Monday, March 10, 2014

Disney Logistics

I have had several people, who are all planning trips to Disney in the near future, ask me all sorts of questions about the logistics of our trip.  I am happy to share the things that we learned while we were there!

First of all, we chose to bring along a "babysitter".  Emily is a family friend of ours (along with the rest of her family) and someone that we know very well and felt completely comfortable having with us (in close quarters) for an entire week!  She LOVES my kids like crazy and was beyond excited about the chance to come along with us!  We didn't even have to discuss her 'role', as she seemed to just understand that she was with us to help in any way that she could.  She did this well!  We certainly could have gone on our own, and it probably would have gone just fine, but having Emily with us was worth every penny.  Most importantly, she provided an extra pair of eyes to keep track of everyone...more specifically, Truett.  She was willing to sit during the times when I wanted to join the family on rides that Tru couldn't go on.  We ended up going on almost all of the rides again, so that both Emily and I were each able to get a turn.  There was only ONE ride that we really wanted to get Emily on that we were just not able to..and that was "Soarin" at Epcot.  We'll have to get her on that one next time:)  Emily was helpful by carrying a backpack with extra waters and long sleeved shirts and she pushed the stroller almost the entire time.  She sat with (or held) Tru during most of the shuttle rides and for the long ride down got him buckled and unbuckled from his seat as well.  Not only was it she helpful, but it was also fun for us to provide this time for her as she has been a faithful and mostly unpaid babysitter for my kids for several years!

Buying Disney tickets and hotel rooms for eight people is not exactly cheap!  Because of this, the idea of flying down was impossible.  We knew right away that we would be driving from NH to Florida and have been praying about this trip since September.  I had never driven farther than Virginia...and never driven more than 4 hours with 5 kids in the van.  The trip in the van could not have gone better.  We left at 9pm on Friday night and drove through the night until we got to our friends (Matt and Beth) in NC at around 4pm on Saturday.  We stopped for gas and food (and used the potty during those times) and otherwise did not have to make any other special stops.  The kids were PERFECT...I can't even begin to tell you how quiet and peaceful this trip was.  Besides getting through the wee hours of the night, the rest was a piece of cake.  We were able to stretch out a bit for the late afternoon in NC and were provided a delicious meal and comfy place to sleep, followed by a great breakfast by our friends and then we were off again by 8:30am on Sunday.  We arrived in Orlando by 5:30 or so that evening, after dealing with some heavy rain in Southern Georgia/Northern Florida and being stuck in traffic for quite some time in Daytona.  Again, another relaxing, peaceful drive.

The excitement while we approached the Disney sign that you drive under was immeasurable!  The second we drove under that sign the "magic" began!  The kids were ooohing and ahhhing over the signs on the streets and the anticipation of all of the fun that was ahead of us.  Our GPS counts down the hours until the arrival, and after watching a 27 hour countdown, the kids counted down, VERY LOUDLY, the last 10 seconds until we arrived at the hotel on Disney property.  It was SO fun.  I am no longer anxious about driving long distances with my kids.  They were great travelers.  Now if only I could get them to get along this well on the .5 mile trip home from school!

We stayed at the "All Star Sports Resort" in the basketball section.  The check in was easy and they activated our Magic Bands.  (I'll explain those more later).  We found our room just fine and got settled in pretty quickly.  There were kids swimming in the pool and playing Wii games on a giant outdoor screen next to the pool.  Our rooms were nice.  Because of our group size, we had two adjoining rooms.  They provided just what we needed...beds, showers, sinks and a mini fridge.  We did not spend very much time in these rooms!  We headed off the resort that night for dinner and then came back for a swim to help them work off some energy after sitting in the car for so long!  We had anticipated a daily swim from that point on, but it turned out that this first swim would be our only swim!  There was just too much fun to be had elsewhere!

We booked our trip through a friend who works for Guru Travels.  I really don't know how you choose or not choose this option, but we had the "fast pass plus" option with Magic Bands.  I can't imagine doing it any other way.  I saw people with lanyards with tickets and things like that and I just kept thinking about how convenient the magic bands were!

We got to customize our magic bands online using the "My Disney Experience" website and app.  The kids chose their band colors and we had fun with using nicknames instead of our regular names on the bands.  The names are printed on the inside of the band.  The lady at our hotel desk was cracking up over the use of nicknames and said that she'd never seen anyone else do that.  I was surprised:)  Of course, she just had to ask who "chub chub" was!  She got a kick out of all of our nicknames.  The Magic Bands are super durable, one size fits all (even Truett), and they are completely water proof.  When we got to Disney and got settled into our hotel rooms, we put on our bands and did not let the kids take them off at all during the entire week. We didn't want to have to deal with someone forgetting it..that, and keeping them on made us get used to them.  I thought that Truett might give me a hard time about wearing it, but he totally didn't.  He kept his on until we checked out on Saturday morning.  He has a nice little "magic band tan line" to prove it!  (I did see some other moms who wore all of their young kids bands on her own arm, which I thought was a good idea if she was afraid they might take it off).

The bands are programmed to do a lot.  First of all, they have a lot of info on them.  You use your magic bands to open your hotel rooms.  All of the kids bands were able to do this.  Mine and Josh's were connected to our credit card with a PIN so that we could use it to pay for anything within the resort!  SUPER handy.  (I can see why many people would hate this...but Josh and I loved it).  He didn't have to pull out his wallet for anything the entire week.  The Disney photographers that are around everywhere will take your pic, scan your band and the pics show up on the "My Disney Experience" website to order later if you'd like.  This includes all of the photographers at all the characters spots!  The Magic Bands also know your fast pass choices (I'll talk about this more later) and info, so that when it's your turn to fast pass, you scan your band to get into the fast pass lane to get on the ride.  The bands don't get activated until you are at the resort and are deactivated when you check out.  You can also have them deactivated quickly if you were to lose one or something.  Because we had fast pass plus, our magic bands also allowed us to utilize the "extra magic hours" at the parks!  On certain days, each park opens early or closes late, and only those staying on resort hotels (I believe?) can use the extra magic hours.  We loved this time as it was less busy.  This was what made it possible for our family to go on the Star Tours ride 5 or 6 times in a row!  (That ride is different every time...I'll talk more about rides later too:).  Overall, we LOVED our bands.  Some of the kids are still wearing them.  We were all sad to take them off.

The "Fast Pass Plus" system was awesome!  We had a general idea of how this worked, but it wasn't until we got there when we realized just how valuable it is!  You can go on the My Disney Experience website way before you go to choose your fast passes for the entire time you are there!  They allow 3 fast passes per park and they are KEY!  Our travel agent helped us narrow down the things that we would definitely need fast passes for and we chose them a good month before we left.  We didn't realize until a couple days in, that you can change them on the My Disney Experience app when you are long as it is the day before.  The difference between fast passes and fast pass plus is the magic bands.  Without the bands, you have to go to the fast pass stations and get an actual ticket for the fast passes.  With the magic bands, all of this info is stored right on them!  It gives you a time frame of an hour to get to a ride and use the fast pass.  As long as you are there within that hour, you go in the "fast pass" line and usually walk past hundreds of people and, in a sense, cut the line.  The fast pass lane sends you past everyone and then merges you at the very end.  Unless you actual enjoy waiting in lines for 60-80 minutes for the popular rides, then you MUST utilize the fast pass system.  With the magic bands, you just match up the mickey on your band to the mickey on the post and it will recognize your entire group and you get sent through very quickly.

When we chose our fast passes (before we left) we were told which things were typically busy and we went with that.  What we found when we were there is that we had NO trouble getting into any of the shows and unless we really wanted great seats to them, using fast passes for them was not necessary.  For example, "Turtle Talk with Crush" is one thing that we got a fast pass for, but the wait for that was not any longer without the fast pass.  Same thing for things like the Indian Jones Stunt Show.  These shows are schedule at certain times of the day and can fit a ton of people, so we never needed to use a fast pass for them.  Of course, we didn't always have perfect seats, but we were perfectly happy with what we ended up with.  The shows are set up so that you can see well from anywhere.  We were there during NH Feb vacation, and the parks were not super busy, so I'm not sure if during busier times fast passes would be more necessary.

I will list the things that fast passes were crucial for by park:

Hollywood Studios~
~Toy Story Mania-we never saw this regular wait time under 75 minutes!
~Rockin Roller Coaster-the normal wait for this was always upwards in the 80 minute mark during regular park hours.
~Tower of Terror~I wouldn't recommend anyone going on this ever.  But, if you must, the fast pass is handy.  Although, we did see regular wait times down to 20 minutes during regular hours, but saw it at 40 to 50 minutes as well.  It is possible to get into this ride in under 30 least, during a not so busy time of the year:)
~Star Tours~ Like the Tower of Terror, this ride had some decent wait times and then some long ones.

For Hollywood Studios I would choose Toy Story Mania, Rockin Roller Coaster and Star Tours...but that's just me:)  We got into the Muppets 3D, Indian Jones Stunt Show and the Beauty and the Beast show just fine without long waits or fast passes.  The Fantasmic show at the end of the night wasn't too bad to get into.  We got there kind of late and got seats very far back, but it was still awesome.

(I'll talk about how to get into the Jedi Training later)

~Soarin~ The wait for this awesome ride is rarely under 80 minutes.  Must get fast pass for this!
~Test Track~ another very cool ride with very long wait times.  I would recommend fast pass for this one too!  Although, I think that when you fast pass this, you don't get to design your own car, which is part of the fun of this ride.  (Maybe another reader can confirm or deny this though).  I would not want to go on that ride without making my own car at least once.  So, if you fast pass this and you don't get to design your car, you should try to get back on the ride at some point!

Otherwise, at Epcot, the lines were not super long for anything else.  You get 3 fast passes anyway, but you could just choose according to what looks fun to you:)

Animal Kingdom~
~Kilimanjaro Safari~This is fun, and seems to have long waits.
~Expedition Everest~ our family's favorite roller coaster!
~Kali River Rapids~seems to always have long waits.  We did not do this because it was cold.

We fast passed the Dinosaur ride.

We were at Animal Kingdom on a crumby day, so it's hard for me to judge what the regular wait times are.  We didn't have any trouble getting on rides that day.

Magic Kingdom~
This park is so big that it's hard to decide how to choose fast passes here.  It all depends on your family.  We ended up going to Magic Kingdom twice, so we were able to fast pass things on the second day that we couldn't get to the first time around.
~Thunder Mountain
~Space Mountain
~Buzz Space Ranger Spin
(Those were the important ones for us on day 1 at MK)

But, the lines for Peter Pan's Flight, Little Mermaid, Winnie the Pooh, Pirates of the Caribbean, Ariel's Grotto were all crazy.

Ultimately, you MUST have the "My Disney Experience" app and another app that is called "Disney World Wait Times".  We used these all the time.  You can be anywhere and check the wait times for any given ride.  This helped us because we could be on one end of the park and see that a wait time was under 30 minutes and we would head there.  There are times of the days when most rides have reasonable waits.  If you see a ride that has under 30 minutes, consider it a go and get in line right then!!  The waits really aren't that bad because they have lot's of things to look at or interact with.  If you can get to the parks right as they open and head to the rides with long waits, you can get through them quickly.  Or, extra magic hours are key to getting to some of the rides with long waits.


A big deal for those of us with 6-11 year old Star Wars fans, is getting to do the Jedi Training.  It is SO worth it...totally fun!  They do 8 shows a day (or something like that) and choose 20 kids per show, first come first serve.  This is serious business for some!  The key (we know this thanks to Beth, our Guru Travel agent) is to get to the gates of the park by 8:30am.  The park doesn't open until 9am.  We got there by 8:30am and were relatively close to the front of the waiting line to get into the park.  Then, you head STRAIGHT to the sign up...which is on the left side of the the left of the American Idol thing.  (If you want specifics, message me and I can give you specific directions).  We weren't exactly sure, but we just followed the parents who were literally RUNNING (and getting in trouble for it) with their kids who were decked out in Jedi robes.  We didn't run, but figured if we followed those people that we were headed in the right direction!  Ethan, Luke and Owen were within the first 40 kids in line to sign up.  They sign up and then are told what time to come back and what show they are doing.  Honestly, it was totally worth the extra effort!!

(We went to Hollywood Studios again for the first half of Friday, and while the majority of people were running to Jedi sign ups, we headed in the opposite direction towards Rockin' Roller Coaster and got on it twice before there were any waits..with no fast passes:)


I talked about breakfast earlier.  For lunch and dinner we did only "counter service" meals.  This meant that we ate a lot of burgers, chicken and french fries...although, there were a few places where we got pulled pork and tacos:)  Honestly, we were happy eating this way.  We would not have been able to afford any of the table services places and they would have had a hard time seating all 8 of us without reservations.  These places to eat are everywhere!  They are crowded and busy, but they do well serving everyone and we never had trouble finding two tables next to each other to sit.

We ate lunch and dinner at the parks each day.

We ate at the following..

Magic Kingdom:
~Cosmic Rays Starlight Cafe
~Pecos Bills Tall Tale Inn and Cafe

~Electric Umbrella (the Mac n Cheese burger was yummy...yes, I admit it!)
~La Cantina de San Angel (mexico)

Hollywood Studios:
~Pizza Planet
~Backlot Expresss
~Studio Catering Company

Animal Kingdom
~Flame Tree BBQ

(Because none of us wanted to see another french fry for a long time, we ate at a Waffle House on the way home:)


We went into Orlando on the first night and bought milk, cream cheese, bagels, granola bars, cereal, bananas, yogurt and nutrigrain bars...which is what we ate each morning for breakfast.  We got up by at the latest 7am each morning to get ready and eat.  We headed out the door by 8 or 8:30 (depending on our plans for the day) and took the shuttle to whatever park we were headed to.  We had our van, but for some reason this was just easier for us.  (The shuttles pick you up right out front of the All Star Sports hotel).  We considered renting a stroller at the parks, but decided to just go with the umbrella stroller.  The reason we chose this is because there is quite a distance between the shuttle drop offs and getting inside the actual park.  The umbrella stroller was fine for us for the week.  Josh carried a backpack with waters (which was quite heavy for the first part of the day..but he's a tough guy:).  I carried a over the shoulder bag with 3 diapers, wipes and various medicine..and the video camera.  I would carry it or throw it over the stroller handles.  Jessalyn carried her own bag with whatever she wanted and a few waters.  Emily carried her bag with her stuff and a couple of waters.  (You don't want to have to buy water in the parks!)  This worked for us.  There is stroller parking outside of all of the rides.  There are attendants at most of these parking areas who organize the strollers.  You can bring bags on most of the rides, but there were times when we would have to leave them.  We never had a problem with that.  I tried to keep my bag with the video camera close to me..but otherwise, we didn't worry.  There are Disney "cast members" (employees) everywhere.

If it was cool in the morning (like 60's) I would have the kids wear shorts and a long sleeved tshirt type thing.  They are less bulky than a hoody, so that they could take them off and stuff them in one of the bags.  Then they would have them in the evening as it got cooler.  We only went back to our hotel mid day one time..because of rain.  Otherwise, we stayed at the parks from open to close!  I didn't bring extra close into the parks for anyone.  It was risky...but we never ended up needing any extra.  We tried to carry as little as possible

I did bring my 'big' camera with me.  I honestly went back and forth on this one...but my friend Danielle said "you're gonna want your camera" and I went with that advise.  I'm SOOOO glad I did.  I would have been kicking myself if I hadn't.  Yes, it was a was heavy on my neck..but it was so worth it.  I don't know..maybe it's because I'm a photographer, but the photo ops are endless.  I could have taken 1000 more than the 1400 that I took!

Overall, we tried to be relaxed about everything.  We had somewhat of a game plan as far as what rides/shows we wanted to make priority..but we didn't have a specific schedule of how we were gonna make it happen.  We tried to just enjoy our walks through the parks and take in as much as we could.  The kids made lists each night about what they wanted to do the next day and we tried to get it all in.  I think we accomplished that by the end of the week.

We had schedule 4 days of parks and then Friday was open.  We bought the park hopper pass so that we could go wherever we wanted and it came in very handy!  We got rained out of Epcot on Wednesday afternoon, so we called it a day.  On Thursday we did Animal Kingdom by later afternoon and headed right back to Epcot for the evening.  We got to see the night show and get on the rides that we missed the day before.  Then on Friday we decided as a family that Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom were the places we wanted to head back to.  We spent the morning at HS and the afternoon/evening at Magic Kingdom.  (On Thursday night we were able to choose more fast passes for Friday!)  Doing it this way allowed us to get everything that we wanted to in before we headed to Universal on Saturday!

Our kids were such a great age to bring.  Ranging from age 13 to two made everything fun for everyone!  Having a two year old brother made it easy for the older kids to "be kids" and get right into the younger rides and meeting different characters.  They were enthusiastic "for Truett"...or so they said:)  We all know that they enjoyed it just as much as he did!  Truett was able to ride most of the rides...besides the roller coasters.  (He was big enough for the Barnstormer though:)

Fast Passes aside...I will list the things that we did an loved.  There was only ONE thing that we did that we were disappointed in.  Whether it was a show or a ride, besides the "Lilo and Stitch" ride (that is really not a ride) we came out in awe.  EVERYTHING is good to do and nothing is lame!  I suppose if we liked Lilo and Stitch more, than it probably would have been better but it was just weird.

Unless it says "No Tru" it means that everyone went on the ride.  Owen (age 6) went on everything listed here and was totally fine.  Obviously, "No Tru" meant he wasn't big enough to go on.  ...which is where paying for a babysitter was VERY helpful!!!

Magic Kingdom
~Pirates of the Caribbean
~Ariels Grotto
~The Barnstormer
~Mad Tea Party
~Peter Pans Flight
~Mickey's PhilharMagic
~Under the Sea (little mermaid)
~Big Thunder Mountain (no Tru)
~The Haunted Mansion
~Buzz's Space Ranger Spin
~Monsters Inc Laugh Floor
~Space Mountain (no Tru)
~Tomorrowland Speedway
(Splash Mountain was closed)

~Captain EO (totally weird..but slightly cool)
~Living with the Land
~Mission Space (orange) (no Tru)
~Nemo and Friends
~Soarin (No Tru)
~Spaceship Earth
~Test Track (No Tru)

Hollywood Studios
~Star Tours (No Tru)
~The Great Movie Ride (could be scary for some younger kids...but Tru was fine.  It goes through different movie scenes..some with aliens, some westerns..Indiana Jones etc.)
~Toy Story Mania
~Muppet Vision 3D (my personal fave:)
~Rockin Roller Coaster (No Tru)
~Tower of Terror (Don't believe them...It's NOT fun!!!)
~Indian Jones Stunt Show

Animal Kingdom
~Kilimanjaro Safari
~Expedition Everest (No Tru)
~Dinosaur (no Tru) (kinda scary..jump scares..big dinosaurs..but wicked fun)
~Primeval Whirl (no Tru)
~Tricera Top Spin

(I wanted to get all of those thoughts written out before I forgot them!)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Home School Week 10

I feel like this is very boring and repetitive:)  At least, it is to write it out! we go....

Today is only Thursday, but the other kids have a day off from school tomorrow and we have a couple of parent/teacher conferences and Jessalyn has an AAU game, so I tricked Luke into doubling today!  I knew that if I told him we were doing it that he would have a hard time, so I just didn't tell him.  Next thing he knew we had finished the reading for tomorrow as well and realized that he only had to hammer out a spelling test and a math test and a page of handwriting and he wouldn't have to do anything tomorrow.  He was happy to do that work:)

~Continuing to read through Luke.  This week was Luke 19:28-21:38
~He read in his Bible each morning.
~We learned about the Natchez tribe in the American Indian Prayer Guide.
~He memorized Micah 6:8
          "You have shown me, oh man, what is good and what the Lord requires of me, but to do justly, and               to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God."
(I don't think this is the exact version that he learned...but these are the words that get stuck in my head because of a song that we sing in Church:)

~We read a few pages of the Children's Encyclopedia of American History and filled in some timeline and worked with the maps and globe.
~We read a few more chapters in The Landmark History of the American People...with discussion.

~We read chapters 14-17 in the Witch of Blackbird Pond.  I like this book, but it's not Luke's favorite.
~We finished up Tree in the Trail today as well.
~He started the Book The Courage of Sarah Noble.  He has read chapters 1-7 and likes it.  It's an easy book for him.

~Lesson 5

~Lesson 10..this was a tricky one.  All twenty words had a silent letter.  He had a hard time with the pretest, but today got every one correct on his test!  He was happy!

~A week of reviewing multiplication tables.  I think next week we go onto new things.

~Continuing to learn all about Earth!

Language Arts:
~He worked with pronouns this week.  He had to correct a paragraph that had sentences that look like this:
     "The beaver told the badger the beaver needed the badger's brush so the beaver could comb the beaver's weird beard."
   (He had to throw in a few pronouns to make this sentence make more sense)
   He also was give a picture that he had to write a story about.  This was fun for him.

In addition to his Language Arts as well as Bible, Luke worked hard on writing his testimony this week!  He is getting baptized on Sunday!  We asked him a few key questions like:
     What is baptism?
     What does baptism mean to you?
     Why do you want to be baptized?
He had some great understanding with his answers and ended up writing a GREAT testimony!  I will wait until after he shares it personally on Sunday to share it here though:)

Luke wanted to start reading the Nights of Arrethtrae books that our family loves.  I read the entire series to Ethan a few years ago, and Jessalyn read the series on her own.  Luke can't get enough of these books and keeps talking about how they are the best books he's ever read.  He begs me to read extra chapters each night, and because I think the books are so good, I usually agree:)  If you haven't heard of them you can check them out here... The Nights of Arrethtrae .  

Between my own personal reading each morning and night and all of the reading that I do with Luke, I don't think I've ever read this much in my life!  I am enjoying it very much!!

Home School Week 9

Yet another week has flown by and Luke and I seem to be settling into a nice little routine of things.  He is happy...I am happy:)  It's all good!

~I read Luke17:1-19:27 to him throughout the week.
~He read each day in his Adventure Bible.
~He learned about the Lumbee Tribe in the American Inidan Prayer Guide.
~He memorized Romans 12:15 and 16
          "Blessed those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice and             weep with those who weep."
     (We had lots of opportunity to discuss how this applies to us on a daily basis!)

~We read several pages of The Landmark history of the American People, Vol 1 with discussion following.
~He read another chapter in The Light and the Glory.
~He was able to fill in more of his timeline and we have spent lots of time looking at maps and the globe.

~We read 4 chapters of The Tree in the Trail.
~We read chapters 10-13 in The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
~He finished up "The Thanksgiving Story" this reading a chapter or two each day.

~He continues to work through each lesson in the book and his writing improves each week!

~He worked through another spelling lesson and did well on the test at the end of the week, although did not ace it:)

~He finished up learning to skip count (and multiply) by 8's this week.  He is flying through math so far.

~We are learning about Earth for the next couple weeks.  He is learning all sorts of fascinating things and how God designed Earth so perfectly for us to be able to live here!

Language Arts:
He did several writing projects during this week and also had to narrate to me (while I took notes) The Thanksgiving Story that he finished reading that week.  He did well narrating the key parts of the story.

(Because I'm writing this a week late, I can't exactly remember...but I think that something came up during the week that made the writing of a weekly letter difficult, so he didn't write a letter this week.)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Homeschool Week 8

Ahhhh....what a GREAT week!  Not only did we not pressure ourselves to get more done, but it was a regular week with the normal routine Monday through Friday.  Luke does MUCH better just knowing that he doesn't have to do more work.  Of course, we are both getting quite efficient at the way we work our day so that he has been done by noon each day this week.  Of course he loves this, but I'm feeling like that is a bit too early:)

~He read from his children's Bible several chapters mostly about Moses.
~I read to him from the ESV Luke 14:25-Luke 16:31 (throughout the week).  We had lots of great discussion about the things that we read.
~He is working on memorizing a passage from Romans.  He has Romans 12:14 and 15 down.  Memorizing this scripture has lead us to great discussion on how to put this into practice as well as how hard it is to actually do!  "Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep".  Such great practical application in here!!
~He learned and prayed for the Delaware tribe in his American Indian Prayer Guide each day.

A cool thing for Luke.  He has started reading through the book of John in the NSV each night before bed.  He had started reading this in the past, but got frustrated with his lack of understanding.  He went ahead and gave it a try and I encouraged him to just read a chapter each night (or less if he wants) and to just read it...even if it's not making sense.  He was so happy to realize that he is understanding much more than he thought he would.  Each night he has great questions or just points of interest that he wants to share with me.  He really thought a lot about the first few verses in the book..and especially John 1:14 "And the word became flesh and dwelt among us..".  I love that he is reading and asking questions...and adding his own reading to his daily Bible work on his own!

~We finished up the Incans, Aztecs and Mayans book.  A very informative book!
~He read a few pages of the Childrens Encyclopedia of American History and were able to spend a bunch of time looking at maps and the globe as well as adding quite a few things to his timeline book.  He enjoys both of these things very much.

~We are continuing in the book "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" which, for him, started slow...but he is starting to get into it now.  We read chapters 5-9 this week.  The chapters in this book are a bit long.  This is a book that I read to him, while he does some doodling.  He focuses much better this way!
~We also read 4 chapters in "The Tree in the Trail".
~He continued his reading to me from "Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims".  This is from the same author as the Pocahontas book.  He reads this level of book quite easily at this point, and he enjoys the stories.

~He has been much less frustrated now that he isn't just writing one letter over and over again.  He is now working on words, phrases and eventually an entire verse from the Bible that he completes using his best work on Friday.  He has started to find himself writing in cursive by accident and asking to do his work in cursive...which I highly encourage:)

~He did great with spelling this week.  After reading an article on spelling (I posted in on facebook), I was happy to see that the curriculum he uses for spelling really does seem to focus more on the understanding of the words rather than just the spelling.  He aced his spelling test today.

~He worked on skip counting by 7 this week.  I think he only has to learn skip counting by 8's (next week) to finish up his skip counting the numbers 1-10.  He has found this to be a great way to learn his multiplication tables.  He breezed through his math this week and aced the math test at the end as well.

He did come to the conclusion that some days he's just "on" as far as math is concerned and other days he has more struggle.  There are days when he wakes up and reads the word problems and can just answer them without much thought at all, and then other days when just reading the problem gets his mind in a tangled mess:)  Fortunately, he only had one day today when his mind was tangled...the rest went smoothly.

Language Arts:
~He learned about "hook" sentences and had fun coming up with some of his own.  "Once there was a zombie apocalypse..." was one of them.  He learned a little bit about how to properly use numbers in something that he writes.  As in, how to correctly write the date and when to use the actual number as apposed to the word for the number, etc.  He had to chose a main point that he found interesting from his science work, and write three supporting sentences as well as a "hook".  He put all of this work together to formulate a nice informative few paragraphs.  I learned this week that I have to tell him that he is going to work on his writing projects for a specified amount of time.  He was having a tendency to rush through, in hopes to just get it done.  His writing was slopping and his thinking was as well.  I finally figured out that all I have to do is tell him "you are spending 30 minutes on this project no matter what" and it has changed his thinking completely!  He knows he's going to be sitting there for that amount of time looking at it, so he might as well work hard and enjoy it.  I am MUCH happier with the results from this week's work!

~He wrote his dictation passage at the end of the week and is doing well with this.
~He wrote a letter to my aunt Peggy this week as well.

~We finished up the lesson on Venus.  Luke has seemed to enjoy each lesson from his Astronomy book.  We are both learning things from here for sure!  I particularly liked learning that Venus rotates the opposite way of all the other planets in our solar system.  It's interesting to me and proves Creation to me even that much more!

As far as the organizing part goes.  What I'm doing is not some special, crazy cool system...but it is just different than what I had started doing.  I have a binder with the entire Core D Instructors Guide from Sonlight.  I have full intentions to use this again, but for the first few weeks was just initialing (Luke's initials) in the boxes to check off what we have done.  We have a different notebook for each subject for writing projects and spelling words etc.

I finally came to my senses and decided that I would photocopy the schedule at the beginning of each week so that I can scribble in it all I want..and keep the original in the binder for future use.  I ended up using a separate binder to put his completed work week by week in.  Each week has the schedule, followed by the work that he did during that week.  (This does not include his math book, spelling book or handwriting book....which, for future kids I will likely photocopy as well, but we were already too far into those books to salvage for another kids so we are just gonna keep filling them!).  At the end of each week I compile his week worth of work and put it in the completed notebook with a paper clip holding each separate week together.  This way each week is easy to reference if necessary and is well documented.  This also gives a great sense of accomplishment!

I'm so glad that I am having this chance to homeschool just one child.  It will make adding Owen (next year) MUCH easier!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Homeschool week 7

We knew that we would not be doubling this week...but, the other kids had both Monday and Friday off so we did double a couple of days...the whole time looking forward to the next week where NO doubling would be necessary!

(I'm just doing a quick recap here to catch up on the last two weeks of updates!)

~I continued reading to him from Luke 12:35-14:24
~He continued reading from his own Bible
~He learned about the Inuit tribe in the American Indian Prayer guide.
~He has started memorizing a section of scripture from Romans!

~He continued his reading in the Incans, Aztecs and Mayans book..pages 108-144 this week.  Lots of discussion.
~The Light and the Glory (ch. 4)

~We started a book called "The Witch of Blackbird Pond"...chapters 1-4 during this week.
~Tree in the Trail chapters 10-14
~He started a book called "Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims".  He is enjoying this.  He read 5 chapters this week.

~Lesson 7.  He got one wrong on the test at the end of the week.

~He's finally through individual letters and working on words and phrases.  He likes this a bit better:)

~We started learning about Venus.  SO many interesting things to learn in astronomy!

~Another lesson in Multiplication.  He's doing well with this:)

Language Arts:
~He chose a story from the Bible and had to write an outline for it.  He chose the story of Noah's Ark.  It was a good exercise for him to think backwards and write an outline for a story that he knew well.  He also had to write an outline and then a paragraph as to why the settlers chose Jamestown to build.

I did get the new organizing system underway.  I'll post about that in the near future!

Home school week 5 and 6...and lessons learned:)

I mentioned last week that since we had a few weeks under our belt, that we would start to double up on everything in hopes to finish the curriculum.  We don't "need" to finish it, because he DID do the first several weeks at public school, so he will have done the required amount of schooling by May/June, but I really didn't want to waste the curriculum that we invested in.  

We went ahead and planned out a schedule that could allow us the doubling necessary to finish  and we did weeks 5 and 6 in ONE week.  Let me just say that it IS possible, but I learned quickly that we are not going to continue this way!  (I'm glad I went into this with the mindset of learning day by day and being willing to be change things as we go!)  

We were able to get everything we need to get done in a day, but it was overwhelming for both of us.  Not only just the part of figuring out just what we needed to do each day and then add in the extra reading...even I was tired of reading that many chapters of each book.  I think during that time, he started to feel overwhelmed which made everything just that much more frustrating.  We were both more focused on getting the list done rather than really being able to stop and discuss and spend time enjoying the learning.  

Another thing that I learned from doubling, is that when something comes up and we miss a day (like the rest of the kids having a day off from school) it makes catching up IMPOSSIBLE!  Again, not only with the work but just the figuring out what needs to be done.  

It became clear very quickly that it just wasn't worth it.  Josh agreed that I should just go ahead with the curriculum as written and get through as much as we can by the time the other kids are out of doubling (unless we need to miss a day..and in that case, we know it's possible to double if it's only for just one day:).  

For weeks 5 and 6 (done in one week) it looked like this...

~He read several stories from his Bible.  He's not really on a schedule there, and just reads a few chapters  (which are short in his Bible) each day.  
~I read to him each day from Luke (NSV) ...we went through Luke 8:40-12:34
~He read two weeks worth of entries from the American Indian prayer guide, learning about the Wampanoags and the Seminoles.  
~He worked to refine his reciting of Psalm 8.  

~We read from the book "Incans, Aztecs and Mayans"...from pages 28-108 throughout the week.  I love how this book breaks each tribe down and really gives us a good understanding of the difference between each tribe.  
~We finished up The Very First Americans.
~Read a chapter of The Light and the Glory (which is not making the cut in our "favorites" list:)
~We started the book A Tree in the Trail and read chapters 1-9 throughout the week.  
~We finished up The Sign of the Beaver...we both loved this book:)  Chapters 10-25 were read this week.  
~He continued his reading in Pocahontas and the Strangers...reading chapters 12-26.  He also enjoyed this book.  
~He doubled up on this each day.  We won't be doing that again:)  ha
~He doubled on this as well.  It wasn't necessarily hard for him as he is great at spelling.  He's in the 4th grade book and usually only gets 3 or so wrong on the "pretest" that he takes before even working with the words.  
~Normally a "lesson" takes two weeks with a lesson twice a week.  We fit in a full lesson in one week, which wasn't bad.  He enjoys learning about astronomy.  We learned all about Mercury.  
~We had been doing extra in math all along, so this wasn't really a change.  He's just about finished learning his multiplication tables.  
Language Arts:
~He did several writing exercises in Language Arts, but I'll be honest, these suffered because of all of the reading.  He just didn't have it in him to really put in the time.  I noticed this right away, and recognized that it was not good.   I can't even remember (without looking back) what he worked on....haha.  

So there ya have it, a quick recap of that crazy's all a blur:)  We did do some fun projects, but in trying to fit it all in, I don't think I took many pics!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Homeschool week 4

After an extended Christmas vacation thanks to snow and ice, we are finally back to school!  We started week 4 this week.

Before we started this week, I had to sit down and map out the schedule from now until the end of the year.  Of course, this is something that should probably done before we start, but since our "start" came on rather quickly, I didn't have the chance to really sit down really plan it out.

Of course, the curriculum is all planned out for me, but because we started late I had to figure out if it was possible to get through the entire curriculum with the time we have left.  Because Luke went to public school for the first 2 months I don't really "have" to finish the entire curriculum but I really hate to waste it!  With that said, we are doubling up on a lot of things each week to try to accomplish this task.

His handwriting, spelling and math will be easy to get ahead on.  In fact, he's already far enough ahead with math that we can actually slow down at this point and still finish early in May.  This will be helpful as we start doubling on other things.  Science will be a bit more of a challenge to get through, but we are going about it by having science each day rather than only two days a week (like the guide suggests).

The hardest thing to double up on is the Sonlight Core...History, reading and language arts.  There is a lot of reading and writing here and it just takes time.  But, I think we can do it!  He has been getting up and getting started right at 7am so he gets his Bible, handwriting, spelling and math out of the way before we even start breakfast, so then we can spend the rest of the time working on the Core stuff.

We'll see.  I don't want to stress him out, or stress myself out.  But, if we do this, it will make next year seem like a piece of cake when we start at the right time with no doubling of anything!

This week an article was shared with me that I enjoyed.  I have to preface it by saying that I really have no idea what the background is on the "TED talks" or even what that is and that I also don't know anything about this boy and his overall "world view".  But, in this article is a video of a 13 year old who was pulled from school and he shares his insight on this.  I really like the way he explains home schooling and it's benefits...and my favorite is that he renamed it "hack schooling"....I kinda like it:)  If you have 15 minutes or so, I would recommend watching the video.

Of course, it seems that a lot of these articles seem to "bash" public schools and teachers...and while I do think that there are frustrations there, I don't think that it is the school staffs fault.  They do their best and I do think that they try to implement some of the "TLC's" that are talked about here, but that having to do it for 20 kids in one classroom is hard and they can only do so much!  I really don't want to be that type of home school mom who bashes public school...because for many (most), it's the only option and I'm glad that the school staff is there to provide that option!  I think most of the educators out there have the same frustrations with the government as we do, and I just want to be sure that it's clear that I don't blame our teachers:)  

Here is the article and the video:

So as far as week 4 looks a whole lot like the previous weeks:)

Bible:  Luke has continued to read through his Adventure Bible.  He read about Joseph and has started learning about Moses.  Over the week I read to him Luke 7-8:39.

He learned about the Aztecs this week in his American Indian Prayer guide.

He finished up learning Psalm 8 and can recite it..for the most part, with a one word reminder here and there:)  We will move on to a verse in Romans for next week, but I will continue to have him recite Psalm 8.

History/Geography:  He read from the Childrens Encyclopedia of American history and the book "The Very First Americans".  It's a continuation of learning about the different tribes and how they are similar but very different according to where they live and their environments.  He got a globe for Christmas and he really enjoys looking at it and getting a great visual of all of the places he is learning about.

Reading:  He started the book "The Sign of the Beaver" this week and is really enjoying it...I'm really enjoying it too:)  We also finished up "Lawn Boy".  For some reason this was not his favorite, but really it is a great book.  I think maybe in a few years he will be able to relate more to this story.  He is continuing the book "Pocahontas and the Strangers".  He enjoys this one as well.
(For now, and probably for a few years, all of the reading he does is out loud to me, or me reading to him.  I can tell that he needs this so that we can stop every now and then and discuss it.  He is great at reading the words, but needs practice and really understanding what he is reading.  It's ok though, because I love spending the time with him and so far the books are great!)

Spelling:  He worked through lesson 4 in his workbook this week.  At the end of the week he got 2 wrong on the test.  I let him work through that more independently this week, but I think next week will spend slightly more time really making sure he is getting it right.  Not that he has to get 100% every time, but I think it was just a matter of focus this week and we can remedy that!

Handwriting:  He worked on a new letter each day this week and will be finishing up the alphabet next week so he can working on the lessons that are writing words.  He still doesn't love writing in cursive:)

Science:  We finished up the lesson on the sun and learned some great things!  We had some interesting discussion on where color comes from and how color is really different waves of light from the sun, bouncing off objects into our eyes.  It is our eyes/brain that translates the color waves into an actual color.  This brings up the question, if you are not looking at something, does it have color?  We've gone around and around with this concept.  He learned what a solar eclipse is and made a box that will allow him to be able to look at the sun and not hurt his eyes...although, we haven't tried it yet because we haven't seen the sun for a few days!  This week we also watched the Louie Giglio video's called "Indescribable" about how BIG our universe is and how much BIGGER our God is who created it all.  Luke enjoyed this video.  He has a science journal that he works through along with the lessons.

Language Arts:  He worked on dictation passages and also learned about synonyms.  He had to use a picture (that was provided) and write a story about it remembering to use some of the concepts that he has been learning.  He also worked on a letter that he sent out on Friday to Mark and Kirsten.

Vocabulary:  We made a list of words that he didn't understand throughout all of the reading that we did.

Math:  (I almost forgot about math again!).  He worked through two lessons this week.  We are now at the point where we can slow down as I think we've caught up enough in that book.  He is doing very well with his multiplication.  It's funny because he says he hates math...but it totally comes naturally to him.

Typing:  This really isn't a class for him, but he loves to play Typeracer on the computer.  At school they started learning using the correct keys and fingers for typing.  I was surprised with how well he types and encourage him to play Typeracer whenever he wants:)

I think that pretty much summarizes our week here.  Next week I would like to work on a different system for keeping and organizing his work.   As I go along, I realize how I can do things differently.  I just took a guess at how it might all work at the beginning and am totally learning as I go along!  If I manage to get the new organizing system down next week, maybe I will share what it looks like.

I don't have a lot of pics from this week...