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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Homeschooling: A Few of My Favorite Things

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I really couldn’t make it through the moments/days/years without a few key things. Some people can fly by the seat of their pants and excel at that. I do not. I have to have a schedule and a plan of attack. I have to have boxes to check off and lists to cross through. I can’t run a household and teach my children without a mission and a plan. Well, I could, but I wouldn’t be doing it well. Big difference.

So, a few of my favorite things if you are diving into this world of teaching your children on your own, whether it be just preschool or the full schabang.

1. My Sonlight binder. Nothing gets me more twitterpated than pulling out my huge binder with all 36 weeks of school organized and planned in advanced. If I’m having a super lazy week, I can just pull out the week, do everything it tells me to do, and I’m covered. On a week where I’m really rocking it, I add more to it. I have a smaller binder that I work from, and I keep 2 weeks worth of school in the small binder as we are working through it. I’ve added and subtracted programs in the main curriculum (we don’t use Horizon Math and have added Language Lessons because I find Sonlight’s language arts material to be a bit…lacking) as we’ve gone along, and I think I can finally say that I’ve found the path that we will use for the long journey ahead.

See? Isn't it beautiful? It sings to me, "please check my boxes off!". I know it.

2. First Language Lessons/Writing With Ease. Literally the best grammar/writing/ language arts instruction out there. I supplement Sonlight’s curriculum with this, and I’m really impressed with how it is improving Jackson’s writing and word usage.I also love The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. If you have a child who knows their letters and the sounds each letter makes, start this book! It is amazing!

3. Math U See. If there is anything that I lack in, its my confidence in teaching Math. Math U See is perfect for parents like me; you and the child watch a DVD of the instructor teaching the lesson, and then you spend the week practicing it, using the tips and tricks you’ve been instructed on how to do. Phenomenal. Stress free. Jackson has yet to not get an A on a math test.

4. Starbucks. I don’t think I need to explain this one.

5. The read-alouds included in our Sonlight package. Amazing books that have made our evenings together extra special. I’m reading Jackson books at night that I would have never thought to pick up, and it is actually fun! It takes a time that would normally just be “okay, lets read a story and go to bed” into a time filled with purpose and depth. Learning never stops, people. Never, ever.

6. The library. Oh, how I love the library. I love bringing my children in with their empty bags and burning 1,000 calories lugging the full bags out for them, as they skip to the car, begging for their new books. I love replacing them every 3 weeks for free. I love storytime for London and Brooklyn.

7. One of my most favorite things? The Women’s Ministries at my church. Every Wednesday I get to drop off my precious munchkins for 3 WHOLE HOURS while I take a bible study or just sit in the commons and have a coffee with friends. My children spend that time learning new things and playing with their friends while I take a much deserved break and breather. I couldn’t make it without that time, lol!

8. Confession of a Homeschooler’s Letter of the Week program. Amazing, thorough, and CHEAP! If you have a preschooler, check this out. You won’t regret it.

9. A laminator. For the reals. If you have any hopes of keeping your sanity (especially if crumpled calendar pieces make you want to crawl in a hole), you have to get one of these. They aren’t that expensive and keep your investment protected!

So, there you have it. Or, you have the ones I could think of right now. 🙂 My favorite things change all the time, depending on what we need! If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll try and answer them!

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Happy Birthday, London!

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I can’t believe that my first baby girl turned 3! Absolutely crazy. On one hand, I think, “where did the time go?”, and then on the other hand I think about how far we’ve all come since she was born and it seems like 3 years was an eon in the past. Funny how that works.
Now, this tender lamb has been sick for every birthday she’s had. In fact, on her 2nd birthday last year she was admitted to the children’s hospital for four days. So, while we are at the point where we really only do birthday parties for big years like 1,5, etc., this girl NEEDED a party, and I was a Mama who needed to throw one for her!

Now, I didn’t get all kinds of crazy and invite everyone we know. We had a morning play date at our house with all of her little friends. Precious chaos, it was (that, of course, is easy to say now that the party is over).

I went with a Valentine’s Day theme since it is close to her birthday. Very easy to find all the decorations, and it was a lot of fun to pull off. I made her party hats, which was the one thing she requested for her party. When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she replied with, “birthday hats!”, so I had to provide. They were really easy to do, and I found this amazing tutorial on Oh Happy Day. If you do party hats for a party, I highly suggest making your own! They were a huge hit! I did the ice cream cone cupcakes again, a turkey/cheese/fruit/goldfish platter for the kids, an amazing quinoa salad for the adults (I’ll post the recipe later), and mini fruit pizzas (again, recipe later).

I think her guests were pleased! All the little girls were on cloud 9 as London had received a huge trunk of dress up clothes for Christmas, and has acquired quite the collection of dolls and accessories. The boys were content with Jackson’s toys, and when they got bored they managed to find their way to our backyard sandpit or upstairs to his room where they could wrestle without the concerned eyes of their mothers upon them. In case you are wondering how we got all the children on the couch for a picture…it didn’t come without a bribe. It’s AMAZING what you can get kids to do when you are holding up ice cream cone cupcakes as a reward!
(Pausing for a moment to reflect on the fact that my 3 year old has more friends than me…)

She talked about this moment all.day.long. “Mama, do you ‘member when evwey bawdy sang me ‘Happy Birfday!” and I laufed and blew out da candles? Tha was so funneeey!!!”.

My precious London-girl,

Would you like to know something?

There isn’t a mommy on the planet who loves her little girl more than I love you. In fact, I feel a little silly saying it, because the words don’t compare to the emotion behind them. To put it simply, I treasure you.
I like lists. Let’s put your little treasures on a list…

1. I treasure your compassion. You genuinely care for all those around you. At your party, one of your friends stubbed and cut her toe. You were there in a second, comforting her with a gentle hand and kind words. Whenever your baby sister cries, you bring her books or her favorite stuffed animal and pat her, cooing words of sympathy like, “Oh, baby. Don’t cry. There, there.” When Jackson is in trouble, you sit outside the bathroom door, and are quick to make sure he is okay and happy when he exits. You are quick to say you are sorry, quick to forgive, and quick to love. I adore all this about you.
2. I treasure your song-like voice. It is sweet and high, and it’s like living with a tiny fairy of happiness. You chirp and sing all day long, and it is impossible to not smile around you.
3. I treasure the way you laugh. It’s hard to explain to those who haven’t heard it, but the best description would be like a firecracker. You explode in laughter!
4. I treasure how you run to me and Daddy when we return from being away. You’d think that we had been gone for years with the homecoming you give us, every single time.
5. I treasure how you say, “ARrrggghhhh! Imma pirate!”. A.DOR.A.BLE. Or how you try and imitate all the pigs on Peppa Pig. Or how you sing the Bubble Guppies song. Or how you would seriously let me read you 50 stories before bed.
6. I treasure your obedient heart. It makes my job 1,000 times easier.
7. I treasure how you sleep with an army of junk toys/stuffed animals/books in your bed. While it makes changing your sheets a 20 minute process, I know that one day you won’t sleep with anything and that will make you big.
8. I treasure how Jackson is your best friend. You would follow him anywhere, and your love for him in palpable.
9. I treasure how you’ve learned to ask me for the things you really desire. While sometimes this can be a bit…taxing…I love how you know that if I can give it to you, I will. Thank you for trusting me!
10. I treasure how I could think of 100 more things after all of these!

So, 3. I know this year will have its challenges, to be sure. You will desire your independence, but will still need my boundaries. You will desire your will to be done, while still needing my guidance. You will learn to express yourself in less than honorable ways, and will need me to correct you. You will be a girl who needs her mother’s unfailing love, and I will be here to give it to you.

I love you, my precious pumpkin face. With every fiber of my being.
Love,
Mama

Artistry

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I don’t take enough photos.

No, really. My obsession with photography is almost a sickness. Shooting with a DSLR can be a bit…finicky. I REFUSE to shoot in auto, but that means that I have to take the time to find just the right aperture/ISO/fstop…blah blah blah, right?

So I miss moments like this. Ones that are so tender and cute you could almost feel her squishy cheeks on your lips. This picture is far from perfect. It’s grainy because I had to have my ISO at 1600 because I don’t have an external flash (if you use flash, you have to use external so you can swivel it away from your subject and avoid the “white out” look from a direct flash hit). Its a touch out of focus because the ISO was so high and the shutter speed so slow that any movement from my hand would send things a bit fuzzy.

But you probably didn’t see any of that until I told you.

What you see is what I should see…a baby who isn’t a baby anymore practicing her craft of coloring.

So, I’m going to take more photos. And I’m going to try really really hard to not care about grain or focus or anything like that. I’m going to care about moments and time and how fast it all goes.

So be prepared for an onslaught of horrible photos.

But first, this one. ‘Cause it ain’t so bad.

Sisters

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I love having two girls.

I know there will come a day where having two teen girls running through my house will be….interesting.

But for now, its mostly fun.

They have their moments, for sure. They bicker and yell and cry at each other. Mostly because of the ages they are at; both of them have yet to learn to really communicate effectively, so you can imagine the “arguments” they have. At least twice a day, the following happens:

Brooklyn isn’t gentle as she is trying to tickle London, London takes that as a personal insult, London shoves Brooklyn in retaliation, Brooklyn grabs London’s hair, London screams, Brooklyn laughs, Mommy crawls in the corner. Repeat.

All that is balanced out by the good moments. The moments they are separated by a thick piece of glass where neither of them can love on touch each other. London made it her personal mission to make Brooklyn laugh as hard as she could, and it was a victory. They played this way for a good 10 minutes…just enough time for me to think about getting a cup of coffee but not enough time to actually follow through.

Such is our life.

Seven Lies About Homeschoolers

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I really couldn’t say it any better!

Chalkboard Paint: Nothing is Safe!

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I’m about to tell you a secret that may shock you.

I am absolutely, over the top, anal, OCDish about my toy bins.

That feels so good to get off my chest.

When I revamped my playroom/schoolroom last August, we purchased this shelf/bin system from IKEA. I loved it from the beginning, as before all the toys were shoved into two huge buckets that made me twitch every time I walked in the room.

The only problem was that I was the only one in the world who knew what toy went into what bucket. My children and my husband, bless their souls, would just throw toys in the buckets. When we’d have friends over to play, their well intentioned little hands and mothers would try so hard to clean up the category 4 hurricane that had hit the playroom as I tried to manage the ticks and twitches of a maniacal, organizational beast who just needed.to.calm.down.

Enter into my life: chalkboard paint.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I tried going  a different route with a labeling system before I busted out the permanent fixture of paint. I saw this adorably clever system on Pinterest using paint chips as labels. Cute as it was, Brooklyn could not keep her paws off the shiny, colorful labels and made it her

ABSOLUTE GOAL

to peel every single label off. Every single day. *twitch

Dear Brooklyn,
I love you. But you will never, ever beat Mama. Like, ever.
Love, Me.

Here is a toot on my horn: This was brilliant! I was a little afraid that the kids would get all eraser happy and continually rub off the chalk, but nope. It has stayed this way all day! Plus, this beats out the label idea I was using because I can easily change what is in a bucket, which I have a tendency to do after an influx of new toys come in for birthdays or Christmas.

But I couldn’t stop there. Oh no. Chalkboard paint+brush+me=nothing is safe.

Next came the kids table.

Formerly just a white laminate tabletop from IKEA, this table has been transformed to a chalkboard surface for my children to scrawl to their hearts content on. I love that there is now a piece of furniture in my house that I’m begging the children to draw on!

If I didn’t have textured walls, I’d do a whole wall in the stuff! I’m going to head out to Goodwill and find a huge, hideous glass frame that I can transform into an amazingly awesome chalkboard for my kitchen.

Seriously, I may need an intervention soon.

Mommy Soapbox: Car Seats

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I’ve been a parent for six years. I’ve noticed a few things in this time:
1. Everyone has a different idea of how to do things and
2. That idea is always changing.

This isn’t a new paradox; I don’t think there is a mother out there whose own mother didn’t do things drastically different than we do. When our parents were raising us, they put us to sleep on our stomachs, put us to sleep with bottles, sat us in front of Sesame Street all day, let us run around and play outside from dawn until dusk, and never woke us up from a nap because you “never wake a sleeping baby”. However, I think the most drastic change from then to now is how we were strapped in motor vehicles.

I have memories of long road trips where my parents would put down the seats in the station wagon, lay down blankets, and we’d spend the entire 1,000+ mile trip hanging out in the “car fort” in the back. I simply cannot even FATHOM doing this now. In fact, none of us can, but I’m sure most of us have memories in the car that don’t include buckling up. Would you like to know how old I was when I took my first motorcycle ride? Within the first two weeks of my life. While we all now gasp and twitch at the idea of a newborn in the front seat of the car being held by its mother, that was the norm in the “good ‘ole days”.

I wonder what the uproar was like when it was first recommended that parents keep their children rear facing until 1. It really had to change a lot of things; no longer could parents buy smaller, cheaper cars because they now had to have enough room to safely buckle their children in. They couldn’t just keep baby Junior in their laps anymore. Sadly, I still hear parents whine about this. I have no sympathy. If you have a baby, you have to buy a car that fits them. It’s a part of the deal. When we decided to have 3 children, we knew that having to get a new car came along with the little bundle.

So, you can only imagine the outcry of the new laws and recommendations of keeping your babies rear facing until 2. As of April 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends keeping your children harnessed in a rear facing carseat until the age of 2, for a variety of reasons. This change came after a series of studies where they found that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or to be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing, and also finding children who are riding rear-facing to be five times safer than forward-facing. If you are looking for a great article to read on it, check out this informative one done by CNN.

Brooklyn was my first child to fall under this new recommendation. I didn’t switch London to forward facing until she was 15 months; she was a tiny sprout and took that long to get up to 20 pounds. Brooklyn, however, is a She Beast. She was 20 pounds by six months, and tall as a weed. Although she has thinned out, she is still quite tall and tops the charts for height. But, at 17 months she is still rear facing and doing just fine. Honestly, the person who has the hardest time keeping her rear facing is me! It is so much easier to hand kids things who are facing the same direction as you. Plus, turning their car seat is a milestone that is fun to hit, but now we have to wait a whole year more for it. Brooklyn doesn’t know the difference and isn’t phased. As she grows taller, she will just curl her legs up a little more, but that has been shown to still be better than forward facing. The odds of a leg break in an accident where a child is rear facing are significantly lower than a much more life-threatening injury occurring in a young child who is forward facing too early.

Sadly, most parents aren’t following the new recommendations. Perhaps some people just haven’t heard, but from my experience, most are due to a variety of excuses. I’ve yet to hear one that dims the potential gravity of what could happen. Your child cries in the car? Imagine their cries as they lay in a hospital bed in traction due to internal decapitation. You don’t have the room? There are PLENTY of car seats on the market that are compact and can rear face without taking up much more room than the infant carrier you just had. In fact, most infant carriers can safely harness children until 30 pounds, which would most likely take them to 2 (I’m not sure of the height limit…even if its as low as 35 inches, that could still get them as close as possible).

So, this is my plea to stop posting pictures of your children forward facing at 13 months on Facebook. It makes me twitch. 😉  Seriously, though, if you have questions, do some research and find the answers! Here are some great articles and blog posts done by those who have:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/03/21/car.seat.guidelines.parenting/index.html (posted above)

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42186101/ns/us_news/t/new-advice-tots-safest-rear-facing-car-seats-until-age/

http://carseatblog.com/9452/rear-facing-until-2-years-old-why-not/

VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psmUWg7QrC8