Our First Field Trip - The Library

The books we chose for our Universe study this week.
Today we entered our 3rd week of homeschool and decided to take our first field trip to the Dorchester County Library! I'm embarrassed to say it has been 4 years since I have been to that library. How do I know it's been that long? I know because as I checked with the librarian to see if I already had a library card on file she told me that I did...and that it had a $15 fine on it from 2009! Appalled that she would think I could ever accrue such fines and then leave them unpaid, I questioned what items would have that sort of a fee attached. She read the titles of the DVD's I checked out in 2009: Showboat, Hello, Dolly, and Man of La Mancha. Really? I guess it couldn't been worse. I paid my fine and ended up with a brand new library card and a fresh start at this facility. The kids got cards, too. 

So, next, like any new homeschool teacher, I just HAD to make this trip more complicated than it needed to be. It has to be a field trip. I need an agenda. I need to document. So I had the genius idea of asking the receptionist if we could have a tour. The kids paid no attention to the nice librarian who was explaining their set up and systems. They zeroed in on the two tiny computers in the far corner of the room and it was all over. I have to say that the tour was mainly for me anyway. I learned a lot. Overall, we all enjoyed the library. The check out system is a lot cooler than it used to be and I love that you can check out an unlimited amount of books and movies FOR FREE - other than the whole $15 fine thing. Field trip #1 - Success!

Sammy's Library Choices:
Star Wars Episode I
Star Wars Revenge of the Sith
Goodnight, Me
and a Ninjago DVD

Maddie's Library Choices:
The Princess Encyclopedia
The Broken Cat 
and The Reef DVD



One of my favorite verses is Lamentations 3:23 which says, "Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning." All I have to say is, thank you, God! No matter what happened the day before, we are promised his mercies for a new day today and, even better, a new one tomorrow, too! 

I went to bed last night more prepared for this morning than I was the previous night. I actually read the lessons, set out my material, and prepared activities for the kids to complete during individual instruction time. But I still went to bed less excited than I was the night before. Day 1 was not a disaster but it didn't meet my expectations. Thankfully, the Lord's mercies were new this morning and so were the kids' because they showed up just as excited and ready to go as the day before.

View From the Teacher's Desk
I mixed things up completely today and asked the kids what they liked and disliked at the end of the day. I was surprised to hear their answers. They both agreed that they liked that everything (materials, assignments, etc) were "right there" next to them. They didn't like when I went searching for things the day before. What? You mean my kids like order? and organization? Wonder where they get that?! I think kids, in general, appreciate the adults around them being "in order" which is why I SO respect all the teachers out there with their awesome classroom management techniques and ideas. Ya'll are awesome because it is definitely a challenge to "entertain" more than one kid at a time! Ya'll are rock stars. I think homeschool teachers are rock stars, too, because they can teach their OWN kids - which is a whole other kind of challenge! We are slowly, but surely, creating our own unique "table management" and have cut down on some of the crazy moments where they both need my full attention or where one wants to sing and hum while the other needs Pandora radio or peace and quiet.

So, here are some things we did well today...
  1. They get some TV time in the morning. I know this is silly but since we cut out TV and electronics during the school day it has really thrown off our routine. They aren't allowed to touch an iPhone, iPad, computer, DS, game console, or TV until 3:30 each day (then I'm begging them to go watch something!). BUT today I allowed them to watch an educational Netflix show (we cut cable) while they ate breakfast. So they could choose something like "Magic School Bus," or "Veggie Tales," or "Leapfrog," or something like that. And that's all they needed. A 20-minute show as soon as they got up was enough to wake them up, start the day off fun, and satisfy any desire for technology!
  2. They get one "homework" assignment per day (that word seems strange to say now). Last night's homework was for them to show up at breakfast with a book. So, we started our morning by reading their books on the couch. These books all go onto a reading list or get written in my planner. I think they like having a "job" or "responsibility." It's also a bit of a "freedom" for them since I pick most of their activities and books now.
  3.  We created a new schedule! It goes something like this:
    • Breakfast/Netflix
    • Homework Assignments (read their books, show-and-tell, or whatever it is)
    • Math (Sammy) & Mystery Basket (Maddie)
    • Reading/Writing (Maddie) & Mystery Basket (Sammy)
    • Science
    • Snack time/Quick free time (they get 10-15 minutes and I do a quick cleanup from the morning and refill my 4th cup of coffee)
    • ELA (Sammy) & Unit Activity (Maddie)
    • Unit Activity (Sammy) & Piano (Maddie)
    • Piano (Sammy) & Make lunch (Mommy and Maddie)
    • Lunch
    • Nap time (Maddie) & Quiet Reading Time (Sammy)
    • Free time/ Digi-play
  4. I added in planning time during the school day so I wouldn't have to do it all at 9:00pm every night when I'm exhausted. Once we finish a subject, and while they're beginning their next assignment, I go ahead and read the next day's lesson and get my materials ready. Then I file the book away until tomorrow and am done with it. The planner already has my weekly plans written but as far as actually gathering the materials and supplies for science, etc, it's easier to do while my mind is on that subject.
  5. Keeping random stuff. You know all those random Chic-fil-a kid projects you have a million of or those Highlights "hidden picture" calendars you find from two years ago in your junk pile or Dollar $tore activity books you pick up here and there. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back now for keeping them. The kids' Mystery Baskets today included one of the hidden picture calendars (sure, from March 2011) and a Color Wonders activity pad with markers. They both enjoyed the activity even though it was a little tough for Maddie and both activities were enough to fill the time. So keep all that random stuff. One day you'll need it and they'll think it's the coolest stuff ever.
I think that's it for today. The kids both expressed that they had a great day. I feel better because the flow was completely different with everything set out and ready and with backup activities planned. I know tomorrow may be a completely different story because we all wake up with completely different moods and expectations, but one thing is forever the same day to day: His mercies. Other versions say His compassions. I know I need them. Looking forward to that one constant as we start each morning.

Teacher's Pets


I Got Schooled...

Forget everything you know about Crystal McCall; she did not show up today for the first day of
homeschool. The girl who showed up today had no schedule, no written lesson plan, no procedures for classroom management, and no clue her kids would eat her alive for breakfast. She has more long-term and short-term planning spreadsheets than can be counted. She has lists of fun activities, Pinterest projects, lesson plan ideas, and advice from others. You'll find organized baskets of books by grade and age and subject. But did ANY of these things get incorporated into her first day of homeschool? Nope.

Mistake: No game plan. I don't know what happened. I got so excited to start school I didn't plan my first day! I kept thinking, "I'll have time!" and everyone kept saying, "You've got time!" but this girl ran out of time. I fumbled through each subject, reading the lesson for the first time as I read it to the kids. I prepped project pieces as the kids were trying to work on them. Yes, a few this is boring's were even uttered by my perfect, sweet Sammy! Maddie went to time out twice for talking back and being disobedient. I had NOTHING for the kids to do while I took turns teaching them individually. I wasn't prepared for "mommy," "ok, mom, check mine," "mommy, this isn't right," "mom," "mom, do you like this?," "mommy, how do you do this?," "mom," "mommy," "MOM," "Mooooommm!" I felt defeated in the first few hours.

Blessing: Then there was snack time. Oh, how I love snack time. The kids were SO excited to get a break (even though all they had done so far was color, listen to stories, write a few letters, and do a little math). By this point I already had a million ideas for what I'd do differently the next day. I started writing some of them down and took pics of them below to share. Again, these ideas came AFTER my first day of NOT doing them. I'm going to test them tomorrow.

Mistake: My attitude. The day started out great. It was like Christmas morning. They kids woke up, saw their special surprises, ate breakfast of their choice (a Publix donut and toaster strudel). We opened our school supplies, walked through our "get up" routine. I read them a few stories. We prayed. Sammy read us a chapter in Genesis. This was all in the first 20 minutes. Then, my attitude of excitement turned to fear as I realized how unprepared I was and I think they could smell the fear in me like wild animals. I made it through without crying by God's grace and the amount of coffee I drank. At the end of the day, I told them that I loved them and that they did really well and learned a lot. Sammy said, "then why doesn't it sound like you mean it?" Ouch. I really did mean it so I didn't know what he meant. He said I sounded like I was glad the day was over. Double ouch. Lesson learned for Mommy. Tomorrow may have to be our "do over" first day of school - at least for my attitude. Today may have actually been a good lesson for me - my enjoyment of this experience must outweigh my worry for planning and perfection.

Blessing: Stickers. Thanks to Pinterest, I picked up some mini composition notebooks and stickers and decided, again AFTER the day was over, to create a behavior sticker book. So I called the kids back over and we decorated their sticker books. About midway into our endeavor Maddie stands up, flings her book aside, and says, "Mommy. I have something for you!" and then she ran and jumped into my arms and said, "you're the best mommy ever! I love you." And then the whole day made sense to me. I got to be their mommy - all day.

ENJOY THE JOUNEY: I saw this sign in TJ Maxx. It really meant something to me, which is the only way I'd spend a whopping $16.99 in TJ Maxx! I know that one day I'll look back and I'm not going to remember a math lesson or science experiment or what was listed on a language arts worksheet. We're not homeschooling because I think I'm a better teacher than those already out there. I'm going to look back and know that I spent the most time influencing these guys as I could. I'm going to remember the journey and all of the special memories we had while enjoying this journey. So, that's our motto, reminder, accountability phrase, whatever you want to call it, for this homeschool year. We are going to enjoy the journey.

School in our PJ's. I could get used to this.

My "too-late-should-have-done-this-today" Ideas for Tomorrow:
A supply basket. Don't have one? Get one! Got tired of looking for these items as I needed them.
My BIGGEST area for needed improvement! Stuff for them to do! I made some "to do" sticks with activities the kids can do for either independent learning time, quiet time, or "leave mommy alone" time. :) Every day they will check their basket and whatever stick is inside, they will do. If it's "Journal," Sammy may either have a journal prompt, question to answer, or the choice to free write. If it's "Worksheet," there will be a folder with their name that holds a fun worksheet inside. Etc. Any ideas are humbly welcomed and appreciated! I'm excited to fill this basket each night for them for the next day!
Working harder every day at cleaning less, playing more and enjoying every opportunity. Special thanks to all of those teachers - both professional in the public school systems and those in the homeschool community for providing me with materials, advice, words of wisdom, prayer, and friendship as I start on this journey. Ya'll are a blessing!

About Me

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I am a local Charlestonian, born and raised in good 'ol South Carolina. I have only been to other surrounding states within a days drive since I refuse to fly in an airplane - so let's see - that includes NC, GA, FL, and I think I may have crossed the border into VA at some point. I've been to the Bahamas 3 times (since you can get there by cruise ship) but one day I hope to visit Mexico. After my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the second love of my life is my high school sweetheart, Matt. We were married at ages 19 and 21 (I'm the younger one) and in the past 8 years have acquired two amazing kids - Sammy and Maddie. We have a fairly new member of the family, Casey, who is a black lab/shepherd/pit bull mix and is very lazy. We "McCall's" have a family motto: "McCall's never give up" (for some reason this has stuck with us all). We all have a passion for music and treasure our family time. Every moment is a gift...