Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Little Bit of Learning for Little Bit - March 30

Little Bit is 2 yrs old

So I'm finally remembering to take pictures & now I'm forgetting to actually write the Tot School posts, sigh . . . always something. Here's a little bit of the fun that Little Bit has been having the last week or two.

Awhile back I saw this idea and put together a little "kit" to take with us on a trip when I knew I'd need to keep her entertained in a hotel room. We played with it a little bit on the trip & then it got put in the game cabinet & I kinda forgot about it. Found it last week and pulled it back out. First we used small pompoms, a small divided plate, a small bowl (it's a collapsible silicone one to keep things compact for travel, otherwise any bowl would work), and a set of tongs (I think I ordered them from We put the pompoms on the plate & she used the tongs to transfer them into the bowl. Part of the time I'd tell her what color to move & she'd find one that color, part of the time she'd pick one up and tell me what color it was, part of the time she was tired of colors and just moved them. 
When she got tired of the tongs (they're pretty stiff, and she has a hard time with them still, but insists on trying them each time), we switched to using a plastic spoon. Much easier! We did the same things just used the spoon instead of the tongs to move the pompoms around. 
I also have multi-colored pony beads in the bag. So when she got tired of the pompoms we put them away and got out the pony beads. The tongs are too stiff to use with the beads, so we just used the spoon to transfer them around, the same as  we had done with the pompoms. We also used pipecleaners to string the pony beads. And she discovered it was great fun to then dump the beads off the pipecleaner into the bowl.  All in all, this is a great little "kit" that she seems to really enjoy. It requires supervision (obviously) but is very portable. I'm so glad we re-discovered this!
 She continues to LOVE playing with the "boo coo cawds" (blues clues cards, otherwise known as Blues Clues Memory). I tried to get a picture of her  playing memory with me, but she wiggles so much, the game was pretty much over by the time I got one that wasn't just a blur. I continue to be amazed at how well she does at memory for being so little. 
The other game she enjoys with the memory cards is putting them away. She generally dumps them ALL out when she plays with them, then I go through and put one card in each spot in the box, and then as I find the matches to those, I hand them to her & she finds where they go. We were almost done in this picture, she just had her final stack to find and put away. 
And finally, a few days ago, Little Bit pulled the pop-up toy back out. She's been able to do it for MONTHS, I know that when she got a second one for Christmas, she'd already mastered this one, and mastered the new one in about 10 minutes (we passed it along to a friend). But, she's having fun rediscovering it just the same. 
Visit 1+1+1=1 to see what other little ones are learning this week.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - March 27

Obviously the "big news" this week would be that we celebrated all 3 children's birthdays yesterday.  Yesterday was Little Bit's 2nd birthday, and tomorrow is the twins' 8th birthday, so we celebrated all 3 birthdays yesterday.

The plan was for all the grandparents, and hopefully some other family to be here but the way things worked out, only Mama & Papa were able to come. We still had a nice time though.  Mama & Papa got here on Wednesday and helped us with some projects around here on Thursday and Friday.

Thursday evening we took the girls to California Pizza Kitchen to celebrate their birthday (you can sign up on the CPK website and they send you a coupon for a free kids meal in the child's birthday month. We had the big girls signed up but hadn't signed Little Bit up. But the waitress was able to give us the birthday deal for her too).

Friday we made birthday cakes.  The big girls used the mini 3 tier cake pans I got awhile back and each made their own miniature 3 tier cake, and decorated their own cakes.  A decided on a "Schleich theme" and frosted her cake with cream cheese frosting made using powdered Sucanat instead of refined sugar (which results in brown frosting), then added green frosting for "grass" and stuck various smaller Schleich animals into her cake.

L had a more varied theme to her cake . . . she wanted to incorporate her love of Schleich, American Girl AND knitting.  She's also not a fan of the Sucanat cream cheese frosting so we made regular cream cheese frosting for her. Then she decorated the bottom layer  for American Girl. The original plan was to pipe red stars around it, but she was having some struggles with the frosting so we decided to cut some of the signature stars out of an AG box instead. Worked well and was much easier, hee hee. The second tier, was for Schleich animals so like A, she used the smaller animals, and green frosting for grass. The tiny top layer was her "knitting" layer. She put brown (sucanat frosting) knitting needles on top and then used pink frosting to make "yarn".  As I heard the girls making their plans I had my doubts but figured it's their cakes, they can do what they want, but they actually turned out really cute.

My original plan for Little Bit's cake was to make a green sheet cake and put plastic Sesame Street figures on it. Then I discovered that Amazon, Walmart & the Dollar Store no longer carry cheap small plastic Sesame Street figurines like were readily available when the big girls were toddlers. So I broadened my search to include Sesame Street, Dora, or Blues Clues. Still no luck . . . finally at TJ Maxx I found a bathtub toy set that was Elmo & Ernie with some stacking boats, and since it was at TJ Maxx it was in my price range. So I used the Elmo & Ernie and one of the boats on the cake and then A suggested that we use some of the Schleich (and similar) sea creatures as well.  MY suggestion was to use Little Bit's sharks and have Elmo falling out of the boat about to be eaten by the sharks, but we thought that might be inappropriate LOL. So we stuck with a more family-friendly theme and just had a pod of dolphins swimming toward the boat with both muppets safely inside. I think it turned out pretty cute.

So that was our fun on Friday.  Sabbath morning as soon as we woke up the big girls started singing Happy Birthday to Little Bit. The first thing she did, upon hearing this was look at me & say "cake?" which I assured her we'd have after church. She also quickly picked up the "tune" and spent the rest of the day saying "Happy . . . to me".

After lunch, and Little Bit's nap, we had presents. Little Bit's at the fun age where the best part is ripping the paper off . . . she kept saying "more pesants" hee hee.

As always, our very spoiled children came away from birthday with way too much stuff, but a good time was had by all.

One completely unexpected gift for the big girls was an iTouch for each of them. They are understandably fascinated with our smartphones and think it's terribly unfair that *I* can have suduko, spider solitaire, a book reader, etc at my fingertips everywhere we go, but they can't (since there's 3 children and I have one phone I rarely "share" and if I do, it's usually with Little Bit) so it occurred to me that an iTouch is, essentially,a smart phone minus the phone (and monthly fee). We got them older model, used ones, but they're thrilled. The picture above is just after they opened them, I was explaining what it was & it was all starting to sink in what they'd just received LOL.

Little Bit's "big gift" was a balance bike. It's still a tad too tall for her, but she still had fun with it. Notice the heavy winter coat, sigh . . . March is definitely going out like a lion this year!

So that was the birthday celebration.

Earlier in the week L was abit worried, we hadn't seen her cat, Socks for 2 or 3 days and she was starting to get pretty worried. The girls decided they needed to form a search party. They got out their "communicator watches", convinced Papa to go with them, and Mama to be "command central". Drew a map of our property and proceeded to search, complete with "checking in" with Mama on their watches as they finished each "checkpoint". It was pretty cute to listen to them, sounded like they got a LOT of exercise. But didn't find Socks. He came home on his own the next day, whew! Since there was a happy ending, the whole planning and executing of the search party was a pretty good learning activity!

Otherwise, not alot happened this week, we were kind of preoccupied with the birthday stuff.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal - 10

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week... I'm slowly but surely continuing with the cleaning and decluttering, and getting ready for the girls' birthday this weekend.

In our homeschool this week... it was kind of a "bare minimum" week, but we've kept up with Spanish, and squeezed in a week of Kinderbach, a couple days of Bible, and finally finished off The Story of the World Vol II

Places we're going and people we're seeing... we started the week at my parents' house, visiting them, my grandparents, and my aunt, uncle & cousin, who'd come to visit for the weekend. We're finishing off the week with my parents visiting us for the girls' birthday. We assumed that some additional family would come for their birthday, so planned it here. If we'd known for sure that it was just going to be my parents, we would have moved the party down to their house last weekend and called it good, oh well . . . this way we see them more!

My favorite thing this week was... watching my 95 yr old grandpa enjoying watching Little Bit with their kittens. She'd hold the kitten on her lap for a few seconds, then set it on the floor and say "run!!!" then chase after it, catch it, carry it back to the living room, sit down and hold it for a few seconds, then do it all again. It was fun to watch her, and even more fun to see how much Grandpa was enjoying it.

What's working/not working for us... MORE cold weather and snow is NOT working for us right now. It's been too cold and snowy a winter, and then we got some beautiful, warmer weather and now we're back to cold and snow or threat of snow (thankfully no accumulating snow so far, fingers crossed . . .) and we are SO SO SO ready for spring to be here to stay thankyouverymuch!

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have... I wish there was a good way to get the message out to more parents that homeschool includes ENDLESS options. It makes me sad when I hear parents talk about how they could never homeschool because their child is the wrong personality or they are the wrong personality, etc etc etc. I wish I could explain to them, in a way that they understood, that homeschooling is SO flexible, it can adapt to accomodate all personality types and learning styles and teaching styles, and that's one of it's beauties. I'm so thankful that I started researching homeschooling when my children were young, and learned about all the options before I "dove in" with a school-at-home mindset, which was what I, too assumed homeschool had to be.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Home Keeper's Journal - Unity

This week’s Homekeeper’s Journal is about Homemaking and …..Unity
In my kitchen this week …my Mommy's here, so the kitchen actually gets cleaned up promptly after every meal, and more cooking than usual is happening, but I can't take credit for it, Little Bit's being super clingy . . . not sure what's up with that!
In my household plans this week …. I'm straightening up the main floor, taking advantage of my Dad's bigger-than-mine and carseat-less car to send a huge load of recycling to the recycling center. Continuing to make slow progress at decluttering. Focusing more on a total end result than visible process right now . . . 
My off-the-cuff definition of Unity is …. choosing to get along.
The opposite of Unity … hmmm . . . not choosing to get along? It occurs to me that selfishness leads to a lack of unity . . . 
Unity in my home ….. is a work in progress. Three spirited little girls can find unity a challenge, but we keep working on it, and seeing progress.
Unity in my Church … hmmm . . . do I want to touch this? I think when it comes to my church, or any church, whether a person sees unity or disunity depends on what the person is looking for. There will always be differences of opinion. There will always be people who look for those differences and highlight them and make small differences into major issues. I can choose to focus on that, or choose to focus on our mutual love of God and fellowshipping with other members of God's family. Most of the time I choose the latter. 
Between a husband and wife, Unity …. is essential, and requires a selflessness that is at complete odds with what society tells us we should strive for. 
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3 KJV

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - March 20

We've had a good week. Some nice warm weather for outside play. On Thursday we took advantage of the nice weather and the big girls pushed Little Bit in the swing for EVER while I got the minivan cleaned out! Didn't get it 100% done (there are still a couple areas I didn't tackle) but it was much much much much MUCH better, whew!

One day this week as we drove in the driveway the girls noticed a heron next to the pond. Our car didn't bother it, so we parked and stayed in the car a few minutes watching it before I got out & attempted to take a picture or two (the zoom on my phone camera was sadly lacking for this purpose LOL).

We "switched gears" for nutrition, to use a new review product, Nutrition 101. And as a bonus, the company, Growing Healthy Homes has offered my readers a coupon code!! You can use coupon code TOScrew11 to save 15% off your order from Growing Healthy Homes. The timing worked well since we'd just finished our "kitchen" unit in Vintage Remedies for Girls and were ready to start the skin care unit. So now we're back in the kitchen, learning about various body systems. This week was the brain. We made guacamole, since avacado is good brain food . . . yum!

For the most part, everything else was just keeping on keeping on . . . but that's a good thing, simple and straight forward is always a good thing.

Friday we headed to my parents' house for the weekend. My aunt, uncle, and cousin were here visiting my grandparents, so we came down to see them, and to celebrate all 3 girls' birthdays with them, and my grandparents (who have finally decided they're too old to travel to our house for such things. I think it's the steep staircase leading to the only bathroom that is the biggest deterrent LOL).

When we got here on Friday, the weather was SOOO nice (70's! LOVE IT!) that Mama & Papa decided to give the big girls their main present (new bikes) early instead of waiting till next weekend. So they set up a treasure hunt and sent the girls hunting.  Once they got their new bikes, they were well entertained for the afternoon LOL.

Grandma & Grandpa's cat has kittens right now, so we went to visit them too. Interestingly enough, while the kittens cried and clawed to get down when the big girls or any of us adults held them, they were were amazingly still, and didn't scratch when Little Bit held them. Perhaps they were petrified with fear, but it worked out well. Grandpa got a real kick out of watching Little Bit with the kittens, hee hee. She would hold the kitten in her lap for a minute, then set it on the floor and say "run!" when it ran away from her she'd chase after it, pick it up, bring it back to the living room, and do it all over again.

Saturday night the girls got their birthday gifts from Aunt Darla & Uncle Jim and Grandma & Grandpa. The big girls' gift from Darla & Jim was a trip to a live theater performance of Beauty and the Beast at a theater near their house (in TN) this summer. Needless to say, the girls are looking forward to it!  Little Bit got an Elmo Piano book that she LOVES!! Thankfully the volume is set low enough, and it's just music, not Elmo's voice, so it won't drive me nuts. And potentially, down the road, might help her learn to read music in a very basic sense. She also got an Elmo backpack, which is, of course, a big hit! Grandma & Grandpa gave all 3 girls a subscription to Nature Friend magazine! We had a subscription a couple years ago and really liked it (in addition to having great little stories and activities, it's creation-based which is getting harder and harder to find these days! So will be nice to have it again, now that the big girls are old enough to read it themselves, and Little Bit is so animal obsessed.

So that pretty much sums up our week.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Life Skills 101

This week's Blog Cruise topic is incorporating life skills into homeschooling. I think at our house it might be more accurate to say that we incorporate homeschooling into our life skills. I feel it's soo important in today's world, to give children a good foundation in home/life skills. I recently read an article in which someone had criticized a mother for teaching her 5 yr old to do household chores (in this particular example, unloading the dishwasher) because "what if she doesn't want to be a housewife, what if she wants to be a lawyer or doctor?" Well in my world, even doctors and lawyers have to eat, and if they're going to eat healthfully, they should be eating at home, not eating out 3 meals per day. And if they're eating at home, they're going to have dishes to wash, so yup, even future lawyers and doctors need to learn to unload the dishwasher!  And the same argument can be made for most other life skills, that's why they're LIFE SKILLS!!!  So, in the grand scheme of life, I prioritize my training of my children as follows:  #1 Love of God and a relationship with Him, nothing else matters if we fail in this great responsibility! #2 Life skills and #3 academics (I'm sure if I thought about it I could think of additional categories, but for simplicity  sake, we'll stick with those 3. 

So, rather than incorporating life skills into our academics, I tend to incorporate academics into our life skills.  We learn fractions while reading recipes, while we're learning to cook in the kitchen.  Nutrition and gardening are important useful skills that also teach science. Reading can be learned in anything and everything, by . . .reading about . . .the topic we need to learn about. Money management skills are taught through an allowance, which also teaches math.  Chores teach cleaning skills as well as responsibility, patience, a good work ethic, unselfishness . . . and countless other character traits (learning to have a good character is an aspect of that #1 priority above).  Some days cleaning might also teach science or math or who knows what else, so much of school is just being aware and grabbing the learning moments as they present themselves. 

One key I've found to keeping my children interested and less whiny about life skills is to be constantly challenging them. It's much more fun to tackle a NEW life skill than to keep doing the same old chore over and over. As Little Bit gets older, another great learning tool will be having the older girls help teach her chores. We're already doing some of it, as they have her help them feed the cats, her job is to open the cat food bin and help put the food into the bowls when they bring the bowls inside, help sort the silverware when they unload the dishwasher.  She's also learning to take dirty dishes to the kitchen. She can't reach to put them in the sink, or on the counter, but she can set them on the kitchen stool or the floor in front of the sink, for someone else to move to the sink or dishwasher when they notice.

And that's a little bit about how we incorporate learning into life skills . . . er. . . I mean incorporate life skills into homeschool, hee hee.

Check the TOS Crew blog on Tuesday to see how other homeschoolers incorporate life skills in their homeschooling.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal - 9

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week... I was on a recipe-trying role . . . tried a new salad for lunch one day, "lentil cups" for lunch another day, and a new pasta dish for supper one night,  Even more amazing, all three were a hit!

In our homeschool this week... we started a new nutrition curriculum (reviewing it), there's a recipe every week, the girls should like that, hee hee. this week's recipe was guacamole, yum! 

Places we're going and people we're seeing... we're spending the weekend at my parents' house. My aunt, uncle, and cousin will be here and we'll celebrate the girls' birthday with them, as well as my grandparents (who have finally decided they're too old to travel to our house for birthdays and Christmas, Grandpa will be 96 in a couple months). 

My favorite thing this week was... going on my monthly "date" with A. She's always sooo excited to get time alone with Mommy. Where we go and what we do is completely secondary, I'm cherishing every moment of it!

What's working/not working for us... Little Bit's starting to not want to sleep in the car. Does not bode well for future traveling with Daddy for his job.

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have... “I believe it would be much better for everyone if children were given their start in education at home. No one understands a child as well as his mother, and children are so different that they need individual training and study. A teacher with a room full of pupils cannot do this. At home, too, they are in their mother’s care. She can keep them from learning immoral things from other children.” Laura Ingalls Wilder

Someone posted the above quote on fb this week & I swiped it & posted it as my status. What I found absolutely mind boggling was the . . . defensiveness that I got in response, from non-homeschoolers. As if I were personally attacking them for not homeschooling. I'm not sure if they didn't notice that it was a quote from a teacher who was only "homeschooled" as a child when they lived where there weren't schools, and whose mother was very disturbed by that lack of schools, and who, to my knowledge, did not homeschool her own daughter (anyone know for sure?) . . . or if they might possibly not have known who Laura Ingalls Wilder is (is that possible? I can't imagine not knowing who she is, I've loved her books since I was my childrens' age!).  But for whatever reasons, this quote solicited some defensive replies. 
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Little Green Project

Laura at Heavenly Homemakers is hosting The Little Green Project in honor of St. Patrick's day.

The rules are simple . . . post about something green . . . so many options . . .

I'm going to combine 2 green things, (and revisit a topic I posted about frequently when I first started this blog). So, today we're going to talk about Going Green While Saving Green (and improving your health too!)

So, I read a wide variety of blogs, websites, books, and message boards. Some deal with saving money, but too often this seems to be at the expense of health and environmental concerns . . . yes white flour is cheaper than whole wheat flour, but at what cost? Yes, you can "play the drug store game" and get laundry detergent and shampoo for free, but what are the chemicals in those products doing to your family's health, and the water supply as it all washes down the drain?

My goal, is to balance these things. To find ways to be healthier AND economical AND ecological! So here are ten tips (in no particular order):

  1. Make your own bread
  2. Use homemade natural cleaners
  3. Use cloth diapers
  4. Green-ify your laundry routine (natural cleansers, vinegar fabric softener, and hang dry)
  5. Grow a garden
  6. Throw out the soda and chips
  7. Replace paper towels and napkins with cloth
  8. Cook dry beans instead of using cans
  9. Use homemade, natural toiletries
  10. Pop popcorn in the stove or use an air popper instead of using microwave popcorn
So there are 10 of my "go green" tips! Check back over the next couple of months and I'll expound on each of these tips, and probably others as I think of them! 

Have a great St. Patrick's Day!

Spinach Ricotta Pasta

A week or two ago I read a blog post that mentioned making a dish that was penne pasta, spinach, and ricotta cheese, but didn't actually give the recipe. So tonight I decided to try to re-create it . . .

1 lb whole wheat pasta (choose whatever shape you want, spirals worked well)
chopped fresh spinach (not sure how much I had, needed more . . . as much as you have, remember fresh spinach cooks down a LOT)
15 oz ricotta cheese
1-2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
salt to taste
shredded parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in salted water.  During the last minute or two of cooking, add chopped spinach to cook it. Drain the pasta and spinach and stir in ricotta cheese, garlic and salt.  Garnish each serving with shredded parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Home Keeper's Journal - This and That

This week’s Homekeeper’s Journal is about This And That!
In My Kitchen this week……….. the big girls made guacamole for lunch (part of our new nutrition study . . . this week is "brain food"). We tried a yummy new Greek Salad, it was a winner! And Little Bit has figured out how to get her own water out of the Berkey Water Filter system.
In My Yard …….. the daffodils are peeking up, so are the chives. There's green on the thyme. . . now to find time to start on this year's garden . . . 
I’ve been thinking ….about ministering as Jesus ministered. A friend from high school sent out a message on facebook asking for volunteers to help at the ministry he runs, serving the homeless, teaching reading to those who don't know how, such great ministries, truly meeting the NEEDS of hurting people, not just worrying about whether church membership is up and tithe is being paid and the outreach is resulting in baptisms . . . THAT is serving, as Jesus serves! And then the next day Japan . . . again, real needs, makes all the gripes I have seem so silly!!!
What motivates me more than anything else is ….. some big event, right now, the girls' birthday! We'll be celebrating all 3 birthdays a week from Sabbath (which is Little Bit's birthday, the big girls' birthday is 2 days later). Time to get the house ready for their birthday! I need to schedule some big event every month or two, then maybe I'd keep up with the housework better!
My Devotional life and walk with Christ …. has been going well lately. I'm enjoying the study on Motherhood that I've been doing.  Little Bit has never been one to stay asleep if I get up, but now she's old enough that she can play with big sisters, or "help" them with their morning chores while I have my quiet time, I'm really cherishing that after a season of grabbing bits & pieces of Bible-reading when I could. I also just finished reading Quiet Times in Loud Households, it's inspired me! 
I struggle ….. to have patience. And to remember to praise more than I criticize my children. It's not that there isn't plenty to praise, I just forget . . . 
I dread …. I really don't have anything for this one . . . life is good, the future looks bright. . . I'm sure if I tried hard enough I could think of something, but I choose not to dwell on it, so I won't . . . 
But I look forward …. to watching my children grow into lovely, godly young women! They are growing up SO FAST! I can't wait to see what God has in store for them!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Little Bit of What Little Bit has Been Learning

Little Bit is 23 months old

I didn't get any pictures of Little Bit this week, but of course she's always learning . . . 

And along those lines (and because I'll forget by next week), her big sisters just brought me a "menu" and took my "order" for tea. After which Little Bit promptly got a piece of drawing paper and brought it to me saying "tea?" Gotta love it!

She's continuing to LOVE the toddler swing that I was beginning to think would never get enough love to be worth the time Dad spent hanging it on our porch.

The Blues Clue memory game is definitely the favorite right now. She plays her own version of match by dumping them all out and then we work together to put them away (I put one of each pair in the box & hand her the other "half" to match up). We also play memory, and she's starting to learn to take turns instead of me watching while she plays.

I found a small Dora the Explorer flannel board and felts at Goodwill, and that's a favorite as well, and wonderfully portable. She loves to carry it with her (it came in a nice zippered case) and spends a surprisingly long time putting the felts on the board over and over and over again. I have to admit, I'm thrilled about this, I got the big girls various feltboard toys at this age and they couldn't have cared less, I *loved* felts as a kid, apparently I finally have a kid who shares my love! Now to find the sets that I kept from when the big girls were little.

She loves to "pretend" if there's a picture of food in a book or whtaever, she pretends to "eat it" with the most impish look on her face. I love seeing her figure out that world of pretend!

She continues to like drawing. While cleaning last week I found the small set of block crayons and was so excited to give her those as another option besides the pencils she's been using, but so far, she doesn't "get" the block crayons. She tries to lay them flat instead of using an edge to color with. Oh well, she's still loving the pencils. She often tells me what she's "drawing" . . . animals, etc. So cute.

And that's a little bit of what Little Bit has been up to this past week! Visit 1+1+1=1 for more Tot School posts!

Menu Plan Monday - March 14

Trying to be organized for a change, but also being somewhat flexible . . . rather than assigning specific days, I'm going to just do categories (the girls & I will be leaving Friday morning, so there will be less meals than normal):

Granola (I use half butter & half coconut oil for the oil)
Cornmeal mush
egg roll-ups (new recipe)
warm chocolate soother (cut arrowroot in half to make a drink, not a hot pudding)

Greek Salad (new recipe)
Lentil Cups

Southwest Roll-ups
Penne with spinach and ricotta
falafel & flat bread with tzatziki sauce

Menu Plan Monday is hosted by orgjunkie

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - March 13

This past week was book club week. I participate in 2 book clubs each month. One on the 2nd Tues of the month and one on the 2nd Thurs. Depending on the month, sometimes they're on different weeks and sometimes they're on the same week. This month, they were the same week.

Tues night's book club is at our neighbor, Judy's house. Little Bit comes with me and the big girls get special "Daddy time". This month he took them to Chuckee Cheese :o)

Thurs night's book club is hoested by our pastor's wife, Linda and is for moms of young children. All the girls come with me to that one. The big girls spend part of their time with Pastor Mike, talking his ear off and generally keeping him young, hee hee. Little Bit and her friend, J, play together on the floor as we talk. Linda recently came back from a few weeks in FL, collecting shells (and I'm sure doing other things, hee hee) she showed the girls her shells, and some of the crafts she makes with them. Then she set them up, with Pastor Mike supervising, and let them each make a shell craft too. Needless to say, they loved that!

We wrapped up our Princess and the Kiss Life Lessons at the beginning of the week, and moved on to our "next years" Bible. . . we'll be reading through the Bible chronologically using The Daily Bible. But not trying to go at the recommended pace, I just kind of play it by ear, stopping when it seems like a good spot. Then each day they either copy one verse from the reading, or draw a picture, or both. Once we've gone all the way through, I told the girls I'd bind the pictures and copywork all together into a book, they like that idea, even if they sometimes, especially L, whine about doing the copywork.

Our nutrition study this week was about starting a garden. It's still a tad cold and muddy here for much of that, but we did talk through some of what we'll be doing. The girls are excited about gardening, we'll see if they stick with it better this summer, hee hee.

The girls are starting to express frustration at how slowly our music class is progressing . . . they want to be concert pianists NOW! LOL.

L has been doing really well with moving forward with her typing, now that she has e-mail as an incentive, hee hee. A continues to practice her typing and spelling by sending frequent e-mails to the grandparents, etc.

Our "extra" time this week was spent with them entertaining Little Bit and me decluttering in the bedroom and spare room. My momentum ground to a halt after we figured out and plugged the hole where the wasps were coming in, but I did manage to get a good start on things. Hoping to continue the progress, but on the main floor, this week and next, in preparation for the girls' birthday celebration.

Ever since we were all sick a couple weeks ago, Little Bit has become picky about which side she nurses on. I'm not sure if my supply was low while I was sick and that gave her the idea that she had 2 sides at her disposal, or what, but now she will randomly ask to nurse on "side" as she pats whichever side she thinks she needs right then. So one morning when she came up and asked for "side", as she latched on I asked her "why do you want that side, is it the chocolate side?" she nodded yes . .. hmmmm . . .and ever since then, if I ask her "what's this" and pat that side, she 'll tell me "chocolate" . . . silly kid!

And those are the highlights of our week . . . we hope you've had a great week too!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Planning for a Homeschool Convention . . .

It's that time of year . . . it seems that everywhere I look (amongst homeschoolers, that is) people are talking about, thinking about, and planning for homeschool conventions . . . 5 years ago I didn't even know there WERE such a think as homeschool conventions! When we lived in MD, some of my homeschooling friends raved about one they went to, but the idea I got (perhaps inaccurately) was that it was just a big . . . store that you had to pay to shop at. All I heard about was all the great curriculum that was for sale. But my girls were still preschoolers, we were having fun with art and nature studies and such but nothing that required any expensive curriculum, certainly not enough to justify spending money to go shop for said curriculum. . . so I smiled and agreed that it sounded great, but not until my kids were older . . .

When we moved here, I'm not sure how I ended up hearing about our statewide Christian homeschooling convention, but I did, and I looked into it, and I realized that it wasn't just a shopping spree, it's also an amazing two days of information OVERLOAD about every aspect of parenting, homeschooling, marriage, you name it, there's a session that covers it!!

This May will be my 3rd year attending our homeschool convention. And I wouldn't miss it for the world! Ok, if money were really tight (so that we couldn't afford the gas, parking and entrance fee), or if I couldn't find someone to watch the girls (I could bring the big girls with me if I had to, but they wouldn't enjoy it, and it costs extra to bring them. I took Little Bit with me the first year (she was 2 months old! She slept and nursed in the wrap all day), but last year was my first time leaving Little Bit, and it definitely worked better than having a toddler along, so that's what I'll be doing again this year). I would miss it, but if at all possible, I'll continue to attend every year.

So what do *I* love about homeschool conventions? I LOVE the seminars. Each year it seems like God handpicks speakers that *I* need to hear! And then makes sure that I make it to THOSE specific sessions. I also enjoy the chance to look at and touch many products that I otherwise would only be able to see online. In all honesty, I don't usually buy much at the homeschool convention, but I love being able to see and touch things and make notes on things that I might want to buy in the future! And I love the fellowship. I love being able to talk to other homeschoolers . I love being with people who have some of the same beliefs and challenges that I have. I especially treasure this right now when I haven't found any local homeschoolers near me (I still have awesome homeschooling friends in MD and WV, and have some equally awesome non-homeschooling friends nearby, but still . . . ).

Pitfalls? Ummm . . . do you know how many millions of dollars I could happily spend at a homeschool convention if I had it to spend? It is SOO important to take a serious look at our budget, and discuss it with my husband BEFORE I go. And then keep track and stick to what we can afford!

My priorities for what I spend money on? First is obviously the entrance fee (that I pay ahead of time, it's cheaper if you sign up during the "early bird" time frame), and parking and food. Unfortunately the convention site doesn't allow outside food. I do bring some snacks that I can eat in the car, but I also budget to be able to buy the (outrageously priced, completely unhealthy, not very vegetarian-friendly) on-site food in case I'm too busy going to sessions &/or shopping the vendor hall and don't want to take time to JUST eat (I can buy on-site food and eat it in a session, I'm all about multi-tasking LOL).  Ok, so after that, I make sure to budget to buy the CD or mp3 of the sessions I don't get to. I plan out ahead of time which sessions I for sure want to hear, and calculate out how many of those I'm NOT going to be able to go to (overlapping time, plus wanting SOME time in the convention hall) and budget accordingly. The first year the best deal for me, was to purchase the CDs on-site. They had a buy x get 1 free deal going, and that made it the best deal for the number that I wanted. Last year I realized that it was gong to cost about the same to buy the CDs I wanted *or* purchase a flash drive with mp3 files of *all* the sessions. So I opted to purchase the flash drive. The downside was , I didn't have the instant gratification (had to wait for them to mail it to me), *but* it lowered my stress. It meant that if I was going slower than I'd planned through the vendor hall and was going to miss a session, that was ok, I didn't have to weight the cost of an extra CD vs. the extra time in the vendor hall.

Our convention also has a used curriculum sale (and a couple used book vendors come to the vendor hall as well), so I budget to have money to spend on "bargains" at these vendors, as well. Also some vendors have great sales at conventions, so it can be cheaper to purchase some items at the convention instead of ordering them later. . .

The key to purchasing things at a convention is to know your prices ahead of time. One reason I'm already planning our curriculum choices for next year is in preparation for this year's homeschool convention. For subjects that we'll need to purchase additional books for next year, I'll arrive at convention with a list of the books we need, or might want, as well as and prices for the products to compare to convention prices. I'm also thankful for my smartphone. If I see a product that I didn't think to research ahead of time, I can usually do some quick searching on my phone to determine how good a deal it is.

Something new I want to do this year is to bring along a convention notebook! I'd never thought to do this before, but I'm loving the idea!! In the past I brought a clipboard with paper for notes and a pocket to add papers I received while there, but this year I'll be even more organized!! I haven't put the pieces together year, but I plan to use my handy-dandy pro-click binder to make my convention notebook.  My convention notebook will include (most of the forms came from my  2010 TOS Schoolhouse Planner):

  • A "to do list" showing where I plan to be at any given time (which seminar session, or the vendor hall, etc)
  • my list of books/resources we need, or just want, for next year
  • In April the convention website will have printable handouts for the seminars, so I'll print those out for the sessions I plan to attend, and include blank "convention note forms" for any that don't
  • A blank wish list form where I can write in cool things I see that I might get in the future
  • a pocket or empty page protector to put brochures and business cards in
  •  a handy form for recording websites that I want to visit once I'm back at home
This post is part of the TOS Blog Cruise. You can visit the TOS Crew blog on Tuesday to see what other Crew members have to say about Homeschool Conventions.

The Homeschool Mother's Journal - 8

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week... I battled wasps . . . found the hole where they were coming in and dh caulked it shut, whew!! But more exciting, in the process (my fear was that there was a wasp nest under our bed or in our closet), I made some real progress on decluttering! One big trash bag of trash, several boxes of recycling, and 3 big trash bags of stuff to Goodwill! Woo-hoo! 

In our homeschool this week... we started something new for Bible. We're reading through the Bible in chronological order. Using The Daily Bible, but reading less per day than suggested. I feel that reading the Bible in a year is too fast a pace for 8 yr olds.

Places we're going and people we're seeing... we had bookclub this week. Miss Linda (whose house we have bookclub at) recently took a shelling trip to FL, and brought back tons of shells for crafts. She let A & L each make a shell picture while us moms talked, so a fun time was had by all :) 

My favorite thing this week was... L learned to use our espresso machine. Now she makes my latte and delivers it to my room while I have my morning Bible time . ..  ahhh . . . and perhaps more exciting to me than getting my latte in bed, is that she's excited to be helping in this way, maybe she'll learn to have a servant's heart.

What's working/not working for us... the girls' school notebooks were to the point of NOT working for us. . . with not traveling, I had gotten lazy about keeping their books up to date. They still had worksheets in their book from the Spanish program that we stopped using in Nov! And tons of loose papers shoved in the pockets from things we've been doing since then. . . so this week I went through and re-did them. Ahhh . . . much better!

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have... the sign-up sheet for next year's TOS Crew (curriculum review team) just came out. After making sure the girls were up for another year, I re-signed-up. Now the waiting game begins . . . they only allow a certain number of return people, so we won't know for awhile yet whether or not we're accepted for next year. . . I have mixed feelings, it's been a blast, we've gotten to try some really great stuff, and stretched ourselves some too, which is a good thing. But it also adds an extra layer of chaos to our lives, when a review period coincides with a period of lots of travel or something. I think I'm in a place of being ok either way, happy if we get to participate again, but content to have a simpler year if we aren't approved for next year.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share...
Proof that she does sleep once in awhile LOL!

To see what other Homeschool Mothers are up to, check them out here.