Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Can I have a do-over?

This picture of my daughter H tells exactly how I feel today. It's like I have had all four children pile on top of me and simultaneously pull out my hair. I am bummed at the "hair loss" and have a major headache to boot. What's the real problem? Trying to wrangle four kids and a sick mommy back onto a school schedule after two weeks of holiday free time. I absolutely loved the past two weeks of relaxing with no schedules to follow, no assignments to complete, no fighting over how many times spelling words need to be copied or, why we don't paint on bubby's math papers.

Christmas break is seriously my favorite time of year. We all snuggle up watching old Christmas movies, bake and eat way too many cookies, do Christmas crafts, and drive around looking at Christmas lights etc. It's almost magical, but I would like it even more if it wasn't followed by the inevitable go back to school week. That first week back is such a pest. Maybe it's because we want the holiday to last longer, our brains are fried from all the 50's claymation movies or we are still in a sugar cookie coma.

Today consisted of Z taking two hours to copy 20 spelling words, J three hours to get through one Algebra lesson and H was just a lost cause. I couldn't get her anywhere near her desk. It's days like this when I want to walk them across the street to the local public school , plop them into a desk and let the "professionals" deal with them. But who am I kidding. They would probably still goof off and not get much work done, meaning homework would be brought home and I would have to deal with it all anyway. I would miss their goofiness that results in uncontrollable giggles when they are supposed to be reading, the erasers being thrown at each other when they think I'm not looking and the "I'm sorry I'm being a booger mommy" hugs I get when the kids see I'm reaching my breaking point. Maybe it hasn't been such a bad day, just a not very productive one.

I think instead of surprising our local elementary teachers with a couple extra students we may just try again tomorrow, and I will be ready with a bottle of extra strength Tylenol!

Don't be fooled by their sweet and innocent faces!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Awww look at that brood o' kids! I am so lucky to have four healthy, beautiful children and a pretty hot husband to boot. This picture makes me so happy :) I took this back in March right before we headed off to the zoo. I cant believe another school year has ended. It's the long lazy days of summer full of kiddie pools, otter pops, fireworks and trips up the mountain.

Summer is great. I love having free schedules, seeing my kids skin change from the pale white of winter to a nice toasty bronze. I love having the littles show me their colorful, otter pop stained tongues and getting sticky kisses from them. On a hot day, driving up the mountain and rolling down the windows to let the cool air blow in. Summer in Utah is a beautiful thing. So why am I so excited for school to start again?

This year will bring another big change to the McClary Academy. My daughter H will be joining her two older brothers and I. I will have a 6th and 2nd grader and then H in pre-school. I wanted to involve her more last year but she was very uncooperative and just wanted to doodle on her work book pages instead of following directions. Im so excited about it a could just squeal! Im already planning how to involve her in our routine by having Z my second grader read out loud to her for story time,offering him oral reading practice and her a fun story and bonding with her brother. J my 6th grader can spend time with her helping with math or hand writing!

I'm really looking forward to making school more of a group effort. Instead of just separating the kids by grade level and having them work independently I hope to create an environment where they work together and learn from each other. As much as I love summer I cant wait for it to end so we can start on another adventure in homeschooling. Maybe a new pack of number two pencils will do for now...oooh or notebooks. :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Art lessons

Art is a favorite in our home. So much so, that if I let them, this is all the kiddos would do every day. It is so much fun for me to watch their little faces scrunch up in concentration as they lean over their latest work of art. J's grandma Paula got him a real art set for Christmas this year and he usually doesn't like to share. This was a rare moment when J let the littles join in. I wouldn't let them use his paints though so I got out their old crayola watercolor sets.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What does homeschool look like for us?

There are as many types of homeschooling families as there are shoes at Payless. I have met families who run their school day by a public school schedule complete with school bell, bathroom passes, and homework. And some others who let the kids learn as they may through play time, trips to the library, etc. Our little "Mcclary Academy", as I like to call it, falls somewhere in the middle.
For the last two years my oldest boys have been enrolled at Utah Virtual Academy which is an online public school. Some people would say that we are not a homeschool family because of this. Whatever. Being enrolled at UTVA has its advantages, the materials are free, we get free computers and I don't have to lesson plan every day :) But, it also has some bleh parts. It is super structured and I don't always agree with the content of our lessons or the planned activities. If you know me pretty well you know that I don't like authority. (Yep, Honey, I said it out loud.) I cannot handle being told what to do and, as I have mentioned in a previous post, I hate making lists. So I cheat. We study the topics laid out in our lessons but in our own way.

Today, for example, pbskids.org, choose your own adventure books, building a city with legos, drawing pictures about dragons and free videos from brainpop.com and hippocampus.org, made our "schedule", and to me are just as valuable as the math flash cards, sight words practice, science worksheets and vocabulary test we have done so far also.

I love homeschooling and the freedom it provides for my kids to explore and learn things they are interested in in a way that appeals to them and encourages their creativity. The picture of Josh is from a couple of weeks ago. I had him read on his own to get ready for history...he fell asleep after the first couple pages. I love it.

Here are links to the sites and lessons we used today. Brain pop is an amazing and fun resource for kids in 3rd grade and up. They also have Brainpopjr.com for those in lower elementary grades. There is a subscription fee however sometimes their free videos go along with what we are doing. Hippocampus.org is basically a homework reinforcer for high school students. The lesson Josh watched today was from the AP History class. I don't recommended it for lower elementary at all.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Keeping my head above water.

I have recently reconnected with an old friend on facebook and in the course of our online conversation I received the usual response I get from people when they hear I have four kids which I homeschool. "I don't think I could do that it just seems like so much work. You must never have time to yourself." My usual response to that is "Parents get time to themselves?"
Some days it seems like I am just drowning in things to do. Between four kids, soccer, homeschooling, cooking, my new little craft business, and keeping up with the mess that a family of our size makes, many things fall through the cracks every day. To make matters worse I am not a scheduled person. I don't like being tied down to a routine, and , I hate making lists. Its like setting myself up for failure before I even start something. I have seriously had days where it seems the only thing I accomplished was making a list of things that never got done. So I make mental lists instead. That way there is no little scrap of paper at the end of the day reminding me of all the things I should have done but didn't.
This time I decided to answer honestly instead of sarcastically. Homeschooling is a ton of work, I don't get time to myself until they are in bed so I stay up way too late and am rather sleep deprived as a result, and I often feel like I'm failing miserably at everything I do, but I wouldn't send my kids back to school for anything. Every time they get excited about something they read, create a masterpiece, their eyes light up with pride at a job well done and every time something surprisingly profound and beyond their years comes out of their mouth, I am there. I can have a clean house, a shiny clean car, a hard to maintain awesome hairstyle, clothes I can wear all day without getting boogers and food wiped on them, and time to do whatever I want to do when they are all grown up and on their own. I do not feel deprived at all today. I love my family and the crazy life they provide for me. Bring on the Chaos!

Speaking of Chaos....take a look at this. This is what happens when I let my two littles finish breakfast while I try to get laundry going. H decided that S needed more cereal and gave him the whole box. Ooops!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


OK. So I have been really excited to try some new things this year. One of the things I have really been wanting to do, and decided was a must during our first week of school, was to combine Z's and J's Science and History classes into unit studies. I wasn't really sure how to go about doing this because Z is in first grade and J is in fifth. I decided to go with the curriculum J is using for both History and Science (gearing it down a bit for Z) and use a method called lapbooking. If you haven't heard of it I highly suggest you Google it. Lapbooks are a great way to offer a variety of activities about a subject and keep it organized. It is highly customizable and kids love it!

These are the ones we created for our Unit on Christopher Columbus. The first one is Joshua's. We are using the book series A History of Us by Joy Hakim for History. I used some materials used in our workbooks but then had J and Z pick out other things that stuck out to them. Then I created some quick mini books or journaling pictures for the kids to fill out. Not all of them are done. There are completed pages I haven't added and some unfinished ones that go with chapters we haven't read yet.

Activities include:

Make a list of supplies you would take on a voyage?
How did a lunar eclipse save Columbus?
The Columbian Exchange. List supplies exchanged between the New and Old World
Map Columbus's first voyage
Flash cards of navigational instruments used by sailors of that time period
Evaluate Christopher Columbus's Performance in eight areas. Give him a rank from 1-5
What were some fears sailors of that time period had?
A New Land. 1. Describe the New Land discovered by Columbus. 2. What were the people like who lived there? 3. What happens to the Taino people because of the arrival of Columbus?

Z's lapbook is much simpler. So far it consists of a coloring page, a maze, a compass picture Z drew as well as an activity showing some goods exchanged between the Old and New world.

Don't they look like fun? I am so excited and can't wait to start on our next unit. Basically anything that makes my kids excited about learning is fun for me and totally worth the paper, glue and assembly time. On a personal note I have also been bitten by the felt bug. I ran across a site that advertised felt food and toys for kids and decided that I needed to give it a go. I am totally hooked! I love coming up with ideas and seeing them come to completion. Here are a few of my first attempts.

Little Dinosaur for baby.

Dragon Finger Puppet from my Castle Collection

Lovey Elephant toy for baby.

Monday, August 30, 2010

School Desks!

On Saturday, while he was driving between work appointments, my wonderful husband spotted an old school desk on the side of the road with a sign that said free on it. He immediately thought of me and stopped to load it up. The lady who lived there saw him and mentioned that she had more in her garage, so he loaded them up and brought them home to me. A few coats of spray paint on the metal body and I am now the proud new owner of three gently used school desks. I can remember some of the school desks I used growing up. I was one of those kids who would sit in math class and carve designs on them with the sharp point on my compass. Thankfully the wood tops on these are in great shape!
Today was our first day to use our new set up and we all loved it! The kids think its great to have a place to keep their stuff and have already made plans as to how they will decorate them. Hannah my three year old proudly put her pencil box in her desk this morning and told me, "I'm weady for school mom." And she was. Hannah sat at her desk all
morning practicing her pre-handwriting skills, playing with bendaroos, counting her crayons and cutting and pasting construction paper. I don't think I have ever seen her that involved.

I change around our school room every year to better fit our needs. This is how our room looks now. The two short bookshelves were $20 each from Target. This is where I keep all of the books sent by k12 for both boys as well as our math manipulatives, educational toys for the littles and my stickers and things for the kids. Ben bought a 10' piece of counter top from Lowes to make our computer desk for about $120, it holds our home computer as well as the school issued computer. The desks were free and the large bookshelf is from Ikea. I use it to separate the school room from the play room. It holds baskets of the kids toys. On the opposite side of the room I have a large marker board that I use for copy work, list our schedule or have the boys answer math or other questions. I am pretty happy with the room this year. I wish it had more natural lighting but its in our basement so no real hope for that. I think my next project will be to make an interactive calendar for the kids to teach the days of the week, months etc.