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     My sweet little girl turned four years old! I'm not entirely sure how the time has past so quickly. She is such a lovely part of our family. She has a delightfully a happy personality, and bee-bops to her own little songs in life. She's sensitive to the needs of others and readily offers something that is hers or lends a hand. She's been an excellent little Mama with baby brother. I thoroughly enjoy getting to share some special girl time and interests with her. She shares her Mama's love of "pretty dresses," and when given the choice will readily choose pink or purple. She also loves to color and do creative projects. She also really enjoys school time, and will ask to do school time every day. She's become a great story teller, and has such expression in what she says. I thoroughly enjoy hearing the tales. Though I'm a bit saddened to see her grow so fast, I'm also so excited to watch her become more of her own person. I'm so proud of who she is and so very grateful to have her in our lives!

Her Birthday Celebration
     We prefer to keep birthday celebrations simple- donut breakfast, hang a birthday banner and buy some balloons, unwrap gifts, and enjoy a special meal followed by a homemade birthday cake. It's all about recognizing and celebrating the individual. Below are several photos of our day celebrating Annelise. 

Breakfast donuts!

We let her open one gift in the morning before we went to church. 

You know I've got to include a book! I try to have a related book as part of birthday gifts. Since the theme was creativity/art, she received the book, Willow. (Great book, by the way!)

Opening more gifts!

Her main gift was a tabletop easel. To go with it, we got her several new art supplies- markers, clay, chalk, watercolor paints etc. 

The main gift- an easel!

Ah, the look of love :)

One set of grandparents gifted her a doctor dress up outfit. The children often play "doctor" and so now they'll look the part!

Dr. Annelise!

She and I decorated her cake together. I took the art theme into the cake by making it multicolored, and then she chose to create purple icing. 

Make a wish!

Happy girl with her colorful cake
     She had such a great day. She without a doubt felt so special. My Mama-heart was happy that she was so happy. 
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Our children play outside for hours each day. They need to be outside running and playing each day. Too much time spent inside usually leads to trouble as there is simply a lot of people and a lot of energy in the house. For the most part, their play is highly imaginative and exploratory in nature. But, it's also fun to have some toys and activities available to them to enjoy as well. Just like inside toys and activities, there's a system for organization and use of the outside ones!

Master List
   I have a master list of all the outside toys. This list helps me to assess what we have and what we perhaps need to replace at the start of the new season. It's nice to have a variety of options. The list is also helpful to have a quick view of what items belong in which bins. 

Labeled Storage Bins
    I love a nicely labeled bin! It's so nice to look in the shed and find exactly what I'm looking for. I do not want to waste my time and energy sorting through a mess of toys to find something in particular. Furthermore, storing toys in labeled bins helps keep the toys in decent condition. It's easy for the children to pull out one or two bins for play, and then easily clean up everything back into those bins. 

Activity Rotation
    I've implemented a weekly rotation in the past, and I believe we'll utilize that again this summer. A weekly activity rotation works really well for us. They typically have two activities out per week. During the week I leave everything as is in the yard for their continuous play. Truthfully, having them clean everything up everyday is one of those "pick and choose your battles" matters. I'm typically more focused on simply getting them back inside as that takes a lot of convincing. As long as it's not something that will ruin in the weather/sprinklers (ie bikes or anything metal or wood), then I don't let it bother me too much. I'm okay with everything remaining and waiting for them to resume play the next opportunity. I have them clean everything up at the end of the week. Once done, they can choose two more activities for the upcoming week. This summer I decided to write each activity on large craft sticks and allow the children to select one of those. It's just a fun way to choose!

Purchasing Toys
      Since I know that there will likely be some toys that will need replacing or perhaps there will be some new ones we'd like to purchase, I set aside a little cash throughout the year for that purpose. Then, I enjoy some shopping without guilt! Some items that have needed replaced this year were: simple squirt guns, chalk, bubbles, fake flowers (they enjoy "planting" and caring for their garden), plastic fruits and vegetables (again, for pretend gardening), kick ball, plastic cooking utensils (for all those "yummy" flower and grass soups). 

    It took me a couple hours one morning to get everything pulled out from the shed and reorganized into newly labeled bins. The space is so much nicer now! We're all set for a summer of outside playtime!
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 This week we focused on the color white, the letter w, and did a fun science experiment. I apparently didn't take too many photos this week. Sometimes I'm good about grabbing the camera, and other times I'm more focused on being in the moment with them. We didn't do everything this week. I misplaced the book that goes with the Farmland Math game, so we'll have to catch that up next week. I also neglected their Kumon Let's Fold books. Again, there's always next week. With regards to the activities we did complete, I'll still share a quick description of a few of them:


Preschool
White crayon art. Hard to see the
 white crayon portion. She's also
very interested in letters and
will "write" instead of draw. Here
 she's filling the page with "o's"
  •  White crayon art- I had them draw with a white crayon on a white piece of paper and observe the effect. Then, I gave them some watercolor paints to paint on top of the original drawing. They were surprised to see their crayon drawings magically appear!
  • Read two books by Margaret Wise Brown: Away in My Airplaneand Goodnight, Little One*
  • Coloring pages- Since she has worked through her Kumon Let's Color book (in a day!), she's been coloring in a coloring book while Tennyson works through his Kumon coloring pages
(Kumon Let's Color book page)

PreK
  • Playdough with letter w playdough mat
  • Find the letter w- Annelise chose a book*, and then we all sat down to read it. After I read the left page I had Annelise find all the "w's" Tennyson did similarly by finding all the "w's" on the right pages. I think this activity is a good way to show how words are comprised of letters and how those letters can be at different locations within a word.
  • Egg and vinegar experiment- A classic! I began by asking them to make observations about the egg (white, hard, oval etc). Then, I told them that I knew a way to remove the egg's hard shell without breaking it. I then placed the egg in a glass of vinegar. We replaced the vinegar and made observations for three days. Then, finally we took the egg out and felt how squishy the egg was now. I explained that the shell is comprised of calcium which is a base. The vinegar is an acid. When the acid comes in contact with the base it reacted with it, and in this case it dissolved the shell leaving only the membrane. That explanation was probably more than a 4 and 5 year old needed, but hey they heard the words anyways. They thought it was a really fun experiment!
      He was fascinated!
      She wasn't too amused by the fact that
       results would take three days. Patience, my dear. :)
    • Lacing & tracing shapes- I worked with each child in practicing a up and down sewing pattern. Grasping the string makes for a good fine motor skill exercise! They're getting better at it!

    • Kumon Let's Color book- Tennyson is continuing to work through his book. He's making great progress with the tri-pod grip, keeping his wrist down, and using his fingers for fine marks and wrist for larger marks. The better he's gotten at the skill the more eager he is to practice it. I'm proud to see him work through something that is difficult.
    • MFW worksheet- This particular sheet has 10 ovals of different colors. He was to draw a line from left to right going down the circle. This activity reinforces that reading and writing is done left to right. It also works fine motor skills necessary to draw the lines and do so with a variation of sizes (small at the top and bottom of the oval and large lines through the middle). 


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    Mother's Day photo with my four littles. They are such a blessing!

        As I was flipping though photos to include, and I couldn't help but smile. We may have some challenging moments, but oh man are there also some great ones. I'm so glad I get to share each day with these children. I enjoyed revisiting the many lovely moments of this past month while writing this post. 

    Faith
    9 months old! He's a mini version of his Daddy
         My heart has been drawn towards greater living in faith. I'm more eager to pick up my Bible first because I want to know the stories. I want to see the hand and heart of God. I want to seek the wisdom for a life well lived that can only come through a deep and genuine faith. I want a legacy of faith and righteous living to offer my children. 
          When you become so familiar with the stories told through the Bible, you come to think of them and retell them in the ordinary. You relay the wisdom found in those stories and how it might be applied. Some of my fondest moments this month have been discussions of stories and faith had with the children during our morning walks. My heart delighted when I hear my son say, "we forgive others because God forgives us." Many times I feel so inadequate in parenting in a way that reflects a walk with Christ. But, then, there are moments in which I'm reassured that perhaps I'm doing alright. Perhaps they're getting those bits of wisdom I'm attempting to teach them. 
          The children and I are continuing to read a story from the *Preschooler's Bible. Engaging our hearts and minds in a Bible story has been a nice way to begin the day. Often, we'll retell the story or discuss it further on our morning walks. 
          I'm personally continuing to enjoy reading in my *One Year Chronological Bible. I have really liked how the stories are sequential to the best that is known and are broken down into daily readings. My favorite way to close the day is to read in bed in the glow of the lamp light while sipping some calming tea. 

    We got a tree swing! We've all been loving it!
    It's so nice that everyone can swing at the same time. 
    Family Updates
          Mr. Emerson is now 9 months old! He has been busy cutting his top four teeth. He's also getting around pretty fast these days on his little hands and knees. His busyness has also come in the form of a sleep regression. He doesn't want to sleep if he could be missing out on something (and with three siblings there's always something happening!)! I'm hopeful this sleepless stage will pass soon, but in the meantime I'm trying to set my perspective to soaking up these baby days with my final baby. 
           The other children are growing by leaps and bounds as well. Tennyson has matured so much. He's definitely ready to be a big Kindergartner in the fall! (And I do mean "big" because he's so tall!). He's come to have such a well developed imagination and is immersed in pretend play often. He talks nonstop. This chattiness has been a bit of a challenge for his introvert parents but I know that there will be a day in which he'll not want to talk constantly to his parents. So, I'll enjoy his openness now. 
           Annelise has also grown and matured quite a bit. She's looking every bit of a soon to be 4 year old. She's my little helper, and always willing to lend a hand. In spare moments she begs and pleads to do school time. She has such a happy-go-lucky personality and thoroughly enjoys herself in play.
          Huxley is nicknamed "Hurricane Huxley" for a reason. He remains my most rambunctious and mischievous child. He's one busy, busy two year old. He's constantly in motion and climbing. He is a rough and tumble kind of kid. He's sweet too, though, and loves to stay close to me. I enjoy climb into bed with him at naptime to read a story before turning out the lights and saying goodnight. It's such a (calm!) and sweet moment shared. 
    Projects
    Slowly but surely making progress painting
     the cabinets white. I really like how
    much it's going to brighten up my little
    galley kitchen!
         Following my father's passing and our return from the extended trip in TN, I was filled with so much nervous energy. The stress from that occasion was tremendous. I needed some way to channel that energy into something productive. As I stood in my kitchen one day, I decided that that project would be to repaint my cabinets. It's been something I have wanted to do for the three years we've lived there, and so why not just do it? Well, the answer to that "why not?" is t-i-m-e. Even with as small of a kitchen as ours, painting cabinets is a multi-step and time-laden endeavor. Add the volume of housework to maintain and four young children, and you can imagine that my time for working on this project has been limited. I've worked as I can on the weekends, but even then the progress has been painfully slow. With the summer heat beginning to set in, I'm not entirely confident I'm going to be able to complete the project immediately. I may have to finish one side now and the other side later in the year when it cools off again. Although taking a break isn't ideal, I know it will all eventually be completed and then all the time and effort invested will be worthwhile. It's not even halfway finished and I already love the white color far more than the original wood color! 

    Reading
         I finished reading * On Becoming Childwise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Buckham. I really, really enjoyed this book! I resonated so much with the philosophy, and like that it was so practical. It was just a great match to David and I's parenting style. I liked how it presented a balanced view of natural development and parental training. I also really liked how the goals of parenting were said to be 1) enjoy your children 2) "raise children that are a joy to be with and a blessing to those around them" and 3) "raise children who are well-prepared for life." Throughout the book, fifteen wise principles are discussed. My copy of the book is underlined, noted, and highlighted extensively. I know it's going to be one I'm going to reference and reread many times. I highly recommend this book!
         My children's book for this month was, *A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond. I decided last month that I wanted to begin reading some of the early chapter books that I have been collecting for the children to enjoy in the future. I want to have read them prior to reading them together or they reading them. We can then have some fun book chats and/or I can recommend a book to them as I will have already been familiar with it. Plus, there are so many fantastic children's books that I either didn't read as a child or don't remember reading. The story of Paddington Bear did not disappoint! I was always eager to find out what mischief that bear would get into next. It was delightfully silly! Even though rest time is suppose to be for resting or independent play, I joined Tennyson a few times to read to him from the book because I knew he'd enjoy it as well. (He should probably get used to this because I love sharing about books as much as I enjoy reading them!). We only have the first book in our home library, but I may have to keep an eye out for other books in the Paddington series. 
    That sweet but mischievous grin of his!
     (He decided it was a good idea to bend
     one of Emerson's spoons. Photo first, reprimand
    or rescue second ;) )
         Up next: *Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard  and *Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DeCamillo

    Homemaking
          I've long heard of having certain tasks assigned to certain days of the week. I've never quite been able to make this work with also needing to occupy several little ones. However, I think I'm going to give it another try. The house tends to be messier after the weekend so I'm going to designate Mondays as our cleaning day. All other things will be put on hold as we prioritize getting the entire house cleaned. It's essentially a reset occasion which then allows me to better utilize the smaller bits of time in the day for maintenance. 
           Maintaining the house with all little ones is all about figuring out what approach is going to work best and aiming for balance. If something doesn't work well, then you change it up and try something else. haha 

    Hospitality/Playdates
        We've enjoyed several playdates with friends this month! I'm looking forward to planning a few more during the summer months!

    Homeschool
    Playing a game for school time. The photo
    is blurry but still captures her enthusiasm
    so well. We  have a fun time with preschool!
          We've really found our groove with homeschooling preschool/prek! There are some aspects that we can simply blend into our daily life, others that are best done on an individual basis, and then others that can be adapted to be done with all the children. I try to do as much as possible together. Annelise and Huxley are getting a pretty good exposure to the next (or next two) levels up by joining in big brother's school time! Fortunately, it's so gentle and play-based that they enjoy participating.The key is to find the best opportunities for each type of activity and then find a way for each child to be engaged in the activity. Furthermore, if we can do the activity outside, then that's exactly what we do. We love spending as much time as possible playing outside!
         I typically have the older three child each choose an activity to do in the mornings. (Example: Yesterday morning we read a chapter from our current read-aloud book, read a board book with the older two children taking turns finding all the letter "w" on the pages as that was the letter of the week, and then finally they completed a coloring sheet from the student sheets). Afterwards, we went for a walk and then they played outside until lunchtime. In the afternoons we choose three new activities and then have playtime outside until dinner. Many times, though, they just want to play outside, and that's okay with me as well. It's only preschool/prek! So, there's come to be a nice routine and balance of structured activities and free play outside. 
    He's creativity and imagination are so fun
     to watch! Oh, the things you can build
    with just a basic set of blocks
          I've been more diligent about taking photos and writing about our school times. My intention is to create a photobook with all the crafts and pictures they've made and photos taken. The littlest years' work are just too cute to not save as a keepsake! I've also begun sharing those pages as blog posts and connected with others who have done the same. It's has been so fun to connect with others who are also using the same curriculum materials! I have so enjoyed our preschool/prek homeschool journey, and am excited about Kindergarten for Tennyson and PreK for Annelise this fall! 

    Looking Ahead
       June is Annelise's birthday. We're excited to celebrate our upcoming 4 year old!

    *Note: I am an affiliate of Amazon.com. As such, I receive a compensation for purchases made through the provided links. Inclusion of products within the links was not sponsored, and all opinions are my own. 
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    A typical view of our homeschool time- half controlled and half chaos!
         
     This week we focused on the color pink, letter "v" and listening. In addition to our *MFW lessons, the children also spent a great deal of time finding slugs and bugs in the backyard. They've also taken a particular interest in creating crafts. Their trays with construction paper, glue sticks, scissors, markers and crayons were out often. We didn't pick up any new books from the library this week, but continued to read plenty from our bookshelves. 

         A sample of our school week:

    Preschool

    • Sang "If You're Happy and You Know It" (on a cd that is included in the All Aboard the Animal Train curriculum). The middle two children, in particular, enjoy singing and dancing to songs! 
    • We all sat on the couch together and read "Lamb is Joyful" in the **First Virtues book
    • Played "Listen and Run" game- Tennyson joined in for this game. We may repeat this game outside later, and even have Huxley join in. I like to move as many activities outside as possible! For this game, I laid the five little sheep pieces (provided in the student sheets) at one end of the hallway and had the older two stand at the other end. They took turns listening for the right word before running to pick up one piece and bring it back to me. I would say several other words before saying the correct word, so they had to listen. I enjoyed their little giggles when I said something silly. Games like these are so great. They're practicing an important skills like listening, patience in waiting their turn, and selflessness in cheering on someone else. It being something we can all do together, and do outside, is even better. 
    • Coloring- Annelise colored in a coloring book since she's already finished her **Kumon Let's Color book
    • Farmland Math- This week's activity was an early logic development. The story set up was different numbers of animals in different places on the farm. Each family member in the story had a favorite animal and they children had to determine who liked which animal based on the clues. There was also a prompt with the more/less comparison. We did this activity a couple times during the week, and they caught on to the concept. I remember doing a story with the more/less concept earlier in the book, and they not grasping the idea. And now they easily get it. It's so neat to watch how much they've learned through this early introduction to mathematical concepts! I highly, highly recommend this set! (And, any animal counters you don't need for the story become something the younger ones can happily play with while you go through the story with the older ones!)

    PreK
    Littlest brothers checking out the Pretend to Be game cube
    • Pretend to Be Game- We're focusing on the letter "v" this week, and one fun way to do that is to pretend to be objects that begin with that letter. For this activity I created inserts with v objects (vulture, volcano, viper, veterinarian, vacuum, violin) for a **differentiated cube. (These cubes are awesome! We use them for several activities. Just insert cards of choice and anything becomes a game, and they love it! Highly recommend owning a set!). The children take turns rolling the cube, and then we all act out that object. It is so fun to watch them be silly (and I think they enjoy seeing Mama be silly too)! This game is always accompanied by lots of grins and giggles! It's also a good one to play outside in the yard (...the backyard where there is a fence and no eyes to witness Mama breaking her composure hahaha!). 

      • Playing this game spurred an interest in playing vet at other times. The older two children would find a gecko or other critter and say that it was sick and needed to go to the animal doctor to get better. 
      • Knowing that they were going to be going to the zoo soon, I challenged them to find a viper and a vulture while they were there. Always nice to get a "real world" application!
    • Introduced the color pink- Both of the older children actually know all their colors, but they still enjoy the craft time of this activity. The original activity instructions are to have them cut out images from magazines that pertain to that color. But, I don't have any magazines. So, I opted to create a page with images of different colors for them to use. They choose the pink images to cut out and then glue to their pieces of pink construction paper. They both really enjoyed this activity, especially Annelise who is all about the crafty projects. 

    • Worked with the **Big Book of Things to Spot- They're getting better at this book! This book is good at helping children to decipher the needed content from all the other content on the page, which is helpful to grasp prior to reading. It's also nice that once they get the hang of it, they will sit and look through it independently. The older two and I worked through the two pages picturing a country village together. I alternated having Annelise find a certain object, and then Tennyson. Together we found it all!
      image via amazon.com
    • **Kids puzzle- This puzzle is great for helping them to be attentive to individual characteristics in order to place the pieces properly (ie is the arm up or down? Are the feet apart or together? etc). The older three and I worked this puzzle together (and this is a prime example of how I'm adapting things to be able to do them with the three oldest children (5yr., 3.5 yr., and 2 yr.,) simultaneously). We began by having everyone choose a color kid. Fortunately, there are three colors in the puzzle and there are three children participating. Then, they took turns placing their piece back into the puzzle. I encouraged the older ones to help Huxley (2yrs) in finding the right place for his piece by describing an individual characteristic like the position of the arms or legs etc. He's pretty good at puzzles, but still needs a little assistance with this one. I also encouraged everyone to cheer when someone placed their piece correctly. Celebrating the accomplishment of others is something I really want to instill in the children's hearts, even if it's just completing a puzzle. So, even though this puzzle is easy for the older two it was still a good activity for us to do all together. 
    • **Kumon Let's Color book- These books are not apart of the MFW curriculum, but they are awesome. (They're my slice of humble pie because I had previously advocated against workbooks at young ages. *gulp*). We're continuing to work with holding and moving the crayon properly. I purchased a package of triangular crayons which encourage a tripod grip, and he did really well. He's still not totally confident or comfortable with coloring or any other pre-writing skill, but he's making progress. The Let's Color book is really helpful as he only has to focus on a small area at a time, and so it's not too daunting or overwhelming. My plan is to continue with lots of fine motor skill activities and practice through coloring before ever touching handwriting. Even when we get to handwriting, I intend to take things nice and slow and provide lots of practice to really gain a firm foundation. The Kumon books are an excellent resource for where we are currently!
    • *Farmland Math- This week's activity was an early logic development. The story set up was different numbers of animals in different places on the farm. Each family member in the story had a favorite animal and they children had to determine who liked which animal based on the clues. There was also a prompt with the more/less comparison. We did this activity a couple times during the week, and they caught on to the concept. I remember doing a story with the more/less concept earlier in the book, and they not grasping the idea. And now they easily get it. It's so neat to watch how much they've learned through this early introduction to mathematical concepts! I highly, highly recommend this set! (And, any animal counters you don't need for the story become something the younger ones can happily play with while you go through the story with the older ones!)
         At the end of the week I gather all the photos taken and scan in all the paper work completed to create a photobook for each child. These preschool and prek years are too sweet to not create a keepsake! (Plus, this has been a good way for me to keep their work without having piles of papers to store.). Here's a peek at this week in each of their books:
    Tennyson- PreK

    Annelise- Preschool


    Note:
    *I am not an affiliate of MFW or Timberdoodle. Inclusion of products within the links was not sponsored, and all opinions are my own. I simply enjoy their products and wanted to share with you. 
    **I am an affiliate of Amazon.com. As such, I receive a compensation for purchases made through the provided links. Inclusion of products within the links was not sponsored, and all opinions are my own. 


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        Having too much on my mind can easily cause me to become short-tempered and overwhelmed. I am mentally trying to manage too much at once. A better approach is for me to write down as much as possible. By doing so I am freeing my mind and energy of unnecessary consumption.  I make lists each day! I've come to have a list for just about everything!
    Wardrobe Master List- I fill in the sheets with the
    clothing we already own and then note the pieces
    we still need. This helps me to purchase just
    what we need, saving me time and money shopping. 

         Some lists are of things that I will refer to time and again. For these, I've created master lists instead of wasting time and energy recreating the same list. A few helpful master lists are:

    • meals (breakfasts, lunches, snacks)
    • packing for a trip
    • outside activities (I will rotate having two activities available outside each week during the summer months)
    • inside activities/toys (A rotation is helpful especially during rest time.)
    • seasonal clothing (I never shop without a list!)
    • activity bags (We mainly take these to church, and so having a variety of activities is helpful for keeping the children's attention) 
    • cleaning
    • home projects (maintenance, organization, decor etc)
    • other projects (I currently have a rather lengthy list of photobooks needing creating)
          I used to keep spiral notebooks for various lists and ideas. But, I then  found it difficult to keep the many topics organized for easy reference. I now enjoy writing on loose sheets of paper (or typing and printing, depending on the list) & organizing those by dividers in a single binder. 

    We frequently enjoy "snack" lunches. I have a list of
     options that I use to quickly and easily assemble
     a healthy lunchbox-style meal for us each day. 

          List making, including master lists, allow me to be organized and clearer in thought so that I can have a calmer and more joyful presence with my family. 

    Recommended resource for additional reading:
    *Homeschooling with a Meek & Quiet Spirit by Teri Maxwell

    *Note: I am a personal affiliate with Amazon.com. As such, I receive a compensation for purchases made through the included links. All opinions are my own. 
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       The following is a sample of the homeschooling activities we did this week. (We use curriculum from *My Father's World for preschool and prek). I provided links where possible. 

         We did a lot of these activities together. Not always, but recently we've had more success with schooltime by finding a way for us all to work together. At this point, it is much more difficult to keep four young children productively occupied in separate activities. Plus, they all enjoy being together. But, for the purpose of knowing what activity belongs to which curriculum, I separated them below. 

    Preschool

    • Sang "Zaccheaus" song
    • **Kumon Let's Color book- She completed nearly the entire book in one sitting! She loves to draw and color!
    • Talked about forgiveness and then used puppets to play out scenarios in which we should ask forgiveness
    • Continued to read The Great Illustrated Classics Pollyanna

    PreK

    • **Fit-a-Space toy- The children worked together to sort all the pieces by shape. Then, they chose two shapes to lace onto a string in an ab pattern. (Little Huxley (2yrs) was working the pieces several ways trying to figure out how to get that lace through the hole of the pieces. It was cute to watch him try so hard to be just like the big kids). They then wore them as necklaces.
    • M&M Math- I gave each child a scoop of mini M&Ms on top of a blank sheet of paper. They then sorted the candies by color. Afterwards, we counted the pieces in each pile and wrote the number underneath. Finally, they chose colors to create an ab pattern and abc pattern. Once finished, they were allowed to eat a few of the M&Ms. The older two did really well with this activity. I was pleased how well Annelise caught on to patterning, even the abc pattern. I was also impressed with their show of patience and self-control in not eating any M&Ms until they were finished with the activity. Huxley, on the other hand, sorted briefly (yay, little man!) but then gave into the temptation to eat them. I had to take his away after a little bit, but he still found a way to sneak pieces off his siblings sheets when they weren't looking. haha. He's only two, so he not fully participating is okay. I eventually gave him some crayons to color on his sheet while the older ones continued patterning. I'm still glad he was able to be with us! It's nice when we get to all be together for activities!
    • **Kumon Let's Fold Paper book- This is a new book for the older two children. It's more challenging, but they're still asking for and enjoying completing the pages.
    • Play dough letter "s"- They first used the play dough mat to create the letter "s." We then all played play dough together. I made a few things that began with the letter "s" (snail, shoe, etc), and encouraged them to join me. It's always fun to see where their creativity takes them when playing with play dough! (Alphabet playdough mats are from ***Teachers Pay Teachers. I can't seem to find these exact ones to link, but there are lots of options available on the site). 
    • Letter "s" scavenger hunt- We found several "s" items like a snake, screw, shoe
    • ****Farmland Math- We repeated a previous week since it had been so long since we had last played. (I highly recommend this set for early math concepts. It's expensive, but worth the investment. There is so much learning incorporated in this very playful set!)
    • Finished reading his second read aloud chapter book- The Great Illustrated Classics Peter Pan. I had told him we'd check out the Disney cartoon movie from the library when we finished, and so we all got to enjoy a movie night. (He liked Peter Pan much better in the movie. I agree. His character isn't near as likable in the book. haha)


    And littlest brothers are learning right along with us! 
    Huxley (2 yrs) loves joining in for each activity.
    He thinks he's just as big as the older ones!
    Mr. Emerson (8 months) has learned to pull
    himself up to a stand recently. He's working
     hard practicing on every surface he can reach!
    Note: 
    * I am not affiliated with My Father's World. Inclusion within this post is not sponsored or influenced in any way. 
    ** I am affiliated with Amazon.com. As such, I receive a compensation for purchases made through the provided links. (Thank you!)
    *** I am not affiliated with Teachers Pay Teachers. Inclusion within this post is not sponsored or influenced in any way. 
    **** I am not affiliated with Timberdoodle. Inclusion within this post is not sponsored or influenced in any way. 
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    I love this photo. It's such a lovely reflection of my parents.
     I really enjoy how we were 'sitting on the porch'
     and 'go for a walk' kind of people. It's something I do
     daily with my own family. 

          April was quite the month in our family. At the end of March, it became apparent that my father's condition was becoming quite poor. We made an impromptu decision to travel to be with my family. He passed while we were there. We ended up spending about three weeks in TN.  I won't go into the details at this time as there was a great deal occurring during the entire trip. Perhaps I will speak more on the many emotions and experiences of that time. For now, I will simply say that I was glad to have been able to have been there. (I wrote a poem in the previous post).


         And so, much of April was spent traveling and managing life away from home. Nonetheless, I'll write a few updates. Forgive me for being a bit scattered.

    Projects
    The cabinets project has come with a
     learning curve. But, I'm doing it!
         Once we returned home, I was itching for a project to focus on. I decided to jump in with both feet in starting one big project that has been lingering for the three years we've lived here- the kitchen cabinets. Our cabinets are very dated. The dark wood also adds to the galley kitchen feeling small. And so, my idea is to paint the cabinets white! I'm so excited see the room transformed by the change in the cabinets. I think it's going to make a big difference in the space. Even with our kitchen being small, I know the project is going to take a month or two to complete with work being done in small pieces of time as available. It will be an excellent opportunity to grow in patience and perseverance. I'll share photos when finished. (Or, following along on Instagram @OurHomemakingStory for updates along the way). 

    Reading
         The long drives offered me lots of time to read. I finished up a couple of books and began a couple more. I was so encouraged by the books read! They spoke so well to my heart personally and for parenting. 

    - (finished) *Homeschooling with a Meek & Quiet Spirit by Teri Maxwell. 
          Overall, this book was such an encouragement. I really enjoyed how she defines a meek and quiet spirit. I couldn't agree more, and enjoyed the affirmation of that quality being something desirable. I also enjoyed her perspective and encouraging words regarding handling anger and frustration. Finally, I appreciated her portrayal of a life lived according to one's beliefs. On the negative side, I wouldn't assert her as the most theologically sound voice. Some of her scripture usage wasn't entirely accurate, in my opinion. She also has a rather extreme interpretation of submission to one's husband. (II believe that there is a balance between dependence and independence.). But, again, I found her voice to be so unique, encouraging and very relate-able. I'm very interested in reading more of her and her family's materials. 
    He's showing me that he found the
     number 4 in a stick. We sometimes
    play a game of finding letters and
     number in things outside

    - (reading) *On Becoming Childwise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Buckham
           I'm still reading this book, but so far it's been one of my favorite parenting books. My pages are heavily highlighted and noted! It is so full of wisdom and aligns well with our parenting philosophy. I'll have a full review of it in next month's "In Our Home" post. 

        I've been slowly growing our collection of early chapter books within our home library. There are so many I've never read! (As a child I read what was assigned in school, and oh my did I miss out on some fantastic stories!). Tennyson will be starting Kindergarten soon, and capable to listening to some chapter books read aloud. I thought it'd be nice to have also read them myself. 

    - *Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingles Wilder
          How have I never read this series?! I totally understand why so many fawn over these books. I loved the simplicity of life portrayed. It was fascinating to learn of how they made things. I have such admiration for the continuous hard work necessary for simply maintaining daily life! (I'll be reminded of this next time I complain with all my modern conveniences). I'm eagerly awaiting sharing the stories with Annelise (who I'm envisioning dressed up in her own prairie outfit).

    Family Fun
    She loves to color and craft!
    She's a girl after my own crafty heart!
         Even during the seriousness of our TN trip, we wanted to take the children to a couple places for some light-heartedness. (They were under stress and strain as well, and so they too needed some times to break away and relax a bit). 
        We spent one day at an aquarium. Tennyson had recently taken interest in aquatic life and so it was nice to be able to take him to an aquarium. We all enjoyed getting to see all the different river and ocean animals! 
         During another week, David and his parents took the children to a fantastic children's museum. (David's parents came into town to lend a hand with the children during funeral services and whatnot. We were very grateful for their assistance which allowed us/me to direct my attention more on my immediate family). I rather hate that I missed seeing the children play there because I know they enjoyed themselves. However, I'm glad the children got to have some special time with Daddy and grandparents. 
    Events/Holiday Celebration
         We got back home a couple days before Easter. By that point, I wasn't about to try to rush around to get something special prepared for the occasion. This would have to be one year in which we would have to be okay with a zero fuss Easter. Fortunately, we haven't done too much for Easter in the past, and so the children weren't really aware of anything missing. (I normally keep things simple anyways and opt to celebrate Easter exclusively as a religious occasion). 

     This guy (2 years old) is in constant
     motion and climbs just about everything in sight. Phew!
    Homemaking
          Resuming our day to day life after being gone was a bit of a crash landing. I've been relying on my daily schedule and cleaning schedule to keep in step with what needs to be done when. These tools are invaluable to me. They're my mind when my mind and motivation feel so scattered. 

    Homeschool
          We're slowly returning to some school activities. It's been a challenge to find the right moment in a day with several energetic children. When the opportunity does present itself (ie the youngest ones nap at the same time), we get as much done as possible. And, if we can adapt an activity to be done together or outside then we do that as well. So, trying to be diligent with school time but also flexible. 
           I may begin sharing a same of our week's activities. It's always fun to go back to see what we have accomplished and the memories made together!

    Parenting/ Personal Growth
         I feel like stress and strain have taken their tolls on our family. I want to begin taking some steps to bring in greater joy into our home and family. Some examples include:

    Emerson is now 8 months old! Within this
    last month he's learned to sit up unassisted
    and has pulled up to a stand a
    couple of times. It's amazing to see how fast he's growing!
    • (set a timer if necessary!) Periodically stopping and noticing the good in them or that moment and then praising them for it. 
    • 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon, go play and be silly with them. Chase them in the yard, play Red Light, Green Light or other game, kick a ball etc. Do something to elicit laughter in them daily.
    • Create a happiness list. Each day (during dinner?) ask everyone what are one to two things that made them happy today. Let's encourage focusing on the good in people or things!
    • Think of one way to serve or love someone else. (Draw names if necessary!). Shift the focus away from oneself and towards others.
        I don't believe it wise to attempt to implement all of these at once. Instead, I'd like to begin making one a habit and then adding others in time. It's just little ways to continue moving towards having a close and loving home and family. 

    Looking Ahead
         May should be a matter of readjusting to our day to day life. It will be nice to get back to "normal." I'm a happy homebody! haha

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    I hated saying goodbye
    Not my father; it couldn't be true
    The moments overcome me and I can't help but to cry
    Because forever in my heart I'll always love you
    But time fades to a new day
    And the moments slip away

    But, I also wish I had known you
    I wish we had been deeply connected
    Our relationship more than a pass through
    Life is but moments collected
    But time fades to a new day
    And the moments slip away

    So much time squandered
    So many memories I wish we'd had
    Further paths wandered
    And days to be glad
    But time fades to a new day
    And the moments slip away

    I came to see you and you met me at the door
    Arms held for a long embrace
    Emotion that could be held no more
    Two hearts estranged now finding their place
    But time fades to a new day
    And the moments slip away

    Surely there is a second chance
    Tell me we have more time
    To twirl about in a father-daughter dance
    And enjoy a relationship in it's prime
    But time fades to a new day
    And the moments slip away

    I held your hand within my hand
    I spoke in assurance of a good life complete
    Some things we'll never fully understand
    I look forward to the next time we meet
    But time fades to a new day
    And the moments slip away

    This is where our story ends
    There are no more years to write
    We conclude having made amends
    And this shall be the highlight
    But time fades to a new day
    And the moments slip away

    Though you are not with us any longer
    Your words and lessons remain
    They will undoubtedly make us stronger
    "God, family, and a simple kind of life" are the priorities to maintain
    But time fades to a new day
    And these moments-
           These moments are here to stay.

    My father, Mark Phillips
    March 25, 1955 - April 10, 2019


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        I enjoy snapping a few pictures and jotting a few notes about our school time activities. It's nice to be able to look back on all that we've done together! At the end of a week/unit, I load all the pictures and scan in all the paper activities into a photobook. At the end of the year, we'll have a lovely keepsake of our preschool and prek year. (I don't intend to do this for every school year. These early years are too full of cute projects and activities to not keep as a keepsake.). I thought I might share a sample of our weeks on the blog as well. A lot of our activities overlap between preschool and prek. We do as much as possible together as a group. But, I've tried to differentiate those intended for preschool and those intended for prek for anyone interested. So, this week we:

    Preschool & Prek: Character: Generosity

    • definition, coloring pages, poem etc. from Character First
    • books!
      • One of my favorite instructional books was *Generosity by Lucia Raatma. There's an entire character education series, which I highly recommend. 
      • I'll share in another post the list of story books that we checked out to demonstrate this quality.


    Prek: ABCs and More

    • Letter j craft- This is one of his favorite activities. We use the templates from All About Learning. We have a pretty fun little collection of letter crafts.
                                          
    • Pretend to Be game- I create cards with images and words that begin with the letter of the week to insert into a *differentiated instruction cube. This is always a favorite activity each week. It's also nice that it's one we can all enjoy together. We take turns rolling the cube and acting out whatever side it lands on. Since we were focusing on the letter "j" the cards were: jaguar, jackrabbit, jellyfish, juggler, joy, and jump.

    • Introduced the circle- I created ten circles of various sizes and colors. I then took advantage of a beautiful day outside by setting up a scavenger hunt with those circles. (I'm all in favor of doing as much as possible outside while the weather (and bugs) are tolerable here in TX!). The children enjoyed running all over the yard to find the circle pieces. We practiced counting them each time we found one. For Tennyson, I also presented the concept of addition/subtraction. (He's proficient at numbers and is capable of taking it further.) Again, a fun activity that we can all participate in. Note: We've done the same activity with different shapes in previous units. To add an element of challenge, I can use multiple sets of shapes and they then have to not just find a shape but determine if it's the desired shape. 

    Prek: Outside
    • Listening- We practiced this skill two ways:
      • We sat quietly in a room and named all the sounds we could hear. Then, with his eyes covered I made a few sounds for him to identify.
      • We listened and identified the sounds we heard while on our daily walk around the neighborhood.
    • Extra- Daddy showed everyone all the larvae and worms he found as he prepared the garden beds for planting. Gardening and all the aspects that go with it is always a good opportunity to learn some life skills. 
      (If you're wondering why we have milk jugs in our gardening beds, they're for irrigation. We poke holes in the bottom and then bury them beside the plants. The holes slowly release the water from the jug to keep the soil moist for the plants. I learned this trick from my grandparents. It's been a successful irrigation technique for us as well!)
    • Of course, lots of playtime in the backyard
    Prek: Story Time
    • Big Book of Things to Spot (Usborne)

    A blanket and books is always my favorite pastime! 
    • Read aloud- Peter Pan (Great Illustrated Classics)
    • far too many books read throughout the day to list!
    Prek: Educational Toys
    • Fit-a-space- We sorted through all the discs to find the circles. Then, sorted the circles into piles by color and then size. Finally, he laced the circles into a necklace. 
    Preschool: Coloring
    • Shapes Card- She colored the large shape according to the color instructed, and then found the small shape to color likewise. (Ex. Color this big circle brown. Then, find the other circle on the page and color it brown as well). 
    A silly face is a pretty accurate portrayal of her. She has a good time at all times. haha
                                             
    Preschool: Storytime
                                                   

        Up next: the letter k, number 5, a poem, some play dough, character lessons, and lots of outside play and storytimes!

    *Note: I am personally affiliated with Amazon.com. As such, I receive a compensation for purchases made through the provided links. All opinions are my own. 

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