Homeschool Series Part II: Why We Homeschool and It Works for Us

In my last post, I talked about how we have freedom in our education choices and should choose carefully what we feel is best for our families. I’m attempting to answer the popular question I get asked, “Why did you decide to homeschool?” in perhaps a round-about way.  One reason it can be hard for me to answer that question is because the reasons my husband and I decided to homeschool in the first place are not necessarily the same reasons we continue to do so. We’ve only been at this for a few years and are by no means experts, but I think our attitudes and beliefs about homeschooling have already evolved from when we first started even thinking about it.

When my husband and I were engaged and I was finishing up my student teaching in my last semester of college, he told me that if we had kids he wanted me to be a stay-at-home mom and wanted us to homeschool. I adamantly disagreed on both accounts. I was finishing my degree and I planned to use it! I also didn’t know much about homeschooling but my initial thoughts were something like: weird and unusual and why would I do that? Randy’s main reasons for wanting to homeschool had to do with having a negative school experience himself, wanting his kids to know and believe the Bible before anything else, and his political leanings. Being a libertarian, he tends to want to stay as far away from heavily government funded/influenced institutions as he can. I thought he needed to chill.

For me, I never thought much about how I planned to educate my kids. I guess I assumed they would go to public school like I did. Just like I never thought much about whether I would breast or bottle feed, or what I planned to name my children… until I actually became pregnant and was forced to start really thinking about these things. And though I was against homeschooling at first, over time I can say that God changed my heart. Although I loved my job and was really passionate about teaching ESL, when I became pregnant with my first child, I had an overwhelming desire to stay home with her. At the time this was out of reach. I continued working full-time until my second child turned one, but my desire to stay home never left and I started clinging to the idea of homeschooling because if Randy wanted it to happen so bad, I was sure he’d find a way to make it financially possible. And though I don’t want to get into all the details here, as a public school teacher, I saw so many flaws in the system that homeschooling continued to appeal to me. (It’s not that I don’t care about the education of all children or that I felt that my kids would really suffer in the public school system, but my heart and mind were being softened to the desire my husband already had for our family.) Homeschooling would mean getting to teach the way I wanted and giving my kids a quality education that centered around love, family, Biblical principles, and hands-on learning. So those might be the reasons we had in mind when we agreed to pursue homeschooling, but why do we continue?

Why DO we homeschool?

The first and simple answer for me is… I just love it. For a while, I didn’t think this could “count” as an answer. It doesn’t seem legitimate. But isn’t it? If I can give my kids as good, if not a better education at home, shouldn’t I first WANT to do it? These days, it’s not a popular opinion to love being around your kids. But I seriously do. It’s not that they don’t drive me crazy at times or tire me out; but in general, I really love spending my days with them.

My kids get a one-on-one (kind of), tailored-to-them education that is fun for all of us. They might not consider everything we do fun, because there is an element of work and rigor, of course. However, we get to do hands-on experiments, outdoor exploration, crafting, reading aloud, and kitchen learning that my kids don’t necessarily consider “school”, but I know better. 😉

Another reason homeschooling really works for us now, that we couldn’t have predicted back when we began, is that our family schedule has become unique and not at all what we envisioned when we first started a family. My husband isn’t home for dinner Monday through Friday. We used to say that we would always make family dinners a top priority in our family. But now it’s family breakfast. And quite frankly, I’m not sure our breakfasts would be able to be as leisure and meaningful as they are if we all had to run our separate ways early in the morning. Homeschooling allows us to have real family time in the morning so that if the kids can’t see Daddy before bed, it’s not as big of a let down. Homeschooling allows us freedom to be flexible with our schedules in other ways–to go shopping in the morning when stores aren’t as crowded, to take field trips at discounted rates on “homeschool days”, to take vacations on “off” weeks, or go out for lunch somewhere along Daddy’s route so we can have a family lunch out! And because the rigorous parts of school don’t take quite as long when you’re working one-on-one or one-on-two, we have way more time to explore other interests. Noah borrows books on outer space from the library, and Abby is working on writing her second “book” in a series. (Yes, she is quite an ambitious little girl… look out, world!)

Finally, homeschooling forces us to do family devotions and Bible learning. I am confident that we would want to do family devotions even if our children were being educated outside of the home. But I wonder how difficult it would be–especially with our unique family schedule. We use a curriculum that builds Bible learning into the schedule and weaves it into the other subjects whenever possible. So when we have our family breakfasts we do family devotions. This year in kindergarten, each unit that Noah studies focuses on a letter of the alphabet that stands for something God made. He is learning about God’s creation, A-Z. In second grade, Abby’s Bible theme is the different names of Jesus and she has a new memory verse every other week. She also gets her own devotional from time to time to do just with me or independently, but I am very grateful that our core Bible learning is already planned out for me and we have time in our day to fit it.

Now that I’ve made homeschooling sound so appealing… (right?!)… HOW exactly does it work? What do our days actually look like? And who is this Charlotte Mason woman I applaud so much and why was she so great? That’ll be in my next post, part three. 🙂

Here we are getting ready for breakfast during the first week of school this year. Everyone had a name card that had the meaning of their name on it and Abby got a new Bible.

 

 

Homeschool Series Part I: We Have Freedom (and Responsibility) in Education Choices

I’ve wanted to write about our decision to homeschool for a while. It’s a question that often gets asked, “What made you decide to homeschool?” And I wish I didn’t struggle so much with how to answer it. So maybe the process of writing it out will help me form a better verbal response the next time someone is curious. But I also want to share the joy and beauty of homeschooling with anyone who might be looking at their kids’ education options. I don’t think homeschooling is the only or always best option, but I do think it’s a great one! And I definitely can’t fit all I want to share about homeschooling in one blog post. So I’ve decided to create a 3-part series on homeschooling. The common thread through this series (besides homeschooling itself) is that we have FREEDOM in the choices we make in how we educate our children. So I hope you will find this encouraging and maybe even a little enlightening.

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The main reasons I often struggle to answer the question about why we decided to homeschool is because I’m afraid of being judged and I fear others will think I’m judging them. But this fear is not rooted in Christ. Because of the Gospel, we have freedom to make many different choices; we are no longer bound by the law. As Christians, sometimes when we’re passionate about something, (without necessarily meaning to) we can turn it into a sin-issue in our minds, even if it isn’t one. Both Jesus (Matthew 15) and the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 10) reminded us that we cannot be made “unclean” by what enters our body, but only by what comes out of our hearts and minds. I think the decision we make about formally educating our children is a lot like this. It is not a sin to choose one way or the other, though sometimes we judge each other as if it were. And though we have this freedom in Christ, it also comes with responsibility. We have the responsibility to weigh our options carefully and choose what will be best for our family and children. And in a way, we all have the responsibility to “homeschool” our children, but I’ll get into that more later. First, I’d like to address some of the common misconceptions surrounding homeschooling and some of the reasons we worry about judgment…

Because we’re Christians, it is often assumed that my husband and I are trying to shelter our kids from the “evil public schools”, or that we think all Christians should be homeschooling their kids if they can. Neither of these are true. In fact, because my husband and I are Christians, we know that the only thing that can save our kids is Christ. And that because of the Gospel, we have freedom to choose the kind of education we feel is best for our children–because we believe that God works in all education modalities and there isn’t one that is best for all. Just like sharing a hobby one loves with others, I want to share the joy of homeschooling with others, but this doesn’t mean I think everyone should be doing it or should even want to. God made us all unique and all of our children unique, and that is a beautiful thing!

On the flip side, sometimes it is wrongfully assumed that homeschoolers are not doing their part to help take care of their community, or we receive judgment for not “adequately exposing” our kids to the diversity around us. But there are several ways homeschoolers can and do support public schools and help take care of their community. We donate supplies, participate in community activities, financially support community programs, and some families even volunteer their time at local schools as a family. And it’s also important to point out that exposure to diversity does not automatically equal loving kindness to one’s neighbors. That needs to be taught and can be cultivated in a variety of settings, not just a public school. Don’t get me wrong, homeschooling is difficult and does take a lot of time to prepare and can cause us to focus a lot of our attention inward while we’re working so hard for our families. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we have a responsibility to our community, as well.

Are public school teachers and homeschoolers on the opposite side of the education aisle? Can we even be friends? Of course we can! And if we have the best interests of children in mind and desire a strong education for all kids, we are very much on the same side. Rather than judging or condemning each other, we should be praying for and supporting one another. As a former public school teacher, I can certainly speak to the fact that teachers need our prayers! They need prayers for grace, patience, wisdom, guidance, and stamina. And they covet prayers for their students, too. Homeschooling families need prayers for much of the same. The parent/teacher/child/student relationship can be a tricky one to navigate.

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I mentioned earlier that as parents, we all have a responsibility to “homeschool” our children. We have freedom to choose whatever mode of formal education we deem best for our family, a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly. But we have the responsibility to educate our children about God’s laws, His Word, His Son, and also the things of this world, no matter where they are going to get their academic education.  We need to have an open line of communication with our kids so we can be aware of the influences in their life and set an example of what a humble servant of Christ looks like. And if we are teaching our children about these things as we should be; in a sense, we are all “homeschoolers.”

So with all this freedom we have to choose whatever kind of education we want for our kids, why on earth would anyone choose to be the one to do all the planning, prepping, and teaching math, science, history, reading, and keep their kids home all day when a bright, beautiful, yellow school bus could come and take them away for six hours a day??? I’ll get into why and how homeschooling works for our family in my next post…

10 Goals for a Year of Homeschooling

I was a little aghast when I logged onto my blog site to see that my last post was dated April 18! I knew it had been a while, but I didn’t realize it had been THAT long! I never even wrote about our final author study from last school year or concluded my series on our studies. I have pictures of recipes I planned on recording here, as well, which never happened. I have no profound reason for this other than four small children, the busyness of finishing our school year plus wrapping up my work at our church. I hope to write more this year about food, homeschool, and life but I’m not making it an official goal because my goals this year revolve more around DE-stressing, not adding more to my plate. 🙂 So let’s just say hopefully you’ll hear from again soon and on a more regular basis, although I’m making no promises.

I wanted to start our school year by recording some of my goals for the year, so here I am. These aren’t academic goals for my children, these are goals for me as their teacher, and our school year in general. So hopefully when I’m feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or discouraged, I can come back to this and remind myself what I set out to do at the start. And if they provide any other homeschool mamas with ideas, encouragement, or wisdom, then I’ll be doubly blessed.

Goals for My Homeschool Year

  1. Connect with my children. We [loosely] follow a Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling for the most part. She was a HUGE advocate for getting to know the children you are educating and treating them like people with opinions of their own. One of the benefits of homeschooling is the time you get to spend with your kids. I would be squandering that gift if I let our days pass by simply trying to get stuff done and not paying attention to what my kids are thinking, feeling, exploring, and learning. I do not want to sacrifice this grand opportunity to really get to know my children in order to finish the page, book, lesson for the day.
  2. IMG_20180819_071453058Schedule “margin” into my routine. I’m a planner. It’s pretty easy for me to set a routine and it’s not too difficult for me to stick to it. But what I don’t do often enough is schedule the “margins.” I’m learning to do this with time it takes to get ready or get somewhere. With four young kids, I’ve learned that it will take more time than I think it should to get out the door. So I plan for that. It’s a little bit harder to do with my school schedule, but my goal is to get better at it this year. Then I don’t have to get frustrated when a math lesson takes longer to complete than I expected. My kids sense my frustration, which leads to them feeling like they failed or at least, let me down. By scheduling “margin”, I hope to avoid (or lessen) these feelings of frustration on both ends.
  3. Remember to re-evaluate. This year will be my first year following an official curriculum for more than one child. My son has always been able to sit and listen in on his big sister’s schooling, and he has had his own little books to complete as well. But this year he’s more “official” and I’m a little nervous. So I want to remember to re-evaluate periodically. I need to re-evaluate our schedule to make sure both kids are getting the amount of time with me they need. I’ll need to re-evaluate our days, and maybe even our curriculum. I never want to become too set in my ways that my children suffer simply because I’m trying so hard to make something work that just isn’t working.
  4. Remember that I have nothing to prove. This is a tough one. The homeschool world has come a long way and so has acceptance of the idea. But in many cases, homeschooling is still considered unconventional. This leaves many homeschool mamas feeling like they have to prove they made the right decision. We feel like we have to prove that our kids are learning just as much, if not more, than traditionally educated children. We feel like we have to prove that they’re “being socialized” enough. And we have to prove that our children are enjoying every single day of this homeschool journey and THAT’S what makes it so “worth it.” But the reality is, not every day is a joyful journey. Just like anyone else’s school days, some are good, some are better, and some are pretty terrible. And you know what? My children’s and my identities are rooted in Christ alone, not other people’s perception of our homeschool. And I believe that He called my husband and I into this particular education style.  I do think that parents should weigh the education options they have and if they have a choice, choose the one they feel will be best for their kids and family. But we all have freedom in that choice because of the Gospel. WE are not our children’s saviors and homeschooling is not going to “save” my kids… from anything. (Other than maybe having to wait in the snow for the bus to come! One of the many things I love about this choice.) 😉 Only God can do that. So I need to remember that all of this is for His glory; not mine, and not my kids’.
  5. Be flexible. I should really try to be more flexible in all areas of life, but particularly IMG_20180820_124821840the homeschool front. I recently read Sarah Mackenzie‘s book, Teaching from Rest, and loved every minute of it! Along with the idea of scheduling in margin, another thing I gleaned from the book was to be flexible with my plans because #1: they may not be God’s plans and therefore, don’t matter; and #2: who can predict exactly what will happen over the course of the year/month/week/day??? A recent example of this was the way we started our school year. I had planned on starting with Abby (2nd grade) on Monday, August 27. Noah would start kindergarten on September 4. But then we were invited to a lake with a homeschool group for August 27 and the weather for that day and the following days looked gorgeous. And it just so happened that the week prior, our van was in the shop and the weather was pitiful. So Abby and I had a “soft start” a week early while we were stuck inside and didn’t make it a big to-do like the first day of school usually is. That freed us up to enjoy the next week outside and with friends. It wasn’t what I planned the beginning of our school year to look like, but it was definitely for the better. I hope I can continue adjusting with such ease as the school year progresses.
  6. Read-aloud ALL THE TIME. Okay, so this honestly stresses me out just a little bit. That’s because there are SO MANY great options for read-alouds and there is absolutely no way we can get to all of them! Right now, I’m reading 3 different chapter books aloud to my children. Abby is reading her own chapter book (and frequently requests to read chapters aloud to the rest of us) and I have 2 books going on my own. Not to mention the picture books we read before Emmalyn and Eli’s nap times. It is overwhelming, but in the best way. We are so fortunate to have so much great literature at our fingertips. I know I can’t get to every single great “classic”, so I’m not going to make that a goal. It would turn into a list I felt I had to follow and I’d stop re-evaluating and being flexible with our reading time in lieu of checking books off a list, and I don’t want that to happen! So I just want to read aloud as often as possible and make sure we are never without some interesting book to immerse ourselves in!IMG_20180812_191552991
  7. Pray always. This is another continuous “goal for life” that almost goes without saying. But sometimes it doesn’t, so I wanted to make sure I did. 😉 (Did you get that?) I want to make sure my plans align with God’s plans for my family and our schooling, so I need to stay connected with him. And while it’s easy to remember to turn to Him for the big things, sometimes I overlook the little things that could easily turn into big things if I don’t give them to God first.
  8. Get enough rest. I’m talking about me, here. I’m useless to the children I’m supposed to be caring for and teaching if I’m staying up too late planning, reading, or watching TV and not getting enough sleep. Even though I’ve always known I needed it, this has never been easy for me. So I’m making it a goal to make sleep a priority.
  9. Put the phone away. I have seriously cut back on screens for myself and my kids lately. It’s usually not that hard to do when the weather is nice. But specifically, I haven’t had Facebook on my phone in months and I really limit my log-ons these days. I love it. Days that I don’t go on Facebook at all are the best days. And take a look at goal number 6! How do you think we have time to read all those books? We’ve also been playing a lot more board games lately, which we love. But my phone can still be a hindrance to school time if I’m texting a friend, checking email, or hopping on Instagram. And since I no longer need it for work purposes throughout the day, it goes in the bedroom behind a closed door during school. We have enough distractions with the little ones running around, I don’t need to add to them myself.
  10. Take regular “field trips.” This year we’re studying U.S. History in 2nd grade and I feel so fortunate to live in New England during this time! Such small states so close together, and lots of American history right in our own backyard! So this is a more year-specific goal, but I want to take full advantage of our flexible schedule and prime location. I’m excited for a great school year!

Pictures from our lake day on what would’ve been our first day of school. So glad we opted for flexibility! 🙂

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I’m so glad she’s developed such a strong love of reading!

1st Grade Author Study: Patricia Polacco

I adore Patricia Polacco’s books! I think the first one I every read (as an adult, anyway) was Thunder Cake. I remember thinking I couldn’t wait to read it to my children and then actually go through the process of making the cake ourselves. There are many things I love about homeschooling, but one of the biggest is that my kids and I get to experience things (books, in particular) together. We are not limited by such tight schedules and other constraints. So when a book has a recipe included or a fun activity, we can make it!

With this author study, I wanted to focus on the journal aspect of the unit. Most of Polacco’s books are about her own life. This gave me the opportunity to really highlight the skill of “making connections” while reading. (Fellow teachers, this unit is a “Text-to-Self”, “Text-to-Text”, and “Text-to-World” paradise!) So rather than do cross-curricular activities or “cutesie” crafts with each book, we simply journaled about the stories after we read them. The reflections in my author study journals have always been the same. But in our past units, we have glossed over some of the questions or didn’t do a journal response to every book because I didn’t want to bog Abby down with the weight of them. But now we’re near the end of 1st grade and she’s capable of more mature thinking and her writing stamina has increased greatly!

Some of Polacco’s books deal with more serious situations and many of them are suitable for upper elementary students. (The Lemonade Club is a good read and about two characters struggling with cancer, Thank You, Mr. Falker deals with some severe bullying.) But I liked that Abby and I could talk about these topics through the lens of story plot and literature. Some of the books we read and enjoyed include: My Rotten Red-Headed Older Brother, Chicken Sunday, The Lemonade Club, Babushka’s Doll, An “A” From Miss Keller, Thank You Mr. Falker, Thunder Cake, The Keeping Quilt, and more! Here is the link to the printable author study journal I created: Polacco Author Study Journal Pages

Of course we made a “thunder cake” according to the recipe in the book, but there was no thunder when we made it, so it wasn’t genuine. Ha! Abby also has plans to make a “keeping quilt” with her Mimi–we’ve already picked out the photos for it! This was a fun study and Polacco’s unique, auto-biographical style brought a fresh perspective to the the collection of authors we’ve studied thus far.

If you want to take a look at any of the author studies we’ve done this year and get free printable downloads, click the links: Eric Carle, Laura Numeroff, Jan Brett, Dr. Seuss

Centers! First grade & preschool

These centers are for first grade and preschool. Here’s the breakdown week by week.

Week 1: PRESCHOOL–color-matching with pom-poms and plates, puzzles, and number matching with unifix cubes. GRADE 1–long-vowel sentence matching, addition matching with unifix cubes, and word building

Week 2: PRESCHOOL–shape-tracing with yarn, dot art (painting only using dots and the primary colors), and letter-matching with foam puzzles (not pictured). GRADE 1–puzzles, beginning sounds matching, and Roll the Dice (addition).

Week 3: PRESCHOOL–letter-matching garage (so fun for a boy who loves cars!), color-shape wheel (matching, and then coloring), number identification. GRADE 1–pattern animals, reading/writing words with and without a silent E, free art center.

Week 4: PRESCHOOL–cut and paste art center, rhyming sound matching, letter/word identification (He must use the letters in the envelope to create the word written on the outside of the envelope.) GRADE 1–Roll the Dice (addition), ending sound identification, rainbow writing sight words.

Week 5: PRESCHOOL–Pattern matching (with colored apples), “Broken Hearts” number matching (can you tell it’s close to Valentine’s Day?), ABC garage (not pictured this week). GRADE 1–Domino Addition (using the Roll the Dice page), word families (using hearts), Valentine’s Day paper (answer the question).

Week 6: PRESCHOOL–forming letters with play dough, cut and paste rhyming strip (not pictured), shape matching with paper bags. GRADE 1–sentence matching, fact families, and ABC order practice.

Week 7: PRESCHOOL–more rhyming strips, number matching, word building (without the writing). GRADE 1–counting by 5s & 10s, word building, sight word reading. *For Abby I did a “cowgirl” theme this week!  She had a cowgirl hat which she used for word building and then her sight words were written on cowgirl boots. Her “badge” said “deputy reader”! She loved it!

Week 8: PRESCHOOL–milk cap name (followed by working in his dry-erase maze book once he finished his name), rhyming sound matching, color and number matching. GRADE 1–sentence matching, Roll the Dice (subtraction, this time!), silent E work.

Week 9: PRESCHOOL--salt tray letters, identifying numbers (and counting) to 20.     GRADE 1–fact families with dice, “Wonder, Draw, & Tell” papers on weather (not pictured). Both kids had a craft center based on the book, “Mouse’s First Spring.” Originally, I wanted to do this book for the first week of spring, but the weather was not very spring-like so I waited to do it until April.

Week 10: EASTER WEEKEND! I wanted to use these egg centers for the week before so they could enjoy them the entire week leading up to Easter, but it didn’t work out that way. We don’t do centers EVERY Friday. Sometimes it gets pushed off because we’re busy or I’m really not feeling up to it (darn pregnancy nausea!). When that’s the case, they still have an abundance of independent activities to choose from during school week–they just tap into previous centers they’ve done. So fun egg centers got pushed off and we did them on Good Friday. They’ll continue to use these centers during the upcoming week after Easter.

PRESCHOOL–letter egg hunt (Noah had to find the letter eggs I hid all over the room and then match them up with the letters on the alphabet chart), make a turtle (working on gluing skills), play dough cookie cutters (motor skills).  GRADE 1–compound words, rhyming words, word families (all egg centers).

 

Week 11: PRESCHOOL–ABC Truck Match-Up! (Match the letters on the truck “tires”.), Rhyming Game, Practice Gluing. GRADE 1–Place Value Game (create random numbers from number grid using unified cubes to show tens and ones), SPACE-themed worksheets on word families, PLANET word families (ew, ow, -ead).

 

Week 12: PRESCHOOL–Pig in a Puddle (center on the letter “P” including sound matching, salt tray practice, and tracing), Clothespin Match (numbers), Search for Bugs (hunt, match, color). GRADE 1Wonder, Draw, & Tell worksheets on bugs, Roll the Dice (free choice–addition, subtraction, or fact families), digraph “Bird Watch” match-up. **I like doing some themed centers, like last week Abby had some space themed work, and this week both Abby and Noah had to search for some cards around the room. Noah had to look for matching bug cards and Abby had to look for the cards that matched her bird digraphs. She also had some bug-themed worksheets. 

 

Dr. Seuss & Seussville!

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr. Seuss

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OF COURSE while doing first grade author studies this year we would include Dr. Seuss! How could we not?! And when I planned out our year, I timed this study to end on his birthday so we could celebrate! The trouble, however, was that I didn’t write out each author study before we started the school year. I just didn’t have time! So I planned out the first one on Eric Carle, and most of the second one on Laura Numeroff, and some of the third one on Jan Brett. But the rest, I’m writing as we go. And since Jan Brett took us much longer than anticipated to get through, it only left us with a couple weeks to study Dr. Seuss. It just doesn’t seem like enough time to devote to such a popular and gifted author; the “father” of reading! But in a way, it was necessary to trim it down so that Abby wouldn’t get bored from taking too long on two authors in a row. (And it gave me a little break from writing units!)

So I didn’t do a formal “study” and I didn’t make her keep a journal. Dr. Seuss wanted reading to be FUN for kids. So I felt like I would be doing him a disservice if I bogged Abby down with extra work and made her dislike reading his books. How fitting that we took a “break” from our regular author study work and just had fun with probably the most fun children’s author of all time!

So for two weeks, here’s what we did:

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We first scored our local library for Dr. Seuss picture books. Then I ordered the classics that weren’t in stock from the database (love that system!). The first week we spent time just getting to know his books and having fun reading the rhymes. We read Horton Hatches an Egg and Horton Hears a Who (which they instantly connected to the their favorite Christmas movie, “The Grinch”). We also read The Lorax and then watched the movie OnDemand right afterward. They loved making connections between the book and movie and did it all on their own! (Talk about fun, informal LEARNING.) I also introduced them to his books “written as Theo LeSieg” such as I Wish that I had Duck Feet and I’m NOT Going to Get Up Today. We read many others, too!

IMG_20180302_110133039The second week was National Read Across America Week and I was a little more intentional about what we read. We started with the classic, The Cat in the Hat. Then I had Abby write (in her regular writing journal for school) about what she would do on a rainy day. Abby read Hop on Pop to us and I had Noah do other rhyming activities to go along with the book. We had our own “Wacky Wednesday” and they LOVED that book! We visited my grandparents so Abby could read to them and I bought them their own Dr. Seuss book: You’re Only Old Once, A Book for Obsolete Children. That book is so funny and the perfect gift for an “aging” couple or person in your life! (Children don’t get it so although it looks like a children’s book, it sort of isn’t. haha) My grandparents loved it! On Friday, (Dr. Seuss’ actual birthday) I made eggs andIMG_20180301_134655013 ham for breakfast and gave each child a “table setting” coloring page to work on at the breakfast table while I read Green Eggs and Ham. (Abby read it on her own later. The thing about Dr. Seuss books is that even though they’re pretty easy to read, mostly… they’re long. That is a turn-off for Abby because she doesn’t like sitting still for long periods of time to read. But it was nice to see her pick up some of his books and read them herself anyway!) We also made celebratory cupcakes and the kids played on the Seussville website in the afternoon.

Our “culminating activity” (in lieu of writing a book in Seuss-style) was a family trip to the Springfield Museums on Saturday for their Dr. Seuss Birthday Bash! We toured the Seuss museum, and the science, art, and history museums where we met the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch!

This was such a fun and relaxing unit. I love when I see learning in action without all the effort. So fun!! 😉

“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of the telescope.” ~ Dr. Seuss

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Author Study: Jan Brett

Finally! Guys. let me tell you, it took a LONG time to get through this last author study! It was meant for the month of January but dragged well into February. This was not because the unit itself is super long, or because we didn’t enjoy it; it was simply the challenge of homeschooling with a baby in the house. There were LOTS of stops and starts while I tended to the fussing and crying and milk demands, and we didn’t even get to all the activities I had planned (because sometimes you just have to move on). But we did it! And we enjoyed it!

One of the challenges I’m facing as I write these author studies is how to choose which books to focus on–there are just so many! Jan Brett has written countless books and you could do so much with each one of them. There are plenty of science, history, and art lessons in addition to language ones that can be learned through her books. (I almost had us doing a unit within the unit on the rainforest!) I’m telling you, dialing back had to happen though it wasn’t easy. My main focus has been to come at these through a literary perspective, and if other subjects get touched on, then that’s bonus. Jan Brett is known for her amazing watercolor illustrations that beautifully capture many different settings from around the world. She’s also famous for her illustration “borders” which tell a story within a story. These are things I chose to focus on for this study.

26232556_10160215871695221_5151877635536231607_oWe started with one of her most popular books, The Mitten. We also read The Hat, and The Umbrella, which follow a similar theme. Our focus was sequencing and making predictions (using the borders to help us). I can’t take credit for the fun materials we used on day 1 when we read The Mitten. Oh, the internet is a wonderful place! I purchased a unit on teacherspayteachers.com and used those materials to make animal puppets for The Mitten. Jan Brett’s own website, janbrett.com, also offers several printouts and activities to accompany her books which I found helpful.

IMG_2027Then we moved on to fairytales! Jan Brett has rewritten a few fairytales and so I thought it would be a good opportunity to do a mini-unit on these familiar stories. We discussed the elements of a fairytale (Fairytale Worksheet) and used a check-list for each one we read to see if it met the “requirements” to be a true fairytale. Then we compared and contrasted Jan Brett’s version with the original. (Compare and Contrast) This was fun and the kids really got into looking at the different versions of the same story.

My last focus was on the setting of her different tales. Jan Brett has stories that take place in Africa, China, Ukraine, the rainforest… all over! Though we didn’t get to the written part of this unit, we had fun discussing the different places and where we’d like to go if we could. Even though we didn’t get a chance to do these activities fully (Dr. Seuss was calling our names!), the materials for this part of the unit are still included. Take a trip with Jan Brett and study a setting!

This is the perfect unit to do in the winter, since that’s the setting for a lot of these books. I hope you enjoy these activities! You can download the lesson plans, journal, and activity pages all free!

Jan Brett Author Study  

JB Author Study Journal Pages

JB Setting Study