Time Flies When You’re Building Memories!

What a whirlwind couple of days! They say that time speeds up as you get older, and I think that’s especially true when you have kids. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind that you forget that you’re making memories. I want my children’s memories of this season to be happy ones. It takes an extra effort to stay in the moment when you’re so busy, but it’s so worth it to try!

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!

Amberly and I went to see a live performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Hoogland Center in Springfield. We had a wonderful time, and Amberly really seemed to find her people. She thrives on nerdy fandoms, and had a blast watching all the people come into the theater in cosplay. We got seats right in the front row, where you can literally rest your feet on the stage. We were able to see and interact with the performers face to face. This was her first time ever seeing Rocky Horror, and she fell in love. We plan to make it an annual event, no matter where we are.

Fun at Rocky Horror

A Wrench in the Works

We spent Friday packing and preparing for the girls’ trip up to Michigan to see their dad and attend a cousin’s wedding in Wisconsin. As luck would have it (or not), we had some car troubles that complicated matters a bit. Apparently the van sprung a leak in a low pressure power steering line, and Gordon lost his steering capabilities on the way to class. We persevere, however, and things worked out.

Our Amtrak Adventure

Today was our travel day. Joey, Amberly, Lea, and I took the Amtrak train up to Chicago to meet the girls’ dad. The train was packed with people wearing Cubs gear. Now, I’ll be honest, I’m not a sports fan, but it’s hard to deny the energy surrounding the World Series this year. The excitement is electric, and it’s fun to watch people be so excited about something. It was a thankfully quiet trip up. Union Station was beautiful as always, and not overly crowded, which is nice. We had a nice relaxing visit, and the girls were off to Michigan about an hour before Joey and I came back down.

A Slimy New Experience

Because we had time to burn, Joey and I decided to try something new. The Cajun (Asian) restaurant in the food court sells Bubble Tea, and we ordered an almond one. It’s really difficult to describe this concoction. It was a sweet, milky, smooth slushy drink. The bottom third of the cup was filled with black, squishy, quarter-inch tapioca pearls. The fat straw was perfectly sized to allow these pearls up one at a time, so each drink provided an odd mouthful of fruit snack-like chews and sweet slush. I liked it okay, but Joey was in heaven–except for the brain freeze.

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Visiting an Old Friend

When it was close to boarding time, we went down to the boarding lounge. One of the perks of traveling with young kids is priority boarding. We were hoping to see our friend, Amos the Amtrak pigeon. He’s been there every time we’ve traveled through Chicago. To our surprise, Amos’ clan had expanded, and there were now four Amtrak pigeons. Someday I’m going to get motivated and write a children’s book about Amos, but my hands are full at this point.

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Away We Go…

When it was time to board, one of the wonderful Red Cap employees offered us a trolley ride, so that was a new experience for us too. Joey was so excited, I was afraid he was going to vibrate off the seat! Now we get to sit back, relax, and watch the sun set on this beautiful stretch of Illinois. Life is good!

Excuses, excuses…

I’ve been feeling so guilty lately that I haven’t gotten another blog post written this week. I was all set to write about our trip to the Illinois Military Museum last Tuesday, but life happened, as it’s wont to do.

We’ve had a series of minor medical crises in our house, and I’ve personally been feeling under the weather. I’m sure all parents know that when you’re sick, children don’t stop needing attention. Groceries don’t magically appear, and the toys do not put themselves away. I’m so thankful that we have several adults in our family to help share the workload when we’re all feeling rather poorly.

In addition to just existing this week, school marches on. We are also doing a lot of preparations for a very busy schedule in the next couple months:

  • Amberly and Lea have a trip to Michigan and Wisconsin coming up in the next week.
  • We are working on assembling Halloween costumes before they go.
  • Their school schedule will be drastically different in November (more on that in an upcoming post, I promise).
  • We are planning for the holidays and a massive literature project the girls are working on for Christmas.
  • I have been trying to organize my time and energy to actually finish the several Christmas gift projects for the kids that I’ve been juggling.

So there you have it: my list of excuses for not getting a blog post done this week. Basically, I didn’t wanna, and you can’t make me. We have some fun times ahead, though. I’m really looking forward to sharing these with everyone. Enjoy your week!

What the Heck Do We Do All Day?

 

Marching to Our Own Beat

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Homeschooling is such a generic term. Each family must choose their own methods of providing a safe, supportive, and challenging learning environment according to their own beliefs and values within the boundaries of state law. It’s unlikely that any two homeschool families educate in exactly the same way.

We take a multifarious approach to homeschooling. By this I mean, I can’t make up my mind which method is the best (Libra parenting–the struggle is real), so I’m willing to try just about everything to see what works best for each individual learner.
I’ve been homeschooling for the better part of eight years. During this time, we’ve tried lots of different curricula, and have really come to enjoy the eclectic approach. This post will cover the topics and resources used for the younger kiddos. I’ll cover the older kids in a later post.

An Overview

First off, like many homeschool families, I don’t put a lot of stock in pre-determined grade levels. Kids develop at their own pace, and each have different strengths and weaknesses. We may be using second or third grade level curriculum for some subjects, and Kindergarten or first grade for others. That said, Joey is six and is in first grade. Evie is a precocious four, and works on whatever she’s interested in at the moment. She usually follows along with what Joey is doing.

Joey is an active boy, and meets most of the checklist criteria for ADHD, though we’ve never had him formally tested. We work on school throughout the day and night, depending on his attention span. The subjects we cover are: language arts, math, science, social studies, foreign language, character development, and other interest-led topics as they come up.

Language Arts

We are a family of readers, and have always worked to provide a literature-rich environment. We own more books than many small town libraries, and there’s always reading material available. Thrift stores and yard sales are a great place to find affordable children’s books, and many communities, including ours, have neighborhood little libraries. We have read-aloud time several times a day.

In addition to physical books, we have access to tons of digital books. One of the best children’s apps I’ve seen is Epic! books. It’s amazing, and has an ever-expanding library of books, educational videos, and audio books for kids from baby to teen. It’s very reasonable at $4.99 a month, and we use it multiple times a day.

Other reading resources we use are BOB books, Hooked on Phonics digital edition, Time 4 Learning, Mrs. Karle’s Learn to Read free, Easy Peasy, and sight words. I believe strong readers can learn anything, so we spend a lot of time reading.

Math

My favorite math curriculum is Life of Fred. It teaches math concepts in story-format. It helps kids to understand why math is done, and introduces logic-based thinking. For more drill-style practice, we use Time 4 Learning and Khan Academy. The kids use manipulatives, puzzles, blocks, and tangrams to build their spatial and problem solving skills.

Science

For science, we do a lot of interest-led learning depending on whatever they’re into. We’ve researched dinosaurs, volcanoes, marine creatures, and insects in depth over the last year. We work loosely within the scientific method, and have done notebook entries with experiments and nature study.

Social Studies

We cover a variety of topics in social studies. My aim is to help him see history as a fascinating study, rather than a compendium of names and dates. We have been watching Liberty’s Kids on YouTube lately, and are learning about the Revolutionary War and the creation of the United States. We’re reading biographies, original documents, and fictional accounts. An awesome side note is that this study fits perfectly with my latest obsession-Hamilton the musical-so we’ve been listening to that a lot as well.

We recently incorporated world history into our week, and are reading The Story of the World, book one, which begins with the transition from nomadic peoples to early agricultural settlements. It’s written in an informative storybook format, which appeals to the kids. We often use chapters as part of a bedtime story routine.

Geography comes in the form of additions to history lessons, and from the various trips we’ve taken. Again, I’m more interested in applicable lessons than rote memorization.

Foreign Language

I believe it’s incredibly important for kids to be exposed to many different languages early on. They may not necessarily learn those languages extensively, but it helps form those language pathways in their brains.
Joey and Evie are learning Latin this year, and we plan to continue throughout their school years. Because so many languages, including English, are built from Latin roots, they will be able to take the information and apply it wherever they like as they get older. We’re starting with Song School Latin, by Classical Academic Press. The songs and chants seem to help the information stick in their brains easily.
Joey is also learning the Greek Alphabet using the book Greek Alphabet Code Cracker, from the same publisher.

Character Development

This is probably our most compelling reason for homeschooling. We read stories and do activities to promote character development. This year, we’ve embraced the Random Acts of Kindness movement and try to incorporate this into our lives. We’re working on manners and trying to raise our kids to be compassionate, confident, thoughtful individuals.

Whew…so there’s a snapshot of what we’re covering this year. This is neither all-inclusive nor strictly followed every day. I’m not a rigid schedule kind of person, and some days flow a little better than others. We school year-round, so there isn’t that drive to get everything done in a six hour day. Any questions or comments, feel free to post below!

Here I go…

img_1884Welcome to the Back of Beyond! I’m Laura Davis, and I’ll be writing a lot about my family. We’re a close, geeky (but not in a hipster kind of way), homeschooling family of six. My husband is Gordon. Our two teens are Amberly and Lea, and our two younger kids are Joey-6 and Evie-4. We like to travel, eat great food, and learn about the world. Our goal is to eventually travel the country full time, but for a multitude of reasons, are currently stationary in Illinois.

I have to be honest; until recently I didn’t really get the whole blogging thing. I felt like I had enough reality just living my life. Why would anyone want to read about and watch someone else living theirs? Then I found myself trying to keep my eyes open reading homeschool mom blogs, and watching grocery shopping vlogs at 1 am. I realized that it was comforting reading accounts of other families-some similar to mine, some different-going about their daily lives. It made me feel not so alone. Other people have lots of kids, struggle to feed their families, fight to teach their ADHD kids to read.

We really are such a voyeuristic society. We like to watch “reality” television where people work through conflicts, try to lose weight, show off their special talents, succeed in some cases, fail miserably in others. We relate to strangers we will likely never meet. We interact via these new platforms, become invested in these lives put on display, and yet so many times we feel all alone. People are more isolated than ever before, but we find ways to connect through blogs.

One of the downsides of reading blogs is feeling like you can’t measure up. It’s human nature to try to present our most polished selves to the public. We don’t want to open ourselves to criticism and rejection. I personally struggled with the idea of starting a blog because I felt insecure about my progress in life–that feeling of sucking at adulthood. Then I realized there are lots of people in that boat, and those are the readers with whom I want to connect. That said, I reserve the right to block or delete comments from people looking to criticize my life choices. If you disagree with my methods, don’t use them. I won’t judge you, please do not judge me. Beyond that, feel free to follow along on our meandering journey!