Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lessons From the County Fair

I am so excited! Today my two little ones will get to show their chickens at the county fair! This may sound odd for you, but my husband is an agriculture man and loves his chickens. My kids, especially the princess, have taken up that love as well. These particular chickens were bought at a day old in March and the kids have done all the work to care for and raise these little things! I am most definitely not a bird person, but I love that my husband takes the time to give them this experience!
I love the fair! I think it is a timeless tradition that brings together families and loved ones for a good time and a chance to take pride in the things they do. What I never realized before now was what a great tool the fair can be for a homeschooler! It gives them a chance to get outside the home and present the things they have worked on during the year! As for us, we get our extra-curriculars mostly outside the home through homeschool co-op, community sports, and 4-H. Fair is just the icing on that cake for us!

Here are some lessons that kids can learn at the fair:

1) Specific instruction and hands-on training in a particular subject for months leading up to the fair. This year my daughter did chickens and photography, both of which taught her tons of facts and skills she hadn't known before. Many of the 4-H projects available tie right in to many of our homeschool lessons.

2) Pride. When the kids show their projects, they present them at their best. The kids work so hard to prepare for show and it gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment in their work because others (besides parents and grandma!) get a chance to appreciate their work.

3) Not everyone can win. Let's face it, our kids need to learn that they can't always be first or the best at everything. That is real life. As homeschoolers, they don't get a lot of that. They are always the best (and only) in their class! Not receiving the ribbon can have some great lessons for our little ones!

4) Cooperation. Have you ever seen a child show their project at fair without mom or dad's help? No! Fair teaches kids to cooperate with others in their family to get the job done and get their project looking it's very best. This is a good lesson for some of our more independent children!

5) Tradition. So many families involved in fair have created a sort of tradition out of their time at fair. Whether it is buying boots and hats, having a meal together on the grounds or participating in some of the wacky events together, when done the same every year it is a way to build memories and traditions that the kids will always remember.

As I said, I have always loved fair season. Now, I just have more reason to love it and get involved with it! What do you love about the fair?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Favorite Read Alouds for Boys and Girls

Ok, so I am going to jump in here with all the buzz about Read Alouds! It is a perfect time of year for us since it is the season of the Summer Reading Program at our library. My daughter's goal this year is top reader, therefore Mom (that's me!) must find more books that have not yet been exhausted! However, while I am reading and stealing everyone else's ideas, I thought I could at least contribute our own!

I am not sure how I am going to possibly narrow down to a top 10 with as many books that are on our shelf and the hundreds more at our disposal at the library. However, I will share the first ones that come to my mind as being my kids favorites for us to share as a family:

I know I've posted this before,
but it is so cute and fitting for this post!
 1) Definite #1 is the Llama Llama Red Pajama series by Anna Dewdney. I just LOVE those books!

2) The Bear Books as we call them. They are the series by Karma Wilson including Bear Wants More and Bear's Loose Tooth.

3) Are You A Horse by Andy Rash. Great for any Cowgirl or Cowboy!

4) Every Cowgirl Needs A Horse (and its sequel Every Cowgirl Needs Dancing Boots) by Rebecca Janni. I know it is geared toward girls, but it is SO CUTE!

5) The Biscuit series by Alyssa Capucilli - great for early readers!

6) Elephant and Piggy Series by Mo Willems are a favorite for lots of giggles

7)  Any books by Karen Beaumont are sure to provide entertainment for the whole family, especially our favorite Who Ate All the Cookie Dough

8)  Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is a classic read aloud

9)  I still love Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

10) Oh, no! I'm at ten already! I suppose I will end with the Family Time Bible composed by Kenneth Taylor. These are perfect length stories to read at bed time which are told in a way that is understandable for the whole family. We love to read one of these along with every bed time story each night.

I feel like I have just scratched the surface of our favorites, but then, we are a family that loves to read. Moms, I believe the love of reading comes from demonstration. If you read in front of your kids and to your kids and show an excitement and love for reading, that will be contagious. I have also used more books as a reward for reading. When my kids have read all the books they have at home and a good chunk from the library, they get to go book shopping. My sister told me once that the reason she loves to read so much is because she remembers when we were younger (I was seven years older), before she could read, I would sit and read stories to her. She said I would use different voices for the characters and get her so into the stories that she wanted to learn to read as soon as possible so she could become a part of more exciting adventures.

Reading is the basis for learning. It is a key that unlocks the doors to every other subject out there. Most importantly, I tell my children that reading is so valuable because it is the only way that we are able to read God's Word and understand God's Will and plans for our lives. So, go forth today and READ to your little ones!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Evaluating Your Next Year's Essentials

This was the year. The first year that Princess would take standardized testing in school. I ordered the Iowa test from A Beka (wonderful to work with!) and administered the test myself at the public library. My plan - if the test turned out horrible, she is ahead a year, so we have another year to redo the grade. If it was horrible again, we were putting her in private school. Everyone knew that she would do fine, but I needed that confirmation. I need to know where we were on target and where I was lacking. The test results gave me the confidence to homeschool another year. It also gave me a visual evaluation on where we stood in our core subjects. For example, I know that we need to work a little bit more on our listening skills.

In our state, we are not required to give our children standardized tests. I also know many homeschool families that choose not to do standardized testing because they teach in a very non-traditional way that would not be accurately reflected by a standardized test. For me, because of what I consider the essentials of my homeschool, standardized testing is a beautiful tool to help me evaluate for next year. Dear homeschooling companion, as you embark on your journey this summer to plan for next year, consider evaluating and writing down what you consider the essentials. With this clearly in mind, it will help you to mold your planning to meet your own expectations. Here are mine, to get you thinking!

1) Build a foundation of biblical knowledge and demonstrate God's love and Christ-likeness in all we do.
This is our number one priority for homeschooling. This is something that they cannot receive in the public school system. There are many ways to go about this. We choose to have morning family devotions before we begin school and we also have a period of Bible study during our school day. Our class rules encourage a Christ-like behavior. There are many other ways, but you get the idea!

2) Give my children the opportunity to excel to their own capabilities in their education.
No child is equal. No child will excel at the same pace nor respond to the same method of teaching. I want my children to truly learn their material. I want them to go to college and excel. I want them to be equipped to do anything they want to do with their futures. This is why I like the standardized testing. I want to know what we need to work harder on each year so that they can compete for things like scholarships and honor societies in college.

Those are my top two. I could keep going, but I think you get the idea. What do you consider the essentials? How do you plan to emphasize them in your next school year?

My baby sister receiving her college diploma. I hope to see my babies here one day!