Kindergarten – Taylor Style

Several weeks ago, Lydia began her first “real” year of school. We handled preschool pretty casually, mostly teaching her the letters and some very beginner reading. This year we have a much more structured school day, and everybody is loving it.

For those who are curious, I’m primarily using a book called Learning at Home. This is a day-by-day curriculum that includes Bible, Reading, Math, Art, Gym, Story-time, Music, God’s World (science, geography, community), Health/Manners, Character Building, and Field Trips. The lessons are set up in a casual “talk to your child” sort of format, also using a lot of library books as resources. It’s an older book (1988), so last year I “previewed” all of the library books and made my own substitutions where books were out or print, they were unavailable from the library, or I didn’t approve of them for some reason or another. I had also started Lydia with An Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading last year, so I’m subbing that for the reading lessons.

We have spent so much time talking about, researching, and getting Lydia pumped up for Kindergarten, that everyone was really excited on the first day of school.

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Because we want our children to learn how to spend time alone reading the Bible and praying each day, Lydia starts her school day by listening to ten minutes or so of her Word and Song Bible (This is our favorite audio story Bible, but it’s sadly out of print, so you have to find it used. The books are cheap on Amazon or Ebay and the sound files are available on iTunes.)

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Then we plunge right in. I printed off these daily Calendar pages from Confessionsofahomeschooler.com and the girls love filling them out. It’s totally extra and lately we haven’t even been doing them, but the girls love it when we do.

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I love how hands-on the activities are. Every day Lydia is excited to see what she gets to do.

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Since math is my favorite subject, I’ve found myself tailoring that subject to fit Lydia’s speed and interests a little better.

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Once a week I have Lydia draw a picture and narrate for her journal and once a week I have her do a few pages in a handwriting workbook.

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Paul and Abby just kind of tag along with whatever Lydia is doing.

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Our field trips have certainly made for some fun weekends. So far we’ve visited the zoo, a harvest festival, the Ann Arbor children’s hands-on museum, and an apple orchard to pick apples. Most of the pictures are still on my camera, but here’s a fun one of the closest hippo encounter we’ve ever had. 🙂

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How I’m “Taking it Easy” with Littles

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A question that keeps popping up more and more is, “How exactly are you taking it easy. You have two little kids…”. So today I’ll share the little details of how exactly we’re keeping me off my feet (as much as possible). The short answer is: Dan does almost everything. The only way I know to answer the question in any real detail is to give a snapshot of our typical day.

Before I wake up…

Dan gets up early and does some work from home. Some days he exercises in the garage, and every morning he also empties the dishwasher and puts away clean dishes.

7:30 Bible Time

Nothing has changed here. Every morning Lydia joins me as I read, pray, and memorize to start the day.

8:00 Put away folded laundry, pick out girls’ clothes, get dressed, clean bathroom

So far it doesn’t sound like I’m taking it easy, does it? Every evening Dan carries up a laundry basket full of folded laundry. I put this away, and while I’m putting away the bathroom towels I also get dressed and clean the bathroom.

Now, there are a couple tricks here. First of all, I have a pretty efficient laundry folding method which I’ll share below. Secondly, I only clean one part of the bathroom a day (Monday – sink, Tuesday – shower, Wednesday – wash towels, Thursday – toilet, Friday – mirror, empty trash, refill soap as needed) and on days when it’s looking good or I’m not feeling particularly up for it, I just skip it.

8:15 First trip downstairs to make breakfast

I make a simple breakfast and get it on the table. Lydia goes potty and gets dressed in the clothes I just picked out for her. To simplify things, I let Lydia pick out her outfits (She requests what she wants the night before. This is something she started doing this on her own to make sure she only was wearing the clothes she wanted to wear.) and she typically rotates through the same two or three so they never even make it back to her dresser.

Dan brings down Abby, changes her diaper, and gets her dressed. Then he puts her in her high chair before praying for our day and heading off to work. (Except on Wednesdays, he stays home and works upstairs)

While Dan gets Abby ready, I throw some laundry in the washer from the hamper that Dan brings downstairs each morning.

8:30 Breakfast

Sit and eat.

9:00 Bible time with the girls

Just like before, we read from Lydia and Abby’s story Bibles, pray, and practice a Bible verse memory song.

9:15 Breakfast clean-up-ish, and computer time

I don’t really clean up from meals any more. I simply stack the dishes while I’m sitting at the table, then put them on or next to the sink. They pile up all day for Dan to take care of later. While I’m on my feet I put away any food from breakfast and switch the laundry clothes to the drier. We brush our teeth and the girls play while I do some work on the computer: budgeting, blogging, emailing, or meal-planning (still at the dining room table usually).

This is when Lydia often plays dress up or looks at library books. Abby crawls around to see what sort of messes she can make. Her favorites are to pull laundry out of hampers and to take all the shoes off of our shoe rack. When that’s done, she will spread toys all over the living room and pull books off shelves.

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10ish Move to couch

Next we’ll spend an hour or two just reading various library books. We’ll read some picture books but we’ve also been reading through the Little House on the Prairie series. If Lydia thinks of it and asks for a snack, I’ll take a break from sitting to get a quick snack for the girls (bread, crackers, or fruit). I don’t even bother to put Abby in her high chair anymore, she just eats on the floor. Less lifting.

Sometimes I’ll do a small “school” activity with Lydia. Then, it’s back to reading.

12:00 Lunch

Leftovers.

1:00 Lunch Clean-up-ish and fold laundry

Sometimes I don’t even clean up from lunch, but I try to stack the dishes and put away leftover food.

I pull the laundry from the drier and sit on the floor while the girls play. Here’s that laundry technique I mentioned previously. First I sort all the laundry into piles based on where it belongs: bathroom, girls’ closet, Lydia’s dresser, Abby’s dresser etc. Then I fold room by room starting with the bathroom and working my way backwards toward our room. That way, when it’s time to put the laundry away I’m not running back and forth from room to room. It’s already piled by location starting in our bedroom and working its way to the bathroom, where I also get dressed.

It’s all about optimizing the time I spend on my feet and avoiding any running back-and-forth.

1:30 Naps

Now I take my first trip upstairs for the day, put Abby in her crib and warn Lydia not to get off her bed during nap time. They play for a long time before falling asleep, so naptime can easily stretch throughout most of the afternoon. I usually read for a while before napping myself.

Oh, and on days when Dan is home, I just stay downstairs all day and nap on the couch. Dan takes care of anything that requires a trip up or down.

4ish Dan is home

I leave the girls in their room, awake or not, until Dan comes home early from work around 4. When he gets home, I make my second trip downstairs. Dan carries Abby downstairs and helps get Lyda and Abby a snack (this time putting Abby in her high chair).

4:30ish

Listen to Adventures on Odyssey with Lydia while lounging in the living room again.

5ish Prepare main course for dinner

Often while sitting on a stool, I’ll cook up a simple dish for dinner. Then I go back to the living room and read while Dan comes down and does everything else…

6 or 6:30ish Dinner

Dan sets the table (clears it from lunch if necessary), prepares a salad, changes any necessary diapers, and gets everyone to the table to eat. We eat and have Bible time.

7:30 Get ready for Bed

Now I move to the couch for the rest of the night while Dan does everything yet again. He changes Abby’s diaper, gets the girls into pajamas and brushes their teeth and tucks them in. Then he clears the table, cleans the high chair and floor, loads the dishwasher, and washes any other dishes. Every other night he washes diapers. Two or three times a week he bakes bread (in our breadmaker). As needed he washes counters and our stove, and takes out the trash. Some nights he changes the sheets or cleans the floors. After all that, he works until late into the night because his work has been demanding more from him lately.

Yes, Dan does a lot. He really deserves an award.

9:30ish

I move upstairs (my second time up those steps in a day) and get ready for bed. Usually I stay up reading until I’m tired enough to fall asleep.

Whew, and there’s a typical day.

Weekends

Dan gets up early and does all the grocery shopping. On Sundays and Wednesday nights he takes care of the girls single-handedly while I sit and listen to Bible study or church. On those occasions Dan drops me off and I find my chair and sit there until we leave several hours later (with potty breaks occasionally, I am pregnant after all!).

Helpers

Lydia is a big helper in all of this. She plays independently, puts away bibs after I fold laundry, and is constantly running on errands for me to find out what Abby’s doing or getting into. She picks things up for me and puts things away, and goes potty all by herself even though she hates to do it.

There is also a young lady from church who has volunteered to come over once a week. On Monday afternoons she’ll take the girls outside for some much-needed fresh air. She also sweeps, mops, and vacuums our floors downstairs, saving Dan from yet another weekly chore.

It’s not perfect, but it works.

So many things are far from ideal. The clutter is unbelievable. Our living room is almost always trashed. If I was able to get up and move around freely, I could clean it in about 5 minutes. Last night I asked Lydia to clean it (one object at a time) and it took her 45 minutes. So we don’t do that very often, only when I really can’t take it anymore.

Sometimes I need something that would be so easy to get but would require me to go upstairs or get up on my feet. I try to just suffer through until a convenient moment comes along to ask Dan for help. One day I left my fleece upstairs during my nap time and forgot to bring it downstairs. I was cold all evening but was avoiding another trip up on my feet and Dan was so busy I didn’t want to ask him to get it for me. On many occasions I run out of water during dinner and wait until Dan is on his feet before asking for a refill. It only takes a few seconds, but those with “littles” know how meal times go. With one person taking care of everything by himself…it’s often quite a long time after we pray before Dan even gets to take a bite. Taking care of the two is enough without me adding in extra requests!

So, while it’s a struggle at times, it’s working for now, and I’m able to be off my feet a surprising amount of the time. I will certainly be grateful when I can be fully active again, cleaning the living room and getting my own water! The days go by slowly for me, but each morning is another celebration that Baby isn’t here yet. If we can just make it a couple more weeks…

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…To Grandmother’s House We Go!

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Thursday morning we all got up early, packed our bags, and headed North. I wasn’t very faithful in my picture taking throughout the trip (completely missed Aunt Christina and the cousins, Uncle Nate and Aunt Steph, and Lydia’s great grandparents on my mom’s side), but here’s a glimpse into the good time we had.

A long drive, a fussy baby, some delicious burritos, a visit with Aunt Christina and her boys, and more driving brought us FINALLY to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Lydia loved a special toy from Grandma: an old purse stuffed with sunglasses and a broken cell phone.

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There was a lot of reading.

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And it should be noted that a significant portion of this trip was spent trying to keep Abby from staring at bright lights. You’ll notice in the picture above that she was succeeding.

Lydia gorged herself on homemade guacamole.

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During the Carlson Christmas celebration, Uncle Tim serenaded Abigail with his guitar.

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Lydia got a piano and played us some tunes. The poor piano didn’t fit in our car so we’re waiting for the next visit to bring it home.

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Then Lydia tried her hand at Uncle Tim’s guitar.

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Nana and Papa got in some seriously needed snuggle time with Abby.

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And Nana read more Lydia more books.

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Lydia gorged herself on blueberries too.

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And the great grandparents finally got to meet Abigail.

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It was so good to finally, finally make it up to see everybody and let them see (and read to, play with, and snuggle) the girls. Now we’re all home again, safe and sound. There was a lot of laundry to catch up on and we all needed some good long naps. Traveling with kiddos is no easy task, but the memories will last a lifetime.

Muchkin Update: 2 Years, 3 Months

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When Lydia wasn’t yet two years old, I started writing down monthly “reports” describing the latest things she was learning, saying, or doing. I thought it would be fun to keep a record of how she was growing and changing, and to be able to look back with her later and show her how much we enjoyed her and all the precious things she brought into our lives.

Lydia has made some huge strides in the past month, language-wise! Some of our favorites include her pronunciation of “All finished” when she’s done eating (sounds like “All fiscious!”, and her latest expression of independence, “I do it!”. She also asks me every morning, “Odyssey? Blankey? At Stef?”, which translated means, “Are we going to listen to Adventures in Odyssey while I sit on the blanket and then watch an Aunt Steph vlog?”. The answer, on most days, is “yes”. Whenever we listen to music in the car and the cd gets to the silent gap in between tracks, Lydia almost always asks, “More?”

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Lydia is back to loving her books. She often asks us to read to her (“Book?”) and can even identify some of the books with a name. A favorite is called Grandma’s Are for Giving Tickles, which she just calls, “Gramma”. It has flaps, and she is starting to memorize, not only what picture is under each flap, but the writing under the flaps as well. So, when I open the hop scotch flap, she says, “No cheating!” When I open the flap that shows a fireplace scene with hot cocoa, she says, “Cocoa”. And when I open the flap where Grandma is sending grandson out to play in the snow, she says, “Have fun!” She also enjoys reading her First Words book and identifying an impressive number of the pictures inside. She has another book with flaps, but it also has buttons that make sounds. For each flap there is a picture that matches a picture on a button, and Lydia can successfully match every flap to the corresponding button without help.

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Lydia loves the playground. We are sad to think that, once we move, we will no longer be within walking distance of a playground. So I’ve been trying to take Lydia there extra to get some time in. She just recently started going down the tunnel-slide by herself, and has even done one of the bigger twirly slides. Recently Lydia went down the tunnel-slide 13 times in a row! I noticed that she followed the exact same routine every time.

Lydia sits down on the slide, on her knees.
Lydia: Sit down!
Tries to pull her feet out in front of her.
Lydia: Feet first!
Gets stuck.
Lydia: Stuck!
Gets unstuck
Lydia: Ready?!
Goes down slide. Gets up. Looks up the slide.
Lydia: Me?
Dan: You want me to come down?
Lydia: Yeah
Dan comes down slide.
Lydia runs back around to the spot where Dan lifts her up to the top.
Lydia: Again!

I don’t know if it’s an age-thing, a phase-thing, or a personality-thing, but Lydia really likes repetition and routine. (Maybe she takes after me!) It will be fun to see if she grows out of it or if it sticks with her.

 photo slide_zps1d9312b8.jpgAs always, Lydia is super sweet. Yes, independent, feisty, stubborn, but super sweet. She’s almost always smiley and giggly, doesn’t get down even if others around her are, and loves meeting and watching other kids at the park. Sometimes, without a nap for a couple of busy days, she’ll get emotional and whiney. But as soon as she gets her rest, she’s her perky, happy, giggly self. She loves playing games, being tickled, pretending, helping, cuddling when she’s sleepy, and watching baseball. At the end of her Grandma book, the last page talks about giving Grandma a big hug and Lydia will say “Big Hug!” then turn and give the reader a big hug (and anyone else nearby). And this week, for the first time, when I tucked her in for a nap and said “I love you”, she shouted back “I luff oo!”.