Our Un-Schooling Approach to Homeschooling

I’ve been asked a few times recently which approach we’ll be taking to homeschooling this fall, which curriculum we’ll be using, etc., The truth is that I really struggled for a few months not knowing exactly which route to go. I mentioned in a previous post that I was homeschooled myself and I’m also a teacher so I think most people just assume I have it together and have this amazing plan in place. But I don’t. Things have changed so much since I was a kid and there are sooo many different curriculums to choose from and different approaches to homeschooling. So I started to do some research. I watched a lot of you tube videos and read a lot of other blogs about what other homeschooling mama’s do. But to be honest, that kind of made things worse. The options were overwhelming and every time I felt I had made a decision, I would hear or see something else and change my mind. Having a type A personality doesn’t help either because I like to have everything organized and ready to go far in advance.

It was only as we began to dedicate some time to trying “school work” a few times a week (as a sort of test drive) that I have realized what will work best for our family as we dive into this new adventure. First off, my boys are SO different when it comes to learning. I love this about them. They are both very bright and like to learn but Bryson has a longer attention span and his fine motor skills are a lot more developed then Sky’s. He will sit down and color and won’t leave the table until every spot is complete, trying his very best to stay within the lines. Skyler will do some quick scribbles and be done with it. Bryson was writing his name on his own a while before Sky because he loved the challenge of being able to do it on his own. He would sit down and practice in his own time and would run up to me and show me his paper, so proud of what he had done. Skyler couldn’t be bothered until just recently, when he was good and ready. I was soon noticing that forcing Sky to sit down and practice printing or do a worksheet for more than 5 minutes was an extremely gruelling task. This kid has a wild imagination, and he is such a creative little soul but extended periods of seat work is not what he enjoys doing right now and it wasn’t fun for any of us. I was starting to get frustrated that the boys weren’t always interested in what I had planned out for them and I began to really question my decision to homeschool. But around that time, I remember reading about how at this age,  it’s important to focus on instilling a love for learning. I realized I wasn’t doing a good job of that. I was forcing the boys to do things they weren’t always ready to do and while it’s a good thing to push and challenge our kids,  I don’t feel I need to do a lot of it quite yet at this age.

SO. Things changed. I decided right there and then that I wasn’t going to order a set curriculum for kindergarten. I wasn’t going to follow a rigid schedule for the year with planned themes and activities the way the traditional teacher inside me wanted to. Instead, I was going to take an un-schooling approach. The definition of un-schooling for those of you who are a little confused is: an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. In other words, I want the interests of my children to be a guide for what they learn about.

Studies have shown that children retain a lot more information when they actually enjoy what they are learning about and I started to see this myself since we’ve begun to implement this way of learning. So using a recent example, the kids have been really into “maps” lately. I noticed they were drawing a bunch of shapes and lines on paper, mixed with some letters and then they would roll up the paper and carry it around as their map.  Taking note of this interest, I told them that next week we would learn how to make a real map. I’ll teach them how to make a title, a legend, and a scale and we’ll probably start with just making a map of their room or the upstairs of our house. This may sound a little advanced for 3 year olds but they’re into it and excited to learn. And by making maps together, we’ll be tying in math, writing,  geography and art all into one project.

Using another real life example, the boys have just been introduced to chewing gum and one day one of them swallowed his by accident. They both started to cry worried that something bad would happen because they knew that swallowing their gum was forbidden! After calming them down, we came home to the computer and I found and printed off some diagrams of the digestive system and they learned about how it works. This made both the boys feel a whole lot better when they learned that the gum would slowly but surely make it’s way through. They colored in their diagrams and they can now tell you by pointing to each part how everything we chew and swallow travels through the digestive system from start to finish. Again, sounds a little complex for a 3 year old? My kids are not little geniuses by any means. I’ve simply been observing their interests and using them to determine what we’ll learn about next. It’s been working great. 

And don’t get me wrong, there is most definitely a time to practice printing our letters and numbers and all that important stuff, (I’ll make sure we get through the kindergarten expectations) but we’ll be taking a more relaxed approach. I give them a worksheet (we have a few workbooks from target and scholars choice and the amount of free printable’s online these days is amazing) or have them practice printing a letter a few times a week while I’m preparing their lunch. Or on this particular morning, we brought these fun new chalkboards from Chalkfull of Design  to a coffee shop and worked on number practice and shape recognition after they enjoyed a yummy treat. The boys LOVE these boards and I’m totally planning to order the letter and clock one as well! Learning can happen anywhere and you might just find us taking our books or printing practice to the beach or a park too. The flexibility of where and how we learn is probably the thing I love most about homeschooling.

So while we haven’t officially begun our school year, the focus of the year for us is going to be about instilling a love for learning. It’s kindergarten. We’re going to be doing a lot of play, a lot of free exploring, and our learning will be guided by their interests. I’ll jot down their interests as they come up and in future weeks, we’ll take out library books based around that topic, plan activities and field trips around it, etc.,   We also have a weekly nature group in place for the fall with a number of other homeschool families. We’re really excited about this as our kids already LOVE to be in nature and it provides so many opportunities for learning and free-exploring the world around them. A few weeks ago after a hike through the woods, we had seen a huge turtle in the water and the boys wanted to know the difference between a tortoise and a turtle so we came home and researched it together. Learning can be fun. And that’s what this first year of kindergarten is going to be all about.

Thanks so much for reading!

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Baby on the Way

12 weeks. Here we are again for the second time in 6 months. I feel extremely blessed and overjoyed to be carrying a baby once again yet it’s also been a difficult and emotional journey thus far.

I remember it like it was yesterday…crying to my husband as I lay in that hospital bed waiting to deliver Paisley. I told him that I never wanted to do this ever, ever again. I remember saying that I couldn’t do it again. I couldn’t go through the heartbreak of possibly losing another baby and I couldn’t put my precious boys, him, or anyone else through it again either. He just held me and hugged me. He didn’t try and convince me otherwise at the time. I don’t know what was going through his head in that moment and I don’t imagine he even wanted to think about what our future would look like after we left the hospital the next day. I know I didn’t. We were just so filled with grief, so broken, so completely devastated over what we had lost. I didn’t feel I would have the strength to carry another baby after this.

Yet the moment I had Paisley in my arms, everything changed.

When I stared at her perfectly formed fingers and toes and kissed her sweet smelling newborn skin, I knew I had to do this again. She was perfect. Such a gift from the Lord. And even though He had chosen to take her home early, I just knew as I held her and sobbed that Ron and I were going to have more children together, that our family was not yet complete. That God had more in store for us, despite the immense pain we were feeling in that moment. When I shared my heart with my husband a few days later, not knowing where he stood on the issue or what he was feeling about our future, he cried as he told me that he wanted to have 5 more kids together as soon as he saw Paisley (ok we both decided after that 5 may be a little excessive). But it just confirmed to us both that God had more in store.

So here we are. 12 weeks along with another beautiful blessing growing inside me. It feels surreal, to be at this point again so soon but we have seen God’s hand so evidently in this pregnancy since the very start. There have been emotionally draining moments when fear and anxiety have gripped a hold of me. But in those same moments, with full and complete surrender, I have felt God replace those feelings with overwhelming peace and a strong prompting to simply trust.  I wish I could share everything with you in this post but it would likely be a novel. I will say though, that we believe that the Lord has allowed us to experience this journey for a reason. And we have been learning as a family that faith is not about everything turning out ok but about being ok no matter how things turn out. For God is good. His plans are good. And He says: “ You don’t see now what I am doing, but you will someday.John 13:7 

A scripture verse God revealed to us at the beginning of our pregnancy and one that I have reflected on over the past weeks  is this one:

Isaiah 43:19 – “For I am about to do something new! See I have already begun. Do you not see it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” 

Thank you Jesus for blessing us with another precious gift. We are placing this new life once again in your hands and choosing to trust you through it all. 

 

Thank you so much for reading and following along with our journey.

 

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The Twins Minimal Bedroom

The twins bedroom is one of the rooms in our home I’ve been most excited to share since we’ve started living more minimally. I think because people often ask me how we live minimally with kids. They don’t understand how we can have such a minimal toy/clothing collection for two active three-year-old boys. But I actually LOVE the challenge of keeping their wardrobe as small as possible. I mean, the seasons change constantly where we live and they grow out of the things we buy them before the next time that season rolls around again.  And while I understand that some items (t-shirts, jeans etc.,) can be worn for multiple seasons, living minimally I like them to have a small collection of basic and neutral items that can be worn multiple times/week and be mixed and matched well with each other instead of just having a massive amount of clothes. It does take some planning ahead and not just grabbing things of the sale rack because they’re on sale.  But for us, it really pays off and keeps their closet organized and to a minimum. I’ll explain more about what their wardrobe entails further down.

I blogged here about our playroom and how we keep the boys toy collection to a minimum. In that same post, I explained the benefits of this as well. It’s been a game changer in the way our kids play and interact with each other. The bins in their closet are the only toys we keep in their bedroom. Actually, they’re the only toys we keep on our main level. One is filled with lego, one with duplo, one with some other building toys and then they have a bin for little figurines they collect. My kids are SO into figurines (their collection involves some from disney, paw patrol, peppa pig etc., some from mcdonalds and some from the dollar store,)  but we have to keep this collection under control so I currently do a monthly purge for smaller toys they don’t care for or play with much anymore. The boys help me with this. As I mentioned in the playroom post, I love that from a young age they are learning not to be too attached to material things. They’re starting to tell me now that they think another child would play with this or use this item more than they do and we add it to the “to give away” pile for that month. I love this.

As you can see, the twins art station is right in their bedroom.  Since around the age of two, they have both been my little artists. They love coloring, painting, cutting and pasting. So this little station is a recent addition to their bedroom and they’re obsessed. We keep a pile of paper in one of the top green bins in their closet and at least twice a day, the house goes quiet for a good 20 minutes or so and you can find them in their room doing art together. I get that this may not be the best idea for every 3 year old out there but we’ve taught them to be responsible with their art supplies from the start and so far, we haven’t had any issues. (knock on wood!)

Now to chat more in detail about their clothing collection. What is hanging up in the closet and the two shelves of folded items is all they have for the spring/summer season. We don’t have another hidden dresser or anything like that. As I mentioned above, we keep everything pretty neutral. Below is what they each have:

  • 3 pairs of shorts – 1 denim, 1 navy/grey, 1 faded striped
  • 2 pairs of leggings – 1 grey, 1 navy and grey striped
  • 1 pair of skinny jeans
  • 5 t-shirts
  • 2 tanks
  • 3 dress shirts – 1 denim, 1 light wash, 1 striped
  • 1 zip-up hoodie
  • 1 sweater cardigan
  • 3 pairs of p.j.s each
  • 1 pair of running shoes
  • 1 pair of rubber boots

Since this has become my master list for shopping and each new season I’ll look at what they’ve grown out of or what won’t work for the weather ahead and replace those things with some new/different items. For example, for the fall, we would replace the shorts with a few pairs of new pants, and the tanks with a few new long sleeves /sweaters/cardigans. Otherwise, everything else would remain much the same.  My favourite stores for different clothing items for boys are as follows:

  • Jeans/pants/shorts – H&M (I love skinny pants on my boys and I find theirs are always the slimmest and best fit)
  • T-shirts/tanks – Old Navy, Zara (affordable and
  • Sweaters and cardigans – GAP, H&M (the GAP is obviously more $$ but the boys will get SO much use out of a neutral sweater or cardigan so I don’t mind)
  • Jackets – Zara
  • Leggings – Os and Oakes, Zara, Von-bon
  • Shoes – Footlocker Kids (Cute kids shoes is one thing I’m a little obsessed with and again don’t mind splurging on a bit because they get such good use of them for an extended period of time. They each had a pair of Converse for a good year and a bit and we recently just got them both new Vans.)

The bunk beds are another fun new addition to their bedroom. It was time we moved them out of their cribs(turned toddler beds) and into something more long term. They LOVE the bunk beds but the funny part is that they have decided they want to take turns sleeping on the top bunk every other night so that’s a bit challenging to keep track of but that’s what we’re doing for now! The duvet covers are from an awesome company we recently came across called Ooh Noo. I wanted to find something neutral but fun and they love the robots on this design! Linking the rest of their room items below.

Bunk beds – Ikea/Light fixture – Ikea/ Duvet covers – Ooh Noo/ Discover pillow covers –Land of Nod/ Alphabet Print – This Modern Life/Art Table – Ikea/ Chairs – Hobby Lobby/ Wall organizer- Homesense/Closet shelf organizer – Ikea/ Never Stop Exploring Print- Kardz Couture / Monster stuffies – This Modern Life

 

 

Thanks so much for reading!

 

 

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Pink Blush

A few weeks back I chatted in this post about how I have a very minimal collection of clothing per season. When you’re living with a minimal wardrobe, you need to go with mostly neutrals as well as items that can easily mix and match with each other. But then I also mentioned how I like to have a few fun statement pieces as well. So today I’m sharing a new favourite dress shop where I ordered some fun dresses for the spring/summer season.

I came across Pink Blush back in the early spring and I absolutely fell in love with their line! While they do have many basic and staple dresses for every day wear, I’m obsessed with their beautiful floral patterns like the one I’m wearing below. A lot of their dresses are designed for maternity but the awesome thing is that most of them can be worn for non-maternity as well as there’s a lot of stretch in their material. Their products are only available online through their website but their prices are very affordable compared to other dress boutiques I’ve come across and they’re shipped out in great time!

You can go check out Pink Blush here! Happy Dress Shopping!

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Summertime Picnics

The twins are stoked that summer is close. Yesterday they started packing their bags for the “ho-and tell” on the vacation we haven’t even planned yet! We didn’t expect to be able to travel much this summer since Paisley was due mid-July and we were planning to lay pretty low. But these monkeys are determined to make something happen! Until then, we’re just doing beach days and lots and lots of summertime picnics.

This leather mat the boys are sitting on is from an amazing company we recently discovered called Gathre.  They come in all sorts of fun colors and are probably one of the best inventions ever for kids. I take this mat with me every where we go….the beach, the park, our backyard. We’ve used it for messy crafts indoors, sand play and play-dough. It just wipes clean with a soapy wet cloth and is ready to be used again. We’re doing a giveaway for a $70 credit for their shop over on our instagram page so be sure to check it out! 

Happy summertime picnicking! Thanks so much for reading.

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