Tuesday, June 25, 2013

We Almost Kissed Dating our Kids Goodbye...

It seems like all the experts agree---dates with your kids is a great idea. That's nice, but getting something from "great idea" to "implementation complete and part of monthly schedule" are two very different things in a household with multiple young children.

For several years now, we have made valiant attempts to institute 1 on 1 dates with our children. We would start, try, keep it going for a while but frankly the demands of chasing the other three, life and ministry caught up with us, and our good intentions were all that we had left(well, that and 4 kids).
But, we finally hunkered down, committed, and decided to make it happen. We pray regularly for our kids, we want them to feel special as individuals, and we're trying to raise them right. With God's help, we can do dates. Right?!?
Right. So, we put one kid on the calendar for each week, and started dating. With our plan, they would each get one date per month.

It was not an auspicious beginning. The kid going on the date was super excited, had a great time, and was ready to tell all to his siblings upon his/her return...but the remaining house-bound three were grief-stricken, jealous and upset the entire time their sibling was gone(in our house, that also means that they got pretty loud). It was not a pretty situation! Every time a date was on the calendar....it was more cringe-inducing than exciting.

For a while, the dates seemed to be ready to die a premature and unhappy death...but we pressed on. And, after all of the kids had a chance to go on their their date, even in their young minds, they started to get it.
It wasn't long before they realized that their sibling might be having a great time without them, but it would soon be their turn. They LOVE the one-on-one attention (tough to come by in a house with four young ones). And they have started to talk about their dates all month long...deciding which parent they will bring, (they get to decide) where they will go, what they will eat, what books they will bring for mommy or daddy to read to them...and whether they will go to the big store in town that has...drum roll...escalators!!
After several months of 1 on 1 dates with our kids, we are into a routine. When the CHOSEN ONE leaves for their date, the other siblings wave goodbye happily. And, upon their return, they crowd around the returning brother or sister and pepper them with questions about what they did.

It's working a lot better than we thought it might. At first...it seemed like yet another parenting disaster...but it has turned out to be a great way for our kids to learn delayed gratification, the importance of polite patience, and also to take joy in the happiness of others.

And to think we almost kissed dating our kids goodbye...We're so glad we didn't.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer School Part Deux

So, this is Summer School Post part Deux: Be Cool, Stay in Summer School.

In case you are interested (and who wouldn't be?!?) :) in our really awesomely fun Homeschool summer school program...read on. 

So, my easy summer of minimal academia that turned into REAL school 5 days a week goes something like this...  

We normally start our morning with the Pledge of Allegiance...  You can see a video of 2-year old Skye saying it here.

Then, we have a bit of calendar time and also, chart the weather...and in case you didn't know...it's almost always cloudy or at least partly to mostly cloudy.  :)  Ok...I'm not sure that made sense...but you get the idea...there are CLOUDS. And rain. We live in the mountains. And mountains are cloud magnets. We're just taking the word of Yahoo.com and our Facebook friends that there was a Supermoon this week...cuz we sure didn't see it.

After the Pledge, we move on to the Bible verses that we've been learning.

We have been memorizing verses that I got from the I Can Teach My Child website.  I printed and laminated them.  You can get the FREE printable here.

After verses, we work on whatever poem we are memorizing @ the time.
Right now, Asia is working on memorizing this one!

Maker of Heaven and Earth (All Things Bright and Beautiful)

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.

The purple-headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset, and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
We gather every day;--

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well. 

From there we move on to Bible Time.  I normally use Egermeier's Bible Story Book.  But this summer we've been reading through the Jesus Storybook Bible for our Bible Class.  The boys have been through the Jesus Storybook Bible several times. And right now, Brian is going through The Lamb with them at night.
We have been focusing on a bit of Geography...  This Beginning Geography workbook isn't the world's greatest geography book...but I do like that all the pages are reproducible...which is nice...so, I can just photocopy for Asia...and don't have to think about buying a new workbook for each kid.  And often, the other 3 kids want to take part...so, it's easy for me to just photocopy the page again. We've also spent a bit of time learning a little about each of the 50 States and a few different countries.
We've been reading through these "Science" books...that we've been given.
The other "science" thing I've really been trying to focus on teaching the kids is...to OBSERVE the nature around them.  I found a Birds of the Philippines book...and we've spotted loads of interesting birds in our own backyard.  Wishing I could find a Tropical Insects book...the one we have is for insects in North America...but the kids enjoy looking at it and comparing them to what we see here.  We see loads of lizards and toads...so, we have read all about them.

The other day....the kids went out to play on our back "porch"...and they spotted a moth.  Slater came racing back in to find the Insect book...so, they could figure out what kind of moth it was...  This was all without any parental prompting...  That's what I call SWEET SUCCESS!
I have never been a fan of poetry...and previously I had only read Mother Goose and the Llama Who Had No Pajamas to the kids...but I didn't want my kids to turn out like me...so, I've been faithfully reading a poem every day from the Poetry Anthology that you can get FREE online here.  I actually, had it printed out and bound for about $3.  

Just the other day...Leif requested that Brian read him poetry instead of a chapter book before bedtime.

We've really been focusing on Time & Money this summer.  Along with a bit of workbook work...We've been playing store for practicing using money and making change. And, Asia got a watch for her birthday...so, we've really been practicing telling time.
A friend gave us a few of these Geronimo Stilton books.  And we've been using them as read-alouds for the twins.  They LOVE them!  While they aren't what I would consider "the Greatest Literature of ALL time"...I think they have been a fantastic introduction to chapter books for two little boys who have a hard time sitting still.  And well...to be honest...I have actually, laughed out loud at some of the "cheesy puns".  Definitely excellent for boys!

After we finished off our stack of Geronimo Stilton...Brian moved on to reading Henry Huggins to them. He finished it last night, and one of the boys declared it a "perfect" chapter book. He then asked if they could read it again. Brian explained that they would...after reading through other chapter books.

The best part of this is...less than a year ago, the thought of the boys sitting semi-still (and actually enjoying) being read to from a chapter book was almost laughable. But we started slow, and now they are LOVING them. (Asia, on the other hand, sat happily and had the entire Little House series read to her before she was 5. Same house, different kids.)
Also, just read this book to the twins...One little boy in particular really enjoyed it.  He calls himself Leif the Lucky now.  :)
These are the last few read-alouds I've read to Asia.  And I am now reading through Peter Pan with all 4 kids.
And these are the chapter books that Asia has been reading... 
We are also almost finished with Level 1 of Sing, Spell, Read & Write...and no, we didn't use the cassette tapes.  Ha!  It has been a fantastic program...Asia has become quite the little reader.  And I already started using the phonics songs to teach the twins.  We are definitely very big fans of multi-sensory programs...and this is an amazing one...  It is very pricey, but for us it has been worth it.
The kids also love this DRAW-Write-NOW series.  They use them pretty much every day! It's a cool combination of easy instructions for drawing pictures, a bit of copy work, and some historical tidbits as well. Highly recommended.

So, that's a bit of what we've been working on this Summer...

I am always looking for new curriculum and fun and interesting books to use with the kids...  So, if you have any recommendations...please let me know.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Letter of the Week

We are brand new to this homeschooling thing...only been going a little over a year...  And we are brand new to homeschooling twins.  Leif & Slater are only 4 1/2...so, I'm not freaking out about homeschooling them...but they are begging to do school...so, this is what we are doing lately:

We are doing a Letter of the Week.  I am taking things very slow and just trying to teach them what sounds the letters make and how to write them.  I normally try to read a Letter of the Week book...but my "library" is limited...so sometimes I just have to read a generic ABC book.  Also, I use the Sing, Spell, Read & Write phonics song to teach the letter sounds...which works soo well that even Little Skye is now singing along.
You can hear Leif sing the phonics song here.
I got these awesome printables over @ Confessions of a Homeschooler.  She has great stuff and some stuff is even available for free.  I printed off what I wanted to use and laminated them...so, the boys can write and erase to their little hearts content...and I don't have to panic about how many trees were cut down.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, we focus on what sound the letter makes and how to write it...and also, a bit about what words start with the letter.
Confessions of a Homeschooler also has these letter finds...which I also laminated...So, eventually, Skye can use all of them also.
We normally start out our day with a coloring page or two...While I read to them or work with Asia.

This homeschooling twins thing is interesting...and I'm learning a lot.  They are sooo very different...one tends to be more careful and one tends to speed through things.  So, that makes things a little challenging...  
The twins were also given these Comprehensive Preschool Curriculum Books.  We normally work through these on Wednesday.  We just cover the pages of whatever I am teaching them @ the time.
Thursday is craft day...  This is a huge stretch for me...a)because I am not a crafty person and b)I am a bit of a neat freak(my husband would probably call it something else)...and crafts with four kids ages 2 to 6...tends to get really, really messy.  But the kids love it...so, I am learning to love  tolerate it.  Ha!
The twins ask ALL week long if it's craft day yet.  :)  Those are supposed to be Dinosaurs(Brian thought they were turtles)...Hey, I told you that I'm not crafty...Thank God for Pinterest!
The twins thought this Letter of the Week thing was going too slowly(Slater informed me that it was too long until Z)...so, they taught themselves the rest of the letters using the Curious George ABCs story and they already knew the sounds from the Sing, Spell, Read & Write phonics song.

The boys listen/participate in Asia's Bible, Science, History/Geography and Poetry Classes.  They are little stinkers and Asia is going to have to watch out...because they often know the answers to my questions before she does.  :)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

VOTE for Summer...School

For those of you who got the Napoleon Dynamite reference...congratulations.(and please send chapstick cuz my lips hurt real bad.) For those of you who didn't...that's ok. It has pretty much nothing to do with this post.

Anyway...My plans for the summer were to have a fun leisurely school time. You know, read some fun books to the kids.  Finish up the rest of Asia's reading program...  Nothing too crazy...and certainly nothing too rigid.  HA!

I guess I should have talked this through with my kids...because...that is not what they had in mind.  
They LOVE school...on Saturday & Sunday...they beg to "do school".  I have put my foot down on that one...this Mama needs a break.  

But this summer...  We have ended up doing some REAL school.

Monday through Friday. 

And honestly...keeping on a schedule works much better for the overall sanity level of our household.
I have been doing a "Letter of the Week" with the twins.  But I'll save that for another post.
Asia has worked hard on finishing up Level 1 of Sing, Spell, Read & Write...plus, some other things...but again...that will be another post.  And Skye has been joining us for what I like to call "snack time".  HA!  Just kidding...she doesn't eat snack the WHOLE time. Mostly at this point she is learning the art of sitting semi-quietly, playing not too loudly, and chewing and swallowing her many snacks...sort of quietly while her sibling have more structured learning time.
See...sometimes she works on Math Pattern Blocks...or even colors.  :) She's also an impressive Play-doh sculptor.
Skye also spends time with her Lalaloopsies.  Which she just adores!  Or other toys she can play with quietly.
But a LOT of the time is about having snack! She turns 3 in August and she just tips the scale at 20 pounds right now...(but perfectly healthy, just tiny) so she is burning it off somehow. I'd like to borrow her metabolism for a few years.
As I said...my little superheroes have been working on their letters...
When they aren't working on their letters they color or draw or do stencils...and listen to what I'm teaching Asia.  
And sometimes...like when Grammy sends them new Legos...they are allowed to play quietly while they listen.  There are sooo many times I have thought they weren't paying any attention...but they'll surprise me and know the answer to my questions before Asia does.  
Here, Asia is coloring a picture of a jaguar...since we've been studying the Rain Forest.
We have also spent a lot of time outside...OBSERVING nature.  Can you see the toad that Skye is checking out?
Many times after spotting something new in nature and reading about it in one of our nature books...the kids draw pictures about what they've seen.  Here they are drawing pictures of a millipede that they found in our yard one day.
We try to take nature walks when we can...
And we spend a lot of time reading...
Good thing we have another reader in the house.  
I also, spend a TON of time reading to the kiddos.

Our 'summer' has ended up very different from what I originally envisioned. But Asia is learning to read well, the twins are learning their letters and proper classroom behavior, and Skye is starting to get into the act. Let's hear it for Summer School!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Family Fitness

Exercise....ha. First of all...cards on the table. Trying to exercise and stay in shape over the last 4 years in a foreign country has been a far from simple process.

The intangibles have been many...for example--- 3 young kids. 2 new languages. and...Whoah! Where'd that cute little girl come from?!?  Yeah...Add 1 more kid to that mix. That makes 4.

Add that to our battle-scarred high-school warrior bodies (we both have had multiple sports-injury-induced leg surgeries) And you have a complicated fitness situation.

But, somehow, despite the strikes against us, it's working.
Not every day.
Not always the way we'd like,
Not without injuries.

But it's working. We've spent the time to figure out how to make our fitness be a part of our lives here, and it's actually working. It's worked because we've found things we actually like, we have chances to compete (which is just a big part of our personalities) and we can do our workouts of choice either at home or close to home with minimal equipment.
Brooke has found a way to take out her aggression on someone other than her husband! :) (Just joking dear) She has found a local Muay Thai group that she exercises with regularly. The best thing? She has developed really neat relationships in the midst of a lot of punching and kicking. Her Muay Thai friends have runs several races together and even traveled to a different island so that two of Brooke's friends could be in a Muay Thai competition.
I,(Brian) joined a local runner's group and compete whenever I can in local 5-K's. And, whenever I can, I do some running with the kiddos in our yard or at the local park. They love it! If you can't tell from the picture, races start early here. Brooke brought the kids to watch me finish my most recent 5-K, and they just made it to see me finish (while still wearing their jammies) at about 5:30 AM. (yes, that was when I finished the race...I started considerably earlier.)
While I like to do shorter races (this might have something to do with me having 13 leg surgeries) Brooke enjoys going longer---her longest race was an 18-K and now she's hoping to do a half-marathon. The kids ask us on a regular basis if we're gonna get a gold medal. Some day they'll understand that we're just mommy and daddy mid-packers...and that gold medals are not going to happen...but for now they are learning that exercise is just a normal part of life, and they love to join in!
Asia has been doing ballet for over a year now, and still loves it. She is starting to practice more at home now as well, and taking lessons has really taught her a lot about discipline and teamwork, as well as some cool ballet skills.
And, when it's wet outside, we can always pull out good old Billy Blanks. the kids love to punch and kick along to Mr. Taebo--- at least for a while. But whenever they can, they'd rather be playing hard outside, which is right where we want them.

So...with a lot of trial and error, we've found some ways that work to keep our whole family exercising---It's not perfect, and what we do won't work for everybody, but after a lot of stops and starts, we have a regularly exercising household that, Lord-willing is developing some good habits that will last a lifetime.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Ballet Closing Program

Our house has been  getting a little more graceful all year, and it has a lot to do with Asia's ballet practice. Frankly, when she started ballet in Manila long ago (she was almost three at the time) we figured that she would like it for a little while, and like most three-year olds, she would get tired of it and decide she wanted to be a gymnast for three months, then a tap dancer for two months, and then want to run away and join the circus for at least a week or two. 
But, she has surprised both mommy and daddy with her determination to stick with ballet. For our first year in our new location, there was no ballet, but she never stopped hoping and praying that she would get to have lessons. And finally, a program started here and she jumped in with both tippy-toes.

And, this summer especially, she has really improved. It is seriously fun as parents, to watch her perform in her closing summer program, when we can remember only too well last year's summer closing program...which was....danced with...umm...great enthusiasm!
But this year, along with her enthusiasm, her skills and balance have improved a lot. I wouldn't say that the Prima Ballerinas in Moscow and Paris need to be worried at this point. But, it is super exciting to watch our kiddo step up and really work on something over a long period of time, and then see it pay off in her class's awesome final performance!

Check out the sweet video here!
And, for some comparison....check out last year's video! :)

Go Asia! Whatever you do, I pray you keep doing it with all your heart!