5 Ways to Supplement Kindergarten at Home

Posted by Carly Morgan

Kindergarten at home

Eva has started her Kindergarten school program and we’re off to a pretty good start. Her allergy and asthma plan is in place, she’s already made some new friends, and she’s still waking up looking forward to school. In fact, the only thing I’m a little concerned about is the actual school part.

Here’s the thing about Kindergarten: in theory, Kindergarten students are still at the age where they need to be playing more than they need to be learning (at least according to Finland and all of their happy kids) so it shouldn’t matter that Eva is a little bit ahead of what they’ve been doing in school. She’s learning social skills and having fun.

Except…

It’s a year, you know? A whole year. And with the homeschool stuff we were doing, she’s more than a little bit ahead. I don’t think she’s gifted or special or anything but we’ve been working forward and she’s picked up momentum with her reading and her math and all that. I don’t want to stop doing homeschool with her and I don’t want to intentionally stall out at the same level just so she doesn’t get much farther than where her class is. I understand not wanting to push her forward too fast but is holding back really any better?

The best solution seems to be to let her work through programs where she can advance (or not) depending on where she is with each subject. Here are 10 that we’ve tried and liked so far:

Hooked on Phonics – Classroom Edition

We finished this reading program this past summer and Eva enjoyed all of the games and simple books. I’m disappointed that it didn’t continue beyond the basics, but once Eva was done she has been able to read all of our picture books (although she’s still sounding out and taking her time). Little note – you probably want to sit with your child while they’re using this app because it is possible to just mindlessly push buttons and let the app read the books to you instead of doing the work.

Todo Math

The best math app on the iPad! There is a fee if you want to open up all of the games but it starts at really early levels and lets you work your way up. Both Calvin and Eva use this one all the time.

Starfall

This is probably the best set of online Kindergarten games that we’ve used, although you have to pay a yearly fee for it. The games are less cheesy than ABC Mouse and less distracting than PBS Kids, which are the big two that everyone we know uses, and there are more subjects and levels available in Starfall than we’ve seen with a lot of other online programs. Also, if you happen to be doing a school or partial school program, there’s a chance that your classroom has purchased a membership and you can get a login from your child’s teachers. There seems to be special pricing for educators. We aren’t currently using Starfall but we’ll probably get back into it soon.

Brain Quest Workbooks (K and 1st grade) 

We’ve used a TON of workbooks and for the most part they are a waste of time (in my opinion) because they tend to be too structured to adapt to each individual learner. That being said, the best progressive workbooks are the Brain Quest series. They aren’t dumbed down, they follow a path that makes sense, and they’re affordable. That being said, I’m not exactly sure how they line up to grade level because Eva was able to finish the first grade book and it didn’t seem all that much harder than the Kindergarten one.

The 20th-Century Children’s Book Treasury: Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud

While not strictly a curriculum, we’re working through this book with the goal of getting Eva to read the whole thing aloud over the course of this year. We started a month ago and do at least a little bit every day and I let Eva decide if she wants to finish the stories or interrupt them to read something else after she’s done a bit. She was intimidated at first but it’s been fun to have her realize that this giant book is just filled with stories that she can totally conquer on her own. I’m planning on having a little celebration for her when we’re finally finished!

Anything I missed? Anything anyone else is using?

Our First Red Egg and Ginger Party

Posted by Carly Morgan

The timeline is ticking down for our third baby (we’re just about down to two months left!) and I’m trying to wrap my brain around all of the things I need to think about. We cleaned out two closets this weekend so we could move stuff around to make room and I found the journal I kept when I was pregnant with Eva. This far into my pregnancy I had already planned out her nursery, a year’s worth of activities, her seasonal wardrobe, and her first three vacations. This included her trip to California for her red egg and ginger party.

Eva's red egg party 065

The red egg party typically celebrates a Chinese baby’s first month and is the opportunity for the family to announce the baby’s name and introduce him or her to the relatives. We did a more modern twist by waiting four months and only keeping her Chinese name a secret (since Facebook knew Eva’s name before she was even born) but we still had a lot of traditional elements and it was fun to see all the lists and sketches I worked on when she was still in my tummy.

I went all out for that party even going so far as to make seven different kinds of red desserts and order more than a hundred red balloons. I hand cut confetti, hand dyed her dress, tied little ribbons around everything…*sigh* it’s like another planet. Best of all, everyone came out. All the grandparents were there and her godparents were there and our families came in from all over to help us celebrate. And to eat the ridiculous hand-dipped Oreos I decided she couldn’t possibly live without.

IMG_1969

Alas, I don’t know what kind of red egg party baby #3 will have because that, like lots of stuff, seems to be a lost detail in a house that already has two kids in it so let’s just take a peek at Eva’s red egg party and save any future red egg parties for another day:

Eva's red egg party 009

Eva's red egg party 028

Eva's red egg party 057

Eva's red egg party 098

Eva's red egg party 114

Eva's red egg party 143

Eva's red egg party 169

IMG_2013

IMG_2021

IMG_2027

IMG_2035

IMG_2079

You can read more about Eva’s red egg party here.

Allergy Week: Eva’s 5th Skin Test and Getting Ready for Kindergarten

Posted by Carly Morgan

Kindergarten + food allergies = holy smokes am I tired.

On a cheerful note, five years of freaking out about allergies actually made this one of our easiest back-to-school seasons yet because we sort of know the drill by now. Before Eva goes to school we need to have meetings with her teachers, a doctor’s appointment to go over her heath plan and check her meds, and we need to stock both Eva and her classroom with whatever she’ll need to stay safe.

Not too hard to do but a little exhausting, especially when you have another starting preschool for the first time and a third in your tummy dropping your sugar levels and kicking your kidneys.

IMG_7911

Eva’s doctor’s appointment to do her skin test went really well. We’ve switched to a new allergist, making this our third since her diagnosis, because we’d heard great things about a new-ish clinic and it was more convenient all around. I feel like it will be a good switch because we liked her doctor and we covered a lot of things in the appointment that we hadn’t ever talked about before. Not all of it was positive (did you know people don’t really have a chance of growing out of shellfish allergies?) but at least a couple of her more minor allergies seem to be getting a little better so it wasn’t all bad news.

She’s still at the ceiling limits for nut allergies and we’ve now hit the point where she would have gotten a little better if she was going to grow out of them so we’re hanging our hats on someone finding a cure or a treatment or a something to make things a little easier. Sadly, the whole allergy community took a kick to the shins recently when the prices for Epi pens skyrocketed. It’s not an optional thing to have up-to-date pens so I guess we’re all just going to have to hope someone notices how badly we’re being skewered. Did you know we spent more on Eva meds last year than we spent on a week at Disney World? At least we had it, though, and didn’t have to pick between meds or groceries…

As for school, we had a bit of a panic attack when we found out that Eva’s teacher quit over the summer but we’ve been in contact with the new teacher and had a good meeting covering all of her needs. I always feel like I’m dropping an overwhelming bomb when I show up with Eva’s meds and papers but she handled it well and we have our fingers crossed tight for an uneventful year.

Finally, Eva has been getting used to wearing her Epi pack since she’s doing a not-so-traditional school program where she won’t just be in one classroom all day. Instead of moving the meds around, we’re going to keep a pack of Epi pens in the front office and Eva will wear a pack on her belt so she has them with her always. It’s a bit of a pain because the Epi pack is not small and Eva is small so she’s basically wearing a big brick to school but in theory it will be less noticeable once the weather gets colder and clothes get bulkier.

IMG_7939

I admit that my new worry is that the Epi pack and her silver med bracelet are going to make her stand out as some kind of target among her new classmates but I’m really hoping the kids are too little for those kind of differences to matter. Kindergarten kids are pretty flexible about that kind of stuff, right? I guess worse case scenario she’ll just be that different kid that turns into a teachable moment about accepting people but I kind of hope that nobody notices or they think she’s just accessorized.

IMG_7945

We opted out of doing a lunch program this year but I’d love to hear how you’re preparing to send your allergy kid to school, esp if they’ll be eating! Separate lunch tables? Labeled lunch box? No accommodations beyond meds? I’m really curious in case we decide we want to switch it up…

Baby Gear: Why the Third Child is Getting All the New Stuff

Posted by Carly Morgan

baby gear

A few days ago, Kyle and I went to town gearing up for baby #3. You would think that one of the benefits of having two other children would be that we already have all of the gear you need to raise a baby, but it turns out that we had plenty to buy. Being honest, though, this is 30% because our baby stuff was worn out and 70% because we got the wrong baby stuff in the first place. I tried to do my research on baby necessities when I was pregnant with Eva, but at the end of the day you just don’t know what you don’t know. We ended up with almost everything we had asked for with that kid (and had the stuffed house to prove it) but it wasn’t until we started using everything that we realized we might have picked not-the-best stuff.

IMG_5118

Calvin is actually the kid that got the brunt of secondhand-itis. Our first two kids were closer together in age than #2 and #3 will be and it didn’t make sense for us at the time to turn around and buy a whole new set of baby things. Plus, I was already on strict bed rest for a few weeks by this point in my pregnancy so that nesting time was really scrambled up with just trying to keep everything under control. He by no means had a deprived infanthood, but there are things we probably could have upgraded even then.

So, what did we get so far for the third kid? Here are a few things:

Crib

Old: Graco Charleston Convertible Crib

IMG_8417

I have to start by saying that this is a fantastic crib. We used it for both Eva and Calvin and it’s still in great condition. It’s easy to wipe down, deep enough to be safe even as babies get bigger, and we never had any problems taking it apart and putting it back together. We also still have it, so theoretically this could have been something we could have pulled out of storage to save our pennies.

My problem with it? It’s a crib. What I didn’t know when we were looking at cribs for Eva is that cribs are actually kind of massive, especially if you live in a small house like we do. This wasn’t necessarily an issue in the beginning when Eva had her own room, but it became something of an issue when we needed to put Calvin somewhere and it’s pretty much a no-go for us right now. Even if we had the space, I personally think standard cribs are just insanely large. Hence everyone using bassinets when the baby first comes home.

IMG_2702

Now I get that the cribs are large because babies don’t stay football-sized and one of the perks of our original crib is that it converts to a toddler bed, but we never used that function. Both of our kids moved out of the crib somewhere around 15 months, long before they had outgrown the crib’s dimensions, because it was easier to give them the freedom to get in and out of bed at that point. I think that’s pretty early compared to the average but it worked better for us, rendering all that extra room unnecessary. So we might just be crib-incompatible people.

New: Babyletto Origami Mini Crib

81JAcVeva7L._SL1500_

Mini-cribs are a solution to lots of different problems. They take up less space so they’re great for people who live in apartments or who are sharing a bedroom (like we will be for the first year). Some people use these instead of buying bassinets because they last a little bit longer as the baby gets bigger and therefore give you more freedom to choose when baby moves to his/her own room. Some, like this one, also fold up easily and can be tucked into a closet so they’re a great option for grandma’s house and I’ve actually seen this model provided at upscale boutique hotels.

I’m excited about the new crib because (A) it’s beautiful, (B) it will take up much less space in our bedroom, and (C) it fits through standard doorways so if we did need to move it around the house for some reason it will be easy to do so. I admit that the last one might be a non-issue because the house is small enough that we’re never too far away from each other, but nice to have the option, right?

Little note: although I’m happy about this switch, we did also have to get a new mini-crib mattress and mini-crib sheets because our stuff was all too big, so it would have definitely been more cost effective to have started with the mini-crib in the first place. I have no doubt that if we’d gotten this one for Eva it would still be in great condition for our new baby boy. Something to think about if you’re a first-time parent or grandparent!

Bathtub

Old: Safety 1st Comfy Bath Sponge

IMG_3537

Eva and Calvin both used this kind of bath sponge as a bathtub (although I did buy a fresh one for Calvin) because I thought it made more sense with our lifestyle. Like I’ve mentioned, we live in cramped quarters and a big plastic tub seemed like a real hassle so we used these sponges and just plopped the baby on top of them either in the full-sized tub or in the kitchen sink. Being completely honest, I never really considered the sponges one way or another.

Well, it turns out that these sponges were the bane of Kyle’s life. Bathing an infant on top of a sponge is a little tricky because when the baby is really little both the baby and the sponge tend to float around if you have too much water and if you have too little water the sponge takes it all in and won’t let it get to the kid. Also, they don’t provide any support so you still have to make sure their head is a little bit up and neither baby ever seemed all that comfortable. Like I said, never bothered me but then again I wasn’t usually the one handling bath time. Anyway, when we were shopping and I went to grab the 3rd giant bath sponge, Kyle called shenanigans.

New: Safety 1st Modular Bath Center

61jXnJjF3jL._SX522_

This little tub has two pieces that fit together in different arrangements depending on how big the baby is. Because of the size, the baby isn’t going to slip around anywhere and we no longer have to deal with trying to get the baby not to float away while we’re looking for the cradle cap brush. I did point out that we still don’t have a lot of space for things like plastic baby tubs, but Kyle countered that we could just keep it in the bath tub when we aren’t using it and also his entire life will apparently be better if he never encounters another large baby bath sponge. Hard to argue with that.

Car Seat

Old: Chicco Keyfit 30

Like our original crib, I can’t recommend this car seat enough. We purchased it because it was the only one that fit in the car we had when Eva was born and we never had any issues with it. In fact, it held up so well that we actually used the same car seat for both Eva and Calvin. I think that might be a parenting no-no, just to warn you, so take that with a grain of salt.

same car seat

New: Britax B-Safe 35

61J8DF2PKjL._SX522_

We got this partly because of the higher weight limit since we want the baby to be rear-facing longer than his siblings were and partly because it fits so well with our BOB jogging stroller and that means that we’ll be able to run with him even when he’s teeny. We also needed a car seat with a really thin base because the baby will be riding in the middle of the other two car seats in our back seat so we were happy that this one worked out.

Diaper Bag

Old: Petunia Pickle Bottom Satchel

IMG_4754

I love Petunia Pickle bottom diaper bags and carried a different one for each of the first two kids. The prints are darling, there are tons of pockets, and the backpack feature on the satchel version was so handy. Sadly, though, there are two large drawbacks to this brand. The first is that they are pretty undeniably girly-looking diaper bags so Kyle was stuck with whatever floral print I had picked out as having our own diaper bags didn’t work out for us. The second problem is that they didn’t hold up as well as I wanted them to. We are probably harder on our diaper bags than most families because we carry them forever. Lots of people get away with just slipping a diaper and some wipes into a purse by the time the first birthday comes around but we always have to carry a full bag because we carry Eva’s medication and snacks along with everything else.

New: Bluekiwi HAKA Universal Backpack

78594446004703p__4

Kyle picked this one out and we’ve been using it with the other two kids for this week. This little backpack is fantastic – lots of pockets and storage but it doesn’t feel like you’re carrying a ton of stuff and the straps are really comfortable. I’m also excited about the color and fabric because I feel like it’s going to take a long time for this bag to show any wear and tear and after years of carrying around my floral patterns it will be nice for Kyle to not have something that screams “my wife does all the shopping”.

IMG_8936

We have other gear upgrades that I’ll share later on but I did want to point out that not everything is brand new. We’re using a ton of Calvin’s baby clothes because most of his stuff was still in great condition when he grew out of them and other things like the Boppy and the baby wrap are coming out of storage because they were easily washable and don’t have a lot of wear. Some stuff is also still in storage because we’re upgrading thanks to all of the advances baby gear has made just in the last 5 years! There are options now that we didn’t even have for Eva and Calvin (how crazy is that??) so you’ll be seeing more of those things are we start to get the house ready for baby…

IMG_7819

Different Types of Homeschooling

Posted by Carly Morgan

types of homeschooling

When we first started to explore homeschooling, I had a very set picture in my mind of what homeschooling is. I imagined a mom at a table reading bible versus to mop-haired children scribbling in notebooks with worn textbooks stacked in a corner and everyone wearing some version of natural-fiber, hand-woven, pioneer-era garb. My enthusiasm, therefore, was low.

I suppose that is what homeschooling looks like for some people out there, but the vast majority of homeschooling looks very different. There also isn’t one representative picture of homeschooling that I can share with you because there isn’t one way to do it “right”, which is something I never knew until I really started to dig deep into unexplored territory. So, in case you’re at the beginning of this journey, I thought I’d do a really fast introduction to some different types of homeschooling.

Fair warning: this is the quick and dirty version and I’d recommend doing your research on at least a few different types before making a decision about which one would work for your family (or whether homeschooling would work at all). This is intended to be a jumping off point and to give you an idea of how these different methods compare to each other.

Different types of homeschooling:

Eclectic homeschooling – This pieced-together approach is the most common type of homeschooling that I’ve seen “in action”. The idea is that you pick and choose which curriculums and learning styles you want to use for each subject and build a homeschool that works for your kids, family, and teaching style. It’s almost not fair to include it as an actual homeschool “type” because it’s hodgepodge that looks different from family to family, but I wanted to start by pointing out that most people aren’t all-or-nothing about homeschool styles.

Packaged curriculum – This “traditional” method of homeschooling is very close to regular school. It’s a set curriculum that is built to cover one year at a time and have all the subjects use similar teaching methods (usually through text, workbooks, and possibly videos depending on which curriculum you purchase). The parent is responsible for buying the curriculum every year and making sure the student sticks to a schedule that lets them finish the work on time to stay on grade level.

Unit Studies – Similar to eclectic homeschooling, this curriculum is pulled from lots of different styles (or purchased as a unit from people who have pulled it together for you) with the distinction that each unit focuses on a theme that extends across all subject areas. For example, if you were doing a unit study on Ancient Rome, you would read books on the subject but you might also do a list of new vocabulary words connected to that time, math problems drawing on situations Roman citizens would have faced, science experiments dealing with growing crops in that time period, art projects depicting Roman buildings, etc.

Classical homeschooling – Built on the Socratic method, this method of teaching is built around 3 phases of learning and thinking that children move through as they age. It’s language-focused with lots of reading/writing and a particular emphasis on world history. New technologies and learning methods are generally discouraged in “pure” classical education. Parents can purchase a classical curriculum but have a fair amount of responsibility in teaching and organizing lessons, particularly in the early years.

Charlotte Mason – This bible-based method of learning stresses the importance of learning from real-life situations. The set curriculum is literature-based, using “living books” with lessons meant to bring concepts from text to life. Parent are responsible for purchasing and implementing the curriculum but also facilitating learning experiences with lots of time spent outdoors.

Montessori – This child-led system of learning allows the child to freely move around in a controlled environment filled with materials designed to encourage learning. The Montessori philosophy is focused largely on maintaining peace and educating the whole child so this type of homeschool becomes a lifestyle in which parents are responsible for buying materials, maintaining the environment, being available for guidance, and continuing to live by those peaceful and socially-conscious philosophies in general.

Waldorf – Another child-led system of learning that focuses on education the whole child, Waldorf homeschooling generally has the same type of controlled environment but without the specific materials dictated by Montessori. Heavy emphasis on exploring/sustaining the natural world and restricting exposure to technology (television isn’t recommended at all for the younger student) tends to make this type of homeschooling a lifestyle choice for the whole family.

Distance learning – This is similar to a traditional packaged homeschool curriculum, but with distance learning you are actually enrolled in a 3rd party school but taking classes at home. Textbooks, workbooks, and other learning materials are mailed to the student and lessons are completed and graded with the help of a remote teacher (through video chat, postal correspondence, etc.) with the parent acting as facilitator to make sure students stay on schedule. Costs range from free (through some public or charter schools) to typical private school tuition.

Part-time homeschooling – Students who are only homeschooled part-time attend regular school for some subjects and learn at home for the rest. This has been a solution for students who struggle/excel in particular subjects, for parents who want to try homeschooling but feel overwhelmed with taking on all subjects at once, or for students who can’t attend school on a regular schedule such as students with medical needs or intense extracurricular activities (like being heavily involved in competitive sports).

Unschooling – This free-range schooling approach is completely child-led with the idea that learning will occur naturally as children follow their interests. Parents don’t organize any curriculum but need to be available to provide opportunities and experiences to allow children to explore whatever they’re interested in at the moment. There is generally no adherence to “grade level” as the philosophy is that each child learns what he or she needs to on their own schedule.

As you can see, even if two families are homeschooling, their day-to-day could look completely different. A distance-learner will still be adhering to the same relatively restricted schedule that someone in regular school would follow while an unschooler would have no schedule restrictions at all and a Waldorf student might live in a world completely free of televisions and smart phones while someone using a packaged curriculum could be spending an hour each day working on the tablet watching videos and playing games to complete lessons as part of their education.

Our family is still deciding which homeschool style will work for us. The current plan is to do a sort of eclectic part-time homeschool for this first official year of grade school since Eva is enrolled in a regular school (although half-day Kindergarten theoretically covers all subjects). The planned curriculum for our work at home is based on classical homeschooling but we also use technology like iPad apps (not recommended) and we’re planning to study the bible as a classic text instead of making our lessons faith-based (not discouraged but also not the norm for classical homeschoolers). I’m worried about how time-intensive this plan is for me since we’re also welcoming a new baby this year, but Kindergarten is kind of a soft start year in that there isn’t a lot expected to keep a student on grade level.

Homeschool

Although a certain style may sound appealing, lots of factors go into determining the ultimate success of a new homeschool program. As you consider which type of homeschooling is right for you, you might want to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do we have the space and resources to start this homeschool plan? How much prep will I have to do?
  • How much is this going to cost? If I have to buy a lot of materials and teaching supplies, how much money am I saving compared to a packaged curriculum? Compared to distance learning?
  • What are the financial risks if this doesn’t work out? Will we be ok to “eat” the costs of trying this program or will I need to try to sell these materials after the fact?
  • If I’m teaching multiple children, which materials can be reused?
  • Do I have the time to organize lessons?
  • Do I have the time to organize learning experiences and outings?
  • Do I have to be home for all of the homeschooling or is it possible for someone else to facilitate at least in part (such as with distance learning or packaged curriculums)?
  • How much of a culture shock will this style be for our family?
  • How much support/resistance will we have from our community if we try this one?
  • How will we know if this type of homeschooling is working for our family?
  • How will I incorporate social experiences into this homeschool program?
  • How is this method better than the other options I have available (including public school and non-homeschooling options)?
  • Are we incorporating faith-based lessons into our curriculum?
  • Are we incorporating practical life skills into our curriculum?
  • Are we incorporating lifestyle choices (such as green living or technology-free play) into our curriculum?
  • Can everyone get on board with this method including my partner, other children, and anyone who might be helping me care for and educate the kids?
  • Who is going to carry most of the burden of homeschooling? (One parent, both parents, children, 3rd party, etc.?)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...