May 18, 2015

Homeschooling with a Newborn {Our Experience with A Beka Streaming for Kindergarten}


If I were going to be completely honest, homeschooling with a newborn was a lot harder than I anticipated. I had prepared to only take one month off of homeschooling after Ezra was born, but we wound up taking two months off. I tried to get back into the swing of things after one month, but Ezra was still very fussy, and I was still very fatigued and battling through postpartum anxiety. At first I felt guilty for taking such a long break, but then I remembered that one of the many reasons we homeschool is for the flexibility that it offers to us as a family. And in hindsight I am so thankful that we gave ourselves the break we needed to transition into life as a family of five. I am also thankful that Silas was home with us during that time and not heading off to school everyday. Having Silas home was a huge help to me and a great learning experience for him. I won't say that we didn't have our challenges, but overall, the good definitely outweighed the bad.

So when we were deciding on curriculum for the 2014-2015 school year, I knew that we needed something very structured that didn't require a lot of work on my part. We had been involved in Classical Conversations during Silas' pre-k4 year, and we really enjoyed it, but I knew it would be too challenging of a commitment for me with a new baby. I also knew that Kindergarten was not a grade that allowed for a lot of independent study. New concepts would be introduced in reading, math, and writing that required a lot of teacher/mommy involvement. Not knowing how much involvement I would be able to handle with a newborn baby, we began looking into curriculum that provided video or online teaching options.

I vividly recall taking this picture of  Silas watching his video school while bouncing and swaying newborn baby Ezra who was screaming and wailing, as was his typical newborn behavior before we figured out his allergy situation. Meanwhile, Liam took it upon himself to fold my laundry- woohoo!


I did a little research, but quickly decided on A Beka Academy's Video Streaming program. I am very familiar with the curriculum, having used it as a homeschool student from 4th-12th grade. In fact, my siblings and I are all graduates of A Beka Academy, so I am quite acquainted with the quality of teaching and ease of use. With the A Beka Video program the parent is required to simply oversee the student's work-- the video teacher does all of the teaching.

One of our favorite places to do school work-- outside!
The funny thing about this this blog post is that had I written during the first half of our school year {pre-Ezra & the 2-month break}, I would have been much more critical in my review of the streaming program. See, we plowed through our first couple of weeks with the video streaming program and quickly decided that both Silas and I preferred when I did the teaching. We really enjoyed the curriculum {specifically the phonics, math, & writing}, but we were both used to a more relaxed type of schooling around the kitchen table where I did the teaching. So, I ordered the parent-led teacher's manual, and we stopped using the videos only two weeks in. I was still able to use all of the materials that came with the boxed curriculum, so it really wasn't that big of a deal financially. We were also able to double up lessons very easily with me teaching, which got us ahead in preparation for the postpartum break.


Legos always make math more fun!

The beginning of the year rolled around, Ezra's delivery finally came, and our one-month break turned into two. During that time Silas took much more of an interest in reading, so while our "formal schooling" was put on the back burner, we still enjoyed reading books and going over some of the phonics rules he had learned during the beginning half of the year.

We all enjoy storytime with Silas!
So around mid-March when we were finally ready to jump back into formal schooling, we started back with the parent-led curriculum. I had finally figured out a system to keep my materials organized for the week so that I didn't have to waste time pulling worksheets everyday. Things went ok, but there were still constant interruptions by Ezra who was still fussy, wasn't on any type of schedule, and only slept for 30 minutes at a time on a good day. I was becoming frustrated and so was Silas. One day in the middle of the chaos Silas asked to watch Mrs. Reese {his video teacher}. I was a bit surprised, but gladly accommodated.

This time around Silas adjusted very quickly to the video program and there has been much less complaining about it being boring. Silas only watches the phonics, math, and writing videos, and we do our own Bible time {at night with Kevin}, skills development, and extracurricular activities {art, field trips, etc.} at our leisure. Doing this has shortened the actual video time Silas watches while still providing the teaching time he needs.

As time has gone on, I have also warmed up to the video program by tweaking it and structuring it to meet our needs. In fact, I've warmed up so much to it that we've recently made the decision to use it again for first grade. We will likely do some parent-led schooling as well for history and science and  for times when we want to move forward at a quicker pace. But I love having both the video and parent-led options available and having the flexibility to use different teaching methods during different seasons of life.

Having Silas using the video program has not only helped us to stay on a more consistent schedule, but it has also freed me up to spend some more intentional time schooling Liam. Liam began to show more of an interest in learning at the beginning of the year, so I knew I needed to take advantage of his enthusiasm. I've been using Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool with Liam, which is a free online homeschooling curriculum that uses videos, free printable pages, and simple hands-on activities. So far we've had a great experience with it. It has been just enough to keep Liam engaged without leading to frustration. I still haven't made a final decision about what we will do formally for pre-k4 with Liam in the Fall, but I'm leaning toward using A Beka for him as well. 


Liam showing Silas his school work on the computer.
We plan to take a little bit of a summer break, but for the most part we will stick to our regular schooling schedule throughout the summer months. Our schooling time only lasts 1-2 hours each day at most, so it rarely interferes with any activities we have planned during the week.

Play dough is a great way to learn about the letter "B"

One thing I know from talking with other homeschool moms is that every family is different, and what works for one family may not work for another. I'm slowing figuring out what works for us, and a lot of that has been me letting go of some of my idealistic views of homeschooling and replacing them with a more realistic view of what truly meets our needs during this season.


May 16, 2015

Ezra's Nursery + Freebie {Jeremiah 29:11 Printable}

Two things about me: I'm a minimalist at heart, and I'm not a home decorator by nature. 

So I've never been one to make a big deal out of our babys' nurseries. In fact, I never even registered for nursery bedding for Silas, and I didn't buy any with Liam or Ezra either. My parents gave us the crib that I used as a baby, and all of our boys have used it. We've managed to snatch hand-me-down or thrifted dressers and changing tables so none of our nursery furniture was ever matchy, matchy. I just used the crib sheets that I was given as gifts and called it a day.


That being said, I do think it is important to make our home appealing and comfortable for my family. Every now and then I'll make small changes to keep things fresh. My most recent endeavor has been Ezra's nursery. We're getting closer to booting Ezra out of our room so it was time to make the nursery a little more conducive for a permanent resident. I started with a really good decluttering session one afternoon and then got to work on minor decorating.

The color scheme I pulled together was based off of a crib sheet {pictured below} that someone gave to me as a gift. I had painted a thrifted dresser green while I was pregnant for Ezra so that was part of my inspiration as well.


 As far as the crib, I added a quilted mattress pad {similar to this one} for comfort and a bumper pad {one that I had, in green} to keep his limbs from getting caught in between the bars.



I bought and hung blackout curtains {in navy}, which I highly recommend for every baby's nursery! I also switched out the sheets and comforter on the full-sized bed residing in the room. My mother-in-law had given me a set of grey sheets that fit perfectly with the color scheme, and I used an old cream colored quilt that I had in my linen chest.




So little by little things started coming together, and while you'll never ever see a nursery like Ezra's in a magazine, it meets our needs both practically and aesthetically.



But there was one thing lacking... wall art! The walls in this particular room have been nearly bare since we moved into the house four years ago. Before Ezra was born I hung a framed chalkboard over his crib and wrote his name on it, but other than that, we haven't added anything to the walls. In search of inspiration I headed over the Pinterest, which quickly led me over to Etsy. I saw tons of things I liked, but I refuse to pay for something I think is overpriced, especially if I can easily make it for a much cheaper price!

So I set out to make a few of my own prints, including the one below. I printed it on regular 8.5" x 11" white card stock paper, and my plan is  to frame it in an 11" x 14" matted frame with an 8" x 10" opening. I'm hoping that with a little digging at a couple of local thrift stores I can find just the right frame for the job. Feel free to click the link below to print your own copy!



I'm working on a few other prints to frame and include in a wall collage. This cute elephant print is one of my favorites.

 And, of course, no nursery wall collage would be complete without a really cute sibling picture!


 Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

May 13, 2015

Weighing In & NSV's {Weight Watcher Wednesday}


After a 0.6 lb. weight loss week before last, I was pleasantly surprised to see a 1.6 lb. weight loss last week! {Just an FYI, I plan to post my Weight Watcher updates on Wednesdays, so my stats will be from the previous week's weigh-in}. So, as you can imagine, I was pretty motivated to keep on track this week in hopes of another loss at tomorrow night's meeting.  
 I used to get really discouraged when the scale showed such a small weight loss such as 0.6, but after years of tracking I've learned that my body typically fluctuates between smaller losses and bigger losses. So when I'm following plan consistently, I know that the bigger losses will come when my body is ready to register them.

This is one reason why getting on the scale everyday or multiple times per day when you're trying to lose weight is a bad idea {I learned that the hard way}. The scale will play mind games with you. And weight loss is very much a mental battle, so why fight more battles than absolutely necessary, right? Our bodies are very complex. Things are constantly coming in, going out, transforming, dissolving, etc. So our weight can vary greatly depending on the time of day we weigh, what we ate, what we drank, what we're wearing, etc.

We've all been there. Working really hard to lose a pound, and then seeing a GAIN on the scale. It's enough to send us straight into the kitchen for a pity snack, which usually sends us into a downward spiral of bad choices.

Remember, it's only a number. And a very inaccurate one if you're weighting too often or with too many variables at stake.

The best strategy when trying to lose weight is to hide the scale...

...and to only take it out once per week on the same day of the week at the same time of day wearing the same type of clothes! That will give you your most accurate number. My weigh-in time in at my Weight Watcher meetings on Thursday evenings at 5:45pm. I usually always wear a cotton t-shirt and shorts. I try not to eat high sodium food before weighing in, and I always empty my bladder before stepping on the scale.


Having said that, it's also important to note that in your weight loss journey, the scale should not define you. There is no magic number that will make you happy if you're body and mind are not engaged in the weight loss process. In fact, I'm not even currently focused on a number for myself. Instead I'm focused on my favorite pair of summer shorts. I remember how good I felt in them, and I know that if I can fit back into them I will feel great no matter what the scale says.

 Did you know that in the weight loss community we cheer each other on for NSV's. That stands for...

Non-Scale Victories!

does an old ring fit better? a pair of jeans? can you do a couple of more push-ups than you used to be able to? can you run a little farther? is your collarbone starting to peek through? what about your cheek bones? does the bath towel fit around you better? can you cross your legs more comfortably? did you choose the side salad over the fries? fruit over ice cream?

There are so many things to celebrate on your journey to healthy!

The scale is important because it lets you know whether or not you're headed in the right direction, but weight loss is about so much more than a number. It's about how you feel. And often those little non-scale victories are just what you need to keep moving forward!


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