Summer Learnin’

“Mom, when you get done teaching those kids in your school how to read and to write, can you teach me?  You know, when your school is done and it’s summer?”

This is the question Eddie asked me a couple weeks before school let out in May.

I think any momma’s heart would flutter with pride knowing her almost four-year-old wanted to learn to read, but my English Teacher Momma Heart almost burst.

“OF COURSE!” I told him.

Because of course.


It was then that I took to the Pinterest, the Facebook, the Twitter, and hounding asking my friends who do daycare or are active with their kids’ schools/education to give me some pointers.  I mean, if he asked me to read and discuss anything from Hemingway’s writing catalog, we would be all set, but I don’t usually teach reading from square one.

Actually, the VERY first thing I did was send an email to my awesome sister-in-law, MacKenzie because she is a first grade teacher and she is amazing and I knew she could give me some pointers.

She did not let me down. She sent me a pdf of sight words already all ready to print, cut, and use.

My next step was to talk to one of my friend, Trisha, who decided to do some summer school stuff with her two boys (5 and 7). She told me how she lesson plans out their hour and talked about all the cool ways she found to incorporate math, science, reading, and writing along with art projects into their daily hour of “school”.

People.  I am a lesson planner by nature and she blew me away.

I also decided that Eddie and I needed to not be that strict about “school” since he was just four.

So armed with all the advice, I headed to Barnes and Noble for some workbooks on basic PreSchool/Kinder skills.

It was then that I started pinning ideas for crafts and experiments and other “learning” things that I knew he would be interested in.

I decided this summer, my objectives are this:

  1. Eddie will know the days of the week.
  2. Eddie will count to 100.
  3. Eddie will be able to do some very simple adding and subtracting.
  4. Eddie will be able to draw basic shapes.
  5. Eddie will be able to read some sight words.
  6. Eddie will understand how plants grow.
  7. Eddie will learn about how weather works.
  8. Eddie will write his name on his own.

How we are working toward these objectives:

1. The first thing I did was use some printables I found on Pinterest for the Days of the Week.  We put them on the slider door with an arrow for what day it is.  He recognizes most of the days by sight at this point (about four weeks in).  We also put what we are looking forward to each day of the week on Post-it’s after each day.  Eddie likes checking this out at each meal (his seat is right by the slider door) and talking about what we will do each day.

2. We have been counting since he was born. He can count to 30 already, and if pushed, can go higher.  Thirty has been as high as we have gone so far because that is how far we count when we put a temporary tattoo on.  But we have been baking and I tell him certain things need 60 stirs, so we count those together too.  He already recognizes numerals to 100.

3. So far, we do more subtracting than adding, and he’s getting pretty good at it without having to count what is left. We do this mostly at dinner. He counts how many bites of something he starts with and then I’ll ask how many he will have if he puts two bites in his mouth. He used to have to count what was left, but he can do it by sight now.

4. Eddie has known his shapes since he was very small (his first real word was “octagon”.  Not momma. OCTAGON. Sigh), but he has always had an aversion to writing.  Part of one of the workbooks I got him has him tracing and writing straight up-and-down lines, diagonal lines, horizontal lines, etc. I can tell he is getting more confident with them, because he will randomly practice his lines when he has “free draw” time in his notebook. Eventually I hope to help him make complete shapes (and numbers and letters, but shapes I think will be easy to start with).

5. I started by printing about 25 of the sight words MacKenzie sent me. So far he has eight down pat and we are working on six more.  We do them for about a week or more…until I am confident he can read them out of context of being on the wall…and then I add more. We hang the sight words on the slider door as well.  He loves reading them for everyone who comes over. When I announce it’s “Test Time” for words, he gets an m&m for each one he doesn’t need any help with.  I didn’t set a number of sight words I want him to learn because I honestly don’t know. I want to go at his pace.

6. Eddie really wanted to have a garden this summer, and so because he has been so interested in it, we are not just growing one, but talking about HOW it grows. We talked about the seeds and how they sprout, and then a couple weeks ago he asked me how plants drink. Of course we did the celery in food-colored water trick. But this was our conversation before he put the celery in the water:

Me: Eddie, take a drink of your apple juice. (he does). How did you drink?

Eddie: Through my mouth and down my throat and into my tummy.  Oh! And later it will come out my penis.

Me: Right. So um, look at this celery. It’s a plant, right?

Eddie: Right!

Me: Does it have a mouth?

Eddie:  (giggling at me) No, mom.

Me: Does it have a throat or a tummy?

Eddie: NO! And it SURE doesn’t have a penis!

Me: Right. So how does the water get in?

Eddie: Maybe through a tube?

Me: Feel the celery. What does it feel like?

Eddie: It has bumps.

Me: What do you think those bumps are? Think about how you said it might drink.

Eddie: bumpy tubes?

Me: Shall we see?  Put the celery in the blue water and we will check back tomorrow.

Obviously the celery “drank” the water through the tubes and we talked about how our plants in the garden have roots and when it rains or when we water the garden, it sucks it up through the roots and into the tubes (stems) to get the water. We also read a book about worms from the library and how they make the tunnels for the water to get to the plant roots.

7. Eddie is obsessed with weather right now, so that is going to be our next science/art project stuff.

8. Home Sluice totally laid this awesomeness on me yesterday:

2013-07-08 16.36.59

Of course we are also doing lots of reading; we hit the library about once a week for 10 more new books. Eddie’s thirst for reading is insatiable. It’s awesome.

I’m really just going with Eddie’s pace right now.  We don’t do “school” every day, just when he wants to (and when Charlie is sleeping because that child wants to crawl ON THE TABLE).  When we do school, though, Eddie calls me “Teacher” even when I told him he can just call me Mom.  He said he likes it.

Silly kid.

I do love his love of learning though.

He’s definitely my favorite student of all time.


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preparing my heart

Hooray for Popsicles!

Today is my last day before putting the boys in daycare full-time to get ready for the first day of school (which is Sept 4 ’round these parts).

We are off frolicking at the zoo with a bloggy friend to celebrate an awesome summer.

I’m trying not to beat a dead horse here, but hey, it’s my blog and I can beat whatever dead animals I want, right?

Wait. That didn’t sound right.

Anyway. School starting.

It’s a big transition for me every year.  It’s always brought on my anxiety in a big way.  If I were to create for you a nice graph of the past 10 years, you would see a giant, angry anxiety spike every single August.

That’s right.  10 years.

This fall starts my tenth year as a contracted teacher in my district.  I also did a semester of student teaching there and a total of 3/4 of a year long-term subbing in the high schools (over 2 school years).

This year, though, brings lots of changes.  Our district is down to one high school, and since we have combined the two we had, we are actually a brand NEW school.

We have a new mascot: The Wolves

We have new colors: Purple & Black (with Silver as an accent)

We have a new fight song, uniforms, paint in the building, gym floors, outside signs.

Tomorrow I go into my new room in the new building to begin creating my new space.

We are not allowed to put up any artifacts from either of the old high schools.  Not even any pictures of former students.

We are starting new.

No old traditions will be continued.  Everything will be created fresh.  We are starting the traditions that we hope will live on for generations.

You see, the two high schools that are coming together were rivals.

We need to now make them one.  One community.  One family of students.

It’s hard on me to not bring the past 12 years of students with me into this new room of mine.  But it’s time to start over.

And at the same time, I am preparing my heart to leave my boys.  Eddie for the 3rd back to school, Charlie for the first time ever.

It’s harder this year than it’s ever been.  Probably because of the sheer amount of change looming before me.  I don’t deal well with change…even when it’s super exciting and positive.  It’s hard for me to process.

Hence the anxiety spikes ever August, which have only gotten worse since having kids.

I have to prepare my heart to endure the pain of letting my boys go, and to expand it a bit to hold the students I will gain this year.

Each morning I have been spending time quiet and with the #SheReadsTruth assignment for the day.  I want to start the year with a good attitude toward my new school and the leaders.  I want a positive start to the year with my students and their parents.

And I want to come home and still be a happy, loving mother to my boys and wife to my husband.

I am letting myself grieve the loss of summer and time with Eddie and Charlie.  I am allowing myself to feel the sadness of having to switch Charlie from what he has known his whole life to a completely new routine with  new people.

I’m taking my new meds regularly to help control the depression that wants to creep in and the anxiety at bay.

But I am also letting myself be excited and happy to get back to the job I love.

And to look up and see the vacations from school that I am blessed with throughout the year to love on my boys…until next summer.

When we are together again.

So today, we are at the zoo.  I am not thinking about my classroom or lesson plans or what new school shirt I will order for casual Fridays.

Today I will be present for my boys so we can enjoy this last adventure of the summer.

You know, until next weekend when it’s Labor Day.