Thursday, February 24, 2011

Our Daily Homeschool Schedule, Winter 2011

Making designs out of leftover dough while
helping make dinner

Our schedule has changed a lot over the past few months, not only as life circumstances have changed - deployments, work schedules, pregnancy, health, etc. - but, more importantly, as Hunter has changed.

But then again, this is always the case. It seems like he changes so rapidly even every few weeks, as does, but to a lesser extent, life. I've found that usually I don't post about our schedule because of this. But I figure that I probably should post about it anyway, so I can have a keepsake of what life was like at a particular period in our life.

I am sure this is going to change a lot once the baby is born, and probably before that too, but this is what is working for us right now, mid "kindergarten" year:

Early Morning

6:00-8:15  For the first time in his life, Hunter has become an early riser. This a fairly new thing, but it has actually been working amazingly well for both of us and Hunter loves it. I have been waking him up as I'm going downstairs, usually just a little before 6:00, and he comes down in his pajamas and starts working on his independent work until breakfast.

Right now, this includes
  • reading (one chapter from the KJV Bible and one chapter of a middle- to late-elementary chapter book)
  • math worksheets (Facts Masters [timed], word problems, and one or two other math worksheets, generally in the 2nd - 4th grade level [I know it's a lot, but the kid loves math!])
  • building thinking skills (2 pages a day from level 1)
  • penmanship (I make my own practice sheets from this site, right now he does an upper- and lowercase letter a day of both cursive and D'Nealian print
  • spelling (using the same site as above, he practices tracing and then copying related spelling words, right now I just use common words, such as number words, color words, etc.)
Amazingly, he seems to accomplish more in this two-hour time block than he often would in a six-hour time block before! I think that he is more alert, focused, motivated, and free from distractions at this time,  and am really glad we went out and tried something different!

It is also amazing how much he can do independently now. Six months ago I had to sit next to him and hold his hand through virtually everything. It is nice seeing him blossom into a self-motivated, independent learner.

A recent morning Hunter chose to build a park of "sculptures" out
Jenga pieces

8:15-9:15 - Breakfast  At about 8:15 I usually send him upstairs to get dressed, and we have breakfast at 8:30 or a little after with the daycare kids. Mealtimes with daycare kids are somewhat of a drawn-out process, so even a simple meal, setup and cleanup takes at least an hour. I try to read him the Proverb of the day during breakfast from the KJV. After breakfast cleanup I review Hunter's memory work (bits) with him.

9:15-9:45 Circle Time  At about 9:15, I sit down with the daycare kids to do a circle time and Hunter usually participates. We say the pledge of allegiance, sing the national anthem, sing one or two children's songs that usually involve actions or hand motions, do calendar and weather time, read one or two short stories, and then do our Jones Geniuses Early Learning work for a few minutes - right now my daycare kids are all still working on their letter sounds and counting forwards and backwards, and a little arithmetic. Hunter generally sits in on all this, or sometimes he will choose an activity from his workboxes to do during this time.

Writing a story and learning about word processing in his free time

9:45-11:15 - Free Choice  Hunter doesn't really have a "schedule" for a lot of the day. Once he has completed his independent work, he can choose to do, for the most part, whatever he wants. I put different activities in his bottom workboxes, and encourage him to choose at least some of those each day, but sometimes if he asks to do something else, he can.

He will often choose to draw (this is a favorite of his), write a story on the computer, play a board game by himself, or build something. I usually send him outside to exercise for at least fifteen minutes to a half hour during this time.

11:30-12:30 - Lunch  I start making lunch around 11:00 while Hunter continues to do whatever he's doing, and we will eat around 11:30. He is in charge of the cleanup for both breakfast and lunch, and is usually done with lunch cleanup by about 12:30. I try to read him a chapter of whatever part of the Bible we're currently on during lunch, and review memory work (bits).

Singing hymns

12:30-1:00  By the time he's done with cleanup I usually have all the kids laid down for their naps. At this point I like to sing our hymns that we're working on. Right now we read the actual sheet music out of a hymn book while the instrumental music to the song plays off of a youtube video. I find that this really helps me relax and unwind after a long morning, refocus, and put my mind in a peaceful state.

After hymns, we will read a little poetry, and then read a chapter of whatever chapter book we're on at the moment. These are generally pieces of literature that are slightly above Hunter's reading level, and we really enjoy the stories together. Then we review our memory work (bits) for the third and final time.

1:00-3:00  From 1-3 is mom and Hunter teaching time while the daycare kids nap and listen to classical music. This is when I will sit down with him, maybe read from a history or science book and have a discussion, help him with a project, craft, or experiment, or introduce a new concept in math or language arts. 

Often we finish early and he goes up into his room to play. I also try to send him outside for another set of fun exercises.

Afternoon keyboarding time
Late Afternoon

3:00-3:15 - Chores  When the kids wake up, Hunter does his "after daycare chores" and vacuums, cleans the bathroom, empties the trash, and straightens shelves.

3:15-3:30 Piano  At 3:15 or 3:30, Hunter has a short piano (keyboard) lesson. He works on fingering, perfect pitch, music theory, and a song.

3:30  Hunter usually goes outside and plays with his friends until dinner time or some other event, such as going on errands, basketball practice, or doing something with Brandon.


Our evenings vary quite a bit. We eat dinner at some point, often play board games together, try and go for a daily walk/run, sometimes watch a movie. In slightly warmer weather we usually swim every night. On Tuesdays we are running errands most of the evening, Mondays are often a big cleaning day. Fridays we usually go out.

7:00-8:00  Hunter usually starts getting ready for bed at 7:00. He showers, lays out his clothes and anything else he needs for tomorrow, and writes in his calendar and day planner (this part he does with me).  At bedtime Brandon or I will usually read him a story, and find flags/countries/landmarks with him on his bedside geography display. He is in bed by 8:00 and falls asleep with a recording of the New Testament (KJV) on his mp3 player.

For now, this is the general outline of our days...

Well, most of the time. I hope this was helpful!

"This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." 
Psalm 118:24

Hunter is 5 years, 11 months old

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

"We love him, because he first loved us." 
1 John 4:19
Hunter is 5 years, 10 months old

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How Smart is Your Baby Program Weekly Logs & Checklists

Weekly logs for various stages of brain development and stimulation 

Seven pages.

If only you knew what went into these seven pages.

For the past er, week or so I have devoted almost every spare moment to perfecting this little document.

This may or may not have resulted laundry that didn't get done and other menial tasks put off for another day.

I have been working on making my own, customized versions of weekly logs for the Doman motor and sensory stimulation programs as outlined in How Smart is Your Baby.

Am I the only one who ever asked why the book didn't come with these?

Oh, I know. The book has checklists. But the checklists in the book are a full page per day. And that is a full page per day for each aspect, which actually would come out to three full pages per day. Not only would that make for an unusually high paper budget, but I needed something a little more compact, at a glance, all-in-one.

So I made my own.

I am publishing these documents now as some sort of appeasement to myself for all the hours I spent on them. Don't ask me why it took so long. It just did.

And now that I am done, Hunter might have some more clean socks.

Hopefully some other people will find some benefit out of my toil. If you've got a newborn or a little baby (or are expecting one) and are planning to implement Doman's book, enjoy!
Stage I-III Doman Program Motor & Sensory Logs

If you've never read the book that these logs are meant to be a companion to, they may seem a little, er, weird. I'm certainly not going to even try to explain everything right now, but essentially the exercises on these logs were developed as a means to intentionally help your baby develop and grow, and in turn reach their milestones sooner than if it were left to chance. It is also a means of evaluating your baby's neurological health, noting any issues long before they would be otherwise apparent.

The exercises were developed after years and years of research from the IAHP on how the brain grows and why, with the original focus of helping to heal brain injuries in children. Many of these same exercises are still used today to help grow and heal the brains of brain-injured children.

I will be writing much more about the program in time come!
"And he appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, and to record..." 
1 Chronicles 16:4
Baby boy #2 is currently 25 weeks, 1 day gestation

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Take on Prenatal Stimulation

"The human body is such a miracle and even more of a miracle is the brain that runs it... Want some examples? If you happen to be pregnant at this moment and happen to know that you are, try looking at your watch for one minute. Do you know what happened during those sixty seconds? At the end of the sixty seconds, your baby had a quarter of a million more brain cells than he had when you began counting, sixty seconds earlier.
-Glenn Doman, How to Teach Your Baby to Be Physically Superb

I am continually amazed by the miracle of human development.

When I first began discovering the incredible world of early learning three and a half years ago via Glenn Doman, this also led to the discovery of the interesting, semi-related topic of "in utero learning", or prenatal stimulation.


While I recognize that the unborn human infant is most definitely a living, learning, thinking, growing, and incredible creature, I am leery of most commercial "prenatal stimulation" products promising, usually: smarter, more alert, better-sleeping, better-nursing, faster-developing, calmer, happier newborns, without any real basis for their claims.

BabyPlus comes to mind, for example. The devise promises all these results and more, by playing different heartbeat-style sounds for your baby for two hours a day. The website is filled with fanatical parent testimonials, but as I read I began to wonder - how do the parents know a difference versus what their baby would have been like without the $150 sound box? Isn't this a classic example of "placebo effect"?

I am not entirely critical or skeptical of the idea that playing heartbeat sounds could one day be found to be somehow beneficial to the baby (the idea is that the baby learns to differentiate between his mother's heartbeat and the artificial heartbeat, supposedly making him more aware of his surrounding and stimulating curiosity in his environment).

But for a product to make such hefty claims, boasting everything from babies that nurse better to heightened school readiness, seems to me to smell a little of snake oil.

The idea of unborn babies learning to differentiate sounds seems like it's pretty obviously already happening - the differences in mother's heartbeat when she is resting, vigorously active, or somewhere in between; the difference of the intestinal sounds as mother digests different foods or when the digestive system is at rest; the different sounds of mother's blood flowing at different rates; the sound of his own self as he swooshes around in the womb; and, of course, all the different external sounds that he hears, from music to voices to the sound of traffic, or the difference in the noise level at daytime and night. Differentiation of sounds for the unborn doesn't seem to me like something BabyPlus invented.

Stimulation I Believe In

What shall we say then? Is the idea of influencing the unborn child laughable, or is there merit to any these techniques?

I understand and recognize from the growing amount of research how much of a "little person" unborn children are, everything from being able to dream, play, acquire tastes for certain foods, and enjoy Cat in the Hat. Unborn babies can hear, see light, feel, taste, and even smell. At birth they recognize their mother's voice and even can distinguish and prefer their native language. Certainly, learning is happening long before baby makes his exit from the womb.

So what is my take? I...

Talk to my baby  We all do. Mom, dad, and big brother. He's never too young to benefit from hearing language, and he is learning to recognize our voices, which will hopefully be a comfort and familiarity when he makes his entrance.

Play cause and effect  When he kicks, I like to gently poke back. And talk to him. It is a fun give-and-take little game, and often it actually seems like he is playing with me. Theoretically, he is learning about cause and effect, but I'm sure he is already learning about this in other ways too. I just see it as a fun bonding experience.

Play great music  No, I don't strap headphones to my abdomen. But since music, especially classical, is so beneficial to everyone, it certainly can't hurt to expose him to it now. Hunter listens to it daily already every afternoon for several hours, so little guy gets to get in on it too. Currently, we are on Tchaikovsky.

Read  Again, baby boy #2 gets in on the reading I do with Hunter every afternoon. Also, the "baby's chapter" is Proverbs chapter 3 (the first 24 verses), which we read every night. I got the idea from someone I read about who used to read Proverbs 3 to their boys and Proverbs 31 to their girls on the day of their birth. To me this is more preferable than the Cat in the Hat, and hopefully the baby will not only benefit from the beautiful language currently, but will recognize "his" proverb when I continue to read it to him nightly as he grows.

Even with these "stimulating" these that I do do, I still believe that the most important gift, advantage, and interaction I can give my baby is giving my body (and his) the proper nutrients (and keeping out as many toxins as possible), exercising regularly, and avoiding stress.

All these "stimulating" things are fun and I do know that my baby is already learning from his environment (with or without my help), but nothing can compare to the gift of health (which includes a healthy brain)! 

"For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy." 
Luke 1:44

Baby boy #2 is 25 weeks, 0 days gestation

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fetal Interaction

Baby brother's movements have been getting stronger and more powerful by the week.

Here is a little game we play - kick, poke back, kick, poke back.

Learning cause and effect? Maybe... It does seem like a lot of the time, he enjoys these games and tends to kick longer when I play.

But mostly I am just enjoying the bonding with my teeny tiny little guy.

"For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made..." 
Psalm 139:13-14

Baby boy #2, in video, is 24 weeks, 1 day gestation

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Learning the Order of the Scientific Method

Putting in order the steps of the scientific method

One of the things we have been learning about in our biology lessons is the definition of hypothesis, theory, and scientific law.

With a hypothesis being an educated guess, a theory being a hypothesis that has been tested with a significant amount of data, and a scientific law being a theory that is consistent with generations of data. On a side note, we have also discussed how even if something is a "scientific law", that does not necessarily mean we have "proved" it. Many, many "scientific laws" of the past have been overturned by new data, and many more of today will be found false in the future. Simply put, science has it's limits, and we can never truly say that science has "proved" a fact. Science is wonderful, but isn't the "god" that humanistic cultures make it out to be.

Nonetheless, this lead us to explore the steps that one takes to test a hypothesis ("like a real scientist") and how a hypothesis, through many generations of testing and collecting data, can turn into a scientific law.

I made a puzzle of the six steps of the scientific method and, as usual, it was presented with great fanfare and anticipation of the "secret steps that real scientists use" and, quite frankly, he loved it.

We discussed each step and what it meant, this time using the example of something very simple - wondering whether or not blocks would float in water. We went through each step using block floating as an example of what we wanted to find out. (Hunter's hypothesis is that it depends on what kind of block it is)

Then we practiced mixing up all the pieces and putting them back in order. We also "chanted" to steps, hoping to aid in auditory memory - "The Scientific Method: purpose, research, hypothesis, experiment, analysis, conclusion!"

Not too original I know, but it'll hopefully get the job done.

Here is a printable of the puzzle we used, this time with a "board" to match the tiles to the correct number. Enjoy!
Scientific Method Puzzle

"That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not." 
Judges 2:22
This post is linked to Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom

Hunter is 5 years, 10 months old

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hunter's Chores (at almost 6 years old)

Hunter, 5 years 10 months old, taking care
of his personal belongings

I have heard that the amish have a saying that children before seven are (chore wise) a burden, between seven and fourteen they can carry their own weight, and from fourteen on upwards they bring in a profit to the household.

So in other words, a house full of amish seven-year-olds would be able to run self-sufficiently.

Not exactly within the realm of our current cultural expectations. But I think it can serve as a reminder that children, when given the chance, can and do rise to the occasion of responsibility.

Hunter, at 13 months old, "helping" with the dishes
Hunter has "helped" out with anything and everything possible from the time he could sit up by himself. He grew up believing that work was part of life and that he was part of life too, so work has always been second nature to him.

I think that this parenting and educational philosophy has really helped him in developing a strong work ethic, and, at almost six years old, being able to be almost completely self-sufficient as well as a genuinely contributing member of the family.

Hunter at 4 years, 7 months old, vacuuming his room

Since I've found it helpful to see other people's kids' chore lists, I thought I would share what Hunter does around the house at this point in his life:

General Chores 
Checklist type stuff Hunter does on a regular basis
  • Clean bedroom weekly
    • vacuum floor and closet, 
    • dust shelves and windows, 
    • organize and straighten bookshelf, closet, drawers
    • empty trash can
  • Clean own bathroom weekly
    • clean and sanitize sink, toilet, mirrors, shower
    • sweep and mop floor
    • empty trash, clean trash can
  • Deep clean bedroom periodically
    • declutter
    • clean windows, walls, TV, toys, etc.
  • Laundry
    • sort dirty laundry into dark and light
    • often, put family laundry in washer or switch to dryer (he knows how to run the washer and dryer and can do this by himself, but I usually do this with him as he's still learning what can and can't go in the dryer and how to load the washer evenly)
    • fold or hang up all of own laundry and put away 
    • help fold family laundry, towels, blankets, etc.
    • help gather and transport clean or dirty laundry
    • change own sheets and bedding
  • Empty kitchen trash as needed
  • Take trash and recycling to street weekly
  • Sweep sidewalks, patio, driveway weekly 
  • Check mailbox daily
  • Bring in newspaper

Helping prepare dinner, age 4 years 5 months old

Being Part of a Family
Besides his "chores", Hunter helps out around the house whenever and with whatever needed (these are usually some of his favorite things to do)
  • Kitchen
    • set and clear table
    • load and unload dishwasher
    • wash dishes for fun
    • help prepare food (all the time)
    • put leftovers away
    • make own meals and snacks
  • Carry in and put away groceries, other purchased items
  • Help bag items while at the store
  • Rake yard
  • Help out with desk work 
    • cutting, sorting papers, shredding
  • Help wash the car
  • Help out when mom does deep cleaning
    • dusting, washing windows, mopping, vacuuming, etc.
  • Help with all projects
    • use tools, assemble things, run errands
  • Organizing projects
  • Basically, anything that we're doing, he's doing too!

Hunter, after a shower, at 4 years 5 months old
Self Care
Personally, I think this stuff goes without saying and isn't necessarily a "chore", but since it's generally on other people's chore lists for younger kids I thought I would include it:
  • Hygiene
    • shower, brush and floss teeth, comb hair, trim nails, etc.
  • Routines
    • Make bed, lay out clothes and other items for next day
  • Pick up after self
  • Keep self organized
    • manage calendar, day planner (with help)
  • Independent school work
    • all school work that he can do independently, such as math practice sheets, reading, penmanship, much more

Hunter, at age 3 years 0 months,
carrying in groceries
His "Employed" Chores
I don't believe in paying kids to contribute to the family, and am not really comfortable with an "allowance", but Hunter has jobs he does to contribute to my home business (part time child care) that he gets paid a small sum for each week.

  • Clean up after the kids' meals 
    • clear table, put away food, clean entire kitchen
  • Clean kids play area daily
    • straightening and organizing all toys
    • vacuuming carpet
  • Clean bathroom used by kids daily
    • sanitize sink, toilet, walls, trash can, sweep floor
  • Empty diaper pail, take dirty diapers outside as needed
  • Help with kids whenever needed
    • read stories during circle time
    • help with whatever I need assistance with
  • Also included on his list is setting a good example, being gentle, focusing on assigned task, etc.

So, there you have it, life in our house right now!

What kind of things do your kids do to help out around the house?

"It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth." 
Lamentations 3:27
Hunter is 5 years, 10 months old