Summer School Days

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Clarissa has been asking me to teach her to read off and on since before she was potty trained. She constantly asked to start kindergarten this spring so I spent May planning what I wanted our year together to look like.

In June, we officially started kindergarten. I knew that I wanted to start slow so I planned for 20-30 minutes of lessons, four days per week. Some days were like binge days for her and she would do two or three days worth in one sitting because she didn’t want to stop. So my July plans had more to do each day.

Omi sent us a scavenger hunt from a magazine. We decided that we wanted to do it across the street at Nonseong Park. Clarissa and I thought it would be fun to do school outside as well so we packed our school books, some crayons, and a clipboard in my backpack. On the way out the door, Clarissa decided to ride her bike and also bring the kite.

Clarissa rode her bike across the street and then we climbed the hill to fly the kite. As I set my bookbag down, Clarissa already had her kite in the air. This was only her second time flying a kite, but she did extremely well.

When we needed a water break, we headed to the pavilion on the hill to do our Bible time.

Then we did our scavenger hunt. Clarissa had a great time finding the items on the list like a crooked stick, a bug that crawls, something that smells good, and something that feels rough. The only thing we didn’t find was an acorn. But we found a pinecone instead.

We reviewed our five senses to talk about what we did on our scavenger hunt and drew pictures.

We took another break to play on the Korean exercise equipment and then headed back to the pavilion to read our books for the day.

Then we headed back up the hill for more kite flying fun. She went on the very top and said she was walking on the Hwaseong Fortress.

When we had enough we headed home by bike. Our “school day” took about two hours with all the breaks but we both really enjoyed it.

Other days, we brought our schoolwork to one of the playgrounds in our apartment complex. We would bring our books and schoolwork outside and she would do an activity or two, go play, and come back to complete another activity.

We have also been on a lot of field trips this summer. We learned about animals at the National Institute of Ecology, fed fish at the aquarium in Seoul, hiked the Hwaseong Fortress wall, touched bugs at the Asan Insect Museum, saw animals at the Ueno Zoo, and learned about Japan before our trip to Tokyo.

Because our school days were short, we had plenty of time to go swimming or play with friends. I think this was one of our favorite summers together. I wonder what school should look like for fall?

God Schooling Review

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Since Clarissa is in kindergarten, I am very new to this homeschool mom thing. As a former public school teacher, I am used to following curriculum or a pacing guide. But learning to go at my child’s pace is pretty new to me. I enjoy it but I always wonder if I’m doing it right. So when I had the chance to review God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn by Julie Polanco, I knew I would benefit from this book. I wasn’t disappointed.

God Schooling book

In the first section of the book, Julie really challenged my thinking about what homeschooling should look like. She makes some great points in the first chapter about curriculum as a tool and not as an end goal, teaching character before academics, and your relationship with your children. “If we are walking closely with the Lord, He will show us exactly what to do at exactly the right time. ” So as long as I’m seeking God,  Clarissa will be fine. “He loves Clarissa too much to let ME ruin her…” So it really helps to alleviate some of the stress of am I really doing this right?! 

In the second section of the book, Julie Polanco spends some time discussing how to teach children at different ages. Research shows that “the basic character of a child is set by age 7,” but a child can learn academics at any age. So especially when a child is young, teaching character and behavior is more important than learning facts. She thinks that children don’t really need formal academics until about age 8-10, but they will learn more quickly at that age because they are developmentally ready for it. She encourages readers to focus on life experiences instead like writing letters to Grandma or learning math through daily life (cooking, playing games, counting things, etc) instead of a formal curriculum. She also says that teenagers should be able to cook, clean, mow the lawn, run errands; basically to run a household. This totally makes sense if you are going to prepare them to be independent adults.

I did like how she said not to assume that Clarissa would enjoy certain subscriptions or field trips. Ask her first. Sometimes she would rather stay home and play. I have found this to be true with my child. Several times in the book the author mentions “I have often found myself worrying about what other people think about my kids, rather than what God thinks about my kids.” I think this is probably true of most moms, myself included. It is just refreshing to hear another mom admit this. My main goal in homeschooling is for Clarissa to be who God created her to be and to be ready to walk in whatever He has called her to. So it is going to look different than what other parents are doing with their kids because their kids are probably called to something different than Clarissa.

I like many of the points that Julie Polanco makes in her book God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn. I think it would be encouraging for homeschool moms to read, just to see how another mom thinks and teaches her children. I don’t think I’m a true unschooler as I am not ready to throw away all of my curriculum. But I am learning to not demand that Clarissa completes a certain number of pages each day. I have an idea of what I want her to work on, but if she loses interest before then it’s okay. We’ll get to it eventually. She actually enjoys doing things in a set pattern or working through a book together. As she gets older I think she will have more say in what subjects we will study. For now we are going to focus on Bible stories, life skills, and learning to read.

God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn {Julie Polanco Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Branch Out World Review

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Clarissa really enjoyed the Paddington Bear movies, so we were excited to review a literature study on the picture book of Paddington Bear by Branch Out World. In this literature study, you read the same book for five days in a row, but focus on a different subject with activities each day.

The study says that it is for students aged 5-10. Clarissa will turn 5 next week so I thought it might be a good fit for us. While Clarissa definitely was ready to enjoy the story, the literature study was written for older kids. I was able to adapt several activities for us, but I think I will have to try these particular activities again when she is more like 8.

After our reading on the first day, we talked about geography. Paddington is originally from Peru and moves to England. The literature study includes some great resources about both England and Peru, but Clarissa wasn’t ready for them. We found some videos online about life in England and Peru that she really enjoyed and colored the simple flags of England and Peru included in the study.

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Day two was supposed to be about dictionary skills and grammar, neither of which are super important to us in kindergarten. We did focus on the theme of helping others and the narration, which led to some great discussions. Clarissa actually has great recall when I read to her. She remembers and understands more than I realized.

Day three was about art and architecture. One of the activities was to look a certain page of the book for two minutes. Then, we were to close the book and see which details that we could remember. Clarissa enjoyed this activity so much that we did it four times! We also did some of the study about the different architectural elements on the page before she lost interest.

Day four was all about science. Clarissa really enjoyed feeling the difference between shaving cream and soap. Since Paddington used shaving cream to make a map of Peru, Clarissa wanted to draw a map of South Korea. We also had fun playing with condensation. I am glad that we have watched and read a lot of Magic School Bus so she understood the science of it.

Day five was all about math. Clarissa enjoyed looking for numbers in the illustrations of the book and then putting them in order. Then we tried some marmalade on toast to be like Paddington. She was not a fan of the marmalade so I was glad I bought a jar instead of trying to make it with the recipe included in the study. We did however make the strawberry tarts included in the study. Tim and I thought they were great. Clarissa enjoyed the cream and the tart but refused to try the strawberries. We may try again another time.

We enjoyed what parts of the Paddington Bear study that we completed from Branch Out World. I do recommend it to families, just not the age it specified. I think that if you want to do all of the activities as they are written, it is better for children ages 8-10. Branch Out World has other studies you can check out as well.

Paddington Bear {Branch Out World Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Women in the Bible book review

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When the Ladies Bible Study at church decided to study The Incredible, Powerful, Inspiring & Engaging Story of Women in the Bible, I decided to join. I probably would have joined regardless of the study in order to get to know the ladies at church better anyway. But I really enjoyed this study.

I have been a Christian since I was a little girl, so I know a lot of Bible stories pretty well. I was pleasantly surprised that I learned a lot that I hadn’t realized or heard before.

For example, Adam was with Eve when she tasted the apple. He was with her for the whole serpent experience. It’s in scripture that he is right there, but I guess I always thought he was somewhere else. And can you imagine being Eve pregnant or giving birth? This had never happened before. There was nothing to compare it to. I bet nine months felt like forever if she didn’t know how long she would be pregnant!

Some of my other favorite quotes and thoughts:

  • “Like Mary, there are times in a woman’s life when she needs to step back intentionally and allow the Father to lead the man in her life, as he has the God-given ability to hear, heed and walk with the Lord, just as Joseph did” (27).
  • This idea of using your influence for good and not for evil. She talked about Queen Esther saving her people (at 14 years old!) and then in the next chapter talked about how Queen Jezebel used her influence for evil.
  • Talking about the woman at the well, the author says, “Our testimony belongs to the Lord and we never know how He might wish to use it” (77). I like the idea that this woman wasn’t looking for Jesus. She wasn’t looking for a miracle. But the change in her life, changed the lives of many in her town.
  • It was also very interesting to read about Naomi and Ruth and perspective of the responsibility of a mother in law because one day I will probably be one.
  • Or to be reminded of how many times that Sarai and Abram made mistakes and God still used them to be the father of all nations.

On a different note, if you have the opportunity to attend a Bible study, I definitely recommend it. It doesn’t really matter what the study is about. You will learn scripture and grow in your relationship with God. But it also gives you the opportunity to get to know some people in your world better. You will do life with people and pray with them. They can become your lifelong friends.

Another day in Tokyo

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As we were getting ready to leave for the day on Monday, Clarissa and I decided to hang out on the balcony only to discover that it was raining. We put on our rain jackets, grabbed Clarissa’s new umbrella, and headed down the hill to McDonald’s. Thankfully the rain stopped by the time we finished breakfast.

Our first stop of the day was Tokyo Station for Tokyo Character Street. Clarissa was very excited to find some Yokai medals. We also found some fun things in the Studio Ghibli Store and the Lego Store.

Next we headed to Yurakucho for the Muji Flagship Store. It was three stories and wonderful. It reminded me a little of Bed Bath and Beyond. It would have been more exciting if we lived in Japan because a lot of the cool things were too big for my suitcase. But if you live in Japan, I would definitely visit.

Tim wanted to check BIC Camera since it was across the street. Then we headed to The Little Bird Cafe. Tim was reading about this cute little gluten-free cafe in the suburbs. We found it, went up to the third floor, and discovered that it was closed for the week! Oops. Thankfully across the street from the station was a fun little cafe called Freshness Burger since it was 2pm and we were getting hangry. The food was great. They had several different kinds of burgers, fries, and smoothies reasonably priced. Bring yen because they don’t take credit cards.

We headed back to Shinjuku to visit our favorite bookstore. Kinokuniya has an entire floor of English books. We found several that we liked and bought a few. A lot of books were about double the price that Amazon charges so if we could find it in Amazon cheaper, we put it back. It was helpful to be able to flip through the books since we don’t have many English bookstores with new books at home.

Hungry, we headed to Shibuya for dinner for some yakiniku. We found Han No Daidokoro Kadochika without a problem (right past the Shibuya 109). We read online that if you don’t have a reservation you should come right when they open or it will be too busy. We were there right at 5 and they weren’t quite ready for us. The place was still pretty empty when we left about 615 so that isn’t accurate on a Monday night. There were several different options to choose from. We chose a more expensive option with drinks and plenty of meat. It was delicious! It even came with seaweed and rice for Clarissa.

Satisfied, we headed to the wolf shrine (Miyamasu Mitake) we were looking for the previous day and found it in the middle of a city block, up several steps. Before one of our previous trips, Tim had a dream about the Shibuya wolf and I think this is it.

On our way back, we stumbled upon a Hedgehog Cafe. It was on the second floor, very clean, and the staff was very friendly. We paid for 30 minutes and they assigned us two hedgehogs to pet and feed. We had to wear gloves and were given specific instructions on how to hold the hedgehog. Clarissa loved it! It was about 7 pm so the hedgehogs were sleepy. We were going to leave before our 30 minutes was up, so the staff spent some time teaching us about hedgehogs and letting us hold another. The hedgehogs rotate every other day so they get a break from playing with customers. I think this was one of the highlights of Clarissa’s trip.

The last item on our list was the Haiyo Miazakyi clock in Shimbashi. The GPS was a little off with wifi so we had a hard time finding it. We eventually took a taxi. It looked great. I bet it looks better during the day or during the special times each day that it moves (we missed it by 10 minutes). We discussed taking a Ghibli vacation one day.

Learning About Science Collection Review

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WriteBonnieRose has created a new series of homeschool elementary science curriculum that Clarissa and I have really enjoyed working on together. There are three levels of this curriculum so far. For the purposes of this review, Clarissa and I were given Learning About Science Collection, level 1.

Learning about Science Collection Level 1

Learning About Science Collection, Level 1 included seven different units as well as a list of website links that you could use to supplement the material if you chose to go further. Units included Familiar Plants and How they Grow, Fruits and Vegetables Around the World, Animal Habitats of the World, Our Senses and Systems and How They Work, Learning About Life Cycles, Earth Layers, Earthquakes, and Volcanoes, and Exploring Senses of Matter.

The collection is a pdf download, so it was easy to access and use. I emailed it to my kindle and we read each unit like a book. Each unit read like a story. It was a nonfiction story because there were facts and information to learn, but it was easy to read. Another thing that we really enjoyed were the illustrations. They were outlines in black and white. This is great because Clarissa wanted to color them in herself. Also, each page had some copy work, which is perfect for my pre-reader. During the review period, Clarissa and I had time to get through Learning About Life Cycles and Animal Habitats of the World. These were the two longest units in the collection. We enjoyed several things about each unit.

Clarissa really enjoys babies and watching animals grow up so she was very excited to learn about life cycles. After most animals, she would ask me to stop reading and ask me to print out the page so that she could color in the pictures of the animals at each stage and trace the words provided for each stage. Each page felt like just the right amount of information for my kindergartner. It was enough to teach her something but not so much that she would lose interest. I liked that there were different kinds of animals included: mammals, birds, insects, and reptiles. This way Clarissa was able to see that animals have many different kinds of life cycles.

The unit on habitats was also laid out very well. There were several different habitats listed. Included with each habitat was a description of the habitat as well as information about animals in each habitat to color and trace the names. She really enjoyed this unit as well and never wanted me to stop reading for the day.

This collection of units feels more like a literature unit than a science textbook. That was probably my favorite thing about it. I also liked that I could work on writing with Clarissa during our science lesson. I think a young reader in first or second grade would be able to read at least part of this to himself.

Each level of  the Learning About Science Collection retails for $12 or $13, or you can buy individual units for prices from $1.49-$3.49 depending on the unit. Bonnie is offering a deal for my readers. Until August 15, you can use coupon code REVIEWCREW50 to buy all three sets for $6 or $6.50 each. I went ahead and purchased levels 2 and 3 to use as future science curriculum.

As I glance through the level 2 and level 3 lessons, the set up is similar with copywork and illustrations. The content does increase in difficulty with each level. I think the level one would be great for kindergarten or first grade. The level 2 is probably better for late first grade to second grade if you want your student to be able to read the content to himself. Level three is a good fit for third grade. You can also read reviews of those levels to get a better feel for them.

Bonnie is planning to expand this collection of lessons, so if you have ideas for units to include, please comment on this post or email them to her directly.

Learning About Science collections {WriteBonnieRose Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

30,000 Steps without the Stroller

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When we decided to leave the stroller at home for this vacation, I had my reservations. Clarissa is not quite 5 and we walk a ton on vacation. But she did really well. We only had to carry her for a few minutes here and there.

She woke up an hour before my alarm on Sunday, so we had plenty of time for a McDonald’s breakfast before heading to the Ueno Zoo before they opened at 930.

The baby panda turned one last month and apparently is still quite popular. By the time we got to the zoo entrance, the line to see the baby panda was over two hours long! Thankfully, Clarissa understood that we had other things to do today and would not be waiting in that line. We did see everything else in the zoo, however and spent 3.5 hours there.

We all really enjoyed the zoo. There are several different species of animals with large monkey and bird sections. Clarissa was especially excited about the polar bears, penguins, elephants, giraffes, crocodiles, and zebras. There was a window viewing area for the polar bear that she was especially excited about because she said she called him and he came right up to her.

We headed to Odaiba for Diver City mall next. We started outside with the new Gundam Statue. Tim needed pictures and Clarissa thought it was very cool but wondered why it was such a large statue.

The original plan was to eat lunch but the lines for all of the food were rediculously long so we found a corner to eat the protein bars we brought and headed to the Gundam Base on the 7th floor. It was very different from our last visit. Last time it was set up like a museum with things you could buy. This time it was definitely more of a shopping experience but they did have several limited edition items.

We headed downstairs for the Hello Kitty Cafe for some ice cream to hold us over. We went to a few stores including a virtual reality store were we bought some astronaut food and a rainbow umbrella. At one point we went to the bathroom and had to wait in line and Clarissa said, “Why do we have to wait in line for everything in this town?” We quickly decided that we needed real food and headed to Shibuya.

Our wifi Hotspot wasn’t working so we couldn’t find our planned restaurant, but we found a Coco Ichybanya instead (Tim’s favorite Japanese curry restaurant). Then we found the Mitake Shrine.

We actually took a taxi (our first ever in Tokyo) to Kippy’s for some ice cream. They are vegan so most of their ice cream and juice choices are made from coconut water and some kind of fruit. They also use either dates or raw honey and organic ingredients. The prices weren’t bad either. If you are looking for a sweet treat, I recommend finding it in Harajuku. It is in a quieter part of town and we enjoyed the walk back to the station.