Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Exercise: Creating a Routine on Vacation

I walk daily. I committed myself to this habit almost two years ago. It is challenging to maintain this routine while I'm on vacation. Our vacation has been busy, catching up with friends and family. I've learned the quickest thing to do is to create a routine for exercise as soon as possible.
We are avid campers, so we are staying at a campground. The first few days, we were so busy, I did not walk. I'm at the point with my walking where I feel uncomfortable with not exercising. I had no plan. We had not even explored the campground for me to discover a routine.
Later in the week, we finally encountered some time to investigate the campground. I found a great loop to walk daily. The next day I walked the loop twice. Just discovering a path, led me to a routine. Here are some other suggestions for incorporating an exercise routine on vacation. Staying at a hotel? Find the exercise room right away. Develop a plan and stick to it as best as you can. Try something new, if a treadmill is available, give it a try. Walk an hour a day? Find a path or beach, walk 30 minutes, then turn around and walk back. Is there a pool? Pools are frequently found in summer vacation destinations - swim laps for a change.
Explore, create a plan, develop a routine and commit to it daily.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Simple Pleasure: Swinging

We took a family walk tonight and wrapped up our family time with a trip to the playground. Sitting nearby, quietly with my husband, I enjoyed watching the kids running and playing. They each learned a new skill at the playground tonight. It is exciting to watch them learn something new. They are growing and eager to show us what they have learned. We watch them thoroughly entertained and clap at their achievements. Later, I notice my daughter is swaying on a swing and I join her. Swinging is a simple pleasure - I don't feel too old to swing, although I am usually the only Mom on the playground doing so! My daughter and I are swinging side by side. It is exhilarating to lean back and stretch my feet high in the air. I have that familiar childhood feeling of my feet touching the tree tops. There is a blend of colors - green grass, green tree tops and the blue sky. I love the feeling of moving back and forth. My daughter is delighted beside me and tries to swing higher than me. It's a liberating experience of flying through the air - free. The wind is gently blowing. My daughter is smiling beside me. All feels right with the world. As I move higher, I quickly glance over at the cement anchors in the ground - they are firm and holding me. I feel safe. I am really high now. Finally, at the pinnacle of my simple pleasure, I get that "grown up" feeling of being too high and have butterflies in my stomach. I need to slow down. The vitalizing feeling is over. I slow down and eventually stop, refreshed from my simple pleasure. The kids relish in Mom swinging like a "big kid" and I feel invigorated having acted like one. =)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Homeschool Tools: Write-A-Mat

I love to peruse book stores. I am a complete nerd when it comes to "back to school" supplies. I recently headed to our local teacher's store (an exiting combination for me) for some home school tools. I came across Write-A-Mat. I purchased two - learning cursive and the Presidents of the United States of America, updated with Barack Obama's picture and information. The Presidents Write-A-Mat sits daily at my son's place at the table. At every meal, he moves his plate over and learns about the presidents. He asks me all sorts of questions. He makes comments, like Steve Carell (only known to my son as Evan Baxter in Evan Almighty) looks like Abraham Lincoln.
I found this one tool very helpful in learning and thought some readers may also. Click here for a list of Write-A-Mats, some include: phonics, math (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions), the Planets, telling time, geography (the world map and the United States Map) and music symbols. I also found one for the periodic table. I could have really benefitted from the periodic table mat when in high school and in college!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Traveling and Camping: St. Augustine, Florida

We ventured on a trip to St. Augustine, Florida. I usually do some research on activities, especially for the kids, prior to our trips. This trip planning I left entirely to my husband. We stayed at the North Beach Campground, conveniently located on A1A, right across from the beach. Our campsite was a pull through site, otherwise surrounded by a wooded area on both sides creating a very private and shady area for us.
We did not have a tow vechicle with us. We headed into Historic St. Augustine and not only located RV parking, it was also free! Bus and RV parking is conveniently located off of Orange Street, just below route 1. It was a hot day, luckily we were within walking distance to most of the main attractions, including the shops and restaurants along St. George Street. We entertained ourselves along St. George Street, first stopping for lunch and water replenishment. Along our journey, we visited the Oldest School House and the Spanish Colonial Quarter. As we wandered back to the camper, hot and tired, we stumbled upon a huge playground. Refueled with excitement, the kids begged for some time to stop and play on the playground.
We spent time on the beach, in the waves and walking along the beach searching for treasures. We ate at The Reef, a restaurant across the street from the campground with reasonable prices, good food and an ocean view. After spending some time in St. Augustine, we realized we could include a combination of the Alligator Farm, Lighthouse and beach into another trip.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Homeschooling Field Trip: Fire Museum

Yesterday, we were back in North Charleston at the American LaFrance Fire Museum and Educational Center. Upon entering my son saw an antique fire truck with 2 laterns on it. Excitedly, he shared, "Mom, look laterns - just like on Little House on the Prairie!" Then he took off running. Inside we found 18 restored, antique fire trucks. Each truck had a story to tell.
We read and learned about each truck, noticing the differences and upgrades. The kids could not wait to investigate the educational play area with stairs on one side and a firetruck ladder on the other side. Once you reach the top, you can either slide down the fire pole or head down the slide. All thoughout the museum are mini educational areas - 911 calls, fire prevention, what the inside of a home looks like after a fire and fire equipment, just to name a few.
In the back of the museum is a stage with a 7 minute presentation. On stage, there are different areas of a home. The show highlights those areas of the home and alerts the audience to potential hazards. For example one area is the stove, that area is highlighted and the stove starts smoking. The hazard is discussed as is prevention.
I'm saving the best for last. The kids were thrilled with the fire truck simulator. It's an actual fire truck. A visitor can sit in the front, passenger or back seats. Once inside, buckle up. The driver starts the simulator by touching a side screen twice. The simulator takes you on a real call to an accident scene. The driver drives the truck to the scene. As the driver, not only are you driving, you can also hit the floor button for the siren or hit the horn. Each of the kids did the simulator twice and kept asking to go again!
There is much to learn at the fire museum for adults and children. I did not realize the fire fighters had floor buttons in the fire truck. The passenger does as well. Upon exiting the fire museum, each child receives a plastic fire hat to continue the pretend play at home.
The cost is reasonable, $6 per person. Kids are free under the age of 13 with an accompanying adult! A day at the fire museum proved to be educational and fun!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sharing Sunday Service With Friends

Recently while out of town, I visited a friend's church. We were looking forward to meeting up with friends and seeing what there church had to offer. After initially entering, I was about to enter the sanctuary with my children in tow, when I was stopped by a church member. "Is this your first time here?" I was asked. I said it was. The gentleman suggested I take the kids to the "fabulous" Sunday school during the service. I advised him that they would attend the service with me. He in turn replied, "Well that's okay for today, it being your first time, but next time, the kids attend Sunday school." Oh, I was so rubbed the wrong way! What right does a church member have to tell me that the kids can not attend church service and must attend Sunday school instead? Isn't it our choice?Our home church offers Sunday school before service, then we attend service afterward. On this day, we were going just to service as we were visiting. I didn't feel comfortable just dropping the kids off in a classroom that was new to me with teachers I did not know. So the kids and I go in. Oh, we were also told to sit in the back, in case the kids get antsy. I did reassure this gentleman that the kids attend church regularly and were very familiar with a church service, that they would not be disruptive. On a side note, the kids were eager to check out the new church. One of my kids wondered with me, "I wonder if they'll be a children's sermon!" My other child added, "I wonder if there will be a gum lady!" We have a woman at our home church that gives the children gum after church....that is who my son refers to as the "gum lady." So they will excited to go and curious as to what would happen there. We found a seat in the back. Our friends joined us shortly thereafter. This was a community church and a new experience for me. Big screens were located at the front of the church. Many contempory Christian songs were sung. I did not see any hymnals or Bibles in the pews. I felt like I was being entertained. I would feel more comfortable with this set up on a Saturday night. I learned that the church didn't feel very kid friendly, that I don't like to be entertained at church and that I am more of a traditionalist at church. I like to open my hymnal and turn to the correct page and sing the hymn. I am more of a nuts and bolts person in regards to church. The hymnals and Bibles in the pews offer me comfort. I don't really care for the big screen at the front of the church. I like the comfort of familiar faces or new and friendly faces. People that welcome children into their world. I like the hymnals and the sermons. On the plus side I did enjoy the sermon. I do prefer a sermon that is practical and applicable to modern day times. The pastor seemed comfortable and passionate about his topic. After the sermon, another pastor spent a few minutes of spotlight on a church member. He interviewed a member of the church briefly. It was pre-planned. He asked this member why he choose this church, what he was involved in at the church and what he liked about the church. Something different, spotlighting a member and learning more about him. It was a good experience for me and I learned more about the things I prefer personally at church on Sunday mornings.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Homeschooling: Getting Started

Interested in homeschooling this year? Not sure where to get started? An important resource for homeschoolers is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. First find out what the homeschool laws are in your state. When I first started, I wanted support. I did not want to go on this journey alone. So I found my local support groups. You can do a web search, yahoo or google groups search or search here. Another wonderful resource is the library - borrow books for the kids or for homeschooling Moms and attend story hour. I am a lover of the library! Find out what is available at the local library.
When we were first getting started with homeschooling, I bought a magnetic board and magnetic letters. We practiced letters and sounds. We attended story time at the library and borrowed loads of books from the library. I eventually found the Leap Frog DVDs, which I highly recommend: Letter Factory, Talking Words, Talking Words 2 and later Learn to Read.
I attended used curriculum sales to get ideas and make some purchases. I ended up with too many workbooks! I started a wish list for books and educational toys in Microsoft Word for holidays and birthdays. We were learning every day all day long - many teachable moments from manners to letters to sounds to questions about God and nature.
For kindergarten, I purchased used What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. For writing we initially used lined paper, then I found lined dry erase boards. I found them in Walmart for just a few dollars. For Math, we had our own counters (pennies, M&Ms or buttons) and we added and subtracted with them. For Science we learned on our own about nature, hands on. We went out and studied it. When we come upon something, we look it up online or get books out of the library on the subject. For Art, we bought all sorts of supplies and the Draw Write Now Series.
We moved on to reading anything else in the house and some Abeka readers. For Read a louds, we read The Boxcar Children series, Magic Tree House Series and The Little House Series. We added the Explode the Code Series for reading and writing.
This year we have added the Story of the World for history. It has a workbook companion. I've also discovered Edhelper.com is another resource. Some information is free; it is $20 a year for a membership.
Homeschooling is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with your kids - quality time. Read, read and read to them! Tap into some resources (I've listed many above) and find tools that work for you and your children. You will be amazed at the teachable moments you encounter on a daily basis. Enjoy the journey!