May 11, 2017

Top 10 Fidgets for Sensory Kids or Kinesthetic Learners



I'm homeschooling a sensory kiddo who is also a kinesthetic learner. She learns completely opposite from me. I quickly saw that if her hands aren't moving, it's more difficult for her to take in new information. She's also particular about textures. Below is a list of fidgets we have found that help keep her hands busy so her brain can be open. In fact, she asked me to write this post to help other mamas or teachers with kiddos who learn like she does. Click on each image to learn more or view the detailed list at the end of this post. 

1. 2. 3.

4. 5. 6.

7. 8. 9.

10.

  1. Fidget Spinner
  2. Cube Bot
  3. Fidget Cube
  4. Stick bot
  5. Galaxy Slime
  6. Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty
  7. Tangle Jr. 
  8. Lego Creative
  9. Tangram Puzzles
  10. Play Foam

May 3, 2017

A New Approach to Homeschool

Many of you are curious about our new homeschool approach because it's been working out so amazingly well.

Basically, I threw all the curriculum out the window. Wait! What!?!? Let me explain.

I've always been fascinated by Maria Montessori and her approach. In fact, for the 3 years that we were in the public school system, Skylar attended a Montessori school. Here's a basic overview.
The teacher, child, and environment create a learning triangle. The classroom is prepared by the teacher to encourage independence, freedom within limits, and a sense of order. The child, through individual choice, makes use of what the environment offers to develop himself, interacting with the teacher when support and/or guidance is needed.
Montessori education is designed to awaken interest and to allow children to pursue learning about issues that personally interest them. This is necessary to a system that is based on intrinsic motivation; a drive to action that is rewarded by doing the activity itself, rather than deriving some external reward from it. 
I wasn't ever quite brave enough to offer student-directed learning at home until now. Being the "Type A" that I am, I felt the need to have a specific curriculum for each subject that I could use to teach her. A checklist of sorts. The idea of student-directed learning led me to believe she would choose to play her iPad all day, every day. I wasn't having that. 

During our 3+ year journey of homeschooling so far, It has become apparent that Skylar's best teacher is actually herself. When left to her own choosing, she is surprisingly curious, inventive, creative, and thirsty to learn. Best of all, what she studies sticks with her!

Still, I was hesitant. Student-directed learning isn't traditional. Some groups call it "unschooling" and some people have very strong and unfavorable feelings about that word. Mainstream isn't really my jam and many of my life choices have been frowned upon over the years, so choosing to do something "alternative" isn't really new to me. If I am passionate about anything, it's advocating for my kiddo. I've always said we would continue homeschooling as long as it was a good fit for our family. The flexibility of homeschooling definitely works well for us but I had a sinking feeling that our curriculum-based approach wasn't the best fit for my girl. So I changed.


By now, you might be wondering what a student-directed homeschool day looks like. They look a lot like life. It also looks a lot like the book If You Give a Pig a Party. One experience leads to another and another and another. It's the "a spark creates a fire" mentality. My job is to offer materials that will create an interest and then fan the flame and watch her consume that subject/topic/experience. Rinse. Repeat.

There's a neat method called "strewing" that I've been using quite a bit.
Strewing is the art of allowing your child to discover something you have casually left out.
The basic concept is to leave interesting objects, materials, or combinations of things out as a quiet invitation to your child to notice it, touch it, explore it, use it and most importantly, have fun in the process.
There are no rules to strewing, other than to strew widely and diversely.
If I could add one other "rule" for strewing, it would be to strew with no expectations. The whole point is to get a child to bite off on something naturally out of their own curiosity. It shouldn't be forced or coerced. I put out a lot of things that she never even touches, which is fine. Because when she does find something that interests her, it takes over the day. I love watching her learn with glee!

I've been keeping notes in my same little homeschool planner about what we do each day. Much to my surprise, she is still covering all of the major subjects. Yes, including math. Here's a small sampling of the educational experiences she's had in the last few weeks.

  • Researched chickens and wrote a report on her findings.
  • Learned about the different types of dinosaurs and created her own flip book. 
  • Played with Snap Circuits. 
  • Read countless fiction books. 
  • Studied George Washington Carver. 
  • Completed two Life of Fred Mathematics books. 
  • Did a Geometry workbook.
  • Cooked dinner for us. 
  • Read poetry. 
  • Animal husbandry (chickens, dogs, birds, turtles, butterflies).
  • Created her own essential oil tick spray. 
  • Lots of crafts & art projects. 
  • Decided she wanted a gerbil and has been using fun facts to try and persuade me. Daily. 
  • Working her way through a book of at-home science experiments. 
  • Planted seeds in the greenhouse with our neighbor and has been checking the sprouts regularly.
  • Egg drop construction contest. 
  • Watched a documentary on abstract art. 
  • Taught herself how to play several songs out of an old piano book. 

I have been amazed at all she has accomplished of her own free will and imagination. It's truly fascinating! Looking ahead, we still plan to participate in our current co-op next year. She enjoys the elective classes and she's made a few sweet friends there too.We are also still with our original umbrella school. 

Back when we first decided to homeschool, my main goals were to 1) capture her heart 2) teach her life skills. That's it! Granted, we were in measly first grade, so I wasn't too concerned about "curriculum." It was more about learning to read and write. 

In the last few months, I've felt a renewed commitment to pursue her heart.  I feel like we are rapidly approaching the Tween years and it's more important to me that she feel deeply connected so we can have those hard conversations when they arise. It's also vital to me that she has a firm foundation for her faith. Truly, in the grand scheme of things, not much else matters. I'm serious! 

Now, the next obvious questions are about graduating high school, going to college, and getting a job.  I get it. I wondered about those things too. Here is a sampling of articles I discovered in my research that helped put my mind at ease. 

  1. How Do Unschoolers Turn Out
  2. 30+ Life Skills That Aren't Taught in School but Largely Affect Our Lives
  3. Hackschooling Makes Me Happy
  4. "Unschooled" Kids Do Just Fine in College
  5. Unschoolers Learn What They Want, When They Want
  6. How Self-Directed Learning Can Benefit Every Student
As always, we will continue down this path until it isn't benefiting our family and then re-evaluate, but I'm really excited to see how her knowledge and skills progress. After all, a custom-tailored education is the ultimate beauty of homeschooling.  

April 30, 2017

April 2017 in Pictures

 Special Treats from Uncle Bennie
 Crafting Day in Bluff Ridge
 Lego Mini Build
 Muscadine Jelly with Aunt Sheila
Finished her quilt 
 Our 1st day of getting 6 eggs!
 First Lake Trip
 Oh how we love being on the lake with our buddies. 
 Hanging outside on Easter
 Love my sweet little family!
 Made me so happy to find all the cousins hanging out and playing in the living room. 
 Grandma & D-Dad and all the kiddos!
Skylar & our neighbor heading to the greenhouse to check their seedlings. 
 We had a hard rain and ended up with a lake in our front yard. Metro Water is coming this month to spruce up our storm drainage. 
Skylar & Max are big buddies! 
My girl racked UP at Field Day!

April 2017 Update


This month started with the homeschool conference. I've been considering a new approach to homeschool for 5th grade (more on this soon) so I wondered if I even needed to attend this year. I went anyway and I'm so glad that I did. As always, it was just the encouragement that I needed. I walked away feeling super confident in my decision, refreshed, and renewed. Plus, I found some pretty neat goodies.

Skylar ended up going back to Alabama for another week this month (have I mentioned how much I love the flexibility of homeschooling?) Once again, she had a blast! Between crafting, quilting, playing, cooking, and eating up all of Uncle Bennie's desserts, she didn't really want to come home. This girl gets spoiled rotten while she is there! She loves my Bama friends & family and they adore her too. We are planning for her to stay almost 2 weeks this summer and it's hard to say who's more excited, her or them.

We hosted our first family gathering at the BFF for Easter and it was so much fun! This house and land really are perfect! The open floor plan and room to roam just make it super easy to entertain. We popped up tables and ate buffet style. Then the adults hid eggs for all the kiddos. They spread them out so well that I think we actually lost a few. I'm sure they will turn up at some point. Then we had our annual hard-boiled egg baseball in the front yard. We even dyed eggs from our very own chickens this year. So fun! It felt so good to have everyone at our home together and I was so sad when they had to leave. My heart was so full and content this Easter!

Mike has been working an insane amount of hours and overnights this month so I've just been doing my best to hold down the fort. We are slowly but surely getting more small projects checked off the list. The problem is that it is an ever-growing and seemingly never ending list. Oh the joys of a 60+ year old farm. As busy as the month has been we did manage to sneak out on the lake one afternoon. It's nice being so close. We even found a new marina that has better food than all the others. I think I'm going to like it on this side of the lake. :)

At this point we've met most of our immediate neighbors but the ones next door are our favorites. Skylar has really buddied up with them and they have embraced us too. I'm thankful for them. Having good neighbors really can make all the difference in the world.

On the animal front, our chickens are doing well and laying a decent amount of eggs every day. We've got a good little free-ranging routine and have been selling our extra eggs for $4 a dozen. It at least helps me pay for chicken feed. Last week Grandma and D-Dad's dog came to hang with us at the BFF while they were away on vacation. We also saw several turkeys, including a Tom, strutting around the yard. Our neighbor also told us he spotted a small bobcat. Yikes! This week, we found an abandoned baby bird who we are trying to nurse back to health. There's just never a dull moment around here!

Softball practice has started and games begin in a few weeks. I played ball all the way from Sweetie League through High School and swore that I would never again spend my Saturdays at the ballpark. Heaven help me. Mamas, never say never. Murphy thought he would make it even more fun because we also are scheduled for our regular weekly practice on Saturdays too. Oh the things I do for this kid. She seems to be enjoying it so far but she's always enjoyed the team aspect of any sport. We'll see what she says when it's hotter than blazes and we are playing a double header. Sigh.

On Friday we had our Co-Op Field Day. I was thankful I was assigned to Skylar's age group so I could see her participate in all of the different activities. She had a great day and came home with 11 ribbons. She always loved Field Day when we were at Stanford so I'm thankful we found a group can still do that with.

Next month me and tLG and taking a little road trip with K-Diddy. I can't wait for that!

For more pictures and details from April, click here.

March 31, 2017

March 2017 Update

Y'all. I'm not sure if I have mentioned this yet or not, but I love the BFF!

We've been here about 6 weeks and it just gets better and better every day. It has been exquisitely functional for our needs. There were so many times in the building process that I would have to make a decision and thought "Eek, I sure hope this works out." I haven't regretted a single decision so far! 

My mom came at the beginning of the month and helped me decorate and now it feels super homey. We went from wood to a house and now we have a home. My style is what I would refer to as "minimal." If it doesn't serve a purpose and a function, I don't really see the point in owning it. Stuff on walls or sitting on tables? It's all "pretty crap" if you ask me.

We worked so hard to make this home beautiful so I new the decor was a necessary evil to complete the look. Just so you know, decorating is HARD work!  Mom and I shopped til we dropped two days in a row and got the majority of our entire house decorated in ONE weekend. Whew! Turns out I actually like "pretty crap" after all. Each room is transforming as we add little touches of decor here and there.  It's still pretty minimal but it's just enough and I might be biased, but, I think it's gorgeous! I have never in my life owned a home that I thought was magazine worthy. The BFF will never be featured in Southern Living (because we, um, LIVE here - and, also, my 10 year old is a tiny hoarder) but it's closer than I've ever been before so I'll take it. :) 

My Dad came a few weeks later and helped us with some outdoor projects.  My hammock is my new happy place (seriously, it's divine) and Skylar has a tree swing. He even transplanted 6 elderberry bushes straight from the Circle S Ranch. Yes, that's right, my family has a thing for naming our properties. We also finished up the chicken coop. Having chickens has been on my list forever 'cause we eat a lot of eggs!

Skylar got her expander this month, which is the precursor to braces in our case. She wasn't a fan of the speech impediment that it gave her so, I kid you not, she spoke with an accent for 3 days straight. She's actually pretty good. And also hilarious! I was kinda sad when she decided to finally learn to work around it and speak normally. I promise you won't regret taking the time to watch this!
After the craziness of the last few months, this mama was T-I-R-E-D both physically and especially mentally. Skylar decided she wanted to go back to Alabama with my Dad for a week and I exhaled a huge sigh of relief. I needed a break and she needed some one-on-one attention, which is exactly what happens at Grandparent Camp. She is so lucky to have so many that love her in Bama. It's more like Grandparent-Aunt-Uncle-Cousin Camp and I'm thankful for each individual who invests time into my girl. She adores it!

I ran down to Birmingham to pick up tLG and was also able to attend a family wedding. We had the best time at the reception. I'm sure you are shocked (NOT!) to learn that Skylar was the first one on the dance floor and the first one in line for cake. I can't get enough of her personality sometimes. She is her own little being. 

Before heading back home I went with Dad to "see a man about some chickens" and brought 9 hens back to Nashville. It was fine until about Huntsville and then my car smelled like a barnyard for the next 2 hours. Lawsy mercy. I'm sure that story will be one of many in my adventures of chicken farming. Our coop really only has room for 6 so we adopted out 3 of them to my friend Sarah at The FancyPants Farmyard. All of the chickens are settling in rather nicely. In fact, they've already given us a dozen eggs.

What's next for the BFF? Mike and his Dad are going to start on a front porch this weekend. Then it's gutters and exterior paint. Isn't home ownership grand and glamorous? Ha! Another big project for this year is a garage. I've almost got the wood chips spread on my garden but I don't think we will be planting anything until this fall. I love gardening with all of my heart but it's a process. Moving to a new spot is basically like starting all over again from scratch. In the grand scheme of, I don't know - the rest of my life, missing one summer of gardening is not that big of a deal. Not to worry. I'm sure I'll have some bucket plants and herbs up near the house just to appease me. Some days it still feels overwhelming to think of all the things we need to do and then there's my "want" list. Then I remember just how far we've come. 

I can't leave this post without mentioning that I took a little ride in an ambulance this month. It was with one of my doula clients who had quite a precipitous birth. I can't even tell you how much I grow to love and respect each of the families that I work with. This family was a repeat client and both of their birth stories were very memorable! Doula work is a lot of things but no one can never say that it's not interesting. :) 

March 2017 in Pictures


So thankful for mom coming to help us decorate our house!
AFTER: Kitchen
AFTER: Living Room


My daddy installed my hammock and it's my new favorite place. 
Wood chips have been delivered!
With her bud Levi at Jaxon's party
Skylar helping with wedding prep
Angie was one of my favorite cousins when I was growing up! 
Skylar feels the exact same way about her. :)
Dancing at the wedding
Remodel building blocks. ;) 
 Holding one of my sweet doula babies. Love this family!
A sweet friend of mine made and shipped this to me. I transferred all of our old growth marks for Skylar. It's a perfect addition to the BFF. 
 
Quilting with Aunt Sheila. She's pretty good!
Picking up our new chickens. 
Drove 3.5 hours with chickens in the back of my SUV. 
The best egg collector, ever! 
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