Chasing Fireflies

My kids recently had a friend over and stayed up late enough to go outside and catch lightning bugs with J. Sorry, fireflies. Apparently “lightning bugs” is a term of my youth, and not couth with my kids, ha.

Because we are typically pretty big sticklers about bedtime – I prefer happy well-rested kids, because it makes me a happier momma – they rarely get to stay up late enough in the summer for the fireflies to light up the skies (I mean, 10pm is past my bedtime). So when we had the opportunity to check out the super fun game Chasing Fireflies from Timberdoodle, we were all over it!

Although the game says it is for ages 4+, all four of my kiddos – aged 9 years, 7 years, 3.5 years, and 22 months – loved playing this game. It was so much fun to watch them run around, finding the blinking fireflies around the yard (and maybe they had some drippy ice cream to go with it).

They broke off in teams so they had to work together to find their colored fireflies: green or blue. And off they went!

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There are two jars of fireflies that come in the game Chasing Fireflies. A few of the fireflies had to have their batteries re-positioned to get them lighting up, but otherwise, they were flawless and well-loved straight out of the box. Sweet M even wanted to take a jar of blinking fireflies with him to bed! He sure does know how to re-create my childhood.

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It was also really nice to see my boys working together to chase down their fireflies, as opposed to knocking heads: I loved that this game has the ability to be as competitive or collaborative as one may want. And that as few as two people can play (or really, even just one kiddo would still delight in running about, chasing down the fireflies on their own!), or that larger groups of kids could play in teams.

Chasing Fireflies is top notch and I would recommend it over and over again for any preschool or elementary-aged kiddo! And I have four babes who all unanimously agree – which is saying a lot!

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*** I was given the game Chasing Fireflies from Timberdoodle in exchange for this review, but all thoughts and opinions are genuine, and mine alone. 

Light Schooling through the Summer

Do you school year-round, or take the summer off?

I always like the idea of giving my kids long, “school”-free summers, but it’s never the reality.

Mostly because they thrive on some bit of structure (though obviously they spend most of their time in free play because I’m the world’s biggest advocate in that). And also, I want to make sure they retain the information they’re learning, and don’t slide back.

Now that Sweet M has officially joined the school bandwagon – by choice – I didn’t really do anything outside of lots and lots of reading with Miss H and Mr. B in their preschool years, I’ve really had to put some thought into what each one of them is doing because I have to prioritize our time with a family of soon-to-be five kids. But it’s worth it!

So although we don’t do full curriculum schooling over the summer, there is still some structured schooling going on. My kids call it “light schooling.”

So what are they all working on over the summer?

Miss H is officially doing spelling and math. She is such an avid and voracious reader, that I haven’t felt as compelled to do much with her in formal terms after she completed all of the All About Reading program (which seriously, I cannot rave enough about!). Her spelling, however, is just not there. And I know, I know, it takes time, and not everyone is going to win the spelling bee. But at 9, officially a 4th grader, even simple words are very kreatyv. But I will be honest, we’ve tried several different spelling programs and philosphies, and nothing yet has “clicked” for her. So I’m still searching.

For math we have really been enjoying Math Lessons for a Living Education. Again, we’ve tried several over the years, and this is the first that both she and Mr. B have both really enjoyed. We are also working on memorizing her times tables through 12. She isn’t as keen on that, but hey. There are some things you just gotta know.

We’re also doing a bit of geography with everyone, fun cooking from around the world, and lots and lots of reading literature.

Mr. B is working on reading and math primarily. He’s still working through All About Reading Level 1 with the enticing incentive that once he is reading fairly fluently and independently, he can finally download Minecraft. He’s taken a little longer to catch on to reading, and I am okay with that; everyone learns at their own pace. But I do know he’d be so much happier if he could read independently because he wants to, he just also doesn’t like things that are hard work.

He is also buzzing through the same math as Miss H, because math and science are really his strong points, and I want to keep him busy in things he loves, too. Obviously. I don’t want to ever crush his love of learning.

And Sweet M? He’s pretty much got his colors and shapes down like a pro, and he’s super interested in his letters, so I got him the Illustrated Alphabet book and big bananagrams and he’s having a lot of fun learning about recognizing letters and their sounds. I’m thinking may incorporate some number games as well, and maybe even these feelings flashcards, because he’s been having a hard time expressing and identifying his feelings at times. It’s been a pretty big year for him. But he really wants to “do school” like his big brother and sister, so I figure that isn’t in the too far off distance for him!

3rd Grade Language Arts with Mosdos Press

Teaching language arts makes me a bit anxious. Maybe because I love reading, and I really want my kiddos to embrace it as well. I want them to enjoy language arts the way I do, and not create a wedge where they don’t enjoy it any longer.

Outside of simply learning to read, and then reading like crazy, I hadn’t done any formal language arts program with Miss H yet. I knew they existed, and each year I would peek at them, but I just really wanted her to have a solid foundation in reading and a love for it before taking on anything more.

I was super excited when I was asked by Timberdoodle to review Mosdos 3rd grade language arts, as it had been the language arts program I’d had my eye on pretty intently for when we chose to delve in.

Miss H was pretty excited with this venture from the get-go simply because it was so aesthetically pleasing. 8-year-olds can be some of the easiest (and hardest!) to win over sometimes. But colorful books with flowers and butterflies just made her happy, so she was eager to get to work!

The student readers are broken down into two books so that they’re not overwhelmingly large books for the kids’ to work with. They also feel like they’re flying through things at an expedited rate, which for my 3rd grader is always a morale boost. She loves to see how fast she can learn and accomplish things.

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H and I both really enjoyed the stories provided by Mosdos Opal edition. They are diverse and intriguing, which for our family is an absolute must. She could read them all herself, which was great if I was busy helping other kiddos, though we do admittedly love reading them together. The teacher guide provided so many amazing notes and questions to go with each story that I could engage with her either while reading the stories, or after, to ascertain how much she was truly comprehending. But it was nice that during the hectic days, she could do the coordinating workbooks pages even if we didn’t get to have as much discussion about the stories, and I knew she was still getting just as much from the books. I love a solid program that allows for either independent learning, or cooperative learning, and both options are equally rewarding.

I can confidently say that Mosdos Press Literature will be our choice for language arts as we go forward as it is such a diverse, vocabulary-rich, fun program that makes kids want to jump in and learn each day.

 

***This review is sponsored by Timberdoodle in exchange for a Mosdos Press language arts curriculum. As always, I only endorse programs and companies that I genuinely love, and all thoughts and opinions are my own. ***

 

Kumon Science (Pre-K &Up)

When I was asked to review Kumon Science for Timberdoodle, I was pretty excited because we love Kumon books around here. I think Kumon is loved by many families, whether or not they homeschool, since they’re great, engaging, colorful books that can work as a stand alone curriculum, supplement alongside another curriculum, or supplement for kiddos educated outside of the home.

thought I’d be using this book with Mr. B, but he really took to his sister’s Berean Science and didn’t look back. Which turned out to be a great thing, because Sweet M really wanted to “do school” with his sibs. I hadn’t really planned on doing anything even remotely formal with him, as he is not yet even three (but so soon, oh my goodness!). But he is oh-so similiar to his very precocious big sister, and he is so ready, that it was hardly fair to say no based on the “norms.”

So I decided to let him start Kumon Science and he did not disappoint! He was so excited! Since he knows his shapes and colors and can use a writing instrument fairly well, he was definitely ready.

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The lessons are short and simple, so he doesn’t lose interest before he is done. He often asks to keep going and do more than one lesson!

Sweet M loves all the vibrant colors in the book, and the realistic pictures. He, of course, loves that so many of the pages involve stickers.

I love that the lessons are informative, but age appropriate. He’s learning the differences between living and non-living things,  minerals, land forms, mixing colors, and so much more, which allows for a lot of hands-on science to occur as we delve deeper into exploring the lessons.

And one other added bonus: his big sister loves to play “teacher,” and she can help him keep him entertained with his Kumon Science while I help Mr. B with reading. It’s a win-win for everyone!

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***This post is sponsored by Timberdoodle, but as always, the thoughts and opinions are mine, and I only endorse products I genuinely love.

Berean Science: Science in the Scientific Revolution

Science has always been one of those daunting subjects for me. I’ve always felt comfortable teaching my kiddos to read and knowing just how and with which curriculum worked best for us.

Math isn’t my strongest suit, and we’ve definitely hopped around a lot trying to figure out what works best for us, but I’ve never worried that we’d miss something or they’d be insufficient in math at the end of the day.

But science?

Something about it always has me questioning if we’re doing enough. If they’re learning enough. If they’re enjoying it enough. And since H and B really love science, I hate to think I am doing them a disservice.

This year we’ve had the opportunity to try Berean Science from Timberdoodle and it’s relieved so many of my worries

We are using their 3rd grade curriculum “Science in the Scientific Revolution” but Mr. B is listening right along with us (he’s 7, technically an “older” 1st grader) and loving it just as much as Miss H.

It’s particularly fun because although they’ll both cuddle up and listen to me read aloud to them, they will also squirrel away together and Miss H will read to the both of them. Without being prompted. They just genuinely love reading their science book that much. I’m thinking we may go back and read the previous books when we are finished, as they’re zooming through this book so quickly we’ll be through it in no time!

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The kids love the colorful illustrations and the suggested science experiments (really though, who doesn’t love a fun, hands-on experiment?). There is a very concise list at the beginning of the book that tells you what will be needed for each experiment in each section, and it has thus far all been things we have in our home, which is a bonus. Plus, I love that the book always tell them to clean up their mess!

There is a good review section after each lesson to help reinforce that they grasped what they’ve learned. We haven’t felt compelled to always do the review since we’re typically chatting and working together, but if you have your kiddo doing their science independently (which they could definitely do at this age with this curriculum!) then it would be really helpful as the parent/teacher to double check their learning.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we received our Berean Science from Timberdoodle. As I said, science is daunting for me and I just hadn’t felt like we’ve really found a curriculum that “clicked” for our family, or even one particular child (we are totally open to different curriculum working best for different kiddos based on learning styles over here). But I would recommend Berean Science over and over again as we have really loved it over here!

 

***This review was done in exchange for the Berean Science from Timberdoodle, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are genuine, and I only endorse products we truly love.***

All About Reading

Miss H wasn’t even quite five years old when she sat me down for a very important discussion.

“Momma,” she said seriously, “I need to read. All by myself.”

One part of me was thrilled. Reading is my favorite hobby and pastime. Anything and everything I could ever possibly want to learn or know I’ve gained through reading. And with her being my first kiddo, I was ecstatic to share this with her.

But the other part of me? I was terrified. How in the world was I to teach this sweet girl to read? It really made me start questioning all of my life choices, and maybe I wasn’t really cut out to be her teacher after all? I mean, what if I screwed this up!?

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But like with all things, I dove head first into research and decided I was going to do this for my girl, even if it caused to gray prematurely (it didn’t!).

I did a lot of research. It’s what I’m good at.

And in the end, I settled on the All About Reading curriculum to help us plunge feet first into the wonderful world of reading.

We haven’t looked back since! She’s on level 4 now (which is her favorite because it is purple, and those things are important when you are 8), and is an incredibly proficient reader. I’m always a little surprised when I hear her read a word I didn’t realize she knew, and it’s pretty amazing to watch her completely engulfed in reading; getting lost in adventures for hours on end.

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As an adult and an avid reader, I have learned so many rules in decoding just by teaching Miss H with this curriculum, which has been a lot of fun for both of us.

All About Reading is such an incredibly comprehensive curriculum that you will never need to supplement with other reading instruction in those early years. Its multi-sensory approach “teaches phonics, decoding, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.”

Every lesson plan is greatly detailed and well laid out for you as the teacher, so all you have to do is open the book and go. With tangible letter tiles, flash cards, word practice sheets, and lots of fun reading games and stories, it’s really hard to not love All About Reading.

 

 

***I was given the ARR Level 4 curriculum from Timberdoodle in exchange for this review. As always, I only support companies and products that I genuinely love, and thoughts and opinions are all my own. ***

Bergen-Belsen

I went back and forth on whether or not I should visit Bergen-Belsen memorial with the kids. I am always so torn between trying to present them with the most beautiful of worlds, while also not sheltering them from devastating realities.

Ultimately, I decided to take them.

They all ready know quite a bit about World War 2, the Holocaust, and the atrocities that occurred. We studied the Hawaiian/American aspect of it pretty extensively this past year, while also discussing with them aspects of the Holocaust and learning about Anne Frank.

I was able to appreciate that much of it they’re still too innocent to fully grasp.

A burial site for 1000 slain humans is a number they can’t truly fathom. Let alone 5000. Or millions.

But they were able to grasp that it’s a lot.

And there were children.

Babies.

Grandparents.

My degree is in Human Rights and Western European History. I’ve studied WW2 and the Holocaust quite extensively. It was all very gruesome and tragic 10 years ago when I was earning my degree, and I was not quite ready for how much it would hurt now, as a mother, to walk through that burnt down camp of forest and flowers and monuments, knowing that those had been someone’s babies. Someone’s children. Regardless of age.

And that someone had made them an “other” and decided their lives were disposable.

Worse yet, others were complicit in this mass slaughter of humans with their silence, with their blind obedience and fear of the same fate befalling them if they were to object.

I’d like to say I can’t imagine someone viewing my children as “other” because of their religious beliefs, sexuality, or the color of their skin. But it’d be a lie. Because we live in America where brown children are viewed as less than and my husband thanks god that they can “pass as white” so perhaps they won’t have the same hardships and prejudices as he’s faced in this life.

As I walked by the memorial sites, all I could think of was that quote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

So very many laws were not broken during the Holocaust. Hitler was elected properly and so many people were happy to have the Jewish people as a scapegoat for all that wasn’t quite perfect in their lives.

It was easy for them to dehumanize them and ostracized them, and slowly their humanity devolved as they were filled with hate toward a group of humans who were exactly like them outside of socially created constructs.

So many thoughts and feelings were, and still are, jumbled and scattered in my brain and in my heart that I just cannot articulate well at this point.

We, as human beings, and not for the first time in history, allowed for something so horrific to happen. And if we aren’t careful, we will allow for it to happen again. And that is why not just knowing, but truly understanding history is invaluable and absolutely imperative.

Needless to say, I’m holding my babies a little tighter.

And reflecting on the image of my little girl, taking a photo of the tombstone of a little girl not so unlike herself; bound by the beauty and faults that is humanity; and the desire to see the good in the world, even in the moments when it’s challenging to find.

A Parisian Education: When Homeschooling is More Than Books

If you ask Miss H where she has wanted to go her whole life (yes, all those 8 years!), she’ll tell you Paris.

It’s interesting, because she’s wanted this before she even fully understood where or what Paris is. Before she ever knew it was the place where her papa got down on one knee and asked me to be his forever, and thus the story of our family began.

Because the cards fell into order, she gets to make her wildest dreams come true and visit the City of Lights (or is it the City of Light?) this summer.

Since we homeschool, this has allowed us to play around with our curriculum and incorporate some learning about Paris, it’s history, and the country as a whole. It’s been a lot of fun as someone with a degree in history to learn new things with my kiddos.

I have learned things about Leonardo da Vinci and his childhood that I was oblivious to. In fact, I actually knew very little about Leonardo da Vinci outside of the very basics.

We wept together as we read about Marie Antoinette’s life, and her tragic end. Mostly we wept for her young children. We wept for a past where a woman was forced to bear children she never wanted to begin with. A past where women had so few rights that Miss H could hardly wrap her brain around such things. Which led to discussions about women’s rights movements, how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go.

Miss H and Mr. B have been excited to learn about the Eiffel Tower, and they’re fantasizing about the foods served in its four restaurants (because lets be honest, they said food and that’s about the only fact I’ve retained).

We mostly do child led schooling. Although there is also a lot of encouragement for doing the the basic three R’s as well. I love when it all comes together and they’re reading books about things they’re interested in and writing me papers with facts, and eagerly doing math as they turn meters into feet and try to decipher how tall the Eiffel Tower is. And they’re learning and doing so much and all they see it as is fun.

Which is was learning should be.

I’m so excited to take this adventure for them off of the page and into the city they’re so enjoying in just a few short weeks.

But it makes me wonder: if a little girl spends her whole life dreaming about Paris and finally sees it; what will she dream about next?

In this family, we read.

We are kind of terrible homeschoolers, I admit it. We spend more time on the beach than we do doing math worksheets, but I make them cook their own pancakes and assume it all evens out. Right?

Although we don’t do sit down workbooks every day (we do do them though), we do read. Every. Single. Day.

So much.

I genuinely, genuinely believe that other than allowing them to be outside and playing most of the day, reading to a kiddo is the most important thing you can do for them.

We read during the day. All sorts of great picture books and graphic novels and non-fiction. And every evening I curl up with the big kids and we read chapter books. Sometimes even Sweet M will curl up on my lap with his bottle of milk (I know, I know) and listen with us.

It ebbs and flow how quickly we read through them. Some books we plow through in just a few days. Other books we sip and savor, reading slowly over a few weeks.

There are books that were my childhood favorites, and books I’ve never heard of but were on one reading list or another that I grazed. Books that came highly recommended by others and books that I picked up on a whim.

We read fairytales and light hearted books. We read books that touch on heavy subjects like World War 2 and bullying (heavy topics on very different levels, obviously).

We read books that have tidy and happy endings. We read books that leave you hanging, thirsty for more, so many questions unanswered.

Although Miss H can read all of these books herself at this point, she is still eager to climb into bed and spend this time with me. I am acutely aware that one day she won’t want me reading to her. She’ll shoo me away, and I’ll be lucky to even get a good night kiss.

But for now, I will savor this time I have with her. With Mr. B. Reading into the night, bringing them into the fictitious literary worlds created by imaginative people who took the time to put pen to paper and bring these stories to life. Worlds that I grew up in; worlds that shaped me into the person I am today, and that I know will help shape them into amazing beings, too.

They may not know what a hanging participle is quite yet, nor can they do long division or recite the periodic table; but they can delve into the world of books and have endless conversations about the stories they’re read.

And for now, that’s really all they need anyway.

Hawaiian Plantation Village

We have a list of things we must see and do while in Oahu.

And then we have a list of things that seems to randomly find us and we didn’t even realize that we needed to see and do it until we are there.

That’s what the Hawaiian Plantation Village was for us. “A happy little accident.”

The place was so interesting and fun that I will even ignore that the employees were wearing stickers that had “HPV” on them. I mean, I get it. But the 12 year old in me was just rolling.

We stopped in because they were having a rice fest, which included “make your own musubi.” And I get that musubi is probably one of the easiest things in the world to make, but I hadn’t yet attempted it and wanted to see it done before I gave it a whirl. So getting to have someone walk is all through it was fantastic and the kids loved it!

Then we walked about the grounds where the real museum/village is.

They had a plethora of dwellings and structures created to be replicates authentic to the time period of the mid 1800s-early 1900s when the plantations were pretty much the biggest industry on the island. That was the time when so many people from other countries began migrating to Hawaii.

The kids all indulged me while I read to them about each dwelling and the purpose it served and the histories of the people who it represented. So many people. It was beautiful and a little daunting to think of people leaving their homes to come Hawaii 150+ years ago.

If I ever feel like it’s hard to stay in touch with friends and family while hear, I will just remind myself of all those people left their homes, knowing full well they’d likely never see any of the loved ones they were leaving ever again.

Sweet M kept me on my toes as he picked all the foliage and vegetation and I kept reading all the little signs to be sure he wouldn’t die from something poisonous.

It was a such a beautiful historical plantation village and I am so glad we happened upon it.

What a lovely Hawaiian day!