Monday, January 27, 2014

Q is for Quiet

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Perhaps the most valuable, and elusive commodity in our house full of chatterboxes, is quiet! And I admit, I crave it, often! As I mentioned last week, I'm an introvert, and I think that is a part of my need for quiet.

So how does that work? It's all about compromise . . . there are times when I tell my kids that I NEED some quiet, and  as long as it's not TOO often, or for TOO long, they can usually find something quiet to do. I've learned to tune out some too, so that, as long as I don't have to be actively engaged in the loud conversations and loud play, I can let them go on around me most of the time.

Nice weather equals, "if you want to be loud, go OUTSIDE".  We have over an acre, with farm fields surrounding our property, so I can, without guilt, let them be as loud as they want outside.

Approximately once a month, the girls go with Daddy to visit Grandmom (his mom). I am VERY "jealous" of that alone time, and will generally turn down any invitations to be around other people those days. That's when I soak up my quiet and alone-time to last for the next month or so :)

While our homeschool time is always full of interruptions, they are generally either questions and comments about what we're doing, which would be a problem in a classroom setting, but is a valuable tool for them to learn more and for me to gauge what they are learning and understanding, as we go.  When Little Bit was younger, we had lots of interruptions to help her with things, but as she gets older, that becomes less of an issue. While she doesn't always remember, she's learning to quietly place her hand on my knee if she has a question while I'm reading, or the big girls and I are discussing something. That way I can get to a stopping point and then answer her question. . . As the big girls have more independent school work, and I am doing more school with Little Bit (and our neighbor, E, when he joins us), there are also times when they will come and stand quietly near where we're doing school, to ask a question.

All three girls have learned to be quiet when required (church, musical performances, etc). for which I'm thankful, and I'm not sure I can really take credit, I never really "taught" that, they just all figured it out. . .

Quiet toys can be key for helping children to be quiet and not-disruptive in public places. For church, Little Bit chooses toys from the "quiet toy bin" to put in my church bag. She also chooses up to 3 snacks from a selection I set out for her to choose from. That way she knows what's in the church bag, and can quietly get what she wants. For "emergencies" when we're out and about, I keep some small, quiet toys in my purse.  A pen, pencil, or a couple crayons and a small notepad, is usually a hit. For longer times of quiet play, one of the best things I ever did was take large "popsicle sticks" (I had some the girls had used making a craft project at a children's museum, that I could take apart and re-use, I would guess craft stores would sell smaller packs of them), and velcro dots. It took me about 5 minutes to stick the velcro to each end (both sides) of the craft sticks (it works best to stick  the same "side" of the velcro on both sides of one end of the stick and the "other side" of the velcro on both sides of the other end of the stick.

I also found some foam craft sticks on clearance somewhere, sometime (I can't promise the ones I linked to are the same) and did the same thing with them. Little Bit likes both, kinds. And I keep a handful of each in my purse. Sometimes she combines them, sometimes she uses the foam ones to make bracelets and such . . . they get LOTS of use, in lots of different ways and take up very little room!

Finally, I try to make sure I have at least one sewing card in my purse. I make my own by printing out pictures, laminating them, and punching holes in them. Then we just use shoe strings for the string.

Thankfully, ever since the twins were small, they've been understanding when I truly NEED quiet. Once in awhile I get a bad headache that any noise or movement hurts. When they were little, I would have to call my husband home from work, but the girls would be understanding about playing quietly until he could get home, and playing quietly once he was home. Now that they're older, they can "take over" when they need to. They keep Little Bit quietly entertained, and fix simple meals as needed, so that I can sleep my headache off. When the normal day's noise gets on my nerves, I remember how good they are about being quiet when it's really necessary and figure I can handle the noise the rest of the time :)

This post is linked to Ben and Me's Blogging Through the Alphabet.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up - January 26

Can I just say, that I am REALLY done with winter this year! On the positive side, when it's too cold to go outside, it gives us more time for school.

Little Bit is LOVING doing Kinderbach! (affiliate link). Since we've done it before, she's moving quickly through these first few weeks, we're already on week 6 :) I was amused by the mischievous look on her face when she wanted me to take a picture of "Dodi's houses" on the piano.
The bigger kids continue to enjoy Chemistry and Physics. This week included learning about chain reactions by making a domino chain. They had so much fun, that we "paused" the science lesson and they spent the rest of school time that day, making domino chains. The 91 dominoes in the set we borrowed from Mama and Papa was declared too small, when divided 3 ways.  They did better than I expected at NOT bumping into the table and knocking each others' dominoes down.
This week also brought the end of the American History that we've been moving through for the past 2 1/2+ years! This fall, as we were looking at where we were, and where we wanted to be, and the fact that we were getting kind of antsy to also learn world history . . . we decided to finish up American History up to the start of WWI, and then figure that we will cover WWI to the present, in World History, since communication and transportation meant that America and the rest of the world were all jumbled together by then anyway. So, this week was the last couple books leading up to WWI. 

One of the suggestions for this winter's unit was to start planning a "Sanctuary garden" . . . a garden space to go read and pray and just be peaceful. BUT, this winter has been entirely too cold and snowy to even figure out where we want to put said garden. . . FINALLY this week, while still bitterly cold, it was at least not snow-covered, not raining, and not muddy. So we went exploring. Or, more accurately, I sent the kids out exploring . . . they found a nice space, in the "weeds" (where we don't mow) which means, if we can "reclaim" it, and keep the space itself from over-growing, it won't be something Daddy has to mow around, which he'll appreciate :) It doesn't look like much now, but it's pretty much a blank slate, near the creek for the peaceful sound and sight of the rushing water, but I don't THINK it will flood under normal circumstances. Lexie took a bunch of pictures so we can at least start talking about it, and deciding what we want to do when it's warm enough to do anything outside :) 

It's a good thing we scouted out the garden site when we did, because the next day brought MORE snow, sigh . . . 

Music lessons continue to focus on Ashlyn finishing up book 1. The current plan is that she and Lexie will play some of the songs together, so it's influencing Lexie's lessons as well. Lexie's also started reading music, and composing, so she's excited about that too :) 

Our lovely friend, Miss Denise, brought the girls a TON of balloons from a party she'd helped organize last weekend. They had fun throwing them around and such all week, and then, as the week came to an end, and we were getting ready to leave for a weekend at Mama and Papa's, I suggested that they have a fun popping party and pop all the balloons since they were starting to lose air anyway, and would probably lose more air before we got home. Plus, how often to you get to pop 15+ balloons in one fell swoop? :) So, they piled them all in the school room and jumped on them and generally had great fun! 

Friday we headed to Mama and Papa's for the weekend.

Little Bit wasn't sure about going to Mama and Papa's church, even after her sisters told her that Miss Janelle (the Kindergarten Sabbath School teacher) is the best Sabbath School teacher EVAR! We finally convinced her to at least give it a try, and she discovered that her sisters were right! Especially since Miss Janelle's Sabbath School has SNACKS! The big girls were somewhat apprehensive about going to their class, since it was a different teacher since last time we'd been to Mama and Papa's church, but they decided it was ok too, since it included, not just snacks, but breakfast! (vegetarian "pigs" in a blanket, and orange juice). They did comment that they thought it was "weird" that the girls all sat on one side of the room, and the boys on the other, hee hee. I told them that's because, in Juniors, boys still have "cooties".

Sabbath afternoon we visited Miss Vicki and Mr. Ron. After we'd been there a few minutes, Mr. Ron made his best guess as to which twin was which, and got it right (whether he "knew" or got lucky, is still up for debate). He's also an identical twin, and claims that that gives him special powers to just "know" . . . so now the girls are plotting all the things they can do to trip him up and make sure he can't tell them apart next time we see him LOL.  1 year old, L, is loving to give "kisses" so spent the afternoon showering us all with kisses. I couldn't resist, texting Daddy last night to tell him that his daughters had spent the afternoon getting lots of kisses from "a very attractive boy", hee hee. 

So that was our week. Apparently, at home we got even MORE snow, yesterday, sigh . . . 

Friday, January 24, 2014

What Homeschooled Ten Year Olds Think is Essential

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials
Today for the 5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials, I thought I'd see what my 10 year olds, homeschooled all their lives, think is essential.  They came up with some really good ideas!
  • You need to read a lot of REAL books, not stupid textbooks  (can you tell she wasn't a fan of the time we reviewed a history textbook instead of using living books for history?)
  • It needs to be fun.
  • Field trips
  • You need books, lots of books, therefore a library card . . . bookshelves . . . a place to PUT bookshelves . . . 
  • Parents need to go into it not thinking that they know everything, they need to want to learn with the kids.
  • The parent has to want to do it.
  • Parents need to know how to explain things to the kid.

I'd say they have it all figured out! I completely agree with all of those ideas!

To see what 80+ other homeschoolers think is essential this week, visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog. Here's some of them:

Lisa @ Our Simple Kinda Life
Tabitha @ The Homeschool Four
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas
Amy @ Counting Change. . . Again
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Gena @ I Choose Joy!
Adena @ AdenaF
Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue
Jen @ Happy Little Homemaker

Thursday, January 23, 2014

P is for Personality

When the twins were toddlers, life was exhausting, regardless, but there were some weeks that, by the end of the week, I'd be more exhausted than usual, and I couldn't figure out why. I'd look back over my week, and I'd have spent alot of time with friends, which logically, should have been more relaxing than staying home alone. My girls played well with others, so it seemed like sitting in a friend's living room visiting should be a pretty relaxing way to spend a day . . . so why was I so tired?

Then, when I hit a challenging age to parent, someone recommended Raising Your Spirited Child. While it's also an excellent parenting book, and one of the books I credit with keeping my from "killing" my kids when they were 3. An added bonus I took away from it was an explanation of introvert vs. extrovert.

The book was discussing it so we'd understand it in our children, but more valuable for me, was understanding it in myself. I'm a strong introvert, I used to assume that just meant I'd rather sit on the sidelines at a party, and things like that. What I learned from Raising Your Spirited Child is that introversion and extroversion is about how a person spends, and gains energy. An extrovert gains energy from being around other people. I have friends who either get really antsy or really depressed and down, if they're snowed in or otherwise can't be around people for more than a day or two. They need to be around people to be energized and happy. In introvert is drained of energy by being around other people. That doesn't mean she doesn't LIKE the people, or even being around them, it just means that, after being around people for a long period of time, she's exhausted. And introvert needs to be alone to restore energy.

That's what I was experiencing when the girls were toddlers and we had lots of playdates. Even though each of the friends we were visiting were people I truly enjoyed being with, by doing that for multiple days in a row, I was exhausted from the repeated energy drain, without alone time to "recharge".

Once I figured that out, I was (usually) more careful to make sure to spread out the playdates, and other interactions. I still "forget" sometimes. Just recently, I woke up one morning feeling sick to my stomach. I went to my required appointment, but then left hubby and the kids to enjoy the rest of the day's activities, while I went home and spent a few hours alone. Pretty much as soon as I got home and sat down in the quiet house, I felt fine. I think my body was just reminding me that I wasn't taking that oh-so-essential alone time.

Being an introvert and a homeschool mom can be tricky. . . thankfully, I've found that as long as I'm only with my husband and children, no extra people, it "counts" as "alone time. I don't "recharge" as quickly, when surrounded by my family, as I do when I get a few hours completely alone, but it works. . . and I think, has the added benefit, that those slower recharges encourages me to make sure we have plenty of time for just our family.

A couple of years ago, I expanded my understanding of personalities, by learning about the Myers-Briggs Personality Types.  This includes introvert/extovert but also looks at 3 other pairs of characteristics.  There are numerous free tests available, although I'm sure an "official" test would be more complete. I found that I got different results with different tests, but by reading the descriptions of the one I "flip-flopped" on, I was able to determine which one makes most sense for me.

Here's one of the sites that seemed to give me accurate results.

As I began to see how, understanding my personality type helped me to understand myself, and where I needed to be aware of areas I am weak in (being tactful, for example), and also ways I differ from others, I also saw value in better understanding my children's personality types as well. I was able to find this test for kids, ages 7-12. It only defines 3 of the 4 types, because kids are still growing/changing, but again, seemed pretty accurate for my kids (I went ahead and answered the questions, as best I could, for Little Bit despite her being younger than the recommended age range, to at least get a rough idea for her as well).

How does all of this help? In our marriage, it's helped hubby and me see where our communication is failing because what I say isn't what he hears, and vice versa. Likewise, in parenting, I recognize that each of my children is going to interpret my words and actions differently, and respond differently because of her personality type.

From the time Little Bit was itty bitty, I've noticed how much more she wants to please people, and how upset she gets when someone else is sad or upset. That is pretty different from the older girls, who never seemed to "get" that they should feel bad that they had done something to make someone else sad. As I discovered that Little Bit is a "Feeler" and the rest of us are "Judgers", that made more sense, and gave us a way to talk about it, and how, being aware that we don't naturally have that empathy, we need to still be kind and think more intentionally about how people feel when we do things.

All of this has helped my parenting. In a world that seems to bombard my children the message that they should be treated exactly the same or "it's not fair", personality types have been a tool to help them see that each of them are individuals and that it's more "fair" if I treat them each accordingly, instead of treating them all the same.

Blogging Through the Alphabet is hosted by BenandMe

Don't You Get Tired of Being With Your Kids ALL the Time?

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials One of the comments that I hear, when people find out that we homeschool is some variation of "Oh I could never do that, my kids would drive me crazy!"

And they have a point . . . if you're going to homeschool, then it's pretty ESSENTIAL, that you actually enjoy spending time with your children, because, you're going to be spending a LOT of time together!

My daughter, Lexie, hit the nail on the head, during a recent conversation, in which my girls were shocked to hear that some kids their age actually don't WANT to talk to their parents! (My girls can't really wrap their mind around someone not wanting to talk, ever, but discussion is such a key part of not only our homeschooling, but how our home runs in general, that it threw them for a loop to discover this . . . ). After thinking about it, Lexie said "Well, I guess, since we homeschool, we HAVE to talk things out, because we're always together!"

And she's right! Communication, and knowing how to get along with each other is essential to homeschooling. If you don't LIKE your kids, or don't like being with them, then homeschooling is going to be pretty miserable. . .

The good news is, if you haven't already figured this out, kids are AWESOME!!! And, once you realize a couple things, you just might enjoying your kids more . . . One thing to remember is that kids aren't mini-adults. Expecting them to just automatically KNOW all the social skills that adults generally know, is going to be a recipe for disaster. Expecting them to spend forever (in kid-time) sitting quietly while adults talk about boring adult stuff, is probably not feasible. . . though, my kids enjoy adult conversation AS LONG AS they're allowed to participate and ask questions. The other thing is to remember, kids have alot that's worth listening to. I learn FROM my kids, and I learn WITH my kids! I think I get the best end of the deal!

So here's what I've learned about being with my kids all the time:

  • Pray, a LOT! (that's just part of parenting, no matter what)
  • Make sure you have the right attitude. If YOU see it as a burden to endure, it will be. If you see it as an awesome, God-given, privilege, it will be.
  • Communicate - communicate your expectations to them. Listen to what they have to say.
  • Move beyond behavior modification. If you can't trust your kids to do what's right, because it's right, things are going to be hard. Several years ago, I purchased the audio version of Parenting is Heart Work, I review it every couple of years to make sure I'm staying on track, reaching their HEARTS, not just the outward stuff.
  • Tune out all the messages the world is giving you, about how children are a burden, and are keeping you from your true calling and all that . . . really SEE your children, really HEAR them . . . and discover what amazing individuals each of your children truly is.
  • And finally, recognize that there WILL be hard today (in fact, as I write this, I'm having a really challenging day with one of my darlings), but it's worth it, and God will see you through!
To see what 80+ other homeschoolers think is essential this week, visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog. Here's some of them:

Lisa @ Our Simple Kinda Life
Tabitha @ The Homeschool Four
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas
Amy @ Counting Change. . . Again
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Gena @ I Choose Joy!
Adena @ AdenaF
Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue
Jen @ Happy Little Homemaker

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What If I Miss Teaching Them Something Important?

5 Days of Homeschooling EssentialsWhen I tell people that we don't follow a specific curriculum. The top questions I get is "but how do you know you won't miss teaching them something important?

So today, for the 5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials, I thought I'd share why the above question doesn't worry me.

The ESSENTIAL thing for my children to learn is to know and love God.

As I start to plan a new school year, the only thing that I absolutely, positively, make sure we include in our plan is Bible, twice a day (morning and evening). For everything else, I consider what we have going on, and what everyone's interests are, and usually after that I have to weed things out so that we can actually fit everything in.

Bible is important to me because, above all else, I want my children to know, and love, God. I want them to grow up realizing that God is more important than anything else. And I'm sooo thankful that my children love our Bible studies and Lexie and Ashlyn got really upset last summer when we were reviewing a Bible curriculum that didn't challenge them. They love our Bible discussions and were frustrated when we didn't do them. That is the essential for our family!

So, what about the rest? Here's what I've come to realize over the last several years. . . Children (or anyone) don't remember things that they "learn" but aren't interested in, and don't use. Think about it. How much do YOU remember from school? I remember basic algebra, because I use basic algebra, but if you asked me to write a geometry proof, I wouldn't even know where to start. Even subjects that I LIKED, like history, I've discovered I have forgotten SO MUCH that I'm sure I learned in school! And you know what that tells me? That if I happen to miss "teaching" them something they'd have been taught in school, who cares?!?! If it's not something they are interested in, and are going to use, they're not going to remember it anyway, there's so much available to learn, nobody can learn all there is to know about everything, so why stress about what we might miss?

Instead, we focus on learning things they're interested in. Do I sometimes insist on something? Yes. Right now, while they understand the concept of multiplication a gazillion times better than I did at their age, they haven't memorized the times tables, and as they move into longer division, that is giving them fits. They think they don't like division, but in reality, it's because they haven't memorized the multiplication tables, and if you can't look at it and quickly determine how many times 8 goes into 58, it's frustrating. They're having a hard time understanding that memorizing the times tables is the missing piece, so we're struggling with that, but, on the other hand, if they don't want to memorize the dates of the Civil War, I don't really care, they CAN tell you about the major battles of the war, and why the war was fought and can expertly compare and contrast the Civil War and the American Revolution.

So what about the laws in our state? We are required to include all subjects in our homeschool. I've NEVER had any trouble with that. My kids LOVE to learn! And when you learn through hands-on methods and unit studies, and reading real books, all kinds of things get lumped nicely together. While they may be struggling with multiplication, it's never occurred to them that fractions are "hard", they've been doing math with fractions since they were 6 or 7, when we cook, and make a double recipe or half a recipe or, a recipe and a half (they do glare at me when I suggest that, but they DO it, without any problem.

Language arts are covered by reading and writing about things that interest them, and, as they are ready, they ask for help learning about spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, etc. When it's THEIR idea, it's easy to teach, they want to learn it, they realize that their writing doesn't look like the writing in the books that read, and we work on it.

Music was an area where, one year, I realized we weren't doing much with, so I discussed it with them as we planned the next year, the result . . . music lessons, and they are THRIVING!! While some of my friends complain about how hard it is to make their children practice, I've never once had to do anything more than help them schedule the time when our life is busy, I don't think I've ever heard either of them say "I don't want to!"  BUT, it was their idea (the fact that they have an awesome music teacher who is AMAZING with them, doesn't hurt either).

So, it's essential to teach your children to love learning, and encourage and grow that love through your homeschooling, but don't get too hung up on making sure you're teaching them the same checklist of items they'd learn in a classroom, or that your friend's homeschooled child is learning.

To see what 80+ other homeschoolers think is essential this week, visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog. Here's some of them:

Lisa @ Our Simple Kinda Life
Tabitha @ The Homeschool Four
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas
Amy @ Counting Change. . . Again
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Gena @ I Choose Joy!
Adena @ AdenaF
Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue
Jen @ Happy Little Homemaker

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Most Essential Essential of All!

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

As I thought about what is essential for homeschooling, I almost missed the most essential essential of all! God! It's so obvious, but for a control freak like me, it's soooo easy to forget!

Lexie and Ashlyn, 1 week old
I like to plan things out, and I tend to have some pretty definite opinions about things . . . when my husband and I were discussing having children, I planned things out to the nth degree. I had lists of my lists . . .I had friends who were highly amused when they heard we were having twins because "God found the ONE thing you hadn't planned for, and that's what He gave you!" And it was pretty accurate . . . and over the years, there have been many MORE times, when I start planning things out too much, and God reminds me that HE is in control, not me.

And because He keeps working to teach me that lesson, I am, slowly, VERY slowly, learning to trust God to lead our homeschool, not me!

Prayer is so essential, and following God's leading . . .  As I talked about in my post about being Flexible, if it were up to me, I'd have our lesson plans done for the next 12 years! But, God has shown me that I need to be flexible and we need to be open to God's leading in our homeschooling.

One way that God leads, is through the products we review. There is no question in my mind, that some of the items we've reviewed were God's doing. Sometimes items that I thought were going to be a disaster, have turned out to be great. I remember one product that I turned down, but then when someone who had agreed to review it couldn't, I agreed to review it, last minute. And my girls LOVED it!

So, I urge you, as you homeschool, or parent, or live . . . seek God's will, do NOT run ahead of God, never forget how Essential He is, in EVERYTHING!

To see what 80+ other homeschoolers think is essential this week, visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog. Here's some of them:

Lisa @ Our Simple Kinda Life
Tabitha @ The Homeschool Four
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas
Amy @ Counting Change. . . Again
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Gena @ I Choose Joy!
Adena @ AdenaF
Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue
Jen @ Happy Little Homemaker

Monday, January 20, 2014

Essential Flexibility

5 Days of Homeschooling EssentialsThe Schoolhouse Review Crew is doing a Five Days of Homeschooling Essentials Blog Hop, starting today. As I thought about what I consider essential for homeschooling, one thing that came to mind, that new homeschool moms (and dads) struggle with, is flexibility.

I LOVE to plan! If I had my way, I'd have had all 12 years planned out for my kids' schooling by the time they were 3 years old. THANKFULLY! When we decided to homeschool, when our twins were toddlers, I started by reading everything I could about different homeschool styles. I admit, at that point, I was planning to plan out all 12 years, then and there. . .

But as I researched, I realized how many different ways there are to homeschool, and how important it is to consider your budget, your child's personality, your own personality, your lifestyle . . . so many things! And when I saw all those variables, I realized something . . . an essential part of homeschooling, at least for our family, is being flexible.

Over the years I've learned to consider my children's learning styles (one year that meant having Lexie say memory verses while swinging on the swing in the backyard), interests ("Mommy, can we learn more about wild plants we can eat?"), personality (Ashlyn's a perfectionist, Lexie wants to get things done ASAP . . . ), attention span (that can be 3 hours if we're reading a good read aloud, or 10 minutes if it's something they're not interested in) . . . and all of those things change over time.

Flexibility means recognizing that, even though Ashlyn CAN read to herself, she'd much rather hear it read to her (audiobooks are her friend). It means realizing that, while most kids hate workbooks, Little Bit ADORES them. It means reluctantly agreeing that we won't continue using that review product that *I* loved, but the girls didn't. And, perhaps most surprising of all, it means discussing things with my kids, hearing their opinions and suggestions. Last fall I was at my wits end, I really, really, REALLY wanted to finish up American History this school year, or sooner, so we can move on to World  History. But Ashlyn was heart-broken at the thought of using a more summary-level textbook to accomplish that instead of using tons of read alouds (as we've been doing). We were stuck . . . I wasn't comfortable with dragging American History out for more than this one more year, and she was NOT ok with the (very good) textbook that I was suggesting. . . Then she asked, "why can't we just go as far as World War I, isn't that World History anyway? We'll learn about that in World History, right?" ummm. . . yes, actually you will. AND everything after that is pretty much all jumbled together because communication and transportation had reached a point where what happened in America affected the rest of the world and what happened in the rest of the world affected America. So there was our answer. We'll be wrapping up our pre-WWI American History in another few weeks, and will then move on to Ancient World History, not just "on schedule", but AHEAD of the time frame I was hoping for.

So, as we begin the Essentials of Homeschooling Blog Hop, I just want to encourage you to remember that it's ok to change things that aren't working, and try new ideas. Be flexible!

To see what 80+ other homeschoolers think is essential this week, visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog. Here's some of them:

Lisa @ Our Simple Kinda Life
Tabitha @ The Homeschool Four
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas
Amy @ Counting Change. . . Again
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Gena @ I Choose Joy!
Adena @ AdenaF
Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue
Jen @ Happy Little Homemaker

Weekly Wrap-Up - January 20

How in the world are we more than halfway through January already? Seriously, where does time GO?!?!

Last week was pretty run-of-the-mill.  I LIKE run-of-the-mill weeks.

Little Bit has re-discovered the "ballet" leotard she found at Goodwill last summer, so is back to wearing that most days. At least she wears it with black pants under it, and wears a sweater or poncho over it if she's outside LOL.  She loves torturing cuddling with her cat, Joy, and he's amazingly tolerant. I had to snap a picture when I saw her laying on the sofa, watching tv, with him draped over her neck :)

The 2014 "Review Year" has begun, in that we received our first review product as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Having a break from reviewing for the last two months, was really good for all of us, and now we're refreshed and eager to dive back in. Little Bit got to start first, when we received our login information for Kinderbach this past week. We've reviewed Kinderbach four times before (click on the Review tab at the top of the page to find all the reviews), and LOVE it. The first day we had it, Little Bit kept wanting "more", we went through the first 2 weeks' lessons that day LOL.  Be watching for our review next month!

This unit's art is watercolor techniques, and all 4 kids are enjoying learning some new techniques, such as washes and wet on wet watercolors. Ok, so by the end of the week, Little Bit said "can't I just paint whatever I want?" but the big girls are enjoying the new techniques, and Little Bit was proud of her "rainbow picture" when she was done that day.

The focus of Ashlyn's piano lessons right now is preparing for her "graduation" from Suzuki, book 1. As part of the graduation, she will give a recital (still deciding how we're going to handle that, she doesn't like preforming in front of people right now, so it may just be us, we shall see . . .) that includes playing all of the songs in Book 1. Someone, to make it more interesting, wrote a "story" that uses all the song titles in the story, so the plan is that Lexie will read the story, and Ashlyn will play each song as it's mentioned in the story.

While talking to their teacher this week, Lexie discovered that Miss Pat, normally does NOT require her violin students to play all the songs in the book when they graduate. She only requires the last 3 or so songs, and a couple others of the student's choice. And there's no story for the violin book, like there is for the piano book. Lexie didn't like that idea, so she sat there during Ashlyn's lesson (when she was supposed to be doing homework LOL), and figured out a story that is a sequel to Ashlyn's story (both books contain the song "Allegro" that is used as the name of the main character in the story, so that helped), using all the song titles in HER book. Since she started almost a year after Ashlyn, she still has quite awhile before she'll finish book 1, but at least for now, Miss Pat has tentatively agreed that, when the time comes, she can play all the songs and have Ashlyn read the story.

This week's Bible story in Little Bit's Sabbath School, was about the 7th day of Creation. And one suggestion for the program was to let the kids decorate the room for a party and then use a plastic, or real cake to sing happy birthday to the earth. Lexie and Ashlyn were insistent that we needed real cake, but I was insistent that we needed low mess, and not TOO unhealthy . . . so we decided to make "breakfast muffins" as mini-muffins, and frost them with an unrefined sugar frosting. The kids LOVED it (I should have taken pictures). They had fun putting streamers and some balloons all over the room and of course getting "cupcakes" in Sabbath School is always a hit.  Then we talked about how Sabbath is a celebration, it was a cool "object lesson" for all of us, not just the little kids.

Our church has a balcony with glass windows separating it from the main sanctuary. Parents with young children can use it, as a training chapel and/or a place for little ones to have a little more freedom to play while their parents listen. Since we don't have other younger children in our church, even though Little Bit is plenty old enough to sit quietly in the main sanctuary, we hadn't bothered to move downstairs. But a couple weeks ago, Lexie and Ashlyn started trying to sing along with the hymns during song service. Since they can't hear the whole congregation singing, just the song leader, they were having trouble with it. So this week we sat down in the main sanctuary so they could hear everyone singing. When I told Little Bit, earlier in the week, that we'd be sitting downstairs, she wasn't too thrilled. It was an "unknown" and there are other kids upstairs that she plays with.

I told her, since we wouldn't be sharing with the other kids upstairs, she could choose her snacks, and which quiet activities to put in the church bag. That's what I did with Lexie and Ashlyn at her age, that way they knew what their options were for both snacks and activities, and eliminated whining that they didn't like what I'd brought, or asking for more snacks than I wanted them to have. BUT I'd never figured out a feasible way to do that for Little Bit when activities and snacks were shared between families in the balcony. So now, with moving downstairs, I also introduced this idea as a fun new way of doing things, and it worked :) Granted, one of the snack options she got to choose, if she wanted, as a small bag of jelly beans, but still, it worked great. She willingly, and happily shared her crayons with some older girls who were sitting in the row ahead of us, and had gotten coloring pages in their Sabbath School class, but didn't have crayons, and quietly played with the activities she had chosen. This was Lexie and Ashlyn's week to go down and help with meal prep during the sermon, so they weren't there for most of church, but when Lexie asked Little Bit about it later, Little Bit told her that she likes sitting downstairs, whew! It's always easier when all the kids agree on something :)

And finally, I'll leave you with another Little Bit and cat picture. This time, Ashlyn's cat, Moccasin. After her bath, Friday night, Little Bit was sitting on the sofa and Moccasin jumped up and curled up with her. She was soo happy, usually Moccasin wants nothing to do with her (understandably, she loves the cats, but she tends to love them abit too enthusiastically), and begged me to take her picture :) It's a little fuzzy, but I thought I'd share anyway, she looks so different when her wild curls are wet and somewhat controlled :)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Recipe: Green Broccoli Soup

Awhile back when I was out running errands, Rodney showed the girls a bunch of cooking videos that he broccoli soup. Lexie was very intrigued by the recipe, which honestly, I didn't think sounded good at all. Last week was her week to make supper, and she really wanted to make this broccoli soup for supper one night. Finally, I told her that if she could get Daddy to find the video again, so she could watch it again and make sure she knew how to do it, she could try it.
found somewhere online, just short little "here's how to cook one thing" kind of videos. One was by Gordon Ramsey and was making

We didn't have specific amounts, if he gave them in the video, she didn't write them down, so here's what we did:

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, cut a bunch of fresh broccoli (I think we used about 3 lbs, and it wasn't enough for a main dish for our family of 5) into florets (the video show how he does it). Add broccoli and some salt to boiling water, cook until tender.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the broccoli into a bowl, add some of the cooking water. Blend with an immersion blender, adding more cooking water as needed. Add salt to taste.

Meanwhile place crumbled feta cheese (next time we'd like to try goat cheese, but we had feta on hand, so used that). in a pile in the bottom of each bowl (we also used chopped hickory nuts, but found they didn't add much, so won't bother with them next time). Ladle soup into bowl around soup.

It was DELICIOUS!!! Neither Rodney nor I were really expecting to like it. I don't dislike broccoli, but I generally prefer it WITH other things, and couldn't see pureed broccoli as being all that, but it was really good! We look forward to having it often :)

 photo 9c2d3d39-9e5d-4351-b060-d6251ee13eaa_zpseda17cd5.jpg
Try a New Recipe Tuesday

Monday, January 13, 2014

O is for Outdoor Time

Nothing like weeks on end of snow and rain and below freezing temperatures, to make us appreciate, and
long for, weather that is conducive to outdoor time! And that's what the past month or so had been for us.

Finally, this week, we've been able to get outside again BUT all the melted snow, plus pouring rain much of the day Saturday, has turned our yard into a marsh and while that wouldn't bother me in warm weather, cold mud isn't a great idea in my book . . .

So, as I stood at the kitchen window, washing dishes late Saturday afternoon, looking out at the creek rushing by (normally the water level isn't high enough for me to see from the kitchen window) and water standing over much of the back yard, I commented to Ashlyn (drying dishes beside me), that I really wanted the kids to be able to actually go OUTSIDE during morning play time, but the mud was going to be an issue. so I suggested the she and Lexie put their heads together and come up with an obstacle course for the younger kids (their younger sister, Little Bit, and our neighbors, E & J, who join us for school most mornings). They loved that idea and when introduced to it, the little kids love it too! In fact, this morning, when we discovered that the ground was frozen enough to not be muddy, yet, the kids asked if they could do obstacle courses again anyway :) I love it because it gets them all truly MOVING, more so than playing on the swings or something, and without the inevitable bickering over whichever swing is deemed "best" that day, or who should get to ride where on the bikes, or who's turn it is to throw the basketball if they are shooting baskets. . . the big girls like being able to organize something, and the little kids must be enjoying it if they asked for it again :)

So that's our current outside time solution (without pictures because, quite frankly, I was thrilled to have that bit of time in my morning to hang laundry and wash dishes and such while the kids were all getting wiggles out and not getting into things).

Other things we do regularly (when weather-appropriate) during outside time include:

  • sandbox time
  • the swingset
  • The slackline
  • wading in the creek
  • Riding bikes and scooters
  • Basketball in various forms
  • Reading in the gazebo
  • Gardening
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Bringing our easel out to the porch to paint

And while I'm writing about outside time, I thought I'd go ahead and share links to other outside time ideas (both summer and winter ideas), as well as ways to get wiggles out when the weather doesn't cooperate:

Winter ideas:
Snowman mailbox
Decorative Ice Gems
For the TRULY ambitious: make an igloo
Snowman Birdfeeder
Creative snowmen
Ways to Enjoy Frigid Weather

Summer ideas:
Soda bottle sprinkler
Water play
Frozen Popsicle Chalk

Anytime ideas:
Outdoor music ideas
Outdoor table with stump stools
Homemade Sidewalk Paint
Balloon Ping Pong (indoor or outdoor)
Pool Noodle Racetrack (indoor or outdoor)
Toy Car Racetrack
Nature Weaving
Make a tent from a hoola-hoop and sheets
Outdoor animal world
Outdoor Scrabble
Rainbow Bubble Snakes
Scavenger Hunts
A Home Daycare's Outdoor Playspace
Themed Walks

When You Can't Go Out:
Paint the windows with soap
Indoor Snowball Toss
Hallway "Lasers"
Newspaper "hut"
Giant Board Games
Just Add Masking Tape

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up - January 12

This post contains affiliate links.

This was our week of falling back into normal routines after all the holiday stuff.

We started our Winter unit for the little kids. This unit is about sound so we had fun playing "instruments" like a washboard and comb. We're reading books about sound like Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin and also about being quiet and listening, like Mousekin's Close Call. I wanted to do a silent listening walk, but the weather last week wasn't conducive to being outside any more than necessary, so hopefully we can do that this week.

With the start of a new unit, we also re-did our nature table. I decided to see with Little Bit and E would come up with on their own this time, so we talked about winter, and then I let them choose the playsilks, things like rocks and "jewels" from our shelves, and then other elements from a basket of wood animals, people, trees, etc.

It's not how *I* would have done it, but they had fun with it, and have played with it off and on after setting it up :)

This year we've had alot of variation in how much independent work the big girls have had. Last fall, when they had quite abit of independent work, I was printing daily schedules for them, then over the holidays they weren't really doing anything independent. Last week, they had a little bit of independent stuff, but not tons, and the printer was running low on ink, so I grabbed a small white board and listed their independent work on it. I told them I didn't care when they did it, as long as it was done by the end of the week. That let them choose which things to take with them to work on during the music lessons, and what to work on during the little kids' circle time each day. They LOVED it! And I love not having to use paper and ink, or have extra papers cluttering the house.

This week was also music lessons after having 3 (I think) weeks off over the holidays, because their teacher was out of town. They were SOO excited to go to lessons. Ashlyn is starting to work on the pieces for her end-of-book recital, and Lexie started learning to tune her own violin, and read music (Suzuki method teaches other stuff before introducing those elements). So they both have lots going on with music.

During Advent, we decided the best time to light our Advent candles, and read our Advent book, was to have afternoon tea parties. We enjoyed that addition to our days so much that we decided to keep it after Advent. We haven't managed to do it every day, but we're enjoying it. It's a time to fit in some of the little extras that I'd never found time to fit in otherwise, and just reconnect abit.

After much discussion, I agreed to read the Dahveed, Yahweh's Chosen to them.  It's not a "kid's book" and not something I'd want to turn them loose with at this age, but I decided as a read aloud, that we could discuss as we went, we'd at least give it a try (I'd read it already, so knew what I was getting into). We also have a "theme" for each day and spend a few minutes on it during tea time as well, the themes are:

"Picture of the week" - we talk about an art piece, and it's artist, and then display that art piece for the week.
"Hymn" - we choose a hymn, sing it together, read a biography about the hymn writer, and then continue with that hymn till we've memorized all stanzas, then we'll move on to another hymn.
"Composer study" - we'll spend 12 weeks learning about a composer, reading a biography about him, listening to his music, perhaps learning the "story" behind certain songs he wrote. . .
"Language study" - some type of exposure to a foreign language, currently their interest is centered on Hebrew, so for now I found a cute song for Purim, so for now we're listening to it and singing it together, so we'll know it by Purim :)
Poetry - we'll spend 12 weeks learning about a poet, reading a biography about him, and reading his poetry.
Self-Improvement - for lack of a better word . . . pretty much something I've been wanting us to work on doing better character/relationship-wise . . . the first thing we're doing is Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends.

So, last week was our first week doing this, and we didn't do it every day, so we haven't even done all the above list, but I think it will work out pretty well.

One of the days, Ashlyn (whose job it was to make a snack/treat for tea), made cucumber sandwiches and cut the crusts off the bread to make them "fancy".  Little Bit had fun playing with the crusts while Ashlyn was making the sandwiches, and was so proud of her "face" that she asked Ashlyn to take a picture, so I'll leave you, for this week, with that picture :)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review: Prototype

This post may contain affiliate links.

Prototype by Jonathan Martin reminds us that God loves us as much as He loves His own Son. That when God looks at us, instead of seeing our sins and imperfections, He sees His perfect, sinless, Beloved Son. Jesus is our prototype, and we can live our lives, in victory, not fear, knowing that God loves us!

I received both the book, and the small groups DVD of this title.

Since I much prefer reading, to watching something on tv, I chose to read the book first. The book is written in a very personal, almost conversational style, sharing many examples from his life, and the lives of others he's talked to. Jonathan Martin leads an inner city ministry and he, and those in ministry with him, have experience first hand, God's love of the least of these, and what amazing things can happen when we set aside our preconceived ideas and societal norms and love like Jesus did! If you are looking for a reminder of God's love, and what that should mean to us on a practical level, this is a great book for you!!!

After reading the book, I began watching the DVD. It appears to be the book, read to you, with discussion questions inserted at regular intervals. If you are someone who prefers to hear a book, rather than read it (my daughter, Ashlyn is an auditory learner), this would be a great option. Also, if you are planning to study this book together in a small group setting, the video takes all the "prep work" out of it for you, and would be a great choice!

Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product(s) from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in compliance with FTC regulations.

N is for Notebooks

My daughters are 10 1/2, and at this age, I am very aware that communication between teens and parents tends to break down. So, as they approach the teen years, one thing I'm being very intentional about is maintaining, and building, communication with them.

Awhile back, probably on Pinterest, I saw a suggestion to have a mother/daughter notebook. The idea is, the mother and daughter share a notebook, the daughter writes in it, then the mother reads it, and replies. I mentally filed the idea away as something that might build communication.

While we don't give Christmas gifts to our children (they chose, a few years ago, to receive their gifts during Hanukkah instead of Christmas), we do still fill stockings. Stockings are easy to fill for the 4 yr old, but are more challenging for 10 yr olds. Then I remembered the notebook idea. So the "big" thing in Lexie and Ashlyn's stockings this Christmas was a small, pretty notebook, and a pen in each girl's favorite color.

In the front of each journal I wrote a note, explaining that this is a mother/daughter journal. During the day she can write anything she wants in her journal, then leave it in a designated spot at bedtime. I will collect the journal when I tell her goodnight, and respond to any questions she might have asked, then leave the journal on the bottom step for her to find in the morning.

Both girls were THRILLED with their gifts! They later told me that was the BEST GIFT they'd gotten (lest you think that's not saying much, while WE don't give them gifts for Christmas, the grandparents more than make up for that, and they also exchange gifts with each other for Christmas).

Lexie's had a rather challenging year and there have been many discussions about not speaking rudely to, or about, others. One of her first questions was "can I say WHATEVER I want in this journal? Even if it's rude?" Yes, this is a place to be completely honest!  That said, when I called her on something in the journal, and she asked about it, I pointed out that it goes both ways, she can say whatever she wants, but I can also be completely honest and tell her if I don't like what I'm reading. This is what I sooo desperately want for my daughters. I want to make sure that I KNOW their hearts. If they are angry, I want to know it. As they get older, and potentially hear about things that aren't in keeping with our values, or they or their friends are doing, or considering doing, things they know we don't approve of, I want them to know they can tell me anything.

Two weeks later, they still love their notebooks. Sometimes, they write alot, sometimes a sentence or 2, sometimes nothing, and it's all good. . . We are keeping the lines of communication open and they are getting practice writing at the same time!

This post is part of Blogging Through the Alphabet.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Everyone is Unique!

This is what I'm blogging about over on SDA Homeschool Families, come check it out! 

One of the many reasons for homeschooling is that, as parents, we know our children better than even the best teacher could. We can adapt things to our child’s needs. And that’s very true. But one thing that I struggle with, is remembering that my children are all different . . . read more.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up - January 6

I don't think I've quite wrapped my mind around the fact that it's 2014! Weren't we just worrying about Y2K? (yes, I'm old . . .) anyway . . .

We started the week off at Mama and Papa's house. We had tons of fun there.

Sunday was sewing day! I REALLY should have taken pictures, the girls brought their sewing machine with them, and Mama got her machine out, so they had quite the sewing party going on.  Ashlyn and Mama made the purple skirt that Mama gave her (as fabric and a promise) for Christmas. She has a shirt that matches it PERFECTLY, so she's thrilled with her new outfit. Mama had some pink knit fabric that we realized would be cute paired with a t-shirt and made into a t-shirt dress for Lexie and Lexie also had a shirt that she wanted to find fabric for and make into a t-shirt dress so we headed out shopping. We found a purple t-shirt that looks great with the pink fabric, and then hit the JACKPOT at the clearance table at JoAnn's Fabric! We found some adorable fabric to go with Lexie's shirt, but also ended up getting fabric to make a shirt and skirt for Ashlyn and 2 or 3 more dresses (some summer) for Lexie. She's at a size now where finding "play dresses" without spending $30+ each doesn't happen, so, since she REALLY prefers dresses, making her dresses is the best option.

Monday, we headed to a friend's house. The kids all get along great and pretty much as soon as we walked in the door they all were off playing and having a blast. At lunch the kids were all trying to figure out a way for us to just stay there for a few weeks, it's great to see how well all the kids get along! In the afternoon we went over to their 70 acres of woods. The cars had barely stopped when Lexie and Ashlyn and the 3 boys disappeared into the woods and we didn't see them until it was almost time to leave!  The boys' dad was working clearing trees, so he saw them a few times, and snapped the picture of them as they popped up over the bank when he called them :)  The boys told the girls their clothes were too bright. Lexie HATES pants of any kind but concedes grudgingly that pants are a better option for playing with M&N in the woods, but she won't do jeans, so she was wearing hot pink sweat pants. Ashlyn was wearing jeans and a gray jacket, so not too bad . . . the boys told them they needed camouflage LOL.

When they finally came in, frozen solid and CAKED with mud, they begged for us to stay for supper. We compromised and went out to eat together, before heading home. M asked if we could come over sometime when it snowed. . . ummm . . . you live 3 hours from us, on a mountain, that doesn't sound like a drive I want to make in the snow, sorry . . . his solution was that we could come BEFORE it snowed and just stay with them until the snow melts LOL. My kids thought it was a great idea too us moms were more non-committal.

Back and my parents' house I did laundry. I threw the girls' muddy clothes in by themselves and ran a rinse cycle. At the end of the rinse, the entire inside of the washer, up to the waterline, was CAKED with mud! Those were some MUD-DY clothes! I ran another empty rinse cycle and the machine was clean.

Tuesday we went to another friend's house. The kids were all smart enough to stay inside most of the time that day (they did go feed the neighbor's horses), but still had lots of fun.  The big girls helped E with her new sewing machine, Little Bit happily played with their VERY TOLERANT dog most of the day LOL.  Ashlyn also really enjoyed playing with the 1 yr old he's a sweetie :)

Wednesday morning the girls fit in some more sewing, getting some work on one of Lexie's dresses and finishing up Ashlyn's skirt, before we headed home.

And we got home just in time for MORE SNOW!!! Thursday morning we madly ran errands to get them in before the bad weather hit, and then it snowed Thursday night and was BITTERLY COLD on Friday.

Thursday afternoon we packed up all the Christmas stuff, but it's still in bins stacked in the hallway because it's been SOOO cold, and SOOO icy that I haven't been willing to carry the boxes out to the garage to store them away. We were all amused at how "big" the living room felt when we took the tree down. I told the girls, next time we start to feel like some part of our house is too small, we just need to move some other large, bulky thing into the space for a couple weeks and then take it back out, it'll seem plenty big again :)

Sabbath was cold, but clear, so we headed to church, but I wasn't feeling great, and Rodney, who'd planned to come later, and bring food for lunch at the church, discovered his car wouldn't start, so I came home after Sabbath school, and stayed home while he went back for church and lunch.  I have to admit, I LOVED having a couple hours to just sit quietly and listen to podcasts of a favorite pastor's sermons (I heard 3 sermons and could actually pay attention without distractions!). I honestly think my body was just reminding me that I had been around people ALL.THE.TIME. for the last couple of weeks and I desperately needed some alone time to recharge. By late afternoon I was feeling fine.

So that was our busy week. Friday was the only day that we did "normal" school, but we got in tons of "PE" and "home ec" and listening to some great literature and science CDs in the car during all our driving around, so it was an educational week, just even more "unschoolish" than usual :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 in Pictures

Looking Back at 2013

As we move into 2014, I thought it would be fun to look back at 2013 with some little glimpses of what happened in our life over this, rather eventful year.


We moved into our new house, and spent the month (ok, the next several months) getting settled.


Settling into our new routines . . . Back to homeschooling . . . discovering that our long living room/kitchen is great for science class!


March was a busy month! Of course, the highlight was birthdays. But some other memorable happenings include, finishing the shower, and having a car hit a tree in our front yard.


Lexie started violin lessons!


The girls went fishing, and otherwise had a BLAST with friends in the wilds of West Virginia.


June is always campmeeting, and this year that included hiking at Hawk Mountain. June also meant a music recital, and finding a BIG snapping turtle and a tiny painted turtle


July brought a trip to Boston for my cousin's wedding, and lots of National Park fun while we were in Boston.


August was school pictures and outdoor fun and lots of other homeschooling.  


September is Williamsburg!


We took a trip to Western PA with Daddy for work.


Thanksgiving with family in Tennessee included flying in Cousin Terry's plane, and  driving the golf cart all over their property. And don't forget Hanukkah


December was SNOWY! (not normal for our area), and of course, all about Christmas.

I hope you enjoyed a brief look back at our year. This post is part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew's Looking Back Blog Carnival, which will go live on Wednesday, January 8.