This is hard for me to admit, much less put it into writing. It makes me feel vulnerable, but here I go.
My second grader is struggling with reading. When we do phonics or attempt to read together, he immediately gets uptight and starts to fidget. It’s like he convinced himself that reading is too hard. Reading is not his thing; he is more drawn to science and math (like his daddy, not mommy).
It’s frustrating. I feel responsible for his lack of reading skills, because I’m his primary teacher. With homeschooling it’s so easy to blame yourself when things don’t go well; and easy to take for granted when things do go right.
When I wrote this post yesterday, I asked Elliot to write something (about his favorite season) for a new spelling book we started this school year. He asked why the following page was blank unlike the previous pages. When I told him (in a very uplifting tone…or so I thought) he could write whatever he wanted any way he wanted, he burst into tears.
I almost cried with him; my heart hurt. I could sense his frustration and fear. After a long talk reassuring him that learning is hard, no matter your age or subject, and praying together that God would give him courage to try and to learn from his mistakes, he decided to give it a try.
With the time set for 10 minutes as advised by the Instructor’s Manual he started to write some words down. He used inventive spelling. When I looked over his work later, I so wanted to correct the errors and ask him to write in complete sentences.
I had to look at the bigger picture and think long-term. I overlooked the errors and instead praised him for working on this challenge. This was not an auspicious time for that discussion. He softly asked me if all his words were wrong. I said it was okay. There’s always the next lesson and plenty of opportunities to improve.
Second grade started less than a month ago, and here I am freaking out that he’s not a fluent reader. Being a teacher is not only about teaching but building up my student (my kid) to become a confident, persevering, and thoughtful learner. There’s a lot of learning for me too: learning to teach according to his interests, pacing ourselves, and respecting his learning style.
My five-year old daughter has been dreaming of doing cartwheels for months now, which probably seems like an eternity for a small person. Much to my dismay, she has been practicing her jumping, bending, climbing, and tumbling any chance she gets.
The look on her face is priceless though; at the end of some acrobatic move, she smiles proudly with both arms stretched high and legs straight together. She’ll stay in that position till we clap and cheer.
I worry about her budding interest in gymnastics. Although her third heart surgery last fall improved her exercise tolerance, it’s still an ongoing issue. She tires easily and plops into a fetal position after running around a lot. It’s frightful. So I’ve been convincing her that maybe she’d prefer some other extracurricular activity, like art, music, cooking, or something other than strenuous physical exercise. She nods no. It has to be gymnastics. Positive side to this: she’ll learn how to cartwheel safely and build stamina.
Raising her I realize how much I need God’s peace every moment. If I went through this life without God helping me, I would be a wreck. I can’t control circumstances and I can’t forbid her from trying new things: how will she know if she doesn’t try? Instead, I need to offer support, encouragement, and reasonable boundaries so that she can discover her potential. The one thing I want to avoid is transferring my own fears to her.
At her first class yesterday, I was all nerves and had that constipated look from worrying so much, especially when I saw her sweating and running out of breath. I almost asked the coach to end the lesson early. But we stayed till the end.
Ellis must’ve picked up on my concerns; she reassured me that she was feeling okay and just needed a little nap on the ride home. Then I panicked that she needed a nap and kept checking her face through the rear view mirror.
School is or almost in session for fall 2018. On social media, I see pictures of kids heading off to school, kids smiling for the camera holding “First day of ……,” and all the back-to school shopping ads. Beyond these first few days, I hope everyone has a splendid, productive, memorable, and discovery-filled year!!
The cooler weather is helping me transition from summer to school. But I’m telling myself that summer vacation is over and that it’s time to move on. How does time pass so quickly? It really does: scary how fast time flies. Every summer my kids are bigger, more opinionated, more adventurous, and definitely more against listening to the wise words of mommy.
Before I know it, they will be older and they will want to spend time with friends and do their own thing during summer breaks. That’s a normal part of growing up and I want my kids to become independent, but it’s hard to let go. I’m sure I’ll have sleepless nights remembering the good ‘ol days.
I hope to live today like that good ol’ day I’ll remember years later.
So tiny together. 2015
Happy to have some company on the swing. 2016.
Pumpkin patch 2017
My peeps! Summer vacation 2018
Overall, YAY for new grades, new books, new school supplies, new clothes, new teachers, new school (for some), new experiences, new friendships, and new learning.
Parents, kudos to you for all the rides, packing lunches, helping with homework, encouraging your kids, bandaging ouchies, going to games, showing up for school events, and keeping it all together!! As the initial excitement wanes and inevitable challenges crop up, I hope you remember that God is in control and that He is interested in every part of our lives. He listens to prayers…even my feeble, emergency prayers for patience and energy when I feel like I can’t do anything else. I’m always amazed at how He answers.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Each summer my kids and I dabble in a project involving low-maintenance pets. Three summers ago was goldfish that survived only a few days (before its overfeeding); last summer involved raising caterpillar to butterflies; and this summer we raised larvae into ladybugs, specifically called Pink-Spotted Ladybug.
*If you like, you can check out the full post written in June 2017 titled “Butterflies in our house.”
Like summer 2017, our live shipment arrived from InsectLore.com, an online company specializing in educational insect-raising kits. Kids were thrilled when they saw the package, and they carried it slowly into the house talking in whispers. The inside contents included a slim plastic tube with strips of green crinkled paper, long and skinny larvae that looked like mini alligators, and a grainy substance for their food. We then twisted open the magnifying cap on top of the dome and shook the tube contents into it.
Contents of box from InsectLore except for the dome, which was purchased separately.
Tube of larvae with their food.
After the tube contents are put into the dome.
For this beginning stage, our only job required wetting the grey sponge (drinking station) with few drops of water from a pipette. Instructions said only a few drops to prevent larvae drowning, but to kids still working on fine motor skills, it meant big drenching squirts. There was little to observe the first couple of days until the larvae got bigger; they ate voraciously and actively moved all around the dome.
Some fun facts about ladybugs:
Ladybugs are not bugs. They are a kind of beetle.
In the Middle Ages, European farmers struggled with pests destroying their crops. So they prayed for help from the Virgin Mary and ladybugs suddenly appeared eating up all the pests. They were then called Lady Beetles after the Virgin Mary.
They smell with their feet and antenna.
They can fly.
If threatened, they release a toxic liquid from their legs (harmful to animals but not humans).
Ladybugs come in a variety of colors and in hundreds of species.
The brightness of their colors fades over time.
Gardeners love to have ladybugs for natural pest control. (Information gathered from kidskonnect.com, uCatholic.com, teachingmama.org, Katrina DeLallo from Super Teacher Worksheets)
My goal for this project was to engage the kids in the process and do more than just observe. I wanted them to practice articulating what they saw. This required them to dictate their daily observations and draw pictures of what they saw.
I was nervous to introduce this activity in case it seemed tedious and boring, so I prefaced it by saying that real scientists do this all the time. This must’ve made them feel very grown-up: they referred to themselves as scientists and talked in a serious voice as they looked through their magnifying glasses. They totally got into character: no giggles or squirming.
Observation notes and drawing
Observation notes and drawing. Ellis was the only one who saw a ladybug holding a phone.
Once all the pupae molted, the dome looked messy with black trails of their molting and deceased larvae stuck to the green strips. We decided to move them into a new and improved home in the form of an empty glass jar sitting in our pantry.
We took leftover pebbles from our goldfish days and layered the bottom for ladybugs to explore; added a wet gauze for their water supply; dropped soggy raisins and lettuce for nutrition; and decorated with sticks and flowers to make their home cozy.
Each bug was transferred to its new home with it sitting atop a wooden chopstick. Plastic wrap covered the top with several holes poked in them for ventilation.
The bugs stayed with us almost 20 days until I felt nervous that they might die from the heat inside the jar. Summers are uncomfortably hot even indoors in California.
Kids reluctantly agreed with my rationale to let them go; the next morning we took our jar outside for the grand release. They took turns getting each of the ladybugs out on a stick and placing them inside our container plants. Some lingered, but most of them crawled away within seconds. This was the one time that I wish our plants swarmed with pests like aphids so these ladybugs could have have a feast.
Overall, this summer project was enjoyable, educational, and memorable. I wish I had as much enthusiasm when I was a kid, but it’s not too late for me to keep exploring, discovering, and questioning along with my kids. Another big lesson for me as a homeschooling mom was developing more confidence in deciding what and how to teach, as well as getting comfortable not knowing all the answers. It’s fine to say, “I don’t know. Let’s look it up together.”
These kinds of projects are usually reserved for summer, but we’re on a roll. Next up: raising tadpoles or hermit crabs. Stay tuned!
The 2018 Winter Olympics was an awesome experience for our family, and much to our dismay, it has come to an end.
Our family has been zealously watching a lot of the sports and cheering wildly together. At first my kids had no idea about the Olympics but after sensing the excitement of the Opening Ceremony with all its pizzazz, music, dance, lights, drones, mascots, athletes, they were hooked. We were too, and I had to see this weird sport called curling. It looks strange at first with all that brooming movement, but we’ve slowly warmed up to its inherent beauty.
I took my kids’ excitement as the perfect opportunity to revolve our school lessons around the Olympics this month.
History lesson: talking about how the Olympics started in ancient Greece thousands of years ago. We covered other important historical facts: only men could participate in the Olympics, they competed in the nude (this produced a lot of giggles), instead of a medal, the winner received a laurel crown, war ceased during these games, the running of the Olympic torch, and the symbolism of the Olympic rings.
Chris and I were eagerly waiting to see the athletes enter the stadium from both South and North Korea during the Opening Ceremony. Elliot was curious to know why there were two Koreas, so the teacher in me thought this was a great opportunity to talk about freedom, differences between a president and a dictator, privations faced by the common North Korean people, and individual choice. It was not well received. I was asked by Elliot to discontinue the discussion.
Social Studies: discussing how the Olympics are hosted by different countries each time and that this year’s Olympics is held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. I emphasized the excitement of the games being hosted by Korea in part thinking this would develop cultural pride as Koreans; plan didn’t go as intended. They looked perplexed and said they only love Team U.S.A. (I understand patience is needed on my part. While growing up, I straddled 2 cultures and felt so confused. I began to finally accept myself as Korean-American in my 30s. Living up to the name of late bloomer, I guess.)
The mascots were very popular and much loved in our home! This was a great way to tell them Korean folklore stories that Chris and I remember from our childhood (choppy at best). We looked up the symbolism of the white tiger and the IOC NEWS provided an easy explanation of it: “The white tiger has long been considered Korea’s guardian animal…Soohorang not only has a challenging spirit and passion, but is also a trustworthy friend who protects the athletes, spectators, and all the participants of the Olympic games.” https://www.olympic.org/pyeongchang-2018-mascot
Learning about the flags and locating the participating countries on the world map were popular activities too. They felt proud to correctly identify or guess correctly the flags shown on the TV screen. We also made a trip to the bookstore to get a reference book about flags – they felt very grown up to have the salesperson walk us around several sections to find the perfect book for them.
Science: making a cardboard ramp for marble races and a cardboard snowboard ramp attached to plastic marble run.
We tested the run with marbles of different weight, experimented with various obstacle to determine which obstacles made the ramp more challenging or accelerated the speed of marbles. Throughout the building and testing, necessary adjustments and changes were made.
Math: checking out the judges’ scores and seeing which numbers are higher or lower, learning about scoring for curling (I’m still puzzled and poor Chris was bombarded with scoring questions from us), making charts and graphs of how many different types and numbers of dinosaurs and marbles they have, which involved lots of counting, sorting, classifying. The latter activity didn’t correlate with the Olympics, but it was part of the first-grade math workbook activities.
Team Spirit: cheering for Team U.S.A. and Korea, familiarizing ourselves with the various winter sports. We also talked about what it means to be a good team player, the discipline it takes to become an Olympic athlete, being happy for the winners, learning how to lose gracefully, withstanding pressure to succeed and excel, and doing your best.
Language Arts: learning how to read the Monopoly Here & Now cards while watching the Olympics, writing out and alphabetizing the names of different sports, and working on related worksheets.
Overall, learning about the Olympics in real time was very entertaining, relevant, and educational. Since what we covered was reinforced quickly, it was easy to get excited and feel productive. When doing an activity or a chore, I would say “go for the gold” and begin talking like a commentator to explain what the athletes were doing. The determined looks on their faces and posture poised to leap into action meant serious business. For example, who could walk and carry a full glass of water without spilling any along the way?
For a few days our dining room was transformed into a track for speed sock skaters and relay running of the Olympic torch. The torch was improvised by wrapping a rubber band around a small plastic flashlight to the tip of a plastic feeding syringe.
(Ellis’ medical condition has brought with it an influx of various medical supplies from her hospital stays into our home. Too much to use and too wasteful to just toss. So we’ve morphed them into props for playing, become toys or art supplies, used to inject oil into the car, or wherever else they can be used).
Overall, I can confidently say that our learning about the 2018 Winter Olympics has exceeded my expectations! We made special family memories and learned interesting facts and historical story about the Olympics that made it more meaningful to us.
One thing that does make me sad is that the kids will be much older at the 2022 Winter Olympics. They probably won’t be as silly, chattering endlessly about the teams till our ears hurt, or insist on cuddling us while watching the games. Gosh, they grow up so fast that each passing day is both a blessing, to know that I made it through the day, and a nostalgic longing for the times that has already passed.
The cardboard marble run with cork and speed bump obstacle.
Tried to make the marble drop to knock down the dominoes. This construction was not successful.
Dinosaur line-up for creating our chart.
2018 Olympics Rings from a Olympics curriculum bought from very helpful website called TeachersPayTeachers.com.
Ellis made the first 3 flags for us to wave. Elliot was dissatisfied with his sister’s flag, so he made his own U.S.A. flag.
Making an adjustment at the end of the ramp to to make the ping pong balls or marbles roll out easily.