Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Homeschool, Daycare, Virtual, and Everything In Between

 Three months into our school year and our days are getting easier. The littles understand and instantly listen when I say, "we need to keep our voices quiet because others are in school." The littles are amazing and adapted well. Some days are still confusing, for me mostly! It's a juggling act to make sure everyone is doing what they need to do, in class on time, meals and snacks are served, and everyone is happy (or at the very least, alive!). It has not been perfect, but we're making it work.

I've had to be better about lesson planning. For example, if there's an activity I want to do with the littles/daycare, I need to make sure the homeschool kids have things they can independently work on AND at a time when the virtual kids will be in live lessons (because there's a much smaller chance they'll need me for something). As I said above, juggling act. But, I'm learning to love our circus and we've had a lot of fun with things.

The littles continue to work on letters, patterning, shapes, colors (although they have these down), following directions, and most importantly, learning how to communicate with each other. Their favorite thing from the last few weeks has been playing Find The Turkey. It's literally a stuffed animal turkey that I hide while they close their eyes. Virtual kids have done an amazing job adjusting to the disappointment of missing out on some of these activities. That's been a tough pill to swallow: hearing the kids do the activities while they're in school. I'm so thankful for all of our learning/school rooms we created in the house because they have been used A LOT! The homeschoolers teeter between school work and daycare activities. Some days are more fun than others, but the homeschoolers like to include the daycare kids as much as possible as lessons allow.

Then there's me. I spent all of last week confused about what day of the week it was. My job has become even more exhausting and demanding, but I still love it. I am looking forward to the free days of winter break though! Where I don't have lessons to plan and can have a bit of breathing room from my daily circus. There's been so much fun learning that I'm so proud of--I find myself re-learning soooo much and find new joy in that. Here's a look at what we've been doing the last month at our circus:

During our Fall Break (read about parts one and two here), we read The Miracle Worker. The minis requested to learn sign language in the following weeks. I bought these magnets that show the letters in sign language.

All of the scary movies the mini's watched came out in their pumpkin decorating. They chose to do some of their "fun stuff" on the week days and school work on the weekends. The flexibility of homeschooling is one of our favorite things about this school year.

The minis have meetings with their homeschool assistance teacher once or twice a month. It's a great check in, as the minis share what they're learning, I can ask any questions or for ideas for teaching them better, and our teacher is all around amazing! 

Random noises are nothing new for our house. I couldnt' figure out where a noise was coming from until I found the cat in the blanket basket. She was trying to find a comfy spot to lay.

Universal Yums is  still a favorite of ours! Our most recent boxes included Russia and Italy. I bought Russian Nesting Dolls to go with our box and day of learning all about Russia.

We've celebrated birthdays too. The minis do the baking now for cooking class. We had to do away with candles on their treats for birthday parties, but the kids haven't seemed to mind one bit.

Give the pumpkin a face using Play Doh. The kids LOVED this sensory activity.

The pets make sure the kids are loved on, entertained, and always watching all day every day. The cats tend to curl up with the kids (or on their keyboards) while they read or doing math on their computers. Meanwhile, the dog makes sure the kids get adequate exercise.

An extra large bowl of cereal, because why not??

Each week, daycare focuses on a new letter. The preschool kids practice writing the letter of the week, there's coloring sheets, finding the letters in books, and usually fun activities to go along with that letter. On this day, the kids were tiger tamers and they had to build the tiger a house with blocks. As they built, they announced which shape they were holding and building with and what color that block was. We only kept that up for 10ish minutes before my attention was needed elsewhere. I had to walk away to help a virtual learner and when I returned, they presented their tiger house to me.
I laughed as they were showing me their tiger house because on kid stopped and exclaimed, "we need a door! Or the tiger can break out and eat people!"

Our biggest challenges of the day come mid-day in the lunch and recess chaos. Of the nine hours daycare is open, there's only about 30 minutes a day when all of the kids have free time together. We try to utilize this time for recess and play time (this means many times the virtual kids are eating during class or homework time and daycare/homeschool kids finish eating just in time for rest/nap time and returning to school work). On one particular day they opted to play inside and spent 30 minutes dancing and doing handstands. The handstands stopped when one child completely flipped herself over and landed directly on her back. Everyone in the room completely stopped and held their breath until she announced, through laughter, "I'm okay." Now, the kids are under instruction to not to handstands.

Puffy paint pumpkins for art. This puff paint is glue, shaving cream, and orange food coloring mixed together. Super easy to make.

One of Elizabeth's social studies chapters was forts (the importance of them, how they were used, etc.). For her review of the lesson, I had her build a fort using whatever blocks or materials she could find and label the parts of a fort. 

Sure I sent kids home with saw dust in their hair, but this sensory bin is probably one of their favorites. It's wood blocks that were cut when building our fence over the summer, saw dust (from cutting the fence), and play tools. The kids LOVE pretending to build things! Sometimes they put the saw dust on play food toys (plates, cups, etc.) and pretend to serve it at the play kitchen. I love the creativity the saw dust sees!

Night time shenanigans. Two of the minis are taking socially distanced dance classes at their dance studio. The youngest mini is gone for two hours on Thursday evenings, so we decided to hide in the back of the car and jump out at her when she sat down. There was more laughing and struggling to be quiet than needed!

Our Halloween party was a blast! Read about it here.

The middle one is reading Harry Potter, so life has been all HP lately. Books, puzzles, games, and even Legos. He's obsessed and quickly making his way through the book series!

The dog doesn't realize he's not a child. He tries to play with the toys, but he eats their play dough. He didn't understand why the kids were slamming the animal figurines into the play dough (to make animal tracks, in case you were curious) and making animal noises.

Day two of Dia de los Muertos involved Mexican hot chocolate during Spanish class.

I love our Thanksgiving books. These are two of the favorites we read quite a lot. On Election Day, the kids had to vote between the two books. There was a bit of disappointment when 10 Fat Turkeys won our election, but they were thrilled we read There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Turkey the next day.

I'm not a huge fan of worksheets, but the preschoolers (and therefore, any younger child than four) think they're the coolest thing in the world. Thanks to Education.com, I find letter tracing worksheets, cutting practice sheets, coloring sheets, and patterning sheets. They're a great way to introduce the preschoolers to following exact directions. So far they've done an AMAZING job!

Another "test." The kids finished their first of four science textbooks for the year. Our last unit was on volcanos. They had to create various volcano types and landforms using clay and/or Play Doh, among other things. I want to know that they understood what we learned and the best way to do that is to put their knowledge to the test, but in a much more fun way! My overall goal for homeschooling is for the minis to be able to use what they learn. In this case, I want them to be able to see a volcano when we travel and know about it. So far, my mission is being accomplished, plus they don't dread test days. Instead, they eagerly look forward to them because who knows what mom will come up with next!

Fridays are for documentaries. Well, some Fridays, not every Friday. Science and social studies documentaries help me out tremendously, plus I turn it into writing practice when I have the minis do a writing activity about the documentary. That way I know if they were paying attention or not!

Much like the others, the more kids the better. The dog tends to get bored otherwise. Also, the doll is now missing a hand. No one will cop to it, but I'm fairly certain I know who is to blame...

Learning planets. The oldest "knows all about the planets," so he was in charge of making sure the other two put them in the right order. We used foods (and a giant pumpkin bucket) to show the size difference in the planets. Many of our recent documentary watching has been about space, the universe, and how the planets were formed.

Our trees lost all of their leaves at once (or so it seems). The kids wanted all of the leaves at the bottom of the slide. They quickly realized that the dog was making this task last too long, so they put away the rakes and instead used their arms and hands to move ALL of the leaves to where they wanted them. How is this learning? Like, at all? Well, when you have six kids, all with different ideas of how to do things, they must learn to work together to make it happen. This means communicating, devising a plan, putting forth that plan, and making sure everyone does their part in making sure it happens. 
Now, most of these kids have known each other their whole lives and they seem to know everyone's strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, this isn't a great thing because they know just how to push each other's buttons. Other times, as in this case, it's great because at some point, every child gets to use their leadership skills during an activity/play. 

Remember how I said above I have to be more prepared than ever? Well, sometimes that means I have to wake up at 5 a.m. to write study guides for their test. This test however, was another fun one. They had 24 hours to study their guides I gave them, then we played a Jeopardy style game as their test!
The contestants sat at their spots and chose levels (100-500) in their section on the wall. Since the boys are learning two different things, I couldn't have the questions be the same for both, but I could for sure have them compete against each other! The kids requested more tests like this in the future. 

More work on planets and moon phases. The oldest knows most of what we're learning about space, so he's been leading science class quite a bit. We've also been working on researching and siting sources, so whenever one of them has a question about something, they're encouraged to look it up rather than me simply tell them. Much of their self-led learning happens this way and often turns into them doing schoolwork for fun.

Candy corn turkeys. 

In years past, these leaves have been our thankful leaves. However, I felt 2020 could use a change, so we used Dot Markers on the leaf cut outs and made an apple tree for our wall of thanks. Both turned out great!

In case I haven't said it enough, learning happens at all hours of our day. Sometimes science class is at 10 p.m. as they use their Sky Map app to look at the constellations. Other times, science class is at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning as we went in search of a meteor shower (we didn't see it due to cloud cover). We've spent a lot of time looking up at the sky in the dark lately. Soon, I'm hoping to take a trip to one of our National Parks for star gazing! Also, Sky Map is amazing! The minis hold the phone to the sky and it will tell them what they're looking at or where to look for the planets, constellations, stars, etc.

Many art class are 'learn to draw' classes via YouTube. In this case it was turkeys. This week it's Pokemon. 

The minis have been taking a block class through the district. Elizabeth learned marine biology (and drew her own ocean scene) and the boys are putting on a play...virtually!

Playing Find The Turkey. I had them go in the breezeway and hide their eyes, I hid the turkey, then they had to find it. 

If they had been in school as usual, the oldest has a yearly science fair that's a huge deal to the entire middle school. Instead of skipping it this year, we did our own Homeschool Science Fair. We spent the first couple of months of our school year going over the scientific method and practicing experiments. This led to them choosing their own topics, conducting the experiment, and then creating their boards to show off. I am so incredibly proud of what they've learned. I'm also incredibly grateful the oldest got a sense of normalcy and the youngest two will be ahead in science class!

Unfortunately, due to high Covid numbers in our community, we didn't get to invite family and friends to our front porch to view their Science Fair. We took pictures and shared them with their homeschool teacher, friends, and a few family members.

Everyone loves when I do a toy rotation...including the dog. The dog excitedly showed off the "new" toys out to all of the kids. I brought up the actual (unused) baby items for the kids to play with their dolls.

We read the book and then we made pumpkin soup (and ate it for afternoon snack). Due to Covid, the kids watched me put the ingredients in the pan rather than do it themselves (as in years past). 

It's VERY important I do things for myself....but our/my days are so busy I'm not the best at doing so. All in one night, I had a Zoom dinner, Zoom drinks (with friends), and an emergency Board meetings. It was refreshing to "see" people other than those in my own home and above the age of 12!

A very colorful plate. In case you haven't seen, Eggo waffles has some new flavors. Since I can use all of the help I can get to make my days smoother, Eggo waffles have become popular in our house. No regrets and no, I did not try any of these because a sugary, blue raspberry waffle isn't appealing to me, but the kids loved it.

When social studies and cooking class combine, we get lunch! The homeschoolers learned about the food Native Americans ate in 1621 (the year of the first Thanksgiving), how they cooked it, and how different tribes had different ways of cooking things. We've focused a lot on learning about Native Americans and

Taking a break from the YouTube drawings, the kids designed their own cornucopia (after learning about the meaning behind it and where it originated) and then drew a still life picture (after learning about famous still life paintings).

As we head into the holidays, our house is going through more changes. More kids will be coming for virtual learning and preschool/daycare, while others will be staying home for a bit. We'll need to adjust to a new routine, all while doing some of our favorite Christmas time activities!