2015-2016 Homeschool Curriculum

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Multitasking – eating a snack and working on Science!

This year our daughter is in 6th grade – MIDDLE SCHOOL!  Some days I just can’t believe how fast time has gone by.   Here is the curriculum that we’ve been using this year:

 

BIBLE

Mother – Daughter Devotional” by Secret Keeper Girl (with me),  “The Complete Girls of Grace: Devotional & Bible Study” (her personal quiet time), plus family devotional time, Bible studies at church, and various topical studies we discuss as a family.

SPELLING

The Phonetic Zoo by Institute for Excellence in Writing – We really love this program!  It’s a phonics based, auditory learning program.  Each lesson gives a rule, jingle or hint about how to spell certain types of words.  I go over the rule with her, give a little extra information from the teacher’s guide and then it’s 99% independent.  She uses a spelling notebook (just a plain spiral notebook) and each day she numbers her paper from 1-15 and then listens to the track on the CD that corresponds to the lesson she is working on.  The words are read to her, along with a context sentence and she spells the word the best she can.  The next track on the CD gives the corrections and she grades her own paper.  She continues with a lesson until she gets 100% correct 2 days in a row, and then we move to the next lesson.  Some lessons might only take 2 days, others might take a week.  Either way is ok, as long as they learn the words.  She’s already asked if we can use this program again next year.  Yes, we can! I just have to buy the CDs for the next level and we’ll be all set.  I’ll be able to reuse all the other materials from this year.

 

READING

Emily is an avid reader and reads many books each week.  We easily check out 20-30 books every couple weeks from the library.  We try to incorporate something related to our current studies, some other non-fiction and some just-for-fun fiction. 

MATH

We are using Math-U-See Pre-Algebra.  We’ve used Math-U-See for years and we really like their program, however we are seriously considering Teaching Textbooks for next year.   I love that MUS is DVD based – she watches the lesson and then does the practice worksheets.  At the end of the week, she takes a test.  The reason I’m considering switching to TT next year though, is because their lessons go into a lot more detail both for the lecture and the explanation of the problems.  I feel that as she advances in math, this will better suit her needs.

 

HISTORY

We are using Mystery of History Volume 1 this year.  Volume 1 is the time period from Creation to Christ. I really like that it is Christ centered and from a Christian world view.  Each lesson offers activities for younger, middle, and older students so you can customize them to your child or family’s needs. They also create a timeline and work with maps, so those help put events into perspective. MOH has 4 volumes that each cover a specific time period leading up to modern times.

 

SCIENCE

We are using Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Physics and Chemistry right now.  We absolutely love Apologia’s science curriculum! We did Astronomy a couple years ago, and then we did part of the Swimming Creatures curriculum before switching to Physics & Chemistry.  We did swimming creatures while we were waiting for Hubby to return from a deployment because he wanted to teach the Chemistry and Physics.  I make sure Emily does the reading and book work during the day, and then on Tue/Thu nights she gets science class with Daddy!  We plan to continue to Apologia in the future.

 

ELECTIVES

Art – drawing, working with polymer clay

Typing – Typing Web online program

Home Ec – learning cooking, sewing and other household chores

 

OTHER

Lots of trips to the local library for all sorts of books!

Written reports on places we go or topics we choose.  Next year we will include a formal writing program.

Tons of field trips – the zoo, historical sites, Washington DC, museums

From Public School Back to Homeschooling

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So many posts to write, so little time! I wanted to give a very belated update on our daughter’s school situation. A year and a half ago, I wrote about our decision to switch her from homeschool to public school. It was my intent to update throughout the year, but time got away from me and here we are much, much later and now we’re back to homeschooling.

Let me explain…

Emily had an amazing year in public school for 5th grade. I could not have asked for better teachers than the ones she had. Absolutely amazing and top notch in every way. She grew in so many ways, especially socially and emotionally. She definitely learned more about patience – because when you are 1 of 28 students in a classroom you don’t get to talk whenever you want. Much different from being homeschooled as an only child!

She excelled as a leader and a student, made straight A’s all year, was inducted into the National Beta Club, and even stepped out of her comfort zone to enter – and win – the school speech contest!  She learned to deal with new frustrations such as working in teams or groups on projects when the other members of the group don’t want to do the work.  Like I said, she experienced a great deal of emotional and social growth.

However, she missed out on some things too.  I truly feel that what she missed out on was no fault of the teachers’, but rather the school system. Her history and science were almost non-existent compared to the curriculum we follow at home.  Recess was a joke, if they even got to have it.  They played structured games, or stayed inside the majority of the time instead of getting the free play that kids so desperately need.  Overall throughout the day, she spent more time sitting and waiting, or standing in line waiting than she did actually learning.

She also found out that socializing and making friends was actually harder than she thought at public school.  They had very little free time to talk, so getting to know each other was a challenge.  Thankfully we found a great Girl Scout group that year that provided amazing friends outside of school, so she still not what she was looking for – just not where she thought she’d find it.

In the end, after what we considered a very successful year overall due to the emotional and social growth, we made the decision to resume homeschooling.  A few main reasons factored into our decision to bring her back home for 6th grade.

1) We wanted control over her curriculum again

2) We were going to be moving to another state halfway through the school year. Middle school is a huge adjustment in the first place, so we really didn’t want her to have to start all over again halfway through the year in a new school.

3) Her Daddy would be coming home in December from a year long Army assignment in Korea and we wanted her to be able to have more time off for family time. Homeschooling gave us the flexibility to do extra school before so that we could take the month of December off for family time and grandparents coming to visit.

Emily is super excited to be learning at home again. She’s really enjoying the curriculum we are using this year.  She also likes getting to chew gum and have snacks during school, going on lots of field trips, and having more time to play outside since school doesn’t take as long. I can’t lie – we both really like not getting up early to catch the bus every morning too!

We have lots of fun things planned for the year!

Want to see what we are learning for 6th grade? Click here to read my 2015-2016 curriculum post.

Our new adventure from homeschooling to public school

6 years ago we made the decision to homeschool Emily.  We homeschooled her for Pre-K through 4th grade.  It didn’t come naturally to us at first.  In fact, when we first became parents, we never even considered homeschooling.  Through a series of events, and a whole lot of prayer, we felt that homeschooling was the path the Lord wanted us to take.  At that time, we committed to praying about Emily’s schooling each and every year to determine whether or not to continue homeschooling or choose another option.  We didn’t know if it was for a year, a few years, or forever.

This past year as 4th grade came to a close, my husband and I committed again to praying about her 5th grade year.  Let me be clear – I absolutely love homeschooling! LOVE it! I love the flexibility in our schedule, I love the time with my daughter, I love seeing her learn and being a part of it.  But, for a few months, I had been feeling something stirring inside of me that had me thinking it might not be the right choice anymore.  I prayed about it.  My husband prayed about it.  We didn’t want to homeschool just because we always had or because we loved it, but rather we wanted to make the decision that was best for our daughter at time in her life.

We had some big things to consider.

One of the challenges with homeschooling for us is that Emily is an only child.  As homeschoolers, we all laugh about the myth of “socialization”.  It really is a myth because as homeschoolers, we are out in the community and interacting with people all the time.  We also know that a room full of 20+ kids in a classroom setting are not allowed to socialize much anyway.  However, there are some benefits to learning in a group.  Many homeschool families have a built in group with their multiple kids.  That is not an option for us.  Groups of people can bring new ideas, new ways to do things, and a chance to build relationships.

Relationships.  That’s what Emily was missing.  Several of our close friends with kids her age had recently moved away.  The Bible study I was attending with a “homeschool room”, only had a couple kids Emily’s age.  Even then, we only saw them once a week and one of those two would not be returning the next year.   The church we attend on post also does not have a large number of kids her age.  This was becoming a problem for her.  She was spending all her time with me, and while she thankfully enjoys her time with me, she was craving those relationships like we all do.  People her own age that she can get to know and that can get to know her.  She said once that she wanted friendships with people who “really know what things I like and I can know what they like”.  Isn’t that what we all desire?  People to really know us?

Ok, definitely something to consider.  How can we best meet this need?  We considered for a while joining a homeschool co-op, but the one that would have worked with our schedule just didn’t offer great class options.  I didn’t want to have her just go take a class for the sake of taking a class.  I wanted her to learn something if we were going to invest an entire day of our schedule to this co-op.  We could still be part of the co-op just for field trips, but that didn’t really solve the relationship problem either, as it takes more face to face time to build those.

The more we prayed, the more we heard from Emily too.  We made a point to really listen to what she was saying and found a lot of thought and wisdom in her words.

She expressed to us her desire to learn with other kids.  She said she wished she could go to public school to see what it was like.  She was concerned that she would hurt my feelings by saying that, but I assured her she did not.  We wanted to hear her heart.   She said that she wanted to be able to learn with a group of kids her age and be able to see where she stood in relation to them.  I totally understood that.  We know we aren’t to compare ourselves to others, but only to Christ.  True, but there is something about knowing where you stand.  She just wanted to know that she was on track.  It’s not that she doubted my teaching ability, but she had nothing to compare her knowledge to.  Are other kids learning the same thing?  Do they struggle with similar things?  Am I ahead?  Behind?  She just wanted to know.

She wanted the chance to make friends.  To be around kids her own age several days a week and see the same kids.  To build relationships.  Even knowing that school would not be one giant field trip or playdate, this was important to her.

More and more, we felt the Lord was leading us to put her in school for 5th grade.  Why? I don’t know.  Maybe so we can serve someone at the school.  A family? A teacher?  Of course so Emily can be a friend to others and make friends herself.  It would definitely give us as a family a way to reach out to others in the community and love on them.  People we would have never met otherwise.  We can serve the school and the people that work there.  Be salt & light in the community by stepping out of our comfort bubble a bit.

I was starting to feel excited about her chance to go to school.  When we first started homeschooling, I had a list of reasons why we shouldn’t.  I wanted “me time” and a break.  I had things I wanted to do.  I wasn’t good enough to teach.  In the end, I realized all of my reasons were either selfish or fear based.  Fear is not from the Lord, so the more we looked at it, the more we realized we should homeschool.  At the time, Emily had some special needs that we also felt we could better address at home.  That turned out to be true for a few years, but as she grew, those needs diminished.

This year was different.  All of my reasons for keeping her at home were selfish or fear based.   I don’t want to throw her to the wolves.  Is she strong enough? What if she gets picked on?  What will she be exposed to?  What was I really afraid of?  I have MANY friends who have kids in public school and they THRIVE.  I have many Christian friends whose kids are shining their light in public schools and thriving.  But, I will miss her!  We lose our flexibility over what we study and our schedule.  Oh, our schedule! No more impromptu field trips just because we can.

In the end, I had to choose to trust GOD.  Again, fear is not from the Lord!! Emily belongs to HIM and He is in control, always.  If this is where He was leading us, he has a reason.  I can trust Him to watch over her when I can’t be there.  I trust that her faith in the Lord is STRONG and that she takes Jesus with her to school each and every day.  I can trust that any situation that comes up, we can deal with it if we take it to the Lord in prayer.

So, we enrolled her in school and she was practically bouncing off the walls with excitement before it started.  It was fun to see the excitement in her eyes.  We as a family definitely felt this was the right thing for us to do, right now, in this season.

It’s been a month already and things are going great.  I’ll share the details of how the first month went in my next post.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge HIM and He will make your path straight.”  ~Proverbs 3:5-6

Earth Day Green Cookies! (Grain/gluten/egg/nut/dye FREE)

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I am always looking for fun science experiments to incorporate into our homeschooling, and this one did not disappoint us.  What a great experiment for Earth Day, St. Patrick’s Day, or just anytime for a tasty science lesson.  Not only is this recipe FUN, the results are extra yummy!

If you are a nut-free family, you may have already tried this or even accidentally stumbled across it in your kitchen.  If so, I’d love to hear what you made.  If not, you must try this!  The kids will love it. 

All you have to do is make a batch of cookies (recipe link at end of post).  On first glance, they will look like any other batch of cookies.  As they cool, you will notice the result of a chemical reaction.  The cookies will turn GREEN inside! 

The trick is that you have to use sunflower seed butter.  It’s like peanut butter, but made with sunflower seeds.  I have a Vitamix, so I made my own using organic, shelled, sunflower seeds.  If you don’t want to make your own, Sunbutter is found in most grocery stores and is commonly used as a substitute for nut butters.

Why sunflower butter?  Because it reacts with the baking soda in the recipe and that is what makes the cookies turn GREEN!

All plants contain chlorogenic acid, mostly in the stems and leaves, but sunflowers also have it in the seeds.  This acid reacts with the baking soda in the recipe, and causes the cookies to turn a bright green color inside as they cool.  The longer they cool, the more green they get. 

 

Our cookies looked pretty normal when we put them in and took them out of the oven, but with a little patience we were rewarded with a fun result.

 

The dough (and my favorite sous chef)

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Going in the oven

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Fresh out of the oven (notice the inside is still brown…..do NOT eat all the cookies yet!)

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After cooling for 2 hours

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After 6 hours – now we’re talking!  Isn’t that cool?

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The Cinnamon ‘Oat’meal Raisin Cookies recipe we used came from the Against All Grain website.  Notice “oat” is in quotes because there are no oats in the cookie.  The “oat” texture comes from shredded coconut so these cookies are completely nut-free, egg-free, gluten-free and grain-free.  Most of the sweetness is from applesauce and dates with only 2 TB of honey for a dozen cookies.  YUM.

Or you can make green waffles instead using one of our absolute favorite waffle recipes.  We make extra and keep them in the freezer.  Or we try to.  We’ve always made them with almond butter, but I might have to try some green ones next time.

 

Enjoy!

Homeschooling makes me happy!

Star Wars Reads Day

Tomorrow, October 6, is the first annual Star Wars Reading Day where publishers, booksellers and libraries are coming together to promote literacy.  To celebrate, our local public library has a few activities throughout the week scheduled for the kids.  Check your local library to see what is going on in your area.

Today, Emily and I went to the library to watch a LEGO Star Wars short film. It was really cute!

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After the movie, the kids were able to pick up bookmarks, a Star Wars pin, and even make some character masks out of paper and wooden tongue depressors.  We took our masks home to cut out and added some lamination for durability.  Emily and Rob are huge Star Wars fans, so I have a feeling these will get some good use.

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She also picked up a coloring page and ended up spending a good part of the afternoon working on it.  Normally, she prefers to do her own art rather than such a detailed pre-drawn coloring page, but she was really engaged with this one and she did an incredible job!

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Happy Star Wars Reading Day!  Go read a book!

Lessons about Jesus from a pumpkin

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This morning during our homeschool time, Emily and I were talking about pumpkins.  I simply adore the season of Autumn, so this time of year we try to include pumpkins in as many ways as possible.  Pumpkin math, pumpkin pucks, books about pumpkins, pumpkin smoothies, and homemade paleo pumpkin spice lattes (oh wait, those are just for Mommy!) just to name a few.

This particular morning we got scientific and were discussing the various parts of a pumpkin.

 

Did you know…

The exocarp is the tough outer skin that protects the insides.

The mesocarp is the thick juicy layer that is often eaten.

We all know about the seeds, which can be planted to grow new pumpkin plants or – my favorite – roasted and eaten.  Delicious!

Gloppy Goo is the official scientific name for that stringy stuff in the middle that we all throw away.  Ok, I admit I don’t really know what that part is called. 

There is another part to the pumpkin though, isn’t there?  Do you know what it is?

I’ll give you a minute to think while I stare at you like Dora the Explorer waiting for an answer.

 

Did you get it?

 

That’s right! The stem – the fruit’s connection to the vine and the “pipeline” for nutrients.

 

As I read that definition aloud to Emily, the Lord immediately brought to mind John 15:5 which says,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

So science quickly gave way to Bible study as I opened my Bible to John 15 and we had a great conversation about how Christians are like pumpkins and we must stay connected DAILY to our vine (Jesus) if we are to continue to grow.  How do we stay connected?  By reading God’s word (the Bible), by praying to Him, and by singing praise and worship songs to Him.  In the midst of all of that we must also find time to just rest in Him.  Let his light shine on us.  To be still and know that he is God (Ps 46:10).  To truly LISTEN for His voice. 

Just like the vine that must be pruned in order to grow effectively, so must we be pruned.  It’s not always easy or painless, but God is our divine gardener and He will work continually to prune away the icky parts – our sin, pride, jealously, greed, etc – in order to give life to his creation and allow us to grow.  He wants us to flourish and to live an abundant life connected to Him.

 

I encourage you to read the entire passage about The Vine and the Branches in John 15:1-17.

Trampoline School

Back in November, we took advantage of an online Black Friday special and bought a trampoline for the backyard.  Unfortunately, for the last 2 months it has been sitting in the box in our storage closet. 

First we had to wait until Daddy returned from his deployment right before Christmas.

Then we had to wait until we got a fence.  Some Army posts provide fencing with their housing, but here at Fort Bragg if you want a fence you have to rent one. 

The fence was just installed 2 weeks ago – right before we left to go on a family vacation – so we had to wait a little longer. 

As soon as we returned from our trip, we were finally able to set up the trampoline! YAY! Hubby & Lovebug worked hard for the better part of a Saturday this past weekend to set it up while I did the grocery shopping.   She has been on it every day since, even when it was raining.

This morning, Lovebug asked if we could do our schoolwork and reading on the trampoline.  Sure, why not?  Just because we CAN!

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Homeschooling makes me happy!

Lovebug was published!

Several months ago, Lovebug came to me with a joke she had written and wanted to submit to Highlights, a magazine for children.

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We mailed it off and then today, almost 10 months later, we received this in the mail:

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Sure enough, on page 38, her joke was published!  Look at #7!

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So proud of my girl!

Handwriting has always been her hardest subject due to fine motor skills and her perfectionism, so this is HUGE!  She did this all on her own & actually had FUN writing!  It makes my heart happy!

Field Trip Friday – puppies, friends & frozen yogurt

Yesterday I had a long list of errands to run.  I had been saving up several random errands that all took me to the same part of town so I could knock them all out in one swoop.  I was planning to do them the day before, but then the truck window threw a wrench in my plans (will write about that later), so now Field Trip Friday was going to turn into Errand Day.

That’s ok! Lovebug and I make a great team and can make anything fun with the right attitude and a couple treats thrown in.  She is at a great age and can really be a wonderful helper to me, plus she’s just fun to hang out with.  That kid is funny!  Of course, I did have to plan well and take snacks with us in the car.  Taking Lovebug anywhere for more than about 10 minutes without food is just asking for trouble.  She moves, thinks, and talks so much that she must burn 1,000 calories an hour just living.  As a result, she eats often to re-fuel her body and her energy tanks.  So, we packed up several (healthy) snacks and hit the road.

First stop – Starbucks!  We were picking up some instant iced coffee to send to Hubby.  Someone had sent him some in a care package (my parents? Thank you, whoever it was – he loves it!), and he had requested a refill.  While we were there, I decided to get an iced tea, and treated Bug to an organic chocolate milk.  I was a little nervous we’d deal with the sugar crash in the middle of my errands, but she was determined to show me she could handle it.  I figured it couldn’t be too much worse than the juice, which was the only other option I was going to give her.  I have a self-imposed rule that I don’t take her to Starbucks with me unless I’m willing to get us both something.  If I want to have a treat without giving her one, then I go alone.  Sometimes she even offers to spend her own money!

Next stop was Petsmart, where I needed to pick up a filter for our fish tank.  Petsmart is like a free field trip all in itself.  She could watch the birds, mice, lizards and fish all day long!  Yesterday was a special treat because they had an “adoption center” tent set up in the parking lot.  Puppies and kitties galore!  She was on cloud 9 looking at all of the animals and talking to them.  She had to check the paperwork for each and every one to find out its gender, name, and breed.  I don’t know if I’ve ever known a kid that wants a dog so badly and is so well behaved and patient about it.  Mommy is coming around, and is hoping to move on this sometime this winter when we have time to focus on the training.

Next door to Petsmart is the Christmas Tree Shop!  If you have one of these in your area, you must go.  NOW.  It is amazing!  Not a lot to do with Christmas trees (although there were a few Christmas decorations out), but it is a huge discount store with everything you can imagine.  Home decor, picture frames, cookware, party supplies, yard decor, books, toys, health & beauty products, furniture, etc.   We stopped here because I needed to pick up some coffee candy for Hubby.  I found this the last time I was in the store (and it was cheaper than online), and sent him some.  Evidently it was a big hit because it’s one of a very few things he has actually requested that I send him.  YAY! I’ve been begging him for care package requests, but he’s so easily satisfied so he doesn’t ask for much so I was thrilled to get it for him.  While we were at the CTS, we also ran into our neighbor friends – another treat! Lovebug and I had fun wandering around with them for a while.  Oh, and I picked up a bucket of sidewalk chalk (glow-in-the-dark too!) in the summer clearance area for .66 (Reg $2.99) – I love a bargain!  Lovebug got a bargain too as she spent $3 of her own money to buy a new friend.

Let me introduce you to “Batty”

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We parted ways with our friends, and made one more stop to get ice on the way home.  While we were there, Bug asked if she could try a package of pork rinds.  Yep, we’re from the South!  Sure, why not?  You would have thought I gave her candy, she was so excited!  Must be like her Daddy – easy to please.  No wonder I love them both so much!

Once we got home, we spent the evening hanging out with our neighbor friends outside.  Lovebug and the girls (6 & 3) went inside to play in her room, while the grownups and the little kids stayed outside.  Bug and her friends ended up playing perfectly content for over 2 hours!  They were having a great time playing house, going through her marble collection, and just being girls!

Then we kept all the kids (5 of them ages 2-7) up late and took them out for frozen yogurt! It was a great time! Lots of laughs!  We got home around 10:00, and were so tired we forgot to try out our new glow-in-the dark chalk!  Guess we’ll have to stay up till dark again tonight!

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The kids were absolutely filthy from all the playing outside.  We didn’t even bother trying to clean them up before taking them out.  The frozen yogurt just made it worse, anyway!  See the blue chalk on her face and IN HER HAIR?

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We were all laughing because there were a few people there on dates, and I’m sure they were thinking “I’ll NEVER do that when I have kids…..” – famous last words!

First Day of First Grade!

Remember when school used to start back the day after Labor Day?  That’s what we did this year!  As of yesterday, I am officially the Mommy of a 1st grader.

Wow! It seems like only yesterday this was my little Lovebug.

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I am so blessed to be able to homeschool her, so I didn’t have to shed too many tears on the first day of school.  I am really looking forward to this year ahead.  There are so many things I love about homeschooling her! I love teaching her, but I also love learning right along with her.  So often as I am preparing for a lesson, I learn things that I’ve forgotten (or never learned in the first place!).  Other times, she gets so interested in a topic that we end up diving into books to do research and it is amazing to see her get so excited that she keeps asking for more.

We have some fun things ahead this year, and I’ll talk about those later.  For now, take a look at our first day!

 

We started the day reading God’s word

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Worked on measuring various objects in Math

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Listened to Lovebug read aloud to me

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Started building our own airplane

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Acted silly

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Got the giggles

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Did a little monkeying around and hanging from the rafters (love our sensory swing!!)

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Ended the day watching a video of Daddy reading a bedtime story & having a bedtime snack

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It was a great start to what I know will be an awesome year!