Wanderlust, Part 2: Maui

We just got back from a week of vacation in Maui, and we want to share our adventures with you. We chose to attend a work convention/leadership training in Maui and then add several more days of adventure. It was a blast!

Since we live in Kentucky, it’s quite a long trip to reach Maui. It takes approximately almost a full day to get from here to there. We had layovers in Chicago and San Francisco, and then we arrived in Kahului International Airport. It was interesting to leave Kentucky with long sleeves and long pants, and have to change our clothes into shorts and T-shirts because the temperature in Maui was in the 80s (Fahrenheit).

We got the rental car from the airport and then proceeded to stop by our first adventure spot: Costco. Hah! We laughed about it, but we definitely needed to stock up on a few things such as water, fruits, and some swimsuits for the kiddos since they had outgrown their swimsuits.

The island of Maui is the second largest island among Hawaiian archipelago and is about 727 square miles, which is comparable to three times the size of Chicago, Illinois, thought not as populated. Maui has several volcanoes, but the one on the east, Haleakalā, rises to more than 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level, and measures five miles (eight km) from seafloor to summit, making it one of the world’s tallest mountains. It’s a beautiful island, and we were even more amazed by the kind people we met.

The first few days of our vacation, we stayed at Honua Kai resort on Kaanapali beach, on the western side of the island, called Lahaina. Lā hainā means “cruel sun” in the Hawaiian language, describing the sunny, dry climate. Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii in the mid-1800s, and when you walk down Front Street, you can see this giant Banyan tree, one of the largest in the world, that was planted in 1873 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Christian missionaries.

The banyan tree or Ficus benghalensis has roots that descend or sprout from the branches into aerial roots towards the ground, where they form new trunks around the main trunk. This Lahaina giant banyan tree sprouted 16 major trunks that are apart from the main trunk, forming a large canopy with a circumference of about one-fourth of a mile, and about a thousand people could congregate under it.

Maui is also the best place to watch humpback whales between the months of February and April. These whales migrate from Alaskan waters to mate and give birth in the warm waters of Maui. You can easily see these whales from the beach and from a boat. They often congregate in pods, which is typically a group of a mother, her calf, and a few male suitors. You may also see the males fighting for the female by bumping against each other. When you snorkel or dive, you will be able to hear the sound of the whales singing for hours under the water. It’s a magnificent experience!

We joined a whale-watching ship from the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation, and the tour guide gave great educational information on how whales behave, how to spot them, and how to protect these endangered animals. The kids loved it! We recommend going in the morning as the water will be calmer and it will be less windy than the afternoon would. You also should reserve your spots ahead of time as these whale-watching boats get booked up really quickly.

We got to attend a luau that exhibited amazing singers and fire dancers sharing their New Zealand (Maori), Samoan, Tahitian, and Hawaiian cultures and stories. This is one way to enrich your children’s knowledge of the world cultures while having fun at the same time!

My wife always wanted to see a pineapple plantation, so we booked a plantation tour with Maui Gold Pineapple, where we were able to see thousands of acres of pineapple fields in various stages of growth, tour the packing facility, watch how they harvest the pineapples, and taste various stages of the pineapple and tour the packing facility. The tour took about 1.5 hours and we got to come home with a box of two hand-picked fresh pineapples.

The last half of the trip we stayed at the beautiful Grand Wailea on the south side of the island, in Kihei. The kids loved every one of the nine incredible pools and beach. When you visit, you must check out the world’s first water elevator there. It is rated as the Best Kid-Friendly Hotel in Hawaii by Oyster. The view was breathtaking from any angle. You can even see whales swimming right from the beach or from their signature restaurant, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Try pronouncing that!

The one downside to this trip was the time it took to travel from the mainland USA. This creates jetlag as your body tries to adjust to local time. We would be super tired at 6 p.m. local time (midnight in EST), and then wide awake at 2 or 3 a.m., as it’s already 8 or 9 a.m. in the mainland eastern standard time. By the time we were ready to leave at the end of the week, our bodies had finally adjusted to the Hawaiian time, which means it took us a few more days to again adjust once we get back home. We all agreed that the next time we return, we will stay much longer than just a week.

This was one of our favorite trips. We got to incorporate biology and science learning (whales, climate, and pineapple growing), and then history, geography, and native cultures. The kids got to meet various kinds of people from various parts of the world.

They also learned more about people with interesting tattoos all over their faces and body (Maori and most Polynesian cultures). They learned about how kindness transcends cultures and borders. They learned how the time change affected their body functions. They learned about how different cultures eat different kinds of food. They especially loved the physical education portion of this homeschool trip: swimming and bodyboarding!

Most of all, as we got to see Hawaii as a melting pot of many different cultures and races, we learned that Jesus loves all the children of the world: red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight. We all learned that God would love for all His children to be with Him again, and that the responsibility to share the Good News is on our shoulders.

Go travel, go outside of your comfort zone. If you haven’t read my previous blogpost on Wanderlust, you should! Click here.

God bless!

Arthur

Homeschool Student Interviews – Part 9

Student interview number nine is with an 11-year-old young lady who recently chose to return to homeschooling. There is quite an age gap between herself and her older sister and brother, who are now in university and working at a bakery. When they returned to school back in 2013, she wanted to join in and attended school for the first time, going into second grade. She soon discovered that it is not always like on TV, and asked to return back to homeschooling. After waiting to make sure it was what she really wanted to do, her parents started homeschooling her again in August 2016. This was half-way through fifth grade in Australia, as the school years there run from January to December. 

1 ) What is your name and what country/state/province do you live in?

My name is Eliana and I live in New South Wales, Australia.

2. How long have you been homeschooled?

My mum started homeschooling us when I was three. My older brother and sister returned to school 2013, and I wanted to see what school was like, so I went to school that year as well. I was in grade 2 and turning 8. I then started asking if I could come back to homeschooling, and finally mum said yes. I started homeschooling with her again in August 2016. So, it’s been eight months that I have been back at homeschooling. 

3. What do you like most?

I like being home with family. It’s also a lot quieter.

4. Is there anything you dislike?

No.

5. What is your favorite things to learn about?

Gymnastics. 

6. What are your favorite hobbies or activities?

Gymnastics and drawing. 

7. What would you like to do when you grow up?

Gymnastics and become a vet.

8. What is your favorite project you have worked on for school?

I really enjoyed making a whale lapbook before I went to school. In the last eight months, though, being able to do gymnastics has been the best thing. 

Homeschooling High School: Help! How do I fit it all in?!

Even though I have graduated two already, and number three is three-fourths of the way through high school now, I still am asking myself, “How do I fit it all in?!

By the time my children reached high school age, I figured they should be able to be independent learners, for the most part. (If I “did my job” properly while they were at the elementary/middle school levels, then I’ve already taught them to love learning. Still, I’m here if they have questions or need assistance with anything.) However, I also provided an outline, or list, of what I wanted them to cover during their high school years. Some of it has been the same for all three of my high schoolers; some of it has been specialized for each individual.

For example, they all had to cover the basics: math, English, history, and science. How they did that is individualized, as far as resources used, etc.

So… First step: Decide what has to be covered. Some colleges/universities require four years of math, for example, and some only three. Some require three or four years of science, some only two.

Second step: With your student, write up your “game plan,” what subjects will be covered which year, and maybe even decide together what resources you will use. Also, decide together what extra-curricular activities you may wish to include. Will your student have a part-time job to work around? Will your student do dual enrollment at a community college at any point?

Third step: Together fill in the calendar, or student planner. Teach your student to fill in the deadlines, etc. I think this is where I may have failed, to some degree, with my oldest. My daughter, though, seems to be naturally inclined to journal and fill in calendars, etc. This serves her well now; she often writes her work schedule on a calendar, so the rest of us will know what her schedule is. My current high schooler does plan to attend college, so now is the time to be teaching him how to closely manage his time.

Fourth step: On that calendar, you will also want to fill in any extras, like co-ops, field trips, music lessons…and the student’s work schedule, if he/she does have a job. Also, if your student will be taking tests such as PSAT, SAT, or ACT, you’ll want to write those dates in.

This will give your student a greater sense of independence.

What if your student has younger siblings? Well, this is one of the reasons you’re encouraging independence — so you are able to devote the extra time the younger children demand. Still, there is plenty that can be done together as a family, which is one reason I like unit studies so well. And, I read aloud to the children. My daughter sat in on a lot of the books I read aloud to the boys. Now I am reading several books aloud to both boys, especially related to history.

Do you have any tips for fitting it all in? Please share.

Next month we will be discussing graduation. Please come back then.

What to Teach a Preschooler

“How do you know what to teach your child?” I have had this question quite a few times since we told people we were going to homeschool our children. My answer is usually, “There are some great online resources available.”

But, sometimes a feeling of insecurity comes over me and I ask myself the question: Do I know what I need to teach my child? Am I doing the right thing? I’m not a teacher by trade. Maybe I would do something wrong.

In January my husband and I went to a curriculum fair. We talked to a nice lady of a Christian publisher, and she had a nice offer for a unit study to try. It came with three posters, the activities weren’t too scholastic, and it had also hands-on and outdoor activities. With my insecurity about teaching the right way, and all the hours I spend to create my own unit studies every month in the back of my head, we decided to buy that unit study.

At home I opened the book, and I was astonished. What stood out most were the pages and pages with learning goals. It contained 20 pages of learning goals, followed by 24 activities for three- to six-year-olds.

Observing my preschooler on 12 points while reading a short story?!? Did I miss something? Did I do something wrong? Do I need to set up an activity to teach my kids to set the table? No! We set the table three times a day. They learn how to do that. But, that is not “doing school.” Or, is it?!

Working with this curriculum made me realize I don’t have to feel uncertain about teaching my preschoolers. I know what’s important to our family. I know what I want to teach my children. We are homeschoolers, so we don’t have to teach how, what, and when the schools teach.

Buying this set curriculum had some pros and cons.

Pros:

  • low prep time,
  • meets the goals set up by the state, and
  • the children liked it.

Cons:

  • costs,
  • some activities geared towards a group, so my family with two children couldn’t do those, and
  • therefore, I was still tweaking the unit study to our own needs.

Is buying a curriculum wrong? No. You have to do what works for you in your current circumstances. It may fit your family, but in our case the cons won this time.

Did we waste money by buying the unit study? No. My children had fun and learned, and mom learned as well. Starting some kind of homeschooling so early is partly for me as a mom to learn — to learn what homeschooling is, to learn what and how to teach, to get some confidence.

I hope to encourage you with what I have learned so far:

  • You can’t do anything wrong if you love your child(ren).
  • Tell them about God and His love.
  • Keep an eye on building good, Christian character.
  • Lead by example.
  • Go outside, get some fresh air, and enjoy nature.
  • Nourish their curiosity by answering their questions.
  • Play together. Have fun!

Juggling Preschoolers: The Workbox Solution

A workbox focused on the color yellow: My preschooler was given instructions to find items with the color yellow from within the workbox and glue them in her special “Color Yellow” book. This project required preschool skills like cutting with scissors, gluing, coloring, and sorting by color.

I can point to certain years in our homeschooling journey as turning points, and this has been one of them for us! Our oldest officially hit ninth grade this year, which meant we had one child in each level: high school, middle school, elementary, and preschool. It’s taken me nearly all school year to tweak our program to meet everyone’s specific needs, but as the year has progressed it’s become easier.

One solution that eased my load was using a workbox system for my preschooler. As she’s gotten older, the contents of the boxes have changed according to her needs, but the system hasn’t changed, which is helpful. There are multiple descriptions of workbox systems available online, some very complicated, but today I’ll share how we’ve made workboxes fit into our lives successfully.

First, a confession: I have failed miserably — multiple times — at systems resembling chore charts and anything requiring daily labeling and reorganization. So, my system only requires *refilling*, and we don’t put cute stickers on to indicate the boxes are complete, or move numbers from the boxes to a laminated chart. She simply finishes the boxes. My preschooler is entertained and learning, and I am free to help the older kids while she explores her “independent” boxes. It works for us.

In our homeschool we try to finish all school work (besides high school) before noon so that the warmer afternoons are reserved for free activities and outside play. Usually my preschooler has finished her boxes before 11 a.m. and has some time to play in her kitchen or color for the hour before lunch. I have found that once her emotional and learning needs are met, she is much more willing to play by herself quietly.

Our stack of preschool workboxes: They are labeled 1-5, showing the order in which my preschooler should work on them for the day. An * by the number indicates that box is a “work with mom” box; the other boxes are mostly independent work, or boxes that require minimal instruction.

So here are the nuts & bolts of a workbox system:

  • I have a stack of five lightweight plastic boxes/bins that are a good size for my preschooler to handle all by herself, and that also fit most preschool activities nicely. For activities that don’t fit in the box, I put a reminder note in for myself that my preschooler brings to me. A drawer or file box system works well, too, but I have found that the boxes are bigger and work better for preschool; once a child hits elementary school, the drawer or file system seems to work better.
  • The boxes are labeled numerically in the order I wish her to complete them. Each box is filled the night before with either an “independent” project or a “work with mom” project. I put a star by the number on the box if it’s a “work with mom” box. That way she knows to come and ask for my help before starting. I try to have three to four independent boxes and only one or two boxes/day that she will need my help with.
  • When planning what order I wish her to complete the projects, I consider what I will be doing with the older kids when she gets to, say, “box #3.” That way the preschooler’s independent boxes will hopefully coordinate with the time slots for my older kids’ language arts or other subjects where they will need my help. (If the timing is off, I simply change the numbering in the morning or tell her to skip certain boxes until I’m able to help her.)
  • In the morning after chores, breakfast, worship, and violin practice, my preschooler knows she can start working on her boxes at her own pace, staring with box #1.
  • We keep a large plastic tray in my preschooler’s area, and she knows to keep all the components of the boxes either in the box or on the tray to reduce the mess. This is especially important when using craft materials or kinetic sand!

Kinetic sand is always a winner in the workboxes! Warning: it’s still messy, even if it sticks together better than ordinary sand!

Ideas for Workbox Contents:

  • The internet is peppered with many fun ideas for “sensory bins.” These work wonderfully for younger preschooler kids or 4- to 5-year-olds. I would suggest having a closet shelf or bins designated for supplies for these types of bins. The supply list can be overwhelming unless you have items on hand that can be used multiple times for various projects. An example: Plastic animals or greenery can be used with sand, uncooked corn or rice, “easter” grass, water, beans, confetti, or with pictures of live animals to match with, etc. I stock up on items from dollar stores that will work for multiple projects so I’m not purchasing constantly.
  • We are using the Adventurer program as a part of our preschool program. One day every week or two, our bins are full of items to complete the requirements or awards for that day. I usually choose a day when my other students have mostly independent work to do.
  • Kinetic sand and molds.
  • Items from nature: leaves, large nuts, moss, etc. This is more of an exploratory/sensory bin, but older preschoolers can be encouraged to create little “houses” or “play areas” for small creatures or dolls.
  • Tongs, egg cartons, and items for sorting and counting.
  • “Find it” bottles filled with rice and small items. They shake the bottle and try to find what’s hidden.
  • Magnets and items that are both non-magnetic and have magnetic properties. Let them explore what does and doesn’t attract.
  • Water in a container and items that float or don’t float.
  • Craft items: feathers, paper plates with holes cut on the sides, pipe cleaners, felt, buttons, glue, etc. See what they can create with what’s provided. We usually have one of these bins once or twice/week.
  • Finger puppets.
  • Story book with a CD so they can follow along with a story (for older children) OR a book you will have time to read with them.
  • Play-doh and tools. Online there are many printable “mats” for play-doh to reinforce counting skills and the alphabet, or to develop hand strength and dexterity making shapes. (I laminate these printable mats.)
  • Measuring spoons/cups and items to measure such as rice, beans, water, etc. Funnels are fun to play with, too.
  • Fingerpainting supplies — and a smock!
  • “Paint with water” sheets and a paintbrush.
  • Pages from preschool books (coloring, “follow the line,” copy letters). Kumon books are a good option, too, especially the ones to help develop scissor or gluing skills.
  • Wikisticks (there are wikistick kits available for purchase that work great for boxes).
  • Cuisenaire rods (or another math manipulative). I love the Cuisenaire Alphabet Book: Problem Solving from A to Z. “Inchimals” is another wonderful preschool math tool, similar to Cuisenaire rods (which are in centimeter increments); Inchimals are divided into inches.
  • Puzzles: a page of dot to dot, a large floor puzzle, wooden puzzles.
  • Lacing cards.
  • Items to stack (cups or boxes) or sort by size (wooden blocks, shells).
  • Duplos or bristle blocks.
  • Pipe cleaners and pictures of items to make with them, beads to thread on it, or a colander to thread the pipe cleaners through.
  • Magnetic numbers or letters for the refrigerator.
  • Coloring page with only WARM color crayons. (Or if they’re old enough, put all the colors in the box & instruct them to only use warm or only cool colors.)
  • Counting bears. We found a set with a plastic balance/scale for comparing weights at a thrift store.
  • Bean bags and buckets to toss them in, or balls.
  • Potting materials & seeds.
  • Toy cars, trains, planes, etc., and sand or dirt and blocks of wood to create paths, etc.
  • Plastic fruit & veggies (especially those that come apart and can be “cut” with a plastic knife)
  • Beans (or any small item) and a card with a letter of the alphabet on it to put the beans on, “tracing” the letter.
  • A kids’ music CD and instruments or scarves (if you have a room where they can play and not disturb everyone else).
  • Items to make musical instruments with.
  • Felt or magnet sets.
  • Dress-up items.

Enjoy! I love these preschool years, though they are BUSY! Pretty soon my preschooler won’t be interested in the activities above, and I’ll miss this stage. For now, the workbox system is one of my strategies for attending to my older kids’ needs while giving my preschooler something educational to “chew on.”