The end of another year

I have a little ritual – to write an end of our year review for homeschool. I started these posts for my mom, but they have morphed into a memento of sorts for me too. I love looking back and seeing how far the kids have come over the year….and even taking a peek at years past.

With a son who will be entering his 3rd year of high school, now more than ever, I feel the need to really slow down and recognize how far we have come. We started this homeschool journey when Soccer Dude was entering 1st grade. With a few years off while we lived in Kentucky, we have been at this for 8 years. Actually, I should write a post about how far I have come as a home educator. I knew nothing back then! Maybe I will add that for next year. For now, I am celebrating the end of another year.

Here is a peek at what the kids have learned this year, where they are headed, and some encouragement to myself that we have accomplished a lot during this crazy year. Wohoo for another year in the books!

Moe: Age 3 (our pre-school comic relief) This guy is everyone’s favorite. Each of the big kids take a turn playing with Moe as I homeschool. That really is one of the only ways I can keep sane while homeschooling 5 children with a pre-schooler under my feet. What started out as a chore (babysitting) turned into the privilege everyone fought over. Moe is just fun to be with. Play dough, reading picture books, forts, light saber fights…the kids all love finding ways to keep their three year old brother entertained during school time. You can bet that he also entertains us as he pretends to be a cat or a kangaroo.

Favorite subject: trucks and tractors

What he wants to be when he grows up: Grandpa

Favorite food: hot dogs

Biggest accomplishment: Moe has been in our family for just a bit over a year. Hard to believe when you hear him talk. He rocks English. He narrates EVERYTHING. “Look. There is a truck coming. That is a big truck. I like trucks. Mom, do you like trucks? Trucks can go over speed bumps.” On and on it goes, in perfect english. He is amazing.

Little Man: (Our 2nd grade graduate.) This guy is as smart as he is hilarious. He has taught me more about dinosaurs and the Jurassic period then I ever have cared to learn. He also can pronounce more dinosaurs names than I can.

Favorite subject: Math and geography (because he can do it fast.)

What he wants to be when he grows up: Archeologists

Favorite food: Chinese noodles

Biggest accomplishment: Little Man attended an art class that I taught for local kids. This year I have seen his Chinese language skills improve, his ability to make local friends has improved and our outgoing dude is blossoming. During one class I caught him challenging the boys to see if they could stomp on his foot hard enough to make him cry. I couldn’t help but laugh at all of the boys who were in awe over how strong Little Man is – none of them can stomp hard enough on his fake leg to make him flinch! I wonder when he might show them that he wears a prosthetic! That is our Little Man for ya.

Little Monkey: (completed 5th grade) It might be time for a new nickname for this sweet young lady. She is growing and maturing so quickly. It is fun to see the person she is becoming. We spent a chunk of time this year helping her determine her talents, gifts, and what she enjoys doing. She feels most comfortable following her big sister’s footsteps – but it has been fun to see her come into her own a bit this year.

Favorite subject: Geography and literature. It is even better if those two things are combined.

What she wants to be when she grows up: unsure

Favorite food: rice

Biggest accomplishment: urged on by one of her best friends, Little Monkey has determined to practice piano enough hours to make herself an expert. Based on the idea that 10,000 hours of practice can make you an expert in a field – she has upped her piano practice time in hopes that she can be an expert before she is mom’s age!

Roo: (will be starting High School in the fall!) This girl loves the arts. Painting, drawing, playing piano, knitting, crafting….you name it. Our home would not be the same without this creative spirit who is always pressing us to do school in a new way, bringing a creative twist to our lessons and thinking of some new fun way to entertain her brothers.

Favorite subject: She would say art and that she hates math – but really she is very good at math and language. This girl can diagram a sentence better than her momma.

As a family we based our homeschooling on My Father’s World’s curriculum “Exploring Countries and cultures.” Roo has loved our family read a-louds that are based on expats who have lived and worked around the world. We were all inspired by the series “Christian Hero’s: Then and Now.” We plan to read many more of them. This year, I have watched this tendered hearted girl fall in love with and have a heavy heart for a particular country and people group. Makes me wonder where she will end up one day.

Favorite food: ice cream

Biggest accomplishment: I will let this photo of one of her art projects speak for itself. I love seeing her art skills develop. This is was an assignment she did after studying famous artists including Van Gough.

B: (Surprise addition to our homeschool crew.) This guy is so very smart. I can’t even begin to put it into words. Our original goal was to slowly introduce him to our educational ways – let him hang with Little Man with 2nd grade work as he learns english. No pressure for him or for me. HA! I saw in the first week that wouldn’t work. We did placement after placement test for math. When he aced the 5th grade placement test even though he has had little formal education, I knew it was going to be hard to keep a head of this kid. He is learning words in math like parallelogram, is racing through Rosetta Stone English and is being diligent in his Explode the Code series.

Favorite subject: Math

Favorite food: gan ban (A Chinese noodle dish)

Biggest accomplishment: acclimating to our family. He has rocked this life change. I can’t say enough about how strong, flexible, kind, and tender-hearted this kiddo is. So thankful that he has joined our homeschooling crew this year.

Soccer Dude: (10th grade graduate – he is half way through High School!) We made a lot of changes in homeschooling this guy. Last year he was enrolled in an online High School. It was a good solid program and he did well, but it was hard on all of us to have him at the computer all day long. So this year, he took two classes online and we went back to traditional homeschooling the other courses. I was nervous at the beginning of the year, but it has been so much better for all of us. I am thankful to be more involved in his schoolwork again, he has taken more initiative in his learning, and we are having some big and good conversations. Who says parenting and homeschooling the teen years are hard? I am learning with them and enjoying this journey….even with the bumps along the way.

Favorite subject: Science (that is a new things this year!)

Favorite food: grilled bratwurst (can you tell he spent more time in the states this year?!)

Biggest accomplishment: Grieving well. This might sound like a weird thing to put here, but seriously this guy has been an example to me. He is leaning into Jesus as he has walked through the grief of saying goodbye to a foster brother he adored and loosing both of his grandmothers. When we transitioned to the States for the spring semester he did it with strength that rarely is seen in a teenager. He has handled it all well and is finishing his 10th grade year with all A’s. I am proud of him – not just for his high grades, but for setting aside his life and friends to help his Papa. It gives me a glimpse into the great man he is becoming.

I have never been so ready for our summer break. It has seemed like a long year and I have often felt that I could not meet all of the educational needs of these 6 souls – not to mention keeping our home going! I appreciate looking back over the year and seeing how God has met all of our needs – the needs of the kids and mine!

I am taking a deep breath and enjoying the beach before it is time to start another round of the Williams academy.

that is a wrap.

The day that seemed so far away last August….it has arrived.  We have wrapped up our school year and celebrated with some of our favorite Chinese food, hot pot.  We survived.  Another year of homeschooling in the books and I do believe that we all are a bit smarter.  At least, I am smarter.  That is something to celebrate! (My 5th time through Kindergarten was the charm.  I think I might have passed this time!)

Here is a peek at what we accomplished and how much our kiddos have grown.

 

IMG_0272-2Little Man: Our Kindergarten graduate (kinda)

Age: 5

We started Kindergarten with this kiddo because he was dying to do school with the other kids and frankly we homeschool so we have the freedom to start when the kids want to learn.  Another layer of honesty, he is a busy kid.  Giving him things to learn keeps him busy with the rest of us.  Win.  Win.  Now – what to do next fall?  My grand plan had been two years of Kindergarten, then he informed me that he had passed kindergarten and sure hoped 1st grade would be more of a challenge.  HA!  Now, if he could just learn to sit still in a chair.  Hmmm.

Favorite subject: Geography.  This kid knows crazy facts about the States and can put together a State puzzle faster than I can.  Need to know a capital or in what order a State entered the union?  Ask Little Man.  I am not joking.

What he wants to be when he grows up: A baker or a dragon trainer.

Favorite food: Noodles

Biggest accomplishment: He is well on his way toward reading and knows his basic math facts.  He claims knowing how to add and subtract is not an accomplishment – “You just use your fingers.  Everyone knows that.”

 

 

IMG_0226Little Monkey: Our 3rd Grade Graduate

Age: 9

Favorite subject: Reading and art.  Little Monkey also added piano to her list of studies this year.  She is whizzing through the first book, but isn’t so sure about playing in front of people for the recital coming in a few weeks.

What she wants to be when she grows up: A baker or a teacher (Not sure what is up with my kids all wanting to bake.  I told them I would hire them now!)

Favorite food: Rice

Biggest accomplishment: Learning to read music and completing a special science course that she chose.  If I was giving out end of the year awards, “most diligent” would be hers.  She is so good about staying focused, going down her list of daily work.  She is becoming more and more independent in her work.  Maybe that is what I should have put for biggest accomplishment; she is growing in confidence and character.

 

 

IMG_0316Roo: Our 6th Grade Graduate

Age: 12

Of all of our children, Roo loves homeschooling the most.  I often find her sitting in a corner of her room working away on a school assignment with headphones tuning out the rest of the world.

Favorite subject: Art and piano

Biggest accomplishment: Roo has learned how to use iMovie and is using this new platform to extend her creativity.  Many afternoons, you will find her along with her two best friends dressing up for roles in the latest film they are producing.  She might be creative, but she also is rock’n sentence diagraming.  She can tell you the difference between an IO, DO, OPN and PN faster than any kid I know.  Helps to have a daddy who is a whiz at languages.  (Have I mentioned that my kids are smarter than I am?  Makes homeschooling more and more challenging!)

What she wants to be when she grows up: An artist, film maker, or a beautician.

Favorite food: Broccoli soup and French bread

 

 

IMG_0321Soccer Dude: Our 8th grade graduate

Age: 14

This kid will be in High School this fall.  What?!#  He started his school career going to a Chinese emersion preschool in Michigan.  It seems like yesterday…kinda.  We have all come a long way since then.

Favorite subject: History

Biggest accomplishment: Surviving online classes with North Star Academy.  He took two online classes this year – Math and Language Arts.  It was a huge learning curve, but by the end of the year we were getting in the swing of things.  We are leaning towards him taking a full course load at NSA next year.  It has its pros and cons, for sure, but they offer classes he wants like Latin and advanced science classes.

What I love about homeschooling at this age…the great conversations.  There is nothing like sitting down with your teen and hearing their perspective on what went wrong during the Civil War.  I love hearing his passion for equality, human rights and what he would do differently if he were in leadership.  Add that to his volunteer work with the disabled children at the orphanage….he is going to be a world changer.  Okay, I am a proud mom.  A proud mom who is struggling thru the teen years, but seeing the beauty of them too.

Favorite food: Coke and candy (Keep’n it real, folks!)

What he wants to be when he grows up: He isn’t sure. Actually, that helps this momma’s heart.  He might be entering High School in the fall, but he isn’t ready to launch into the world yet.  We still have some time!

 

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Homeschooling four kids at once.  Check.  Makes me think I can handle five.  Just say’n.

 

 

 

 

 

Back at it

IMG_1355If you don’t hear from me for the next 12 years it is because I am now homeschooling 4 children and it is kicking my tail!  I have now done Kindergarten several times and really thought it would be no big deal to add it to our daily school business.   Well reality has hit but we haven’t hit our stride.

All joking aside, we are working hard to get into a rhythm for the semester.  Hubby has two weeks of classes under his belt (they are mostly literature classes again with a fun grad class to boot) and I have enjoyed two art projects with my special students at the orphanage.  Play-dough and dot markers are a great way to start the fall.

On the home front we are tackling Kindergarten along with 3rd, 6th and 8th grades.  Little Man was thrilled at first to have his own shelf of books and to be a “real” student.  Three days in he was asking how many days we needed to do this school thing!  Reality hits.  The girls and I are digging in a bit deeper this year and exploring some creative elements in art and writing that have been over looked in the past.  Hoping we can keep up the fun.  Soccer Dude is testing the waters with online schooling and enjoying it even though there is a learning curve.  Never a dull moment when a notice is posted on the apartment complex door that we will have no electricity when we were scheduled for a Skype meeting with his teacher and he was to do an online math test.  In the end, we packed all the kids up and took the excuse to explore a newly opened Starbucks in our city.  The kids joked that they felt like they were going to school in the States!  I guess we don’t live in the backwoods any more if we are able to order a frappuccino!

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All in all – we might not have hit a stride for the fall, but we are slipping back into routine and slowly recovering from our crazy summer.   Soccer Dude even let me take his picture at Starbucks.  He is looking good (thank you to the plastic surgeon in Detroit!) and all of his stitches have fallen out making eating so much easier.  Now, if only we could find an allergy medication to help him with the hives he’s had since the dog bite.

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Many have also asked how Little Man is doing.  I sometimes forget he had such a major surgery at the beginning of the summer.  He is back to his old self running around so much that there already is a crack forming at the toes of his prosthetic.  I wonder if there has ever been a package shipped internationally with “foot” marked as it contents.  We might ask our team of doctors in Florida to give it a try before we have toes fall off again!

Thanks again for all of your support and prayers as we have transitioned into the fall.  His grace has been so real to us over the last few months and we know it will continue to carry us.

Another Year

A lego set being put together, a blanket tent in the living room, audio books and an afternoon baseball game all mean the same thing….homeschool is done for another year and my kids are enjoying their free time today.  We haven’t just survived 7th, 5th, 2nd and pre-school…could I say that we have thrived this year without sounding prideful?  I am proud of what I have learned as a homeschool parent and am thrilled to see how the kids are advancing.

It has become a yearly tradition to post the milestones of each child at the end of our school year.  Here goes for 2015!

 

IMG_9081Little Man our 4 year old pre-school graduate

biggest accomplishment: knows all the letter sounds, knows all the books of the Bible and stopped sucking his thumb!

favorite food: noodles

What he wants to be when he grows up: a race car driver

I am kinda against homeschooling pre-school….but, he wanted workbooks to use when the other kids were doing school work.  I gave in and bought him workbooks.  It is crazy how much he has learned just by “sitting in” and listening to the big kids.  I really think we could not school him at all.  The last one is the easiest….I guess! 🙂

 

 

IMG_9096Little Monkey or 2nd grade graduate

biggest accomplishment: reading everything she can get her hands on!  We also are proud of her for pushing through her shyness to take an art and dance class.

favorite book: Pippy Longstocking

favorite food: a Chinese dish made from sliced potatoes and rice of course.

What she wants to be when she grows up: a baker or a teacher

Proud of this girl who is learning to be more independent.  Her favorite thing is still to be close to mom.  She is our rule following, stable, steady one.  She is stepping outside of the box and creating things with legos without a manual and she loves to go on adventures through reading in books.

 

IMG_9059Roo our 5th grade graduate

biggest accomplishment: she fell in love with science through astronomy this year.  She also continues to improve her artistic abilities adding music via piano to the mix.

favorite book: The Bronze Bow

favorite food: dumplings (the Chinese kind not the southern kind)

what she wants to be when she grows up: a beautician or an artist

It is crazy how artistic this girl is.  She is always thinking outside of the box and pushing to do it like no one else.  She and little monkey truly are best friends and they compliment each other so well.  She loves listening to audio books as she is painting.  We finally found a spelling curriculum that has helped her (and her mom) – Spell U See.   Love it.

 

IMG_9119Soccer Dude our 7th grade graduate

biggest accomplishment: He has always hated writing, but this year decided for every writing assignment he would write a poem….because they are shorter! HA!  Turns out he really can write some amazing poetry.

favorite pass time: training and playing with his lovebirds

Soccer Dude is our history buff and he loves reading anything he can get his hands on.  It seems so crazy that we are starting to plan for High School.  But then again, I knew this was coming….it is taking me longer and longer to prep his lessons.  There are a lot of cob-webs I have needed to dust out to remember what I learned in 7th grade!  We are planning on him doing North Star next year.  We are hoping this online school might be a good fit for him and will be what he does for High School.

 

I close with sharing one of his poems with you.

I Made a Big Decision – by Soccer Dude

I made a big decision a little while ago.
I don’t remember what it was, which probably goes to show
That many times a simple choice can prove to be inconsequential
Even though it might seem essential.

I must have been distracted when I left home because
Left or right – I’m sure I went (I wonder which it was!)
Anyway, I never veered; I walked in that direction
Utterly absorbed, it seems, in quiet introspection.

For no reason I can think of, I’ve wandered astray
And that is how I got here today.

 

 

Homeschool wrap up

It is 10 a.m. and I am sipping a cup of coffee and munching on a cookie.  Ahhh.  Lazy mornings of summer have arrived and I am so thankful.  I think I need the break from homeschooling as much or more than the kiddos do, but I am glad to report that I am not in a place of desperation.  This has been a great year of homeschooling and I think for the first time I have loved it.  It has only taken me five years to hit a stride – a place where the kids are thriving and so am I.

I have begun planning for next year….ordering curriculum and prepping to school four kiddos (yikes!)  Before I can turn to much attention to our next season of school, I want to recap how far the kiddos have come.

 

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Soccer Dude:  my 6th grade graduate!

Favorite subject:  “If I had to choose something besides reading, I guess it would be math.”  (We are loving Teaching Textbooks around here!  He still reads so much that it is difficult keeping him supplied in books.  Praise God for the Kindle!)

Most improved: His Chinese skills have blown me away.  He can sit down and read entire paragraphs of Chinese characters putting me to shame.  He has his daddy’s aptitude for languages.

Hobbies: training his pet birds, learning computer coding

This summer I would like to: go fishing

 

 

 

 

 

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Roo: my 4th grade graduate!

Favorite subject: art and music

Most improved:  She has fallen in love with reading this year!  What a joy to find her hiding in a fort finishing up the last chapter of a book!  Her favorite book is”From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”  She mostly likes reading on the Kindle….”because you can read a long chapter book and not even know it.  On the Kindle you don’t see how thick and scary a book might seem.”

What I want to do this summer: learn to play the piano

What do you want to be when you grow up:  a hair dresser just like Nana used to be.  (The girl knows I need help with haircuts!)

 

 

 

 

 

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Little Monkey: my 1st grade graduate!

Favorite subject:  Everything!

Favorite food: rice

Most improved: She went from sounding out letters to reading chapter books!  (I must admit that homeschooling 1st grade is one of my favorites!  It is so rewarding to teach a child to read!)  Her favorite books are Henry and Mudge.

What I want to do this summer:  eat at Chick-fil-A and go to a water park.

What do you want to be when you grow up:  a gymnasts and ballerina who plays the flute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Little Man: is graduating to a larger prosthetic leg!

Favorite subject: Disney planes, coloring and reading Cars books

Most improved: He is coloring in the lines, is a verbal dude who now can ride a tricycle without his prosthetic being strapped to the peddle.

What he wants to do this summer: eat ice cream and go for wagon rides.

What do you want to be when you grow up:  “I don’t want to be big.  I will always be your baby.”  (No I didn’t prompt him to say that.  Yes, it made me cry a little and he will now get double dessert!)

 

 

Afternoon learning fun and split pants.

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We have the benefit of two worlds…homeschooling and an international school.  In the mornings you will find us huddled around our coffee table learning together, but by noon the three big kids are packed up and heading out the door to the international school.  There they have Chinese classes and specials (art, music, PE, and library) plus some invaluable time with others kids who live in a culture that is not their own.  They have made some great friendships and their Chinese, including reading and writing, has improved dramatically over the year.

This past week the school hosted an art fair.  It was a great time for all….well except for Little Man.  Oh, that is a story in itself!!  I will get back to that.  Each of the big kids had projects in the fair and I loved taking it all in.  Got a few ideas for my classes too!  Their art teacher is amazing.  So appreciate her hard work!

 

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The highlight of the afternoon was Roo winning the award for best project of the 4th grade.  She came up with this monochromatic masterpiece on her own using many different materials to show texture.  When she first showed me her piece, I again was amazed by her natural talent.  What a blessing to have our little artist encouraged by winning.  So proud of her.

 

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While big sister was shining, Little Man was trying to hide.

Let’s start the story by saying that he has become Mr. Independent of late.  When he headed to the restroom on his own the thought ran through my head that it could be disastrous.  I should always listen to that still small mommy warning voice in my head!

He didn’t aim well.  He got wet.  Really wet.

So in the middle of the art show I was scrambling to find him a change of pants.  I found a gracious Chinese mom who was willing to loan us her son’s extra set of clothes.  I was so relieved until I noticed that they were traditional Chinese split pants.  Split pants are exactly what they sound like.  There is a split in the middle….for easy aiming, I might add, so that you don’t have wet clothes with young ones.  No pull-ups around here, young kids walk around with it all hanging out of the split.

So poor little man had to be wet or exposed.  Hard choice.  He really hates being wet.

True to his nature, he pulled those pants on and turned those cheeks towards me and shook them singing, “booty, booty, booty!”

The rest of the afternoon he spent wrapped up in my sweater trying to hide that cute little booty.

He said, “I don’t like these “showing” pants.  I might have been born in China, but I am American and we don’t wear split pants!”

For many reasons, it was an afternoon we won’t forget!

No photos of Little Man from the day! 😉

Kicking Tail

IMG_7394The last two weeks we have been in the full swing of things….and it is kicking our tails.  We just can’t seem to catch the rhythm of everything.  Hubby and I are both teaching, homeschooling, open houses with English students and just day to day living here (which takes more work.) When I type it out it doesn’t seem so much, but we are feeling it at the moment.

Yesterday, after scrambling to get all the homeschooling done in time to pick up the paper I needed for art class at the orphanage, I forgot to make bread and hang up the laundry.  Crazy how forgetting one day of wash (when you don’t have a dryer) can really get you behind.  Breakfast with no bread wasn’t pretty either, I might add.  This isn’t even mentioning that I totally had to wing art class because I had forgotten that my class was changed to Monday from Tuesday.  Sigh.  At least I had bought the paint paper!

It’s times like these that I switch into Super Woman mode.  I pretend to have it all together even when I know that life is kicking my tail.  Maybe if I would run from the kitchen to the laundry I would be able to squeeze in the spelling test I need to give Roo.  When it doesn’t work – when my hurried steps don’t get me anywhere faster….then I want to throw up my hands and say I just can’t do it all.  {DUH!}

So I have been thinking a lot over the past week – how do I hit a rhythm.  Where do I dig when I need an extra something something to do what I am called to do.  That’s when I read a simple sentence that made me pause.  A coincidence that this verse was the next in my daily reading.  Totally not.

“He must become greater; I must become less.”  Jn 3:30

I stopped dead in my tracks as the words sunk deeply into my soul.

John the bapt!st was asked how he felt about JC bapt!zing and everyone now following him.  I can almost picture him not missing a beat and explaining that “a man can only receive what is given him from heaven.”  He explains that his JOY is complete because he has seen JC come and JC is to be greater and himself become less.

I know it doesn’t totally apply to our crazy semester – but then again it does.

How, did John have that attitude about his min and life.  I so want that!

In my busy season would that my heart say, ” GREAT.  BRING IT ON.  I only have what has been given me from heaven and may HE become greater.”

Yup, this semester is kicking our tails – may it be that He is greater as I walk through it.