Austin's 1st Award in Public School and more...

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Austin's 1st Award in Public School

** ** WARNING ** **

This is another post containing a tremendous amount of gushing from a very proud Momma!

Last month I wrote about my daughter receving her 1st award in public school (they just started attending in January).  This month I am proud to say my son, Austin (1st Grade) has received a Citizen of the Month award as well!  His comment regarding the award was, "Now I just have to get the student of the Month award next time."

As with Tyler's award, we were asked to attend an assembly where the award was presented to Austin.  We were very proud to attend this on Friday morning.  He received a certificate, a book and a bracelet in school colors that indicates he recieved the Citizenship Award.

His teacher wrote:
Austin is an awesome student.  He has a great attitude and made friends quickly in my class.  He takes his time with his work, doing the best he can and using neat handwriting.  He is always kind to others, and follows our classroom and school rules.  He is a great citizen and a good example for other students.  He always has a hand up to volunteer and answers questions.  I enjoy talking with him - he always has an interesting story to share!  I am proud of his achievements!
I was tempted to ask about what kinds of stories he always tells, but to be honest I was kind of afraid to find out.  I've heard his stories before!

Austin with his award and the book he chose (one full of riddles!)

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Tyler's 1st Award in Public School

** ** WARNING ** **
This post contains a tremendous amount of gushing from a very proud Momma!

Today my baby girl received her first award in public school.  Shaun & I are so proud of her.  After attending private school for 2 years and doing the homeschool/co-op thing for 2 1/2 years she was very nervous to start public school last month.  But she has been doing wonderful.  Within days she had made lots of friends and as I mentioned in my last post, she has even dealt with the "mean girl" thing. 

On Tuesday I received a call from her teacher asking us to come to an assembly today where they were going to surprise Tyler with an award.  It was the February Citizen of the Month award for February.  After less than 2 months at the school, she has received her first award (can you tell this mommy is excited and proud of her little girl?!)

The commentary from the teacher said:

Tyler is a pure pleasure to have in class!  She shows great citizenship and has a kind and respectful attitude towards her classmates and class work!  She genuinely shows care and compassion for school!  She is always on her best behavior and really shows pride in her school work!
Afterwards we spoke to her teacher briefly and she went on to affirm what she had written for the award and to tell us that academically Tyler is doing wonderful as well.  She said report cards will be coming out next month and we'll see then how wonderful Tyler is doing. 

They gave her a Certificate of Character which will of course go in her school book.  They also allowed the children receiving rewards pick out a book that was supplied by the school PTO (she chose a book by Roald Dahl).  She received a book placard to go inside the front cover that says the book was received by Tyler as a reward from the PTO for being a good citizen.

Okay - this mom is done gushing, at least for the moment!

Tyler displaying her Certificate of Character
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Public School - Oh My!

After two and half years of homeschooling (while working full-time) the Lord has put my family on a new path.  It has been bittersweet for me as I really did love teaching my kids and wished I could do so full-time.  And I had reasons I preferred homeschooling for my children, but God has other plans and I trust that He knows best.

While a part of me is disappointed (and I dare say at times feels like I have failed) there is another part of me that is relieved and enjoying this new period in our life.  I had not realized how much I had been missing with the kids because I worked full-time and many of our schooling sessions outside fo the co-op were in the evenings and weekends.  Now, they have homework I help them with 4 nights a week (and that is if there is anything left other than reading - since my dear husband usually does the other homework with them before I get home!)  Fridays and weekends are now free of homework other than reading.  I find I'm able to enjoy my children more now and they are enjoying spending time with me more.

Don't get me wrong - if I had a chance to homeschool again I would do it - but only if we are in a position where I can do it full-time during the day and not work another job at the same time.

We have run into some of the things I had feared already.  In the past two months my daughter has run into the "mean girls".  One girl was her friend and then was not because Tyler was not "girly" enough (she got dirty at recess because she does handstands and cartwheels in the grass - I guess in 4th grade that is not an activity that makes you "popular").  Then a couple days later she was Tyler's friend again and as of today she is not again.

But Tyler seems to have made a lot of friends and I found out that she has made a point to befriend and play with a girl that others were picking on.  She did not understand at first why the other girls were mad at her for doing so, but we had a long talk about what it really means to be a friend.  I think she will do just fine and I am very proud of her.  I know the Lord is watching out for her and we have given her a good foundation to build upon.

Austin is doing well too.  He has not made as many friends as I would have expected but he seems to really enjoy school and thrive.  He is amazing when it comes to his schoolwork.  He really does not struggle at all to grasp any of the concepts.  His issue is focus - a math page that should take 10 mins and that he understands totally can take up to 30 minutes or more because after each problem he wants to talk about an example that is simlar to the problem, what the problem reminded him of and/or something totally unrelated.

Jesse of course is still in preschool with Cheri, but he constantly asks me how many more months it will be until August when he gets to start Kindergarten.  He is so excited.  He knows so much already and is definitely prepared.  My only concern is still his speech.  We did go through the school district to get him tested, however per their standards the sounds he struggles with are not fully developed at his age.  I guess that gives me some comfort but I'm still not totally convinced.  But I will take it one day at a time for now and keep a close eye on him.  God will take care of him just like my other two precious children.  After all, He loves them even more than I ever could.  And that is alot!

I'll have another post/announcement soon.  I just got a call from a teacher today with some news that I will share soon.  It is a surprise so I don't want to spill the beans yet.

So I will leave you all with a Valentine's Kiss from Jesse.  Enjoy!

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Charlotte's Web Lapbook

We've discovered lapbooks this year and love them!  Tyler has done two for books she has read.  Our first attempt was with "The Courage of Sarah Noble".  I've included some pictures below.  One of the ladies in our co-op found instructions online for this one along with the templates.

Tyler's Custom Cover for "The Courage of Sarah Noble"
The various sections inside included listing the members of the Noble and Robinson families in alphabetical order and coloring a map of the 13 colonies and tracing the route Sarah and her father took to their new home.  On the other side they did a pocket on Measuring Fear.  For various situations that Sarah found herself in throughout the story, the kids rated on a scale of 1 to 5 how scared they would have been.  The looked up various vocabulary words in the story and wrote them out on the moccasin book.  And they looked up various forest animals and plants that were mentioned through the story and wrote facts about each one.

Inside Tyler's 1st lapbook
Animal & Plant facts
Our second attempt which we just finished was a lapbook for "Charlotte's Web".  One of the mother's in the co-op came up with the ideas of what to include and we came up with our own creative ways to showcase these elements.  While looking for ideas I found a wonderful site with tons of templates. 

Homeschool Share - Lapbook Templates

Below is a video I took of Tyler's lapbook for Charlotte's Web and each of the elements we added.  I apologize as the video is a bit blurry, but it is good enough to show all the different items.  It is sideways as well and I can't figure out how to turn it.

Pictures of the lapbook:
Our cover - we keep it closed with a small piece of velcro.  Tyler can't stand it.  She hates the sound of velcro!

The inside of our lapbook
Animal Facts - Pigs, Rats & Spiders.  Tyler picked a picture and fact about how humans can catch and eat rats if necessary in an emergency.  Ugh!
Our questions - this one is about whether Templeton was a villain or hero
Spider facts - these were some of Tyler's favorites that we looked up.

Similes - Tyler wrote down all the similes we found in the book.  I was surprised we did not find more.  The purple circle are the 10 characteristic Tyler thought were important in a friend.

Vocab Words - we had 20 words from the book that Tyler looked up and included on these cards.  This book has a lot of very good vocab words for kids to learn.

Next Attempt?  We are doing lapbooks for our Social Studies/History samples to be turned into our charter school at our next meeting.  Tyler and Austin will both be doing one to showcase what we are learning over the four week learning period.  I'll share those once they are completed.
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Accountable Kids - Review

About a month ago I did a post called Accountable Kids - The Journey Begins.  We are now just a little over a month into the program - we have implemented 3 of the 4 phases. 

I originally decided to try this program because I have friends who have raved about it.  My children are not bad kids by any means, but to be honest - I was exhausted.  They are so active (daughter just turned 9 and my boys are 5 1/2 and 4 years old).  In addition, I was tired of repeating myself and feeling like no matter how much time I spent cleaning the house, I had little whirlwind messes following right behind me.  I work full-time and homeschool two of my kids.  My house usually takes a back seat because I often feel that I have to choose between keeping up the house and spending time with my family.

Our boards - painted in each child's favorite color - of course!
The Accountable Kids program  helps parents to teach their children accountability and responsibility.  And it empowers children because they learn that they are a productive part of the family - thereby developing a healthy self-esteem and confidence.  And it helps to teach children to take pride in what they do and discourages attitudes of entitlement.

I've used chore charts and stickers with my daughter before but they never stuck with my family.  This is different because it is about more than just doing some things around the house to earn a prize.  And I don't have to go out of my way to buy special expensive prizes to give the kids. 

The key to teaching your kids responsibility is consistency.  I realized I lacked in this area in some ways.  I've still not totally got it figured out, but this program is great because it helps me to be consistent with the kids.
Close up of Jesse's board - our 4 year old - extra chore of cleaning the bathroom is split between all three children, each has a section that they are responsible for completing.

There are four phases to the program:

The first step introduces the concept of core chores (daily chores expected of each child for which no payment is received).  They are also introduced to tickets which can be earned by completing all chores on time.  These tickets are used for things they've been doing in the past already (television, video games, etc) for which mom & dad want them to realize they are privileges, not things they are entitled to get.  This was huge for my children.  They are learning to manage their own television time now.  The first night we did this my 4 year old actually spent almost 5 minutes really thinking about whether or not he wanted to give up one of his tickets to watch television before bed.  I think he handed me his ticket and then took it back about 3 times before he finally decided he was willing to trade one of his precious tickets for television privileges.

A list of items that will cause a ticket to be lost is also created.  These are things that will cause the child to lose an earned ticket immediately, no warning.  For our family these include hitting, kicking, fighting, whining, and being disrespectful.  It was a real eye-opener for the boys the first time they wanted to watch television but could not because they had lost their tickets and could not trade one in for t.v. privileges. 

The best behavior card is also introduced in the first step which had become a coveted prize in my family.  The kids are allowed to use it just like a ticket, but I've found for them it is more of a reward to just have it hanging on their board.  They use it last and many times will bypass privileges just to be able to leave the best behavior card on their board.

The second phase introduces the privilege pass which helps parents to address specific bad habits that they want to replace with new behavior.  Also the date card is introduced.  I was a little leery of this one at first, because I did not want my kids thinking they had to "earn" time with Mommy & Daddy.  But I've found we can still spend time alone with each of them as we used to - this is just an added extra special time that they can earn.  And it does not have to be expensive either.  My kids love to just go out back after dark with a blanket and look at the stars alone with one of us. 

The third phase introduces extra chores which the children can earn bonus bucks for doing.  These are turned in the end of each week for real money which they can spend as they see fit.   Savings can also be introduced at this point.  For our children half of what they earn during the week is going to their "savings" account which we track on sheets posted on our wall.  At any time they can see what they have in their savings.  The half that they get to keep really helps to develop confidence in them too.  When we go somewhere now my kids are asking if they can buy something instead of asking me to buy it for them.  And they are putting much more thought into what they ask for, even my 4 year old. 

You also introduce the helping hand card.  This makes the kids consciencely think of something nice to do for someone else during the day.  My kids love each night sharing what they've done for their helping hand during the day.  Many days they have more than one thing to share.

In the last step you introduce the family forum and quiet time.  We've not gotten to this step yet with my family, although we do already kind of do the family forum since we meet briefly each week on Sunday to turn in bonus bucks and review the ticket lists posted on our refrigerator (list of items tickets can be traded in for and list of things that will cause the children to lose a ticket).

I think one of the main reasons I love this program is because it is so flexible.  I've tailored it to fit each of my kids and as they get older some of their extra chores will become core chores.  As I see what is and is not working with each child I can add and subtract things as necessary. 

The key to this program and I think anything you do to teach your kids responsibility is consistency.  I've still not got this totally figured out, but the boards are a visual reminder to me each day to be consistent, just as they are a reminder to the kids of what they need to do as a part of this family.  I've seen a huge improvement in my daughter - she thrives on this.  The boys also love the program. 

Boys cleaning the table after eating
One big change has been mornings.  Since we both work we have a certain amount of time to get us and the kids ready each morning.  In the past I would find myself rushing and many times yelling and threatening the kids in order to get us all out the door on time.  Now most mornings the kids are all ready way before I am.  They get up and know exactly what to do and get it done.  Every once in awhile we'll have a bad morning but they don't earn their ticket for morning chores if they are not done and/or if Mommy has to remind them of what needs to be done.  I've found we never have two bad mornings in a row.  Not earning their ticket is reminder enough to get them back to helping out as they should.

My middle child struggles the most with the program (he finally just earned his first Best Behavior card today!).  He has trouble thinking ahead to consequences, but even though he struggles I have seen an improvement in him too.  It is just coming a little slower.  And part of it is consistency on my part.  I've noticed when he starts getting difficult again, it is usually because I've become a bit slack in being consistent and sticking to my guns on certain things.

Overall, this program has been wonderful for my family and we've stuck with it for over a month now.  That is big for us.  I will be traveling to see family in August and I'm looking forward to taking this program with me and continuing it while we are away from home. 

If you are struggling to teach your children responsibility and accountability, if they are getting to the point where they feel they are entitled to things or if you are just tired and frustrated - I would highly recommend Accountable Kids.  There has been some times of testing where I've been discouraged, but I chose to stick with it and I'm seeing the improvements, sometimes little, sometimes big.  I find myself repeating myself less and less (and if I do it is usually because I'm not being consistent with the program) and I'm finding it so much easier to get the kids to clean up after themselves and help keep the house clean.  I'm actually able to spend time with my kids now and focus on them.  In the past I was always thinking in the back of my mind about all the things I still needed to do.  They have more confidence and I am less stressed and exhausted.  And I'm seeing more cooperation between the kids.  It is Amazing!  A definite God-send for my family

Tyler vacuuming the front living room
To learn more about the program visit their website at Accountable Kids - watch both videos on the main page.  They explain about the program and will answer many of your questions.  And I definitely recommend getting the kit which includes the book.  There are so many helpful ideas in it.  I read it cover to cover before I started the program and I'm still constantly referring to it for ideas.

Note:  By doing this post I'm taking advantage of another wonderful part of this program.  Currently if you write a blog review of the program you can get a "rebate" on part of your original purchase price.  I would be writing a review either way and in fact I had already posted about our initial experience last month here.  How amazing is that?!
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