We Are HOMESCHOOLING!

Well today is the day! This week our kids would have been going back to school and today we are starting our first day of homeschool. What is really crazy is that Josh and I started talking about this being a possible option for our family in March. It is mind blowing that we are here at this point in Arizona. But here we are, homeschool affidavit submitted, and we are ready to make the best of this situation.

Let me first start by saying we love our schools. We are sadden that this is happening. But if our schools were open at this point we wouldn’t be sending them for in person learning because of how rampant COVID is in our community. Also we wouldn’t send them because Josh’s job brings him in contact with COVID positive patients and there is also COVID positive firefighters on the department. We could not in good faith send our kids to school in person with the potential that they could be asymptomatic carriers.

We are so thankful that there are school options available to families. Every family situation is different. For us, with the ages of our kids, we just really weren’t sure how I could effectively monitor two kids on computers as well as our little boys for 5-6 hours each day. And all these factors plus others had us more and more leaning towards homeschooling.

In May I started looking at so many different curriculum programs. So many. And there were multiple options that we liked. In the end we opted to stick close to what our school district uses. We felt this would be best if we wanted to transition back to in person learning in 2021.

So fast forward to June when I still thought we “might” homeschool I went to our schools website and printed off every weekly newsletter, spelling list, and reading list I could find for kindergarten and 2nd grade. This gave me a great outline for our year and also a benchmark for what our kids would have been learning each week in their school.

The end of June we buckled down and finally decided this is what we were going to do. I ordered all our curriculum and waited for it to arrive. Not going to lie when the boxes started showing up my first thought was “What the heck am I doing?”. The picture below is just a fraction of what arrived in our boxes.

If you are curious to know what curriculum we are using here it is. We are using the Journey’s series for reading comprehension/grammar, Spalding for phonics, Saxon Math (this was the biggest expense), Sonlight Science Kit A, and The Story of The World for geography/history for our main curriculum.

Our children’s elementary school uses Core Knowledge. The Core Knowledge Sequence is a detailed outline of recommended content knowledge and skills to be taught in language arts, history and geography, visual arts, music, mathematics, and science from preschool through grade eight. I purchased these books in the corresponding grades of my kids to help me stay close to what the curriculum is at the school.

Thankfully I have found many resources online that will go with our homeschool curriculum. If you are looking to supplement remote learning or leaning the homeschool route be sure to check out teacherspayteachers.com.

In addition to these we are also going to be using Long Story Short and New City Catechism to start our day. We have done the companion book to Long Story Short, Old Story New and highly recommend it. They are great 10 minute devotionals with scripture reading and questions.

We are going to doing lots of read aloud books too! I have a list that continues to grow by the week. Not sure how many we will get through but we have lots of options. I have purchased all our read aloud book used through AbeBooks.

For our 3 year olds I purchased the Horizons curriculum package. We love our preschool so much and are hopeful the boys will be able to attend maybe later next year.

The plan as of right now is to do geography/history/bible all together in the morning after breakfast. Then I will work with the kids individually on their math and english. After lunch while the three year olds are napping we will do the extra math page from Saxon, science, and any other worksheet we didn’t finish in the morning.

Obviously none of this is set in stone and my lesson plans are only written out for the first week, because I might need to change this up a few times before we figure out a good routine and system. I am super excited but also nervous. I know that I am so fortune to be able to stay home with my kids and homeschool them.

Whatever situation you are finding yourself in with school options this year just remember that you know your child(ren) best. You know what is the best choice for your family. Obviously some communities won’t have an option when it comes to remote learning. But we all have the choice to make the best of whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. Just know you aren’t alone and our attitude greatly sets the tone for our households. You got this mama’s. This year won’t be easy but we can do it.

Know I am rooting for you all! Take a deep breath mama’s, keep your heads high, and look for the good each day :).

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Our Experience Being A Firefighter Family Living In Arizona During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Thanks for stopping by the blog today and reading. This has been a post I have been wanting to write for the last several weeks. The last time I wrote on this topic was back in March. My husband Josh is a firefighter and has been on the department for over 12 years. I hope this gives you some insight on what our family has been experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local fire departments are starting to report more COVID positive test results among it’s members. Phoenix Fire is reporting 62 positive COVID-19 cases among firefighters and another 100 currently quarantined during the testing process, awaiting their results.

Let me start by saying you could have 10 families within the fire department write their thoughts and experiences down and get 10 varying answers. This post is based on our own experience.

Our family has been a self contained unit since March. We have not spent time with extended family members other then quick driveway visits from the car. Same goes for any in person interaction with friends. For reference we have an 8, 6, 3, and 3 year old. Three of our kids have had birthdays during this time. We celebrated their birthday’s at home. No friends, no extended family over, just the six of us.

We have been ordering our groceries online and picking them up curbside. Not any different from how we were doing things pre-pandemic to be honest. With 4 kids I am so thankful for curbside pickup! We haven’t eaten at any restaurants since February. This feels super crazy typing out because it is the longest period of time we have ever done this in our almost 13 years of marriage. 

The 4th quarter of school was done at home. Our kids missed their teachers and friends so much but we made the best of the situation and I feel like we did it fairly well.

Church is being done in our living room. Our church has been doing a great job at providing resources for us and our kids during this time to worship at home. 

But while we have been doing everything possible to limit our footprint outside our home so many others are not. Our state has more cases currently daily then we did during our stay at home order.

When Your Child Realizes What Dad Does For Work…

We always knew our kids would one day realize that Dad’s job is dangerous. He doesn’t just get to ride in a really cool fire truck but he actually fights fires. Fire burns. In this moment we knew part of their innocence would be chipped away as they realized Dad could get hurt at work. 

When Josh was a few months graduated out of the fire academy and in his first rotation, we went to a Christmas party with the crew he was working with. We had been married a year at this point, and I was super excited to meet the other wives. I listened to them talk about this exact topic and filed it away for later. I knew when the time came I would have the best speech planned for this conversation with our own kids. 

My breath caught in my throat one night two months ago when we were putting our oldest to bed. After saying prayers Josh told him he would be going to work in the morning. 

In the moment something clicked and Caden realized that Dad would be around other people who might be sick. It was heartbreaking. I always thought we would have this conversation in regards to fire. I had a great speech prepared, thanks to listening to that conversation years ago, about how daddy trains to be careful during fires and why we are so thankful he works with a crew that truly has each other’s best interest at heart. 

And while that last part remains true about his crew, no fire department has been trained for how to operate during a pandemic. Firefighters fight fires, run medical calls, and are there for the community in any and all emergencies. Everyone is learning as they go and trying to implement the best known practices to keep crews and patients safe. 

We are beyond grateful for this job that Josh wanted for so long and that pays our bills. But for the first time in Josh’s career, his job has concerned me. There are so many unknowns. At least with a fire you have protocol to follow. You train for fire. Firefighters don’t train for a pandemic. I don’t want my husband, family, or his coworkers to get burned by this.

We let our son know Dad is taking every precaution he can at work. And honestly that is all we could say.

Limiting Exposure To COVID-19 At Work & Home

My husband comes into contact with numerous people at work and because of that interaction we are doing several things at home to limit any virus exposure to our family. 

Our house gets disinfected several times a week. Josh isn’t sharing any of his food or drink with myself or the kids, though he will still eat any remaining food on our plates ;). He immediately showers and changes his clothes when he arrives home from shift. Shoes are left in the garage and sprayed down before they are brought into the house. He is wearing a mask at work and physically distancing in the station (this is now part of the standard operating procedure). Cell phone, keys, and steering wheel are wiped off also. 

COVID-19 Testing

University of Arizona is currently doing a wide scale study of COVID-19 with first responders and Josh was able to get the antibody test through the study. He had the test in May and tested negative. The tests results came with two pages of information basically saying that he could still be a COVID-19 carrier even with the negative result.

Fast forward to the end of June and he had a known contact with a positive case at work. While he has had known contact with COVID patients at work before, this time the exposure was from another firefighter. Thankfully Josh was able to get a test and two days later the negative results came back. Again the negative results came with information saying that even though he tested negative it might not mean he is actually negative. Only that at the time of testing, if he was infected, he didn’t have enough viral load to confirm.

Not everyone is having a two day turn around time like Josh did. One of our family members was tested on the same day as Josh but it took him just shy of two weeks to get his negative result back. Two weeks! That is such a long time. 

The downside to all this is that it took Josh several days to be informed about the exposure. Time that we as a family could have also been exposed as well. And had we been out and about in the community we very easily could have given it to others. It is great that more people are able to be tested in Arizona but the results are taking so long. And due to various HIPAA laws some organizations have their hands tied in exactly how much information they can share. It is just all really frustrating.

We can only control what our family is doing to keep everyone in our household healthy. Beyond that, it is up to others in our community to help keep my husband and other essential workers safe. At this point in time it doesn’t seem like that is happening. Driving around town you would never know that our hospitals are almost at capacity due to COVID-19. 

How Many People Do We Know With COVID-19

In the last two weeks we can count 10 people that we know who have COVID. Thankfully the majority have had mild cases so far, but a few are still feeling the effects even after being deemed “recovered”. They are still suffering from breathing issues and fatigue. Currently one of those is prone on a vent and fighting for his life. 

Our youngest son has asthma and is on 4 different medications to help monitor his breathing. We don’t know what COVID would do to him. Maybe he would have a mild case, but that is a gamble we don’t want to take. We aren’t living in fear but we are living cautiously. We have read up on all the best ways to protect our home and keep Josh safe at work and are putting those things into the practice, the rest we know is in the Lord’s hands. 

This time period has been especially eye opening in regards to friendships. We hear and read the opinions of our friends and peers on this topic. People who we might have normally reached out to for support are approaching this as a hoax or think it is a complete over reaction. It is hard. It hurts at times. Not really sure there is much more to say on that. It just sucks. 

I am hopeful this will get better and I believe it will at some point. But until it does we will be staying home.

The kids and I miss going to see Josh at work, eating Deena-balls (a yummy treat with oreos and cream cheese that his crew member makes), and sitting in the truck pretending to go on a call. The fire department is one big extended family and we are so thankful our kids get to grow up with these experiences and we are looking forward to the day they can happen again. I love my husband and I am so proud of the work he, and his crew, and department are doing right now.

On The Sunny Side of Things…(And It is Really Sunny & Hot In Arizona Right Now)

On a positive note, we have spent so much time with our kids! And I really do mean that in the best way. I was spending an average of 4 hours a day in the car driving kids to and from school and it has been amazing to have more time at home. We have been potty training our littlest ones. Yay for potty training when you don’t have to drive anywhere! And all the mama’s said, AMEN! And we have been playing so many board and card games. 

Even though we haven’t spent time with family in person we have been using technology to our advantage. We have played board games with our family via zoom and been able to see each other for birthdays. 

We are eating healthier because we aren’t eating out. So yay! I have been able to workout consistently since April and we completed our garage gym, I will share details on that soon. Josh did an amazing job organizing all our equipment in one central location.

Sometimes it is hard to know what to write and how much to share especially on this topic. Thank you all so much for reading! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to read what our family has been experiencing.

xo, Tamara

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Summer Learning For Preschoolers & Early Elementary Students

For reference my older kids are 6 and 4 and my two littles are under 3. This post contains affiliate links.

Two years ago I shared a very detailed post on how we do preschool at home in the summer. When our family started fostering last year I began looking for inexpensive summer learning activity books. I knew I wasn’t going to have time to put together binders for each child like I had the year before. What I purchased worked out so great and I am planning to use the same products again this summer.

Here is a roundup of what we are going to be using this year plus purchases from last year that we loved!

Workbooks & Reading Programs

These Summer Brain Quest Between Grades books are fantastic! Fun enough that your kids will ask to keep working through the book but still educational. We had to limit the number of pages done each day so we didn’t finish the book in the middle of summer.

We love Curious George in our house. So this Curious George Sight Words Reading Program was a no brainer to buy last summer. This program is under $15. It comes with flash cards, 10 reading books, and a sight word tracker chart that includes stickers to mark off which words have been mastered.

Keeping with the Curious George theme. I bought Curious George Math and Science Readers STEM Program to add to our collection this year. This boxed set includes ten fun stories and activity cards featuring Curious George designed to introduce young readers to science, technology, engineering, and math.

I plan on visiting our local library often over the summer with the kids to keep our reading material new and exciting. My goal is to read to them often and to cut back on the amount of television they watch. Wish us luck! Our plan right now is to let each kid pick a show 1 day a week. This will equal out to 30 minutes of television Monday-Thursday with Friday being a family movie day.

Our son’s school uses Spalding and he has learned the first 70 phonograms this year. It was a little challenging for me to learn these so I could help him with his homework and I don’t want him or myself to get out of practice over the summer so we will be reviewing these often ;).

Bible & Theology Resources

We are still working our way through Old Story New. I plan on using these 10 Minute Devotionals along with The Gospel Story Bible and The New City Catechism during our summer school time. We have been reading The Jesus Storybook Bible again in the mornings at breakfast and plan to continue this also.

FREE Resources

There are so many great resources also available for FREE! Here are a few that we have used in the past.

  • Spot and Dot Alphabet Pages These are excellent for helping your preschooler work on their hand-eye coordination, their fine motor skills, and so much more! We use the Do-A-Dot Markers for this activity.
  • Number Playdough Mats 
  • Create Your Own Handwriting Sheets I use this to generate sheets for the kids names. I finally got smart and instead of printing one out for each kid everyday I put the paper in a clear sheet protector. The kids now use a dry erase marker and once a week get to practice with a pencil.

I am just so excited to have all my kids home together this summer. We don’t have any huge plans, just good quality family time!

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