Monday, September 24, 2012

Sonlight Review

I guess I should make a note here...this is a Mommy Review. I'm not a teacher. I haven't viewed a bunch of school or homeschool curriculum. This is my opinion of how Sonlight Core A is working for us thus far!

As I explained in my last post, Sonlight has different Cores for different grades. This would be a good time to mention that if you are homeschooling more than 1 child at a time, their advisers will help you combine the Cores and order less material so you can homeschool them all together (and save money). Honestly, I don't work for them. You'd think maybe I was getting some sort of kickback, but I'm not! I'm just really impressed with Sonlight which is why I'm taking the time to write about it!

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1. Core A-Intro to World Cultures---I love it. Want more specifics? You can choose from a 4 day or 5 day curriculum. We chose 5 day. Monday's are Spanish Mondays. My MIL is/was a Spanish teacher so Aiden spends Sunday nights with her and they do Spanish Mondays. They also read the daily Bible passage, start the weeks memory verse, read from I Heard Good News Today by Cornelia Lehn (missionary stories) and whatever other reading is on the list for Day 5. I sometimes send generic writing practice sheets reviewing letters/numbers previously learned. And/or I add math sheets. All of these sheets are from various pre-k and K worksheet books I purchased previously, not from Sonlight. I want him to have the extra practice and I'm trying to use up what I've already spent money on! It's kind of confusing, but Day 5 activities are really his Day 1 with Gigi.

Tuesday's start our Day 1. We start every day reading the Bible while we are still eating breakfast. (We're pretty informal around here.) And we practice our Bible memory verse for the week (maybe 5 min). If you're not really into it, I guess you could skip it but I can think of worse things than your child memorizing Bible verses. We then read a selection either from The Llama Who Had No Pajamas, or Mother Goose. I would never have guessed that Aiden would love these books, but he does. He loves the rhyming in the poetry, he loves the illustrations and he loves the messages.

We then read the selected pages from either Living Long Ago and/or The Children's Encyclopedia. He loves these too. So far, we've done unit studies on dinosaurs, Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt. Ancient Egypt was a HUGE hit. These two books are awesome because they have a lot of visual descriptions of the subject you are studying. It has really clicked with him how people lived during those times.

We were then taking time to read the chapter from the chapter book for the week. This was the area of biggest frustration. He wanted to move on and do something more kinetic so he couldn't focus on the story. We've since moved it to our bedtime reading and this has been amazing! He's now really getting into the story and sometimes he doesn't want to stop at that chapter. I'm hoping this is instilling in him a LOVE for books!

Sonlight is very literature based. That's the trade-off from leaving textbooks behind. You have a lot of books...The Bible, various chapter books, poem books, and non-fiction books. Sarita, the owner of Sonlight, says she spends hours and hours reading and selecting books. I believe her! The chapter books we've read so far are The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner and Dolphin Adventure by Wayne Grover. Like I said above on the poem books, I would NEVER go into a library and pick up these two books and expect Aiden to like them. He didn't just like them, he LOVED them! He was fascinated that the children (The Boxcar Children) as orphans were able to fend for themselves and how they went about it. The book was written in 1924 and is still, lesson wise, very relevant! He learned all about scuba diving reading Dolphin Adventure.  The point I'm trying to make is you may have to think outside the box a little...textbooks don't ensure you child will learn more. I would never have been able to make scuba diving interesting and teach on it for a whole week from a textbook. We would have just touched on it and moved on. This way allowed him to really get a full understanding of scuba diving and all the wonders of the ocean!
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2. Language Arts--This set comes with an instructors guide and worksheets. Sonlight says they keep additional worksheets for a couple of years so you can reuse the instructors guide with other children. I ended up copying the worksheets (making duplicates) to save for Luke since he's 4-1/2 yrs younger. I didn't want to chance them not having the replacement worksheets and I want to use this program again with Luke!

We focus on the letter of the week. While I  love the instructor guides, I'm not fully loving the worksheets that come in the LA section. I did not think it was enough practice, which is why I added A Reason For Handwriting and the Go For the Code series. Some weeks have just one worksheet with 3 sections, so you don't even do the whole sheet, you just do this tiny section. I can see how this would benefit a child who had absolutely no writing practice, but Aiden had some, so we usually pick a day and do the whole sheet. Then we move on to our ARFH sheet and GFC sheets. I also don't do all the extra activities in the LA guide, but I like that they are there if I want to add them. If I could make the LA section different, I would make it so you had the option to buy the worksheets separately so you could opt out of them. I want the Instructor's Guide, but not the worksheets.
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3. A Reason For Handwriting--this is what I added first when I realized there wasn't enough practice in the LA book. Generally speaking, this is a good book. It has nice illustrations. What it has that Aiden loves is small green dots that show you where to start your letter. In fact, I've incorporated this into all his writing practice. It's been a big help. Otherwise, I don't see it as special.  You can probably skip it and download free practice sheets online!

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4. Go For the Code--If you're looking to invest in a handwriting program, go with this one! It has traditional practice, but it also has less stressful game sheets (which pictures start with the letter /f/, write 'f' below them). It's more fun that a traditional worksheet. The set comes with 3 workbooks and a teachers manual. I'd definitely buy it again! Hindsight being 20/20, I should have skipped ARFH, downloaded free letter practice and used worksheets from GFC.
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5. Horizons Math--So far, I love this system. It introduces a concept, reviews the concept and builds on the concept. It teaches basic numbers, time, days of the week, ordinal numbers, money and basic math (toward the end). Aiden is really breezing through this book. I have some generic books I bought from Target that I've added to this. He's going through the math book so fast, he'll be through with it way before the end of the school year. My biggest gripe about this book is how they write the number '4'.  Almost nobody writes it like this >4<. They write it open at the top. This has been VERY confusing for Aiden. He's not having trouble with any other number or letter thus far except for this one. Any suggestions on how to get him to understand would be appreciated!

It comes with a few of Math Manipulatives. We've made up our own games using the dice and/or dominoes and the flash cards. Other than that, we haven't used a lot of what's included. There is a bag of pony beads and I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with them. I'm not complaining so far, but if we make it to the end of the year with no description of what I need to do with the extra stuff, I'm going to be aggravated that I paid for it.  Right now, I feel like it's nice to have, but I would've been ok w/o it.  Included in the kit was the Mathtacular video. This is supposed to be great, but we haven't watched it yet, so can't attest one way or the other!

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6. Extras--Book of Time--This is awesome. It's a preprinted book with a an BC and AD timeline. You utilize it through several cores, not just the first one. It comes with several sheets of timeline figurines (stickers). So when you're reading about missionaries or figures in the Bible or certain notable people in history, you cut out the appropriate sticker. The IG tells you who to cut and when to place him/her. A family member discouraged me from using it because 5 yr olds don't really have a good concept of time. I can't argue with that. But don't look at it from that perspective. Aiden likes the action of cutting out the person and studying them while we're reading. He likes putting the sticker in the appropriate time. It becomes more apparent as you place more figures. A few days ago, Aiden said to me, "So Phillip and Peter came WAAAY after Noah?" YES!! Exactly! I LOVE that this will be a wonderful tool for him later in life that he's building now!
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Calandar - This comes with the Core A package. I think it cost $10. The pages are blank like coloring book pages. Aiden doesn't like to color so that's kinda lost on him. But we do refer to it every single day. We say the days of the week every day. This is something I'm doing on my own, it's not a special Sonlight directive. I just remember doing that as a kid and it takes a while to learn the days and day order. We used the stickers to mark all the Holidays and things like soccer practice, dentist visit, etc. We could do w/o them, but they were there so we're going to use them. I let him mark off the day before and we count down to certain things we know we are doing on a certain day (like Nana coming to visit, etc). This is one of those things you can either buy theirs or buy your own.

Maps -  Core A comes with a smaller map that is hole-punched to go inside a binder. I also purchased the larger 24"x36" map. It also fold up in a 12" square. We've used the smaller map more because of space issues here. I think all kids love maps! He can tell you where Egypt and Italy are. We've discussed how you would travel from where we live to Egypt. We use the map to see where the missionaries are and how they travel from place to place. I remember having to memorize continents in the 4th grade. We'll get there too, but he already knows so much more about various countries than I did in K because I've incorporated it into our learning. The Sonlight IGs direct you to do this to a large extent. I've added more when appropriate.

 Time Spent
 I know this sounds like a lot and you're probably thinking we spend the whole day in 'school'. Trust me, we don't! We spend from 2-4 hours a day. Usually more like 3 hrs and this is counting the bedtime reading. It really is amazing how fast a child can learn when it's all one-on-one interaction. I've added some fun activities on certain days that I'll blog about later. Those are the days we run closer to 4 hours. Also days we spend playing the made up games with the flash cards/dominoes and the made-up games for ordinal numbers are days we hit closer to 4 hours.  Aiden's been big on story writing as in dictating a story to me while I type it. This was a Sonlight LA idea that has really stuck! I've decided to make a book for the year of all the stories he tells me. I think it will be great to go back in 10 years and read all his stories. In some cases, I'm adding the picture he was supposed to be telling the story about or having him draw his own picture to go with the store. So it will be his first book! I can blog about the specifics of it later, but those kinds of activities end up taking up a little more time.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Deciding on Homeschool Curriculum

Deciding on a Homeschool Curriculum initially seemed very overwhelming. The same friend who had first recommended homeschooling sent me an email about Sonlight. I'd been checking out their website while we were in the midst of deciding what to do. It looked awesome, but it is also pretty expensive, at least as far as homeschooling curriculum goes.

I knew we did not want something traditional, so anything based solely on traditional textbooks was out. The more I looked, the fewer places I saw that offered complete packages like Sonlight does. The beauty of it is, everything is laid out for you so the time you spend preparing is almost nothing. I needed this! Not only for my first year in homeschooling, but because I'm running a business too. They also allow you to pay out your total cost over the course of several months so that helps with the expense. The number of months allowed probably depends on when you order in the year, but it may be helpful to some!

Once we decided to homeschool, I pretty much just went with Sonlight. I wanted to start school with the traditional school year and I was running out of time. There was definitely a feeling of that I was led to Sonlight too. So, I just went with it deciding that if it was absolutely horrible I could return it (that's their guarantee) and/or I would have time to figure out something different for first grade.

I ordered Core A. It's for ages 5,6.7 and considered the Kindergarten program. Sonlight has developed their own lesson plans and corresponding books for each core. THIS IS AWESOME. You can download a sample of free lesson plans for any core from their website. DO IT! You will see how simply everything is laid out for you. There are empty boxes at the bottom of the lesson plan page so you can add the lessons for Math and/or Science. They also have their own Language Arts section that includes a lesson plan, a letter for the week and creative writing/reading/listening and games. Some of that latter stuff is optional, but it's great that it's laid out for you. The Language Arts section also has corresponding pages for other writing practice books. If you decide to purchase those, the lesson plan already had the pages you need to work on for the letter of the week. Their Language Arts also includes beginning reader books. It really is all laid out for you.

I should also mention the lesson plans are really more like instructor guides. Everything is laid out for you on a daily basis, but there is further explanation for every activity for every day as to what the child is supposed to get out of the lesson. So even if you're reading a Curious George story, the guide tells you what vocabulary words to point out. How to discuss what happened in the story for reading comprehension, etc.

Basically you buy the core package which includes the language arts section and you add on Math, Science and additional handwriting practice. They offer different Math and Handwriting programs, so you'll need to read the reviews and descriptions to find out what you think would work best. Here's what we ended up choosing:
1. Core A-this includes the instructor guide, a massive number of books including chapter books, Egermeier's Study Bible...really it's too much to list. If you are first shocked by the price, take a look at what you are getting. It's A LOT for the money. And don't bother trying to piece meal it off's not any cheaper. I tried that. I also thought maybe I'd go to the library, but my library didn't have all the books on the list, so I bit the bullet and got it all!
2. Language Arts-Sonlight includes this in Core A
3. A Reason For Handwriting - I wanted Aiden to have more handwriting practice, so I added this book.
4. Go For the Code Series-More handwriting practice. This one is more than just copywork. It helps better with letter sounds and recognition. Aiden LOVES this series. I could probably have left out A Reason For Handwriting.
5. Horizons Math - This is a more traditional math, but I liked how it constantly reviews previously taught lessons and/or incorporates them into new lessons showing how you build on concepts.
6. 3" Sonlight binder...I'm adding this on purpose. It's worth more than the $20 they have it listed for! EVERYTHING fits in here! I take out each weeks lesson and keep it in a file folder for that week, but it's worth it to have their binder to keep it all organized!

That's it. I didn't order the science kit. It was like $80. I really wish I'd added it. We bought an $8 science experiment book at Costco and said this would be our science, but it's not really working out like I thought it would. Mainly because I never have the stuff I need for the experiments. The Sonlight kit has all the stuff you need included in the kit, so it would have been much easier. I will either add their kit or the Magic School Bus kits for next year.

Here's the little student opening up the huge boxes when they arrived. Honestly, it was like Christmas. We were both super excited to go through the all the books. He kept saying, over and over, 'Oh, we're gonna read this? I can't wait to read this!'
Like the bottom left pic where he's put a piece of corn over his tooth so he can have a 'gold tooth'? That's my boy!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Deciding to Homeschool, Part 2

As I mentioned in Deciding to Homeschool, Part 1, I have amassed a list of why I cannot homeschool. I am embarrassed by how selfish some of these are, but my goal in writing these posts is to hopefully encourage someone like me who may be in a position like I was in.
  • I'm not a teacher. No really, I have a B.A. in English, and I had some education classes but when I did my formal observation I realized I did not really want to be a teacher. I felt like I needed to have a passion for it that I didn't have. I felt like I couldn't do it because I don't have any formal teacher training.
  • I don't know how to teach a kid to read.
  • How will I do this with an infant? How can I adequately devote time to both kids?
  • I don't like schedules.
  • I'm a night owl. (So is Aiden)
  • I don't like having every day planned out for me.
  • I like to do my own thing.
  • I'm not crazy about a lot of 'rules'.
  • I like to be able to 'wing-it'. Ok, honestly, reading these last few I know you must be wondering how I ever held a real job, much less a corporate job. Well, I did. And I was damn good at it too. I had a very non-conventional approach to things that worked. I was probably sometimes very irritating to work with. But I got the job done. I was late almost every day of my work life. Sincerely. BTW, I was completely public schooled, so having to be at school every day did nothing for my work life as far as punctuality is concerned.
  • I don't know what curriculum to pick.
  • I don't even fully know my philosophy on learning/teaching in general.
  • I don't have space. This was a big one. My home is 1044 square feet. I have a 200 sq feet storage unit and an attic packed to the brim. We have to frequently switch things out between home and the storage unit (like seasonal clothes). My office is the dining room (no, we can't eat in there) so the four of us live in about 850 square feet. We do not have a garage. We basically have rabbit trails going from room to room. Not because we are hoarders (no, really, we're not), but because we need the stuff here for daily life.  Especially now that we have had to bring baby stuff back from storage (high chair, bouncy seat, swing, crib). It's actually very, very stressful.
  • I don't have a designated classroom. Ties into the one above, but I have friends who homeschool who have designated closets, rooms, bookshelves, classrooms, or all of the above. I know I can't provide this for Aiden. Honestly, it grieves me that I can't provide this for him right now. But, I have spent my life making do and if I made excuses for lack of space for every time it was an issue my life I'd never do anything. We've lived here for 14 years. It's been an issue for a long time.
  • How will I roll out all my new OSD ideas? This is another big one. My most selfish one. If only I could show you all my ideas!
  • What role with my business take? Obviously ties in to the one above. I'd been planning on rolling out lots of new products when Aiden was gone at school.
  • What will my family think? I had some family who were not and a few who are still not on board with this idea. They think I am making a big mistake. That's hard to swallow. I don't care who you are, you want your family to support your decisions. I was shocked and hurt when they didn't. I got comments like, 'What if you don't do it right?" "What if when you put him in 'real school' he's behind?" "What if he ends up being weird and doesn't know how to talk to other kids?" That's hard to take from people who you look to for guidance and support.
  • I'm not goody-goody enough. Uh, I'm pretty sure my fellow church going homeschool moms do not make time for new episodes of Dexter, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones. Pretty sure...I'm pretty sure they do not subscribe to Stephen King's newsletter and buy every new King book in hardback because waiting for paperback would be considered torture.  I am also pretty sure they do not look longingly at the newest comic issues of The Gunslinger. Also relatively certain they do not know the difference between a band saw and a reciprocating saw nor do they know standard stud spacings in new and old construction. They have probably not been on the roof of their homes, much actually roofed it. I could go on with the construction talk, but you get my drift.
Despite all the concerns above, I knew God was directing us to homeschool Aiden. In fact, I'm convinced that we are NOT sending him to public school. It would be a waste of every one's time. But I don't know what to do next. So I ordered the two books I mentioned in my previous post. I first read Lisa Whelchel's book. I needed it. It doesn't really explain all the different methods in depth, but it does speak to the heart. Each chapter is a family explaining how they homeschool and why it works for them. It doesn't do any public or private school bashing which I appreciated. It is very much a 'what works for you' kind of book. In her chapter (page 21) she writes, "I eventually realized that God was no longer blessing my acting career because He wanted me to be the one to raise the children He had so graciously, and quickly, given us. I was to find His blessing at home."

I cried when I read that. I mean, cried and cried. I called Jon at work, crying. You gotta understand, I run a business out of my home. This business is my third child. I love it. I've lived for it. It's mine. It was an idea God had given me and helped me support my family. I have nurtured it for years. I have grieved over the number of copycat businesses that have stolen profits from me. So I had spent hours and hours while pregnant designing my own new passport and checkbook covers. I had spent hours learning how to use Adobe Photoshop. In order to 'save' the business that so many freakin' copycats had plundered and taken as their own, I had come up with loads of new custom OSD designs. I had plans to roll out these new designs as well as a whole new baby line and home decor line when Aiden went to school. If I homeschool, how will I ever accomplish this. I don't know that I will. But I did know I was no longer at peace with those plans. And I had gone from not ever wanting to homeschool ever, to kinda getting excited about it. After reading Lisa Whelchel's book, I now knew that God was calling me to homeschool. But I didn't know how or what to curriculum to pick.

Enter Cathy Duffy and her 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. This is a wonderful book. It helped pair down all my concerns into bite-sized pieces and attack them. Up to this point, a lot of my concerns were really just mine. Once I told Jon I was pretty sure God wanted us to homeschool, he was already on board. He had been letting God work on me to get to the same point. So we went through Cathy Duffy's book together. We discovered a lot of the philosophies we had about schooling in general were remarkably pro-homeschool. We dislike state testing of students because teachers end up teaching to the test. We wanted Aiden to be able to focus on subjects that interest him in depth, not just touch the surface of subjects. We are not big fan of textbooks--we had already noticed that most of our learning had come from reading biographies and other non-fiction works, not from boring textbooks. It was important to us that time be given each day to Bible ready and Scripture memorization (obviously not going to get this in public school). It was important to us that Aiden be able to have time to be a kid and explore extracurricular activities w/o pressure (like soccer, swim lessons, basketball and t-ball). Once we finished going through her activities, we discovered were not at all in line with the Traditional way of teaching - which is what public school was based on. We scored highest on Charlotte Mason and Unit Studies with an Eclectic approach coming in third.

I didn't even know who Charlotte Mason was. I still don't really. I'm planning on reading up on her more! Anyway, next up was determining my teaching and Aiden's learning style. We focused on me since I'll be primarily the one teaching. Aiden is so wired like me, so our styles are pretty much the same. I already knew this, but it helped me understand a bit more about us and then Cathy directs you on how to find curriculum to match your student and you as a teacher. This was so invaluable. She reviews lots of different curriculum in her book and on her website. A lot of the big names I had heard before and considered buying were SO WRONG for us. I'm so glad I read her book before I bought anything.

I guess you're probably wondering now what I chose. We went with Sonlight curriculum. This is whole other blog post, so I'll address why at that time. Right now, it's late and I have a 5 yr old to teach tomorrow! I'll also addressed how some of the 'fears' were resolved.

Let me interject a few things here. I never planned on being a stay-at-home mom. One look at Aiden just after having him and I knew I could not let anyone else care for him but us. No one would do as good of a job as we would. While I do believe it is in a child's best interest for one parent to stay at home, I know not everyone can swing it. And I don't mean I-like-to-drive-Mercedes swing it, I mean, We-don't-eat-if-both-parents-don't-work swing it. I grew up in one of those households. I do think some people think they need things they really don't, but that wasn't the case when I was growing up. You also need to know that I have always said I would NEVER homeschool. It's not so much that I had a negative preconceived notion about it, I really didn't. (Well, not much of one.) I think I just found it unnecessary. I had also known a few homeschooled kids and thought they were a little, uh, socially misaligned. They basically had a hard time fitting in with the rest of us (I'm referring to my middle/high school years). I guess it was lending credence to the 'socialization' aspect of homeschooling. I just really was never interested in it or saw myself doing it. It seemed like a lot of unnecessary work. And I had just always assumed that my kids would go to a 'normal' public school. My posts about homeschooling are not an attempt talk negatively about public or private schools. I think the point I'm trying to make is I'm not being judgemental about those who don't/can't stay at home and homeschool. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that we decided it was right for us. I am also a VERY black and white person. I don't see a lot of shades of gray. I'm all or nothing. It was truly God's doing that took me from never wanting to homeschool, to being completely, totally and utterly excited about it!

Deciding to Homeschool Part 1

It's almost September, and I don't even know where to begin to start with how much has been going on thus far. I'm planning on going back and recapping a few things, but let's start with one of the biggest decision we've made as a family thus far...homeschooling our oldest.

Starting in January, before Luke was born, both Jon and I started to go into mild panic about sending Aiden to Kindergarten. It was a feeling we were both having and hard to pin down. What exactly was bugging us about sending him to school (public school)? Millions of kids go every year, why would ours be any different.  We talked about holding him back for another year. His birthday is early July, so he'd be a young 5 in his class. I didn't like this idea. I felt like we'd be holding Aiden back other words, I knew he was very ready to learn past the preschool stuff I had done with him.  With the birth of Luke, our decision and really any talking about it was put on the back burner.

Around early June we starting revisiting the issue. The news had been packed with weird things happening in elementary schools and I just kept having this feeling that school isn't as safe as it used to be. I know, the great things never get reported, but this wasn't helping our decision. So we started looking into private schools. My first choice was a Montessori School not far from our house. It was only 1/2 day Kindergarten and I'd already been using some Montessori activities at home for Pre-K. It was also almost $500 a month. Gulp! For a 5 year old? Other local private schools ranged from $200 to $700. Double Gulp!! Even if we had the money, I just didn't think I could justify that!!

A friend of the family casually mentioned homeschooling. I was immediately opposed to it. We were just going to have to get over our public school issues. But I didn't have peace with this. And over the next few days, I felt like God was making a change in my thinking.

I was starting to think maybe homeschooling K for Aiden would be the absolute best thing for him. I still wasn't 100% certain, and I didn't know HOW to teach him. So I posted a Facebook post - here's what it said, "We are considering homeschooling or at least part time homeschooling. All the information out there is overwhelming. Does anyone have favorite websites and/or curriculum? Do all school districts let you part time home school (like use them for certain subjects) or would we have to find a private school for that. Outside of Church, what do you do for social interaction? I'd like to hear any cons too - like I said, we haven't decided for sure what's best Aiden since he will be a very young 5 when Kindergarten starts in August, but we may not really know unless we let him try traditional school. Just trying to gather info..."

The post alone just goes to show how little I knew about homeschooling at that time. You would not believe the comments and private messages I got. Oh dear, I had basically started a public school versus home school debate. I had no idea it was such a hot button topic. I have lots of teachersfamily and friends, and of course, almost all were pro public school.  Their biggest argument against home school was the socialization issue. All pro-homeschoolers said that wasn't an issue at all. I also got a lot of very, very sweet private messages from dear friends and some friends I hadn't spoken much to since high school. And they brought a few things to light about homeschooling that I hadn't previously considered.

  • We can go at our own pace. If he's advanced or needs help in any particular area, I can tailor the curriculum however I see fit. Not going to get that level of attention in public or even private school.
  • Takes half the time. What takes a classroom 8 hrs to accomplish, can be accomplished in 3-4 hrs. That leaves the afternoon to do fun stuff together. Sciene projects that wouldn't be done in a normal K. It also ensures we are not going from school, eating a quick snack in the car, to soccer or swim practice, to home to eat dinner, bath, bed and starting all over again the next day. We would have room in our day to breathe...and enjoy one another.
  • The school wouldn't get the best part of his day. Let's face it, 8am - 3pm? It's the best part of your child's day. Why on earth would I be ok giving that up to someone else?
  • Two great books were recommended, 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Your Child's  by Cathy Duffy and So You're Thinking About Homeschooling by Lisa Whelchel

As a result of the post, I start leaning toward homeschooling (despite all the 'cons' listed). And telling myself the whole time that this is crazy, I can't do this. I didn't know where to begin. If you've never homeschooled and have never really paid much attention to it, it's incredibly overwhelming to get started looking into it. About this time, I'm at the end of July. Registration for public school was August 15th. I basically had 3 weeks to learn all I could about homeschooling and decide if it was right for us. I started by calling the elementary Aiden would be going to to find out what they specifically teach. Class started at 7:45am. Ended at 3pm. Most of the morning was the 'learning' part. Then lunch, then a 2 hr nap (not joking). Recess, then indoor guided play. Curriculum focused on learning basic letters and numbers and writing them. I was floored. Not only does Aiden already know all this, he hasn't napped in at least 2 years. So I would basically be sending him to a glorified free daycare. I cannot even begin to catalog all we have sacrificed for me to stay at home with our babies. Why am I now going to be ok with sending him to a glorified daycare and call it school?

So while I'm not ok with sending him to public school, I'm still amassing a list of reasons why I cannot homeschool. Part 2 of this post starts there.

Friday, April 13, 2012

New Fabric

Finally, I've updated the OSD 'Build Your Own' fabric choices. I've had several requests for new fabric over the past few months, so I spent quite a bit of OSD profits from November/December buying new fabric! Really, it's ridiculous how much I bought. You can see all the new choices here. A few of them are really aimed more at the Appliques I'll be rolling out for Owl Say Home, but I definitely bought dozens of new designs intended for Travel and Portfolio Clutches.  I also added solid colors which is requested pretty frequently, especially for someone looking for a travel wallet for a guy. Remember, I can always switch out the more feminine pearl snap for a metal snap which looks pretty 'manly' on an all black travel wallet. I replaced all the fabric that was marked as 'Discontinued' or 'Out of Stock' and even added about 2 dozen additional prints!  Below is just a sampling of some of the fabric. You can see the whole sha-bang by clicking here:
If you'd like to order a new Travel/Portfolio Clutch visit my shop!

Saturday, April 7, 2012



Here's what went down! Luke was originally due on March 19th.  I had about a dozen sonograms throughout this pregnancy. I had polyhydramnios (excess amniotic fluid) with my firstborn which created lots of problems - high blood pressure, about 30 lbs of water weight gain in 5 days which was an obvious sign of pending kidney failure. So Aiden was born 4 weeks early. He weighed 10lbs 7oz and was the biggest baby in NICU. Anyway, polyhydramnios can occur again, so I was being closely monitored.

We knew via the sonograms Luke was going to be a bigger baby too. I stuck to a very strict low carb/ high protein diet. I also exercised (via swimming and water aerobics) regularly. I'm not diabetic, but I am hypoglycemic so my goal was keep my blood sugar stable and my weight down. I was hoping for a smaller baby than Aiden, but I think we just produce Amazon children. 

I put my shop on vacation around pregnancy week 35.5. My workaholic self wouldn't let me do it any sooner and I totally regret that. I needed more rest! The end of week 36, I started feeling...bad. I couldn't sleep in bed anymore, no matter how much I propped myself up. I couldn't lay on either side for more than 30-45min without my hips aching dreadfully. So I slept in a recliner. 'Slept' is overstating it. I went through episodes of dozing. By now, I'm on biweekly DR appts and I had an appt on Monday, Feb 27th. I knew from my experience with Aiden, I was starting to fill up with amniotic fluid. It was super visible and most importantly I could FEEL it. Despite Luke's size, his movements didn't feel as strong or powerful. So I knew I had more fluid than my sono the Thursday before. Unfortunately, there was a different sono technician and her measurements didn't show an increase in fluid - in fact, it showed a decrease! My DR knew that wasn't right, but by state law, couldn't admit me to the hospital. So I went home, reluctantly. I was scheduled for a c-section on March 5th and I knew I wasn't going to make it till then.

I made it through Tuesday, but by Tuesday night, I was miserable. I had an appt on Thurs, but on Wed morning, I told my husband there's no way you're going to work! You're taking me to the DR. I cried on the phone with the nurse, so of course, my DR told me to come in right away and admitted me that day. The excess amniotic fluid was clearly obvious - my preggo belly was huge and you could feel the fluid by pressing on my stomach. Thankfully, this is the only symptom I had this time around. I didn't have excessive water weight gain, my blood pressure remained normal and everything else was functioning properly.

So, aside from the anesthesiologist trying for 20 min and 5 sticks to get my epidural started and then ME discovering he put the epidural too low, everything went fine. I basically felt the entire surgery from the belly button up - I liken this to field surgery. No joke, it is the most pain I've ever felt in my life. At this point, there's not much they can do. But my DR is absolutely amazing, and worked as fast as he could. Luke was more transverse than head down, so it felt like an eternity, but I survived it. And have a beautiful baby boy to show for it.

Here's my dad holding up Aiden to kiss his mommy before going back for my c-section. My wonderful husband on the left holding my hand:

Our mothers (mine has Aiden), my husband's is next to mine and aunt (far left) waiting...
Luke first went to the regular nursery. It's normal protocol for them to test the blood sugar of bigger babies, and they noticed he was having a hard time maintaining his blood sugar. So by the end of Wed, they moved him to NICU to start an IV of glucose. Essentially, they start him on a certain dose and then gradually wean him off of it and make sure he can maintain his blood sugar on his own. He responded beautifully and got to go home with me on Sat (and yes, I should have stayed until Sun...I would have rested better!)

Here's Aiden checking up on his little brother in NICU:

Proud Big Brother!

Bath time - about 3 weeks old

One month old! (3/28/12)

I am so in love with this little boy! He's 5-1/2 weeks now and it is already so obvious how different he is from his older brother. Aiden is wired like his mommy and Luke is wired like his daddy. So glad we now have balance! Where Aiden is intense and on fire, Luke is cool and calm. He is so laid back, I feel like I have to keep checking on him to make sure he's ok. He pretty much only cries if he's hungry. And he coos! I've heard of baby cooing, but I have never actually heard it. With almost every exhaling breath that he's awake, he makes some sort of soft little cooing noise. Talk about endearing! 

I've opened the shop back up for shopping. You should see the list of 'stuff' I'd planned to make before opening up the shop...yeah, not even close to starting it, much less getting it done. I've had to come to terms with the fact that I'm human. Luke eats every 3 hrs and there is only so much you can reasonably get done with that time restriction. Especially when you throw in an almost 5 yr old and your innate desire to do nothing but sit and cuddle a baby all day. Plus, Aiden is starting school in August and I'm already dreading him being gone during the day. I feel like I'm trying to pack in as much time with him as possible. So, I was not able to make anything for stock to sell. And I've had to extend the lead time on all 'Build Your Own' stuff to 3 weeks. It kills me to do that, but I have to be reasonable. I'm not a machine. And I always go back to the reason I started my own business in the first place - to stay home with my babies. If my life were just me--no husband, no babies--I'd be a workaholic hermit. I'd be a freakin' machine, churning out each new idea as it occurred to me in record time. But I'd be alone. Who would be there to bask in my brilliance? (come on, that was sarcasm.)  Instead, God has intrusted to me a husband who treasures me and two beautiful, beautiful boys.  A family to take care of (and who takes care of me), a family to love and cherish and not ignore so I can carry out my brilliant ideas. And apparently, a bathroom that will require me to forever check the seat before I sit down - I do live with all boys after all.  It's all about balance. Which is hard for this all or nothing personality. 

I have a whole new division of Owl Say that will be rolling out this year, Owl Say Home. Realistically speaking, it will take me all year, maybe more, to roll out it out. It will include a new baby line - embroidered bibs, nursery art, burp clothes, embroidered pillows, and appliques. I'm also going to offer several patterns for sale this year. But right now, I'm going to go feed a baby. All 4 of us will pile into my bed while I feed him, change him and snuggle him til he sleeps. Hopefully during this time, Boy 1 will fall asleep and my husband will move him. Then we will tell each other that we'll watch 30 minutes of our favorite show but we'll actually fall asleep about 5 minutes in. And I'll sleep well knowing I am surrounded by so much love.