Homeschooling With Toddlers Underfoot - What We Actually Do





Last fall, after years of mentally planning, we started homeschooling Wyatt for Kindergarten.  I've had a lot of interest, not only in blogland but from my real-life friends, on all the workings of our homeschool, and a frequently question is: "What you do with the baby and toddler happy while you're working with Wyatt on his school?"

My first thought on that question is that if you have a younger child that's not that much younger, you probably don't have to do anything.  The only thing I'd suggest buying extra workbooks for them if they decide to participate.  That is what we are doing with Gwen, who was three years old when we started the school year. She often wants to follow along and do her own schoolwork, so I help her with the activities she's interested in - and if she's not interested, she can go and play or do whatever else she wants.  I believe in letting kids be kids before the school years, free from unnecessary obligations, so I really don't put any pressure on her.

The youngest two are another story.  Clyde was two years old, and Clarice was one last fall, and they do require more attention.  Since I was asked so often about how I was going to handle schoolwork with the little two running around, I thought I should probably have some sort of plan.  After I attended the homeschool conference and got all my curriculum choices together, I went on a mission to find activities for the younger kids while I was working with the older two.



I came up with a few activities via Pinterest, and I was really excited about giving them a try (activities listed below).  I also pulled aside a few of their educational toys and put them in a special box.  I figured I could pull all these things out whenever we started on schoolwork, and keep them occupied with their special "school toys".

These are the activities I found:

1. Nuts And Bolts Matching Activity.  Buy nuts and bolts of different sizes from the hardware store, and paint the outside of the coordinating hardware the same color.  

2. Clothespins and Paint Swatches.  I picked up some paint cards from Home Depot - two of each color.  The idea is to cut up one of the paint cards and glue a piece onto the back of a clothespin.  Then the kids can pin the clothespin onto the matching color on the cards.  

3. Felt Activity Books.  A lot of people make their own, but I just buy the $3 ready-made version at Target.

4. Lacing Cards.   Lacing shoelaces through colorful character cardboard cutouts (how's that for alliteration?).  I'm sure you've seen these.

I have a few more ideas in this blog I made for this post a while back too:





All these activit├ęs are great for color matching and fine motor skills, and I patted myself on the back for being so prepared.

But here's my little secret.

We haven't used a single one of these activities.




Do you know what Clyde (and even Clarice) like best?  A notebook and a pencil.

When I am working on writing or number practice with the big kids, Clyde likes to feel like he is doing the same sort of thing.  He wants to do "school" too.  He doesn't want to be left out, or relegated to a separate activity - he wants to be part of the action.

So I sit him down with his "school" notebook and a fat pencil, and he scribbles in it until we are done.

I think in the midst of all those inquiries about how to keep the little kids happy while we did our schoolwork, I forgot three things.  

1. My kids like to do things together as much as possible.  Clyde and Clarice both want to feel like "big kids".  They are always so proud of themselves when they accomplish something that they've only seen their brother and sister do up to that point.  It was silly of me to think I needed to entertain them separately from what everyone else is doing.

2. All my kids have always been independent players.  Most of the time while we are working on reading or anything else, the little kids just go off and play by themselves.  I've never been one of those mothers who structures her preschoolers' schedule.  We don't do a lot of organized projects or educational projects.  I just let them play, because that is my preschool philosophy - and my kids are great at independent play.  This is a big advantage in homeschooling, and I should appreciate it.  Some moms might need to plan a lot of activities to keep their younger children entertained - but I don't!  My kids have always entertained themselves.  I should just enjoy that!

3. Each round of work in kindergarten takes 15-20 minutes, and we take breaks in between.  Fifteen minutes is not a big enough amount of time to have to fill it up with baby and toddler activities.  Homeschool kindergarten is not a whole-day endeavor, like public or private school counterparts, because a lot of kindergarten actives are regular life activities.  Kids have free play time.  They color and paint.  They eat snacks.  They take a nap or "quiet time".  None of which actually feels like school.  The part that does feel more school-like is the bookwork, and that's the part that literally takes 15 minutes.  It's really not intimidating at all, and I was making it way too complicated.

So this summer, when I'm planning for next year, I'm going to try to remember what happened this last year and restrain myself from buying a lot of fancy extras for our homeschool - because it is likely that they will go unused.  I'd much rather take the kids outside and let them get dirty (or wet and cold) in the winter than spend all my time and money planning activities for them.  I'd much rather do "school" all together as much as possible and continue to encourage those sibling relationships.  I'd much rather just keep the whole thing simple and easy on myself, instead of overcomplicating things and adding more work to my plate.  I'd rather be not-Pinterest-worthy and happy, than Pinterest-worthy and stressed.

But I will probably keep my box of extras handy...just in case the littles are being extra needy one day and I need a backup plan!  I went to all that work, after all.

If you are a homeschool mom, especially if you have young children in the house, I'd love to hear your thoughts!  How do you make homeschooling work with babies and toddlers underfoot?









12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You Review (Highly Recommend)



I picked up the 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You audiobook, because like many of you, I feel like I often check my phone too much.  I thought this book would give me a good little kick to break some bad habits, but I got so much more than I was expecting!

This book goes over different ways smartphones, and technology in general, has changed us not only individually but as a culture.  The author incorporates different statistics and studies, and then takes a deeper look at the spiritual impact of our phone choices.  He doesn't tell you what you need to do with your own smartphone habits, he just neutrally gets you thinking.

There were two specific things in this book that really stuck with me.  First, the author wrote that checking your phone or texting while driving (disclaimer: which I obviously try NOT to do unless changing my music - which maybe I should be careful about too) is a disregard for your neighbor - the neighbor who is in the car whizzing past you.  You are not caring for your neighbor as you should, and as Scripture calls us to do, when you flippantly put them at risk like that.  I had honestly never even thought about the whole don't-text-while-driving thing like that and thought he made some really good points.

The other item that I remembered with this book, and that will honestly change some of how I handle social media is that we so often trade eternal reward for a few temporal "likes" on social media.  The example he used was those posts on Instagram with a picture of your Bible as you finish up your devotional time.  Any heavenly reward we may have received from spending time with our Savior is instantly traded for pats on the back by other people on Instagram.  This is supported by Matthew 6:1

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."

How sad is that?  And once again, I never thought about it before, but I have been guilty too of trading eternal rewards for "likes" - guilty of caring more about men's applause than pleasing God.  Now whenever I see those Bible posts, or those "humble brag" posts, I cringe a little more than I used to.  Since listening to that chapter of this book, I've been trying to refrain from trading eternal rewards like that myself.  It's a bad trade.

There were so many other excellent points in this book, I'll honestly probably listen to it again.  I even thought about buying the print version so I could highlight some of the pieces that I like.  

If you are like me and feel that little itch for an eternal perspective on your smartphone use, definitely check this book out!   It's given me a lot to think about and has already motivated me to change some of my habits, and I highly recommend it.

Note: I received the audio of this book for free from christianaudio in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Maternity Fashion: My New Favorite Park Day Dress

(Note: I received the maternity dress I am wearing here for free from PinkBlush in exchange for this feature post.)


For this pregnancy (and my pregnancy with Clarice), I've received several comments to the effect of "Poor you!  Is it hard being pregnant through the summer?"

To which my answer is: no.  I actually enjoy being pregnant in the summer better than in the winter, and the major reason is cute maternity dresses!



When you are pregnant in the winter, you still have to dress winter-appropriately, which means lots of layers on top of my belly.  I hate that.  Summer pregnancies mean lighter fabrics, and comfortable, flown maternity dresses - and that's a huge plus in my book!

We took a quick trip to the park the other day, and I broke out my new favorite maternity dress from Pink Blush.  This dress is seriously the most comfortable dress I own.  The fabric is so soft, it doesn't restrict me at all while covering everything comfortably - which makes it the perfect park-day dress, because I can run after the kids and move around so easily in it!




















I dressed it up a little with the white leather vest for church, but I abandoned the vest pretty quickly at the park - I actually like the look of the dress even better without it.  The best part is that I think this particular dress is roomy and comfortable enough to last me through the rest of this pregnancy, and I'll be able to wear it post-baby too!

Where is your favorite place to buy maternity dresses?  
Have you ever tried PinkBlush maternity clothes?  And what do you think, aren't dresses the best part of being pregnant in the summer? (Unless you're not a dress kind of girl, in which case the "poor you!" might actually be applicable!)




Tips For Visiting Antelope Canyon With Babies And Toddlers


As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, we went to Arizona for vacation this year, and one of the places we knew we wanted to visit was Antelope Canyon!  This is a slot canyon through the sandstone that was formed by flash floods.  It is absolutely gorgeous and was certainly a highlight of our trip!













Flash floods can still run through the canyon, so you are not allowed to go into Antelope Canyon without a guide.  Complicating matters, we also had four young kids (still in carseats) to take with us!  Overall though, it ended up being very doable and really interesting for the kids as well as us!

We decided to do a morning tour, around 8:00 AM, which we were told was a quieter time in the canyon.  Many people like to go around "prime time", which is the middle of the day when light beams start shining through the rocks to the canyon floor.  However, even though we went at a slower time of day, it was still very busy!  There were people all around us through the whole tour, but the tour companies know to space their groups a tiny bit so you are still able to get some photos without other people in them.

Some recommendations for visiting Antelope Canyon with young children:


Do the Upper Canyon.  

If you want to do Antelope Canyon with kids, be aware that Lower Antelope Canyon requires navigating some pretty steep stairs.  Our kids are a little young for that still, so we ended up doing a tour of Upper Antelope Canyon, which you just walk straight into.  It was an easy, short walk, and was totally manageable even for our three year old.


Book a tour ahead of time.  

We arrived in Page thinking we could book a tour on the same day we wanted to go (I had read that online), but many of the tour companies were booked two or three days out! I would recommend picking a company ahead of time to visit the canyon.


Make sure your tour company accepts young kids.  

I had done some research before we left and picked a company, only to find out when we arrived that they would not accept children under six years old on the tour because of an insurance issue.  Thankfully not every company was restricted this way, and we were able to find another one!  Call ahead of time to ensure that they can accommodate car seats if that information is not clear online.

Realize that you will have to bring your own carseats.  

You are not allowed to drive your own vehicle out to the canyon, you must ride in your tour guide's vehicle.  Make sure your tour company knows that you have children in car seats ahead of time, and arrive early to make sure there is time to get them installed in the vehicle.


Don't be late!  

It's easy to run behind schedule when you have multiple young kids, but there are hundreds of people touring the canyon every day, and many tour companies coordinating their tour groups.  If you are late for the tour, you will be out of luck, because they don't leave a second later than they are supposed to!

If you have a baby carrier, make sure any buckles are tucked under a coat or blanket.  

They didn't let me bring my carrier in for Clarice because the buckles may scratch the wall and I didn't have anything to cover them with.  Thankfully the walk was only about a quarter mile for Upper Antelope Canyon, and it's an easy walk, so this wasn't a problem for us.

Bring cash.  

Just to give you an idea of the cost, we paid for three people, 2 adults and one child (the other three kids were free with our specific tour company), and it ended up costing us about $180, plus a tip.  You also must bring cash, because many of the tour companies do not take credit cards.


Realize it's a quick tour.  

I was expecting the walk to be a bit slower, with more space and time to take some pictures of my family in the canyon.  It was not like that.  There were people everywhere, the tour guide was pointing out all the shapes in the rocks, and the walk in and out of the canyon itself was pretty quick!  We still got some great pictures, but just realize it's busy and distracting in there.  If you want more time to set up photos and such, I'd say the photography tours might be a better bet.


I did some research online about taking kids into Upper Antelope Canyon before we left, and I have to say, it had me a little freaked out about attempting it with kids!  But it ended up not being a big deal at all.  We took four kids under seven years old, and it ended up being an easy and fun outing! Definitely check it out if you are in the Lake Powell area!

Any other questions for me about our experience?  
I'll answer to the best of my ability!



Growth Spurt! 18 Weeks (Baby #5)




I read somewhere that babies start to go through a growth spurt around 18 weeks, and I believe it - I've been feeling it this last week!  I don't think you can tell from the outside yet, but some of my symptoms make me think there is definitely some growing happening.



I'm suddenly tired again (but thankfully not nearly as tired as in the first trimester), and I have had a couple days last week when I felt nauseous.  I have never felt nauseous in the second trimester before, so I wondered at first if it was a stomach bug, but I dismissed that idea when it happened twice on separate days in one week.  Weirdly, I think I might have figured out that I feel worse when I drink milk - do people develop food sensitivities while pregnant?  This has never happened to me before!  I am crossing my fingers that it's not the milk because I love my dairy, but I have cut it out for a few days and will have a bowl of cereal tomorrow to test it out.  Whatever is going on with that, Baby is making his/her presence known!



Baby is still moving daily now, but the movements are pretty soft and down low.  Movements down low in my belly make me worry that baby is breech (Clarice was and I always felt her kicks lower), but if this baby is breech, he/she is comfortably breech.  I haven't had any backaches at all this pregnancy, which is unusual for me and so nice! Overall, this Baby has been very gentle with the pregnancy aches/pains/symptoms, and that has been a blessing.  I thought it might be harder being pregnant this time since I'm getting ever older, but this pregnancy has been easier than some of my others!  Now I'm just hoping for some stronger kicks from Baby in the next few weeks, because it's so fun to feel them from the outside.



Sitting here typing this post, I feel like I've almost felt a couple Braxton Hicks! They started around the middle of my pregnancy with Clarice as well, but I was kind of surprised to feel them anyway.  It's a good thing because my uterus is toning up for labor, but that still seems so far off (even though it's not that far off, actually - five months will fly by)!

Gender reveal party plans are in full swing now (we find out on July 3rd!), and we're going to have the party the weekend after the 4th of July.  So obviously we'll go with a 4th of July/Americana theme!  The 4th is in the middle of the week this year, so I think it'll work out just fine.  I'm going to be on the hunt for sparklers, because where we are they always sell out way before the 4th - and when I say we sell out, I mean every place I check in my state is out of sparklers and fireworks after a certain date.  If I can't find any, Baby and I will be taking a little trip across the state line!  



This week is also my birthday week, so we celebrated last weekend.  I always like being pregnant on my birthday!  It's just fun to celebrate with another little one along for the ride, and I feel blessed.

I know I promised a belly comparison picture this week, but I changed my mind and I'm going to save it for next week - along with all my symptoms, etc, and maybe even a little gift card for someone who guesses the gender right!  Stay tuned!

(Note: Affiliate links below.)

Swing dress: Jane.com
Kimono: Forever21
Sunglasses: Jane.com
Pineapple Necklace: Christopher & Banks

Glory In The Ordinary Audiobook (Highly Recommend)



On somewhat of a whim I decided to grab the audiobook of Glory In The Ordinary recently.  The subtitle caught my eye, "Why Your Work In The Home Matters To God".  As someone who has struggled with my identity, especially after I quit working as a hygienist, I thought this book sounded helpful.

This book was so refreshing to me, because I find so much of Christian non-fiction that is directed toward women to be...fluffy.  This book was not fluffy!  It was packed full of Scripture references to support her points, and focused on the biblical view of work.  The author writes to stay-at-home-moms and working moms, because both groups are also working at home.  

As a mom, I could relate to so much of this book.  I struggled for a while to find my "purpose", my meaning in working at home, because so much of the work it is mundane.  Kriessig writes about how our work in the home brings order out of chaos and loves and ministers to those God has given us, and that brings Him glory.  She emphasizes how work in the home is not only valuable to God, but this very work is preparing us for the work God will have for us in eternity.



The narrator of this book did an excellent job, I thought.  Her voice inflections differentiated the sections well, and she made it easy to follow along with what the author was saying in audio format.

I got so much out of this book, and I wish I had come across it a couple years ago when I was really struggling in this area!  However, even now when I have settled in and feel more content with my work at home, I found this book so challenging and encouraging.  I think it will be a re-listen for me! I highly recommend it to all wives and mothers - no matter your stage or time constraints or style of homemaking, I think you'll be encouraged too!

Note: I received a copy of this audiobook for free from christianaudio, in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.

5 Gifts A New Mom Will Thank You For Later

  (First note: This is my belly at 34 weeks with Clyde.  I'm bigger this time, but not that big yet, haha!)

(Also: I partnered with/received compensation from Babywise.Life to write this post.  Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links, which means I will make a percentage of any products purchased after clicking on the links.)


Even though I am expecting a baby myself, I have to say, I am pretty excited about a few baby showers in my future - for my friends!  I know a few girls who are having babies this summer and fall, and all the imminent baby shower excitement got me thinking about my first baby shower.  When I was expecting Wyatt I spent a ton of time searching and making lists of things I needed, and I had a strategy of only registering for my must-have items.  Overall that strategy served me well because after my shower there was very little left for me to buy!  But I also have to admit that some of my most useful gifts were things that were not on my must-have list - in fact, some of them I didn’t even think I needed at all.  Sometimes other people really do know what you need better than you do.  I’m not sure I ever specifically thanked my family and friends who deviated from the list for giving me something I never knew I needed, but trust me, there was a lot of gratitude in my heart towards those who gave me the items below!  

I’m focusing on gifts for brand-new, first time moms in this post, because I have a completely different list for second (or third or fourth) time moms.  Maybe that will be another post soon!



Poncho-Style Nursing Cover 

As an expecting mom I knew I needed a nursing cover, but I honestly didn’t give much thought to the style of it.  Thankfully my aunt thought outside the box and made me a poncho-style nursing cover (similar to this one).  This was so creative of her, because this was way back when (ahem, 7 years ago), before the poncho-style ones were popular - and it was a lifesaver.  It was so freeing to have something that covered my front and my back, and it made every shirt I had “nursing friendly”. 


I didn’t even think about a nursing pillow until my sister-in-law brought me one in the hospital right after I had my baby.  If I’m completely honest, I thought they were a little silly before I actually used one - but as soon as I got that pillow, I was a convert. I quickly realized how much easier it was to use a nursing pillow than to prop up several different pillows to support my arms while nursing - and bonus, they are also great for propping baby up during tummy time exercise too!  I like the donut-shaped pillows like this one.

Baby Bathtub 

Weirdly, I never thought about this item either until my mom gave me one.  I think in the back of my mind I just thought I could wash my baby in the kitchen sink.  Maybe that seems really naive, but maybe one of you budget-conscious expecting mamas has considered the sink option too - just trust me, ask for the baby bathtub.  Baths are stressful enough with newborns without trying to figure out how to prop them up while you wash their wispy hair!

Car Mirror 

This one is technically cheating, because I didn’t receive a car mirror as a gift - not the way home from the hospital we stopped to buy one.  I realized on that first car ride that when I was sitting in the front, with the rear-facing car seat in the back, I couldn’t see my tiny baby at all!  We found a mirror attach to the backseat, so I could peek back there and see the reflection of my little bundle.  This brought immense comfort to my paranoid new-mom self.  I got one like this car mirror because it was so big!

Books 

It never even occurred to me to ask for books, for myself or the baby, but a couple friends were thinking ahead for me.  One friend gave me an adorable and thoughtful children’s book that I treasure to this day, and one friend gave me the Babywise book, which you already know I found so helpful.  Now, when I attend a first-time baby shower, I try to stick a couple encouraging, informative, or cute books in the bag with the rest of my gift, because I know how much the books I received meant to me.



Mamas - what gifts did you get that you used or appreciated more than you thought you would?

(Also check out this post on Babywise.life for more ideas for new baby items you may not have thought of!)




Working So We Can Relax

 


I realized last night that I have been slacking on doing my Tuesday old-fashioned posts since getting back from vacation!  So this is my quick attempt to jump back on the wagon.  Here's what I've been up to since we got back:

Homeschooling

Since I have a baby coming right in the middle of the fall semester of school, I decided to try to get a head start on first grade.  If I waited to start until September this year (which is my preference), I would barely have two months to get into a good rhythm with school before everything will be thrown out the window.  I'd much rather get the bulk of our work done early and have more wiggle room to figure out what I'm doing again after delivery.  So we've been working on a couple of our subjects so that we have a lighter load after Baby #5 arrives! We're continuing with our reading program, and my goal for the summer is to get a good amount of science work in.  I'll write more about our curriculum choices for first grade soon, but we're doing Apologia Zoology 1 for science, and it involves birds and insects...which are obviously more prevalent in the summer, so it only made sense to get started on it.


(The kids doing an air pressure experiment, so show how air pressure helps birds fly.  They sucked water out of the straw by blowing air across the top of the straw in the water!)

Buying Appliances

We had a little money left over from our house renovation from last year (someday I'll actually get around to doing another house tour, but I feel like those of you who have been around a while have incidentally already seen most of it).  We could save the money, but...our dishwasher is rotting (yes, I'm serious, rotting), and our microwave is making a weird noise, and and the shelf broke in the fridge and the lightbulb went out.  The lightbulb was the last straw.  Derek makes fun of me for this, because we could obviously change the lightbulb - but it went out two months ago, and am I still rummaging around in the dark for the pickles?  Yes, I am.  Plus, it's nicer if all the appliance match in color anyway, right?  As I type this the kitchen is in shambles behind me, and I'm waiting for the delivery guy to arrive (they already tried to cancel on us, and Derek told them they had to come today because he didn't go into work so he could be here...so hopefully they actually show up).



Planting Flowers (And Other Outside Beautifying)

I finally got flowers for all my pots, Derek finally (mostly) finished building the new section of our porch, and we set up our little outdoor oasis!  It really is nice out there now.  Our porch was so skinny before that we couldn't even walk around our deck furniture.  Now we actually have a functional outdoor space, and I foresee many happy evenings out there with hummingbirds whizzing around our heads (we're still working on recruiting the hummingbirds - I'll keep you posted).  I also dug all the rotting pinecones out from underneath the kid's swing set and filled the sandbox with actual sand, which was a pleasant change.






This week...more working on school, and then a busy weekend coming up with a girl's night and my birthday celebration!

What have you been up to, friends?  How have you kicked off the summer?


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