The Art Cart

Saturday, August 18, 2018

When it comes to reading aloud to the kids, I've found a secret weapon. Enter: the art cart. I purchased this one from Target and added lots of art supplies that I would be comfortable with them using without supervision (i.e. no paints at this point). We keep the cart tucked away in our storage room, but as soon as I pull out our read-aloud book (currently The Mouse and the Motorcycle), one of the kids excitedly rolls it out. It contains everything they need to work quietly with their hands while I read.
I will probably switch things around as the year goes on, but for now, a list of our favorite supplies. Many of these had been purchased a while ago (and you could probably find them cheaper at a dollar store), but I'll link to something similar on Amazon for each. Just click on the item to take you to a direct link. 

Top shelf: 
Paint brushes (these can be used with the watercolor pencils, which are very low mess. I don't mind if they grab some water and work with these unsupervised)

Middle shelf: 

Bottom shelf:
"Found" materials for collage (scraps of paper and empty egg cartons, which make perfect paint palettes if we pull out the tempera paint)

Our homeschool adventure!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Alphabet Chalkboard from Chalk Full of Design
For those who may not know, we decided to homeschool Liam this year for Kindergarten! It was a prayerful decision, as we wanted to make sure I felt up to the task and that it would be a good fit for Liam. At this point, we hold this very loosely and don't know if I'll homeschool for just this year or for the next 20 years. But for this year, for this child, we feel 100% sure that this is the right decision. We are nearly a month in and Liam is absolutely thriving - and honestly, so am I! It's been a sweet, smooth transition for our family.

Because I'm often curious what other families are using, I wanted to share what curriculum we've chosen and some other great resources I've found in the process. And please hear me say this: I am no expert. I homeschooled Liam for preschool last year using The Peaceful Preschool and that is the extent of my experience. I'm sure I'll look back at this a year or five from now and see so many changes, but for now, this is what we've chosen and it's working! So if you're thinking about homeschooling, perhaps this will point you in a good direction.
The majority of curriculum we are using comes from Sonlight. We chose Sonlight through strong recommendations from friends and family (my sister included) that we really trust. Sonlight is Christian, missions-oriented, literature-based, and has been around for a long time. It's based on using real books - not textbooks - which I especially love. The Instructor's Guide gives us a roadmap to our days and is so helpful.

For "Morning Time" (the most important first hour of our homeschool day), we are following Sonlight's recommendation and reading from a storybook Bible and practicing that week's memory verse. Liam loves writing it on the chalkboard and reciting it each morning. I also just started reading from Long Story Short, which includes 10-minute family devotionals that are gospel-centered and point back to Jesus (even in the Old Testament). I love it so far. I just ordered the Church History ABCs to add in an introduction to key figures in our church's history throughout the year. And on a weekly basis, we practice the catechism using New City Catechism (the free app is wonderful!). Eventually, I'd love to incorporate some hymn singing during this time.

After that, we move into History and we are using Sonlight Core A (with the level 2 readers). After History, we move on to reading aloud. Liam and Lanie have quickly learned our routine: as soon as I pull out a book that I'm going to read to them, they pull out the art cart (more on that in another post soon). I've filled a small rolling cart with art supplies that I feel comfortable with them using unsupervised. So while I read, they create and work with their hands. They might cut and glue paper, draw a picture with crayons, or glue feathers onto paper. It keeps them quiet and occupied while I read from our stack of read-alouds. This is probably all of our favorite part of the day.

We then grab a snack and move onto science. We are using Sonlight Science A and love it so far. We just completed a unit on weather and I learned so much! I feel like homeschooling is a selfish endeavor (in the best way) because I get to go back to school, too!

Depending on Brooks' nap schedule, we usually take a break for playing outside and prepping lunch. After lunch, while Lanie and Brooks go back down for naps, Liam and I work on Horizons K Math (we also ordered the math manipulatives which Lanie also enjoys using to learn shapes and numbers).

For handwriting, I have him practice for 10 to 15 minutes a day using Handwriting Without Tears K. I ordered the level 1 book as well, knowing he will blaze through this one but still need more practice this year.

For phonics, we have the Explode the Code workbooks 1, 2, and 3. Liam worked his way through the first workbook in about 2 days (oops), but he thinks it's a game and enjoys working through them.

I also encourage Liam to read on his own quite a bit, but I usually don't even need to remind him. He is the most self-motivated learner I've ever met. He reads encyclopedias for fun. He was already reading very well prior to starting Kindergarten, so I feel ahead of the curve and very thankful in that regard. As long as I provide him with plenty of nature books (he's currently obsessed with animals), he could spend hours reading. (For those who are curious, we used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for Liam to learn to read. It worked beautifully!)

For art, I have these art cards (I've yet to incorporate them). I also love these two books for art project ideas:

The Artful Parent by Jean Van't Hul
Art Workshop for Children by Barbara Rucci

Art is something we do regularly anyway so I don't have a set schedule or curriculum. I really just want them to create and explore using good materials and enjoy the process. I'm often reminding myself this is Kindergarten, which takes a lot of pressure off.

For geography, we do very little formally (although the history curriculum does take us around the world to many cultures). I have this 50 States book which has so many fun facts, and we also have a blow-up globe from Dollar Tree that Liam loves. I call out a country and he finds it. Geography... done!

Whew. That sounds like a LOT. But in our day-to-day, it typically takes 2-3 hours or less. We have a lot of free play time, meet up with friends quite a bit, and snuggle up and read for hours. We also do normal house things like cooking and cleaning and laundry. I thought homeschooling would be such a drain on me, but honestly, it's been just the opposite. Having a routine with Liam and Lanie has been life-giving. An answer to prayer.

I've found that one of the most important things is for me to stay filled up and motivated. I've read several books written by homeschool moms that have been so encouraging:

Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie
Better Together by Pam Barnhill
Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins
The Unhurried Homeschooler by Durenda Wilson

And two books I'm currently reading:

The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie
For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

Creating our homeschool space was a labor of love. We put it all together in about a week and it's now our favorite spot in the whole house! I knew it would be so important for me to love being downstairs - we live in a split-level house and the downstairs has not always been my favorite place because it doesn't have a ton of light. We worked on the lighting, found bookshelves from Craigslist and got organized and it is truly an inspiring place now.

I hope this has been helpful! I am happy to answer any questions or to hear other recommendations more experienced homeschool parents might have. Feel free to leave both in the comments!

Lanie Lou.

Friday, July 27, 2018

The first few months of Lanie's life were my hardest as a mom. She wasn't sleeping, didn't nurse well, and rarely smiled... and I took it personally. I told Shawn, "I don't think she likes me" when she'd light up around complete strangers after staring me down all day.

Fast forward through three years and a corrected tongue tie and Lanie and I have a bond I couldn't have dreamed of. She prances around the house just steps behind me and often reminds me, "We're the only girls, Mom... we gotta stick together." We do, my Lou. We sometimes ask her if she's our Prickly Pear, when she's choosy about when and to whom she shows affection. But more and more often, she'll cuddle up in my lap just after she wakes up, her face covered in wavy blonde hair, and nestle into my neck.

Lanie loves makeup and nail polish and wrestling with her brother. The color pink and the most ferocious dinosaurs. Playing tea party and climbing trees. She fills the tiny space between two brothers with brightness and spunk and easily holds her own. She's constantly singing a song and we think she may be our most creative kid.
I knew I'd adore her (and did even when she cried all night long), but had no idea that at three, she'd be just so easy to love. 

One year with Brooks Wilder.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Dear Brooks Wilder,

You're one. ONE! This year flew even faster than I thought it would.

A couple weeks ago, I baked vanilla cupcakes for your birthday party. As I whipped the batter and let your siblings taste-test the frosting, my mind went back to a year ago that day. A year before, I was not frosting cupcakes or feeling light and hopeful. Instead, I lumbered around as if I was carrying a baby elephant, contracting every few minutes but not dilating, wondering if you'd ever arrive. Your swift kicks into my right rib confirmed that yes, you were getting stronger and I was getting closer to meeting you. But I still had a hard time seeing the light at the end of what felt like an endless tunnel.

But then one bright June morning, you decided it was time. The hospital room was quiet, only the sounds of deep breaths through strong contractions and hymns playing in the background. We'd made it to a birthing room - my only birth plan after giving birth to Lanie in triage - and I felt safe and ready to meet you, mercifully two weeks early.

Within a couple hours, you were ready to come. There were other patients my doctor needed to see, but I pleaded with her: "I know I can do this in a few pushes. Please just stay." She agreed, gowned up, and I pushed you out in one long contraction. You didn't cry and needed deep suction to clear your lungs after such a quick passage through the birth canal. But you were perfect. As soon as they placed you on my chest, you stared up at me and looked so familiar, as if I'd known you for a hundred years.

The next few months proved difficult. You did not sleep at night. I made my nest in a bed next to your crib for months on end, hoping it would be easier to nurse you every 2-3 hours without making a trip down the hall. But after 5 months of this, I finally noticed a trend: I'd pick you up to nurse, you'd take one good drink, then you'd nestle in and fall back asleep. You didn't want food. You wanted your mama.

Even now, you're not our best sleeper. The other night, after a 12-hour shift at the hospital, I was exhausted and complained to Shawn as I dragged myself out of bed at the sound of your cry,

This feels never-ending.

I meant not-sleeping-through-the-night. But when I said it, I felt a pang of guilt. Because it does end. Seasons change. Babies will not always need their mamas to hold them in the midnight hours. On the week of your birthday, a dear friend buried her 19-year-old son. His death came suddenly and served as such a startling reminder that we aren't promised tomorrow. I've been holding you a little closer, walking a little lighter into your room at night when you cry out for me to hold you. These days are precious and numbered and fleeting.

Since changing your name at 7 weeks old, you've garnered a plethora of nicknames: Brooksie, Brooksie Bear, Bear Bear, Boo, and Mr. Wilder (Lanie). You respond most quickly to "Bear."

Bear, your Daddy and I say it every day, but I'll say it again: you are a dream come true. Our dream come true.

I love you, son. Happy birthday!



Thursday, July 5, 2018

I started this blog in February 2009 with this post, just 6 weeks after we got married.

I've always been good at starting things. I haven't been as good at keeping them going. So to see over 9 years of posts on this little blog... truly 9 years of God's faithfulness... it blesses me. And to see how he's grown our family from a newlywed couple in downtown Chicago to a thriving family of 5 just brings me to tears. While this blog has always been about chronicling our journey (and I hope our grandchildren might read these words someday!), it's also been a joy to share our life with readers. You've graced us with the sweetest comments and prayers for many years now. (Is there anyone besides my mom and mother-in-law that have been reading since 2009 and is still along for the ride? I'm so curious!)

A few weeks ago, we landed on a really sweet opportunity. I'd been entered in an Instagram contest for a chance at free family photos without my knowledge, and before I even realized it, I won! Callie Doty took these amazing photos in sweltering heat in half an hour. She's a true professional, so kind, and did extremely well with the kids. Considering we hadn't had professional photos taken since our wedding (!!!), this was an enormous gift.

Check out Callie's photography website here: Callie Doty Photography
And her sweet blog post about our family here: The N Family
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