Summer Fun Baskets

By: Leah Prescott

This year we are taking a true summer break, free from formal studies. I am sure this won’t always be the case as we sometimes have subjects to work on over the summer or some catch-up from days lost over the year. Still, while “book learning” is fun, nothing can take the place of carefree summer days filled with playing in the sprinkler and hunting worms. I’m looking forward to my kids wearing themselves out in the sunshine and teaching them some new board games when the South Carolina heat gets unbearable.

Summer fun basket

On the other hand, I want to do all I can to preserve the knowledge my 8-year-olds have gained over this school year and get those little thinking muscles primed for third grade. I’ve been thinking of ways to help encourage learning without major preparation or angst for any of the parties involved. Today I wanted to share one of these ideas with you. Whether you homeschool or not, this is a simple idea that is easily adapted to many ages. Perhaps it isn’t revolutionary, but it’s easy…and sometimes that’s better.

Summer fun basket

I was pretty proud of myself for cleaning out our entire library area by the end of the school year. I had to prepare for our annual book sale, so my arm was twisted into action. I took stock of our materials, filed away completed work for our records, sold some unneeded items, and tossed a lot. All the pencils found their way back to the pencil boxes and I discovered that we actually own one billion crayons, which surprised me since the perfect colors always seem to be eluding my little artists.

Summer fun basket

After the big cleanup, I set aside a large basket for each child and started filling them with “summer fun.” There are only two rules for the contents of the baskets: they must be fun and they must require little or no supervision. Here are some of the things I added to these baskets:

Summer fun basket

  1. Pencil box with basic supplies: glue stick, crayons, pencils, scissors, ruler
  2. Clipboard and legal pads (My children love clipboards. Any writing project is instantly twice as enticing if a clipboard can be utilized.)
  3. Flash master handheld game (electronic flash cards)
  4. Construction paper, stickers, and stencils
  5. “Fun” workbooks (We like the ones in the Target dollar spot.)
  6. Three Ring Binder with cardstock (My girls like to “scrap book” with magazine cuttings.)
  7. Play-Doh or silly putty

Those are the basics that I added to start out. It’s nice to continue to refresh the basket throughout the summer. A new paperback book, card game, or puzzle would be fun to add. Bead kits, rainbow looms or embroidery kits for older children are perfect. I’m looking for a paint-with-water coloring book for my preschooler.

Summer fun basket

This is also a nice place to stick those prizes from Chick-fil-a that would otherwise get lost at the bottom of your purse or the freebie stickers that come in the mail. Really, the options are endless and can be tailored to your child’s interests or needs.

The only “rule” I give the kids about these baskets is that they clean up after themselves. Summer is the time when I really try to crack down on housework and form better habits, and the whole family has to be on board. (If anyone has any tips for teaching my 3-year-old to clean up after himself, they will be humbly received.) Of course, if you have any ideas for easy summer learning, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Homeschooling Update

By: Leah Prescott

I thought it was about time to give you guys a little homeschooling update now that most of second grade is behind us. I didn’t want to write this update a month ago, because, for me, that January-February stretch is always the hardest time of homeschooling (and parenting, come to think of it). Now that March is here, we are looking forward to warmer weather and longer days. And since I’m feeling positive about our educational journey and where it is taking us, now is the time to share.

Homeschooling

Homeschooling

This has been a challenging but good year for us. It has been an absolute joy to watch both of my 8-year-olds gaining independence and taking more responsibility for their own learning. As they settle into a routine of daily reading I am reminded of my own fervent love for the written word! This week I have seen my daughter enthusiastically pouring over the very same, well-worn copy of Little House on the Prairie that I read myself at her age. Moments like these give me a thrill that I cannot describe. It’s those “joy of parenting warm fuzzies” that sometimes come between all the late night wakings and endless laundry. They may be rare, but they are better than caffeine for keeping a mom going!

Homeschooling

We are still enthusiastically participating in our twice-a-week hybrid program with our homeschooling partners. During those two days we get all the perks of a traditional classroom, but during the other three we’re back at home or out in the real world. I get a break from being full-time Mama on those days and the kids get time with friends and teachers who are so much more experienced than I am. It’s a great compromise for our family.

Homeschooling

One of my biggest challenges this year has been dealing with my youngest, who will be three in a couple months. He is a handful and sometimes I think his main goal is to distract everyone from their own tasks. I’m sure his endless energy is going to result in a strong, intelligent young man. For now, I often feel ill-equipped to parent him! However, we have had a lot of improvements since the school year began. He is able to focus on more “academic” activities now and he is having great fun learning “big-kid” skills like cutting with scissors and tracing letters. Like his big sisters, he loves a good book. The rest of the time, he is running around pretending to be a superhero and jumping off the furniture.

Homeschooling

As always, getting out of the house is high on my list of priorities to maintain sanity. To keep us all motivated, we often get started on schoolwork first thing in the morning, and get a bulk of it done in time to jump in the car and head to the library, the zoo, a museum, the park, or even a Chick-fil-a playplace. The big girls try to maximize their car time with practicing math facts. Around Christmas we bought them each a Flashmaster and it has really helped them. Although it’s basically just an electronic flashcard, they seem to really enjoy using them, which was NOT the case with traditional flashcards.

Homeschooling

Finally, we have had a bit of a break-through in the home management arena: I have started meal planning. Now, try not to laugh out loud. I know this is the most basic and obvious skill, only a small step up from microwave macaroni, but I can be slow sometimes. Simply compiling an organized grocery list and jotting down meals for each dinner of the week has proven so helpful. I have also reduced our grocery trips to once a week which has been difficult for me, but totally worth it from a practical as well as a financial standpoint.

Homeschooling

So that’s a bit of an update for us. I guess this semester I’ve been learning the importance of planning, flexibility and patience. Come to think of it, these are some of the same things that I want my children to learn as they grow into adults. As elementary as these concepts are, I still have to remind myself each day to practice these simple life skills!

Georgia Aquarium

By: Leah Prescott

I’m not going to lie, the last few weeks have been CRAZY in the Prescott house. Parenting, homeschooling, working a bit on the side (The “side” of what? Being a mom 24/7 to three kids who hate to sleep?), traveling here and there, making passable efforts at housekeeping and meal planning, adding and adding to a mile-long to-do list…you get the picture.

With all of that going on, I feel like we must already be a few months into the school year, right? Then I snap out of it and realize this is only the beginning. Week 3, in fact. What’s more, with my oldest two only in second grade, there is a long road ahead. It’s times like these that I realize I just have to pray myself through each day. I simply do not have it in me to do this alone!

Georgia Aquarium

So what do you do when you are already stressed out on Week 2 of your homeschool year? Take a field trip, of course! A few years ago we visited Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and wanted to revisit now that our twins are older. If you ever have a chance to go, you will not be disappointed. Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the world with over 10 million gallons of fresh and salt water and a host of beautiful and amazing aquatic creatures everywhere you look! Our entire family loved Georgia Aquarium. In fact, I could not actually get my 2-year-old son to respond to me at all for the first half an hour of our visit. He was completely mesmerized by the fish and couldn’t take his eyes off of them!

Georgia Aquarium

My children were particularly captivated by the massive Beluga Whales, adorable Sea Otters, and the many special exhibits designed just for kids. You can ride on a conveyer belt straight through a tunnel of fish swimming around and above you (including massive sharks and rays) or pet jelly fish and star fish in one of the shallow “touch” pools. The dolphin show, one of the newer exhibits, is truly amazing, incorporating music, lights, and visual effects. The results are absolutely magical. I looked over at my daughters during the show and their jaws were literally hanging open. I am pretty sure I looked the same way!

Georgia Aquarium

With the price of tickets, parking, and gas to travel to Atlanta, (not to mention hotel costs) the trip was a little high for our typical “field trip” budget, but I have to say it was totally worth it. Our visit was unforgettable and certainly a great attitude re-set for the weeks ahead. Now to re-focus and move forward. Next week I have a feeling our lesson plans will include some aquatic art lessons and a trip to the library to research some of our favorite fish.

Homeschooling

By: Leah Prescott

Colored pencils

Even though I am barely into my thirties, one of the topics that makes me feel rather old is home education. I find myself incredulous at the changes that have transformed the home schooling world over the last couple of decades. I can’t help opening my mouth with the proverbial, “When I was a kid…” because back then, my parents chose homeschooling when homeschooling was barely an option. It was such a fringe movement that strangers would blink at me when I answered the dreaded, “Where do you go to school?” (Often, their meaning was “Why aren’t you in school right now?”) At my answer, they would respond with complete confusion. “Home bound?” I was asked. My, how times have changed…

Now when my girls answer this question it is met overwhelmingly with enthusiasm. I still find myself amazed by this change. One older gentleman at the copy store went on about his support of homeschooling and his efforts to convert his daughter on behalf of his grandchildren. I was somewhat gobsmacked, I admit. We run into other homeschoolers all the time and at the very least, strangers nod knowingly and mention, “My cousin homeschools.” Or “Sure, my neighbors are homeschoolers.” I have had new homeschoolers practically hug me when they learn I am a second-generation homeschooler, and sincere thanks are sent to my parents, pioneers in the field. (We were involved in a court case to legalize homeschooling in the state of South Carolina.)

My mom was constantly faced with the question, “Why do you homeschool?” but that question has basically disappeared from the conversation. (Although I admit that when my toddler is being particularly challenging, I will ask myself the same question, “WHY am I doing this again?”)

With more and more parents questioning the public school system and our nation’s academics falling lower, nearly everyone understands the reason for homeschooling. The question now is, “How do you do it?”  This early in the game, I admit that question is hard for me to answer. I’m still working it out year by year, grade by grade. I guess my complete answer at this moment is, “I homeschool by the grace of God!”  Without His hand on our family, I wouldn’t have the determination and energy for this task.

More specifically, the market is brimming with curriculum, extra curricular activities are abundant, and classes, enrichment and co-ops for homeschoolers are, in most areas, easily accessible. Interested parents need to realize that homeschooling is attainable. I am sad to encounter parents who genuinely want to teach their children at home but feel they are not up to the task. Believe me, you can do it! Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but it is a viable option for many families. The resources are available. The support is attainable. And the results can be very satisfying.

Feel free to ask me whatever you want about homeschooling, I love to write and chat about it. I will answer questions to the best of my ability, based on my childhood and our current situation. Whatever you do, just don’t ask me if my kids are “socialized.” That question is SO early 90’s.

Meet the New Every Woman Bloggers: Leah Prescott

Meet Leah Prescott, a mom of three who is learning to navigate the world of homeschooling and will share her experiments and successes teaching her children.

Hi Columbia! My name is Leah Prescott and I’m beyond thrilled to be a part of the Every Woman Blog community. I’ll be writing about my crazy days and life here in the Midlands of South Carolina, and hopefully meeting and hearing from as many of you as possible. I hope you are ready because I am sometimes an over-sharer.

Don’t say you weren’t warned. Please feel free to share right back. That’s what the comment section is for! I’m not exactly sure what I’ll be writing about, but I do have some ideas….only I’m really indecisive. Any votes?

As for me, I love being married to my husband of ten years. He’s the tall, quiet type, Leahbut he’s always willing to speak the truth. (In fact, sometimes I wish he was a little Iess truthful, but God knows what we need, doesn’t He?) Even 13 years later, he can look at me with those blue eyes of his and it takes me right back to our early days in college. I am so thankful that he has been with me through the ups and downs of the last decade!

Together, we have three of the sweetest, smartest, and most challenging children God ever sent down to earth. Right now, I stay busy homeschooling my seven-year-old twin girls and just trying to keep my energetic 22-month-old son from reaching his ultimate goal: the destruction of my home and sanity. And in the background there is always a barking beagle. Always.

When I’m not combing curls, teaching sight words, or wiping up something off the floor, I enjoy writing, thrifting, creativity in general, coffee, and Pinterest. I’ve really got to tone down my pinning, actually. But maybe you guys can help me sort through some of that also. Want to talk about pin-inspired successes and failures?

Did I mention I’m excited? Not only do I get the chance to share with all of you, but I already met some of the blogging team and what a fantastic, varied group of creative, funny, and skilled ladies! 2014 is sure to be a fabulous year on the Every Woman Blog, so keep your eye on us!