Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is supposed to be a fun holiday for the kids and adults alike.  I have compiled a few "mom tips" that I live by on Halloween.

Safety Rules:

1. Make sure that any costume fits properly and the mask fits so that you can breathe and see well in.  Make sure that capes, dresses, and other costume clothing isn't too long that it becomes a trip hazard.

2.  Wear some sort of reflective gear.  Use glow in the dark glow sticks, bracelets, etc to help be reflective.  Also reflective tape on a child's back or on their hat  helps tremendously.  We, parents, always carry bright flashlights, wear glow sticks and put reflective tape on us as well.  We are usually near the child so if the cars see us then they should slow down and look for kids as well.

3.  Check all candy out. We toss anything that wasn't properly wrapped and look for anything that could have been tampered with.  Many medical centers will x-ray your candy for free.  Check around if you are really concerned.

4.  Parents always trick or treat with kids.  We always walk around with the kids.  The more the merrier and we make this a family event.  Even though mine are old enough to go by themselves we have never let this be an option.

Politeness Rules: (these are rules my family has)

1.  Say "Trick or Treat" and say "thank you". A smile is always welcome.

2. Be appreciative with anything that they are given, whether it be an apple, bag of carrots, or a candy bar they don't like.

3.  When given the option to take a piece of candy from the bowl they are to choose quickly one from the top and not dig through the bowl looking for a piece they want.

4.  Always walk up and down the driveway and on the sidewalk or path to the house.  No cutting through the yard.

5.  NO trading candy when we get home.  This just becomes an argument in our house so we made it a rule.

6.  Mom and Dad have to inspect the candy before eating. No cheating.

The CDC has a great list of safety rules and you can find them here.

Here is a great website for more safety tips for all sorts of Halloween fun.

And finally, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a great list of Halloween Safety as well, here.

And one more "Mom Tip":  Take along a couple safety pins just in case you have a costume malfunction in the middle of the trick or treating trip.  I also carry my phone in case I need to dial for emergencies, my flashlight, glow sticks, and of course my camera.

You've Been Boo'ed! (Halloween Fun)

(from christmas.organizedhome.com)

With goblins and ghouls outside, my kids want to do scary Halloween but we don't do scary in our house.  It scares me too much. We DO do fun Halloween and this activity is so much fun.

Gather together some treats and tricks and put in a bag or smallish Halloween bucket.  We get our stuff from the dollar store.  We mix candy and pencils, little party favors and such in the bucket.  Then print off the "You've Been Boo'ed" poem and picture from on line.  This is my favorite site to get it.


They have several different designs to choose from.

Then go out in your neighborhood and leave them on the front doorstep, ring the bell, and RUN!  It is supposed to be a secret who boo's you.

Their job is to make three buckets or favor bags and do the same to three more homes.  Before long most of your neighborhood will be boo'ed.

We like to start this about the second week in October in our neighborhood to get the kids and everyone looking forward to a fun and safe Halloween.

Happy Halloween! (Stay safe and wear reflectors)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Update on Sandy the Storm

This storm is quite a slow mover.  We were originally told that we would start seeing the rain and winds Saturday evening.  Then we were told Sunday morning, then Sunday evening, then Monday morning.  Public schools closed their doors to all activities Sunday and Monday.  Sandy seemed to not be in any hurry though to get to us.  She seemed to like hanging out in the ocean.

Where I am we didn't start to see good consistent rain and wind until Monday afternoon.  Now we sit with the rain and much milder winds than we were expecting.  We feel lucky to not be in the thick of this storm but know that many are still sitting in the dark with the winds and rains around them.

Yesterday we went out an bit the bullet and bought a generator.  We think that might have scared Sandy off. Ha ha.  I mean we spent all this money on an item that we know we should have and we are glad to have but we probably won't be using it on this storm unless the winds and rain increase through the night (which they are not expected to).

We definitely lucked out here where I am.  We hope that those who are in the path of the storm stay safe.

Oh a funny thing I noticed.  The air pressure has decreased significantly here and one way I noticed this was that my candy bar wrapper was puffy today.  That meant that the air pressure in the wrapper was higher than the pressure outside the wrapper.  Very odd for us to have this phenomenon.

Have a great evening.

Smooth Easy Days, Freebie book by Charlotte Mason

I downloaded two of the three free books that Charlotte Mason has for free on her website.


I haven't gotten very far yet but the beginning sounds just like me.  I want and dream of a smooth functioning home and learning environment but I often feel I am leaving things out or not living up to my own standards.  I hope to learn a lot from this book about my habits as well as how to develop family habits that will last with us a life time.

Grab this free ebook for yourself too!

Have a great day.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Updating our Homeschool Curriculum

This past weekend I bit the bullet and began to feel guilty that my kids weren't learning spelling words and weren't getting much grammar in the Sonlight program.  So I bought these new items to round out our learning this year.

For the 4th grader:
  • Evan-Moor Building Spelling Skills 3 (I went down a grade because I know she isn't ready for the 4th grade version yet)

  • Spectrum Language Arts Grade 3 (Again this is where she is)  I anticipate she will finish this up pretty quickly and we will move on to Grade 4 before spring time.

  • Evan-Moor Daily Paragraph Editing 3

  • Carson-Dellosa, Skill Builders - Grammar Grade 3

  • Carson-Dellosa Skill Builders Reading Comprehension Grade 3

For the 7th graders:

  • Spectrum Language Arts Grade 6 (again, they aren't quite ready for higher levels, plus Spectrum only goes up to Grade 6 in this book)

  • Evan-Moor Building Spelling Skills Grade 5 (This is where they are)

  • Evan-Moor Daily Paragraph Editing 4 (I got this on super sale.  I will use it with the older ones and it will be easy but I have it also for the younger one when she is ready for it)  I will get the level 5 when they finish these.

  • Carson Dellosa Reading Comprehension Grade 5 and Grade 6 (one needs one and one needs the other)

  • Carson Dellosa Grammar Grade 6 (I will use this for extra practice from the other language arts book)

  • Rainbow Bridge Skill Builders - Reading Grade 6 (This will be an extra practice for the kids as well)

My focus will be on building skills so they can master these and then move on.  I am pleased with my choices and we will be beginning these tomorrow morning.  Yippee!

I still have a bit more tweaking to do with our plan and I need to work on Science instruction.  I think we are going to focus on units here.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Easy Homefries (Hashbrowns) - two recipes

My family loves hashbrowns.  For years I could never make them well.  They tended to either stick badly to the bottom of the pan or burn and not cook through, or well, just not turn out looking like the ones you get in restaurants.

Over the years we have found two awesome methods for making hashbrowns.

Tater Tot Hashbrowns:

1 bag of frozen tater tots
1 onion chopped
3 tbsp vegetable oil

In a large pan or skillet heat the oil over medium/medium high  heat and add the onions and tater tots (I like to heat them up in the microwave for a few minutes until they thaw to reduce the cooking time).  Cover and let thaw for about 5 minutes.  Then using your pancake turner or a large spoon chop or crush the tater tots and mix around until the onions are cooked and the tater tots are smashed into small pieces.  Season with salt and pepper on your plate.

This second one is a great way to use left over potatoes or even french fries.  (Yes we bring left over french fries home from restaurants when we have a bunch left over.)

Leftover Potato Hashbrowns:

Chop potatoes or french fries into cubes.  Heat skillet to medium high and add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add potatoes and chopped onion. Fry until warm and beginning to brown.  Season with salt and pepper if desired.  This works best with thicker cut fries not the skinny ones.

If you don't have any left over potatoes or french fries you can cube a potato and heat it in the microwave until just done and then fry in a skillet.

I use my cast iron skillets to cook these.  I love the cast iron because it holds the heat well and disperses it evenly.

Additional things to think about when preparing for a severe storm

Yesterday the kids and I made our list of items we needed to purchase from the store and we went out to run our errands.  As I was walking through Costco yesterday I was pleased to see a few people looking at generators.  One couple decided to purchase one.  Costco was selling them for $699.  That is one family who won't have to worry much about their basic items such as their refrigerator and freezer foods going bad.

Anyway, as I was walking through the aisles, (note to self: don't take the kids to Costco when the sample ladies are out.  They want you to buy way too many items), I remembered several items which make life a bit simpler when the power is out and I thought I would share them here.

1.  Paper plates, napkins, plastic forks and spoons and paper cups.  These are awesome to have around so you don't have to wash many dishes.  I bought a big bag of plates and a big bag of cups yesterday.

2.  Clean out your gutters and drain ditches.  This helps with the heavy amount of rain.  We don't want to cause a flood if we don't have to.

3.  Shelf stable milk.  This is great to have around. 

4.  Wet wipes and hand sanitizer.  Helpful for washing hands and killing germs without using water.

5.  Charge everything you can prior to a possible power outage.  Right now I am charging my handheld mixer. It is a staple appliance in my kitchen and the battery lasts a long time so I want to get it fully charged before the power goes out.  Yeah, I am spoiled.  But more so, charge your phones, ipods, ipads, laptops, hand held game systems, radios, etc.  

6.  Do laundry and straighten the house.  If the power goes out and you have no clean undies you will be sad so do as much laundry as you can.  While you are at it straighten up the house a bit.  Put items away and vacuum the floors.  This way when the power goes out you won't trip over something out of place.  Also you will feel better in a clean-ish home while you sit and wait for the lights to return.

Yesterday I spoke with two neighbors about the upcoming storm.  Both hadn't paid much attention to it.  Both said something to the extent of "Well, I guess I better start thinking about it.  We will probably lose power again."  I doubt they will think much of it until tomorrow when it starts to drizzle.  

I made up a little checklist for severe storms. You are welcome to download it and use it.  It was created in Open Office and you can get that program for free (just Google Open Office and it will give you the link).  It can also be opened up in MS Word I am pretty sure too.  The formatting may be a bit off but it should work, so I have been told. :)

Click on the link below!

(no it is not crooked when you download the file)

Have a great day!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nor'Easter to hit East Coast in 4 days

In four days we are expecting to get a hurricane which they say will transition into a "nor-easter".  We are expecting 50+ mile an hour sustained winds and a ton of rain. The first model shows the wind speed we should expect.

This second graphic shows the total expected rainfall associated with this storm.  We are in the 8.5" range.

Today, my family and I will go out and get any additional supplies we need.  We are expecting, downed trees, power outages and possible flooding in our "basement" (really ground level that floods in our utility room when we have heavy rains, as the door jam is just at ground level).

These are the things we will do to prepare for this storm.  In past storms we have opted to leave our home and wait out the storm a few hours away, but in this case we will hunker down right here at home and wait it out.

1.  Water - I will pick up a few more cases of water bottles and I will fill a clean bathtub with water the morning of the storm.  This will do for washing and cleaning.  The water bottles will be fine for drinking and cooking.

2.  Food - I just want to get a few fresh fruits for us.  Otherwise we are really okay in this department.  But in thinking of a possible power outage I will wash and prepare coolers for food storage just in case power goes out.  I will also get more ziploc (freezer) bags (because I used the last one yesterday and it is on my list anyway) and fill them with ice and pack any extra corners in our freezer to help keep our food cold longer in case of a power outage.  I will purchase the night before or the morning of the storm (depending on how fast it is traveling) a couple big bags of ice and put them in the freezer if I have room or in a cooler to have on hand.  Ice is often the first thing to go around here when the power goes out.

3.  Alternative cooking - our gas grill just died on us earlier this week.  The entire heat dispersing plate crumbled and fell apart and the grate looks horrible.  It was time for a new grill anyway.  So we will be buying a new grill.  I always look for something that I can cook on with pans if I have to.  I will also be getting out our camping stove and I will check on our supply of propane for it and make sure it is in working order.

4.  Power source - We can charge our phones in the car and we have battery operated lanterns and flashlights, plenty of candles and such.  We are okay in this department but will check on our supply of batteries.

5.  First Aid supplies - I am really good in that area.  We keep a well stocked first aid kit and have plenty of band-aids, larger bandages, and creams, ointments, and OTC meds.  I don't need anything in this area. 

When we have a big storm like this we are usually out of power for at least a week if not longer.  So we will prepare for at least 2 weeks of no power.  

Why am I doing this now?  Why not wait another day or two so we are sure it will be coming to us and affecting us like they are saying it might?  Well, for one, I hate to have to fight someone for the supplies I need.  I would rather go out today and get the items quietly when others aren't paying attention than fight for the last loaf of bread or the last case of water on Sunday when others decide they may need some supplies.  If I know my fellow community members they aren't even thinking about stocking up yet.  While the storm is on the radar it isn't on their "radar".  So I will stock up and if it turns and doesn't affect us much well then, I have extra supplies on hand for another emergency.  If I wait I may not be able to get the items I need.  If I do it now, quietly, then I can get my items and be ready for the storm and no one knows the wiser what I have and what I don't have.

Better to be prepared than to be panicked.  My motto, worry causes wrinkles and I don't want to worry so I prepare.

How much money am I shelling out for this?  About $150 if I estimate right.  I will need $100 for a new grill (Walmart) and the $50 will go towards batteries, propane if I need it (which I really don't think I do), ziploc bags, fresh fruit and water bottles.

What am I missing?

How are you preparing?

"Mini" Preparedness. Great article.

For many of us we don't think that the entire world economy will collapse leaving us with "food zombies" roaming the streets, urban chaos, or even nuclear meltdown, terrorism, or other unthinkable things will actually occur.  Most of us don't want to "prep" or prepare for things that most likely won't occur.  However,  there are very real things that we can prepare for like loss of a job, natural disasters that take power away for long periods of time, and other emergencies that are more common.

This is a great article that I came across this morning.  It is a good, common sense approach to thinking about having items in your house which you will need in an emergency.


Basically what you are looking at is a five-fold process:
1.  Water - for drinking, cleaning and bathing. (think about disposal of that water too)

2.  Food - I prepare for a couple months at the least, but if you think about the longest you went without power and prepare for double that then you will be set for most anything and are able to help neighbors or other family members too.

3.  Alternate cooking methods - have a couple different ways to cook your food and have the supplies (tools) that are appropriate for those methods.  For example, if you plan to cook using a camping stove then your regular non-stick pans and utensils will work just fine.  If you plan to cook using an open fire or grill, then you will need pans and utensils that will work for that.  You can't put a plastic handled pan on the grill and not expect it to burn or melt.

4.  Emergency First Aid Supplies - always a good thing to have a well stocked first aid kit.

5.  Alternate Power Source - whether it be battery operated flashlights, a lantern with fuel, or a solar panel to power or charge your electric items, or dreaming big a generator that takes diesel gas, you need to make sure you have the items you need as well as plenty of batteries or fuel for them.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Free Homeschool Curriculum Pack - My Side of the Mountain

This is an awesome freebie and I hope you are able to take advantage of it.  It is for just a few days but even if you don't get a chance to get this for free, it is still a great deal at $9.99.  This is a curriculum pack for the book My Side of the Mountain.  What I like about this is that the book tells of a boy (teen years) who lives and camps on a mountain.  It talks of survival skills and getting ready for winter.  This is all right along with what we have been interested in, in our family.  Getting ready for what ever happens.  Preparing for the coming seasons, etc.  We will be studying this book and the skills that go along with it.

So here is the link, be sure to read the "fine print" to get the coupon code.  This deal is only through October 24, 2012, so hurry along and get this download.


Have a great day!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent (Powder form)

In an effort to save some money I decided that I was going to finally try making my own laundry detergent.  I came across a post in a blog probably 3 years ago and thought it was a fantastic idea.  We have always used liquid detergent so at first I was going to try the liquid recipe but the more I thought about it I didn't want the mess and fuss with having to cook the soap and wait a day before using it.  I am the kind of person who likes to make and use immediately to see if it really works.

This past week I have slowly collected the ingredients for this recipe and on Saturday while I was at Walmart I bought the final item, a big glass canister, to place all the detergent in once it was made.

Over the past week I have been searching the internet for a "good" recipe.  Every post I came across with a recipe in it had a different combination of items or extra items added.  So in this post I am not going to give credit to any one blog for the recipe because I created my own from combining other recipes together.  I looked at what they included and then read every single comment and figured out why each item was used.

So without further adieu here is the recipe.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

1 box Borax (I got the 20-Mule variety)
1 box Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
1 small box of regular Baking Soda
5 1/2 cups of Oxyclean (I got the Sun brand from Walmart)
4 bars of Dove soap (original formula) (other recipes call for 3 bars Fels-Naptha, I chose Dove because I read that you can use any bar soap and I liked the scent of the Dove, but I specifically chose a variety that wasn't "moisturizing")

Shred the bars of soap. -- I used my food processor.  I grated it with the cheese grater blade, then chunked it up into even smaller pieces by using the chopping blade.  

Mix all other ingredients in a trash bag.  Put all ingredients in a trashbag, tie tightly and shake it around to mix all the ingredients well. 

Pour into a container large enough to store the detergent.

And that is it!  It is that easy.  This batch will last a good long time!  Some blogs say it will last a year, but with my larger than average family, I estimate it will last me about 6 months.

I use a tablespoon or two for each load of laundry.  It is safe for HE washers, though I don't have one.  I have a large, top-loading washer.

I have used this now for four loads and I am pleased with the results.  I think that two tablespoons are better than one for our messy, dirty clothes.  I was a bit surprised that there is absolutely no suds with this recipe.  None whatsoever! Not one bubble.  But when I felt the water it felt soapy and slimy so I assume it is doing its work.  I love how my clothes smell.  They smell clean and fresh.  Not much scent but I hear you can add a scent booster in this recipe to give it more scent if you want that.

Also there was much talk in the other blogs about it being safe for septic tanks and it is as each of the ingredients are safe.

I have one thing to ask.  Since I created this recipe myself I appreciate if you post this on your blog please link it back to me.  It is the right thing to do and everything I post here is copyrighted by me so please credit me.  Thank you.

Have a great week!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Northwest to get SNOW this weekend. (and Freebie)

photo credit: http://www.picturesofwinter.net/snow_pictures.html
The forecast this weekend calls for snow in the northwest.  This can be a wake up call to all of us all over the country, even if we don't get much snow.  There are many things we can do to prepare for winter and each region has its own set of issues for each season.

For those of us who do find that powdery white stuff on the ground from time to time or for much of the winter there are a great many things on our To Do list before the storms hit.

To Do:
1.  Pick up all toys and tools in the yard and straighten up the leaves and twigs that fall from the trees.  Twigs, logs, tools and toys can be a trip hazard after a snow.  You can't see what you are stepping on and can turn an ankle or fall.  Plus you won't be able to find tools that you may need if it is covered with snow.   Put tools and toys away in the shed or under the house or deck.

2.  Cover lawn furniture and the wood pile with a tarp so snow won't ruin the finish on the furniture or wet the wood when it begins to melt.

3.  Stack firewood and have a place for it to stay dry in winter storms and rain.

4.  Finish winterizing the garden.  Cover wintering over plants with straw, till in fertilizer or plant cover plants for tilling under in spring.

5.  Make sure you have enough food storage and water for at least a week that you can cook with out electricity. (I like to have more but that is me!)

6.  Make sure that you have your generator in good working order if you have one.  Start it from time to time to make sure that it is running correctly.  Top off oil and gasoline so it it ready to use.  If you have a snow blower, snow mobile, etc.  Prepare these for winter use also.

7.  Prepare for an alternative source of heat and cooking in case storms take out electricity.  This is very important so you won't worry or have to rush.

8.  Check battery supply, alternative lighting supply, and other gasses like propane, kerosene  or any other fluids that you use if power goes out.

9.  Unpack winter blankets, flannel sheets, and freshen them up for use (I like to put them in the dryer for a quick turn with a dryer sheet).

10.  Unpack snow gear such as hats, gloves, snow pants, boots, winter coats, etc.  Try them on all members of family to make sure they fit and are wearable for this season.  Make a list of items you need and check local thrift stores for these items first before buying new. (never hurts to save a bit of money).

I hope this list helps you.  I have printed this list out in a form so you can print it off and check off the items, make a shopping list, and add additional items to your list.  I keep a copy of this in my household notebook and use it over and over each year.

Grab this file here.

Have a great day!

Grow an Avocado Plant

(Getty Images, pulled from iVilliage.com)
We love guacamole and I am going to be making it tonight as part of our dinner.  I will take the stone and plant it immediately and I will let you know how it grows.  It will be an indoor plant this winter and I will take it outside for the summer time. I love to slice avocado and put on my turkey sandwiches, salads and just eat plain.  I only buy them when they are $1 each or less though because they are so darn expensive.  With a tree we can have our own for free.  Yes it will take 3 years to get to maturity but it will be so worth the wait.  Yum!

Copied from avacado.org

Avocado Nutrition Information

Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. They also act as a "nutrient booster" by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha and beta-carotene and lutein, in foods that are eaten with the fruit. You can find detailed avocado nutrition information listed in our Avocado Nutrients section including all of the vitamins and minerals found in avocado.

Avocados and Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but a healthy diet and exercise plan may help reduce your risk of developing the life-threatening illness.
The American Heart Association (AHA) Dietary Guidelines recommend a diet that has at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, contains up to 30% of calories from fats (primarily unsaturated) and is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fats and sodium while being rich in potassium. Avocados can help you meet the AHA dietary guidelines because they have both monosaturated and polyunsaturated fat and contain potassium.

Have a great day!

Weekly Menu Planning (and Freebie)

With all the changes that has happened in our household the past month one thing that we have had to be extra careful of is our money.  We don't have a lot of it right now and we have been going through some transitions with that.

One thing that we haven't been doing much is going out to eat.  The kids have felt the brunt of this.  In the past we have gone out to eat at least once a week if not more often.  Now we eat every meal at home.  We have to plan when we go out that we won't be out during a meal time where we will be tempted to eat out.  This also means that we must plan our meals more carefully so that I have all the ingredients I need to cook supper.  I also have to be ever present to make sure that I take out anything that needs thawing in the morning so it is ready to cook in the afternoon.

This afternoon I decided to whip up a form that I can fill out for a weekly meal plan.  I have covered this subject before but tonight I thought I would share my form with you all.  It is yours for free to print as many as you want.  What I love about this form is that it has room to write your menu items for all three meals a day and you have a column for your shopping list.  You can create your menu and add any items you need to your shopping list immediately.  When you are done you can simply cut or tear off the shopping list and head off to the store.

I have two links for you.  The first is the Weekly Menu Plan with all three meals and the shopping list.  The second is the Weekly Menu Plan with a "snack" line for each day.  I also plan a snack.  It just makes it easy for us to know what is available to eat for snacks.  If you are like me, then there are teenagers in the house who seem to be ravenous all day long!

Weekly Menu Plan

Weekly Menu Plan w/ Snack

These files are in .ODT form, this is an Open Office file.  I don't have MS Word on my computer but you can convert these over to a Word doc pretty easily I think.  Let me know if you have any problems with the files.

Enjoy and I hope that you will get good use out of them.  I pray that they save you money, time and effort in your busy days.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Homeschooling 101, part 2 (and Freebie)

This is a 2 part article on my homeschooling panic and return to reality.  To read part 1 find it here.

In my struggle to figure out what I was doing wrong I went back to my sources.  Clearly other people were not having the same troubles as me.  Why was I struggling so?

I went back to the internet to look at other families and what they were doing and what I was doing wrong.  I searched for a plan book that would help me organize my thoughts and my ideas.  I found a few things, but nothing that I loved.

I decided on these things.  I went from year calendars to month calendars and then all the way down to weekly schedules.
This one is from donnayoung.org

Find these awesome month calendars at freehomeschooldeals.com

I also printed out Book Lists.

I can't wait to fill them in with all the books we have read.  I plan to have the kids each fill one out with the books they read through the year and then I will fill one in with all the books we read together as a family.

You can find the Book List forms at freehomeschooldeals.com.

Then I moved on to a Semester Planner.  I like that each semester is on one sheet of paper.  You can see that I have already begun filling it in.

Now I am beginning to see where we are going this year academically.

I made my own weekly scheduling pages since I didn't find any that I loved.  I used Open Office to create this and I have the file right here for you if you want to use it too.

I made the pages colorful by adding color to the text.

Now I am finally beginning to see where we are going and what we are doing each day.  I may not plan every week and I won't be planning our math for the older kids as their math program goes along in lessons and they do a lesson a day pretty much.  I don't have to plan for that.

It may also be a good idea to use these as an historical record of what we did each day.  I will be adding the books we read, the topics we study, the activities we do and the field trips we go on.

I am finding that most homeschool families teach a skill to mastery.  My kids didn't always master all the math, spelling, and reading skills they needed and I will be spending some good time with them on these skills so they master them.  I truly believe that this sets homeschooled kids apart from public schooled kids.  It is the level of mastery.

In the process I realized that the state only requires me to provide math and reading scores.  Realized probably isn't the word, remembered is more like what I am trying to say here.  I remembered.  Then I rationalized.  "If I am only to turn in reading and math scores and that is all we get done this year then I am okay by the eyes of the state."  If we get other stuff done too then I am better than the minimum, right?  We will read and we will do math.  We will learn lots more stuff in the process too.  We will read these books I have spent a TON of money on and we will learn from them too. Bonus right???

A bit more organization for us are these great buckets.  Each child has their own bucket with their name on it.  They keep all their notebooks, workbooks, and projects in it.  Inside they also keep their pencil and crayon case.  Everything is in the bucket.

These are our flash cards.  Most came from Target and are so useful for memory practice.

Homeschooling 101

Boy do I feel like I am in the midst of a college level class and I am struggling to figure out what the professor is really trying to say.  I sit in class, I listen, I take notes, I read the textbook, but they say one thing, I read about something completely different and then when I go to take the test none of the questions are anything about what the professor said or what I read and studied.  Sheesh!

Homeschooling 101: 

Here are things I have read.  Everyone does it differently.  All families are different. Teach what the kids are interested in. Most families teach skills to mastery.  

Here are things I have heard from others.  Everyone does it differently.  All families are different. Teach in units. Explore your world.

Here are things I learned from the homeschooling convention last June.  You need to pick a curriculum.  Get stuff for all subjects and don't forget handwriting, grammar, Bible, and all the extras. Everyone does it differently.  All curriculums are expensive.

Here is what I have learned from being a teacher in public and private schools for the past 19 years.  Curriculum must be well rounded.  Cover as much as you can in a year.  Electives are important.  Social Studies and Science are VERY important subjects to learn.

Here is what I learned from the homeschool laws of Virginia (where we live).  You must turn in a list of subjects you plan to cover over the course of the year.  At the end of the year you must turn in standardized test scores for reading and math for each child. Period!

So in my effort to be prepared I have scoured the internet looking for homeschooling families and reading their daily schedules, lists of subjects they are learning, and the curriculum they use.  I went to the Homeschool convention here in town (our state convention) and I listened to the speakers, I talked to the people in the vendor's hall and listened and looked at all the curriculum out there.  I thought about where my kids were in school (public school) and figured their grade levels were correct since they were all making decent grades in school.  I brought home all the catalogs and literature that they gave us.  I read homeschooling magazines,  and I talked to any other homeschooling moms I could.

I read more.  I surfed the internet more.

I emailed other homeschooling moms.

I chose a curriculum.  I paid a TON of money for it.  I opened the boxes when they arrived and was excited to see the wonderful books I paid a TON of money for.  I was happy.  I took the instructors guide to bed with me that night.  I pulled the books we would begin with. We started the next day.  I read to not let the curriculum guide you but for you to guide the curriculum.  I WANTED to check off the boxes when we finished with each thing.  I WANTED the curriculum to guide us.

In regular school (public or private) the teacher stands in the front of the classroom and the kids sit in the desks, eyes open and pencils sharpened and ready to learn.  The teacher teaches.  The students learn.  This is what my kids did on the first day with our new things.  They sat around the kitchen table and looked at me.  I started to "teach".  But it didn't go well.  We didn't know where we were going.  We didn't understand how this curriculum was set up.  There were no textbooks so we didn't know the sequence of things.  We didn't understand what we were to get from this reading.  I went back to the instructors guide for guidance.  It didn't answer my questions.  We continued hoping we would figure it out.  We kept going for two weeks.  I became frustrated because we weren't getting anywhere.  There was too much to do, not enough writing for the kids, not enough time in our day to get all the stuff done they wanted us to do.  We never even got to science!  NEVER!

This week I have had a panic attack about this.  My husband asked me if this was all going to work.  He questioned if we should send the kids back to school (public school).  I immediately said NO!  I just needed a plan, a sequence of things, a scope.  I needed to revamp.

Part 2 of this post is here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In the midst of chaos.....I find???

Things have been quite chaotic around here.  Let me fill you in on the past month.

1.  I stopped working the first week in September to stay home with the kids and homeschool.

2.  A week and a half later we got our curriculum and "school" books from Sonlight.  We were so excited with the three huge boxes that came.  We opened them up, felt and smelled the new books, and promptly put them on the shelf for us to keep nice and neat. More on this later.

3.  My husband's work exploded with customers and he begged me to help him get everyone scheduled and straight.  I worked day and night for two weeks getting everyone scheduled and him organized.

4.  I have been to the grocery store, Costco, and Sams Club so many times I can not even count and it has only been a month!  Remember that we were moving?  Because of this I didn't want to move all our food storage so we "ate it down".  Now I want to stock back up.

5.  The kids and I have been on three official homeschool field trips and they have been wonderful.  But I have not been able to blog about that.

6.  Remember when I said I stopped working?  Well that cut our household income by over half.  So I have been working on making things for craft shows and to sell at our local pharmacy (think small town pharmacy with a big gift shop attached to it).  I consign my work up there and they sell it and take 1/3 and I get the other 2/3s.  Unfortunately I only get paid quarterly so what I put in there now I won't get paid until January.  But it is a nice little check.  In the meantime I have been working on making things for craft shows around here and have already been in 3 since September.  Some good, some bad.  But that is a way of life.

7.  Homeschooling and having the kids home have been wonderful.  I have enjoyed getting to know them better as people and learners.  I have learned a lot about myself too and I am loving the real me.

8.  There is no ideal or perfect homeschool curriculum and even after 19 years of teaching in public and private schools was I feel only marginally prepared to teach my own children.  They are great sports and do whatever I ask.  I think, honestly, I am being too hard on myself and need to relax a bit.

So in the midst of chaos, I am finding that I still love my family.  I love them even more now than ever before.  I love being home with them.  I love homeschooling (even though I feel like I don't know what I am doing).  I love that my husband goes out every single day and works harder than he has ever worked before because he loves us that much.  In the midst of chaos, I find that my house won't be any cleaner than when I was working full time, we eat so much food being home all day long, and yes, my kids can make some incredible piles of laundry!

In the midst of all this chaos, I find that I am the happiest I have ever been!