Lego Club for Homeschoolers

This year Alex has joined the Lego Club for Homeschoolers.  Once a month, he signs into a live, virtual classroom where his instructor, Ms. Roni, gives a lesson on the topic of the month and then she goes through a Lego build step-by-step and the kids build along with her.  At the end of class, they have a new Lego creation to display!

September

Famous Landmarks – The Eiffel Tower

20150921_191003 20150921_194815 20150921_200035 20150921_200149
20150921_200620

20150921_200433

October

Sharks

20151015_154742 20151015_154907

Trailblazers Hiking Club at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

Today was our first hike of the 2015-2016 year with the Texas Trailblazers Hiking Club.  Because it is National Wildlife Refuge Week, we hiked 2.2 miles (through the Hill Country) inside the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.  It’s still very warm here in Texas, so while the weather was beautiful starting out, we were pretty hot by the time we made it back down from the top.  But the view was worth the climb and Alex was amazed at how far he could see.

20151016_10391920151016_11012420151016_10371220151016_10405920151016_10354320151016_11284320151016_10324620151016_112800

Geography Highlight: The Brazilian Rain Forest

20150304_141408

20150304_161200

20150305_102743

20150305_102826

20150305_102846

20150305_102855

20150305_102902

20150305_103335

The Brazilian Tropical Rain Forest is one of the greatest places on Earth in Alex’s world, because it is home to more of his favorite animals and reptiles than any other single place.  So it only made sense that we would spend our whole week of geography on Brazil studying tropical rain forests.  His big project was a diorama and he spent every waking moment talking about making it and how he was going to do it.  Thankfully we had some great plans to help us out from Erica over at Confessions of a Homeschooler.  Final outcome – pretty awesome!

Farewell, Treetop…Welcome, Spots

Farewell Treetop

The first reptile to take up residence in Alex’s room was a little house gecko, whom he affectionately named Treetop.  We re-purposed our old aquarium and with some plants, rocks, and dirt from the backyard, Alex soon had his very first terrarium…and it will certainly NOT be his last.  I’m fairly certain it will be the first in a LONG line of creature habits that will share living space with us in the years to come.

Treetop 201420141007_175132

Treetop was tiny.  I think even for house gecko size, he was tiny.  We soon discovered that your typical crickets from the pet store we just too big for him to eat, and mealworms couldn’t be his sole source of nutrition.  Lucky for Treetop, our local exotic pet store sold “pinhead” crickets.  No kidding.  They are the size of pinheads.  The lady there said we’d be lucky if Treetop lived for a couple of weeks in captivity, but she loved how interested Alex was in all the reptiles they have, and she thought it was a great way for him to observe nature up close.  Every so often we would make the trip out to pick up the crickets for Treetop and a few weeks turned into a few months.  Treetop lived a longer life than we expected, but he made a great first reptile for Alex.  And it didn’t take long before reptile number two became the newest resident in our home.

Meet Spots

Spots is a juvenile Leopard Gecko, who was chosen for his…well, spots.  He eats small crickets and mealworms and sleeps all day (much to Alex’s frustration, he keeps picking nocturnal creatures) .  Two special things about Spots that Alex likes are that he has ear holes and eyelids.  Not all geckos have eyelids.

Here are some observational notes from Alex:

Spots sleeps with his head out of the log.  He yawns.  He is active during the evening.  He droops his head.  He stares.

20150214_154314

20150214_154319 20150214_154342 20150214_154657(And he is pretty stinkin’ cute…for a reptile.)

Plans for Kindergarten and the First Day of School

Of all the ways I had imagined the first day of kindergarten for my child, never once did I imagine it would NOT involve dropping him off at a school that no matter how close to my home would feel a million miles away with people who no matter how nice, would still be strangers in charge of my child’s welfare for the better part of his awake hours for most of the week.  I certainly NEVER imagined it would be anything like today.
But what a beautiful,
                   adventurous,
                      fun-filled day it turned out to be.
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect first day of kindergarten for my kid.  Thank you, God, for speaking to my heart and giving me an overwhelming sense of what you wanted from me (and for not letting me be too stubborn to listen), and thank you for my husband and my family who have made the decision to homeschool so easy and have been so supportive.  I’d do it even if no one else thought it was best because I believe it is the right decision for Alex, but it sure helps to have that support when things get tough.  
Like when you suddenly realize (five minutes before school starts) that you forgot to buy the phonics program.  
Or when you suddenly realize that after going on and on about how important the Fine Arts are, you forgot to schedule them anywhere into the week.
Yeah.  ‘Cause I do stuff like that.
So before I forget anything else, like say, my mind, I’m going to jot down what we are doing this year. If you feel so inspired, take a little peek and see what’s in store for my kiddo in the wonderful land of homeschooling.

Plans for Kindergarten 2014-2015

For our literature, field trips, activities, art and poetry, we are using Wee Folk Art as our primary source of plans.  We’re adding a few extras here and there and our book list is always growing, especially now that Alex reads so well and so frequently on his own.  From time to time we love to throw in a craft from Catholic Icing too.
I’ve mentioned before that I absolutely adore Charlotte Mason’s approach to education, and I am just in love with her habit-training program, Laying Down the Rails.  It is much more structured and thorough than many others out there, and I think the time and effort will pay off as we see his character taking shape.
For math we will still play our math games from Right Start Math, but we are trying out Miquon Math for a change.  Aunt Stacie introduced us to the Stuart J. Murphy MathStart series of books so we’ve added those in too!
For part of our geography and part of our science we are using Expedition Earth and Expedition Earth Animals Unit Study and we are in love with how hands-on it is!  (If I had more than one or two kids I think this would be pretty time-intensive, but one of the benefits of homeschooling just one is that I have only one to focus on so we are doing this in its entirety.)
We’ve moved on from Get Set for School to Handwriting Without Tears and while he still struggles a bit with holding his pencil and writing letters, he LOVES the activity book and I think we’ll make some good progress this year.
Remember that little bit about forgetting to order the phonics program?  Seriously – who does that?  Poor planning aside, it just so happens that I had Saxon Phonics sitting on my shelf (because I’m kind of a homeschool materials collector) and we’re going to give it another go, mostly because, well, we have IT and not something else I’d rather use.
For the other part of our science we are doing a year of nature with Charlotte Mason’s Outdoor Secrets Nature Study.  It’s so beautifully written and so charming – the early years go by so fast, and I want him to enjoy the beauty of what’s around him in nature.  And…he loves nature, so it’s a win-win.
For our Catholic education this year we are using Allelu! and again, if I had multiples to educate this would be a bit harder in a homeschool classroom because it is a bit time-intensive to fully use the program, but it is fun, interactive, and presented in a way that I think will interest him.
On our shelf for this year we also have:
And a number of things I’ve probably already forgotten or haven’t thought of yet.  I like to add stuff in at random.  (Apparently I leave stuff out randomly to, but I really think we have so much, we won’t miss what we don’t know we don’t have this year.)  And the great thing is, there is always next year!

First Day of School


Homemade vanilla bean ice cream in the making- to celebrate the first day of school

A little glimpse into the schoolroom

First Day of Kindergarten for Alex!

A few pictures of Alex’s first day of school

The best part of the day?  Daddy’s vanilla bean ice cream (recipe courtesy of Pioneer Woman)

It was to die for and I’m not even an ice cream fan!

Last of Summer

I think it finally hit this week.  Summer is almost over.  Wait, what?
Hold on.  I need a time-out.  Or a drink.  Preferably the fruity kind with a little umbrella that I can drink poolside because that’s where it’s all at these days.  These nice, hot, long SUMMER days.
It’s been a whirlwind week of getting ready for school next Monday, running errands, and trying to fit in everything we left out, thinking we had plenty of summer left.  I felt pretty sad about the whole idea of another summer disappearing into the past, until this morning when I reminded Alex that school starts Monday.  His sleepy little eyes lost their good -morning look and he bounded out of bed, yelling at the top of his lungs with such excitement that I suddenly realized that I’m pretty darn excited about it too.  
Good-bye summer!  See ya next year.  But before we go…
…if you’d like to see a little peek into what our last few weeks have been all about, take a look.

The Nature Box

One of the core components of our curriculum for this next school year is a Charlotte Mason style nature study using The Outdoor Secrets and The Outdoor Secrets Companion.

You can read more about Charlotte Mason style homeschooling and find many great resources for creating a CM based curriclum at Simply Charlotte Mason.

We are really, really excited about it because while we have been doing nature study on our own for a while now, I wanted something to give us a bit of guidance as we look more closely at the world around us.  I grew up in big cities, and we live in a suburban neighborhood so sadly I can’t say I have ever given much thought to nature until a very curious child began asking a WHOLE LOT of questions.

I just finished making a nature box where Alex can store some of the treasures he finds while on his nature walks and he has already found a few leaves, flowers, and even a snake skin to put in the box.  Here’s a little peek at my handy work. (The stone-texture paint was AWESOME!)

Stuart Little Lapbook

I finally got over feeling intimidated by the idea of a lapbook and decided to just take the chance it wouldn’t work out and at least be able to cross it off my list of “homeschooling things to try”.  I happened across this blog called Confessions of a Homeschooler and the more I looked through her site, the more I liked what I saw.  She makes lapbooks look easy-peasy.  I actually took the time to prepare ahead (I’m more of the procrastinator-sort) and what a breeze it turned out to be.  It was the highlight of Alex’s day and now he’s ready to buy all of the rest of them.  Goodness.  I’ve created a lapbooking monster.
Here’s a peek at Alex’ very first lapbook and book report (written by me, dictated by Alex).  Thanks to Erica, I think there will be a few more lapbooks in our future!

"Snow" in Austin and a little bit of EVERYTHING else…

If you’ve ever wondered what snow in Austin, Texas looks like here is your chance to get a good look…don’t miss it.  I swear it is there.

Now for a little bit of everything else from the past month or two.  Warning: they are not organized in any way, some are completely random, and I’m certain I’m leaving out something important – like say, Christmas.  I keep waiting for time to sit down and write up some great posts on what we’ve been doing, but life is happening and there is never enough time to think, let alone compose something.  So instead, this is what you get.  Messy.  Crazy.  Just like us!
Making Poinsettias

Alex petting an iguana

My boys dressed up for Christmas Mass…
(one of my favorites from this past year)

Studying the presents under the tree

New Geopuzzle to put together

Our “Happy Birthday Jesus” Cake for Christmas Day 
(see, I did find a couple Christmas pictures to include)

Christmas Day dinner – look closely at my child…

Look closely again…notice a theme this year? 

And because we are hardly ever in pictures and I love this guy, 
here we are, ready to fall asleep after that huge dinner of prime rib

Viruses and Germs – one of my least favorite topics!

I put this one in because Alex walked right up and said, “Look, Mom.  DNA code.” 
like we have been studying DNA, which we have not.

Snow and ice in Austin wouldn’t be as much fun without
freezing a few action figures to excavate the next morning.

The boys at Alex’s first hockey game – The Texas Stars in Cedar Park

Finally, here it is – photo evidence of BOTH boys on their FIRST ice skating adventure!