Our Disney Vacation – part 2

Hmmm…did I say that I would post those pictures “tomorrow”? Yeah… Life has been totally crazy and busy lately – but more on that later. For now, here are the rest of the photos from our trip:

During the middle of our trip, Charlie caught a crazy violent stomach bug. And got crazy violently sick in both of the beds in our hotel room. We had to call the front desk and get new sheets for both beds. Then, I had to wash our pukey clothes so that our room didn’t smell like a garbage dump. The Contemporary is a beautiful resort…but not at 4 in the morning. And doing laundry – even in the most magical place on earth – is never, ever, magical. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the only thing that is magical at 4 am is a pillow.

IMG_2997Finding the laundry room took me at least 30 minutes. There were no directional signs anywhere and every hallway looked exactly the same. I’m pretty sure that I spent 20 minutes walking in a circle. At one point, I literally thought that I was going to lose my mind if I passed the same empty pizza box in the hall just one more stinking time. I truly believe that it was a miracle from God that I finally wandered into the right place.

I’m happy to say that we powered through that night. The next day David left to go to his conference, so we spent most of our day like this:

IMG_3001Charlie started feeling better the next day, and since David had one more full day for his conference, we spent our day at the amazing pool at The Contemporary.

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Things were looking up. We even saw this amazing gigantic rainbow that evening:

giant rainbowThe next day, we woke up early to go to The Magic Kingdom.

main street decorWe walked in just as the Celebrate a Dream Come True parade was starting. It seems like there’s always something exciting going on in the Main Street U.S.A. section of Disney World.

mickey paradeWhile we were watching the parade, we met the “Mayor”. It’s so fun that the Disney cast members stay totally in character the entire time you talk to them.

the mayor of main streetAfter the parade, we headed to Aventureland. Charlie is kind of obsessed with Jack Sparrow these days. In Adventureland, there’s a super fun “pirate school” that takes place right across from The Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Charlie was so excited to see the Captain in “real life”, but was even more excited that he was able to hop on stage and take the Pirate Pledge.

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They even gave him an “Apprentice Pirate” certificate to take with him:

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Later, we decided to ride the train around Magic Kingdom. It’s always a welcome change of pace from walking and the breeze is so nice. If you’ve never walked to the train station in the Main Street area, you need to. It’s so adorable, and you get to see Main Street at the perfect picture spot.

disney main street halloweenNotice how low the crowds were that day? September is the time of year that the crowds are lowest at Disney World.. It’s pretty awesome. I think we may be a little spoiled. We never waited longer than 30 minutes for any ride or show that we saw during our trip. Sometimes, we just walked right on to rides without a wait at all.

Image(There’s that smile again. It’s the lets-get-this-over-with smile. Ahhhh, four-year-old boys)

Anyway – It was about that time of the day that the evil stomach bug decided to attack Avery. It probably didn’t help that it was crazy hot that day. She complained that her stomach was hurting and insisted that we go back to the hotel. Avery whined the whole way back to the resort, but thankfully, we made it to the room before anything “eventful” happened. That night, I decided to stay in the room with her while he took Charlie out to eat dinner and play in Downtown Disney.

sick in disneyThankfully, Avery knows how to run to the bathroom when she gets sick, so I didn’t have to do laundry at 4 am again. She got lots of rest and by the next day was feeling better.

Since it was our last day of vacation, she decided that she felt well enough to go back to one or two of the parks.

We went to Hollywood Studios and watched our favorite stage show: Beauty and the Beast.

beauty and the best show

beauty and the beast stage showThis is how Charlie watched the entire second half of the show:

IMG_3015When Hollywood Studios closed for the day, we headed to Epcot to do some of the things that we weren’t able to do earlier that week.

epcot ball sunglassesWe love, love, love Alice in Wonderland…so visiting her was a priority. Look at her reaction when Avery asked her why the white rabbit is always so stressed out:

alice in wonderlandShe said, “Well…I imagine that it has something to do with the fact that he works for the Queen. She’s always threatening to take off people’s heads. It’s quite stressful.”

While we were waiting to meet Duffy, the boldest squirrel on the face of the earth visited with us. Only at Disney. Right after this picture, Charlie ran screaming toward him and scared him away.

disney squirrelOf course.

We walked the Showcase of the World part of the park and got candy in a few of the different “countries” as we went through. Charlie loved his “sushi sucker”.

sushi sucker EPCOTThat night, we went to dinner at La Hacienda – a dine-in restaurant that sits right next to the World Showcase Lagoon. We had a great dinner and were able to watch the fireworks and light show as we were eating our dessert.

After a long day, Avery had finally reached the end of her rope.

sick in disney 2Our trip was full of unexpected twists and turns, but overall, we had an awesome time together. Spending time together is really what makes family vacations so special.

We can’t wait to go back to visit Mickey again soon. Next time, we’ll be armed with a gallon sized container of hand sanitizer and lots of prayer.

mickey family

our favorite Disney moments – part 1

Our trip to Disney World this year was so fun…for the most part. We hit a snag when Charlie got the stomach bug one day and then passed it along to Avery, but even a stomach bug can’t keep you down when you are at the Happiest Place on Earth.

These are our favorite moments from the beginning part of our trip. Tomorrow I’ll add the second part. I just didn’t want to flood this post with 8 million photos. That would be super obnoxious.

So instead, I’ll only show you half of the ridiculous amount of photos I have of my cute kids at Disney World. And half tomorrow. Because that is only half as obnoxious. You’re welcome.

Let’s start with the plane ride, shall we?

airplaneSomebody was super jazzed about heading to Disney.

We stayed at The Contemporary Resort this year. It was crazy amazing. The lobby smells like what I think Heaven might smell like: coffee, gardenias, and soap.

contemporary resortCharlie and Avery were obsessed with the carpet in the hallway. They called it “Green Eggs and Ham” carpet. Charlie liked to jump from green egg to green egg all the way to our room. Needless to say, it took us a while to get down the hallway every night.

contemporary hallsLike a total dummy, I didn’t remember to charge the batteries on my camera before we went to the park that night. I took photos on my phone and put them on Instagram though. So… check that out if you want to see those photos.

Day 2 –

We had lunch reservations at Yak and Yeti, so we decided to head to The Animal Kingdom first thing in the morning (FYI – when you are on “Tillman Time”, “first thing” means like…noonish. I think we were born on the wrong continent. We hate rushing.)

Apparently, my kids think they are models. That’s truth. I did NOT tell them to pose like this. I feel compelled to say that. And I’m a little frightened by it to be honest with you.

sunglasses

1st day at parkWe went on a few rides, and then ate lunch at Yak and Yeti. If you’ve never eaten there, I highly recommend it. I had this amazing ahi tuna salad. Fantastic.

animal kingdom maskWhen Animal Kingdom closed for the day, we headed to eat dinner at Boma – a buffet style restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The food was good, but it would have tasted better if it weren’t so expensive. Avery loved sampling every dessert they had.

boma dessertsThat night, The Magic Kingdom was open for extra magic hours until 3 am. Crazy, right? So – after dinner, we rode the bus to The Magic Kingdom. The crowds became virtually non-existent as the night went on, so we were able to do a ton of rides without waiting. The weather was much cooler and…it was awesome.

poo at nightWe were super excited about being able to try out the new Ariel ride and the Enchanted Tales with Belle experience.

enchanted talesThe girl in the picture above is the most unhappy Disney employee ever. I think that it was around 1 am when I took this. She was d.o.n.e. and not even trying to look like she wasn’t. Belle however, was as lovely as ever.

enchanted tales with belle

mosaicWe had so much fun exploring the park at night without any crowds or heat. That night was by far the most fun I had during our vacation. It felt like we had the park all to ourselves. tangled lights

Day 3 – Epcot day

mickey icecreamThe above photo is the Obligatory Mickey Ice Cream Bar photo. A must have.

By the way – what in the WORLD is this smile that Charlie has been doing lately? He’s totally humoring me, which I appreciate and all, but man…

This next smile, however, is totally genuine:

meeting mickeyAs is this one…

laughing at plutoMy kids really love doing the Phineas and Ferb experience at Epcot. They think it’s so cool that you can make things turn on and discover hidden objects in every exhibit of The World Showcase.

playing phineas and ferbWe had dinner that night at Teppan Edo in the Japan area of Epcot. I adore this restaurant. Yummy food and great service. Last year, they made origami swans for the kids and gave them to them before we got to the table. This year, they didn’t do that. After dinner we asked the hostess for one, and she gladly gave both of the kids their own paper swan. If you ask for it, you can usually get it at Disney. I love that.

teppan edoAfter we came back to the hotel from Epcot, we let Charlie and Avery get a little gift from the gift shop in the resort. Charlie proceeded to take over the lobby of The Contemporary in true pirate style.

captain in contemporaryHe liked his patch so much that he decided to wear it to the park the next day.

Day 4 – Hollywood Studios

captain coolAt Hollywood Studios, we spent a good amount of time visiting characters since that’s what our kids wanted to do. How cute is Vanellope, by the way?

VANELLOPEOne of the things I always try to do when my kids meet characters in Disney World is to figure out a way for the characters to interact with my kids. Since the characters don’t talk, this requires a bit of imagination. I think it’s more memorable for the kids to “do” something with them than just to take a photo with them. I’ve found that the characters always jump at the chance to “do” something if they can.

I told Jake that Charlie was the best sword fighter I knew, and he grabbed a pen for him and a pen for Charlie and they had a sword fight. Of course, Jake let Charlie win and fell to the ground quite dramatically. It was awesome.

swordfighting with jake

We roared with Sully…

roaring with sully

…and flexed with the Incredibles characters. We even had a group hug before we left.

flexing with incrediblesI think vacation is about enjoying the little moments, taking your time, and not stressing out. We didn’t go from dawn until dusk every day. We didn’t wake up early. We took our time. We didn’t get to do everything on the “schedule”, but we had fun and made tons of family memories.

disney balloonsTomorrow, I’ll finish up our photos from the rest of our trip.

See ‘ya real soon (sorry. I know, I know.)

8 “Must-Haves” to pack for Disney World

8 must-haves for disney

When I am packing for a big trip, my mind usually goes in a million different directions. I always feel like I’m running around the house like a mad woman the last few days before we leave. Every trip calls for a different packing list, but for our Disney World vacations, this is what I absolutely won’t leave home without:

booboo bag

My Boo Boo Bag has been so helpful during our Disney trips. I always take this bag with me to the Parks. I’ve needed the Band-Aids multiple times for minor scrapes and cuts and blisters. Here’s what I take in my bag:

  • Band-Aids
  • Cold Pack
  • Kleenex
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Neosporin Spray
  • Benadryl individual doses in straws  (I hot glued the ends of the straws to hold the liquid)

#2 Hotel extras

Some of the most important things that I brought for this trip are in this picture. Especially since Charlie got a nasty stomach bug one night. I ended up having to do laundry at 4 in the morning. Not so magical. This bag contains:

  • children’s aspirin
  • detergent pods (purchased at Target in the dollar section – so much less expensive than the resort detergent)
  • pop-up hamper (purchased on amazon – for dirty laundry)
  • thermometer
  • scissors
  • wine bottle opener (for mommy)
  • shoe organizer (from dollar store- awesome for storing little things)

#3 stroller cover

I found this tarp and jumbo clips at Dollar Tree. They are an absolute lifesaver for those daily Orlando rain showers.

tarp in action

You can purchase rain covers that are made to zip over most strollers, but this is the cheapskate version. It only cost $2 and it works like a boss. It’s large enough to stretch over the entire stroller, but I can also cover a smaller space (like wet seats for when it unexpectedly rains while we’re on a ride). The jumbo clips are so awesome. The tarp also doubles as something to put on the ground to sit on during the parades. Claiming your “space” is kind of important (people can crowd you without it) and it will keep your booty dry if the ground is wet. I am sooooo happy that I thought to bring it this time.

#4 park bag

This is the stuff I stick in our park backpack:

  • spray bottle (Dollar Tree – works just as well as they park’s expensive spray fans)
  • wet wipes
  • face sunblock
  • regular sunblock
  • hard candy
  • fans/batteries (Dollar Tree)
  • glow sticks (Dollar Tree – for the Light parade at Magic Kingdom)
  • extra pair of underwear and clothes for each kid (not pictured)
  • light rain jackets for everybody (not pictured)
  • camera (not pictured)
  • sunglasses (not pictured)

The fans were something that I bought hoping they would actually work, but they ended up being a total miss. Avery totally slapped herself in the mouth with the fan blades after I took this picture:

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The hard candy, however, is so nice to have while we are waiting in lines for rides or for dinner. It seems to take their mind off of things temporarily. When they were smaller, I bought suckers and gave them those instead.

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#5 park snacksI always pack small pre-packaged snacks for the park and hotel. It’s awesome to have for those between meal munchies. As a mom, I’m always packing for the kids first, but this time I remembered that Mom and Dad need snacks too.

#6 autograph books

Autograph books can be pretty expensive in the park. Since we’ve been there two other times already, we thought that we would make our own this time using art sketchbooks and fun stickers.  I ordered my sketch books on Amazon and bought the stickers and washi tape at Hobby Lobby. The kids loved decorating their books before our trip. Sharpie fine point click pens won’t bleed and are easy for the character’s big hands.

#7 spare change

My kids are kind of obsessed with pressed pennies. Since they are the least expensive souvenir you can purchase at the parks, we always bring spare quarters and pennies for pressing pennies.

#8airplane bag

I made airplane bags out of basic tote bags from Hobby Lobby. Avery’s has a Mickey fabric applique on it, and Charlie’s was made using a freezer paper stencil of Mickey’s image. Inside, I included markers, coloring books, and gum for the plane ride. Having their own special bags was so exciting to them. They loved shopping at the Dollar Tree for their coloring books and treats to put inside.

airplane bag

The beauty of Disney World is that if you forget something, you can always purchase it at the parks…for a nominal fee. It’s just one of the many reasons that vacationing in Disney World is so magical. But seriously…don’t forget the tarp. You’ll thank me later.

avoiding homeschool stress: lessons learned in week 2

It’s our third week of homeschool-ness and here’s what I’ve observed: Avery is a typical kid.

Every teacher knows that the first week of school is not a proper indicator of how the year will progress. A kid who is quiet and shy during that first week may end up being your biggest challenge later. Conversely, a child who misbehaves the first week may end up being your brightest student. Maybe the kids are on some euphoric high from the the smell of new crayons and glue sticks, but that first week is always the same: students are wide-eyed, excited, and eager participants in the learning process.

Then Week 2 rolls around. Week 2 is when reality sets in. Things aren’t so new and exciting anymore and the kids realize that they are going to have to stretch their brains, listen, and focus. After a long summer break spent sleeping late, watching t.v., playing, and generally not thinking – Week 2 is no fun. For anyone.

Avery is a typical kid.

Week 2 was hard. Week 2 consisted of a lot of whining, complaining, and general fussiness. If I weren’t the most amazing mom on the planet, I would have almost lost my “Jesus” a couple of times. I might have led a firm “discussion” in which I threatened to march her right over to our neighborhood school and drop her off. There might have been tears…if I weren’t the most amazing mom on the planet.

Just call me Task Master Tillman.

Anyway – we survived the dreaded Week 2, and have found our groove. It’s a groove that involves a behavior chart and a bit of bribery, but it works. For now.

Workbooks and textbooks are unavoidable in the educational realm, but since Avery seems to be allergic to them I am trying to avoid them as much as possible. That calls for a little creativity. One of the things that is really cool about homeschooling is that I have the option to cater to my child’s specific learning preferences and style. While workbooks create stress for Avery, hands-on activities create excitement and interest. Excitement + interest = no whining. Score.

Avery loves to label stuff. I’m constantly finding her name written on walls, doors, and even this ancient relic that we inherited when we bought our home:

busted

Busted.

This week, in honor of Avery’s love of labeling and dislike for workbooks, I had her write her spelling and sight words on construction paper and post them in the playroom. I let her put them wherever she wants them to go, the only rule is that she must write them herself and read them as she places them on the wall.

writing words

wall words

Tomorrow, we will play a game where I’ll call out the word and she has to run to touch it as quickly as she can.

Here’s a little Art project we did to go along with our Charlotte’s Web book study:

charlotte's web art

Don’t you just love Googly eyes?  I don’t know what it is, but I’m kind of obsessed with them. They make me smile. Charlie joined in on our project and cut out the spider by himself. I thought he did a pretty good job! It always surprises me to find out what interests him. He loves listening to chapter books and doing art…when he’s not playing ninja and terrorizing our dog.

One of our lessons called for teaching about apostrophes, so I decided to incorporate some possessives from Charlotte’s Web. I wrote the names of characters from the book on a strip of paper, and an item that is associated with that character on another strip. Avery had to match the character to the appropriate item and then write an apostrophe + s between the word strips.

apostrophes

finished apostrophes

Avery isn’t too crazy about the Early Reader that she has to read as part of her curriculum. So last week, (after a particularly stressful reading lesson) we went to the Library and picked out Early Readers that are just right for her. Since she chose them, she was actually excited about reading them. She even read them “teacher style” to David, Charlie, and me after dinner.

read aloud

read aloud 2

Dear goodness. Homeschooling definitely has it’s up’s and down’s…and it’s amazing that you can experience all of those high’s and low’s in just one day. Here’s to avoiding Week 2 for at least another year.

Planning for our Disney World Vacation – part 1

In approximately 10 days, we are heading to “The Happiest Place on Earth”. I’ll be honest, I think David and I may be more excited about it than our kids. This year will mark our third trip to Disney in the last 3 years. If you are adding up dollar signs in your head, I’ll just clarify that we are not Trust Fund kids or independently wealthy. Unfortunately. The reason that we are able to go is because David goes to The Experience Conference for work. And it just happens to take place in Disney World.

The conference itself is only 3 years old. Last year Christy Nockels was there to speak and sing at the conference. I have a serious mommy crush on her. She is so stinkin’ cute and cool. Her hair is awesome. Her voice is awesome… Seriously. She’s awesome.

David told me that she won’t be there this year, so my dream of running into her in the lobby of the hotel, becoming her BFF, and riding the Teacups with her will have to be put on hold. This year’s line-up includes: Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Paul Baloche, Jason Ingram, Phil Whickam, and a bunch of other guys who don’t write songs in their mini-vans while driving their kids to soccer, or have awesome hair, or sing like I will when I am in Heaven…

Anyway – David really enjoys the conference, and we get to tack our family vacation time to the end and beginning of his conference days. It’s a pretty sweet deal.

When you book the conference, you are given the opportunity to choose to either receive a special rate on a room at the resort where the conference is hosted, or get whatever special deal Disney is doing during your stay. You can’t have both… So – the first year we went, we stayed off-site, rented a car, and paid for our meals independently. When all was said and done, we discovered that we actually could have saved money by staying at a Disney Resort and riding the Disney Shuttle. So – the next year, we opted to stay at a moderately priced resort (Disney’s Port Orleans Resort, French Quarter) and got the free meal plan. We really liked Port Orleans and discovered that the Disney transportation wasn’t difficult to maneuver once you got the hang of it. We ate WAY too much with the free meal plan, but we were able to try all of the foods that we wanted to try without thinking about the cost. This year, we chose to take the special conference room rates for the resort and will pay for our food independently. The conference will be held at The Contemporary Resort, so we were able to get a killer discount on a room there. I’m very, very, very, excited about our choice. Even if Christy Nockels won’t be there to meet me in the lobby.

A couple of weeks ago, David got an e-mail inviting him to participate in a special test run for Disney’s new MyMagic+ program. With the MyMagic+ experience, you are given special wristbands called MagicBands. The bands are water-proof (it remains to be seen if they will be “Charlie Proof”) and have some kind of tiny computer chip built inside of them. During your stay, the MagicBand acts as your park ticket, allows you to make food and merchandise purchases without a credit card, and is a room key to your resort. At www.mydisneyexperience.com, you can select fast passes for rides and make dinner reservations for every day/night of your stay. Your MagicBand syncs with your online schedule and everything is in one place. No more wallet. No more room keys. No more crumpled up park maps.

mydisneyexperience

Ummm… That’s just ridiculous cyber coolness. Is anyone else singing Conan’s “In the Year 2000” in their heads right now?

After quickly deciding to participate, we entered our names, chose the colors for our wristbands, and got a super swanky package a few days later.

magic band box

magic bands

What?!? Disney is crazy awesome. At everything.

This week, I will start washing clothes (and maybe even fold them) and try to make sure we have everything we need. Next week, I will start actually try to tackle the whole “packing thing”. Thinking about all of the things I need to do before our trip makes me wish that I had one of those MagicBands for my life. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have your keys, wallet, and schedule literally attached to you? “Mommy Brain” would definitely be an excuse of the past.

In the mean time, our count-down chain will keep us on track…sort of.

disney countdownI

creating our homeschool space

pinpic

Before I had Avery, I was a first grade teacher. After she was born, I spent 5 years teaching  Junior Kindergarten in a Preschool. Since I have some experience as a teacher in a typical school setting, I thought that choosing curriculum would be fun and easy. Unfortunately (or fortunately – depending on how you look at it) there are a million online resources out there for home education. While I enjoyed researching my options, I found myself quickly falling down the curriculum rabbit hole. It was totally overwhelming… and way less fun than the Pinterest Rabbit Hole, or the Facebook Rabbit Hole, or the Candy Crush Black Hole.

Maybe it’s just me, but the very first moment that I looked at my perfect newborn baby, I had the frightening realization that there are at least 8 million ways that I could screw that kid up. I find myself constantly worried about feeding my kids the wrong things, letting them watch the wrong things, making sure they eat their vitamins, whether they are really brushing their teeth correctly… the list is seriously endless. Screwing my kid up educationally was NOT something I wanted to add to that list. People will look the other way if your kid has a cavity or two, but if you mess your kid up educationally, I think it’s safe to say that you are generally considered a truly terrible person. As a first year homeschool mom, I needed easy. I needed less choices. And I needed to be absolutely positive that I wasn’t going to mess my kid up.

Thankfully, I found a few highly rated, all-inclusive options. I realize that the word “all-inclusive” probably isn’t “academically correct”, but that’s what I’m going with. It was like having an “easy” button for homeschool. I clicked the mouse, whipped out my debit card, and all my lesson plans were written and all major subject areas were covered. Everything was included. Even math maniuplatives and science equipment. Easy peasy.

The two options that fit our needs the best were My Father’s World and Sonlight. In the end, I chose Sonlight because it seemed to be the best option for my little girl. It fit her interests and her personality best. She’s a deep thinker, loves to listen to chapter books, and thrives on structure and routine. Once I made my decision about which distributor to go with, I had to choose the curriculum path that I would take. I decided to choose Sonlight Core B curriculum because I thought it was really cool that it teaches kids all about the history, cultures, and people of the world. Global Outreach and Missions are two things that really speak to David and I and the thought of intentionally instilling a love for the people of God’s world was exciting to me. This year, we decided to sponsor a child through Compassion International. The little girl we chose to sponsor has the same birthday as Avery. Because our curriculum addresses different cultures and places, talking about our new friend in Peru will be much more natural and fun for Avery and Charlie. We can even write to her as part of our writing lessons.

classroom1

In addition to Math, Reading, Spelling, and Phonics, I teach Social Studies, History, and Science every day. When I was teaching in a typical school setting, I was lucky if I had time to cover Science and Social Studies twice a week. When our big boxes of curriculum arrived, I was so excited to discover all of the beautiful chapter books that were included in the lesson plans. So much variety!  The reading nerd in me is just giddy when I look at this picture:

books

While I like Sonlight Core B curriculum for our basic subjects, I was kind of bummed to see that there really isn’t a lot of opportunity for creative journaling or fun art projects. Evidently, Sonlight has some supplemental curriculum that you can add for Art and other electives, but I think I can manage to find cute art projects on my own. I added a daily “Calendar Time” to our lesson plans since it’s such an easy way to incorporate math and life skills and I plan on adding daily journal writing activities in September. While it sounds like I may be adding a lot to our curriculum, none of the activities I mentioned take more than a few minutes to do when you are only teaching one child. In fact, our entire school day is finished in 3 hours or so. It’s amazing how quickly we can get through all of our subjects.

We have our “school” set up in our downstairs playroom. I know that there are lots of theories out there about how and where you should do school. Most of them seem to argue against having a “structured” area in the home for schoolwork, since it can be a little too rigid. The beauty of Homeschooling is that I get to decide how and where I want to educate my kids. I made the decision to have a more structured space for my kids this year because I think that they really need it at this point in their life. Early learners are so literal and thrive on routine and structure. Having a “school” space for my kids seems to help them transition from “hanging out/relaxed time” to “listening and learning time”. We may end up changing that one day, but it’s working really well for now.

One of our first activities in the morning is to have “Calendar Time” together. This is our playroom/classroom wall.

classroom2

Our white board is actually a large piece of shower board that I bought at Lowe’s. David and I measured the wall space and the good people at Lowe’s cut the board according to the dimensions we needed. That was the easy part. The hard part was getting that gigantic board home. I’m not going to lie, we may or may not have had an incident on a major road with some flying shower board. If we hadn’t lost our first board tragically, I think we would have only spent $30 for the entire thing. Did you know that a giant white board normally costs hundreds of dollars?  It’s shocking, really. Shower board is definitely worth a trip (or two) to Lowe’s. Once we got our it home, we bolted it to our wall with regular screws and it works beautifully.

While shower board is an awesome dry-erase surface, it’s not magnetic. I had to use painter’s tape or sticky clips to attach items to our board. I also added some pocket charts from my teacher days for our sight word cards, etc.

I bought my calendar pieces, alphabet display cards, sight word cards, number line, touch point number cards, and our vocabulary cards for Charlotte’s Web from Teachers Pay Teachers for just a few dollars. Whenever possible, I prefer to purchase school items from teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers. It makes me happy that I am buying a product from a real person…especially an under-paid teacher. I’m kind of obsessed with that site.

desk picture

We bought our desks this summer at Ikea. Since I needed two desks, I needed something inexpensive and the Micke desks seemed like a good option. The only problem is that the desks and chairs are grown-up sized, so Charlie and Avery’s feet don’t rest on the floor when they sit in them. As a result, we end up doing most of our work on the floor of the playroom. I plan on making some giant floor pillows soon.

I wanted to keep the other side of our playroom a “play” space. Play is a really important part of early childhood development and should not be separated from the learning process.  For that reason, I intentionally kept our play space in the same room as our learning space. I use the backs of the kids toy storage bins as a space for my pocket charts and our map.

playspace1

playspace2

I have two of these giant organizational tower thingys for our school supplies. They are amazing. And yes…I’m just a little type A. Just a little.

storage bin

What is fun about homeschooling a preschooler and a first grader is that while Avery is learning, Charlie is too. This year, Charlie will be learning one letter and one number a week, but there are so many things that he is learning that I’m not “intentionally” teaching him. He may be coloring a picture while we read chapter books, he may be playing with his cars while we count aloud…but he is learning.  He is learning about Nocturnal animals, he is learning to count to 100, he is hearing how letters merge together to make words, and how words work together to create books…

playing with magnets

David has his day off on Friday since he works on Sunday. This Friday, he spent the school day with us. Avery was so excited to show off everything she had been learning that week. David read the Social Studies lesson to the kids that day. As luck would have it, the lesson was about different tribal cultures and the materials that they used to build their homes. When the subject of “poop bricks” came up, there were plenty of immature jokes and giggles. Mostly by David. The kids loved it.

daddyschool

The first week of school has come and gone. We are still alive. Stuff happened. Kids got educated. I didn’t go insane. It was a good week. It turns out that this Homeschool thing may not be so scary after all.

averyschool

why homeschool?

If you had told me one year ago that I would be Homeschooling our little girl for her 1st grade year, I would have called you crazy. And laughed.

The reality is that Homeschooling kind of snuck up on me. I had plans for this year. Plans that didn’t have anything to do with the “H -word”. But God saw things differently.

Last year started out really well for Avery. She was enrolled in a great neighborhood school, had a precious teacher,  and made sweet little friends right away. Things were looking good for her.

revised avery

Initially, she was really excited about school…but unfortunately, that excitement was short-lived. After about a week, anxiety kicked in. As a former educator, I realized that tummy aches and tears were totally normal for her age. I had seen it all in my students many, many times. It would stop. She would adjust. Things would be fine.

When I would walk her to school in the morning, she would hold my hand right up until we finally had to say “good-bye” at the school door.  It was painful to watch her stifle her tears as she walked down the hallway to her classroom by herself.

Avery worried every single night, whined every single morning, and even cried during the day while she was at school. She tried hard to be a “big girl” because she knew that going to school was something that she had to do, but every time the topic of school came up at home, the tears would start again.

Early in the school year, Avery told me that she didn’t want me to come and eat lunch with her because she knew that she would cry when I had to leave again – and crying in front of her friends embarrassed her. Her sweet teacher would send me texts to update me on really tough days and even let Avery call me a time or two in an effort to help calm her, but nothing seemed to help. I felt so completely powerless. There was nothing I could do to make things better for her.

September came and went, but the tears remained. In December when there were still tears, I held out hope that the next semester would be better. When the tears lasted all the way through February, I started to feel concerned.

David and I prayed all year for Avery. We were stumped. She was our kid. Our responsibility. Our little blessing. Something had to be done.

For a while, we thought that the solution was to send her to a different school. We prayed about sending her to a Christian school with smaller classes. We tried to crunch numbers and make it work, but the numbers weren’t there to crunch. Sending her to a private school just wasn’t an option.

In the Spring, as I was praying about our dilemma, God gave me the answer I’d been looking for. It just wasn’t the answer I expected.

The day that we told Avery that she would be homeschooled for first grade, the tears finally stopped.  It was like a weight had been lifted off of her tiny shoulders. If I had any doubts that it was the right decision for us, they vanished when I saw her smile.

Why did we choose homeschool? For her: the sweetest little firecracker in the entire world. She needs me. She needs home.

averybeach