Farmland Math

Somehow Sweet M is 3.5. HOW? And as precocious as they come, much like his big sister. I’m always finding ways to keep that little brain of his busy and challenged; not that he can’t do that on his own, but it often leads him  into quite a bit of mischief. Which seems on par for a three-year-old.

He loves “doing school” like Miss H and Mr. B, and I’m constantly on the lookout for more fun ways to incorporate “school” for him that is still primarily play based – because play really is the school of children! I want him to love learning, and I want for it to be as organic as possible.

So when we came across Farmland Math on Timberdoodle as a part of their full preschool curriculum, we knew it was for us!

Farmland Math is a set of fun, brightly colored animals, a waterproof farm mat (that flips to a dinosaur terrain on the opposite side – can’t beat that!), and a small 36-week long teacher’s guide.

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You could 100% ditch the teacher’s guide and simply, talk, and observe, and still get in so much new knowledge and hands on learning if you felt compelled, but I really like having the teacher’s guide because I like having ideas. Also, it allows my nine-year-old to “play” math with him while I’m nursing the baby or Mr. B does is AAR lessons. Although she is stellar at playing with her younger siblings, she also really loves to feel in charge (what oldest child does not?), and this is a great, fun way for her to get her fill of that.

Farmland Math guides kiddos through counting, sorting, recognizing colors and patterns; all those early math skills they need to be successful later on in life. But it does it in such a fun, playful, age-appropriate manner that no one sees it as “school work” (unless that’s what they’re wanting and you so you tell them it is so!).

I particularly love the chunky, colorful farm animals. They’re great for getting the “work” done, but then Sweet M and Bean (2), can also play and entertain themselves for quite a while on their own with them. And because it’s all so durable and easy to clean, I know it will last through Sweet M and Bean, and that even baby Ave will get to enjoy it when she enters her preschool years! And when school should be play, it’s great to see the materials work for both school use and every day play use; it makes you feel confident in your investments.

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I really cannot recommend Farmland Math enough as part of your home school preschool or simply as another fun addition to the playroom.

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!

One Day at a Time

I will probably be saying this for at least the next year, if not forever, but four kids is not for the faint of heart.

I don’t believe in playing the “who has a harder game,” but J and I definitely sit and reminisce about those 17 months we had with only one child.


I mean, it was complete chaos and mayhem then. We had no idea what we were doing. We still don’t. But in that moment, we only had one child waking up in the middle of the night, one child with dirty diapers, one child throwing up when a stomach bug came around, one child who wanted our undivided attention, you get the point. Although it’s funny, because in those moments, it definitely didn’t seem any easier with just that one baby than it does now with four.  Probably because it wasn’t easier. It was just different. I think that’s why you start out with one kid at a time. OK, most people start out with one baby at a time. Some are blessed with more than that on their first go, whether through giving birth to multiples, or adopting multiple children at once.

But this fourth baby has made me take learning to give myself grace to a whole new level.


It’s trickier in a lot of ways, I think mostly because we are in Hawaii, and not back where we had our feet firmly on the ground. We’re still figuring things out. And then we threw in this other child.

I wouldn’t trade her, or this experience, for the world, but it’s definitely a learning curve.

I finally had to tell H today that this was her last month of gymnastics. Not because we can’t afford it, or because it’s too much time, but because it’s too much time in the car for Bean. We spend just as much time in the car with this god awful Honolulu traffic as she does in her class. And Bean literally screams her heart out the whole time we’re in traffic.

Not that I enjoy hearing any of my kids cry or complain, but a toddler or preschooler thatbis unhappy in the car is a lot less heartbreaking than an itsy-bitsy baby who just doesn’t understand and can’t be reasoned with. OK, so toddlers and preschoolers can’t really be reasoned with either. I mean, I like to think they can… But we all know better.


As I was cursing myself for having apparently lost one of Sweet M’s shoes in Costco this evening and forgetting to get gas, while trying to dice up onions while H held her sister so that maybe dinner wouldn’t be on the table too much past bedtime, H started reading to me magnets on the refrigerator that were given to us long ago by her godparents.

“Momma,”she said, “children are a gift from the Lord.” 


We are just going to pretend in that moment the tears that spraig into my eyes were from the onion I was chopping. After an afternoon that’s been a little hectic, and moments when I’ve probably been more frustrated and exasperated with these sweet people than I should be, it was exactly the reminder I needed.

They are a gift. Regardless of whether you believe in a higher being or not. These children are a gift. And somehow, I got them. I get to be the momma to these four amazing people.


And even in the most chaotic of days, it is obviously not crazy enough. Because I definitely fall asleep dreaming about what life would be if we added another… Don’t tell my husband. 😬

Mr. B is starting to read. It’s kind of the most beautiful and frustrating thing to witness. Yes, I won’t sugarcoat it and say it’s not frustrating. For me. He’s doing amazing and isn’t frustrated in the least bit. But I can never quite figure out how he sounds out the word “nut” and then yells “big!” I’m left scratching my chin wondering if we’ve been looking at the same book. But he is unphased. And over all, he is sailing through his reading lessons beautifully. And most importantly, he is so proud of himself, which is kind of one of the most amazing things in parenting to witness. Your child reading. At least it is for me. 


I had really feared we were behind in their homeschooling until I sat down over the weekend and started to really look at where we were at in the curriculum. And we just finished week 21 out of 36. So I think we’re going to be OK. That was a huge weight off my shoulders.

I’m really loving homeschooling them. But I’m also kind of looking forward to the day that there is another awesome school I can send them to and feel good about it. Miss H thrives in big environments. Me, not so much. B is a lot like me in that aspect and currently expresses no interest in ever attending school unless it’s college, but I suspect he’d change his mind if his sister were gone each day. We will see. Right now, we’re just taking it day by day.

I got brave enough this past week to take them to the beach without J. I had friends there to help, which was nice, but I also feel pretty confident that I can now do it by myself. As long as we are at the right toddler-friendly beach.


Bean enjoyed her first full dip in the ocean. And then yesterday we took her to the pool for the first time and she just ate that up. She is truly a water baby through and through. 

I’ve been re-reading “Unconditional Parenting” by Alfie Kohn (if you have a kid, are around kids, or know a kid, I can’t recommend this book enough!). It revolutionized my parenting years ago, and in the thick of things I’ve found myself falling back on old habits because they’re easier sometimes. 


But I keep talking to my kids. I keep telling them the kind of momma I want to be and apologizing when I’ve acted poorly myself because I want them to learn that even adults make mistakes and it’s okay to admit that and tell people you’re sorry. I also find myself muttering “I could be a nicer mom if my kids were crazy lunatics” sometimes, but…really, they’re pretty darn good kids. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the unattainable bar I set for myself isn’t fair to set for my kiddos, too. 

We also just got Bean a crib and side-carred it to my bed. And we bought her a new car seat. There are not words enough out there to praise my husband for putting up with his wife’s crazy. I’m not even gonna tell you how many car seats we have purchased since becoming parents.


Anyway, we have friends and family coming in over the next few weeks and I am so looking forward to my little niece or nephew to be born any day now! Time is flying out here.

Oh, and Sweet M stuck a giant pearl bead up his nose tonight. He was quite proud.  This is my life, yo. 

Fun Schooling!

We are fairly relaxed homeschoolers. Learning should be natural and authentic. And fun!

There are some things you simply will never be able to convince me are necessary to learn outside of needing to pass a standardized test; unless of course it actually will be a part of your future career. That’s why child led education is really what inspires us around here.

Miss H and Mr. B both really enjoy learning. They get excited about it! And that’s how it should be. They also enjoy workbooks and some more “traditional” work at times. I follow their lead.

They also like to wake up really early and want to get a move on doing school stuff and I’m usually like, “I haven’t had a cup of coffee or opened my eyes yet, loves.” So I like to have things they can do all on their own as well.

When I came across Fun Schooling with Thinking Tree books I knew this was exactly the sort of work/fun my creative little free-thinkers would enjoy.

Math, reading, spelling, you name it; they’ve got it! Fun Schooling journals where the kiddos get to take initiative and decide what exactly they want to learn and research about all on their own. Mr. B and Miss H were sold!

They were eager to get up in the morning and color and doodle and do “work” while Momma tried to climb out of bed. I’d find them under their covers at night with lights working on their books. When kids enjoy what they’re learning about, they’re eager to keep going and the information sticks!

Miss H loved her comic and Minecraft-inspired math book and was even excited about spelling!

Mr. B loved that there was a Fun Schooling journal completely appropriate for him.

I think their favorite by far at the moment is their Yum-Schooling book. They both love to be in the kitchen, and they love to be independent.

They cracked open their Yum-Schooling book and told me to step away.

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I obliged.

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Y’all, in one easy morning they worked on fractions, reading, team work and collaboration, and learned a bit about chemistry when they forgot the baking soda, ha.

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I am so very excited to see where their Fun Schooling takes them and all the things they decide to pursue learning and exploring. They’re all ready such inquisitive little thinkers, I know they’ll go far in this world!

 

 

 

 

***Full disclosure: I was given Fun Schooling books in exchange for this post. All thoughts and opinions are genuine and solely mine.

Homeschooling with BookShark

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I have without a doubt spent more time researching homeschooling curriculum than I ever spent researching universities to attend. It’s been just that important to J and I to give our kids the right start at academics.

And finding curriculums that meet our needs has been quite the quest.

I prefer something that tells me exactly what to do day by day. With three little ones I just don’t have the time (or energy) to piece together and create daily curriculum plans.

I also needed something flexible enough to meet our busy, spontaneous lifestyle.

I needed something structured, but relaxed.

Something that would engage Mr. B and light that desire to learn. I wanted him challenged and intrigued, but not overwhelmed.

I also wanted something secular.

I was certain I’d never find the just right curriculum.

But I did: BookShark!

And I’m not sure who loves it more: Mr. B or me!

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We are currently doing the Reading with History K. Once I get my act together I think I will incorporate the science as well.

Mr. B loves it! He reminds me if he sees our day passing too quickly and he’s afraid we won’t get to it. He loves the read aloud chapter books. He’s completely engrossed with The Children’s Encyclopedia, and fascinated with the pictures in the Mother Goose book (which I had worried he’d declare he was too big for nursery rhymes, but he loves them too much too remember he insists he’s “big” now).

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BookShark has the weekly and daily schedule all laid out for me, complete in a binder separated by weeks. It doesn’t get more convenient than that!

Since it is a 4 day schedule, it gives us a ton of flexibility to pick which days works best for us, skip a few days, do 7 days in a row – you name it!

Mr. B is so engaged with the reading and learning, he never wants to stop when we are finished for the day. It’s interactive and engaging; and just the right length of time to hold his attention without crossing the threshold of being bored or overwhelmed.

I love all the great literature and books it includes. Many that I know and love, and several I’ve never read before. And escaping into book realms with my son is such a pleasurable experience, watching him become enthralled in storylines and deeply vested in characters. Another book lover, for sure!

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Plus, BookShark is completely secular so it’s a great choice for all families of any background!

I have a feeling we will be using BookShark throughout our entire homeschooling journey.

If you’re just now starting to research homeschooling and/or curriculums, or you’re looking for something new, be sure to check out BookShark!