Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Toddler

In almost every conversation I have with others about what it's like to homeschool, I am asked, "What does Ben do while you're doing your schoolwork?" I can attest to this fact: this is certainly a challenge!

I want Ben to be part of our learning as much as possible - both for his benefit and also for mine (the alternative is that he's off by himself using finger paints on the walls). So I spent a significant amount of time during the first semester of our schooling gathering and organizing ideas, toys, and toddler/preschool activities. I've even created a "Toddler Time" chart where I can simple look at it and pick an activity to fill his life at any given moment :)  This chart is a huge stress-reducer - I have at least 3 activities planned for each day, which means I don't have to think about what he can do - I just look, pick, and get it out for him. Voila! Mixing it up also helps keep things "new" for him.

I've also learned the following principles are imperative to a more successful day for all of us:
  1. Prayer!  Praying for our day, for my attitude to be spirit-filled, and for him to have a happy heart seem to help so much!
  2. Be flexible!  I've gotta just roll with it sometimes ... it is what it is!
  3. Be prepared!   Note aforementioned paragraph ... if I'm trying to "wing it"- stress increases. 
And as much as I have prepared for his learning activities, playful adventures, and how to incorporate him into our days ... the bottom line is this:  he's still TWO years old, very active, a wee-bit strong-willed, and a BOY.

So to give you a sense of what a homeschool is really like with the boy-child, here's a fun photo-gallery illustrating his activities from Monday morning.

Ben was up at 7:30 and had breakfast. Then he ran around upstairs yelling and laughing with the girls while Mommy was finishing cleaning the kitchen and getting ready for the day. He jumped up on the lower bunk bed, played with the girls' Barbies, and also his cars. By 9am, we were starting our schoolwork and Ben is  now fussy. He threw an absolute fit while I was reading "A Picture Book of Lewis & Clark"!

9:20 - After we read our book with much distraction, Ben decided he was ready to play with his Leap Frog alphabet toy. He loves to sing the ABC song along with this toy, which is pretty cute!

9:24 - Ben pointed into the closet at this train set and asked Mommy to "help you" put it together. So while the girls were working on their calendar math, I helped him set up his train.

9:30 - Next, Ben asked if he could paint. So, while still talking to the girls about Lewis & Clark's expedition, I'm also getting what he needs to paint!

9:32 - And the next thing I know he's crawling up ON the same table where the paints are and the bowl of water to reach a puzzle. So I'm now wiping off the table so he can play with the alphabet puzzle. What are the girls doing?  I don't know.

9:35 - Ben saw me getting the dry-erase marker and board out to help Ellie write her birthday thank-you notes, and decided HE wanted to write on one "toooooooo"!  See what he scribbled?  That's as much as he did before moving on ...

And now I need more coffee.

10:00 - Ben wandered up the stairs to the main landing where all the winter gear is stored, found one mitten and decided he needed help finding the match. So I sent Abbie to help him so I could have 2 minutes of quiet with Ellie during her math lesson! (Apparently they haven't found the match yet.)

It is now after 10, which means Ben's digestive system has now completely processed any and all traces of breakfast and is ready for meal #2 in his day. Today's request?  Ice cream.  And Mommy suggests raisins? No, ice cream.  No, banana?  ICE CREAM!  Noooo ... string cheese?  And so this goes on for about 20 minutes and finally I just quick run upstairs to grab snacks and drinks for all. Food appeases him for a while. 

Until he has the idea that he should watch "Thomas the Train". And so I hear him asking this question about 57 times in the next 30 minutes.

10:45 - And here he is occupying himself by sitting in the dolly stroller. Note the matching mitten has been found!

11:00 - We started singing "The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock" to go along with Ellie's R is for Rock unit, and Ben looooooves to sing! We sang the song a good 4-5 times just for his enjoyment. Pretty sweet little singing voice he has!

11:25 - Because I need Ellie's attention for her lessons, I asked Abbie to play a game with Ben.

But first, I need more coffee.

 11:37 - I need Abbie's attention for her math lesson, so I suggested that Ben play with his trains. He actually took to this ...

For at least one minute. At 11:38, he is now marching around singing his name "Benja-MIN Sam-uEL UUuuuuutecht!"

11:40 - Since he saw that Mommy  was using these fun little manipulatives to teach Abbie division, he wants to play with them "tooooooooo"!

11:43 - He's now asking to watch cartoooooons. And since I've nearly completely lost my own marbles, I finally agree that YES, you may watch cartoons, and Ellie - PLEASE go turn them on already!

Then - just as I start getting a thought on how I might best explain division to my firstborn - Ellie interrupts me and tells me that Daddy didn't set the TV back up after they all played Wii last night.

And now I'm doing that face-wipe thing with my outstretched hands while thinking about the yellow bus that drives by each morning at 8am ...

11:51 - And miraculously, we made it through the morning with no injuries, meltdowns, or loss of sanity. Sanctity? Well that's another issue altogether, now isn't it?  The kids got to watch the end of this cartoon while I went upstairs and made lunch.

 "Ben - where's your happiness?"  
"Right dere!"  (said with a very merry heart)

And after lunch, I sent him outside because he looooooves to play in the snow! 

So there you have it. There was a typical morning with a toddler while also trying to teach my older two their school lessons! I worked with the girls later in the afternoon, but we did actually accomplish some things during the morning mayhem. It's quite a ride, and I'm glad you came along for a few hours ...

Now do you see why I covet your prayer!?  Or why I absolutely INSIST on having him in nursery during worship service on Sundays? Or why I rarely answer my phone or respond to texts before 2pm? Or why I refuse to grocery shop with my kids? It all makes perfect sense to me, of course.

And I wouldn't trade it for the world. He's my little toddler-boy ... my sweet-singing, Elmo-loving, monkey-climbing, car-racing, bathwater-spashing, candy-craving, busybusybusy, beautiful toddler boy.

Much love!

Friday, February 24, 2012

100th Day of School & so much more!

WE DID IT! We made it to 100 days at GPE ...  

  • without making a therapy appointment for any of us (horray!)
  • with no injuries (well, there was the appendectomy)
  • with some tears, but lots and lots of laughter, learning, and progress! 

We celebrated 100 days today (Friday, Febr. 24) and had a great time. As Ellie says, "Today was awesome! I liked counting 100 animals and loved making a snack with 100 pieces of food!" 

We started the day with (at least!) 100 calories worth of chocolate donuts ... a true treat around here! 

Then we began by reading Luke 15:1-7, the story of the 100 sheep. What a great reminder that God's desire is to rescue the one lost sheep, for "there will be great joy (in heaven) when one sinner turns away from sin." I love that our God wants to rescue the one ... and still loves the 99. This made for a great conversation with the girls! 

Want to know what life was like 100 years ago?  So did we!  We got some books out and looked up some information on the web on life in 1912. Here's what we learned:
  • Photographs were all in black and white (Ellie noticed this right away)
  • The model T car had just been invented (1908) and becoming very popular as they were starting to be produced on the assembly line!
  • The great Titanic ship sank in April 1912, killing more than 1500 people
  • Harriet Quimby was the first woman licensed pilot and first to fly over the English Channel
  • WW1 was beginning to brew...
  • 5 million Americans visited cinemas daily!
  • Billy Sunday was a popular traveling evangelist (and if you want more information on him, ask Aron! He did his master's thesis on this guy while at UNK)
  • The Girl Scouts of America were formed
  • New Mexico and Arizona joined the US as official states, making 48 total in the United States
  • William Howard Taft ("Big Bill") was president from 1908-1912 (and thanks to him, we all now pay income taxes); Woodrow Wilson was elected in November 1912. 
  • And finally ... the girls' very own great-grandmother Josie Mussman Rigby was born on January 6, 1912! Happy 100th birthday to you, Grandma! 

After all that learning fun, the girls did some math counting to 100 with snack foods, pompoms, toothpicks, and filling in a missing-numbers chart to 100.


Then we tried to think of 100 animals! I wrote 10 different natural habitats for animals (ocean, desert, rainforest, safari, farm, etc) and had the girls think or search for 10 animals in that habitat. This took us awhile, but it was fun and a huge sense of accomplishment once we completed the chart! 

And of course some outside fun: throw & catch 100 times, then 100 jumps with the rope (which caused for much giggling)!

We had a great time! I think after 100 days maybe there's a feeling that we can actually do this homeschooling thing for the rest of the year. : )  

In other news, we "celebrated" Mardi Gras by talking about its traditions, music, cajun food, wild costumes, and parades. Trying to find images on the internet that are decent for little eyes was a bit of a challenge, but they are out there! We found some wonderful videos of parades and costumes! We listened to some Mardi Gras jazz, decorated the room some, wore beaded necklaces, and made these fun masks. And then the next day, we talked about Lent!

Ben's PlaySchool (I love these pics!)

He's starting to be more able or willing to entertain himself and play without being so demanding about it. This is a huge improvement from earlier this year, so I'm VERY thankful! 

Our New Friends

The girls have spent some time out at the Karges farm where they have milked the cow, collected eggs from the chicken house, and now have met the new TWIN calves! They went out last Sunday to meet them when they were only several hours old! (I wonder if anyone else thinks of "Norman" like I do when I see a newborn calf?!)

Other learning and fun stuff ... 

Ellie's focus this week was Z is for Zebra. We had fun painting the black stripes on these zebras, although technically we should have been painting white stripes since the skin of a zebra, we learned, is actually black with white fur stripes!

Abbie's starting to learn multiplication with this dice game. She was to represent the 2 numbers appearing on the face of the dice using the blue manipulatives so she could see the two sets of numbers to calculate. 

And this is just for good measure (and to keep us humble!).  Classic example of one kid working diligently but the other two totally goofing off!  But oh, how fun is that?! 

For "Talent Night" at this week's AWANA, the girls sang a duet of "This is My Father's World". Those sweet voices singing a praise to God made me cry! I have no idea where they get their voices OR their courage. Certainly not from their mama! Proves that all good gifts come from above from our heavenly Father.

So that's a lot for 2 weeks and now, I'm tired. I shall allow Calgon to take me away now! 

Much love,
The Utechts

Saturday, February 18, 2012

February Fun!

The first two weeks of this month have been BuSy! But fun has been had by all. Here's a little of what we've enjoyed together ... 

  • Abbie's 8th cowgirl birthday party! Yee-haw! 

  • A Valentine's Day party with some of their homeschool and neighbor friends! We made a craft, had a snack, played a game, talked about God's love, and exchanged Valentines with one another. So much fun! : ) 
Making their Valentines. 

Exchanging Valentines at their party :)
  • P is for Penguin! Ellie's science curriculum had us investigating penguins this week. We learned some interesting facts about these funny little creatures. Did you know the father penguin protects the mother's eggs by holding them on their feet for up to two months?! Such a good daddy penguin : )   We made a penguin craft, painted a picture of one, read several books, viewed some online, and ended the unit watching "Happy Feet". 

 Me: Where do penguins live, Ben? 
Ben: Right dere!

 Reading about the antarctic, where penguins live. 

 We made icebergs and put them in a bowl of water to envision what an iceberg looks like under water! Cool stuff...

  • Ellie continues to work on the concept of tens and ones, and this week started adding with numbers between 0-10. 

  • Abbie's science focus this week was on growing seeds. The experiment asked us to watch 10 popcorn seeds for 5 days - some with water, some without. 

  • Abbie started practicing cursive handwriting this month! She loves it ... why? Because it's FANCY.  : )
  • Abbie also finished a book report on Eli Whitney, the great inventor in the late 1700's who invented the cotton gin. 
  • We're learned more about the "Star Spangled Banner"; how Francis Scott Key watching the war of 1812 with England inspired his lyrics, how Betsy Ross was asked by George Washington to design and make the first "Stars and Stripes". Interesting stuff! 
  • Abbie started multiplication facts this week, which she's enjoying. We also got a new CD called "Number Bonds" which allows her an engaging way to keep practicing math facts through the concept of number bonding. It's a fun game, if I say so myself! 

  • Abbie got some GREAT feedback from two very loved readers of her Lady Liberty project! She had so much fun reading those comments, so a huge thanks for your involvement! Here is a picture of Abbie learning how to compose an email and attaching her document. 

  • As usual, PlaySchool continues for Ben!

  • We have some very special guests with us this weekend for Ben's dedication at church: Grandpa Sam, Grandma Lori, and two sweet cousins! We get to share with them all that we're doing here at GPE, which is always fun for us. 

Looking ahead ... 
  • Z is for Zebra! 
  • Lewis & Clark - we're SO excited about this! 
  • Celebrate our 100th day of school! 
  • Pioneers still heading west
  • A very special Grandma has a birthday this week :)
Much love to you all ... 
The Utechts

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Halfway There!

I realized after our return from Christmas travels and getting started back into our schooling that we've officially reached our half-way mark with 85 days of school completed! What an adventure those days were, and I can say with assurance that the remaining 85 days will also be a journey : )  

Here is a little sampling of what we've been doing these past two weeks at GPE, starting with E. 

Writing is becoming a favorite activity for E! She's writing her own sentences and really doesn't like it when I try to "help" her with my sentence starters! ; )  

 She started the 2nd book in her Singapore Math Kindergarten curriculum and is starting to figure out how sets of 10 are represented as a "tens" value. 

H is for horse! This is E's horse shape made from molding clay.

She's a reading fool ... I LOVE listening to her read!

And speaking of reading fools ... this picture makes me smile. HUGE smile!

Abbie has been reading up on the Statue of Liberty this month. We've read several books, a Kids Discover magazine on Lady Liberty, and viewed some internet sites as we've all been learning more about this lady along with A! 

She and Daddy fired up Mommy's old Dell laptop and she created the coolest Powerpoint presentation on a few of the things she learned about Lady Liberty. If you'd like to see it, let us know! I'm sure she'd love to email it to you and tell you all about it. :)

A's thinking about measurements this month - the metric system and the US system. Here she had to collect a few household items (can of soup, tennis ball, apple, book) to weigh them on her scale. Fun stuff!

Who says homeschoolers don't have recess!? Notice - NO SNOW in January!!!

B stays busy at Playschool :)

 Ben's new train from Grandma Dee. LOVES it!

Mommy's little helper : ) 

He loves wipes and is here cleaning off his farm.

I love this little man!

Daddy helped this week by rearranging some things, hanging some hooks on walls, and creating more space for us at GPE! What a life-saver ... 

In other events, this is Ellie with her Daisy Girl Scout group! She loves being in Daisies! 

 Here is Abbie's Brownie troop! She's earned a number of badges already and loves being part of this group! Many of her friends from Beultah Elementary are in this group, along with her "bestie" who lives across the street. If you want some Girl Scout cookies later this month, you know who to call!

So there you have it! January is officially complete! 

Coming up in February ...  
  • We'll host a Valentine's Day party
  • Pioneers moving west!
  • P is for Penguin!
  • Start learning about multiplication (A)
  • Begin cursive handwriting (A)
  • A special student at GPE turns 8!
Much love,
The Utechts