Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Challenge for You

Today I'm posting at Growing Your Homeschool. Come on over and let me challenge you to commit to homeschooling for the long haul.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Homeschooling vs. Schooling At Home

There are always big discussions about what type of homeschool you have.

Is your approach classical, eclectic, Charlotte Mason-based,or Montessori just to name a few?

Do you concentrate on unit studies?

Are you an unschooler?

Do you homeschool or do you school at home. Whoa..isn't that the same thing? Throughout our first year it was apparent to me from talking to fellow homeschoolers that homeschooling is NOT the same as schooling at home.

I have no idea what type of homeschool we have. I do know though that we lean more toward the school at home approach...and I hate it.

I don't think that's how homeschooling was meant to be, but I have no idea how to get away from it. You see my husband and I were both public school children. We know no other method of schooling besides sitting at desk doing pencil and paper exercises and taking tests. That's not what I want for my children which is one of the big reasons we decided to homeschool, but how do you get away from it when it's the only way you know.

I have friends who homeschool who spend very little time each day doing pencil and paper work. I want to be more like that. Yes, I am aware of the dangers of comparing ourselves to others(see my post here about that).But I can't get over the fear that my children aren't going to learn if we don't teach using workbooks and tests. Now I know that for the basics of reading and parts of math seatwork is needed, but there is so much more to learn that does not involve sitting at a desk for a few hours each day.

This year we are planning to have more fun and do more exploring. We are still going to be doing a good bit of seatwork, but there will be many more fun activities for first grade than we had in kindergarten.

My question for those of you who see homeschooling as more than school at home is how can I move past these preconceived notions I have? How can we become more of a homeschooling family and less of a worksheet completing, test taking, boring, no fun here type of school?

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Since we have officially finished our first year of homeschooling, I can now look back and reflect on what worked well for us and which areas we need to change.

I've already posted about our curriculum choices for 2011-2012 and you can see we made some changes in that area.

The one area that needs the most revision is organization of our schedule. This year we will school 4 days a week. This is a must in order for us to finish our curriculum by next June and still be able to take a few breaks. Since we usually can't have school 4 consecutive days because of my work schedule, it's important that we stick to schedule on my days off. I've decided that I will have our entire first grade year planned out before our official first day, which is scheduled for July 11th. At first this task seemed huge, but I've been working on lesson plans for about 3 weeks and currently I have every subject except one planned. I've just worked on it a few minutes here and there and it has come together quite nicely.

These next two weeks will involve getting the last subject planned out, making lots of copies, and getting the girls' binders together. I let Shaylie and Nevaeh pick out their own binders for the year (they will be able to design their own covers- will post pics!) Inside, there are tab dividers for each subject. I will fill their binders with 6 weeks worth of lessons. Once we complete those 6 weeks, I will refill with the next 6 weeks. This is a brand new system for us and I'm hoping it will lead to a more organized approach than we had this past year.

How do you organize your year, your week, your day?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Week in review: The week of surgery

This week has been almost entirely consumed with our oldest daughter's tonsillectomy. This was a much needed, scheduled procedure. This tiny little girl has had strep throat 8 times since last August. Every 3-4 weeks, we were facing yet another strep diagnosis and round of antibiotics. Finally, we had enough and made an appointment with an ENT, only to discover at the appointment that she had strep AGAIN. She had literally just finished antibiotics 10 days prior. The doctor felt the best course of action would be to remove the tonsils and adenoids asap, and we agreed.

I knew it was the best decision. Strep throat can cause rheumatic fever which can lead to cardiac issues, luckily we had not made it to that point yet, but constantly being on antibiotics is not an ideal situation either.

Tonsillectomies are routine, outpatient procedures. But nothing is routine in the mind of a Mommy when her child is facing surgery. I was a nervous wreck. Being a nurse, can be a good thing when it comes to the health of your children, but it can also be a bad thing. You see, we know all the bad things that are unlikely but *could* happen, and those are the very things I was worried about. The what-ifs surrounding anesthesia scared me to death.

The day before and the morning of surgery, I was in a constant state of prayer. I just kept repeating the same things over and over in my mind, "please God keep her safe. Guide the hands of the doctors and nurses. Please let her wake up healthy.' Just on constant repeat. God probably got tired of hearing it. He probably just wanted to say "Be quiet and trust me". One of the biggest things I was worried about was the moment where the nurses would take her from me and wheel her into the OR. I had the whole scenario worked out in my mind and none of it was pleasant. I thought she would be screaming and clinging to me and I would be an emotional mess. That is not how it happened. Her pre-op nurse gave her a medication called Versed to relax her and it did it's job! She was laughing about everything and was even happily giggling when they wheeled her into the OR. Her dad and I were even laughing. There were no tears. God is good...all the time.

I wish I could say the next time we saw her was just as pleasant, but that would be a lie. She was hurting, confused and crying. All I could do was hold her and tell her we were there and everything was okay. About an hour later, we were on our way home.

We are now 2 days post-op and she is slowly recovering. She's been in quite a bit of pain. One of the hardest things I've encountered as a parent is seeing my child in pain and not being able to do anything to help her. Luckily, she's been sleeping a lot and we haven't had any problem getting her take her pain medication. We are praying that each day brings a little less pain and soon she will be back to her usual self.

Her sister, Nevaeh, will make the world's best nurse in a few years.
She has been so sweet and caring. She brings her whatever she needs. She is constantly refilling her water and bringing her Popsicles. This morning, Shaylie was crying because her ears hurt and I looked in on her and Nevaeh had a flashlight looking into Shay's ears. I asked her what she was doing and she said "trying to figure out what is hurting her". She is just precious.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New homeschool blog

Hey guys! I've had the wonderful opportunity to be a contributor of a new homeschool blog. Growing Your Homeschool is a place for both new and veteran homeschooling parents. It's an awesome little piece of cyberspace where we can all learn from and grow with each other.

Our ten contributors are all relatively new to the homeschool arena. We would love for you to stop in, see what we're up to, tell us what we're doing right, tell us what we're doing wrong, and share in this sometimes all too entertaining adventure with us.

Growing Your Homeschool went live last week and we already have some great posts up. My first post went up today and it tells about how my family became a homeschooling family. I hope you'll take the time to read it and tell me what you think.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My First Review Opportunity

I've been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid review. Time4Learning can be used for homeschool, afterschool and summer skill sharpening. Be sure to come back and read about my experience.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

2011-2012 Curriculum

****This was previously published by me on 31 Rubies****

Can I share a secret with you? I am like a child on Christmas morning when it comes to purchasing new curriculum. Even though, as my husband said a few weeks ago while I was frantically browsing vendor websites, curriculum was becoming a four letter word in our home. I knew exactly what I wanted in my mind, but just couldn't find it in a pretty little package on any website.
But then we attended the annual NC homeschool convention and all those curriculum vendors were set up just for my browsing pleasure. I was in paradise. Now, silly me went to the convention with plans of not buying anything while I was there. I was just planning to "get some ideas". I got some ideas all right..and came home with a backseat full of shiny new books!

I knew that we wanted to make some changes in curriculum for next year, mainly for Science and Social Studies, but didn't really have any plans to switch our Phonics and Math. That was before I learned to value of cost comparison. In my opinion being loyal to one vendor is silly if you can find the same material by a different company at a cheaper price. We ended up switching all of our curriculum. I'll let you know in a few months if I still think this was a good decision.

Here's what we decided on:

Math- Horizons 1st grade

Phonics & Reading- Horizons 1st grade

Science- Purposeful Design- Level One (We struggled with finding a science curriculum, but once we found this one, we were in love! I highly recommend checking it out!)

Spelling- Modern Curriculum Press-Spelling Workout Level A
History/Geography/Social Studies/World Religions- We are going to be doing a year long study of people/places of the world. We have pieced together our own lessons for this, but found some awesome books to use. A few of them are from My Father's World, a couple are from Usborne books, and some we found at a used book stand. My husband will be the primary teacher for this subject, but we are all looking forward to it.

Language Arts- Weekly Reader Publishing- Daily Language Practice Grade 1

Bible- Day By Day Devotions: 7-minute character growing devotions for kids by Karyn Henley

Read-A-Louds/Unit Studies: The Little House on the Prairie Series, Charlotte's Web, Shiloh, and Sarah Plain and Tall.

Art and Music will accompany most of these subjects, so I don't have a specific curriculum for those. Maybe next year.

And to keep it all together...or as my husband says "a planner for your planners". Yes, I have an addiction to buying planners. I LOVE this one. It has absolutely everything I could want in it. The Well Planned Day. If you haven't already bought should!

Have you used any of these books? Do you have any advice/recommendations? I would love to hear from you.
Do you have any questions for me? If so, comment below and ask away! I will get back to you!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Freezer Cooking Round One

If you've been following my blog, you know my family spends WAY too much money eating out. We have found that meal planning helps cut down on our eating out, but sometimes I just don't have the time, energy, or motivation to cook the meal we've planned. So, then what? We get take out. And we're back to square one.

One of the sessions I attended at the homeschool convention was "Living on More with Less". The speaker talked about meal planning and freezer meals. Basically bulk shopping for meat and key ingredients and then taking one day and cooking and freezing multiple meals. When dinner time comes, you choose a meal from the freezer, thaw it, reheat it, add any sides you would like and there's a complete meal in under 20 minutes. I was intrigued.

This morning, my husband and I sat down to make our meal list and grocery list and I was beyond frustrated. Meal planning is difficult at our house because my husband is vegetarian, and my kids are extremely picky. So, trying to plan and fix a meal that I will be the only one eating is no fun at all. Then I remembered the idea of freezer meals. I could make individual portions with meat for myself, portions without meat for my hubby,and portions without any "weird" ingredients for the girls.

We made our list and headed out to 4 grocery stores. Yes, 4 grocery stores in about 3 hours. My poor husband and kids are so great! They put up with all of my crazy ideas. But we did manage to find everything on our list!

Then it was back home for a quick nap and then to start cooking!

Here's a photo of the ingredients we used:

It took about 3 hours of me cooking and my husband grilling and washing dishes, but we managed to come up with 28 meals. I'm not going to list all 28, but here's an idea: spaghetti (we just need to cook the pasta on the day we plan to eat it), lasagna, baked ziti, vegetarian lasagna, chicken fajitas, chicken tacos, beef tacos, nachos, grilled chicken, grilled chicken salads, lemon pepper chicken breasts, bbq chicken breasts, buffalo chicken sandwiches, italian chicken breasts, italian pork chops.

There is so much more we could've done, but we simply ran out of time. Just with what we've done, we will have dinner ideas for almost a month for less than $90!

Here's a photo of all of our freezer bags full of yumminess! :)

Do you do OAMC (once a month cooking) or freezer meals? If so, what are you favorites? Any tips for me? I'm hooked now! :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Homeschool Convention

May 26-28, 2011 my husband and I travelled to Winston-Salem, NC for the annual NCHE homeschool convention. Being the homeschooling mama that I am, I loved every minute of it. My husband (even though he may not like to admit it) also enjoyed parts of it.

We arrived on Thursday, checked into our awesome hotel and headed over to the convention center. The book fair opened 2 hours before the actual convention started and this was a perfect time to browse the vendors because it wasn't crowded at all. My original plan was to explore my options and have a general idea of the curriculum we would be using before leaving the convention. I had some ideas in mind, but nothing set in stone. It was so nice to be able to take our time, look through the curriculum, ask questions, and do price comparisons this year. Last year we didn't get to do much of that because it was so crowded and we had the girls with us. We were smart this year and left the girls with their Nana! They were happy and so were we! :)

The speaker sessions of the convention began Thursday at 3:00. The speakers were awesome! We especially enjoyed the session entitled "Homeschooling the strong-willed child", because we all know that I have a very strong-willed child. This session was eye-opening for my husband and I in many ways. Our favorite session on Thursday was the keynote address that evening. Todd Wilson was the speaker and he spoke regarding "Lies Homeschoolers Believe". If you ever have the chance to hear Todd speak, do it! He's a great speaker. He and his wife homeschool their 8 children while driving around the country in an RV. Oh, the stories he can tell!

Friday was full of sessions and book fair shopping! My plan to not buy any curriculum at the book fair was changed when I realized the price difference in shopping there vs. shopping online. I found much better deals at the convention. We've completely changed our curriculum for first grade. More on that in another post. We enjoyed Friday's sessions too. My favorite was titled "Living on More with Less". Jennifer Schmidt was the speaker. She blogs at She has awesome tips on living frugally. You can be sure I will be writing another blog post on what I learned at that session. On Friday we also met up with our friends the Saufleys. We always have a great time with them and I'm so glad we were able to spend some time together.

Saturday was the last day of the convention. It involved making some last minute purchases at the book fair and attending the last sessions. I'll have to be honest... by this point, we were all a little burned out on the sessions. The speakers were still great but we were in information overload. I attended a session called "Stand By Your Man" about the importance of maintaining your marriage that really spoke deeply to me. Yep, you guessed it...another post will be coming about that one too! After the last session, we had lunch with the Saufleys and then made the 3 hour drive back home. The drive home was filled with conversation regarding what we learned. We discussed our weaknesses and our plans for the future. We had a really awesome weekend. The alone time with my husband was much needed and we arrived home feeling rejuvenated and stronger as a couple and parents.

If you've never been to your state homeschool convention, I encourage you to GO! Even if you're just contemplating homeschooling...GO. You won't regret it.