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Last year I wrote out a list of 15 Resolutions.  I've learned a lot about goal setting since new-years-day-234805_1280 (1)then so I know that my list was really too cumbersome  and probably did not necessarily stick to my main priorities in life- so I didn't do so good in keeping them.  Still, I made some improvements in some areas and I personally feel that if people don't make that list of goals- whether it's called resolutions, goals, or whatever one chooses to call it, those improvements are much less likely to occur.  So I'm going over last year's list and the goal list I made in the fall to develop a plan of action for 2015.  So here's a brief review of how I did on my 2014 resolutions.

1.  Stick to the Paleo Diet at least 93% of the time.  -  We did really well with this for the first part of the year, not so good these last few months.  We haven't totally failed it; but it was more likely to be in the 70% range if I were to give it a number and YES- I've noted quite a difference so I WILL be focused on getting back to that 90% range!

2.  Exercise, on average, 3 times a week.   - Uh, well.......ooops.  Kind of failed this one.  My exercising tends to go in spurts and while I got myself really motivated about 3 months back to start again, it lasted about 2 days before I sprained my foot and well, yeah.  You get it.

3. Add Evening Prayers to my Prayer Routine.  Hmmmm.   I did it for awhile.  My problem is really  lack of routine at bedtime anymore and keeping my prayer book or bible by the bedside.  It tends to get moved a lot.  Maybe I just need to print out a copy of the ones I like for night and put it in the book I'm reading as the book tends to stay by the bedside more than the bible does.

4.  Read at least 3 books that are of Orthodox content over the course of the year.  Ooops.  Maybe I haven't done as well with these resolutions as I originally thought.  While I worked on several, I did not complete any from cover to cover.

5.  Read at LEAST 12 Newberry Medal Books.  Well, I didn't get in 12 but I do know it was my resolution to read them that kept them present in my mind and was the reason I did get through seven of them!  (Yes, I did finish Flora and Ulysses just the other day!)

6.  Read:

  •  2014 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market   YES!!!!  I did that!
  • A Family of Readers:  A Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature - well, almost.  It got misplaced in the move and I still haven't unpacked all the book boxes as we're still awaiting for the man to complete our built in shelves for the library.
  • Honey For a Child's Heart -  Another one in a box somewhere, but I believe I got at least halfway through that one too.

7.  Watch my Charlotte Mason Videos -  YES!!!  I did that too!  And I read a lot more about the methodology!

8.  Research for a Preschool Curriculum and make a decision by April.  Yes!  I did this too.  I didn't go with a preschool curriculum though.  I realized he was already beyond preschool and I didn't want to go with just one set curriculum this year.  I went with a variety of things including Simply Charlotte Mason's Delightful Reading program which we are taking very slowly and truly enjoying it!

9.  Break 3 Bad habits.  Well , I did break one!  (Nope, not telling- just saying it's done- you'll have to trust me on that one)

10.  Maintain my Gratitude Journal.  My journal, no - though I did add to it here and there. But I did keep a list of things I'm grateful for for my husband and presented it at Christmas.  So I DID work on gratitude and will continue to keep that as a daily goal.

11.  Maintain This Blog!  Well, it's still here so I guess I did it!  I didn't make the huge strides I had hoped for but I did gain viewers and didn't lose them so I'd say I'm still successful.  🙂

12.  Keep Writing!!!  Well, yes, I did do that.  Again, not as much progress as I had hoped for but I haven't given it up.  I think I need to really set more definite and attainable goals for the blog and my other writing.

13.  Set more time aside for ME.  I have done better with this.  This year I have really kept this in my mind as something I need to do and am making progress.  With that comes guilt though and I need to work more at overcoming that and setting my boundaries and reactions to others when they don't understand my need to do this.

14.  Spend more quality time with my children and husband.  I think this year was a definite improvement.  There is still room, of course, for further improvement.  But I would definitely say my husband and I have had many more date nights and time together than previous years and that I've spent more 'fun' time with the kids without feeling pressed for time.

15.  Work on Easy and Quick Paleo Meals that will ensure that I have time to do all of the above.  Yes, I've worked on this and the biggest realization I've made is that I need to stop trying to please the hubby and kids with all their favorite meals and something different so often. I need to make ease and time efficiency my priorities (after HEALTHY of course).

Photos by Pixabay
Photos by Pixabay

So in all, I feel successful.  No I didn't carry out every single one 100% or even half of them- but I think the list kept me on track to make progress.  And sometimes progress is all we can ask for!

How did you do this past year with resolutions?  Are you making a list for 2015?

 

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My son is three. He'll be four at the end of the month.  I didn't really intend for this to be his 'preschool' year but it seems to have turned out that way.  I simply followed his lead.  He was interested in letters.  So I found him fun activities/workbooks to follow his interest.  He started recognizing words in books and other places and asking what others were, so I started lessons with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  He started asking what the day was so I got this wpid-IMG_20140307_121351_208.jpghanging calendar from Amazon (see photo at right)  He watches Netflix, not regular television so we try to choose some of the educational programs like the Leapfrog programs (although he's watched his share of Jake and the Neverland Pirates!) He likes a variety of materials to play with so I made quite a few educational busy bag activities. He likes to read books and we choose not only fiction books at the library but we always make sure we have at least one non-fiction book about an animal or something about nature.  We also read segments from the book:  What Your Preschooler Needs to Know  ( I wouldn't ever rely on those books for an entire curriculum base, but they are a handy side tool). And I've done a few of the activities in Before Five In A Row, a wonderful guide of mini units and things to do with a child ages 2-4+. These are just a few things we've done this year, of course, but as I have further explored Preschool Curriculums I have discovered that we have, indeed, pretty much covered everything already.

Preschoolers are happy at home and can easily be schooled there without the classroom of other noisy toddlers with bad habits to influence  your child.  It's so easy (and natural) to weave everyday activities into your child's life and enrich their perfectly natural development.  And really, our kids are hardwired to learn without us having to do a whole lot to build on the development at this age.  They learn through their everyday activities - building with blocks, putting together puzzles, playing games with you and siblings, listening to you read to them, asking their never-ending questions, and creative play.

As your child's parent, you know him or her best. Perhaps a preschool teacher has had special education and training in child development and early education, but you, personally, know your child's personality and his or her strengths and weaknesses as well as what he or she already knows or doesn't.  And, YOU alone, love your child like only a parent can and know what is best for YOUR child.

Let me also briefly address that 'socialization issue'.....  which really could be its own post one day....   Real socialization does not occur in a contrived classroom of a group of children all the same age all learning the exact same thing (regardless of whether they already know it or not) in the exact same way with only a few adults to serve as role models.  So let's not worry about the socialization thing with preschoolers...  you can find like aged friends for your child at the library, church or at the park.  But your child doesn't need JUST like aged friends....they need interaction with older children and adults too!  Homeschoolers, for the most part, receive much better socialization than public school children.

Getting Started is easy!

  • Determine your goals: What is  your purpose in homeschooling?  What skills do you wish for your child to learn? (Make this basic - trying to come up with a whole bunch of nit picky little objectives will drive you batty and take the fun out of it - this is Preschool - not school for astronauts)
  • Determine what your styles are:  This would be for you AND your child.  You need to realize what your own style is AND that of your child so that if they are dramatically different, you can work on ways to balance that out.  If this is the case, make sure to connect with LOTS of other homeschool moms and find out how they did it.  You can not go forward if you are the authoritarian style who thrived on sitting in a desk reading textbooks and taking tests if your child is a hands-on kind of kid who is strongly auditory or a kinesthetic learner.
  • Find out what your resources are:  What do you have locally that will aid you in your homeschooling adventure? Are there local playgroups?  Is there a local homeschool co-op?  A homeschool group with support meetings for moms?  Museums? Library?  Do you have books or internet sites lined up that are valuable sources of information?
  • Find out your states' laws on homeschooling.  In Pennsylvania, one does not need to report until the year the child reaches the age of 8, so there are no set requirements for preschoolers.  I am unaware of other state laws, so please be sure to find out.  I doubt that Preschool would be an issue - but you'll want to know at what age you will need to report and what that entails well in advance!

On a side note, IF your child has special needs, you can STILL homeschool!  Homeschooling allows a parent a one-on-one ratio - something your child will not get in a public school and there are lots of resources including books, websites and other homeschooling parents out there that can help with this adventure.  So please, if you are in an area that allows homeschooling (I know some of my readers are from other countries), please take it into consideration and have faith in yourself to provide to your child.

In my research of Preschool Curriculum, I found an abundance of other resources that I think would be helpful.  I did NOT use most of these.... but thought I'd share the titles and give you the opportunity to look into them yourself for your own potential use.  (If you have them or end up using them- let me know what you think so I can make an update at some point!)

If you have already completed preschool at home, share a bit about your experience here so my readers can benefit!  Please share what your favorite resources are!

If you want to read more about homeschooling, you might like these posts:

The Methods of Homeschooling

Homeschooling With Living Books

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I always start surfing the web and old catalogs in January or February to start getting a feel for what curriculum I may want to use the following school year.  This is the first year I've ever had to look at preschool curriculums.  We didn't start homeschooling our oldest until they were in 5th and 2nd grades, respectively.  My youngest is almost 4 now and is already ahead by leaps and bounds.

I am learning about Charlotte Mason so while I'm still reading books and watching videos about the Charlotte Mason approach, I'm also perusing websites that I have seen other parents mention or seen mentioned  on the Charlotte Mason blogs and websites.

Here's a few I have taken a look at recently:

Simply Charlotte Mason  offers a preschool guide.  While they are not suggesting anything formal, they do offer some very good tips here. They also have a section on planning schedules.

Heart of Dakota  I've seen various years of this curriculum and I have liked what I've seen, especially the flexibility offered within the choices.  Each day is laid out and very easy to follow.  The preschool program - Little Hands To Heaven- offers educational skills such as letter recognition and formation, sounds, art projects, early math skills and more.  HD also offers daily bible stories and activities. HD has curriculum through high school.

My Father's World I always find myself lingering around their booths set up at the Christian Homeschool Convention of Pennsylvania held each year in Harrisburg.  MFW has a toddler program and preschool program(as well as additional years). The preschool program offers alphabet skills and numbers 1-10, shapes, sequencing, visual discrimination, etc.  The package comes with a CD of bible verses for the child to listen to throughout the day.

Five In a Row  is literature based and seems to be a very relaxed style of learning.  There are 4 volumes for ages 4-8, volume 1 -3 being written at about the same level while volume 4 contains more difficult literature.  The 4 volumes contain 70 different unit studies covering various academic areas (math, geography, social studies, etc.)

Ambleside - While not really a curriculum, this site offers book lists that are of a Charlotte Mason approach for each year level.  Level year is geared for 5-6 but there is a list there for toddlers as well and can certainly be started early!

Math U See  In Primer, the child is introduced to writing numerals and basic counting, skip counting, adding and subtracting and is considered by the company a gentle approach to introducing math.  Math U See is a common curriculum used by homeschoolers.  It's one of those programs people seem to either love or greatly dislike all depending on their perspective of how math should be covered.  A lot of parents enjoy the video presentations and how Math U See is known to completely cover and reach mastery of a skill before moving on.

Explode the Code This series offers Get Ready For the Code - a series of 3 workbooks introducing the letters of the alphabet with various activities including tracing, writing and riddles.  Most places indicate this to be used for preschool.  Sonlight (see below) offers it in kindergarten - I'm not sure what their rational is for this.

Sonlight offers a preschool and a pre-kindergarten program.  I have often lingered near the sonlight tables at the CHAP convention as well.  I actually started out using Sonlight (back when I first pulled my daughter and son out of public school) but part ways from it because I found it overwhelming at the time.  We had many issues going on at the time but I always wondered if I should have stuck it out or gone back to it once those issues resolved themselves.  It was really laid out very well for the parent to follow.  It was a wonderful literature based program.  I just found it to be too intensive for our personal factors at that time.  I'm sure I will strongly consider it this time around.

Modern Curriculum Press Phonics - Who doesn't remember the plaid colored phonics books from elementary school?  I loved them in school and I loved them teaching... just as a supplement to practice skills being taught.

So this is what I've covered thus far.  I've only glanced at these websites.  I haven't even lingered very long but they are the top sites I'll probably keep revisiting.  I doubt that I'll make a choice before long. I usually make a list of the ones I've narrowed it down to and look at them extensively at the homeschool convention when I can hold the products in hand and really look through the manuals and get a better feel for the program. This makes it easier to compare.  I'll also talk to as many fellow homeschoolers as I can and see what programs they are or have used and why they have or have not liked particular programs.

One thing I've learned already is that maybe preschool is NOT the way to go....  looking over these I see skills that my little man has already mastered without my having to present anything in a school like fashion.  I am now considering looking at kindergarten options as well...but with the idea of only doing about half a year.  He will only be 4 and while his academic skills are advanced his attention span at this point is not.  But these are all things to consider in the months ahead and not make a sudden decision without thought.

Of course, before I do any in-depth research into any of the 'curriculum packages' above, as I stated earlier, I'll be finishing up my Charlotte Mason reading/viewing materials that I have.  I may find that I won't be using a formal curriculum at all or just use a few materials from one or two of them.

In the meantime, I hope you'll find the above links helpful if you are planning preschool in the year ahead as well.  If you have already covered preschool and/or kindergarten and have any advice to offer on the curriculums above or other curriculums you have used, by all means share it with me!  🙂  Others , including myself, may benefit from what you have experienced!

 

Today marks day 64 of the school year for my oldest boy.  This is his 9th grade year, his first year of high school and his first year of keeping grades for a transcript.

Some parts of planning for this year were difficult.  Others not so much.  You see, I've been through this before and have sent my daughter off to college already.  She is in her first year and doing quite well! I'm really proud of her.

My other boy is only 3!  There's not so much planning for the three-year old...though my eagerness has kept me exploring and I have peeked at several preschool and kindergarten curriculums but am heavily leaning towards a Charlotte Mason approach for him.

But back to my oldest!

This year we determined to start with 5 major classes:  English 9, Biology with a Lab, American History, Algebra II, and Russian.

English is always my favorite subject to plan!  I love reading and I love writing so what's not to love about planning English?  I do not like curriculums that lay everything out for English because I like to fiddle with things too much and make it more personable and meeting the needs of my child.  But I have dealt with such curriculums in the past for various reasons.  This year, I again chose a mixture.  For Literature, we are using the Gold Book of the Learning Language Arts through Literature Curriculum.    I chose the Gold Book because it ties into American History.  In the beginning, I was all for having him do the whole book and was excited about him being introduced to short stories.  But then I read some of them....   🙁     I knew darn well these were not going to be his cup of tea.  Classic literature or not, if he wasn't going to enjoy it at all, he wasn't going to learn.  So I fairly quickly ditched that part of the set-up.  (We'll try short stories another time, perhaps, if I can find some modern stories that he could relate to.)  Instead, I made a book list (oh how I LOVE creating book lists!).  In addition to the three books that the Gold Book incorporates (The Pearl, The Old Man and the Sea, and The Red Badge of Courage), I decided to introduce him to at least one Shakespeare.  We will be reading The Tempest.

Selecting which Shakespeare play to begin with was probably the hardest part of the book list!  But with much researching and asking of friend's opinions, The Tempest it will be! I'm looking forward to it as this is one I actually have not read myself yet. Additional required books on his list are:  Rifles for Waite, The Outsiders, Johnny Tremain (we read this one a long time ago as a read-aloud but I felt it fit with his American History and he may enjoy it more now that he's older), and My Side of the Mountain.  In addition to these, he gets to choose 8 for himself with the only rules that one must be about our Orthodox faith and they all must be pre-approved by myself.  I have a feeling he will be reading the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book soon since it was just released, but this one will NOT count towards the required reading!!  The Gold Book, in addition to providing background information and questions for the three books it covers, also has a poetry unit.  Three poems are assigned for reading for each poet the book covers along with comprehension type questions.  It seems to give a good overall view of the elements of poetry and develops skill for analyzing literature.

For the writing part of English, we are using IEW.  My son watches the video lessons presented by Andrew Pudewa and follows through with the assignments.  I think his writing has improved a great deal.  We are also using IEW's Fix It Grammar program as a nice review.  My son completed the Analytical Grammar program last year and,quite frankly, that program covered things so well that I truly  don't think he will ever need much in grammar ever again!

Biology was another easy choice.  It's his 9th grade year and the local co-op provides a lab for biology every few years....this being the year for it!  The course is through the Apologia Curriculum.  I love Apologia. It truly prepares the student for college level science but keeps the Christian worldview focus.  Science does NOT have to be all evolution.

American History was a little bit trickier to choose.  My son is not a lover of history.  He doesn't hate it.  But it's not a huge interest.  So I wanted something that may present things differently... not a typical dry textbook and not something that was only going to quickly go over the basics without grabbing any interest.  After much debate, we chose Exploring America by the Notgrass Company.  Of course, we've done some adapting.  The curriculum is cumulative in that it incorporates reading and bible into the history.  We are only using it for the history.  This means he's not doing the literature books they recommend, primarily because I knew they would never be books he would choose for himself and it wouldn't have left room for me to select books I felt he should read.  In addition to skipping the literature, we skip the bible lessons as well - they are of a protestant nature and I don't feel they are necessary to comprehend the history lessons.  We are Orthodox Christians and we read plenty of bible and faith related material without adding this aspect to it.  I here that part of the curriculum is actually done quite well.  I just decided there wasn't a need for it for our particular needs. We are actually reading the history lessons together and I am enjoying this.  We then answer the questions orally together and I help him study for the quiz that he takes every 5 lessons. I like the detail that the author put into the history lessons.  I've covered more American history in the past 2 months I've been reading with him than I think I covered in all my history years in the public schools.  And it's interesting... not just boring factual stuff.  I like it.

I am a HUGE fan of Teaching Textbooks!  We've been using it for our math since my daughter was in 6th grade!  It is AMAZING!!!!!!!  I am not a math expert.  While I got through math and actually got an A in my last semester of high school Algebra, it is not a subject I prefer teaching.  Teaching Textbooks does it all for me.  It's a computerized program and every single problem is on the computer.  If the student plugs in a wrong answer, they can watch the entire problem worked out step by step and see exactly where they made their mistake...and NO arguments with Momma!!  🙂  How can you not love it?? So this year he is doing Algebra II. He knows that he is to watch the explanation of any problem he misses.  If he scores below an 80, I delete the lesson and he does a do-over.  This way, we meet mastery before going on to the next lesson.

My son chose the language he wanted to learn.  My husband's heritage is Russian so it seemed a no-brainer to him to pick Russian.  While my husband recalls a few words and phrases taught to him by his grandparents in his youth, he is not ready to teach the language and I know nothing....sooooo......    CurrClick.Com offers a variety of online courses for homeschoolers and one of them is Russian!!  Mr. G does a fabulous job and my son really loves the course.

Well, that's the main courses.  In addition to these, he practices typing with a Mavis Beacon program as well as types out his final papers for IEW and Fix-It-Grammar.  We haven't seen dramatic results yet, but there are signs of improvement! He also uses Vocabulary.Com to practice SAT vocabulary and does the SAT question of the day two times a week to help prepare himself for that test in the future.

We've also added a bit of geography to the day.  I've been reading a lot about that Charlotte Mason approach and have learned a bit of how she approached geography with outline maps.  I liked the idea and thought it would be a really easy thing to start covering with him.  There's actually no set law that a course HAS to be completed in the same year it's started, so we decided to start out slow and add to it bit by bit like it's presented by the CM Approach... so right now we are covering North America since that's what he is most familiar with.  He did a bigger course last year that covered land forms, environments, etc.  so right now we are only focusing on learning names and locations of countries, major cities, bodies of water, etc.  It's only North America and I've already added to my own geography knowledge!! We'll see how we do the rest of this year before deciding whether to add to it and actually make it worth a partial or whole credit course.

Well, that wraps up what we are doing this year for my son's 9th grade year.  It's actually been a good year so far.  He seems to be doing well.  It's been an adjustment getting used to the amount of reading material and higher level questions and balancing that with Boy Scouts, hunting and pretty soon the ski season will start.  But for a 15-year-old boy who also helps out with chores and is a great big brother, I'd say he's doing a really good job!