Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Part 3 - The First Year

So it was my oldest child's Kindergarten year. She was officially waived from public school. My husband said he would teach her when he got home from work. That whole year was a little foggy for me. I had a baby #5 in October and got pregnant again in April. I almost gave birth to that baby #5 at home. That would have been quite a science lesson. But we made it to the hospital in the nick of time. If I remember correctly, we even put the house on the market that fall because we felt like moving into a house with a different floor plan. But the house didn't sell, and we never moved.

All I really remember from that year is sitting on the couch with a newborn baby a LOT and reading beginner reader books with my daughter. I remember a lot of Spongebob too. Our second child turned four in November of that year. We bought him the book, Go Dog Go, for his birthday. When he opened it, he immediately began to read the whole thing aloud! Neither my husband nor I even knew he could read. So apparently he was catching on to everything that I was teaching my daughter by sitting on the couch with us. By the end of the school year my daughter was reading chapter books, such as the Magic Tree House Series.

One of the most common questions we were asked when we began homeschooling was, "What curriculum do you use?" The first time I was asked that question I was caught off guard. I didn't even know what that question meant. I would fumble and say something like, "Umm. Oh, yeah...curriculum...well...um...we don't use one? We are kind of just making it up." Then I would feel foolish for not having a plan and guilty for not using one of these curriculums they were speaking of. So up until this point I didn't know there were formal expensive curriculums. When I did find out, I wondered why people would buy them, especially for the early elementary ages. We were getting along with simple books, toys, inexpensive workbooks, and some TV....or a lot of TV, especially during the first trimester of a pregnancy. To this day my kids still reference specific Spongebob episodes that have taught them a concept. Don't underestimate the value of what seem to be nonsense cartoons. (Phineas and Ferb is my favorite.) :)

So when moms ask what curriculum they should use for Kindergarten I smile. Then I usually comment, "Read and play." I know it worked for us. It turns out that my husband didn't actually do a whole lot of formal teaching when he got home from work that first year. We mostly ate dinner as a family and had family time in the evenings. However, the following year, we became more formal with our schooling....and it was not a good decision...(to be continued.)

I know I didn't cover a whole lot today. Today we have been celebrating that oldest child's 15th birthday!! She got her driver's permit today. We've come a long way since that first year of homeschool! Since I was brief, if you have questions, you can ask them in the comments. :)

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Part 2 - Why My Husband Insisted on Homeschooling

My husband grew up in a middle class family and went to school in a part of town with lower-income families and a high percentage (in the 80% range) of economically disadvantaged minorities. The stats for enrollment for 2012-2013 for 9th grade were 441 students and 145 students for 12th grade. This is not because they expanded capacity that year for freshmen or that students typically graduate early. The dropout rate is THAT bad and was that bad when my husband attended. The stats also indicate that students are 38% proficient in English and 20% proficient in math. So, you can see why my husband did not have a positive view of the educational system and decided early on that his children would be homeschooled. Of course I did not know all this when he was trying to persuade me. I was the naive girl who had a very different experience in school. 
I grew up in a middle class family and went to school in a part of town where kids drove their Mercedes and BMWs to school. (I was the kid who drove the 1987 Buick Century that sounded like a banshee when it started.) My school literally had a 99% graduation rate and I think 90 something percent of the students went on to college. Looking at the 2012-2013 statistics for my school, 63% participated in AP courses, as opposed to 20% at my husband's school. Only 14% were economically disadvantaged at my high school. So I think it is clear we had very different high school experiences. I didn't even know life could be much different than what I experienced. When I went to school I watched TV shows such as The Cosby Show, Family Ties, and Growing Pains, all shows with united families and successful fathers. I watched MTV when it still aired music videos and not shows like 16 and Pregnant.
My husband and I were also very different types of students. He was the incredibly smart kid who didn't apply himself. He was one of the few who were proficient in math, who could calculate how to do the least amount of work, but pass the class, so he could read his science fiction books in lieu of textbooks and assigned literature. He was that annoying kid who didn't do homework or pay attention in class, but could ace the tests. He was a band nerd (saxophone) and ended up graduating with a 2 point something grade point average in his college prep classes and amazingly went on to a good college to get a degree in music composition and started a successful ska band after college. He loved to learn. He took classes in excess in college, because he was thirsty for knowledge.
I, on the other hand, was the studious child. I didn't take AP courses because I knew I was more likely to get a better grade in the college prep ones. I ended up graduating with a 3.9 GPA all because of that darn B in Spanish 2. I paid attention in class, stayed up late doing homework, and studied hard for tests. I loved high school. I was a cheerleader (which my husband wishes he could erase from my past) and had great friends with a fun social life and was in the choir. Naturally I was not opposed to my children experiencing the same thing, minus the embarrassing Buick. I went on to college and got a degree in nutrition. Then I went on to do a dietetic internship to become a Registered Dietitian, but quit two months into it because I could not handle working in a hospital. Turns out hypochondriacs and hospitals are not a good mix. Every night I went to bed thinking I had tuberculosis, cancer, or bed sores. After quitting I became a waitress until I met my husband. I never had a college degree career. 
The town in which we live now has schools probably in between the quality of mine and my husband's, but closer to mine. They are located in the same district as my husband's school, so he naturally has a tainted view of them. The size of them is outrageous. It's a popular place to live with kids. The high school here is approaching 4000 students. The elementary schools have an enrollment of 1100 students for grades K-2 and 1200 for 3-5. That is about 15 classrooms per grade! I grew up with 2 or 3 per grade. I am guessing it would be easy for a child to get swallowed up in a sea of students. It makes me wonder how many children have potential that is not being reached because they are on the assembly line. The schools in our town are great in comparison to others in the state, but I think that can give parents a false sense of greatness. They might be better, but are they the best? When our daughter was 5-years-old I was sucked into believing they were good enough, but my husband wanted more, thus keeping him persistent in his homeschooling endeavor. 
Ok, I think that is enough for tonight. That gives a background on the some of the whys of our choice to homeschool. Next I will go more into what the early years of what our homeschooling was like....and, ahem, we made a lot of mistakes...(to be continued.)
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Homeschool "Big Picture"

Q: What are your "big picture" goals for your children? What are your reasons for homeschooling that keep you going on the hard days?

My answer: Good question!

We have our whole lives to learn academics and the specific details in school subjects. It is not possible to teach our children every. possible. thing. there is to know. When we attempt to try, we get overwhelmed, and the resulting feeling is one of failure, which is not of God. So where should our focus be on our children's education if we can't teach them everything there is to know by the time they turn 18?

Our main goal is to nurture children with strong character and faith as well as instill a desire in them to continually learn throughout their entire lives. Also, we want them to have a solid understanding of their individual worth by teaching each one they are a child of God who is their true source of strength and truth. We only get our children for a certain number of impressionable years, and we want to use those years to help them develop important traits such as virtue, integrity, and charity. Those are traits that should be deeply rooted within a person to make them a successful Christlike adult and leader in the community. A future generation with these traits as a solid foundation will be far more influential than a generation rooted in the specifics of biology, chemistry, trigonometry or calculus.

That's not to say that as homeschoolers we don't teach academic subjects and solely focus on character and faith. We simply view academic subjects as the delicious side dishes that compliment the hearty main dish of the overall educational feast. Along with the main dish of character and faith we seek to provide a balanced course of  knowledge. We take into consideration our children's interests and tastes as we strive to provide them with the most wholesome sources and methods to obtain that knowledge. The core knowledge we focus on are the educational food groups of reading, writing, math, science, lessons in history, music, art, and other life skills that we feel prompted to teach them. We take a very unstructured and unschooled approach towards many of these subjects. I almost feel very hippie saying that, but it works. I feel like we are training our children how to learn as adults do, much of the time on an as needed basis and according to the cravings of our brains for nutritious information. I feel like textbooks and rigid curriculum are not like real life, and I have never been attracted to that type of learning. They are too much like a prescribed diet that doesn't offer enough variety, aesthetic appeal, or flavor. In other words, textbooks are like hospital food. (No offense to those of you who love hospital food. I enjoy a day or two of it when I'm in the hospital after giving birth, but it's not something I would want to spend my life eating.)

We make sure we introduce our children to a variety of subjects to see what might spark their interest and make them want to dive deeper into learning more about it and tasting of it's goodness. We strive to spark their interest simply through interesting books from the library or bookstore, or items I randomly strew about the house. I don't consider ourselves total unschoolers, because we do use some purchased curriculum that we enjoy to help organize and structure our learning, just as we would use a collection of recipes to help us prepare a well-balanced and nutritious meal. However, every now and then we throw some random educational ingredients together, ignore any directions, and it turns out to be an absolutely delicious learning experience.

I definitely have hard days that feel academically deficient, but I have learned and observed over the years that the days which include a devotional, as short or as small as it may be, are the most successful days that provide essential nourishment, even if the fiber of academic learning seems to be lacking that day. The spiritual lessons and values learned during that moment of devotion are far more important than any math concept or grammar rule that could have filled that time. I have experienced sweet witnesses from the Holy Spirit that those are the crowning moments of motherhood; I am truly fulfilling my calling by taking the time to instill those essential lessons in my children. I have also observed my attitude improves when spiritual thoughts, music, or scripture are included in our day. It grants me more patience to deal with the frustrations that might accompany teaching academics, dealing with cranky children, or mediating sibling disputes, because those occur most assuredly every day!

I believe when moral character traits are nurtured, the knowledge will come naturally at a pace that is appropriate for each individual student. Our current educational system puts a heavy emphasis on academic standards and a time table on which to learn those standards. Although some standards might be a good general guideline, I never want to have to force my child to fit in a structured mold. Education is not a race or competition. Education is not a factory that requires a quality control checklist or a grade standard stamp at each stage of the process. Children are unique human beings and therefore should be treated as such. I believe a loving home is the ideal place for learning to be most effective. Therefore, our core focus is on the end goal of deeply rooted moral character combined with a sufficient knowledge base and eagerness to seek knowledge throughout life as well as to know how to seek out correct and worthy sources of knowledge. Our end goal is not to produce genius brainchildren that will go to ivy league colleges or become CEOs of corporate America. Our goal is to create real people who will make the world a better place.

It seems as if the end goal of our current public and private educational system is to produce young adults who are prepared for college and career, with a Grade A stamp that proves they are a marketable resource for society. Although I agree that college is good and can provide opportunities for good careers, our family chooses not to get fixated on college or career as the ultimate end goal of education. This can create a skewed vision of where we base our priorities. My husband and I have prioritized our faith, marriage, and family over career and income. My husband has turned down several job opportunities that would take too much time away from the home. I have made the choice to be a stay-at-home mom since the day our first child was born. We hope our children will emulate these priorities in their future. I am more than ok with my sons having respectable jobs, whatever they may be or however much they might pay, that will provide for their families and allow them to spend a sufficient amount of time with their spouse and children. I am more than ok with my daughters desiring to be "just" a stay-at-home mom because I know that stay-at-home motherhood is 100% justifiable when the world seems to teach otherwise.

When the time comes, we feel our children will be ready to make the choice of whether they want to attend college, just like we allow them to choose topics they want to study while they are young. I have found that allowing my children to have a say in the topics they study and the materials they use produces a higher retention of the knowledge that is learned. We also encourage entrepreneurial goals that may not require a college degree at all. We value higher education and continuing education. My husband and I both have a bachelor's degree and my husband has his master's, but we believe that not all careers are dependent upon a college degree. Society seems to imply that college is the only avenue to success, so we also make sure that our children know what defines success. Career and salary do not define success. Character does. Being on a path that leads them back to their Heavenly Father is success.

If they make the choice to attend college, we feel they will be adequately prepared to find a way to get into a suitable university to pursue their career goals. The freedom to make choices is very important. We want to make sure our children do not feel pressured to go to college because "everybody's doing it." We plan to have them figure out what it is they want to do to financially support themselves and a future family and then figure out the best path toward that goal. A four year university may not be the answer, but if it is then great. It will likely be time and money well spent achieving a desired goal, and we will certainly support them in that goal.

We want our children to be prepared to enter the world when they are ready to leave the nest. Some students leave the nest ready for secondary education, but not the world. They might feel handicapped by their lack of life skills, such as cooking, laundry, sewing, gardening, or finances. They are then required to learn them as adults. Many adults eventually adapt to learning these just fine, however, why not learn them as early as possible and avoid that learning curve as an adult? Therefore, we place a heavy emphasis on these skills in our children and give them responsibility and accountability for these skills at home beginning when they are young. Amazingly, many academic subjects such as science and math can be studied through learning these basic life skills, providing a consolidation of learning. It's pretty neat! :)

So in a nutshell, our "big picture" goals are to nurture the following:

through daily devotionals, scripture study, prayer, and church attendance.

Individual worth
by teaching them they are children of God, who loves them unconditionally and desires His children to return to Him.

Virtue and integrity
by practicing gospel principles learned daily in the home.

through service to family and neighbors.

by teaching academics, much of it through life skills, carefully selected curriculum, reading of good books, and wholesome activities at home on a time table appropriate for each individual.

by remembering our number one priority is God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Marriage and family
by having it as a priority in our lives for them to emulate when they are adults.

by giving them a say in the things they learn and the activities they do in order to obtain knowledge.

through responsibilities carried out in the home and to the family.

I know children who have gone through the public school system and are still moral, faithful, and wonderful people. I know it's possible because of their good and faithful parents and some wonderful teachers along the way. The dictates of my husband's and my consciences lead us to commit ourselves to homeschooling because we feel it is the right choice for our family and circumstances. It allows us a tremendous amount of freedom with our time and resources to teach what we feel led to teach as we fulfill our callings as parents and nourish our children with the best education as possible. I believe it would be extremely difficult to effectively accomplish our big picture goals if we could only do it on the limited free time we had with our children during the hours they were not attending public school or completing school assignments at home. It would be like trying to feast during a famine.

LOVE that freedom! It is precious. At this point in my life it is impossible for me to imagine sacrificing that freedom and flexibility when hard days might tempt me to enroll my children in school to catch a break, or because I mistakenly believe a formal school would supplement my deficiencies. I have witnessed many times the divine grace that has been provided to me in the educational realm at home. My Heavenly Father has made up for many of my deficits, quite miraculously at times. I testify to that, and that is what keeps me going, my friends. :)

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Homeschool in the Woods Middle Ages Program

I was given the opportunity to review a product a couple weeks ago. It's called History Through the Ages Project Passport The Middle Ages. I was interested because we ended last year with the Middle Ages, so I agreed to review it.

Here's the deal:

It's comes in a DVD case and includes a CD to put in your computer to access the files. Included on the CD are images, PDFs, and MP3s.

Don't let this DVD case fool you into thinking that you can pop it into the DVD player and give your children an educational experience while you half listen and scroll through Facebook or read homeschool blogs. This program does require parent involvement. Boo! Hiss! Just kidding! We love parent involvement! :)

Since I only had a couple weeks to review it I wasn't able to read through each activity in detail or get any cool snapshots of my children having a blast doing the projects because honestly we haven't hit the world history books yet for this school year since we are still visiting CA and going on field trips here before we go home.

There are 25 Travel Itineraries or "Stops" that you can take with your children. They are pretty much written out on 2-3 pages each that you can read to your children. Also included are over 50 projects and activities. So if you spent one week on each Stop, your children would have a thorough understanding of the Middle Ages while having FUN in just 6 months. That's only $1.40 per week. I'd say that's a good deal.

The program definitely provides parents with much of the information they need to teach children ages 8-14 about the Middle Ages. Projects include making Lap Books, a newspaper, postcards, stained glass, herb salts, playing games, and much much more that I can't possibly list it all. After going through the projects it makes me want to review the Middle Ages with my children this year before moving on to the Renaissance so they can experience the fun activities and gain a more solid foundation of this time period in history.

Here are a few screen shots of my experience:

When you open the CD drive on your computer it looks like this. It took me moment to figure out that if you click on the Chrome start file it's MUCH easier to navigate. It opens up a tab in your Chrome browser locally and you can scroll and click on links to the activities you want to open and print.

This is what it looks like in your browser. The Guide Book Text is what you can read word for word or paraphrase to your children or have your older ones read. The Travel Itinerary is kind of like the directions for each Stop. I'm still trying to figure out the icons and what they mean, but I'm sure you get the hang of it after completing a few Stops and clicking all there is to click.

This image is to show you that some of the Stops have Lab Book activities. I've never been one to do Lap Books, but this product actually makes me want to try one out. There are also seven stops that have an Audio Tour.

But WAIT!! That's not ALL!
(Can you tell I've watched too many infomercials?)

Also included in this deal is a FREE author kit that will be included with the Middle Ages CD. It includes information and activities on 24 authors including Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and other others you may or may not have heard of. Who doesn't want their children to learn about wonderful authors?!

So all this can be yours for only $34.95.
(Regular $50.48)

Do I recommend this product? Yes
Would I buy this product? Yes

How do you get this product?
Click on the Educents link below and it can be yours.
You will have to scroll to the Middle Ages Project Passport deal.

I did receive this product for free and I get a very small percentage if you buy it. Enough to buy a maybe a pencil. I simply like to review products to let my readers know if they should consider buying a product. :)

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Theme Park Homeschooling

I love when theme parks are able to reinforce a topic we've been learning. On our cross country road trip we drove part of the Pony Express Trail. We talked about it a bit while traveling. It was amazing to me to travel through the desolate desert where these young men galloped on horses carrying mail.

This past Saturday we visited Knott's Berry Farm in Southern California. It's a theme park which has a wild west theme to it. One of the roller coaster rides is called Pony Express. It was actually really fun. The cars look like horses and it shoots you off really fast while you zoom around on the track pretending to be a Pony Express rider. In my opinion the ride was too short, but totally entertaining and thrilling. Only my dare devil nine year old was willing to go on it with me, and I think she will forever have a fun understanding about the Pony Express. I was also able to teach her a little bit about the Pony Express while waiting in line. However, I made sure she understood that the Pony Express riders most likely did not eat funnel cake and Icees when they dismounted their horses. It's hard to find a beef jerky and cornbread kiosk at theme parks these days.

The Pony Express Ride

What the train looked like. This man was so nice to smile for me. 

My nine year old ready for take off to deliver her mail.

The track. It was fast and pretty awesome.

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Friday, August 16, 2013


We are visiting my dad in CA for a month. My kids have been enjoying the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon because we don't have cable at home. Today I cut the TV off and told them they had to write a poem about the trip we took out here before watching anymore TV. It's funny how plenty busy they can keep themselves playing games, playing outside, and doing anything but write poetry. Suddenly TV does not seem all that important to them. Writing is not our easiest subject to tackle. My 9 year old wrote a poem though. We'll see if we can get one from the others tomorrow. :)
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

First Day of School

Ok, I admit that I get a little sad every year when all my friends on Facebook post their children's first day of school photos. I feel a little left out because I can't follow the trend of a having a picture of my children with their oversized backpacks standing in front of a schoolbus, the school, or with their teacher. But then I think, "Wait a minute! We have an awesome first day of school every year!" Some years are more momentous than others. Some with a kitchen table full of brand new school supplies purchased on tax-free weekend. Others are more like, "Should we start school today? Let's start school today." However, this year was different. We began with a drive across the United States from one coast to another. Now if that isn't one big huge giant field trip, I don't know what is. So I mark this year's family vacation/pioneer trip, which commenced on July 30th, as our first day of school. Why not start the year off with a bang?

First we had to get to the beginning of our pioneer trail. We spent the first two days in regular clothing, and our first stop was in Nashville, TN. We stopped by the Parthenon. It was my son's idea because he knew about it from the Percy Jackson movies. We were too late to be able to go inside, but we had the opportunity to admire the outside in the drizzling rain. We will have to go back someday when we can go inside.

Here's a picture. There is an extra child in there. She was a 14 year old friend that came along on the trip. (She is a former homeschooled child as well, so she fit right in.)

First Day of 2013-2014 School Year 

Ok, ya'll. I'm going to be so bold and try to commit myself to blogging at least a sentence or photo each day. Do you think I can do it? I'm good about posting on Facebook, but I don't seem to be able to multitask very well. While on my trip this year, and preparing to write my book, I realized how important it is to journal and keep records. So that is my goal. Please chastise me on Facebook if I appear to be failing. You totally have my permission.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Books, Books, and More Books About Pioneers

Anybody who lives in my town and who wants to learn about pioneers, westward expansion, or the Pony Express is out of luck, because I think we have all the books checked out from the library. The above picture is only a portion of the books we have. We've been reading and studying the life of the pioneers. I find it fascinating and would love to be able to travel back in time to experience it first hand. Learning about pioneers also makes me grateful for our modern conveniences. There are so many things we take for granted. For example, the the large 2-pack bottles of Log Cabin syrup I bought at Costco yesterday, my washing machine, prepackaged stick butter, and my cooktop stove and oven.

Some of my favorite books I've read so far are these:


I'm trying to post daily on our progress in preparing for our pioneer trip! Stay tuned! Have you checked out our Kickstarter project to help fund the book I want to write? Heres' the link:

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I Want To Write a Book

Ok, so I want to write a book. I have been wanting to write one for some time now. For the past several weeks our family has been planning a pioneer vacation. It will be several more weeks before we go, and I am super excited about it. I began a Kickstarter project to help me get rolling for the production of my book about our pioneer experience.

Not familiar with Kickstarter? I wasn't either until my husband introduced me to it. Kickstarter is a website that helps people achieve their goal of completing a dream project. A person sets a monetary goal they want to reach to help them fund their project. Then the person gets backers to help them reach their goal, and the backers receive rewards from the person.

I started a Kickstarter project and just launched it yesterday. I was initially going to only share it with friends and family, but I've decided to extend it to my Facebook page and homeschool blog as well.  My rewards to my backers are copies of my book as well as some other fun things such as postcards and thank you cards sent from us with a picture of us wearing our pioneer clothing while on vacation. Click on the link below and you can see the details of my rewards.

The kicker to a Kickstarter project is that I have to be 100% funded to receive the funds. If I don't reach my 100% goal, it doesn't happen and I get a big fat sad trombone wah wah wah wahhhhh sound. But let's think positive thoughts!

So, basically our family is going to drive the pioneer trail and see many of the sites and landmarks of the pioneers of the 19th century. However, my plan did not begin like this. It has evolved. Let me tell you a little story of how it came about. First of all, we really wanted to drive across the country. We did it three years ago to visit my family in California. We were going to do it again last year, but I had a baby in June and it got bumped to this year.

Road trips are one of our family's favorite things to do. It's tricky planning a route from one coast to another when there are SO many sites you want to see. I tried squeezing Alaska onto the itinerary, but decided to save that state for another year. Thank goodness for Google Maps for helping out with distance and time estimation! :)

My original plan was to see some sites including Mt. Rushmore, because I thought that would be fun. So, when looking for hotels I realized that everything was very expensive on the dates I was looking to be there. I even considered camping, so while calling around to find a campsite I spoke with a man to see what he had available. He told me he had nothing and then proceeded to warn me not to come to the Black Hills at all that week because of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Apparently this rally is a huge deal. The spirit of my vacation planning was crushed at that moment. I cried because my dates were not all that flexible and my dream of seeing Mt. Rushmore would have to be postponed for another trip, unless I was willing to put up with a lot of leather, noise, and sleeping in our van in a Walmart parking lot. Sniff. 

Through my frustration with blurry vision from teary eyes, I continued to use Google Maps and find other interesting things to see along the way. That's when the inspiration hit me to drive the pioneer trail. The inspiration hit me so hard that my tears of sadness transformed into tears of joy. I suddenly became overwhelmed with excitement and knew without a doubt that it would a good decision.

Shortly after I broke the news to my children that Mt. Rushmore was taken off the itinerary, I began daydreaming about our trip, I knew camping was going to be necessary to make it a really good pioneer experience. So I broke the news to the kids that we would be camping. My oldest daughter didn't seem too thrilled at the thought of it. She always looks forward to the excitement of a hotel room. To be honest, I'm not much of a camper either, but I also liked the thought of saving some money a few nights along the way. 

While in the garden one day, an idea sparked in my head. I said to her, "If we go camping on our vacation, how about we wear pioneer clothing while traveling, and be like the pioneers?" Her eyes lit up and she immediately said, "Yes!" 

I didn't think it would be that easy to get a consensus, but it miraculously was, and now I have the whole family on board with our pioneer experience.

We've been doing a lot of sewing and she loves it!

So that's my story. Here is the link to my Kickstarter project. I invite you check it out. Watch the video. Ready my story on there and become a backer by pledging and receiving a reward.



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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Making Strawberry Jam

So we picked about 16 pounds of strawberries on Monday in preparation for our annual jam making. (Don't be too impressed. This is only our second annual jam making fest.) I finally scrounged up enough energy to complete the task this afternoon with 8 kids in the kitchen, because I knew my berries were threatening to get gross on me if I didn't act fast. I wish I took more pictures, but I don't possess the talent to juggle a camera while trying to teach 3 pairs of children how to make a batch of strawberry jam. Unfortunately I missed the shot of my 3 year old playing in a bowl of white sugar like it was his own miniature sandbox, grabbing a handful of it, shoving it into his mouth, and making a nice granular sugar mustache and goatee. But here is what I did get:

Five year olds are totally capable of mashing/smashing/smushing strawberries. I only have one potato masher, so she used a pastry cutter. It worked, but note to self: buy another potato masher or two for next year. I think the Dollar Store has them.

More mashers/smashers/smushers. It was fun conversing with my kids while we mashed. I learned that it's a good time to do some verbal quizzing and reflect upon what we've learned during the year. We went over some parts of speech and talked about all the verbs involved in making strawberry jam (mashing, smashing, cutting, stirring, measuring, cooking, boiling, eating, pouring, etc...) My fifth grader wanted me to quiz him on presidential facts. I asked him who the 17th president of the United States was. Andrew Johnson. How many presidents were born in Virginia? 8.The kid has a slight obsession with American presidents and can answer almost any question (relevant or trivial) about them. I need to put him on kid Jeopardy and hope there is an American Presidents category.

Measuring Sugar
The boys measuring out 4 cups of sugar per batch and scooping 1/4 cup of that sugar into the pectin. (We use the pink box of Sure-Jell. I like the lower sugar version because I like the strawberry taste in the jam.

Stirring the pectin (Sure-Jell) into the strawberries. We talked about pectin, what it does, and where it comes from.

Uh-oh. Another verb....CRYING. Baby was not happy about Mama taking away the piece of dark chocolate she found on the floor. I should've just let her have it and not been so worried about the chocolate getting all over her and the kitchen, because the kitchen ended up being a sugary strawberry mess anyway.

Stirring the sugar into the strawberries until it comes to a boil. We just simply followed the directions inside the box. I don't have any fancy recipes. The box is pretty reliable.

I asked my 10 year old to help vacuum up the sugar that spilled and he begged me to allow him to vacuum up a bowl of sugar, because he thought it looked fun. The sugar had already been contaminated by a 3 year old, so I let him vacuum up about 1/2 the bowl.  I love watching curiosity being satisfied.

I use the side burner on our grill to boil the jars because our wimpy electric burners in the kitchen can't quite get a large pot of water to boil. I let my 12 year old help out with putting them in and taking them out. She enjoyed listening to the lids pop as each jar created its vacuum seal. 

Ahhhh, the finished product. 14 pints of strawberry jam. We probably go through about one a week, so I would love to have 52 of them, but I'm worn out. I'm confident that at $1.89/lb for berries and $3.22/box for Sure-Jell does not create a significant cost savings on jam. We do it for the experience and learn how to make and can jam. I believe I can get jam for cheaper at Costco. We'll have to savor the homemade. :)

Also, please don't be fooled into thinking this was a smooth sailing event according to a collection of nine still shots posted on a blog post. There was a moment when I lost my temper because I got completely ditched by all children while I was in the middle of pouring jam into the jars of batch #2 and while the jars from batch #1 were awaiting to be removed from their water bath. The kids rescued a frog from inside a pool noodle on the porch and brought it to the yard, and then they got distracted in the yard and never came back.... until I shouted for them to come back to help me. 

But overall it was a successful event! We all had fun and I'm tired. :)

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

10 Things I’ve Learned about Myself

1. I think I have ADD.
I have a difficult time sticking to one topic for very long. I get bored easily. If I plan two weeks to study Ancient Egypt with my children and I get bored after 3 days, we move on. Therefore, I don't spend a lot of time on lesson planning. We go with the flow, or we go with mama's flow. (And, yes, sometimes that means her actual flow, because I think we all know that our lives revolve around that at moments.)

2. I love to learn. 
Who knew learning could be fun? I grew up going to public school. I remember getting butterflies in my stomach when that last day of school rolled around in June, and I knew I could spend the summer watching Card Sharks, $100,000 Pyramid, and the Price Is Right every morning while I clipped coupons for my mom. Now I see summer as an opportunity to be filled with art, educational outdoor play, gardening, swimming, and science experiments. I hope my love to learn is rubbing off on my kids. I think it is. (We do our fair share of TV watching though too. In this century it comes in the form of Netflix. Sadly my kids don't even know what a Whammy is.... or Plinko. That sounds like a good pop culture history lesson to me!)

3. My kids are fun.
I see and hear so many people complain about having to actually raise their children. I had children so I can be with them. They are full of fun conversation, jokes, and amusement. Yes, there are times I wish I could cage them up and have a quiet moment alone to myself on a normal homeschool day, but I'm sure I will have plenty of alone time when they are all out of the house. *Sniff*  For now my occasional escape to my bathroom to indulge in a secret ice cream sandwich will have to suffice.

4. I'm not as organized as I thought I was. 
I was once an organizational junkie. In high school, the clothing in my closet was color coordinated in rainbow order. I also had a diary of every outfit I wore so I would not repeat it within two weeks. (Can you say OCD?) Now I feel lucky if any of my clothing makes it out of the laundry basket and onto a hanger, and I repeat my outfits 3-5 times within the same week. In my early marriage when I put a pair of scissors in my desk they stayed there until I wanted them again. Now I spend 10 minutes looking for a pair of scissors, and sometimes I might find them in the refrigerator cheese drawer or next to the toilet. One decade ago if I wrote a list on a notepad, it didn't get milk spilled all over it. Now I don't even bother writing lists. I'm working on keeping my brain organized so I can keep mental lists. (It's not working.) So, yeah, I blame my kids for my lack of organization and brain power. Maybe one day I can be organized again. I already know that regaining brainpower is hopeless.

5. I don't know much about grammar. 
I'm drilling grammar into my children because I want them to be better than me. Or is it better than I? Or is it better than I am? See? So confusing. I'm learning with them. I feel like my public education didn't pound this in enough.

6. I'm not an early morning person. 
Ok, so I think I already knew that, but homeschooling confirmed it to me. I would love to say we get up at the crack of dawn, finish our math, spelling, and grammar by 8 am, then go on a nature hike, but we don't. Normally we get dressed by 9 am and then go forward with our day. However, as I write this at 12:30 pm 2/3 of my children are still wearing their pajamas because we are claiming today as a 1/2 sick day, 1/2 catch up on Netflix movies that go with the Viking history we've been learning for the past week or so. (A couple of my kids do have coughs and my throat is scratchy, so it's totally legit.)

7. I value freedom more than I realized. 
I was born and raised being taught what a blessing it is to live in a free country. I knew it, but didn't understand it. Now the moment that I feel the tad bit threatened that any of my homeschool freedoms will be taken away, I feel like a mama bear in need of protecting her cubs. I immediately write my congressmen, research the issues to get informed, and prepare to fight the fight. I also think studying American History along with my children has helped me gain an appreciation for America too.

8. I like mythology? 
I've been reading Greek Myths, Roman Myths, Norse Myths to my children this year. I never thought I would enjoy it, but it's actually kind of fun. This is also true for many other topics that I never thought I would enjoy. I think it's all about the atmosphere. Learning things within the comforts of our home without having to worry about a pop quiz or essay to write for everything we read, might actually make learning enjoyable.

9. I'm a great Home Economics teacher.
I teach this a lot. My kids are great cleaners, cooks, sewers (as in seamstresses, quilters, etc.), and shoppers. I think they will do well when they go off to college.

10. I can raise smart, confident, social children.
I admit I was a tad skeptical going into this whole homeschool thing. It was something my husband strongly felt we should do, so I agreed because my husband is generally a wise person. The world will have you think that homeschoolers are social misfits, religious extremists  and will never be normal functioning people in society. Yes, my children are slightly on the nerd side of the coolness spectrum, but I'm ok with that. They have proven to me that they can interact normally with other children, and not just other homeschoolers, but other children who attend public school. I think my kids are fairly normal except for maybe they don't have smart phones and Instagram accounts. They have proven to me that they have faith founded upon Christ, which is the most important thing to me for them to learn. And of course I think my children are geniuses  What parent doesn't? :)

This post was inspired by:
Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Magic School Bus Young Scientist Club

The Young Scientists Club The Magic School Bus Science Club Membership (50% Off) Shipping included! 

Ok, so I bought this deal the JUST the other day off of Educents, however, there were only 2 hours left on the deal, so I didn't share it with ya'll. But Mamapedia has the exact same offer running and it ends tonight at midnight.

My 7 year old received the human body kit for Christmas and my children really enjoyed doing it earlier this year. The entire Magic School Bus Young Scientist Club has been on my list of things to consider purchasing since then, and this 50% off deal sealed the deal for me. In my opinion, $10 a month is an inexpensive and fun way for the whole family to learn science. You can buy these kits on Amazon.com individually, but they run $15-20 each.

So here'an opportunity to get all of them for a great price! I like deals. :)

This is my kids using a 1L soda bottle contraption it taught them how to make to measure their relative lung capacity. We did a comparison between little kids, big kids, and an adult. 

The Box.

It came with a poster with body part stickers. 

It comes with a colorful 19 page booklet that tells you how to do the experiments. My 10 and 11 year old were able to do them completely independently and help the little ones.

It also comes with some materials to help you with the experiments. 

Click the link below to purchase your Young Scientist Club membership:
The Young Scientists Club The Magic School Bus Science Club Membership (50% Off) Shipping included! 

(This is an affiliate link which means if you click on it and purchase it, I receive a small percentage of it. Probably enough to buy a pencil. I only have one kit so far, but I do endorse this product according to its quality and the enjoyment it provided my children.)

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sick, Sick, and More Sick

The past week has been spent nursing sick kids back to health. Really sick kids. They've been battling a stomach bug, probably Rotavirus. Four days of vomiting, fatigue and no eating. Just as we were getting back to normal, my eldest daughter, Emily, fell ill with it. She, the baby and I were the healthy ones while the rest were sick. Emily and I had a good time over the weekend hanging out, staying up past her bedtime, sleeping on the couches downstairs, and watching movies. 

Now I am the ticking time bomb, but hopefully I will dodge it. The baby received a vaccination for the virus when she was four months old, which is why I think it's Rotavirus since she hasn't gotten ill. I don't know. All I know is that the stomach virus is miserable and it creates a LOT of laundry. 

All the sick children were quarantined in an upstairs bedroom four whole days with short breaks to come to the kitchen if they felt hungry enough to eat. They were completely forbidden to enter the family room which was my "safe room." They watched a lot of PBS Kids and Netflix. They were so sick that books were not even appealing to them. Most of them just slept most of those four days. You know your two year old is sick when he abandons Curious George to go to his bed to sleep in the middle of the day and stay there ALL day long!

My husband was sick as well. He was very kind to help out whenever a child vomited so that I could minimize my exposure to the germs. I think that helped. I felt like I was almost neglecting them. I gave them so little love in the form of hugs and comforting because I did not want to go near their contagious germs. Instead I gave them love in the form of cups of ginger ale with straws, juice boxes, ice pops, and little bowls of Goldfish and Saltine crackers. I pretty much would take a deep breath, enter the room, drop off the care package while holding my breath, and run while shouting, "Love you guys!"

The good news is they are back to their normal selves. My nine year old looks like a skeleton. I need to beef her up. I could have used her for a lesson on anatomy. I thought about writing the names of the bones on her body, but I didn't. :)

We are getting back to normal. I've spent the past few days with my previously sick kids, catching up and reviewing some of their workbooks. Hopefully next week we can get a fresh start. I really dislike falling behind and getting off track. 

 My second grader painted this for her sick sister today. It's not a masterpiece, but very thoughtful of her.

Oh, and do you see my stash of Newmans' Own grape juice down there in the lower right hand side of the picture? I read on Pinterest that grape juice is supposed to prevent the stomach bug, so our family has been drinking it daily for the past five or so months. I totally thought it was working, but apparently it does not prevent all stomach bugs. :)

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Annual Art Mart

My kids started a tradition last year the day after Easter. They take all their drawings they have created throughout the year and sell them to each other using Easter candy as their currency. The schools here are off for Spring Break and my children have been asking me if we were doing school. I've been giving vague answers, so today I agreed that they could do a half-day schedule of school, and the afternoon could be spent doing their annual Art Mart after lunch.

They spent about 20 minutes setting up their shops. What's that quote? "A creative mess is better than tidy idleness."

Wendy set up hers on the fish tank and the wall behind it.

Jason's was mostly on the floor and a bench.

Emily is the most meticulous drawer. She had the fewest drawings, but they were high quality.

Bradley is the least meticulous drawer. He whips out a few pictures in one 25 minute drawing session. I love his drawings though.

The currency. My eldest typed it up and printed one for everyone. 

Wendy paying for some of Bradley's art. He scored a medium sized chocolate bunny. Poor Wendy spent most of her candy and received little in return. Tomorrow's lesson will be on charity and giving to the poor.

Rachel's barren shop. The pictures at her feet are Jason's pieces of art.

Sarah's shop. Sarah is more of a pencil sketcher.

Ready with her purse for some shopping. Sarah is the entrepreneur. She bought artwork and resold it for a profit.

It was a fun day. I did some shopping too. These are my purchases. It only cost me several Hershey Miniatures. After my first round of purchases I went into the other room to do a few things on the computer while they made their purchases. While I was in the other room I received a few flyers and ads to get me to come do more shopping. I admit they were effective. I did go shopping for more art. 

Not sure what this is a picture of, but it looks like a student with a mean teacher. Not sure why he has a quiver of arrows or why a centipede is walking by him.

Frankenman with a hairy chest.

A girl eating fried Chichen. The scan is not cut off. She ran out of room to draw the girl's head and tomorrow I will quiz her on how to spell chicken.

Husky Pirate Girl

Cartoon Man with Six Fingers

Rachel's noses crack me up. It's just a simple line between the eyes.

Evil Bumblebee

Person laughing at baby with giant head walking down the sidewalk.

There must have been a fried chicken theme during drawing time one day. The kid in the background is mad because all he has is celery.

She's been working on portraits. 

Personfied Landscape

Such thought provoking art. Chocolate well spent. :)

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