Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mommy's Retreat

I am so blessed to have a husband who is aware of the daily challenges that I face, and who wants to give me a "break" as often as he can!!  He is usually very agreeable to my slipping out of the house when I can to shop by myself, or run an errand alone, and I know he wants to do those kind of things more often than he is able (with his long work hours).  This weekend I get to go with the ladies of our church to our annual fall Ladies Retreat.
Last year, he bent over backwards and basically demanded that I go, and I was so thrilled to get such an opportunity.  What a blessing to just fellowship with other ladies for 2 nights and 2 days!!
This year, I asked him if I could go again, and he agreed!!!  He took the entire week of work off to take care of all the domestic and child care responsibilities, and I'll be gone until Saturday late afternoon!!  He's even going to do the grocery shopping while I'm gone too!!!  Isn't he AMAZING!!!!
Be back next week with pictures and memories of a refreshing time!!

Back-to-school: SNACK TIME!!!!

Another thing that can be challenging about homeschooling is the amount of food consumed by children who are home all day.  
Children are just hungry.  
My boys seems to be hungry ALL the time!!  
The girls not as much.  
But it goes without saying that when they are home as opposed to away from home (i.e. a school) they are consuming more of your grocery budget!!  One frustrating tendency that my children have is eating hardly anything at breakfast and then finding themselves "STARVIN'" about 2 hours before lunchtime.  Then commences the constant grazing and rummaging through the kitchen,
 spoiling and plundering all my meal supplies for the week!!  
So, in addition to meal plans, I have found I need to have a "PLAN OF A-SNACK" as well!!

Additionally, for children with ADHD, when hunger kicks in it often triggers angry emotional outbursts and annoying behavior.  So keeping those hunger pangs in check is another key to a more peaceful school day!!

I like to have a morning snack and an afternoon snack planned.  You'll usually see us taking a break and refueling around 10:30 am and 3:00 pm.  Here are a few ideas that work really well for us!!  I'm still sticking to a list of things that are not a part of our diet anymore including high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial colors, less cow's milk and less gluten.  My official list is found here.

5 Days of Hunger-Busting Snacks

Monday:  "Power Balls"

In a blender, coarsely chop: 
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raisins

Mix with:
1 T. oat bran
1 - 16 oz jar crunchy or creamy peanut butter
1 T. apple juice concentrate

Mix with hands.  This will be sticky.  I have chopped a little more of the seeds and raisins together and added it to the mix so it was easier to roll into balls.
Roll in unsweetened shredded coconut.
Store in refrigerator.
Makes 3 dozen

** You can add in carob chips or whole raisins too!!

Tuesday:  Apple "Cupcakes"

These are so simple to make:
Half an apple crosswise and scoop or cut out the middle with the core.
"Frost" it with peanut butter or cream cheese (that has been mixed with a little sugar).
Sprinkle on any fun topping you like:

Wednesday:  Fresh veggies and hummus dip

Hummus Dip

Drain a 15 oz. can of chickpeas reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid.
Toss the chickpeas into the blender.
Add 1 clove of garlic (I sometimes use two as we love garlic!!),
1 tsp. cumin,
splash of lemon juice,
dash of salt,
and the reserved 1/4 cup of liquid.
Blend together until very smooth.
Also, lovely when served with Tortilla Strips

**I do have to be honest and say that not all my children are crazy about this one.
If they like the hummus, they prefer it with the tortilla strips that I buy from Costco (gluten free).
But we're working on eating more veggies, and I firmly believe that the more a child is exposed to certain veggies, they will eventually learn to enjoy them.  You could even slather some peanut butter on that celery too.  The pretty the presentation, the more excited they are also!!!

Thursday:  Mini Clementine Oranges
"Very-Berry Smoothies"

(I hope you can tell this is a picture I copied from somewhere on the web.
But this is exactly what mine would look like!!)

In a blender,
pour 3-4 cups of milk (I use skim, cow but you could use soy or almond or goat, etc.)
1 cup frozen strawberries
Handful of frozen blueberries (you could also substitute frozen bananas too!!)
Couple tablespoons of honey or "splenda" if you prefer
Scoop of ground flaxseed

Blend it all on high until smoothie like consistency.  I like ours really thick, so I may add more frozen berries if too thin.

Friday:  Popcorn  (Fresh popped or microwave)

Making popcorn on the stove is so much fun!!
It's a great fall/winter treat too!!
And.....gluten free!!
Here is a simple way to do that!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Fundays!!!

Last Monday we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and our gifted zoo membership and took the children to see the new addition at our local zoo.  Then we used one of the last remaining prizes from the summer library reading program (a free kids meal for each child!!) and went for lunch at Applebees!!!  
Total cost for the entire trip: $21 (lunch for both Mom and Dad and an appetizer to share!!) 
Take a peek!!

The Dallas Zoo recently finished this amazing addition!
If you are local, it's a must see!!

The children were so excited with how close you can get to the giraffes!!
Our zoo went from 2 giraffes to 10!!!

The only thing between me and these beauties was a thick 'ol piece of glass!!

In the "Children's Zoo" portion, the school age children took their nature journals we've been working on here at home and discussed them with the guides in the "trading post".  They received points for their work and then can "purchase" other nature related items (shells, rocks, bug collections, mineral samples, etc.) with those points.

Our little dolly tickling her toes in the stream!!

Yes.....don't worry!!!  We slathered everybody's hands with hand sanitizer before they started handling their french fries!!!

Such a fun day!!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturdays are for: Tents and "Tom and Jerry"

Occasionally, we put up our small pup tent in the living room for the children to enjoy a "camp-out" on 
Friday nights.
It makes for a great addition to "Friday night movie night" and an incentive for good behavior through-out the week!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Proverbs 32"

You've all heard of the "Proverbs 31 Woman?"
Here is a thought-provoking twist on that challenging portion of Scripture from my friend, Mary DeVore.

"Proverbs 32"

Who can find an unvirtuous woman? For her price is far below rubies.

The heart of her husband doth not trust in her,
so that he has great need of spoil.

She will do him evil, and not good,
all the days of her life.

She seeks after gold and earthly treasure,
but worketh not with her hands.

She rises up late and drives through the doughnut shop for her household,
and takes a portion to her boss.

She considereth a field and puts it on her credit card;
because of the waste of her hands she can not plant a vineyard.

She girdeth her loins with stubbornness and her arms with rebellion.

She perceiveth that her merchandise is not as good as her neighbors;
her TV goeth not off by night.

She never stretcheth her hand to the poor;
yea, she holds back her hand from the needy.

She is afraid of the snow for her household;
for all her household are clothed in thin cotton.

Her husband is not known in the gates;
and he sitteth not among the elders of the land.

She buys fine linen and her clothing is extravagent.

Weakness and disgrace are her clothing;
and she shall weep in time to come.

She openeth her mouth with foolishness,
and in her tongue is the law of gossip.

She does not look well to the ways of her household,
and eats the bread of idleness.

Her children arise up and call her cursed;
her husband also and he reproacheth her.

Many daughters have not done virtuously,
but thou excellest them all.

Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
and a woman who feareth not the Lord shall be cursed.

Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her own works condemn her in the gates.

~~Mary DeVore

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Back-to-school: Time for our husbands!!

This is completely off of the subject of homeschooling.

Well, not really.
It's a bit of a spin-off because yet another challenge of homeschooling is making the time for our husbands in the midst of the pile of things we have to manage everyday.
See, I can pour myself into designing the best schedule and meal plans for our day,
yet I forget about time with my husband.
I have learned that it's frighteningly easy to get caught up in the loudest "squeak",
those things that demand my attention because they are obvious, helpless, and needy.
By the end of the day, after I've run around squirting oil on all the squeaky spots,
I'm exhausted.  
Ready for bed.
But what about the most important relationship on earth that I have?
What about the person who I chose to live the rest of my life with and has given me
the children I always wanted?
Is there any time left for my husband?

It's hard to pace myself.
It's hard to admit that I MUST put my relationship with my husband on the TOP of the priority list
rather than on the back burner.
If I don't consciously MAKE the time, it will not happen!!
When all the work I'm doing today is done,
when my children are out and on their own,
it will be just he and I together in the house.
What will we have to talk about then?
Will there be anything that we like to do together because we've maintained that in our childrearing years?

Recently, I came across a couple pieces written by a precious lady from our former church.
Both pieces are thought-provoking twists on Scriptures written to challenge women 
(though they apply to both men and women).
They have been inspiring me to watch my attitudes and check my priorities.

I Corinthians 13:
Through the Mind of a Housewife
by Mary DeVore

If I decorate my house with coordinated drapes, furniture, and wallpaper,
but do not show love to my husband,
I am just a decorator.....

If I slave away in the kitchen baking beautiful cakes and gourmet meals 
and arrange an elegant table 
and do not show love to my husband,
I am just a cook......

If I work at a soup kitchen, 
and visit nursing homes,
and give all I have to a charity,
and do not show love to my husband,
it profits me nothing.....

Love doesn't envy another's home that has more than we can afford.
Love shows respect to my husband.
Love helps me to be the heart of my home.
Love bears all things, 
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.

Love never fails.
Cars will get old,
furniture will wear out,
and houses will become run down.
But showing love to my husband endures forever.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Back-to-school: Big secrets of a homeschooling house...ssssshhhh!!

Since beginning our homeschooling journey 8 years ago, I've learned a thing or two.
I am by no mean a "know-it-all," but I've been around the block a time or two, and made of mistakes.
I think that one of my biggest mistakes was thinking that you can manage teaching several different ages and learning abilities, all the core subjects all at the same time with 2 pre-schoolers stealthily snooping around, while preparing 3 meals a day, cleaning up after said pre-schoolers, keeping the laundry neatly folded and the house neat-as-a-pin, and participating in a myriade of outside sports teams, church activities, homeschool "co-op" groups, music lessons, and remain smiling and completely peaceful and sane all at the same time!!

Let me blow the lid off this cover-up right now.
Let me give you a peek at the dirty laundry laying around in nearly every homeschoolers home.
Let me let you in on the big, dark secrets.

It ain't happenin'!!

If you are considering homeschooling
or if you have just begun homeschooling and you handled the first year okay,
but you're adding more children as the years go by and you're starting to feel overwhelmed,
won't you allow me to put your mind at ease.

Because when you are homeschooling multiple children (with a new baby or toddler or two):

1.  You have to adjust your priorities to what's realistic,
and accept what you're really capable of.

2.  You will always have dirty dishes in the sink.

3.  You will have a difficult time keeping on top of the laundry.

(Unless you can afford to bring in an extra person to handle this for you)
It takes a herculean effort to figure out the best strategy for YOU to handle your family's laundry efficiently with the limited time you have during schooling days. 
With a large family that produces several loads a day this is particularly challenging.
If you'd like to take a look at the system I've come up to tackle my own laundry challenges,
just click here.

4.  The pre-schoolers will make messes (that probably won't get cleaned up right away)
and there will be days when you cave to letting them watch more PBS or videos than they should.

5.   Not every homeschooling family wakes their children up at 6:00 am to start lessons, happy and smiling,
hair combed, and dressed at the kitchen table by 7:00 am.

6.  Your bathrooms probably won't be as clean as they would be if you were cleaning them all the time,
but since you are letting your older children learn these skills,
they won't be as thorough as adults yet.

7.  You will be late to nearly everything you leave the house for.
Especially if you have more than 5 children or a newborn in the house.

8.  Money will always be an issue.
No, the lack of money will always be an issue.

Especially in large families.
Because usually if you're homeschooling, that means you're only bringing in one, full-time income.
So you learn how to live large on way less.
You get your priorities straight really quick, and you figure out you don't need nearly
any of the stuff that you think you really do.
And the stuff you really do need, the Lord takes care of.

9.  Unlike teachers in a school (of any kind)
 you probably won't have an "aide" to make copies for you,
and cut out visuals for bulletin boards. 

 Nor will you have a cafeteria to send the children to where there
are lunch monitors who help your children open their juice boxes
 and cooks who have the meals already prepared,
 giving you a quiet lunch break by yourself.
 So being organized and having meals planned
(and even prepared in advance) is a huge plus.
  It takes a couple weeks or so to figure out the best plan for your family,
 but having a meal plan is one of your most critical tools!!

10.  Unlike teachers in a school, 
you are also probably using a room that doubles as a kitchen, 
or laundry folding area,
 or any other number of rooms that are busy
 and full of household items not normally found in a schoolroom. 

 It has taken me awhile to figure out that doing schoolwork
 in the same area in which you LIVE means things will get messy
 and your house won't look like the homes where children are not there.
No matter how long you've been training them and how many chore charts you have tried.

11.  I (ME, Mom) am the one who has had to learn the very most about what's really important.

  What really matters,
 and that letting go of the other stuff
 (of course, to within healthy, safe, LEGAL limits)
 is what is the hardest for the homeschooling mom.
So what, if there is still bits of grass and papers on the floor after bedtime.
 So what if the laundry is still piled up the next day.
  So what, if there is yet another wall colored on with marker, crayon, pencil, or pen (GRRRRRR!!).  So what if the kitchen floor hasn't been swept in a week
 because we're still looking for it from when a child was using it outside
 to knock something out of a tree?

What about the smirk on the face of your ADHD daughter when she realizes that she DOES know how to figure out the additive and multiplicative inverses of fractional problems?
Or the smile of joy on the face of your anxiety riddled son who has begun reading from his Bible OUT LOUD
even though he's worried he'll make a mistake and be laughed at?
Or the great fun you had with your daughter as she realizes she is beating the clock
during timed math flashcards!!
Nobody sees the TIME you've invested into the growth of these children, but they often notice what isn't done around the house.

It isn't about how the house looks, but what do my children remember about their life at home?
Did I make them daily feel like an inconvenience to me?
Did they feel like they were in the way all the time, and the next thing on my list was more important than listening to them or sitting with them for a minute?
Did I see them as more important than the never-ending little chores that pull at me to be done?
Do they see me practice what I say?

Doing things for them (or for the sake of the house) isn't the same as being WITH them.

So you'll have to excuse the way my house looks.
No, it does not look like the cover of  "Good Housekeeping."
But I'm spending time teaching my children,
teaching them how to love.
How to love each other.
How to love the Lord.
How to love their parents.
How to love their friends.
How to love learning.
How to love who God created them as with all their individual struggles and weaknesses.
How to love the family God put them in.
How to love the Word of God.

12.  Homeschooling is not always the joyous, fun experience often advertised by retired homeschoolers.

Many days I don't like it at all.
Many days are ugly and tedious,
and messy and frustrating,
and the routine can be mind-numbing.

But in my surrender to what the Lord is doing in my home,
I'm learning that when I'm broken and crushed,
 I'm learning how to be more like Christ.
Our Mighty Elohim breaks us so that He can flow through us more fully.

The big secret?
That the teacher is the one learning the most.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Fundays!!!

One thing that has become such a hit at our house is our implementing a little thing we call "Monday Funday."
It started because after the crazy busyness of every. single. weekend, not only was I exhausted and not prepared  for a full day of schooling on Monday, but my children are very tired too.  Sunday is just plain hard.  Getting 8 people out the door for a half hour ride to church TWICE every Sunday, and then needing to arrive at said destination in less-than-grumpy moods is taxing.  Plus getting meals around is tough.  We start everything on Saturday, and it's planned down to the minute, but stuff STILL happens, and we still run late, and we're so tired Sunday evening.  Not to mention what a disaster the house is and all the laundry piled up on Monday morning.

So, I decided that we would institute "Monday Funday."  Little to no school work, sleeping in, cleaning up the house, catching our breath......and oh, yeah.......a field trip!!  You see, my husband has his only day off on Monday, so we like to have some quality fun family time together.  We need some time together where there isn't a strict time limit, just come-as-you-are relaxation and laughter.  I think especially important when you are trying to raise children with ADHD.  You see, these kids are CONSTANTLY being corrected.  They have to work SO hard to get anything right the first time, and we as parents find ourselves quick to load up the correction and discipline, and short on praise and positive motivation.  This one-day a week gives us all a chance to just be with each other without a lot of expectations and the children get to see us as parents with our hair down and having fun!!  I really believe it has been hugely valuable in improving our relationship with these children we've been loaned for awhile!

So last week was our first scheduled "Funday" and wouldn't you know, but due to scheduling conflicts at work, my husband couldn't be with us.  But I had a great time with the children by myself taking advantage of some free bowling games we received in the mail.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Back-to-school: 5 days of crock-pot lunches

In addition to having an artillery of breakfast ideas, it's almost more important to have your lunch all ready to go at the time appointed when you are homeschooling.  I've found it's so hard for me to get my head out of the clouds of the Civil War or whatever it is we've been studying, to preparing 8 meals in a kitchen already a little disheveled by the morning's activities.

I was inspired by this idea over here, so please know that the crock-pot lunch thing is not original with me.
But I have found that using a crock-pot is a BRILLIANT way to have hot, healthy meals ready to go with little preparation!!  These are our favorites!!

Monday:  Spaghetti
Great with salad or green beans
I've been using gluten-free pasta and it's really delicious!!

Tuesday:  Taco Soup
Serve with shredded cheese, frito corn chips, sour cream

Wednesday:  Macaroni and Cheese
I've tried two different crock-pot recipes for this so far, with one more to go.
Here is our favorite so far.

I haven't actually tried THIS recipe yet, but this will be the next one I do try.
I have another recipe that actually calls for canned veggies and it's a taste sensation!!

Friday:  Sloppy Joes
Serve with baked beans or your favorite chips along with some fruit.
Although my children are not sloppy joe fans, I really like them.
I have a recipe for the crock-pot that we haven't fallen in love with, so the above recipe is next for us to try.  

If you LOVE your crock-pot, then you've just GOT to check out this website!!!
A different recipe for every day of the year and mostly
gluten-free too!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Back to school: 5 days of quick, healthy breakfasts

One thing that has taken me several years to figure out is that when homeschooling,
you absolutely cannot wait until the moment a meal needs to be prepared to figure out what you're preparing.
I have learned that making a meal schedule (a minimum of a week's worth of meals, preferably a month's)
is an invaluable tool to keeping things less stressed and chaotic.
Nothing is worse than having 5 or more children whining they're hungry,
scavenging through the refrigerator,
a husband about to walk through the door after a long day's work,
and you're out of certain ingredients and having nothing quick in the freezer to grab and heat up.

So I have figured out what my children will actually put in their mouths that is good for them,
and come up with 7 breakfasts that we rotate through the week.
Some days we have a repeat of something earlier in the week.
Usually on Saturday morning, I'm frying up my pancakes for that day and putting a couple dozen more in the freezer for later in the week.
The same with muffins for Sunday morning.
Making extras of something and stashing it in the freezer for later has become one of my secret weapons
(although I know TONS of Mom's who already do it's technically NOT a secret)!!
If you click on the particular breakfast item that is underlined, it will take you to the recipe that I use.
I've mentioned before how I've spent a lot of time overhauling the foods we eat,
so I'm trying to find more ways to add more protein at every breakfast,
less sugar (especially high fructose corn syrup), 
and eventually even less gluten (more on that later!!).

Here's what I've come up with that works nicely for our family:

Monday:  Scrambled Eggs with Toast.
                Sunshine Smoothie
(skim milk, frozen strawberries and/or banana, ground flax, honey all processed in the blender)

Thursday:  Cereal and Milk (Honey-Nut Cheerios at our house)

Friday:  Oatmeal

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back-to-school: Our schedule this year

When I was in college and pursuing a degree in Home Economics (which I'm pretty sure is obsolete anymore), one of the courses I took was entitled "Personal and Home Management."  Loved the course, but the detailed homework was a bit mind-numbing.  In an effort to get a picture of how much time we waste every day, we were required to chart minute-by-minute what we did through-out our day.

 I learned several things from this:
 1.  I have WAAAAAY more time on my hands than I think I do, 
2.  I could fill in some of that wasted time with something profitable, and 
3.  It helped me pinpoint where in my day I had extra time that I didn't think I had.

I started out homeschooling this way.  I made a schedule (albeit NOT minute-by-minute), and did pretty good to stick by it.  But over time, it got too complicated, and I started feeling almost compelled to stay within the confines of this schedule lest I stray due to something unforeseen (usually by the toddler) and I was running the rest of the day to keep up.  I highly recommend coming up with something on paper that you can post in your home somewhere to help keep on track and to help you figure out where you can fit in the mirade of things you need to do everyday.

But over time, my daily schedule has evolved somewhat.  Now, instead of putting everything down on paper at a specific time, I split up my day into 3 parts:

Morning activity  8:00 am - 12:30 pm
Afternoon activity 1:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Evening activity 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm

I then make a list of all the school subjects we have to cover for the day, meal times, clean up times, and household responsibilities that need to be completed each day.
Then, I can decided in what part of the day each thing will fit, without having to have it done right at
a specific moment.  I have tried that many times, but after getting thrown off by the unexpected EVERY day,
I got tired of either getting frustrated and angry or thrown off the track completely without hope of ever recovering.
It's much more realistic and relaxing to know when something will get done, even if it's later than I would really like, and not having the pressure that the schedule is so tight we'll never fit in something we missed.

Here is what our daily schedule looks like most days:

I have this strategically posted in the kitchen area, so everyone is not surprised at what is happening next.

After we have family dinner, each of the children take care of their "cleaning chore."
I like to refer to it as an "opportunity for helping with a servant's heart."
Super easy.
Each child is responsible for a room (or couple of rooms) in the house each night.
I wrote their names on a piece of sticky note paper, and each Sunday I will
rotate who does what so they all learn how to properly clean each area of the house.
We even get the toddlers involved too.
They especially are excited to be helpers too!!
The rotation schedule is great for the older ones too because if they complain about a
certain area being too "hard" or time-consuming, they know it will only last until Sunday.

This also is strategically posted in the kitchen area right next to our "daily schedule."

We are entering our 3rd week of following this routine, and it has taken every bit of the last two weeks
to get everybody used to this.  We've been patiently walking the family through the daily schedule and teaching the younger ones how to do each of the household responsibilities, and we're slowly seeing some good results.
The hardest part of setting up any routine though is CONSISTENCY.
It takes discipline and perseverance on my part as the mom not to slack off and skip something.
If I do, it's like we take 3 steps backwards!!
But slow and steady wins the race!!
This race called life.
Life in my shoes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back to school: Fun, first day back activities and traditions

Two weeks ago (YIKES that was fast!), August 31 was our official "first day back to school."
I spent nearly the entire week before scurrying around trying to get lesson plans together,
and a planner organized and my thoughts together
as how to best structure our year this year.
I'm looking forward to all the "fun" things I want to do,
but am feeling more guarded this year since the last few years started out on good
notes, but ended up with lots of rough, rough days.
Even though this will be our 8th year of homeschooling,
I often feel like I have no idea what I'm doing and find
myself constantly questioning whether we're doing enough of the right stuff.
Having two children with ADHD,
(the oldest, 13,  who I need to be the leader and the one the others look up to,
and my oldest son who is 8 this year)
makes for constant frustrations with lack of attention,
needs for constant movement of some kind,
impulsive reactions to siblings,
learning difficulties,
and a mirade of other things.

So I pray, pray, pray for the Holy Spirit to do a mighty work
in my children's lives as we learn together,
as well as for me to have the patience, and kindness
that is expected of all teachers, and for persevering creativity
to have to keep changing things up to find solutions to the new problems for that day.

For the first day of school, I really want to start on an excited foot.
So I do not jump right in to heavy lessons and curriculum material.
The first day is simply "orientation."
I walk them through our daily schedule which I have posted on the wall,
and then we talk about some of the topics we will be studying in each subject
this year.
We cleaned out their school bins which had gotten filled in with Sunday school papers,
and library books, and miscellaneous junk from the summer.
I handed out brand, spankin' new pencils, and erasers, and pencil sharpeners, and folders.

We filled out a fun little "fact" sheet about themselves on this first day,
and we'll compare it to next year and the years following.
This year I have a 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th grader.

After some of these preliminary things were done,
we worked on our traditional:
Summer Memories Placemats
(click on the above underlined words for a link to instructions)

In the past, I discovered that when you send off 4 or 5 children to Vacation Bible School,
you end up with multiples of everything.
I began wondering what to do with all this stuff,
and it occured to me it might be fun to make a collage of sorts of summer memories
that the children could use as visuals in presenting an oral report of their summer activities to each other.
So we keep all the flyers and papers from all the VBS they attend, along with any other activity they
might participate in throughout the summer.
Then we pull it all out on the first day of school,
and have so much fun remembering all we did.

Well, that has evolved into making placemats.
Instead, of cutting and gluing all these objects onto a piece of poster board we'd never use again,
I gave the children each a giant size piece of construction paper and they fill up on both sides.
Then I take it to our local school supply store where they have this giant laminating machine.
We end up with 4 new placements this year, and it's so fun to pull out the ones from last year
to see how much they each have grown!!

After our placemats were finished,
we celebrated with a special "Back-to-School" themed lunch.

Back-to-school Lunch Menu:

Alphabet Soup
Tuna Turnovers (since Tuna travel in "schools")
Apple Slices

Alphabet Cupcakes

Super easy, lots of fun, the children loved it.

These cupcakes were so simple to whip up, I think you can see from the picture
we just stuck some self-adhesive glitter letters to the end of a popsicle stick
and stuck it into the popsicles.
Now we can use these letters as helpers in teaching the two youngest to identify the alphabet!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Back to school: What we are using this year to teach

Last year we had such good success with Math-U-See, that we are sticking with it again this year.
I love how quick and simplified the lessons are (not 4 million problems to work per page), and that the main concept taught per week is viewed on a video.  The curriculum also uses visual, hands-on manipulatives that are great for my ADHD students who need to SEE the concept to understand it.  LOVE it.

I am also going to continue using the Shurley English program for our Grammar/Writing lessons.  The approach is so unique in that you learn "jingles" for each of the parts of speech that help make memory and retention of the grammar principles so much easier.  Plus the lessons are fairly quick to do and include simple and short worksheet problems to reinforce the lesson for the day.  Highly recommend!!!

This year I'm also following a somewhat more "Charlotte Masoney" feel to our homeschool.  I printed out a Corebook to help me figure out how and where to fit everything in.  This teacher's planner gives great ideas and simple lesson plans for subjects you might not think to include (i.e. unstructured play indoors and out, habit of the week, music lesson with composer, healthy and safety, memory lists, and the difference between reading (out loud or independently) and literature (being read the classics) )

This year I'm thrilled to be going back to a teaching method I LOVE:  the unit study!!!!
We will be trying a new approach called lapbooking.  If you're unfamiliar with this, you just HAVE to check it out!!  I love hands-on stuff, and so do all my children.  It's a unique way of journaling what it is you're studying in a kind of scrapbooking way.  They work on the lapbook a little bit at a time, learn along the way, and in the end have this terrific visual that will help them remember all they learned.
Check it out:

This year my plans are to study the Civil War complete with field trip to the Civil War Museum near us, the history of the Great State of Texas complete with local field trips that reinforce the topics studied, and how are bodies work:

My husband is taking over the Theology portion of our schooling, and has a 3-4 times weekly "Bible class" immediately after our evening family meal.  Since all of our children are in one place at that time, it just works for us to slide right into that after dinner is over.  Currently, he is going through a very basic Bible curriculum from BJU Press.

Finally, as a couple of really fun "extra curricular" projects, our children will be heavily involved in our Wednesday evening children's program at church called "Master Clubs."  It is similar in some ways to the Awana program, but very different in how the scriptures are taught to the children and the very tangible ways they learn to apply those scriptures to everyday life.

I also read about this recently and my artist-in-training, Lexi, is very excited about participating in this this year!!!  Check it out:

Lofty plans, I know.  Looks like fun on paper.  Will keep you posted on the reality of it all!!!