Saturday, September 10, 2016

Lilly Belle Does Preschool | Good Night, Gorilla Unit

We were really excited to start the Simply Learning Kids Good Night, Gorilla unit with Lilly Belle. Living next door to Walt Disney World Resort, we have a lot of learning opportunities and resources for her. We are Disney Annual PassHolders and visit Walt Disney World Resort all the time! When we saw this book on our literature unit list, we knew we wanted to do a lot at Disney's Animal Kingdom to teach her more about Africa and the animals who live there. Our plans were changed a bit with really bad storms and using some of our time to babysit for our friend's kids on Labor Day. But, we still had a lot of fun with the unit and she learned a lot!!

Key Process Art. Lilly Belle was given some old keys and paint and was told she could do whatever she wanted with them to make art. Once she realized she could use the end of the keys to scrap the paint, she really enjoyed this. Before then, it frustrated her a bit.

We had a busy morning with her 3 year old appointment and in the top right picture she told me, "I. Am. Exhausted!" and then lay on the table like this...
I made her some really neat playdough using Jell-O. She has played with it a lot over the past two weeks! We talked a lot about the 7 continents and found a really cute little kids rap on YouTube and she can now tell you all 7 continents and where they are. We keep hearing her singing it to herself at night while laying in bed, it's adorable.

Lilly Belle loved this! I "hid" her alphabet flash cards around the house and then we closed all the blinds and turned off the lights. We got her a flashlight and she had so much fun going around the house to find each of the letters. She wasn't allowed to remove the letter until she told us the letter or asked us what it was and repeated it for us. We played this a couple times this week and I noticed her remembering more and more letters. She can now tell us most of their sounds as well.

We made her a keychain filled with old keys and then we made some animal cages for her TOOB safari animals. She really enjoyed putting them to bed in their cages and locking them up. She has continued to play with the keys since we gave these to her. She loves dramatic play! She is so good at it too. Her imagination is beautiful.

This craft was adorable. She loved making the gorillas and G was a letter she has had a hard time remembering so I was glad to have it as our letter of the week for her.
I have started adding a lot of educational YouTube videos to our daily learning. With my limited activity, we unfortunately watch more TV than we normally do. Usually we try to limit her to 1 hour/day and now sadly sometimes we have the TV on for 2 or 3 hours/day. It's never her jus sitting staring at it, except a bit in the morning, but I love knowing that what is on is educational and that she is engaged and learning. She loved playing her drum along with these African Drummers and Dancers! Before our unit I spend a lot of time searching YouTube for videos that I think she will learn from and enjoy.

Our time together at our preschool CO-OP, Bloom, has been interesting with her. She is always so used to me being the one leading the group for really all of our activities together. I have always been her dance teacher. I was the owner of FIT4MOM here and taught 95% of the Stroller Strides classes she attended. And now, I am the owner,  director and lead teacher at Bloom, her preschool. For her, she wants to lead too. Which is beautiful and amazing in all of it's own ways, but I really would love for her to just be a kid and PLAY and participate. Her favorite thing to do during school is...her own thing. When I am leading circle time, she is off exploring or re-organizing our "classroom" to her own liking before the kids get to begin playing. I am hoping that as time goes on that she will begin to participate more and more. My mom asked her after school, "how was your day at school?" Her reply was, "I was good. I did whatever I wanted to do." Yep...true statement. Not necessarily to my liking. I'm okay with her exploring and playing, of course, but I also want her to learn to listen and follow directions when it is appropriate to do so. She just turned 3...I probably need to cut her some slack ;)

This flashlight glitter craft irritated her. The glue wasn't squeezing from the bottle very well and the glitter was slow to come out of the shaker...I pretty much ended up completing this one for her. She LOVED the silly eyes matching activity though!! She also really likes to do her Stamp It, Poke It, Write It worksheets.

Seeing all of her art and worksheets displayed on her door makes us all so proud and happy. She really loves to just stand in front of her door and look at her work or to show anyone who comes over. A new activity that she has really begun to enjoy is drawing! She draws on her doodle board almost every night while trying to fall asleep. It is her favorite quiet time activity. She will sit in her room just belly laughing and cracking herself up at her drawings! Every now and then, one will just be too funny to not share with Mommy & Daddy so she'll run out to ask us to see. I take pictures of them when I can because they are definitely pretty funny! I love it!

She has loved to practice cutting. She is really good with a scissors and enjoys using them. She rocked this cutting and sorting activity out. Sometimes she will get a bit bored with our worksheets and activities so I have to work at adding some challenges to them for her. Another fun activity we did was taking her little safari animals and making animal tracks with them and then giving them all a bath. She loved the bath part! She sat there giving her animals a bath for a good 30 minutes.
 I was blown away when we did her Letter Sound Clip Cards this week! I did NOT know that she knew her letter sounds. I would ask her "What letter does Key start with?" and she would just put that clip right on and give me a look like..."mom...really?" She did them all in less than 5 minutes and got them all correct without hesitation. We have not pushed reading or her letters really because I feel it is so important that it is something she does in her own time (especially because she JUST turned 3), but she is off to a great start. It's fun to see her enjoy it so much lately.
I made her a little cutting center because she has enjoyed practicing her cutting skills so much. She has construction paper with different lines, some paper straws, and foam with different designs. I will always change these up for her a bit. When she's in the right mood, she really likes having quiet time with this activity.

One of her favorite things is when Matt does school with her. He is now working from home full-time, but is at his computer with his headphones on for most of the day. Of course she will run up to him to show him things or ask him questions and he helps us as much as he can, because that is why he's working from home, but she craves his attention when he's done working for the day. They baked a cake together to practice math. Math is going to be his thing with her because it's not what I am best at, but he is very good at it. She loves math time with Daddy.
Even on the weekends she wants to do school and Matt and I have to get really creative coming up with new activities for her. We are homebound a lot lately because of my current pregnancy limitations so we do a LOT of school time. Which she loves. We made a little science experiment for her by adding vinegar and food coloring to glasses and then putting popsicle sticks and q-tips inside to see if the color would dye them. She loved it!! We kept them there all weekend and she loved going to check on them throughout the day.

We took a family outing to Animal Kingdom for a few hours. We had her play the drums in Africa, and then spent a LOT of time at Rafiki's Planet Watch. While we were there she met Rafiki, Chip & Dale, saw a snake show as well as a parrot show. She was very interested in the parrot and even stayed after the show to ask the trainer some questions that she came up with. Her big one was "who teaches the parrots how to fly?" And then, "How come this parrot's mommy did not teach him how to fly?" We were probably in there for an hour just learning. I love RPW!

Here she is touching one of the parrot's feathers. She talked about the parrot for the rest of the weekend. We also then took her to see Festival of the Lion King. She was incredibly sad because we were sitting in the front (I'm in my wheelchair) but was not chosen to dance around with the kids in the parade. There were lots...and lots of tears!
We've been sneaking in a few apple activities here and there too as we are now in September.

She half loved this project and half didn't care at all. I think it overwhelmed her a bit to think she had to sit there and cover the entire continent with noodles. I helped her a lot to fill it up and then she was cool with it.
The cutting activity turned into a HUGE hit! She was only suppose to cut the animals out of their strips of paper. She then wanted to sort them, so she put them all into piles by match. She then wanted to count them all so we made them into a graph. She then wanted to glue them, so I got her a blank book and we turned it into a counting book! She loved it and we loved watching how excited she was to learn and the hard work she was putting into this project.

Here she is at our 2nd week of Bloom for this unit. In the top left photo she was doing our Group Cooperative activity for this month which is to take pool noodles, find the matching poms, and push them with the noodle to their matching colored mat. She much prefers to pick up as many as she can of  the colors and bring them over to the mat. One of the sensory bins for this month is water beads with some safari animals and scoopers and she could sit her for the entire 30 minutes of center time and be perfectly happy. We really need to buy her some for here at home!
The highlight of school this week were the two police officers who visited us. Lilly Belle was not shy at all and loved telling them as much as she could possibly think to tell them. Which included telling them that when she turns 4 she will be a Jedi, that she had a Cinderella birthday, that her Uncle Clint is a detective, and that she does NOT like to ride her scooter down hills!

Matt thinks of some fun things to do with her. He's good at going into our homeschool drawers, finding something, and making a fun activity for her. They sat there tracing the rug design with the beads for a while and then played some serious living room basketball together after work one day.
Lilly Belle did such a good job at her 3-Part Cards! She did this in about 5 minutes and was a little bored with it so I asked her to tell me what letter the all started with as well and not just have her matching them all.

A couple times this week I failed a bit at prepping our curriculum and having it ready for her, or she did not want to do what was planned so I got out our file folder box that I worked on all summer filling with busy activities for her. She liked both this scarecrow match file folder game as well as this finish the pattern activity. The playdough has continued to be a hit and I've tried to find as many different ways as I can to have her play with it. She sat on the kitchen table playing with playdough as she watched a 45-minute documentary about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

It was another amazing 2 weeks of school with her. We are really loving doing preschool at home with her. She is learning so much! I am so thankful to have this time with her.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Lanese, Party of Four

There has been a new discussion in this that I didn't think would happen for years and years. It is looking like our family will be a family of four, instead of having four children. My pregnancy with Lucy has been extremely difficult and it has taken quite a toll on me and on our family. From early hemorrhaging to my severe Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction, it has not been an easy time. I went from being an extremely active and independent person and a mom who always had Lilly Belle out and on the go, to being about 85% housebound and reliable on Matt. I haven't slept in weeks which doesn't help. I have had few moments where I have been able to just enjoy being pregnant. And add on top of all of that our miscarriage that happened right before becoming pregnant with Lucy.

...At this point, we are just counting our blessings and thanking God that we have an incredible little girl and another about to join us. I have had my moments the past few days with lots of tears and grieving for the family I had always dreamt of; the one with 4 little kids running all around. But when I am in a place of calm and am able to really see things clearly, being a family of four doesn't look so bad either... It is actually a lot more realistic for OUR family.

So instead of looking at this in a negative light, I have decided to find the fun and joy that will come to our family from Lucy being our "baby". Matt and I have talked a lot about travel and all the places that will be a lot more manageable for our family to go together with it just being four of us. Top of my list right now is a California vacation that includes San Francisco and Disneyland. I also have my heart set on another Disney Cruise, a trip to Hawaii (because we've never been), and big dreams of a European vacation. I have really fun visions in my head of taking long weekends with my girls up to New York City every year and making it a tradition together before Christmas when we could shop and see tons of Broadway shows together. And of course, many more visits to Seattle and Wisconsin to see our families!

I see our girls getting to be in so many more activities. Lilly Belle is begging to go to dance where she can wear tap shoes and I'd love to get her in some acting and piano lessons as well. Before we know it she will be old enough for soccer, too! When Lucy is born I cannot wait to get her into Kindermusik classes like I did with Lilly Belle and I plan on doing some Mommy & Me Yoga with her too. Our girls will have so many more opportunities with us only having to pay for two of them instead of four.

Dreams of owning a home that we can all fit in comfortably seem a lot more reasonable with visions of a family of four instead of a family of six.

We can help the girls pay for college and with two girls... that's two weddings one day. I'd love to be able to give them the weddings of their dreams. Seems a lot more reasonable with two kids than four.

I have literally never in my life wanted only two kids. I have never, ever been the mom that says, "I want two kids." Never. It has literally never even crossed my mind. I've never even had the thought or idea. I've never pictured it before, dreamt of it before, or hoped for it before. But, as pregnancy taught me with Lilly Belle and is now really teaching me with Lucy...I am not always the one in control. Some things I really have to leave to God. And he is practically screaming at me that my body cannot do this again...

For some reason, the only time I feel like crying about it is thinking of family pictures. When I see our family pictures in my mind, I see four little beautiful children with their arms around our legs, and now that vision is changed to two and it's just a lot to take in.

Matt loves the idea of two. He always has. So for him, this isn't so difficult. The only difficult part for him is seeing me so heartbroken knowing this is it. And what's hard for me is seeing him so okay with it. We started our family pretty early even though we weren't in the best of situations financially. But we did that because we planned on having a big family and didn't want them all so close together. So now here I am at 28 years old, still so young, and my body is making the decision for me that I will be done having children. That's a lot to take in.

Things could still definitely change in a few years. I know enough to not make crazy decisions at 30 weeks pregnant. It's not like we're going to go to the doctor after she's born to make this a permanent decision, but... as of now, it is looking like this is it for us. And, there is a lot of beauty in it. It just would have been a lot easier if the decision wasn't being made for me and feeling so out of control.

Tonight Matt had tears in his eyes as he sat with me as I cried and cried on our couch about all of this. But he just said, "I just want my wife back," because I have not been myself for almost a year now. I've been in a dark place. Our miscarriage was in December 2015 and since then I have not been the same. Not by choice, but just by circumstance. I am in constant pain and am forever exhausted because I cannot sleep. It is 2:55am right now and I've been up wide awake since 1:15am. I went to bed at 11pm. I don't feel an ounce of tired right now, but in just 4 hours, it will be time to start the day. I'm just not handling it all so well. I miss Matt too. I miss Lilly Belle. I am not able to pick her up and can barely get down to hug her and hold her. The two of them are my world. And not too long from now, Lucy will join our team. That's what Lilly Belle calls us; a team.

I could write all night, but I'll end on this. I found this quote on Pinterest:
"The only thing making you unhappy are your own thoughts. Change them."

Life will be beautiful with our two precious little girls. Lilly Belle already tells us practically everyday that Lucy is her best friend. I really hope so. These two little girls are a gift to one another. And they are for sure our biggest blessings!

Now to rest and soak up Lucy moving all around right now and to try to fall asleep again...

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Joys of Homeschool

A couple nights ago, Matt was worrying about me. I was taking my nightly bath (the only time I'm not in pain) and he came in and asked me out of no where, "What makes you happy right now?" My immediate response was, "homeschooling Lilly Belle."

For the past 7 years I have owned a business (or multiple). I still currently own Main Street Dance my preschool dance program. I am also the Director of the preschool co-op I created this year, Bloom. But for the first time in Lilly Belle's life, my biggest time focus is HER. That makes my heart so incredibly happy! Main Street Dance is for her. Yes, I love teaching children. I always have and always will, but I continued to teach one class/week for the time being because she gets to go to dance class every Friday afternoon with her friends. Bloom was created 100% because of her. I wanted her to have a preschool to go to this year but we feel very strongly about homeschooling her right now as well. We wanted her to still get the social aspect of school, but in a safe and controlled environment - so...I created Bloom. It is now the highlight of our week and even though we have only just finished our third week together, there are new friendships growing and it is very exciting.

With owning FIT4MOM, so many of her friends are still babies and toddlers. She was always the oldest (or close to it). We always joke about how it must be sad for her that none of her friends can talk back to her ;) Does she love and adore her baby and toddler friends? YES. 100% yes. She is like the big sister. But I knew she was craving more. She loves being with kids her age and loves even more to be with kids who are even a bit older sometimes. She now gets that with dance class and Bloom each week.

I have loved getting to spend so much quality time with her. Does it stink that I'm in so much pain during the day? Yes. But I know that is temporary and this new life we have together is not. This is our lifestyle now. I get to be home with my girls literally 24/7. The amount of time it takes to prep things for Bloom can easily be done during naptime or when she is in bed. And, I've been teaching dance for so long (over 15 years) that I don't lesson plan anymore - I just head to class and teach. I feel out the kids that day and do what works.

My main focus has been homeschool with Lilly Belle. She is loving it. She asks for school all day long. When I run out of activities for the day, she begs for me to think of something else we can do together. Now that we have officially started our school year following the Simply Learning Kids curriculum, our days are so much more structured and relaxed. I can plan for 2 weeks at a time and feel so prepared for what the next day will look like. She doesn't do well when she is bored. Sound familiar? She loves learning and working on new things.

Every night before I put her to bed, I prep school for the next day. I set it all up on our buffet, which serves as our school storage for 75% of our school supplies. I find that our school day goes so much smoother when I'm not rummaging around in between activities trying to set up the next one for her. If I can keep things flowing one activity into the next, she does so well. She learns more and is a lot more focused. We pause in between activities only to clean up and put away what we were working on and grab the next activity in our plans.

We always start with circle time together. I sing songs to her, show her the calendar, read her our curriculum story, talk about our bible verse, and maybe one or two more things while sitting in the living room. Then we get up to do our curriculum activities together. After those, we read another story or two that goes along with our curriculum and we watch some educational YouTube videos about the subject we are working on. I've also been trying to get her to do some yoga, but it hasn't been working out to well with her broken clavicle right now. That part will have to wait...

We usually do school for 60-90 minutes in the morning and then I reset our buffet with new activities while she is napping and then we do school for sometimes 2 hours+ after she wakes up again. The afternoon time is usually things like play dough, busy bag type activities, playing games together, painting at her easel, or I make up little learning games for her to play - like rolling a dice and having her jump that many times.

I can't really take her out anywhere right now and she can't go to play at a park or anything too active because of her clavicle, so this has been working out so well for us right now. We are really loving our time together. We were watching The Jungle Book this afternoon and she asked me what happened to his mommy. I told her that he didn't have a mommy and she replied, "That's sad. I wish he had a good mommy like I do." My heart melted. I have had so much mommy guilt with not being able to really move and not having as much patience as I usually do, but she still thinks I'm a good mommy...

So when Matt asked me what makes me was an easy answer. Getting to be home with Lilly Belle. And even better, getting to teach her and watch her learn...and grow with her. I am so thankful that we are in a place that I get to be with her as much as I am; that I am finally a stay-at-home mommy. That makes me happy...

This stage of motherhood is a season. I don't know how long we will homeschool her. Right now, we know that it will be for sure for this year and next. We are about 75% sure we will homeschool the girls through elementary school, and about 50% sure we will always homeschool them. We don't know what the future holds, but for right now - this is working so well for our family, and my heart is full.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Lilly Belle Does Preschool | Little Blue Truck Unit

We have officially started homeschooling Lilly Belle and it is for real the best thing ever. I love every second of getting to watch her learn and grow. I feel really thankful that we are in a position right now that I am able to stay home with her to teach her and that together we can be the main influences in her life. She is learning so much more than what is just in her curriculum. She asks to do school all day long. We are constantly playing, reading, and learning together as a family and we are all really enjoying it.

We are following the Simply Learning curriculum and it has been such a blessing for us; especially in our first year of homeschooling when we were not 100% sure how we wanted to go about building her curriculum ourselves. We decided on Simply Learning for many reasons, but the main reasons being that it is created by a mom who has the same values and goals for her girls as we do. It is a modern literature based curriculum meaning that we are learning all subjects surrounding a different book each unit. She has everything there for us from worksheets and activities, to science experiments and crafts to enjoy together. From there Matt and I are going to add even more to the curriculum for Lilly Belle since she has been begging to do school after she wakes up from nap even though we spend our morning doing school time together. Our afternoons have been when she does the activities that I have created for her. Anything from painting projects to fine motor skills activities. Matt works with her on math a few nights/week. Last night she learned about more Vs less with him as he grabbed a giant handful of stuffed animals from her bucket, and the two of them traded back and forth talking about who had more and who had less. He's good at making it a game for her. Lilly Belle and Matt also started a new tradition this week. Each night he is reading a chapter out of the "Who Was" series to her. She chose Who Was Walt Disney as her first book telling us that it says her name on the cover. She knows she is named after Walt Disney's wife, Lillian, so she thinks the cover of the book has her name on it when she sees the word, Disney. The books are definitely above a 3 year old level, but she has shown a real interest and is actually picking things up from each chapter when he asks her about what he read to her.

Our first unit was on the book, Little Blue Truck. Here is a recap of our last two weeks with our first unit together. Our second week was a bit interesting as Lilly Belle broke her Clavicle on Sunday morning and then got pink eye followed by a sinus-type infection that has resulted in fevers as high as 105.2 degrees all week. She has still asked to do school, but for the first few days of the week we did not follow the curriculum, we just did what she was in the mood to do.

We made Ooblick for the first time as well as "mud" this week. She really loved playing with both.

Lilly Belle has been extremely interested in drawing people lately. They get pretty detailed and it's been so much fun watching her drawings get better and better. She also really liked washing her scooter while I washed our stroller out on the patio. We had a lot of fun cooking together too!

Sometimes we will finish all of our curriculum plans for the day and she'll ask to please do more school so I come up with as much as I can for her. On this particular day she wanted to do an experiment so we talked about color mixing and I let her play with food coloring and water to see the colors change.

We had our first two weeks of our preschool co-op, Bloom. I will write more about this later, but when deciding to homeschool Lilly Belle I could not find a co-op that fit our family so...I created one. And it has turned into quite a beautiful little school! Lilly Belle had to miss week #2 because she had 104.7 fever that morning, but I still went and Matt stayed home with her here. We then did school as a family together that night. She really loves going to school and being with her new friends. I have my fingers crossed that she will get to join in next week. She will most likely have to miss one more week though because I don't want to risk getting anyone sick.

I love watching Matt do school time with her. He teaches her in such a different way than I do and it is really so awesome to watch her learning with her daddy. She gets so excited when he's done working for the day and puts his computer away. She asks him right away if he will do school with her.

The two top pictures below show they worked on some science. They read her Usborne flashlight story learning all about apple trees and then drew an apple tree on her board and asked her to draw where certain things were. She also really liked her habitat matching game that I found in the Dollar Spot at Target a few months ago.

She is starting to be able to recognize her numbers 1-10 now. She knows 1, 2, 3, 4, and 8 every time. The rest she hesitates a bit or guesses. This was the first time she was able to complete a number sequence puzzle alone.

I am so excited about our next literature unit; Good Night, Gorilla. We have some really exciting activities planned for her at Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge that will tie into the unit for her to be able to experience. That was one of the big reasons we chose to homeschool her instead of send her to preschool. We want her to experience her world and not be stuck behind a desk. I want her to see the world around her and want to learn all day long.

I'll try to do a post with all my lesson plans for the next two weeks for the Good Night, Gorilla unit.
I'm sure I'll have a night or two in my near future where I'll be up all night and have plenty of time to blog...!
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