly hoped you would be a girl.  I loved having girls and had always imagined having a house full of them.  I never once had desired to have a boy so I was over the moon to find out that we were team pink!  It didn't take long for us to settle on your name.  I gave dad a list and told him to choose his favorite.  Layla was the only name we both liked.  We gave you the middle name Joy because your sisters have Grace and Faith in their names but also because we knew you would bring us so much joy.  
 
One Day Old
And that you have!  I can't imagine life without you. 

Here are some things about you at four years old:

You are tall for your age.  You have an obsession with Teen Beach Movie and you watch it every single day (sometimes more than once).  You love your dance class and you dance all the time!  You love to give out hugs--when we leave preschool you have to hug every one of your classmates.  You even offer hugs up to people you have just met.  You don't have a shy bone in your body and you still ask everyone we meet (cashiers, bank tellers, whoever) what their name is.  Just yesterday we met Blair at the bank and Kyle at the grocery store.  I hope that you are also an extrovert (you definitely didn't get that from me!).  
 
One Month Old

First Day of Preschool

Big four year old girl!  
I'm so thankful for you and I'm so thankful for the blessings of God's surprises!  

I love you, LJ! 

Mama 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Asthma Attack

I had a crazy, crazy week.  I worked Tuesday and Wednesday nights instead of my usual Thursday and Friday night this week.  Layla was sick when I left for work on Wednesday night.  She had told me she had a sore throat during the day and she was running a slight fever when I left.  A couple hours into work and Aaron called to let me know that she was really sick and was crying because her throat hurt so badly.  I told him to run to the store to get her some Benadryl and Tylenol to see if he could get her fever down and help her to sleep through the night.  I could take her to the walk-in clinic at our pediatrician's office the next morning.

I got home a little after 7 and woke her up and immediately realized something was really wrong.  She was wheezing, short of breath and complaining that her chest hurt.  My first thought was that she had pneumonia.  When I strapped her into the carseat she told me the straps were too tight (even though they weren't) and I realized that she was really struggling to breathe.  I had to keep telling her to stop talking (homegirl talks ALL the time) because she was having to take breaths in between words.


We got to the pediatricians office and when they checked her pulse ox it was only 93%.  Her doctor could not even hear her lung sounds because of the tightness in her lungs.  She ordered an Albuterol nebulizer treatment for her and she immediately felt better.  Her sats came up to 96% and the doctor was then able to actually hear her lung sounds.  I was surprised (but happy!) that her lung sounds were clear--no bronchitis or pneumonia!  She concluded that Layla had an asthma attack brought on by a respiratory infection.

So we were sent home with an inhaler and a prescription for a steroid just in case she continued to have problems.  Luckily, the inhalers have helped to keep her airways open and we have not had any more episodes.  I pray it was a one time thing.  We are using the inhaler for a couple of days and I've started her on Zyrtec for her allergies.  The only bad thing about the inhaler is it makes her ridiculously hyper!  But I'd rather her by a little hyper than lying on the couch feeling bad!

I am so thankful that she is feeling better and I am grateful for our sweet pediatrician for taking such good care of my babies!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Homeschooling Hazards: Overscheduling

We just started our fifth year of homeschooling.  When we first started, I wanted us to participate in everything we possibly could.  Every field trip.  Every extracurricular activity.  Gymnastics.  Ceramics.  Swim lessons.  Co-op.  Play group.  We were busy all the time and I would still find myself wishing that we had more money and more time for music lessons and sports.

Over the years I have realized that we simply can't do it all.  I have gotten choosier about what we participate in and in what areas I agree to volunteer.  Here are few tips that to help you control the busyness of life. 

1.  Choose what is important.  At the start of each school year we discuss what activities are most important to us both as a family and individually.  This year, American Heritage Girls and our Homeschool Co-Op were at the top of our lists.  We knew that whatever other activities we did could not conflict with those two things.  The little girls really wanted to continue with dance and all of them wanted to take PE one day a week.  So far we have been able to make it work.  If things get too busy, then PE would be the first to go.  I'm hoping we won't have to worry about it but we know that AHG and co-op are our top priorities this year.  

2.  Have at least one day per week with no activities on the schedule.  The girls really wanted to participate in homeschool PE this year however the two times a week schedule was too much last year.  It took away one of our "free" days and made it difficult to finish our weekly schoolwork.  We decided to drop down to PE only once per week.  This gives us two days a week when we don't have to be anywhere but home.  We need these "home"days.    

3.  Just say no.  We discussed the possibility of signing the girls up for Awana this year.  If you are not familiar with Awana, it is a church sponsored program that is heavy on scripture memorization.  I was excited about the girls being involved but then I realized that it would take up one of only two free evenings that we have each week.  After discussing it with the girls we decided against it.  

4.  Realize that it life isn't about keeping up with the Joneses.  Those darn Joneses.  They're always running from one activity to another.  Violin lessons, scout meetings, dance class, choir, youth group, horse riding lessons.  It's a wonder they even get any of their school lessons done!  Going back to number 1, choose what is important for your family at whatever season of life you are in.  Limit your children to one or two activities a semester and consult with the entire family to see how these activities will fit into your family's schedule.  

5.  Your kids won't miss what they don't know about.  Our homeschool group plans a lot of activities during the year.  Field trips, park days, playgroups, etc. I decided that if we were not going to be able to participate in a particular event then I wouldn't tell my children about it.  No need for them to know what they are missing. It would just make them feel like they were missing out and would make me feel guilty.  I try not to even tell my children about an event until I am absolutely certain we are going to be able to participate.  

Priorities, priorities, priorities.  That's what is helping to keep my sanity this year!  

Friday, August 30, 2013

Blueberries for Sal

I'm really excited to start doing some more formal preschool with Layla this year.  We've done some casual things the last two years but this is the first year that I have really planned her lessons ahead of time.  She is going to a homeschool preschool co-op on day a week.  They have a theme each week and they learn a new letter each week.  I was excited to see that they are using Easy Peasy worksheets.  This saves me a step each week as she can do the EP worksheets on Monday and then we can build on what she learns the rest of the week.

This week the letter was B and I had already planned that our book for the week would be Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.


This sweet little book, printed in 1948, is about a little girl named Sal who has an encounter with a bear while picking blueberries with her mother.  I had planned to use Before Five in a Row but I have decided to do my own version of it instead.  There are SO many free resources on the internet that I can easily choose a book to go along with our lesson/theme for the week and find free printables and ideas to use on Pinterest or homeschool sites.

I am using the general idea behind Before Five in a Row in that you read the same book every day of the week.  We then do an activity that relates to the book.

The girls used wine corks (or their fingers) to stamp blueberries onto this pail printable.



Layla made this little book from Homeschool Creations.  She has a lot of Blueberries for Sal printables--I just chose the most age appropriate ones to use.


I dumped "blueberries" on the floor and had Layla pick them and put them in her in pail while saying, "Kuplink!  Kuplank!  Kuplunk!"


Layla used Bingo markers to dot this letter B.  I was amazed at how neat she was!  I didn't help her at all and she stayed in the lines.


We've had Bingo markers in our home since we started homeschooling.  You can pick them up at the Dollar Tree in many different colors and there are lots of free printables using them.  Check out this list of bingo dot activities at Chalkboards to Strollers.  

We all enjoyed reading this book.  Layla looked forward to it each day and Madalyn (who is almost 8) also enjoyed the activities.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

DIY Homeschool Lesson Plan Book

One of my favorite things about a new school year is putting together my lesson plan book.  I have tried store bought planners but they usually had stuff in them that I didn't need or there was stuff I needed that wasn't included.  So I decided a few years ago to make my own planner.

I have used 3 ring binders for the last few years but I find them cumbersome.  I decided this year to have my book binded instead. I absolutely love it!

These are the contents of my book:

  • School Calendar
  • Attendance forms x 2 
  • Consequences Chart an Bible Reading Checklist
  • Calendar (two pages per month) 
  • Lesson Plan Pages, Curriculum Lists and Reading Logs for each girl
  • History and Science Scope and Sequence 
  • American Heritage Girls Badge Work and Service Hours Log
  • Field Trip Planning and Log 
  • Running Club Stuff
  • Blank Paper 

I printed out all my contents at home using 24# paper.  I made a simple cover using PicMonkey (and some digital scrapbook paper) and printed that on cardstock and then I took the book to Office Depot for laminating and binding.  They laminated the front and back cover for me and then spiral bound it.  It cost me a little less than $4 at Office Depot.  I would guesstimate that the ink and paper cost me about $15.    


I found most of my printables free online.  The calendar and field trip pages were from Donna Young's site.  She has so many great printables for homeschoolers! 


You'll notice I wrote on my calendar in PEN.  That's because it is eraseable pen!  I have to thank Sam at Sam's Noggin for the pen recommendation.  She mentions Frixion pens frequently and I finally tried them. I am in love!  I'm a pen nerd anyway and these pens are simply amazing.  They erase by friction so it leaves behind no eraser residue.  I found a three pack at Office Depot for about $6.  I will be returning this week to get some more colors.  I have been telling all my nerdy homeschool friends about these pens.  They are perfect for teachers working on lesson plans.  You can write in PEN and then erase it!  
  

Aaron helped me make these lesson plans a few years ago and I continue to use them every year.  I have the subjects down the side and the day up top.  When we complete the lesson we check it off in red.  This is an example of Madalyn's lesson plans.  I know.  You're amazed by my organizational skills.  Even I'm amazed.  If only I was this organized about everything else in my life!  LOL!    


I take this with me everywhere.  The girls refer to it to know what lessons they need to do for the week.  We all use it to check the calendar.  I love that it is personalized and only has the things I really need in it.  

Do you make your own lesson plan books or do you purchase them?  What works best for you?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Homeschool Curriculum 2013-2014

Just like I like change in my house...I like change in our homeschooling.  I rarely stick with a curriculum unless it really blows me away and the kids really enjoy it.  Last year we used My Father's World again.  I really loved their Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum that we used in 2009-2010 (and we're going to likely use it again next year).  However, their other curriculum just wasn't working for us.  We didn't make it to the convention this year so I was not able to browse and get a hands on look at curriculum so I finished out last year having no idea what we would end up doing this year.

Then I heard about Easy Peasy and I was hooked.  EP is a completely FREE, online homeschool curriculum.  It was written by a homeschooling mom/missionary's wife.  She wanted to create a curriculum that would not require the purchase of textbooks (which would be hard to come by for missionaries overseas) and she wanted it to remain free as her way of blessing homeschool families who may struggle to afford curriculum.  It has definitely been a blessing for us!

The premise behind Easy Peasy is that each day is numbered 1-180 and the kids progress through the lessons day by day.  The lessons are short but thorough.  All of their reading material, videos, etc. are right there.  They don't need any other books.  There are some experiments that may require additional supplies (although she gives alternatives if these items are not available) and there is some printing of materials required.  But otherwise, it really is easy peasy!  We are using Easy Peasy for history, science and bible and Layla is even using it for some of her preschool work.  

Preschool Year 1 for Layla Bug

Yesterday was school day number 2 and the kids were up before I was and they were already working independently on their Easy Peasy work!  I felt like I was in the twilight zone!  The older girls even helped Layla do her preschool work.  It was incredible!

For language arts, Annagrace will be using Total Language Plus (The Witch of Blackbird Pond and The Hiding Place) and I am requiring her to read at least one classic book each six weeks (chosen from a list that I put together).  Madalyn will use Explode the Code books (we may switch to online in the Spring) and First Language Lessons (we started this book last year and we are slowly making our way through it).  Layla will be doing Before Five in a Row and we will be making lots of lapbooks this year!  

For math we will continue with Life of Fred with Annagrace doing Elementary Physics and Madalyn doing Cats and Dogs.  I also have Madalyn doing a workbook on the days she is not doing LOF lessons and Annagrace will work on memorizing her multiplication tables.  If Madalyn does well with Cats and Dogs and we finish early then we may go ahead and move on to Edgewood in the Spring.

Yes, she's in Second Grade.  Again.  It's a homeschool thing.  I'll blog about that soon!
Madalyn is taking a sewing class at our co-op.  Layla is taking preschool at co-op.  They are both taking dance and all three girls are taking PE.  I am also starting a girls running club (Girls Run Miles) and all of my girls will be involved in that.  Annagrace and Madalyn will also be in American Heritage Girls again this year.  I will be teaching Annagrace how to sew and I will be teaching Madalyn how to play the piano.  

Whew.  Sounds like a busy year for the So Fly girls!

Seriously...how did this kid get so tall?!  Sheesh.  She's 11 going on 17. 

We are all very excited about this school year.  Last year was a little rough for us and we did a lot of unschooling (not on purpose!).  I had a lot going on with work, my mom had to have surgery, and overall we just had a tough time mid-year.  I'm praying that this year will be our best year yet.  We spent Monday brainstorming about what kind of things we wanted to accomplish and what fun things we wanted to do this year.  I'm excited for what's to come!