Sunday, October 5, 2014

Welcome to the Dinsmore Homeschool!

Warning, this is a long post, but some other homeschool mom like me might be interested, so I'm posting it. At least 2 grandmas for sure will be!

Homeschooling did not start off as being a passion of mine. My parents put me in a really good Christian school growing up. They never complained, but I'm sure it was a sacrifice. I really liked my school. I got a good education with a biblical world view and I loved being a part of the music program. Jimmy went to a private Christian school too, and I really like how he turned out!
I wanted that for my kids. I wanted them to experience different teaching styles and teachers with different interests and passions. I wanted them to have extracurricular activities available to them, to find out where their interests lie and get to be part of a team that worked together, whether athletic or artistic. Well that is not an option here. There are just not academically strong schools in Petén. We have very intelligent teens in our youth group that are still in 2nd and 3rd grade.
 Once I realized for us homeschool would be our only option, I decided to embrace it. I have a secondary education degree. I taught chemistry, physics, and algebra II in the States for 2 years... a far cry from teaching phonics to 4 year olds, but I really enjoy teaching. I wouldn't want to teach phonics to anyone else's 4 year old, since it is 90% about being patient, but so far I love teaching mine.
{Jonah building upper and lower case vowels}
When we were building our house, we already knew that we would be homeschooling, so we planned our homeschool room to be the second largest room in our house (second to our great room). We are really blessed to have this option... seriously, who gets to have a nice room designated to homeschool? On a priority scale for us, this is way up there. I was feeling kind of guilty for being a missionary and having such a nice homeschool space, but I don't think that feeling is from God, so I'm rejecting it and publicly praising Him for this blessing. So here is a tour of our homeschool:
A very sweet person from the States sent me the letters around the top of our room. We reference them all the time! I love them. Jimmy installed cork and a dry erase board for us. That fan is a life saver, because this room gets hot!

The cork is really handy. We use it for lots of stuff, like blend trains or
mapping out the generations between Adam and Noah. 
I cut contact paper strips to make the lines where we learn how to write our letters. 
When we introduce a new blend the boys pick an animal to go up the ladder. The board isn't magnetic, so it is a happy accident that we finished our guest room before this room was sealed and had to put metal doors on it. I hated them at first because they look dungeony, but now they are an asset. They give us plenty of magnetic surface for when we use our magnetic letters. 
The crayons and weather chart came with our curriculum. The boys love moving the little arrow each morning... usually just all the way around the circle back to sunny, haha!
This is where our behavior management chart hangs. There are a bajillion of these on Pinterest, so I have no idea where the idea originated to link to, but this was a last minute addition. It is SUPER helpful. They start each day in the green. If they remember something super hard, they bump up their pin. If they take initiative in a certain area or work really hard to improve at something, they bump up their pin. If they have a bad attitude, are disrespectful or ever use the words I can't, they automatically get bumped down. If they get to the red, Daddy gets notified when he gets home. But, if they get to the top by the end of the day, they get candy out of the machine on my desk. 
 I found the candy machine at the MegaPaca. That is a popular thrift store in Guatemala. This is a big motivator, maybe since they can always improve. Each kid makes it to the top about once a week. They each have been in the red before too... they are normal kids.
This year I decided to go with A Beka curriculum. We went with manuscript  and didn't purchase the Bible or readiness skills. We are doing our own Bible study chronologically. I never did find a curriculum I thought could do better at this level than any mom with pinterest. We have been using this guide as kind of a scope and sequence. 

I'm pretty happy with A Beka so far. I think the review games are pretty goofy, so we come up with our own, but most people don't get to homeschool 2 kids in the same grade, so it does make games different. I am meeting with a Bob Jones rep when we go on furlough. I'm thinking about switching over in about 4th grade, once we have a good phonics foundation. The options can be overwhelming!
 Another missionary mentioned a little hole in the wall teaching store in Guatemala City. I haven't found any other store here that had teaching supplies like that one. I picked up this tree set and also a barnyard set. This tree works perfect for our Christian character traits. We highlight a different Christian character trait each month and incorporate an activity every Monday as a review. Focus on the Family Canada has some excellent character trait curriculum for free. Seriously, it is SO GOOD. I also supplement with some free links from this website. We started with Diligence. That was perfect for Silas, who most things come easy for and occasionally when they don't he gives up. Not any more. They mention diligence to me several times a week now and talk about how they really didn't want to do something, but they faithfully finished it. Yay! If I catch them exhibiting the current character trait in class they get an apple in their barrel. At the end of the school day they trade in their apples for gumballs. Currently we are on Humility. That one was a little harder to explain. They stuck all the apples on the tree that had traits that exhibit humility and all the apples on the ground they decided were rotten because they have prideful traits written on them.
This is the barnyard set. We made it into a vowel farm. We begin each phonics lesson by singing Old MacDonald with short vowel sounds. This is a hit. If I forget, they fuss at me... that's probably an annoying homeschool kid trait, correcting the teacher. We'll work on that, ha!
 I ordered this pocket calendar on Amazon. It was $15, and it is worth every penny. My kids like most 4 year olds have no concept of days and time. This has helped. They like moving the cards around. The back of all the cards have Spanish on them. Perfect for us!
This is the back of our classroom. Those big windows help with the heat too! I stained the shelves that were in the boys' bedroom and moved them into our school room, along with all of their books and any education toy that we could use. This shelf separates the desks station from our table and reading stations... I know sounds so official. Moving around from station to station during the day helps them stay focused. And they love official sounding things, it makes it seem super special.
You can kind of see our felt finger puppets on the shelf too. We use them in our puppet theater to retell our Bible stories. I am slowly adding to our collection as I have time.
The theater is made out of fleece, which I picked up on furlough too, since I haven't found it here before. I guess a lot of planning went into this room! 

2 of those cubbies on the shelf are Eden's. She has toys that I only let her play with during class and she loves coloring, so that burns up a lot of time usually. She moves around to the different stations with us and is learning her letters too.
 I try and let her participate in a lot of the things we do unless it holds the boys back. She has been pretty understanding so far, although she did not appreciate that she didn't get a pencil box the first day of school! Having her own desk helps.
 About a year ago Jimmy found this fabric wall map at the MegaPaca too. I think they get a lot of floor samples from toy stores or something. It is a FAO Schwarz brand, regularly $80, that Jimmy got for $10. It looks brand new. Crazy! Velcro sticks to it, so I'm sure we will be making all kinds of cool things to go along with our studies in the years to come. I moved the rug from the boys' room too, to make our reading area. The giant pillows were another MegaPaca find. I have only covered one so far, but eventually there will be lots of colors.
 It kind of creeps me out though, so I usually check behind the pillows before we sit down. Just in case there is something hiding there!
 The table was our old dining room table. I picked up the cable from Ikea a long time ago to hang their work from on our back wall.
I picked up these stamps the furlough I gave birth to the boys on. It was my first step to embracing homeschool! During handwriting time I pick their very best letter and it gets a stamp. The littlest things are the biggest deal to them!
{Labeling the days of creation at our table station;)}
{Creating the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil}
Class usually last about an hour and a half to 2 hours. Thanks to the curriculum, it only takes me about 15 minutes to prep every day. About one day a week I invest a couple hours into printing off free games or creating activities from scratch that might help them in an area they are struggling. MaG gave us a laminating machine. It is a wonderful tool for homeschool. In this environment, paper stays wet, so it is nice to invest a lot of time into something I know we will be able to preserve and use for a long time.
{Some of our manipulatives and games}
  The boys were super excited about their first day of school. I hadn't let them in the room for a couple days as I finished setting things up.
We have kept up the excitement over the last 3 weeks. I thought once we hit blends, it might be the end of the honeymoon period, but we regrouped and conquered! They still ask for school each morning.
Our school is so fun even Lucha and Bags want to attend, haha!
Lucha is excellent in school, Bags kind of stinks at it... she lives in the red.
While homeschool isn't for everyone, it is what God has chosen for us. I started off dreading it, but my perspective has changed completely in the last couple years. We always start off each class with prayer and thank God for giving us this time together. 

We have school mascots and they aren't dogs. We don't have a false ceiling in the school room yet and the kids' rooms on the other side of the half wall do not have windows in them yet (the kids sleep in Jimmy's office.) There is a family of bats that live at the pitch of our roof! They sleep during our class. Kind of neat! They start flying around about 6pm.

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