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Friday, June 9, 2017

Friday Favorites

It's FriYaY and it also happens to be the first week of summer for many of you, so hopefully you have your summer playlist on repeat, some restaurant salsa mixed up and a batch of margaritas chilling in the fridge to kick the weekend off right. If not you need to rectify some things stat (right after you finish reading this.)

Here's a quick list of things I'm loving right now. As always, hit me back with your own recommendations so I can enjoy more goodness in my life courtesy of your fabulous self.

Happy Weekend!

This is How it Always Is
Some of y'all probably saw me binge-reading over the weekend via my Instastory. How I loved this read! Pretty sure I found it via Anne Bogel's summer reading list (if you love books and don't follow Anne's blog The Modern Mrs. Darcy you need to change the way you're living life). It's about a family that has to deal with the major curveball life throws their way.  The title comes from the idea that as parents we frequently make life decisions for our kids based on variables we cannot control and without sufficient knowledge. So relatable. I found myself empathizing with a situation I have never experienced personally and wrestling with how I would react given the same circumstances. SO GOOD!

Tybee Island Marine Center emails
When I took the kids to Savannah in April we joined the Tybee Island Marine Center (for a whooping $25 we got a year long family membership) which is a tiny but interesting building right near the beach that you could see in its entirety in 25-35 minutes. However, becoming a member got me on their email list which means that right now (during turtle nesting season) I get real time updates each time a loggerhead turtle comes to nest out on the beach! It is SO fun to get these little pictures and updates several times a week in my inbox and for real, it has been the highlight of my day more than a few times. The highest number of nests they have had since they began tracking is 23 and just a few weeks in to nesting season, they are already up to 9!! It could be a big year for sea turtles folks.

Elevation's Chocolate Mint protein bars
Maybe you saw this in my Instastory already, but these bad boys are LEGIT YUM.
I've been on a major protein kick this year to help me build muscle in the gym and in an effort to get my huge amount of protein each day, I picked up these bars from Aldi. They are kinda high in carbs (31g if you're watching that sort of thing) but I usually eat little in the way of carbs at other meals (I make up for it with my fat intake #cheese #almonds #chocolate). Most significantly, these are reminiscent of Thin Mints and even BJ thinks they are good. High praise indeed.  

Heavy lifting
I'm still at it and y'all....I am sooooo close to getting that pull-up! I've been using to find a variety of great, free plans (like this 4-week plan for women, with nutrition and workouts all laid out for you) and am loving the change of pace from my usual cardio-heavy routine. Lifting makes me feel so strong and confident. Plus at the YMCA there's a tight-knit crew of people who lift so joining the club has increased the adult conversations I have during the week by approximately 750%. I can do a kipping overhand pull-up now and can do a chin-up or a neutral grip pull-up from a dead hang. Fear not, I will for sure let you know the very second I get my real pull-up. (via Instastory, so be sure you're following me there if you care about such things...@leipprandt)

Sexy Marriage Radio Podcast
Huge thanks to my friend Annie for this recommendation. Sexy Marriage Radio is the podcast "that believes the best sex is happening in the marriage bed." The two hosts are married (not to each other) and the focus of each episode is on having great sex within your marriage. Their approach is frank but not explicit.  Both BJ and I have been listening this past month and since healthy, awesome (and sexy) marriages are our heart and passion, I had to share it with you guys. Can't recommend it enough to my married peeps.

Summer Moms Group
This is less of a what-I'm-loving-now and more a what-I-know-I'm-about-to-love.  In two weeks I'm hosting a moms group using this Birds on a Wire curriculum, which is AMAZING. There are six sessions on Purpose, Boundaries, Time Management, Personalities, Discipline and Contentment. I cannot wait to get to know some moms better and encourage one another! If you're local and are interested in joining us, text/email/comment and let me know, we'd love to have you!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Reflections on The 3rd Year Of Homeschooling

Truthfully, this year was the hardest. I had a second grader, a Kindergartener, a 4 year old and a 2 year old in the background wreaking havoc.

Jude dropped his morning nap about 8 weeks into the school year. Somedays I plopped him in front of the TV (but when I did that the others would whine and moan about the desperate unfairness of life) other days I would stick him in the bathtub and let him splash until the floor was covered in an inch of water and his fingers looked like peach pits.  On the hardest days I was in tears from his two year old antics by 9am.

Back in August my second grader still stumbled over simple letter blends and could hardly read. Motivating him was a Herculean task. On bad days (there were plenty) I thought I was damaging them. On the days when I was tempted to quit it all (probably five or six if I'm honest) and send my kids to the (delightful, wonderful, amazing) school that is literally a stone's throw away from our house, I reflected on my Why in starting down this crazy road and pondered if it still applied given the chaos.

Our Why of homeschooling is to prolong these fleeting years of play, to give our kids extended time to foster their primary relationships at this age (with parents, siblings and extended family) and to develop a love of learning that springs from the delight of discovery, not the compulsion of drudgery.

This Why reminds me to say yes to stomping in puddles and racing boats down the gutters instead of insisting on the day's spelling lesson. This Why says no (for now) to Parent's Morning Out or homeschool co-op groups. This Why says yes to a trip to the beach to see GranAnn during the school week and an impromptu sleepover on a Tuesday night with Gigi and Pops. This Why whispers, "let it go..." when I want to push another math lesson in place of an hour of Lego building.

So yes, school this year looked like role play for hours as each kid fought for the part they wanted, plot lines were debated and accepted, costumes were carefully selected and action commenced.

School looked like was an impromptu tour of the mayor's office and a discussion of local government when we went to get a permit for a garage sale one day.

It looked like my second grader's math practice to determine whether he had enough money saved up for a Pokemon book .

School happened on the beach in late November, finding treasures and seeing math and God's perfection all around us.

It showed up when brother and sister used their bodies as canvases and cracked eggs and read recipes and baked their own birthday cake. 

Looking back I see what couldn't be contained in those tidy 45 minute blocks at the dining room table. More often than not our learning came unexpectedly and in forms that took me by surprise- like a seed our lessons would lay dormant for weeks and then seemingly without cause spring up overnight and send out joyful shoots in wild and unpredictable directions.

It's only when I forget my Why that the How seems insurmountable and the chaos engulfs me. When I look back I can see that the Why expressed itself in the How and we were all better because of it.


Lately a lot of you have asked about the How: so for those of you that want the nitty gritty, I've broken it down by subject below for your reading pleasure.

(And for those of you who don't care about the How - thanks for reading!)

We have always used a combination of curricula as opposed to turnkey, all-in-one program like Sonlight or an online academy. I am not an expert by ANY means, my knowledge is limited to my experience in the past 3 years and with 2 early elementary students, so take everything I say with that very large caveat.

We have used Singapore Math for the past 2 years. In Kindergarten my oldest used Math-U-See, but teaching it never felt intuitive, so I switched in first grade and definitely prefer it. Math is the one subject you probably NEED to have a curriculum for unless you have an advanced degree in teaching mathematics. Sequence is critical in laying a foundation for later mathematics. Elijah is right on grade level, having just finished up their 2nd book and Brit is a bit ahead, having started on her 1st grade curriculum this Spring.

I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with my Kindergartener and it took her from a basic knowledge of the alphabet and some letter sounds in August to reading on a second grade level by April. I chose it because I had very little knowledge of how to teach phonics and this helped me understand the process myself. Once she finished the curriculum she began choosing progressively harder library reads and is now reading simple chapter books (Magic Tree House series are a favorite) She was FAR easier to teach than her older brother, which I think is more a function of the way she is wired than the curriculum I used. She probably would have had similar results had she used Abeka (what my oldest used in Kindergarten) but I switched over because I understood the methods in Teach Your Child to Read better - which I think is KEY. If you don't like what you're using, it's going to be hard to get your kids excited about it.

For history/geography/literature we have followed The Story of the World for two years. I ADORE THIS CURRICULUM. I cannot say enough good things about it. (But hey, I'll give it a try...) I love that this curriculum is not ethnocentrically focused on the Western/Christian world and that my children understood the rich history of the civilizations of Africa and Asia before we ever mentioned Columbus and the colonization of the Americas. There is a Judeo-Christian slant (for instance, the story of the Jewish exodus is taught as fact as well as the life of Christ) but my children have learned about the Greek and Roman gods, the five pillars of Islam, Buddha, Confucius and Hinduism alongside these Biblical accounts and know the role of these religions in history far earlier than I did going through school. I have purchased the audio CDs and the activity book and during our lessons my kids would color a picture or a map for our timeline while we listened to the stories. It was SO nice to have someone else doing the lecturing for a change!! Even if you don't homeschool, I think these CDs would be an amazing addition to your car collection (our local library carries all of them). We all enjoy listening to the stories and the kids will beg me to play it just a little longer when we're in the car. Maybe a different option for your next road trip?!

For spelling this year we switched to All About Spelling as I realized my oldest was not intuitively picking up on spelling as his reading progressed and he actually needed to understand the rules that govern the English language. I started my Kindergartener on it alongside of him and they are both mid-way through Book 2 here at the end of our year. For an intuitive reader, it's probably overkill, but for someone like my son who struggles to see words whole it has been wonderful.

For science, I follow the sequence author Susan Wise Bauer lays out in The Well-Trained Mind, which basically studies the sciences in the order man "discovered" them. This year was divided into the study of the natural earth (rocks, biomes, weather, landforms, the ocean, etc) and astronomy. Next year we will move on to physics at the same time Newton comes onto the scene in history. I usually purchase a comprehensive text (like this one or this one) to help guide our initial exploration of subjects within that science, and then we watch YouTube videos, enjoy Magic School Bus episodes, take field trips (this year to Fernbank and a natural cave system) and do as many hands-on experiments and natural observation as we can. This past semester has definitely been harder since the kids haven't been able to experience zero-gravity and we never did make it to an observatory for some serious star-gazing.

The kids also have to do P.E. everyday - skateboarding, bike riding or push-ups/sit-ups/squats on crummy days -which is why they have such great push-ups and plank form at karate class. Elijah  also began music lessons with my dad this year.

If we tackle each of these subjects daily (and it's rare that we do) it would take a maximum of 2 hours to get through everything with Elijah and about an hour to an hour and a half for Britain. Clearly we are not sitting at the dining room table all day every day. If the kids understand their lessons quickly, we move on. If something takes a long time for them to grasp (ahem, reading) we just keep plugging away at it. If we are having a terrible horrible no good kind of day, we stop. We play. We run errands or go to the park and I pray and trust that the Why will take care of the How.

More posts about our homeschool journey:

Year One:  We had a newborn, a 2 year old, a 3.5 year old and a Kindergartener. I freaked out and  put the 5 year old Kindergartener in a hybrid-homeschool program that had him out of the house 2 days a week and had me following pre-set lesson plans 3 days a week at home.

Last Year: I decided I wanted more control (I'm a slow learner, control is an illusion...) so I kept our first grader totally at home and did a bit of pre-schooling here and there with his 4 year old sister while our 3 year old and 18 month old wrecked our home in the background.

Shoot me an email or comment if you have any more questions about the whole thing. I love talking homeschool!

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