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 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!

May 11, 2015

Ezra's 4 Month Update

My little Ezzy had his 4-month birthday a couple of weekends ago! I had intentions of typing up his 4-month update last week, but my poor baby came down with a virus and was keeping his Mama extra busy most of last week. Thankfully, he is feeling much better, and we are off to a much better start this week!

Ezzy & his brothers
In fact, Ezra was feeling well enough to go for a little swim with his Papa and his brothers early this afternoon. Our pool water is still a bit cool so it took him a little while to get used to it, but once he did he was happy and soaking it all in.

Aside from a good case of the fussies last week {from the virus, of course}, Ezra is typically a happy 4-month old who smiles very easily and loves to people watch {especially when it comes to watching his brothers}. He doesn't laugh for just anybody, but when someone familiar makes a sound or motion that really amuses him, he has a really great laugh on him. It's one of my favorite things to hear. 
His favorite place is still in Mama's arms, but he does last a little longer on his play mat grabbing for his toys, rolling, and scooting. He is finally able to hold on to his toys with a better grip, and if he sees one that is out of his reach he is able to scoot his little body over to. He is pretty proficient at rolling from belly to back, but we still haven't gotten a back to belly roll. I'm really surprised considering the fact that he can scoot already, but I know it'll come in time.

He is still drooling like crazy and obsessed with having his hands {or someone else's hands} in his mouth. Looking back at Liam's baby journal, I noticed that Liam cut his first tooth at 4.5 months. I'm not sure if Ezzy will follow in his brother's footsteps, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if he did! Something funny worth noting is that when the drool collects in the back of his throat he starts making a gargling sound.  I like to repeat the sound back to him, which encourages him to keep going.

Speaking of hands in the mouth, Ezzy is my first baby to deny the pacifier in place of... HIS THUMB! And there is absolutely nothing I can do about it at this point. I know if this habit continues we will be in deep trouble in a couple of years, but to be completely honest it's actually much easier than constantly trying to keep a pacifier in his mouth at this point in the game!

Then there's the car sear. Oh, the dreaded car seat. Like his brother Silas, Ezra absolutely hates his car seat and will literally get so mad about us forcing him to sit in it that he turns bright red and foams at the mouth. It's pitiful, y'all. But all we can do is endure it until he outgrows it and try to keep our traveling adventures to a minimum. And when we do travel, it has to be a team effort!

While Ezra dreads the car seat, he's becoming much fonder of the bathtub. He recently took a bath with his brothers, which was extra fun.

Ezra is also the first of our children to make it past 4 months in the pack 'n play in our bedroom. I haven't had the energy to transition him into his crib yet, and honestly, until he's giving us longer stretches at night I'm not in a rush to do so. Sleep is of highest priority right now!

 Other stats worth noting...

* He's wearing a size 2 diaper
* He's in 3-6 month or 6 month clothes
* He's eating about 5 ounces every 4 hours
* His bedtime is usually between 6 and 7 and he wakes up anywhere between 5 & 7:00 {with 1 or 2 feeds in between}

I'm a big fan of the book The Wonder Weeks, which guides you through 10 predictable fussy periods of babies. So when I started noticing that Ezra was becoming much more shy and sensitive around strangers, demanding much more attention than usual, very clingy toward mommy, and taking in less formula than usual {all these even before the virus hit last week}, I pulled my book out to discover that week 19 is a wonder week. So I'm expecting some more developmental changes are right around the corner. Knowing that all of these changes are normal have helped me to replace "what could turn into frustration" with an excitement at what's to come. Ezra and I have been snuggling a lot more and reading more books together these past couple of weeks. I'm soaking it all in because I know that pretty soon these activities won't come as easily.

Ezra brings so much joy to our family, and we are looking forward to another eventful month ahead-- which will include Ezra's first Celestin family vacation! Stay tuned for how that goes!

Happy 4 Months, Baby Boy!


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